The first thing you'll probably notice is that our talent tree looks a little different than what was revealed at BlizzCon 2011. Our level 90 talents are missing -- well, not missing exactly, but they've been relocated. They are no longer level 90; instead, they have been moved down to level 45. The talents are still mostly there as we saw them before, but they have just been placed in a position that makes a bit more sense. The general consensus was that the talents didn't feel like a talent reward for hitting level 90; instead, they were sort of mediocre.
Notice also that Elemental Harmony is missing. The talent previously let you lay down multiple totems of the same school. The problem was that with that awesome idea came restrictions limiting your use of totems and, more specifically, excluding fire totems. Instead, the talent has been replaced by Call of the Elements, which immediately finishes the cooldown on all totems. Think of it: You could have the option to immediately clear the cooldown on Spirit Link Totem, Mana Tide Totem or even Healing Tide Totem to use them all over again. It certainly adds a lot more flexibility, and placed at level 45, it could be quite fun and useful.
You may also notice that there's been a bit of a swap-a-roo between the level 60 and 70 tier talents. For us healers, this means that our healing talents will have to wait 15 more levels before we can lay our hands on them. Honestly, that makes a little bit of sense because it offers up a choice between a new healing cooldown in the form of Healing Tide Totem, our version of Tranquility, and chances to buff our Healing Rain and offer alternative ways to dish out some healing.
That doesn't mean that the level 60 tier is without uses for us healers. Elemental Mastery has been changed to give a flat 30% haste when used, allowing us to use it sort of like a personal Heroism or Bloodlust. Ancestral Swiftness works just like the current incarnation of Nature's Swiftness with the added benefit of giving 5% haste passively, and Echo of the Elements still duplicates spells cast.
Now with the removal of talents to make way for the shift, there's that great big void at the top. Level 90 talents can be anything at this point, really, and while nothing has been said about the opening, I think it has to do with balancing the talents so as to not completely overshadow the other healers by making them overly powerful, but not making them as lackluster as they were in the previous incarnation of the talent calculator. Speculation, I'm sure, is already under way. What there could be for level 90 talents, I don't know quite yet.
Spells and abilities
The spell section is also one that restoration shaman (and in truth, all shaman) have been looking over quite a bit. After all, this is where we get a glimpse of the new abilities that we'll get on our way to level 90. The problem has been that for the most part, this section has been largely unchanged. Well, there are some tweaks now for us to look at finally.
One of the first things I noticed is that Purification has a new tooltip. In addition to increasing your healing done by 25% now, it also increases the healing done by your water totems by 50%. In a way it sort of replaces Soothing Rains, but does it one better by giving a larger bonus. The tooltip for Ghost Wolf now shows properly that it is instant-cast for all shaman without modification. Purify Spirit replaces Cleanse Spirit, and the wording on the tooltip says that it removes all Curse and Magic effects from a friendly target. It also now has an increased cast cost of 16% base mana, up from 14%. Whether it will actually remove all curse and magic effects on one cast will remain to be seen, but the possibility is quite a nice thought.
Another apparent major change is Healing Stream Totem. Right now, our wonderful little healing companion heals everyone in our party for as long as it's active. According to the new tooltip, however, HST will only last for 1 minute, down from the 5 minutes it currently is. If that's not enough of a change, it will only heal the most injured party or raid member. That's one, single target. It basically means that HST will be changed from a source of constant passive healing to a healing-cooldown-style totem. While it doesn't have a cooldown, the effectiveness of the new totem will have to be seen. It's a pretty big potential change and one I'm not sure how I feel about it quite yet. I'd like to see how the numbers look after the changes in the Mists beta when it's available.
So with the recent update, we also got a look at a new spell that currently becomes available to us at level 87. Ascendance turns us into an elemental for 15 seconds. In truth, it functions much like a paladin's Guardian of Ancient Kings, giving us a form dependent on which spec we're in. For those of us who are restoration focused, we get to take on the form of a Water Ascendant. While in this form, all of our healing is duplicated and distributed evenly among nearby allies.
The ability is pretty cool, giving us another cooldown to call upon, and it's exactly like the Essence of Dreams green crystal buff from the Ultraxion encounter. I can definitely see how this could come in handy, and it certainly fits the bill for a new healing cooldown, but it's going to largely depend on how much healing we can cram into the 15 seconds that the spell is active. While it is certainly full of potential, I'm going to have to wait until I can actually test it out to pass judgement.
I don't know about you, but these changes are leaving me eager to get my hands on Mists of Pandaria so I can test them all out for myself!
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!