The Mists Shaman: Thoughts

With the Mists pre-patch heading to a PTR near you soon(tm), Cataclysm draws ever to a close.

It’s no secret that Cataclysm was not an “easy” expansion pack to be a shaman. While our Sunwell days are far behind us, Wrath was definitely in the shaman sweet spot. With gobs of haste, our chain heal could easily overshadow the other healing classes – and while many healing classes were still very “niche”-based, shaman in Wrath were among some of the most balanced, all around “good to have” healers.

We entered into early Cataclysm with devs saying that shamans were their “ideal” healer as far as toolkit and potential, and other healers were buffed/balanced to bring them in line with the versatility and output once solely the realm of a shaman. At the same time, shaman got relatively few changes and so we started Cataclysm somewhat “behind the curve”, so to speak. Thanks to a few adjustments during the course of the expansion pack (as well as a final, somewhat uninspired raid tier that catered heavily towards stacked healing and high output), healers are finishing Cataclysm with some amount of parity.

So what is Mists going to be like for us?

From the looks of it, shaman are shaping up to be a strong class. We have several new cooldowns at our disposal (Healing Tide Totem and Ascendance being the two most notable). At this stage in beta, we still struggle on spread healing but have arguably the best single target burst healing and stacked AOE healing. Mana remains tight for all classes, a fact oft overlooked when beta shaman report mana concerns.

In general, output-wise, shaman/druid/paladin are pretty much on par, with paladin occasionally pulling ahead slightly. Priests overall seem to be lagging behind, for whatever reason, but I suspect that most of it is just talents and abilities still being worked out design-side. Mistweaver monks trounce everyone at this moment, but they’re destined to be nerfed, and all in all, due to shaman raid utility, a monk is more likely to push out a druid or a paladin in a min-maxing 25-man group than an equivalently skilled shaman.

If you like playing your shaman now, you’ll like them in Mists. Our core playstyle is largely unchanged, save for some new cool-downs that will need to be worked into our arsenal.  It’s not clear what the FOTM healer will be in Mists (other than, perhaps Mistweaver), but shaman remain what they always have been: powerful burst healers with high group utility and stacked AOE potential.

Post x-pack lulls: Cataclysm versus Wrath

A post on WoWinsider last night declared that raiding guild activity, in-game, is down 50% so far this year. The metric comes from GuildOx and I admit, the way it’s presented is a bit misleading. Activity, per GuildOx, is defined as new boss kills or achievements: farming runs don’t register. A guild stalled out at 4/8H doesn’t register since they’re not getting new kills or achievements.  While the metric is partially indicative of “activity”, it also shows that many guilds that are raiding have completed the level of progression that they’re going to reach. Those guild might still be doing farming runs or alt runs, but they’re not “advancing” since there’s nowhere to go.

Is this different from Wrath? I think, in part, yes. I know we were still working on a LK kill up until a few weeks before Cata’s release…and we finished DS weeks ago. My impression was also that more guilds were working on heroic modes or just finishing progression as we headed towards Cataclysm. Back in Wrath, I would constantly see raiding guilds looking for pick-up players or recruiting, and there was a high PUG raid activity on my server. I only see the occasionally “LFM DS” announcements now and most of the raiding groups I know have shut-down operations largely until MoP.  We haven’t really run DS in two weeks now due to lack of interest; we got our legendary daggers,  our mains are geared, and we’ve full cleared the raid multiple times now.  Not everyone is interested in heroic modes; which is fine by me!

The game feels so much emptier now than it did before Cataclysm. Up until a few weeks before Cata’s release, I was chaining dungeons on Anatevka to get her shadow gear and hoping to alt-hop into one of our ICC runs.  Ana’s been geared via LFR for a couple months now and has nothing to gain from valor points or dungeons outside of normal DS. I’m still having fun in-game, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been leveling a new priest and sporadically working on reps for Rhia. I’ve been working on some RP ideas to prepare for Mists. But I feel more -DONE- in the Cata content than I ever did in Wrath.

I’m not quite sure why that is, either. Are we really just that much better at the game that we’re burning through content faster or was there just that much less end-game content at 85?

The Mists Shaman: Talents

As beta winds to a close over this summer, we draw nearer and nearer to the pre-Mists patch and the redesigned talent trees.  While the full-scale changes to the talent system can seem daunting, things become much easier to sort out once you actually dive in.

