Login with Patreon
Warcraft > WoWApr 8, 2015 1:00 pm CT

Totem Talk: A healing shaman in Draenor

Totem Talk - Roof Shaman

Today, I would like to start the new season by taking a look at the current state of shaman, though in particular this week is going to focus on the healer aspect of our class. There will be some critical thought injected here, and possibly a little bit of a rant or so.

If you’re reading this column, you likely know as well as I do how many changes shaman as a class have undergone since their inception into the game at the very beginning. They were always to be a Hybrid and capable of doing multiple roles at once, and no I’m not going to talk about the awesomeness that was shaman tanking. Healer and damage dealer, ranged and melee, elements and hitting things with pointy sticks. As a result of trying to be so many things at once, balancing the class became quite a bit of a hard point, and I think it’s something that never really hit a point of equilibrium. Talent redesigns, spell reworks, spell additions and totem removals have been pretty much the constant.

I’m not saying we’ve had it worse than other classes, I’m just saying that this is something we seem to contend with every expansion for the entire life of the expansion right up until the time where the Developers at Blizzard move on to focusing on the next expansion where the cycle continues. So what am I on about today?


Healer, refresh thyself!

One of the largest items that was on the checklist was to make mana consumption matter for healers. Blizzard wanted to add some depth and weight the the healing choices we make and have us change our healing style based on that. No more free flowing fonts of mana, with the removal of Telluric Currents and Mana Tide Totem. So, with the removal of the two big sources of mana regeneration, what are we supposed to do when we get close to an empty tank? Well, Spirit becomes much more valuable, not just to us but to all healers, but the main sources of those are trinkets, rings, necks and cloaks and those can sometimes be hard to find. If you’re especially lucky or happen to have quite a bit of spare gold laying around, you can pick yourself up an Everburning Candle or a Winged Hourglass.

The funny thing is that despite being nerfed a bit, the candle is an exceptional get that feels like it is right on the border on necessary for pretty much all healing classes. If you can’t pick one or the other up, or your luck for all things drop related is just terrible, then as a healer you get to throw some lightning. Offensive spells for healers, such as Lightning Bolt, have either reduced or removed mana costs. This means that if you’re low on mana from healing you can throw some DPS in on a fight and still be active and casting something.

Along the same vein is our level 90 talent Elemental Blast, which I have a love-hate relationship with now after a few months of raiding. So why the love-hate? Well, lets start with the love portion. Since it became a thing, visually and flavor-wise I really liked Elemental Blast. It was cool and as far as I’m concerned rivaled the signature spells of Warlocks and Mages. It fit the class in multiple regards and just, well, honestly it just felt cool. It also has a really nifty effect of giving you stats when you use it. Increasing Critical Strike, Haste, Mastery, or Multistrike by 500 for 8 seconds is nothing to sneeze at, especially in a post item squish world.

StoneskinTotem_WoWTCGAs a healer, if you take this as your talent and work it into your repertoire, it will also increases your Spirit by 1000 for 8 sec. That alone is important to note, that every 12 seconds, for 8 seconds at a time you can give yourself an additional 1000 spirit. If you cast it every time it is off of cooldown it is something like a constant 700 additional spirit. I’m not 100% on my math on this, it’s a fast and dirty guess. Regardless, it will amount to a lot of mana regen over the course of a fight. Enough to make a noticeable difference if you are struggling to maintain mana.

That is also why I hate the talent, at least early on in raiding as a healing shaman. My hate is that it feels like with the current state of healing, it’s almost a mandatory talent. I’m not calling for it to be nerfed, because it’s something we desperately need to keep up healing until we hit a certain equilibrium in stats, but I hate feeling shoehorned into something. It feels like a departure from the design philosophy. Anything that feels like it is mandatory is just, well, anathame to me. And I would like to really love Unleashed Fury and Primal Elementalist, but with mana and spirit being at such a premium, I feel they are outclassed. Maybe this will change in later tiers, as more stats are gained and things progress, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Spirit isn’t the only thing we can use to really keep us in the fight. Mastery also plays a huge part of this. A funny battle cry I’ve been seeing lately from resto shaman on Twitter has been “Mastery Fixes Everything!”. Honestly, it does help out quite a bit. I mean, after all the more you’re healing for even when your target is lower health, the less mana you ultimately have to spend. Fairly straight forward in that regard. Like other stats though, getting the gear that gives you sufficient mastery can take time to gather and earn, and you may find yourself relying on spirit until you get to that point.


Not So Smart, Healing

Now, this is something that in the last few days has come up in guild discussion and on Twitter. Before the release of Warlords of Draenor, it seemed that in almost every discussion revolving around healing there was a unified front about moving away from the reliance on smart healing and passive healing. This in particular affected shaman because as a class we had the highest concentration of both. Between Healing Stream Totem, Chain Heal and even Healing Rain, we do have a lot of healing that we don’t have to directly control. I understand the desire to make healing more active for all classes, to make healers feel more involved and invested in the fights as a whole, and to be honest I do support finding ways to engage healers in fights that aren’t just filling in boxes from empty to full. Fights like Valithria Dreamwalker and Tsulong are fun for me, and I would love to see more fights where healers have to do something other than heal the party.

But with all this talk about moving away from smart healing and passive healing, it seems like they just keep pulling us back in. Take into consideration the Tier 17 set bonuses. Now there has been a lot of discussion as to whether the set bonuses are worth the pixels they’re printed on, but we’re not going to debate their actual merit or value. That’s a discussion for another post. Instead, lets just look at what they actually offer. The two-piece bonus, which is fairly easy to obtain, gives you  a chance when you cast chain heal to cast a second chain heal at one of the targets healed. The four-piece bonus, when you gain Tidal Waves, you have a 8% chance to reduce the mana cost of chain heal by 75% for 10 sec.

There are a few things that strike me as odd about this setup as a whole. First, if you’re trying to move healers away from niche rolls and have them rely on smart healing less and push them towards active healing, why center not just one set bonus but two set bonuses around a single ability? It just seems counter intuitive, and resource heavy to invest both tier set bonuses towards a single spell or ability. Combine with talents like High Tide, and it seems like we have more incentive now than we did all of last expansion to pump as many chain heals as possible. The only downside right now is the mana cost of the spell, and the actual healing done, which is offset slightly by the 4 piece bonus. Depending on your group though that may not be that much of a concern, I roll with a Holy Paladin and a Discipline Priest as my team most days, so I can do a lot of work swinging chain heals though I would still kill for a tank cooldown most days.

Again, as with everything, your mileage may vary. Raid size, difficulty level and healer group composition will all play a part in if you are seeing or feeling the same way. That said, I really want to hear from you. This far into Black Rock, and having gone through High Maul, how do you feel about the state of healing? Do you think we’re getting put back in the smart healing corner? Maybe you don’t care and that’s exactly where you want to be? Next time we’ll take a look at the other side and talk about what I’ve learned in the past few weeks about throwing lightning and making things go boom!


Blizzard Watch is made possible by people like you.
Please consider supporting our Patreon!


Join the Discussion

Blizzard Watch is a safe space for all readers. By leaving comments on this site you agree to follow our  commenting and community guidelines.

Toggle Dark Mode: