Mana Tide Totem: Blessing and curse
Shaman have a very unique problem, something that takes the form of a blessing and a curse for us. Namely, this takes the form of Mana Tide Totem. Our wonderful little totem has been with us for quite a while, it has done some wonderful things for us as healers and making sure we have a well of mana to drink from when we need it. It's a great totem, don't get me wrong, but it has a dark side. The ability allows us not only to give ourselves mana back, but also to restore mana to our raiding healing counterparts withing 40 yards of it. Combine that with the fact that it operates at 200% of your spirit total excluding short term buffs like trinket procs, and you have a very powerful raid tool that is very coveted. It's good, no two ways about it. However it has a bit of a downside as well.
Since the birth of this wonderful water world spirit, restoration shaman have gotten saddled in some folks eyes with the label of mana battery. Something that while funny at first, has sort of become something that many raid leaders choose to solely identify healing minded shaman for. It has certainly always been a personal grievance of mine when I hear people refer to resto shaman as nothing more than mana batteries. There is a school of thought that holds that stacking spirit is the most important thing you can do in terms of helping your raid team as a whole. That there is a certain amount of sacrifice that you need to make to your throughput in order to focus on having a ton of spirit. It is not a thought I subscribe to personally, but it is in fact out there.
Because of this cooldown, you may sometimes come under a lot of pressure to stack a ton of spirit and truly become that mana battery. It sounds like it may be something that isn't too common, but I get a lot of emails about this and it does come up in conversation rather frequently whenever I'm talking to newer healers or resto shaman that have just changed guilds or raid teams.
Throughput over longevity?
From the focus on spirit we come to the other school of thought, and that is where throughput is king of everything. This school of thought focuses on stats like Crit, Haste and Intellect. The idea is to make sure your heals hit for as much as they possibly can, possibly damning efficiency and scoffing at people's desire to even consider stacking spirit. It rests on the idea that you can use Glyph of Telluric Currents to make up for any missing Spirit as a major source of mana regeneration. The upside of this is that those same stats that you would look at to increase your throughput would also help increase the damage from your Lightning Bolt when you decided it was time to do a little DPS.
The part that makes this a little tough to swallow is that there are folks in this camp that take their spirit down to the absolute minimum. They will reforge out of it, avoid items with it on it and make sure not to gem or enchant for it. It's a little bit boggling to me, I'm not going to lie. Throughput is important, sure, but is it so important that you sacrifice all of your longevity to do it? Where is the cut off point? I get this type of question almost as often as I get the the ones about stacking spirit.
So what's the right answer?
That right there is the $64,000 question. Which is right and which is wrong? The answer is both for both. My personal thought is that extremes are bad. They shoe horn you and cripple you in as many ways as they may seem to help you. I personally don't believe that either extreme by themselves is the right answer, no matter how much people debate the topic or express their opinion on it. There is however only one right answer, and well, it is simply whatever lets you get the job done. In an average raid week, it is not uncommon for me to spend time reforging, re-gemming and shuffling things around to best suit the fight. Some fights will require some more spirit, others I'll stack some more mastery and take advantage of some Deep Healing. Some nights I will change my load out depending on what the healing team looks like for a night in order to better compliment the team.
As far as I'm concerned, at the end of the day it's about getting the job done however you need to get it done working with your team. Your stats may shift, you may change fight to fight, but you just need to be ready to do that. Do not become swayed by either extreme. If you find yourself hurting for mana even though you are rolling MTT on cooldown, stack some more spirit. After all you can't heal if you have no mana. If you find yourself with a mana bar that isn't moving and your heals are hitting like limp pasta, drop some spirit and look at some of your other stats. Find your balance, what works for you in your situations. Don't heal in a world of pure black and white, and swim in that gray area. As far as I'm concerned, that is the right answer. What do you think?
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!