Totem Talk: Restoration shaman buffs and debuffs in Mists of Pandaria

Joe Perez
J. Perez|03.13.12

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Totem Talk: Restoration shaman buffs and debuffs in Mists of Pandaria
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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 cohost of the For the Lore and Raid Warning podcasts), shows you how

Every time there is a new update whenever we're waiting for an expansion, it's super hard not to be excited. We'll be getting a flood of information about the expansion soon -- I can feel that in my bones -- but in the meantime, we have had a steady trickle of information, ranging from the talent calculator updates to the recently discovered and discussed list of buffs and debuffs in Mists.

Thursday, though, Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street made a blog post about consolidating buffs and debuffs in Mists of Pandaria. The first thing any shaman will notice is that buff totems have gone the way of Sentry Totem. This shouldn't be that surprising, really, since at BlizzCon 2011, Blizzard stated that this was going to happen. However, it means that raid buffs will be mobile and travel with you at all times -- a great thing for PvP and for PvE utility, but a bad thing for anyone who cares about the flavor of totems.

But that totem was my friend!

Before we talk about what we're getting, let's talk about what we're losing. Strength of Earth Totem, Stoneskin Totem and Mana Spring Totem are all gone, and it tentatively looks like we may be losing Wrath of Air Totem as well. It's not that the first three are gone from the game but that the effects just won't exist anymore. No class in the game will buff mana per 5 seconds, strength and agility or added armor. We're not the only ones losing anything here; other classes like paladins will also feel the sting of consolidation. In terms of Wrath of Air, there will still be spell haste buffs in the game, it's just something that restoration shaman will not have access to.

Essentially, we're flat-out going to lose four totems.

This isn't all a bad thing. Right now, there is a lot of overlap and redundancy, which makes raiding in a 25-man environment silly when it comes to buffs, especially when you have multiple members from each class. It already felt like you didn't have to drop or use all your totems, and in many cases, that was true.

That said, at the end of the day, buff consolidation is a bit scary, especially to shaman. Whenever we get buffs consolidated, we tend to lose a totem. It's hard to not feel diminished or like something has been removed from the core of the class, especially when we used those very buffs to help define our roles in raids in The Burning Crusade. The game, though, has changed quite a bit since then, and honestly, this might not be all that bad of a redesign.

I won't say I'm upset about the totems going away, but I find myself more thoughtful on the state of the game and our roles in it, how we've changed over the years as healers and how the class has risen and fallen over time. It's an interesting roller-coaster ride, and it's far from over. Still, I feel like I should take some of my beer and pour it out for my fallen friends. Seeing some of our iconic totems to, totems that have been with us through thick and thin for many years, still leaves a bit of a hole in my shamanistic heart.

GC taketh away, but he also giveth

So, we're losing totems, what are we getting in return? Well, as I mentioned before, our buffs are no longer going to come from totems but instead will come right from us. There is the benefit of their being mobile, so we won't have to worry about being positional to a totem or dragging them around. Also -- and this is a big one -- we won't have to worry about casting the totem every single time we want that buff. Overall it's a good thing, and I think we won't feel the sting so badly in the long run.

So what do we get, exactly? First off, all shaman of every type and flavoring will be granting 10% spellpower. There's no more smaller version of it, so we basically get to be walking, talking version of Totemic Wrath, even as restoration. That's pretty cool and will help give us a little extra punch, especially when we're in smaller groups.

Secondly, we get our hands on a brand spanking new mastery buff that grants +5 mastery in the form of a new spell gained at 80 called Grace of Air. (That name sounds awfully familiar.) All shaman will be capable of bringing this, but it's pretty damn awesome, if you ask me. I like mastery, I really do. I think it's a fun stat, and I think that it's particularly cool that we'll be bringing a little buff to it for everyone to enjoy.

There is a downside to this, though. Currently, we no longer offer any haste buff. This has been given to our enhancement and elemental family members. Unlike them, we will only be offering two buffs to a group. This doesn't exactly mean we got the short end of the stick, but it is just something interesting to note.

Redesign of a totemic scale

What it all boils down to is a change in the philosophy of how totems are going to be done in the Mists. While I know it's scary for all shaman whenever our beloved totems get changed, it really all seems to be geared toward a complete redesign for totems. For years, totems have mostly been static buff sticks, things we jam into the ground that give ourselves and our group members buffs or bonuses. This is something that the developers from Blizzard have been looking to change for along time now. It looks like with Mists, they're finally going to try to push it a step further toward a goal they set almost four years ago. Stone Bulwark Totem, Windwalk Totem, Healing Tide Totem -- each has a place or a best use. None of them are must-haves, but they all have situational goodness about them.

The idea is to make our totems dynamic and situational. Basically, instead of keeping our totems down all the time for static buffs, we use them just like healing cooldowns -- right tool for the right job. You can see this in the redesign of Healing Stream Totem, which will no longer last for 5 minutes and heal everyone in your group. Instead, it has a 1-minute duration and heals the lowest member in your party or raid group. Considering some of the other totems we're gaining access to in Mists, you can see this is something that here to stay.

Gone are the days of totem forests; enter the era of the totem toolkit. I'm on the fence about how I think it will work out. I'm optimistic that it will inject some more decisions in our healing but worry that it might overcomplicate some aspects of our workings. What do you think about our changing buffs and totems?

Totem Talk: Restoration lends you advice on healing groups, DK tanks and heroics and mana concerns in today's endgame -- or take a break and look back at the rise of the resto shaman. Happy healing, and may your mana be plentiful!
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