I went through and picked out my first iteration of preferred talents – and actually gave them a bit of a run through in some Mists dungeons. My talent focus is on healing in a group situation (PvE), so you’ll see a bit more healing and utility orientation than if I was selecting for more of a solo’ing or damage-focused build.

Level 15 talents

At level 15, you can choose between:

Nature’s Guardian – Ye olde “if your health is reduced below 30%, your max health is increased and your threat is reduced”. And about as MEH for a resto shaman as the original talent was. (Hey, if my health is getting that low, getting a boost to my health pool and reduced threat probably isn’t going to help much.)

Stone Bulwark Totem – Creates an initial and then periodic shield over the caster. CD time is 1 minute.

Astral Shift – Shift into the astral planes, reducing damage taken by 40% for the duration. CD time is 2 minutes.

Of these talents, Stone Bulwark is possibly the most viable (wholly dependent on how the scaling feels at 90 with the shield), mostly due to the low CD time and the fact that it’s a totem that will get reset with Call of the Elements (see below for more info on this MUST HAVE talent) so you could theoretically use it back to back. Astral Shift would be more useful for soaking heavy damage attacks (like Ultraxion’s Hours of Twilight), but it’s not a totem that benefits from Call of the Elements and its CD is twice that of Stone Bulwark.

I will, however, be going with Astral Shift because it suits Rhianon’s character more. Note to tanks: ONLY Nature’s Guardian reduces threat, so if the shaman is eating damage due to pulling aggro, you’ll still need to taunt off. This is mostly for my benefit, since I pull aggro a great deal (although our resto druids have been taking the cake for me on Blackhorn!).  I like to blame my big single target heals.

Level 30 Talents

Level 30 talents are our Crowd Control and/or Utility talents.

Frozen Power: Your frost shock will now encase the target in ice for five seconds.

Earthgrab Totem: Similar to our current Earthbind totem in effect. Roots enemies in range for 5 seconds and then reduces their movement speed (if already rooted once) for the remainder of the duration.

Windwalk Totem:  Grants party and raid members in range a brief period of immunity to movement-impairing effects.

Windwalk will have most of its use in PvP, unless there is some boss encounter that snares the entire raid when you need to be moving. Frozen Power will have the most kiting utility, but only against a single target. Earthgrab has the limitations of our current snaring totem (pulse and range), but will be effective against multi-targets.

The selection of this talent mostly depends on what you will be using it for, so you may want to switch it depending on what bosses/fights you will be facing. Frozen Power for single target kiting (think the adds on Erudax in GB), but Earthgrab whenever you need to multi-target kite or snare. I’ll probably be sticking with Earthgrab for the time being.

Level 45 talents

I like the call the Level 45 talents the “Tier of Glory” because not only does it have one talent shaman have been asking for since we had totems (“Why can’t I throw my totems at a location??”) but it also the first of the two most important, MUST HAVE talents for restos.

Call of the Elements : Resets the CD’s on all your totem spells with base CD’s less than 5 minutes. This includes – Healing Tide, Spirit Link, Mana Tide, Healing Stream, etc. This talent is pure awesome. I used it in dungeons on the beta and basically turned into a healing superhero. I’ve been babbling on vent for the past few weeks about how I can’t wait to have this talent in my arsenal (“Wouldn’t TWO spirit links back to back on 4th platform Madness be awesome?!! WELL, when I have my Mists talent —”) I’m sure everyone is sick of me by now.

Totemic Restoration: Reduces the CD on totems if they are destroyed or replaced before the CD is finished. P

Totemic Projection: Tosses your totems to the selected location.

I don’t even really need to bother going into these other two talents because Call of the Elements is such a must have. Briefly — Totemic Restoration will have its most use in PvP where your totems might be targeted/destroyed or if you are dopey and often place your totems in spots where they get destroy (or replace them before they are finished). Totemic Projection might be useful for a placing Spirit Link or Healing Tide/Healing Stream in a large raid environment. And Call of the Elements pretty much blows both of these out of the water.

Level 60 Talents

The Level 60 talents are more “I’ll have to see how these work out at 90″. Nothing screams “TAKE ME!” and all could theoretically have some use in specific circumstances.

Elemental Mastery: Boost your haste by 30% for 20 seconds.

Ancestral Swiftness: Nature’s Grace with a buff. Reduces the cast time of your next nature spell by 100% and passively buffs your haste  by 5%.

