Tier 12 has been nothing if not unfriendly to shaman healers in a lot of regards. Many fights require us to move out of range of each other regularly or to have the group divided, and so we don't always get the best bang for our buck out of abilities like Healing Rain and Chain Heal as we did in tier 11. Not only that, but with a lot of avoidable damage in raids, the need of our mastery lessens and preventive measures like HOTs and Power Word: Shield become much stronger. We can still heal and hang with the team, we just have to work a little harder for it. Tier 13 though has some very promising, shaman-friendly encounters on the horizon.
We're going to talk about Morchok a little bit here. This giant elemental who is laying siege to Wyrmrest Temple will be one of your first likely encounters. He's big, mean and full of rocks and hate. The fight itself is incredibly fun and has many mechanics that really play into a healing shaman's toolkit.
The first ability is called Stomp. The giant, like all other giants in Cataclysm apparently, likes to crash his foot hard into the ground, causing massive, raid-wide damage. This one does damage to whoever is within 25 yards of him, and it divides the damage up evenly among all targets within range. What this means is that the fast majority of strategies will call for you to be grouped up withing 25 yards of him so that the raid can disperse the damage. Grouping up means you can really take advantage of your Healing Rain and your Chain Heal after every stomp. Not only that, but the stomp does do quite a bit of damage -- enough so that our Deep Healing will kick in. This is really good news for us, as any time you get that mix of damage combined with enough damage to push down health totals, we come out swinging!
Resonating Crystal is also an ability that deals damage to a group of people. Occasionally through the fight, the boss will summon a red crystal around his area. This red crystal will mark several members of the raid with lines of power, much like a Shadow Crystal Focusing Lens. When it explodes, it will deal damage to everyone close to it but (like Stomp) divided by the number of targets in range. The further away marked players are, though, the harder the crystal explodes. It doesn't stay up long, so chances are good that it will explode dealing a decent amount of damage. In either case, you'll have a fairly obvious target of grouped people to place your HR and CH on, and if there are any stragglers, well, your mastery will help out a ton.
At 20% health, the boss gains the Furious buff. This is sort of like an enrage in that it will increase the damage done by 20% for the duration of the fight. At this point, you just keep doing what you've been doing, but a good restoration shaman or two can stabilize the raid so quickly it isn't even funny. The other fun thing about this fight is that with everyone already grouped up, you can make impressive use out of Spirit Link Totem to really siphon off that damage.
The ABC rule of healing
Though every encounter tested so far on the PTR, there is one rule that has come back stronger than before. This is the ABC rule of healing -- Always Be Casting. The same principle was one that I'm pretty sure all healing classes followed at the end of Wrath while burning our ways through Icecrown Citadel. It's basically this: There is always something that you can be doing at any point in time, even if it's not healing exactly. There are always adds to help DPS down, and there is always some damage that you could either be preparing for or actively healing. Line up Lightning Bolts to make sure you're getting your mana back from Telluric Currents and to help add in that little bit extra damage when you can.
It might sound silly, and it goes against everything that would be triage healing, but at this point that is the design. The new level of stats mean that our mana pools will wind up pretty stacked, and that will allow us to be a bit more reckless with our mana consumption. Funnily enough, that seems to be exactly the idea that the developers at Blizzard have been happy with as far as healing goes. At this tier of content, it is expected for us to move away from mana-conservative heals in favor of heavier, mana-costly healing spells.
You can definitely see this in the designs of the tier 13 fights so far. There is a lot of damage in all of the encounters I got to test so far, and I can only imagine that will continue throughout the remaining bosses left to be finished or tweaked. We're going to be busy, so while there may be the great Firelands nerf currently, it is time to start flexing your fingers and getting your macros ready.
Question and answer time
I've been spending a lot of my time the last few weeks playing around with the PTR builds and testing out shaman healing in the new raid environment. I've also spent some time probing the minds behind our design and balance. So now it's time for me to put that information that I've been gathering to good use. Next week, I'd like to do an Ask a Restoration Shaman column again. It's been a while since I've done one and figure it's that time again. So I want you to feel free to ask me any questions you want through email, Twitter or comments here on the site. I'll be answering a handful of questions here on the site next week, but rest assured I will answer everyone's questions. So let 'em rip!
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!