A rising star, or a falling shaman?
The beginning of the expansion is always a time to see what our new goodies will bring us and what type of impact they will have. From the get go HTT was a curiosity. The talent seemed strong and was often times compared to a druids Tranquility of a priest Divine Hymn, and it gained the ability to utilize our mastery Deep Healing. It gained about 48% of our spellpower, and while that was great, it still didn't compare to other raid cooldowns that would get 85% or higher of the caster's spellpower. The downfall was that basically as other healers got gear, and as players learned not to stand in bad, the cooldown would slowly dwindle in power. The problem was, well, it hasn't quite worked out like that. A considerable amount of our healing throughput has wound up tied to HTT, especially at the beginning.
Personally I know the very first time I used HTT, the other healers pretty much had a cow when they saw how much healing it did by itself during Feng the Accursed. That's been pretty much the curse of this cooldown from the start. It does so much of our healing by itself simply because there are so many fights where everyone is broken down into much smaller groups or simply can't stack on top of each other and take advantage of Spirit Link Totem or Healing Rain like we did throughout Cataclysm. That's been one of the largest complaints among the respectful punch of our healing brethren, that so much of our healing is on this cooldown. There are fights, like Tortos, where HTT is counting for almost 35% of the healing we do simply because of how spread out everyone is. This wound up making the talent pretty much mandatory for that tier choice compared to the other two.
This of course presents an issue on two fronts. First, if the healing cooldown doesn't scale quite as well as other cooldowns, it will eventually fall out of favor and become much less useful. Second, with so much of our healing on certain fights deriving from that, what does that have to say about our healing longevity as a class when compared to other healers?
Will this change?
This is a difficult question to answer some times, but overall, it's not a great place to be where a cooldown like that becomes something you rely on so much for certain fights. We can already see that there are things in the works to make this not the case, or at least attempt to. The new Glyph of Chaining is an attempt to make our beloved Chain Heal more viable in fights were we are going to be spread out, which from all appearances will be happening again in the coming tier of raiding. The new Glyph of Riptide is going down the same road by lessening the initial blow of the instant healing effect. The idea will be that we can start to rely on them a little bit more on those fights where people are spread out.
The second part of this equation is a redesign of the other talents from that tier of choices. Conductivity has been updated so that casting Healing Wave, Greater Healing Wave, Healing Surge and Chain Heal will increase the duration of Healing Rain by 1 second. Conductivity has been one of those talents that has pretty much been written off since the start of the expansion, and this is an attempt to make it more viable as an option when compared to HTT. Will this change be enough to knock HTT out of the spot as a mandatory talent? I'm not entirely convinced. While increasing the duration of HR is nice, it is going to depend on how much stacking we're going to be able to do in the next tier of raiding, and the jury is still out on that. Personally, I don't think anything is going to knock HTT out of it's place in our toolkit anytime soon, which is good and bad.
What about buffing HTT?
This is another one of those topics that has been debated. Half of the shaman healing community would love to see HTT buffed so that we can continue to use it competitively in the tiers of content to come. The other half think that doing so will do nothing but hurt us in the long run by making us so much more dependent on the cooldown for our healing throughput. In patch 5.3's release, a lot of other raid healer cooldowns got buffed yet our HTT did not get any increase. In a Twitter exchange, everyone's favorite crustacean Gregg "Ghostcrawler" Street stated that buffing HTT would only make it more mandatory for resto and that SLT was our raid cooldown. Later that same day however, patch 5.4 ptr notes showed that Healing Tide Totem was getting buffed to heal for 50% more. As it stands on the ptr, HTT will also gain 72% of our spellpower on use. That's a significant bump and puts it much more in line with other raid healing cooldowns.
In the end, I still have a love-hate relationship with the cooldown. I love it because I have a big soft spot for totems in general and I'll always argue for more and cooler totems for us to use. I hate it because I hate feeling like everything we do is tied up in a single cooldown cast every 3 minutes. It points out that we have some severe deficiencies when it comes to fights where we can't keep our raid grouped up. We tend to have to work very hard to keep up.While I love excelling at group healing fights, and I'm not opposed to rolling up my sleeves and putting in some hard work, I hate feeling pigeon holed. My hope is that shaman healing will get another close looking over in the very near future. I still love being a shaman healer, I think we're still a great healing class, but I feel like we have the potential to be so much better.
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!