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The Light and How to Swing It: Synergizing with druids and shaman

The Light and How to Swing It: Synergizing with druids and shaman
Chase Christian
Chase Christian|September 18, 2011 6:00 PM
shaman paladin druid
Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Every Sunday, Chase Christian invites you to discuss the finer side of the paladin class: the holy specialization. Feel free to email me with any questions you want answered, like why paladins are so awesome.

When I asked my favorite restoration shaman (David the shaman) what the resto spec's weaknesses were, he had listed off several areas he'd like to see improved. I posed the same question to a restoration druid, and he replied back with an emphatic "There isn't one!" Restoration druids are currently the most powerful healers in the game, and by a large margin.

Every other healing class might pale in comparison to a druid's massive HPS capabilities, but resto druids aren't the indomitable healers that they might think themselves to be. Holy paladins have a diverse and robust toolkit of spells that allows us to complement restoration druids and shaman. We can focus on each class' strengths and weaknesses to choose our healing spells and strategies effectively. We learned how the two priest healing specs vary and how to work with each, and now we'll cover the two restoration healers.

Restoration Shaman: The ghosts of paladins past

Restoration shaman remind me of holy paladins in so many ways. I suppose the similarities are intentional, as shaman and paladins were originally designed to be parallel classes, serving the Horde and the Alliance, respectively.

Shaman healers have always had three basic heals, and I believe that holy paladins and restoration shaman were the original inspirations for the three heal model. Shaman healing strength lies in their powerful tank and spot healing capabilities and their versatile selection of secondary abilities. While their HOTs and preventive heals can't compete with those of the priest or druid, their direct healing allows them to keep everyone alive. Sound familiar? It's this reliance on standard healing spells that connects restoration shaman and holy paladins together.

The similarities between our spells are staggering. Earth Shield allows shaman to provide their tank with some healing even when they're occupied with healing another player, similar to what Beacon of Light does for holy paladins. The Glyph of Healing Wave functions very closely to our own Protector of the Innocent, allowing them to heal themselves by healing others. Restoration shaman make excellent tank healers, as their direct healing spells are very similar to ours. We spam Holy Light while saving Divine Light for serious damage, while they spam Healing Wave while saving Greater Healing Wave for serious damage. The only major difference is that their Flash of Light equivalent, Healing Surge, is actually pretty great and worth casting in certain situations.

Holy Shock and Riptide are nearly identical spells, as both are cheap, instant heals that used on cooldown and are the gateways to powerful buffs like Infusion of Light and Tidal Waves. Need more proof? Our Blessing/Aura buffs are analogous to the shaman's totem system, giving each class the ability to bring a variety of buffs for any given scenario. Still not convinced? Take a peek at Resurgence, and you'll see that Illumination never actually died, as it lives on in the shaman restoration tree. It's their main source of regeneration, exactly as it was for holy paladins before the Seal of Insight/Judgement revamp. Shaman begin to deviate from holy paladins once we start digging into the specifics of how they accomplish their healing tasks.

chain heal being cast
Shaman are one of the best spot healing classes in the game, due to the incredibly potent combination of Chain Heal and Ancestral Awakening. Chain Heal allows them to top off multiple players in a way that we only wish Light of Dawn could. Ancestral Awakening allows their single-target critical heals to splash to the raid's most injured player, which minimizes the possibility of overhealing. Healing Rain allows them to provide AOE healing to a group of clumped players, similar to Holy Radiance but targeted to a location on the ground. When it comes to spot healing a raid, restoration shaman are one of the best friends you can ask for. Even their Deep Healing mastery bonus is designed to help them bring wounded players back to health quickly. Shaman will still need help handling powerful AOE damage, though, so be sure to augment their healing with your own Holy Radiance.

A restoration shaman's greatest weakness is the lack of powerful instant cast heals, which hurts their ability to move and heal. Riptide is a great heal, but it's just not enough. Holy paladins had the same issue when Holy Shock was our only instant option. Spiritwalker's Grace helps the situation by allowing them to cast and move at the same time, but it's not always available. If there's a fight with prolonged movement, resto shaman healing will suffer. Paladins can suffer from the same issue, so you need to be careful if you're running somewhere at the same time as a resto shaman, as you're both effectively reduced to just a few instant-cast heals.

Their totem system, while flexible, is also costs them mana and GCDs to move around, which further restricts their mobility. Paladin Blessings and Auras are all "set it and forget it," which makes it easy to miss how difficult carting totems around can be. There are two totems that are worth the trouble, though. Mana Tide Totem is still a great mana restoration tool that we want to take advantage of; we just need to make sure we're standing near it.