Echo of the Elements: Each damage or healing spell you cast has a chance to have a duplicated effect. So you might get two GHW’s for the price of one.

Echo is not really a healing talent as duplicated, unpredictable healing often means overheal (which will be doubly bad with our limited mana pools in Mists). Elemental Mastery will give you a situational HIGH boost to your haste which may be helpful in responding to spike damage situations. Ancestral Swiftness will provide your “OH CRAP” tank heal and a static boost to throughput.

I’ll probably be playing with both talents to see which is more useful once I get into raiding/end-game. In the beta, I’ve found Ancestral Swiftness to have more overall usefulness in the early five man dungeons, but I could see Mastery having more value in a raid environment where periodic throughput boosts for raid healing will outpace the smaller static boost and tank-saving heal.

Level 75 talents

Level 75 – another glorious tier of talents.

Healing Tide Totem: Creates a totem that will periodically heal the 5 most injured raid or party members for a short period of time. Think – mini-tranquility/Divine Hymn.

Ancestral Guidance: Copies 40% of your direct healing and or damage as healing to a nearby, injured raid or party member. Redesign of ye olde Ancestral Awakening talent that most of us dropped to take Spirit Link.

Conductivity: Somewhat complicated — when you cast healing wave, great healing wave, healing surge or lightning bolt at a target in your healing rain, the allies in your healing rain share healing equal to 20% of the damage or healing done.

This is one of those tiers where your selection will probably vary as you progress at end-game. Healing Tide totem is a fantastic small group/raid cluster cooldown that when combined with Call of the Elements will give you extremely high output over a tight period of time. Ancestral Guidance is more gimmicky and probably won’t provide as much of a boost to your throughput since, while it’s a smart heal, you can only have the effect active for a short period of time and requires the ally to be in range. It may be somewhat useful in a small group setting but definitely outpaced over the course of a fight by bigger CD’s like Healing Tide Totem. Conductivity may be more useful in a raiding environment since it would require high Healing Rain uptime combined with single target healing in your HR (not the usual chain healing). Healing Tide is the clear winner here for me, particularly with how you can combine it with Call of the Elements.

Level 90 Talents

I don’t have a beta character at 90 nor are pre-mades available, so I haven’t been able to test out these talents. My perspective is purely “theoretical.”

Unleashed Fury: Increases the effectiveness of your Unleash Elements (Earth Living – further increases your next single target heal on the target by another 50%.)

Prime Elementalist: Turns your Earth and Fire Elements into “pets” under your control with additional abilities. Of note to the Resto shaman, the fire elemental gets Empower which increases your healing done by 10% and the earth elemental gets Reinforce which reduces your damage taken by 20% and increases your healing done by 10%.

Elemental Blast: A blast of elemental energy that temporarily buffs your haste, mastery or crit (whichever stat is higher) by 3500.

Of these, Prime Elementalist will provide the most overall throughput, particularly when combined with Call of the Elements — unless Elemental Blast’s 3500 rating increase is ridiculous at level 90. The limiting factor with Elemental Blast is that you need to weave it into your spell casts, which if you are still taking Lightning Bolt, may be harder than anticipated. Unleashed Fury is the most painfree talent at 90, but a further 50% increase in a single target heal could definitely be outpaced easily in a raid environment with periodic 10% increases in total healing from Prime Elementalist. Unleashed Fury is only of high value if you take Ancestral Guidance AND will be doing a high amount of single target, tank-focused healing.  I might suggest taking Unleashed Fury for 5-man groups and swapping to Prime Elementalist in a raid environment.

Of course, all these selections are prone to change over the remaining course of the beta and during the initial period of launch. I remember thinking how lackluster Telluric Currents was at Cata launch – and it turned into one of my favorite talents. Things also change a bit when you switch your focus from 5-man dungeons to raiding. I can see playing with talents such as Conductivity or Elemental Mastery  in a raid environment where there is more flexibility with the healing arrangement and/or ability to use CD-based talents more regularly during boss encounters.

Once the pre-patch releases, we’ll be doing some Dragon Soul to try out our new abilities and I’ll have a better handle on how these abilities actually function in a live raiding environment.

Screenshot Dump

Back the beginning of Wrath, my husband built a new computer for me and in the process of transitioning over to the new computer, I forgot to save all my WoW screenshots.

I figured I had lost all of them…but this Monday, I found a profile on Photobucket that had a bunch of old screenshots uploaded to it. I picked out a few from the bunch that either made me remember something about Burning Crusade or made me smile.

