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Totem Talk: The problem with restoration shaman

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 content creation at InternetDragons.TV), shows you how.

Don't get me wrong, I love shaman healing. I've loved it for as long as shaman have existed in this game. I enjoy the hell out of healing bosses in raids, dungeons, strangers in spontaneous world PvP. Basically, if I can heal it on the shaman I've loved it. That's not to say that there haven't been any problems over the years with shaman healing, in fact there have been many.

Mists of Pandaria is no exception to this. I mean we still kick all kinds of tail, but we just have some things that feel off. There are things that are just, well, I just look at them and I see potential issues. Problems that will come up later, even some that are coming up right now. It's far from a perfect world for us right now.

Shifting stats at every turn

Seems like a silly complaint to make, but since the introduction of our Mastery, it's been a roller coaster from the beginning of a tier to the end. The problem is our mastery does best when people are either being slow and not moving out of the damage, or when your raid group is not quite at the gear level to over power the encounter. The problem I've always had with our mastery is that no matter what you do, if your raid group is executing mechanics and not taking unnecessary damage, our mastery sort of fizzles. It puts us in a situation where if there's a new tier of raiding or content, mastery tends to be very good, and then it falls off partway through the tier and by the end it's at an all time low only to rebound back the next tier. It makes it really hard to find a happy medium, to find a balance that will suit you from begging to end.

This goes beyond the normal healers prioritization of spirit at the beginning of any expansion and then geming and reforging to their through put stats. It honestly feels like a bit of a roller coaster. As far back as the start of Cataclysm, we started seeing a debate pop up between crit and mastery. It sort of replaced the whole haste vs mastery debate that was around before that. The general consensus is that if your group is staying low and taking consistently large amounts of damage, mastery is good. If they're not, crit is better. It's quite a bit more complicated than that, and I'm simplifying it to a certain degree, but the point is between all our stats it just seems like a constant shuffle. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe every healing class is like that, but I'm not quite sold that ours is as equally stable as their priorities.

Cooldowns everywhere!

Here's another interesting point, and a very uniquely shaman issue. In Mists, so much of our throughput is contingent on cooldown usage right now. I don't mean cooldowns on normal spells like Healing Rain, I mean big ones. The problem I think, is that they've become such a huge part of our healing rotation. Lets take a look at the list.

Of that list, you can be using five of them at any given point in time. What concerns me in particular though, is how reliant we our throughput seems to be on Ascendance, Healing Tide Totem and Healing Stream Totem. In a lot of the parses I've been seeing, Healing Tide Totem is clocking in at between 15-20% of total healing done. That's a large percentage for a 3 minute cooldown ability that only lasts for 11 seconds at a time. Healing Stream Totem also clocks in somewhere between 15-20% healing done on a lot of fights as well. That's with 30 second cooldown and a duration of only 15 seconds. Ascendance triggers Restorative Mists, which can amount to somewhere between 10-20% of healing done depending on the fight and how much healing you can cram in while Ascendance is up.

I normally am not a fan of meters, but I do believe they can give you some pretty good diagnostics with which to gauge yourself to a certain point. Spell usage, mana consumption, cooldown rotations. There's a lot you can gleam from them. As an experiment I tried not using any of the cooldowns and just sticking with the standard heals. Riptide, Healing Wave, Greater Healing Wave, Healing Surge, Healing Rain, Chain Heal and Earth Shield. Even just not using HTT made such a big difference on the amount of healing I was able to pump out that it was a little bit scary. It's something new, for sure, and I'm not sure if this was the intent behind the design, but our cooldowns are a very big part of the healing we can pump out. It's by far something that needs to be watched over the course of the expansion. Maybe even just between content releases. Will there be a point where we trail behind due to reliance on cooldowns? Time will tell.

A little homework

So I have this crazy theory, an idea really, that needs more input. I'm looking for more data, and I only have so many hours in a day, and only so long my eyes can stay open. I figured I would ask for a little help from you, the readers. I promise I will share my findings with you when I'm sure of them, but I'm looking for parses of fights where two restoration shaman are close to each other in through put. Ideally equally or closely geared, gemed, enchanted and reforged. This can be for 10 or 25 man as long as it has two restoration shaman that are running pretty close to one another. So, are you in a raid group with two restoration shaman and want to share your parses? Please email me with any information you want to share. Honestly, I'd be grateful for any information or links you can share for this one.

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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