The other shaman totem of note is the Spirit Link Totem. If you activate it while the raid is near the tank, it's the ultimate tank cooldown. The totem effectively lowers all incoming damage by 10%, gives your tank an effective life pool of over 1.5 million life, and allows your healers to double their HPS for the totem's 6-second life. When used on the raid, it still reduces incoming damage and ensures that you don't lose an individual player to an AOE burst that they didn't get a good resist roll on. While Spirit Link Totem is down, you want to pop Holy Radiance, preferably with a cooldown like Avenging Wrath or Divine Favor. The totem turns AOE healing into single-target healing for everyone, which means you are aiming to deal the maximum amount of raw HPS you can for those few seconds.

Restoration Druids: Our new tree overlords

Restoration druids are really good right now. I know that sounds so simple, but the fact is that resto druids are basically capable of just about anything and everything. If you check the World of Logs healing charts, they have complete ownership on the meters for nearly every encounter. Their AOE healing capacity is unrivaled by any other healer, and they're not too shabby at keeping a tank alive either. What's so interesting to me about resto druids is that they still don't fit into the three heal model, as they rely so heavily on their other healing spells to keep their targets alive.

Restoration druids are obviously the HOT masters, and they have more HOTs than I care to count. Because their spells can exist on players before they take damage and heal them nearly immediately afterwards, they can soak up so much HPS, especially when there's AOE damage being dealt. A resto druid has two basic AOE spells available to them, Wild Growth and Efflorescence, and the two of these make up a huge chunk of a resto druid's healing on any given fight. Rejuvenation, their simple single-target HOT, is their other major source of healing, and the three together make up between 50 and 70% of their total healing done.

When faced with an encounter without any AOE damage and where HOTs aren't valuable, like Baleroc, druid healing potency quickly dwindles. In fact, Baleroc is the only encounter where restoration druids are consistently outperformed across every raid size and difficulty. Their lack of a single-target instant heal or an effective single-target casted direct heal makes it difficult for them to pick up stacks of Vital Spark. Holy paladins can also beat druids when facing Shannox, but that's not to say that resto druids are doing poorly. In order to beat a druid in healing, it has to be an ideal fight for us and a poor fight for them. Shannox is golden for holy paladins, as most of the damage is dealt to the two tanks and there's nearly no AOE damage, making Beacon of Light the perfect tool for the job.

If you're in a situation where there's AOE damage being dealt and you're raiding with a resto druid, pop a courtesy Holy Radiance and then get back to work on the tank. There's no point in a holy paladin wasting mana or GCDs tossing other heals onto the raid when the resto druid will have everyone back to full life in no time. They're AOE specialists, and Firelands has plenty of AOE damage for them to thrive in.

In order to handle even intense incoming AOE damage, restoration druids have Tranquility at their disposal. While we learned last week that Divine Hymn isn't as awesome as the tooltip makes it out to be, Tranquility is the real deal. Paragon, the masters of class stacking, loves to bring in extra druids for the game's hardest fights due to the potency of Tranquility. I don't care how badly your raid is beaten or battered; Tranquility will fix the problem in short order. I actually don't use Holy Radiance if a druid has Tranquility active, as it's a waste of mana for me to cast it.

Speaking of mana, the druid mana restoration ability, Innervate, has been nerfed pretty badly. I have stopped asking resto druids for Innervates, as it restores more mana to the druid than to another player.

Restoration druids and holy paladins are my favorite healing duo. The druid can handle the raid and AOE damage while we focus on keeping the tanks up. Beacon of Light and our extensive tank cooldown kit allows us to keep any tank alive, while Wild Growth and Rejuvenation ensure that our raiders' health bars are always in the green.

Restoration druids are also great at coping with movement, as most of their spells are instant-cast and their HOTs will continue rolling even as they move. Their HOTs help solve our mobility issues, while our single-target throughput helps them avoid getting stuck casting spells like Healing Touch when they'd rather not be. Their Lifebloom spell provides our tanks with some extra buffer healing, while our Holy Shocks and Holy Lights can help them deal with quick bursts of raid damage. One way for a holy paladin to stand out when healing alongside a druid is to make good use of our extensive "Hand of" utility spell system, as druids are quite lacking these types of utility spells.

The resto druid's ultimate cooldown (as if Tranquility wasn't enough) is their Tree of Life form. The spell has a long 3-minute cooldown, but it's worth the wait and lasts for over 30 seconds. While active, their Wild Growth affects more targets, they can spam Lifebloom across the raid, and their Regrowth spell becomes instant cast. On top of all of that, they deal an additional 15% healing. Tree of Life provides druids with another powerful raid healing cooldown, although buffing WG and Lifebloom doesn't keep the tank alive. Instant Regrowths might be nice, but the HOT can only apply once and the mana cost is draining. Between Tranquility and Tree of Life, a druid has two Get Out Of Jail Free cards when it comes to handling AOE damage.

The Light and How to Swing It: Holy helps holy paladins become the powerful healers we're destined to be. Find out just how masterful mastery healing can be, gear up with the latest gear, and learn how to PVP as a holy paladin.
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