Windfury!

This one comes from the Burning Steppes when I was leveling Rhianon…as enhancement. Yes, you saw this screenshot of Rhianon in a windfury proc. I remember the day because I had just gotten a new staff from a dungeon run and I was figuring out the quickest way to get my weapon skill up — remember those old days of weapon skills?

DING!

Tanaquil aka Blood-Elf-Anatevka dinging 70 — good timing on the screenshot, no? I had been working on getting her to 70 for about 6 months at that point in time and was so close; Illegible and Deirbhile joined me to help me kill off a few things quickly so I’d ding. I have to admit, I like the shoulders Tana is wearing — red and green crazy poofy things.

Water-Walking

I’m not even sure what I was doing in this picture other than water-walking across the bay outside Theramore. A few things of note in this pic — a random heroic invite (a relic of the era before LFD) and my Totemus add on (the little circle with buttons around it), which managed my totems quite effectively before Blizzard made their own totem UI element.  Odd how little has actually changed about my UI in the 4-5 years or so since this picture!

OOPS!

The important part of this screenshot is the white text just below the targeted unit (Dahwin – priest): “Missing Enchant – Main Hand”.  You see, before ‘Unleash Elements’ reminded me that ‘You are Missing an Enchant to Unleash’, I had an add-on that would remind me if I entered combat without a weapon enchant. And even though years of shamaning has made me almost reflexively hit that weapon enchant spell every few minutes (like the Recall Totems when moving), I still somehow manage to start boss fights without Earthliving enchant. Crazy stuff.

 

 

 

Shared Topic: Always Want What You Can’t Have

Dragonray brings us this week’s shared topic:

What is it you want, but know you can’t get your hands on and have to stare at longingly whenever you log in?

As I thought about this, I had alot of trouble coming up with in-game things: in general, if I want something, I do my best to get it. I did eventually get the Sporeggar pet and tabard, the Kurenai mount, and the Cenarion War Hippogryph. I completed the Avatar set for Anatevka and the Cyclone raiment for Rhianon. And if I really wanted some of the archaeology trinkets that I admire (the Naaru one, for example), I would simply go out and level up archaeology.

There are a few things that stick out to me, however – mainly because I either can’t get them or they have simply eluded me for so long:

Firefly!

 

1) The Firefly pet — I desparately want this pet for Rhianon, but despite farming Zangarmarsh and browsing the AH, I have yet to get it for her. I could have gotten it earlier this year on the AH, but I choose to spend my gold on the Tsunami card set for raiding. (*tosses 20k gold out the window*)

 

 

 

Magical Crawdad

2) Magical Crawdad pet — Another wish for Rhianon, but this one has a longer story. I first saw the pet in SSC during a 25-man raid; one of the other healers had it out and I had instant jealousy. I leveled up fishing specifically to get this pet and I spent hours farming for Mr. Pinchy drop. I actually got Mr. Pinchy twice — but none of my wishes ever brought me the pet. Since then, I have yet to farm this seriously since it frustrates me so.

 

But perhaps the saddest:

Benediction

3) Benediction

Anatevka was not my first priest. Before I even created the blood elf version of her, I had a night elf priestess named Starchaser – and from the moment I created Starchaser, I coveted the Benediction staff. We had MC and Onxyia on farm by the time she got to 60, and one night, I was lucky enough to get the Eye of Divinity from Majordomo’s cache. Guildies bought me the corresponding Eye of Shadow as a present and within a week, my little night elf was sporting Benediction. (I remember completing the quest in the wee hours of the morning and waking up my fiance-at-the-time to tell him that ‘I DID IT! I DID IT!’).

At the beginning of BC, my account was hacked and I lost everything, including that priest with the Benediction. I got a restore about 6 months or so later, but when I logged back on, the staff was gone. Forever. Later on, I transferred over my blood elf priest and Anatevka was born, but I never pursued getting the Benediction for her. Now that transmog is in-game, I wish I had bothered getting Benediction so I could use it as her staff model.

So whenever I see Benediction, I feel a little sad and nostalgic, and then slap myself for not getting it on Anatevka when I could have.

See, wouldn’t Ana look awesome with a Benediction?

 

Shared Topic: Insert NPC here

I actually wrote this piece last week and held it back with the intention of gathering screenshots…and then real-life happened. So, I’m late to the party on this one!

