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Totem Talk: Post-BlizzCon restoration shaman thoughts

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 For the Lore and Raid Warning podcasts), shows you how.

It has been a very exciting weekend for every World of Warcraft fan. BlizzCon is that one yearly event where news unlike anything else we've heard all year comes out. We were treated not only to the announcement of the next expansion, Mists of Pandaria, but a plethora of changes for every class and spec.

The big news outside of the expansion was the announcement of the new talent system. In patch 5.0, a new talent system will come along and replace the one we have grown to know right now. It came as a bit of a shock, especially after we were bumped down to the 31-talent point system we have now. The system has a lot of exciting things that will have an impact on our healing; probably most important is that talents will no longer be a key factor in determining a character's power.

Goodbye talent tree, hello baseline

This particular piece of information was something that was quite exciting for me. Something that we've been asking about for a very long time is finally in the works. We've been asking for abilities like Riptide and now even Spirit Link Totem to become baseline abilities that you receive for choosing restoration as your primary spec -- not necessarily that you get them instantly, but as you level up for choosing the spec, you'll get the ability.

Well, it seems like this is exactly what is in store for us in the near future. When players choose a specialization, as they level, certain abilities will become available. The idea was that having those mandatory talents, the ones that players just had to pick, took away from the feel of customization and choice. The idea is something that I can definitely get behind.

Instead, the new system operates a little bit more like level bonuses and tweaks that will let you customize your character without having to worry about so many points. Players will get to pick a bonus every 15 levels. Some of the bonuses are related to survivability, some to group-wide cooldowns, and others to movement buffs. Each tier of the new talents is unique and adds fun flavor to your character.

Basically, since we don't have to worry about key abilities in our talent trees or where we have to put a ton of points, the talents can be more what they were originally intended for -- fun character tweaks that won't break the game. While it's true that right now many of the talents seem stronger than others for various class rolls, this may change over time. The other very important thing to note here is that between combat, we will be allowed to change our talents around and pick out different perks before bosses or even before Battlegrounds. It's exciting to think of talents as actual perks instead of a mandatory set of points that must be arranged for the optimal setup.

So long, buff totems

Last week, when we talked about what you wanted to see as your BlizzCon news, one of the most frequently-asked points was the removal of buff totems and a revamp of totems in order to actually make them more dynamic. Well, it looks like that is exactly what Blizzard is looking for. Buff totems like Strength of Earth Totem and Wrath of Air Totem are flat bonuses that are either covered by other classes or we absolutely have to have down no matter what. This makes the totems clunky, unwieldy and potentially an unnecessary mana drain.

Instead, our totems are more likely to become cooldowns for use rather than ones we have to keep out constantly. One absolutely perfect example of this would be the proposed level 60 talent, Healing Tide Totem. Well, we all know our Mana Tide Totem, right? Healing Tide is a new shaman healing cooldown that is sort of like our version of Tranquility. It is a cooldown that we can call upon when we need it but otherwise something that we don't have to worry about putting down unless it's absolutely necessary.

Other totems, like the often never-used Totem of Tranquil Mind, are completely optional. If you have no intention on using it, you don't have to take it. There's even a totem that acts like a personal Power Word: Shield for the shaman casting it! The idea of allowing a number of totems, old and new, to be optional and not clutter your spellbook and your totem bar is something I completely support. Reduce the clutter, and give us choice in what totems are there for us to use? Yeah, I love the idea of it!

It also helped to address the topic of healer cooldowns. Paladins seem to just have a thousand and one of them, while other classes (like our beloved shaman) seem to have only the one, really. Each of the healing-capable classes had a cooldown or augmentation just like our healing tide totem that they could pick.

Oh, and while on the topic of cooldowns -- no, there was not any news of any Spirit Link Totem nerfs, but also there was no mention of an Air Elemental Totem at all.

Totem LauncherThroughput and fun talents

I'm going to talk first about the idea of fun talents and also take my opportunity to be overly excited a little bit. There have been those of us in the community who have been asking for a totem launcher for a while now. I think for the most part, we never expected to see something that allowed us to place our totems at range, but we got one heck of a surprise this year. That's right, a totem launcher is something that the developers at Blizzard are actually considering.

The first glimpse of this comes as one of the possible level 90 talent choices, Totemic Projection. The ability was described by Ghostcrawler (otherwise known as Greg Street, lead systems designer for Blizzard Entertainment) as giving shaman the ability to actively move their totems around with a targeting reticule. This is actually incredibly cool. Think about having the ability to take SLT and move it directly onto a target area without having to actually put yourself in danger if you don't need to. It might not be a cannon that launches the totems where you want them to go, but it certainly is a super-fun idea.

The other important news has to do with our healing numbers and the healing style of the game. The first thing I want to get out of the way is that the healing model will be preserved going into the next expansion. What this means is that triage healing will be important at the beginning of the expansion, but as players level up, gear up, and move through the new content, they will be able to move past triage healing and into top-off healing. So as time goes on, we will be able to be more reckless with our mana, and that is exactly the intention of the developers.

The other thing I want to talk about is our healing numbers. I've been told that the healing throughput of all of the healers is something that has been looked at and observed throughout the Cataclysm expansion. How the healing numbers work out in the next tier of content will be closely monitored, and adjustments will be made if necessary. While I wasn't given any details, rest assured, my shaman fellows, our cries and concerns are actually being heard.

The time that is coming is an exciting one, and we will certainly be seeing a lot of change. While it might be scary at first glance, I can honestly say that I think we're going to wind up better than where we are right now. So now the million-dollar question: What do you think of all the news regarding restoration shaman from BlizzCon 2011?

Totem Talk: Restoration lets you Ask a Shaman about the tricks of the trade. We'll introduce you to the very latest pre-raid gear and show you how to manage your cooldowns. Happy healing, and may your mana be plentiful!

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