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Totem Talk: Bringing your restoration shaman back for Cataclysm

Joe Perez

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Totem Talk for elemental, enhancement and restoration shaman. Want to be a sultan of swing healing? A champion of Chain Heal? Totem Talk: Restoration will show you how, brought to you by Joe Perez, otherwise known as Lodur from World of Matticus and host of the BDTU: Lore edition podcast

Last week, we talked about the alchemical concoctions we can expect to see in Cataclysm both while leveling and at level 85. There were quite a few options, and I shared some of my own experiences with them in the hopes that it will help you as you go for max level.

With Cataclysm release in two weeks, a lot of people have been switching focus to the new content. More people still are returning to the game and being assaulted by all the changes. This week, I thought we could take a few moments and talk about what restoration shaman returning for Cataclysm will need to know. I've received many emails about this topic over the last few weeks and felt it was something that required some attention. Let's talk about how returning restoration shaman can ease their transition into this brave new world.

This isn't where I left my gryphon ...

First thing on the list to do for restoration shaman who are returning for Cataclysm is to take a look around the world. Probably the biggest change is the actual world itself. With the expansion, at level 60 you can learn to fly in the lands of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. This is fairly important, as almost every zone in the old world will be getting a face-lift. Take some time, train up your flying, and then take a trip around the world. Sounds like a fairly general answer -- but if nothing else, this really drives home the fact that the game has changed. I've had a few people who haven't played the game since Naxxramas was in the Eastern Plaguelands reactivate their accounts only to find a beta key waiting for them. They all said the same thing to me: Flying through the old world was both a humbling and exciting sight. So take some time and reorient yourself in the world.

Really, the lesson here is to forget everything you think that you knew. The rules have changed from what you may be used to. Gameplay styles, stat choices, consumables priorities and even spell interactions have at the very least been altered a little. Habits you learned in vanilla, The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King may no longer apply, and the sooner you realize that, the easier your transition will be for anything you may need to re-learn.

Old shaman, new tricks

First thing most players notice is how the stats have changed. While it is true that things have changed over the years, Cataclysm takes it that much further. Stats for restoration have shifted, and it would be best to familiarize yourself with the new stat system. The short version goes like this:

  • Intellect replaces spellpower and now gives both mana and spellpower totals.
  • MP5 is replaced by spirit on all shaman gear.
  • Crit and haste totals are much lower than before.
For a more in-depth look, feel free to check our post about restoration spells and stats at level 85. The stat change is not the only new thing for restoration shaman in the next expansion; in fact, we get three new spells to add to our repertoire between levels 80 and 85.

  • Unleash Elements allows us to take the power of our various weapon imbues and release their potential into various effects. For restoration shaman, this means taking Earthliving Weapon and using it to Unleash Life. This gives the restoration shaman an instant heal that also boosts the next heal cast by an additional 20 percent. All shaman will be using this, but restoration shaman will get a lot of mileage out of it, as it directly affects our healing. This is the first new spell you obtain at level 81, so you will have plenty of time to get used to it as you level toward the cap. Spend time with it, and learn to work it into your healing rotations.
  • Healing Rain is another new spell that allows us to call forth the cleansing element of water to fall from the sky. It is an area of effect heal that turns a patch of ground into a healing zone. Once cast, the spell persists for 10 seconds and will heal anyone who walks into the zone. Recently, the spell was changed so that after six friendly targets have entered the area, the amount healed is reduced for every person over the threshold. Using Healing Rain properly can make a huge difference on the flow of your healing, so take time to make friends with it and get to know the spell. You will gain access to it at level 83.
  • Spiritwalker's Grace is our new level 85 spell. Upon reaching the level cap, players will be able to train our very first offensive healing cooldown. Using the spell can take some getting used to, but it represents a breaking of the mold for how we heal. Since the beginning of the game, restoration shaman have been turret healers, destined to stand in place and chain cast heals. With Wrath, we got a new HoT spell in the form of Riptide, but it didn't do that much to break us from the shackles of stationary healing. This new ability lets us move and cast any spell we have for 10 seconds at a time, on a 2-minute cooldown. While we are largely still a sit-and-heal class, this new spell gives us some much-needed versatility. Other classes may have Guardian Spirit or Pain Suppression, but we can use this to cast Greater Healing Wave or Chain Heal while moving, and that is a big deal.

Talented, as always

The talent system has changed dramatically. Gone are the hybrid specs of old, where players could double-dip into two trees for entertaining results. Now we have the 31-point talent trees. Players now choose a specialization and cannot move from that specialization to place talents in any other tree until 31 total points have been spent in their chosen role. Many of our former talents are gone and have been replaced with some new faces. Earth Shield becomes a perk of choosing restoration as a specialization and is no longer a talent choice.

Newcomer Ancestral Resolve allows you to reduce the incoming damage taken while casting by 10 percent. This newfound ability to reduce the amount of incoming damage significantly reduces the amount of healing you have to devote to yourself. This has become particularly useful since in Cataclysm, there is quite a bit of raid- or group-wide damage.

Spark of Life allows you to increase your healing done by a flat 6 percent. This bonus to healing output also comes with the added feature of increasing the healing you receive by 15 percent. As with Ancestral Resolve, it reduces the amount of healing you have to devote to yourself.

Another newcomer, Telluric Currents, allows players to regenerate mana based on the amount of damage done by casting Lightning Bolt. Previously, when shaman wanted to regenerate mana, they were restricted to either calling for an external cooldown in the form of Innervate, chugging a potion, casting Mana Tide Totem, or simply ceasing to heal and waiting for their natural regeneration to take over. Now, you have the option to cast a relatively cheap spell that will have a high mana yield if time allows for you to cast a damaging spell. This goes hand in hand with Focused Insight, which seeks to reward you for casting any of our shock spells by reducing our next healing spell cost by 75 percent of the shock cost and increasing our next healing spell effectiveness by 30 percent.

Mana Tide Totem no longer restores a percentage of your mana. Instead, the ability now increases your total spirit by 350 percent. It also now has a reduced cooldown of 3 minutes, down from 5 minutes. While the effect of the talent may have changed, its usefulness certainly has not. Learning to use it often will keep your mana flowing and your heals pumping.

While there are many talent builds available, spend some time with your new talents and find one that works well for you.

No such thing as a stupid question
The best advice I can give any returning player to the game is to ask questions. While we've offered several question and answer columns to dig through, sometimes you just need to ask another restoration shaman questions about what is going on. There is no shame in that, and in fact, it should be something to be exalted. Asking questions is part of the best ways to get information as well as first-hand accounts of what has been going on. Other players' experiences can help you ease the transition back into the game and offer insight to some of the nuances of the class and specialization. As always, feel free to email me, and I will be happy to answer any questions you have in a timely manner.

In the end, making the transition back into the game after so long (and at a point where everything is changing) can be quite daunting. Don't be afraid of it; just take the time to acclimate yourself to the changes. Read through the various resources available and don't be afraid to dive right in. Expect things to be different than they were before, and be ready to adapt your healing habits accordingly. The transition can be quite an easy one, possibly even easier than it was to go from vanilla to The Burning Crusade.

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. Whether it's Sarah Nichol's elemental edition, Joe Perez's coverage of restoration or Rich Maloy's enhancement edition, WoW Insider's shaman experts have you covered.

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