Last week, Cymre brought us yet another juicy topic at Blog Azeroth:

If Blizzard added your main as an NPC in WoW, where would they be located and what would be their function?

At first, I thought this topic would be a breeze. Rhia’s a baker. She owns a bakery in Stormwind and sells a variety of sweet delights to locals. So, wouldn’t she be someone like Aimee in Dalaran, the ever-popular pipe and cake vendor?

Aimee

Aimee, sweets vendor!

The longer I thought about it, however, the less like Rhia a vendor like Aimee seemed. Yes, Rhia does love to bake and share treats with everyone, but she’s really much more like Vianne from Chocolat.

Vianne was raised as a wanderer, obeying the call of the “wind” that shuffled her from city to city and making her living through domestic magic. Although she believes in the unseen, her gifts, working through the simple delights of chocolates and candies, are accessible to everyone.

Rhia’s bakery is her “domestic magic”; she’s still, at her core, a shaman and while she may be feeding cakes and pies in Stormwind right now, she will follow wherever duty takes her. She lives to serve the people, whether through healing or treats.  To keep her as a still NPC, simply selling cakes and pies, seems to almost violate the essence of her character.

Farseer Umbrua, pre-Catalcysm

Instead, she would be a shaman trainer, sitting on the ledge overlooking Stormwind harbor (and the horizon), with bags filled with pies to feed whatever passerbys or students come her way. Since Farseer Umbrua vacated her post in the Valley of Heroes after the Cataclysm, it makes sense that Rhia might take up a similar watch. We also have the portrait I commissioned of Rhia that’s highly evocative of this position — Stormwind in the background and Rhia looking on from a dock near Olivia’s Pond.

It’s an image that’s both mysterious/elusive and warm (almost maternal), and that’s certainly Rhia at the core.

And if everyone’s special…

There are no level 90 regular dungeons.

The Mists of Pandaria heroic dungeons are easier than the Cataclysm heroic dungeons.* Once we made that decision, we thought that having two versions of the level 90 dungeons (normal and heroic) didn’t make sense because they would be very similar in difficulty and offer similar loot. We thought about calling them something besides “heroic,” since heroic tends to mean hard to a lot of players, but we also needed to call them something, because some dungeons like Temple of the Jade Serpent have a lower-level and a level 90 version. We thought about calling them “level 90 versions” but figured “heroic” required less explanation. (We also could have dispensed with lower level dungeons, or made lower level versions of the level 90 dungeons, but we felt like both solutions were just to make the nomenclature of “heroic” more clear, which seemed like bad reasons.)

TLDR: Some Mists of Pandaria dungeons have lower level and level 90 versions. Others just have level 90 versions. In both cases, the level 90 versions are called “heroic.”

* – If you like very difficult dungeons, Challenge Modes are targeted at you.

-source

I have to admit, I had a pretty strong reaction to this announcement last week. Effectively, there are no “heroic” dungeons in Mists, outside of Challenge Modes. While it remains to be seen just how difficult “Level 90 aka heroic” dungeons are, I assume that they’ll be at the level of difficulty of Cata normal dungeons. That is to say, not difficult in the least after achieving a modicum of gear.

Oh, but if you want difficult dungeons – just do challenge modes!

Blizzard must still be smarting from the Cata heroic dungeon debacle at the beginning of the expansion pack. They promised more challenging dungeons and delivered — only to watch a large portion of the playerbase recoil in anger and frustration. I have previously admitted to being one of the few people who enjoyed the challenge of the early heroics, but I understand what happened. I watched people avoid dungeons outside of close groups of friends and experienced the frustration of many pugs.

What went wrong? Didn’t we want harder dungeons? I remember the cry to a return of the “BC era” heroics. So, why did the Cataclysm heroic model fail so spectacularly and alienate so many players — to the point that Blizzard is effectively removing “heroics” from the game in Mists?

I think there were two major issues with the Cata heroic model, evocative of Blizzard’s misunderstanding of the role of heroics in their game. We’re not in BC, anymore, after all.

1) The dungeon culture has changed.  Back in BC, people didn’t spam heroics via LFD for gear and justice badges/points. You did your daily heroic (hopefully it was Mechanar) and that was usually it unless guildies were doing quests. Most of the gear needed for raiding was obtainable through normal dungeons, dailies, and crafting.  In Wrath, however, obtaining the last tier of gear through points/badges became an entry-level requirement for raiding and LFD’s easy access to groups made “farming heroics” a new end-game activity. In BC, my shaman did ONE heroic before starting raiding. That would be impossible to imagine today.

