The upsides of Ascendance
Honestly, I will admit I was a bit skeptical when it was revealed what our ability was going to be. The ability is on a 3-minute cooldown and only lasts for a grand total of 15 seconds. That doesn't sound like a whole lot of time, especially when you consider that most shaman will be hovering around a 2.0-second cast time heading into the expansion. But I'm quite happy to admit that I've been incredibly surprised by this ability. It's proven to be quite a bit more useful than I had originally anticipated.
Let's take a second to just look at the wording on the ability: While in the form of a Water Ascendant, all healing done is duplicated and distributed evenly among nearby allies. So for every heal you use, the ability takes whatever amount you heal for and spreads it around by dividing it evenly among the players closest to you. Chain Heal, Healing Rain, Healing Surge, Greater Healing Wave and just about every trick we have up our sleeves counts for it. You can actually dish out a surprising amount of healing in that very short period of time that's been allotted.
My own experience with Acendance has been pretty positive so far. I've been using it as a sort of emergency cooldown right now, waiting till things get super-hairy and then popping it. Basically, the way I see it right now, anywhere you would consider tossing down your Spirit Link Totem might also be a good spot to use this ability. Low-health, high-damage situations seem perfectly suited to the ability, and I've managed to avoid more than one wipe with use of this ability.
There's some surprising interaction with the ability, as well. Conductivity actually works with Ascendance, which caught me completely off guard. Conductivity is one of our new talents and lets you spread some healing around whenever you use HW, GHW, HS or Lightning Bolt on targets located inside of your Healing Rain. Allies get additional healing equal to 20% of the initial damage or healing done. If you happen to be in your ascendant form, all of that additional healing also triggers your bonus ascendant healing. It results in an incredible explosion of healing numbers and green text on your screen.
Ancestral Guidance also is something that factors into your ascendance form. That is pretty darn cool, if you ask me. Not only are you copying your direct damage or healing and issuing 40% of that as healing to a nearby injured party or raid member, but you're also taking that amount, copying it and redistributing it among players in range. It's a pretty kickass one-two punch, all things considered.
For all the good about Ascendance, there must be a ying to the yang, so to speak. There are drawbacks to using the ability and things that are definite marks in the minus column. First on the list is the mana consumption. This is something I always knew was going to be an issue, but it's quite shocking how rapidly you deplete your mana reserves when you use this ability.
Say you pop your haste cooldowns to throw out massive amounts of healing. Honestly, your tank can wind up so empty that you feel as if you'd just completed your Death Blossom maneuver. I felt this a few times, not going to lie. There were a few times when damage was pretty intense, and I literally blew every single cooldown including Ascendance in order to make it through. At the end, I went to the well and found that it was dry -- my fault, mainly for not paying attention and for not really working with the ability.
That said, going out of mana is a very real danger. When you use this ability, at least for now, you really have to be mindful of your mana levels. If you get too carried away, you may not be able to recover using Mana Tide Totem or Glyph of Telluric Currents. While I'm certain this issue will level out as you gear up and gain higher mana regen, right now, just be mindful of your mana consumption. It's true that Ascendance only lasts 15 seconds, but that 15 seconds can be all you need to completely drain yourself.
Not all of our healing abilities work with Ascendance. Healing Tide Totem, as awesome as it is, is not included in the list of healing that triggers the bonus healing from Ascendance. That makes a certain amount of sense when you think about it; considering how much healing that Healing Tide Totem does when you pop it, it could be quite unbalanced to let it trigger even more healing than it already does.
Also, the bonus healing from Ascendance is not affected by our mastery, Deep Healing. While our normal heals will still benefit from it, the bonus healing that gets redistributed will be at whatever raw number it is when the ability's healing is calculated. That makes a certain amount of sense, but don't expect to rely on the redistribution of bonus healing to dig you out of any holes by itself. Again not surprising, but definitely worth noting.
Ascending into the endgame
Honestly, I'm really enjoying this new ability. I think it has a lot of potential. I can see how it will be useful, especially in the next expansion's endgame content. I can also see how it has the potential (through scaling of gear and stats) to be quite a powerful healing cooldown. Having Ascendance at our fingertips will likely prove invaluable, just like SLT has been all throughout Cataclysm.
Ascendance fits the characterization of shaman quite well; summoning the powers of the elements to turn into an ascendant is pretty much about as shaman as you can get without turning into a full-fledged elemental. It's useful and quirky, and I think that it's balanced quite well. It's not overpowered, it's not underpowered, and it will grow with us in terms of stats and content as the expansion evolves. In short, I really like it.
Have you had a chance to play around with Ascendance yet? What are your thoughts on our level 87 ability?
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!