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Totem Talk: Restoration mastery and cooldowns in patch 4.1

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, brought to you by Joe Perez (otherwise known as Lodur from World of Matticus and co-host of the Raid Warning podcast), shows you how.

Last week, we talked about two seemingly misfit restoration shaman talents, Telluric Currents and Focused Insight. It was great to hear your opinions on these two tallents and to see how you've been using them since they were given to us. Some have been using both for a maximum healing buff or to keep the mana flowing, while others have either avoided or pushed aside these talents.

This week, we got a bit of quite exciting news. With patch 4.1 around the corner and being tested on the PTR, we are starting to get a glimpse of what the developers at Blizzard have in mind for further restoration shaman tweaks. Namely, we got an update of the patch notes that contain not only a healing buff for restoration shaman, but also the very first look at our brand spanking new restoration cooldown.

I don't know about you, but I was quite excited this week when the updated patch notes for patch 4.1 were released. Shaman healing has been something that the developers have been watching for a little bit now, and it's nice to see that we aren't off their radar quite yet. This comes even after we've already received a little bit of a tweak to our live performance. Here's an excerpt from our latest update.

  • Deep Healing now benefits all heals, not just direct heals.
  • Spirit Link Totem (new talent) reduces damage taken by all party and raid members within 10 yards by 10%. This lasts 6 seconds, and every second it is active the health of all affected players is redistributed among them, such that each player ends up with the same percentage of their maximum health. This counts as an Air totem and has a 3-minute cooldown.

Who's da mastah, Leeroy?

Mastery has been one of those things that has confused, dismayed or bothered restoration shaman since it was first announced. Deep Healing increases the potency of your direct healing spells by up to 24%, based on the current health level of your target (lower-health targets are healed for more). Each point of mastery increases direct heals by up to an additional 3.0%. By itself, it isn't that impressive for a couple reasons.

First of all, it only affects our direct heals, meaning it was pretty much useless on what quickly became some of our most-used spells, like Healing Rain. Secondly, its effectiveness went up the lower health our healing targets were at. While this sounds great, it means that every time someone ran out of the fire or avoided damage, it became almost useless, especially when you consider that raiding scenarios involve multiple healers all topping off the members of the group. It also meant that as players gathered gear and content was slowly but surely defeated, the effectiveness of the ability was also dwindling.

The proposed change, however, breathes some new life into our mastery. Changing it to boost all healing done is a pretty big deal. Imagine a large chunk of raid-wide damage lands, and you throw down your Healing Rain and begin casting Chain Heal to try to bring the raid up past dangerous levels, only with further assistance from a boosted Healing Stream Totem. That's pretty sweet, if you ask me. I know I saw that change and was quite honestly ecstatic about it. There are many fights in which I could see this being quite handy, such as Chimaeron or Valiona and Theralion, where health totals routinely drop low as the result of either fight mechanics or raid damage.

Now I don't think that this means we're going to run out and start stacking mastery rating any time soon, but I do like the fact that it will now augment all of our healing. Everything from Riptide's HoT to Healing Stream Totem will get a little more juice from this stat now, and that alone is something to get excited about. It can only mean overall better performance from us as healers.

Spirit Link? Can it really be true?!

We were told last week that the developers at Blizzard were talking about giving restoration shaman a cooldown in order to keep up with other healers. At the time, nothing had been released or even hinted at as to what they had in mind, and we began to speculate about what it could be.

It would seem, though, that we had a couple of things right. We anticipated it being a talent rather than a pure spell, which makes sense when you think about it. It's a healing cooldown, so to make sure that not all flavors of shaman are utilizing it, you almost have to make it a talent.

Now, the speculation begins anew as to what talent will be removed to make room for this new one. The PTR has not been updated for this quite yet, so it remains speculation currently. Personally, I still think Riptide needs to be made a bonus for the player who chooses restoration as their specialization, and the new cooldown should be placed as the top tier restoration talent.

I was also quite happy when the words "spirit link" were uttered in accordance to our new cooldown, as it was something that was promised to us when Cataclysm was still in development. The spell first made an appearance in the closed beta for Wrath of the Lich King but was scrapped due to balancing issues. The idea was unique, refreshing and something many shaman latched onto. Back then, it was the top tier restoration talent and had the following effect.

Spirit Link (Rank 1) You link the friendly target with two nearby targets, causing 50% of the damage taken to be distributed to the linked targets. After 2200 damage, the link will sever.

It has certainly come a long way from its original incarnation, and personally, I love the new flavor of it. First of all, it is a totem -- and an air totem, at that. It is born out of our unique class mechanic of totems and helps add more utility to the air school of a shaman's spellcasting. Secondly, it is an area effect cooldown, protecting every party and raid member within 10 yards of the totem. That is pretty cool and helps distance it from other defensive cooldowns like Pain Suppression and Guardian Spirit.

Lastly, it has a pretty unique effect. It does reduce incoming damage to all affected players by 10%, which is pretty good by itself, but it also rebalances health percentages. The concept is that it will keep all players in the same ballpark as far as healing priority. So let us say you have five players in the radius of the totem; everyone will hit the same percentages as they take damage. So if one player is as 90% health while everyone else is at 100% health, it will try to balance that out everyone in the group to be at about 98% health. No other cooldown does that right now, and I can already begin to see fights where this will be insanely useful. Nefarian phase 2 comes to mind there; just this past week, I was thinking to myself how much I would kill for a cooldown in that phase.

It hasn't been implemented on the PTR quite yet, and I suspect that it will get tweaked a bit before it ever hits live, but I for one am looking forward to playing around with this ability. I find myself already calculating which fights this will be good for, on everything from quest mobs to heroics to raid bosses. I think the 3-minute cooldown is right about where it needs to be, and I think it will suit us just fine. I'm hoping that it has a pretty killer animation, though -- maybe something like Power Word: Barrier.

So what do you think about these changes? Are you as excited as I am about the return of the prodigal son, Spirit Link? How do you think the cooldown will help us out? Are you already planning what fights and what phases to use it in?
Totem Talk: Restoration will show you the basics of endgame resto shaman play as well as how to find the expansion's best reputation gear for resto shaman and tips for easier leveling. Happy healing, and may your mana be plentiful!

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