2) Rewards not in line with challenge. The BC era heroics, while giving high quality blue rewards akin to Cata, also offered a number of epic and “unique” items that were valuable even to raiders — gems, trinkets, etc. The epic quality drops were on par with Karazhan raid drops, similar to the Wrath model of the epic drops from the final boss being in line with Naxx 10-man raid drops. Cata removed that “big” reward from the heroic dungeons. You only got 346 blues for them, no matter what (unless you got a BOE epic drop), a whole 13 ilvls lower than the raiding tier.  So, not only were the dungeons as frustrating as BC era heroics, they didn’t reward nearly as good loot.

As originally designed, heroics were meant to be the end-game for small group players, offering high challenge and high reward. It was an alternative to raiding, not a stepping-stone to raiding.

I rather liked heroics in that role and was never fond of the dumbing-down they took in Wrath – so I welcomed the return to the higher difficulty level. That failed, obviously, for the reasons specified above — which I completely understand and agree with. I get that no one liked the Cata heroics before they were nerfed.

So, why my “strong reaction”? It’s mostly a semantic thing. Why the heck do we have to call them heroic if they’re no longer, well, heroic? Can’t we just call them 90 normals and be done with it? Because more people understand the term “heroic” — or is it because to take “heroics”, both in spirit and in name, out of the game would be bad PR? Everyone wants to be that “heroic” dungeon runner; no one wants to be the “normal” dungeon runner.

But if everyone’s special, then no one is at all…

Adventures Outside of Azeroth

And not in the real world, although RL kept me away from blogging over the past week. Turns out that resigning a job you’ve held for almost six years (at a company for which you have great respect) is difficult and stressful, no matter how bright the future looks.

My cleric in Rift dinged 50 two Saturdays ago and with some time purchased as a birthday present, I decided to dive into Rift’s endgame a bit, while savoring every bit of Mists news that came my way.

Hitting 50 and getting into expert dungeons (heroics) and raiding in Rift is pretty much an exercise in everything Blizzard wants to move away from in Mists. The class soul system is pretty complicated; selecting from 9 souls and scads of talents in an environment where min/maxing (however limited) is pretty much the norm is a task not for the faint of heart. I dove into cleric guides everywhere and settled on a couple basic builds:

Sentinel/Warden/– (3x/3x/–): Standard healing build that gives you warden’s mana regen tools, plenty of hots, and the AOE healing power of the Sentinel. Decent for raid healing and back-up tanking healing; not very mana-intensive.

Purifier/Sentinel/–(3x/3x/–): Single target healing build that goes deep into the purifier tree to pick up all the tank-saving moves.  Average mana investment for single target healing, heavy costs for AOE healing.

Senticar (Sentinel/Justicar): A novel build that relies on a Justicar’s convictions and damage-based healing for AOE healing, while funneling extra heals to a tank via Righteous Mandate (similar to Beacon of Light). Two single target patch heals — Healing Breath and Invocation – that can each be reduced to instant cast with a cooldown.

And that’s just for healing — don’t get me into damage dealing! (Or tanking, for that matter.)  Senticar is my go-to for expert dungeon healing; most of the groups are overgeared and between Mien of Honor and Doctrine of Loyalty, I can dish out heavy heavy while still entertaining myself by dealing some damage. I tried Senticar in a raid environment and it felt woefully weak, however — probably due to gear level more so than the actual spec. I don’t have enough mana to keep up DoLing during a boss encounter and my single target heals couldn’t keep up with the other healers.

Ah, yes, Rift raiding. I joined a casual guild and signed up for their Wednesday night alt- raid — Drowned Halls and Gilded Prophecy, back-to-back. Both were easy clears and I picked up a few nice pieces of gear. The next day, however, I was reminded of how quickly I got turned off to raiding in Rift — the sheer cost of it and the time investment required.

My friendly guild officer sent me a note with some items I had requested, directing me to which factions to grind dailies for so I could buy specific enchants (called “runes”) and which planar essences to purchase. Each of these planar essences cost approximately 30-50 (or more) Inscribed Sourcestones. You can gather these stones via Instant Adventure, daily and weekly raid quests, closing Rifts, or doing Events. The average Ember Isle event may take 30 minutes or so to complete and will award approximately 20-30 sourcestones. While you can easily grind out the stones needed by tracking events and basically “farming” them – and completing dailies, I find doing events that often to be tiresome. It’s alot mounting up and riding around; and not alot of time doing what I enjoy — defeating monsters and bosses. If I could convert my Expert Dungeon currency into Sourcestones, I would be happy — but there’s no way to really do that.

And then there are the raiding consumables. On my server, the flasks and weapon enchant for a night of raiding can easily cost 10-20 plat a night. Add in your repair costs and that’s easily 30 plat for a night of raiding, a night in my case spent -not- farming plat. That became incredibly costly before on my mage, to the point that it was largely a determining factor in me deciding to set Rift aside for a moment.

But, Fivequarters, you may say — raiding in WoW has consumables and there are faction grinds. Why is that an easier burden to bear? First, I have it a bit easy in WoW since raiding consumables are provided by my guild. I’ll farm some to add to the pot and bring my own cauldrons/feasts, but largely, the cost of cauldrons and feasts is a non-issue.

And I’ve already stated how I feel about faction grinds in WoW (Deepholme) and Blizzard has basically come out in agreement with those complaints. Choosing a faction to level should be based on which dailies are more interesting or which rewards you like better (such as pets/mounts/tabards), not which has the enchants you need NOW for raiding.

So, after a week assuaging my RL woes with Rifting, I’ve become once again exhausted of the Rift model and heading back into WoW where everything is…well…much easier.  Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. If I only have 2 to 3 hours to play in an evening, I don’t want to spend that time doing things I don’t want to do but NEED to do for raiding/etc. I want to spend that time playing the game and enjoying it! A night of RP in Stormwind is a gazillion times more fun than a night spent grinding dailies.

So You Want to be a Resto Shaman

I get it. It’s all about the totems. I mean, they’re awesome. They provide useful things like healing or resistance or mana, and great ways to avoid having to use raid markers. Need to stack? “Go hug the totems!”  Also – lots of totems in one place = awesomeness.

Totem explosion from Around Azeroth WoW Insider column – click for source!

Alright, so maybe you have other reasons too.  I rolled my shaman because chain heal looks pretty. So maybe you like healing rain or the style of armor, or you like putting rocks around your tanks.

In any case, here we are and you’re going to be a resto shaman.  Tons of things are changing for us in Mists, so this first post won’t so much be a “do this” or “stack this stat” as much as a “here’s the deal with being a resto shaman.”

The bad news first:

You will have a perpetual inferiority complex.

This sorta goes hand-in-hand with one of our “good news” talking points (Jack of all trades healer). You need to get over right away that you’ll never be a disc priest with shields. You will never be a holy paladin with a beacon and holy radianceOMIGOSH. You do not have Tranquility or a chance to look like a tree. You will not be putting life-saving wings on tanks. Resto shaman have a few unique tricks, but we don’t have some of the “look at that!” bling that other classes get.  We’re getting some new things in Mists, but shaman aren’t balanced around having “omigosh she’s awesome” moments.

You will struggle with mana.

At max level, in a raiding environment or heroic environment, shaman have more mana struggles than almost any other class.  This is the number one complaint from new resto shamans. Your regen depends on keeping a water shield up, using mana tide proactively, and weaving in Telluric currents (which, by the way, means you won’t be healing during those casts). It gets better with gear, but pound for pound, the way a strong healing shaman keeps up those heals is to routinely dump chunks of their mana pool and then get it back. You just get used to the mana pool fight. I think I’ve almost trained my raid leader not to look at my mana pool as a judge for how healing is going. Oh? Spent all my mana during that black phase because we ponged the ball twenty gazillion times? No prob, just gonna lightning bolt for a bit!

You heal better when the group is struggling.

Our mastery works in such a way that we look the best when the raid or dungeon group is having a rough time. The lower everyone’s health, the more we heal for. My parses for wipes are often way better on the HPS metric than for actual kills…mostly because everyone was dying and my heals just kept getting better and better. This also means that as your group improves, you will start getting somewhat less juice from your mastery, as other classes will still be getting mileage out of theirs.

Your class has a bad rap going into Mists.

I hate to say it, but it’s true. There is more venom flung at the shaman healers on the healing forums than any other healing class (“dont play a shaman, they suck!” “LOL you heal??? Look at World of Logs!”) – and not just from other healers. Shaman hate themselves. See point #1.  It’s even in my list!! And the truth is, shaman were in a rough spot at the beginning of Cata and going into the  Firelands. If you’re rolling a healer to be loved and praised at every corner, pick at different class OR be the awesomest shamaning shaman ever. I picked the second, obviously.

The MUCH better news:

You can do pretty much anything**.

Shaman are the perfect example of the Jack of All Trades healer. You can swing between laying down heavy heals on the tank to heavy raid healing with little more than a blink of an eye. A good resto shaman is an asset to any healing team for this specific reason (screw Spirit Link Totem!): they can pick up the slack anywhere. I think one of the reason I’ve settled so well into my shaman and struggle going back to my other healers is that even at equivalent gear levels, they feel so much narrower.  Shaman will never be the best tank healers or the best raid healers, but that would be overpowered anyway.

Mana Tide makes you everyone’s best bud.

Okay, lots of shaman hate that mana tide became a reason for bleeding edge raid groups to keep bringing us back in T11 when we were struggling (prior to a few buffs). In reality, however, other than Hymn of Hope (which requires a channel), we are currently the only healing class with a mana cooldown that can help everyone. On our first Madness kill, I saw the healers heading into the Kalecgos platform with low mana all around. I happily announced, “Dropping mana tide!” (Okay, I might have sounded a little bit too happy) and watched everyone’s bars go up. That’s a good feeling.

You are the Tricksy Healer.

Shaman healers have high utility and a bunch of little tricks that make us…well…us. Back in Tier 11, I used to get a few extra heals off before Valiona used her breath attack and then popped Ghost Wolf to get out of the way before dying. I think I once kited the beams on Atramedes. In ICC, Earth Shield and my ability to kite with totems let me off-tank the weekly quest boss. Did you know that Spirit Link Totem’s healing effect ignores healing absorbs or mortality debuffs? And even though it has a 6 second CD now, you can also back-up interrupt on various attacks.

Oh, and two forms of CC.  Pretty cool, huh?  No matter the changes coming in Mists, shaman will continue to be the healing class with the highest group utility and ability to do stupid stuff.

You get one Get Out of Jail Free card.

We all make mistakes. Oops, stood in the bad! Oops, didn’t hit my button on Ultraxion! Oops, oops, oops!

Other healers – you get to stare at the ground for the rest of the fight (or your 0% health bar on the raid frames) unless you get a b-rez.

Shaman? *self rez and throw off the chains of death*  MWAHAHAHA!

This has caused much hilarity for me. One specific example: We were working on Blackhorn fight in Dragon Soul and had a bit of an oops with people getting to the Twilight Assault in time. I ended up soaking one all by my lonesome and died. My rogue buddy over vent: “Oh, no, a healer’s down — OH, it’s just Rhia.”  He sounded so relieved.  Me: “Thanks for making me feeling so special.”

So, who wants to roll a shaman now? Everyone, right?

Circle of Healing Redux – Shaman Version

I’m picking up this questionnaire that circulated around the healing blog community last summer; I wasn’t blogging when it first started out, but I did read it on Totem Forest – and it seems like a great thing to go back to during this pre-Mists lull.

Name, class and spec: Rhianon, Restoration Shaman

What is your primary group healing environment? 10-man.  Outside of LFR (and the random Wrath pug), I haven’t been in a 25-man since BC.

What is your favourite healing spell for your class and why?

Riptide. Who doesn’t love the sploosh? I was a complete non-believer in riptide when they first released it at the end of BC/beginning of Wrath, but now I can’t imagine NOT casting it on cooldown. Aside from the perfect sounds and animation (I love the idea of tossing some water on someone), the tidal waves buff to greater healing wave and associated spells – yes please.

What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?

Overall, I probably cast healing surge the least. I really only use it for “omigosh someone’s going to die” since the mana cost vs healing output is so terrible. If I have an extra second, I’d much rather use another spell — but Healing Surge is fast in a pinch. Unleash Elements is a close second, but I really try to use it on CD on heavy raid damage phases. Other than that, it can be a little clunky to throw into a standard rotation if nothing crazy is happening.

Revision: Okay. I cast healing surge alot when I’m bored and know I have the mana to spare. But that’s seriously NOT something anyone should be copying!

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why?

Shaman are extremely versatile. We can back-up the tank healers with ease; we can back up the raid healers with ease.  I’ve always loved healing on my shaman because of that ability to swap between heavy hitting direct heals and AOE love. Read the rest of this entry

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.