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WoWJun 10, 2015 8:00 pm CT

Totem Talk: Is leveling in dungeons as Restoration worth it?

This past week I was having a Twitter discussion with Liz Harper about leveling as a Restoration Shaman — or rather me telling her to make pretty patterns with Chain Heal while leveling — but I started to really think about how leveling as restoration has changed at the early levels. It’s sometimes really easy to forget how much the aspect of leveling has changed over the years in World of Warcraft, and I think that’s something we take for granted a little bit. Now, this isn’t going to be a story from “Grandpappy Lodur” about leveling uphill both ways in the snow of Winterspring, but I thought we could take a moment and talk about how the leveling process affects you as a Restoration Shaman, if you are like me and choose to level while throwing Healing Wave after healing wave.

Leveling a character in an MMO is as much about learning how to use your abilities as you gain them as it is about reaching max level and unraveling story. As a healer, or a hybrid healing class of any sort in a game, you tend to do this through group content. While you have some offensive capabilities, ultimately in the role of a healer is to keep everyone else alive so that they can make with the NPC murder.

Not Lodur

Don’t sweat the old content

Love it or hate it, leveling has changed over the years in Warcraft. Before it was a slow grind that was designed to take a long time and teach you how to use all of your skills and abilities as you advanced. Over time, expansions were released and that journey to the level cap increased, which meant leveling needed to be streamlined and made to be a quicker experience all together. As a consequence of this, a lot of the built-in lessons of leveling were pushed aside and towards the end-game portion of the gameplay experience. As a result of this shift, one of the most common questions I receive is “How should I heal or learn to heal while leveling?”

Well, there is some good news here, and that is you really don’t need to sweat the old content and dungeons so much. I’m not saying you can go without paying attention, but it isn’t as scary as it once was. Truth is, between the ever-evolving content updates each expansion and item squish, healing early dungeons is very easy. Most tanks and DPS will take little to no damage unless they are actively looking to kill themselves. Now you may think that this is a bad thing, but really it’s quite good. It allows you to become accustomed to your spells without fear of catastrophe. This is important because getting thrown in the deep end and figuring out how to swim can be overly stressful, and I’ve seen quite a number of people try this and swear off healing forever. Starting early, and using the Dungeon Finder to level up through dungeons lets you acclimate yourself relatively safely. Please note that this assumes the use of Heirlooms, which leveling content seems specifically geared towards, without them you may still encounter some challenge.

Take this time to learn how to work Riptide into your rotation, or how to properly refresh Earth Shield. It also presents a perfect opportunity to learn the timing of your totems and what heals are best for what type of damage. You can observe how Chain Heal bounces and even how, as you unlock them, various Glyphs affect your spells and effects. It’s perfect, honestly, because until you start hitting either the current expansion dungeon content or possibly even the expansion before, you can do a ton of experimentation with little consequence. That’s a rare thing, and something I feel all healers, or people interested in healing, should take advantage of — yet it’s one that a lot of people overlook at the lower levels. While it’s not quite the same as raid healing, it will give you a great base to work with. And with the changes to experience gains, this can also be a quick process.

Shaman at the Foundry

Adventures in current content

The real adventure begins when you hit current content of Warlords of Draenor, though potentially it may start in Mists of Pandaria dungeons. That’s where you’ll hit a point where the learning curve ramps up and the dungeons become dangerous again. This is the point where you need to start paying attention to mechanics, health, and really applying your spells and abilities. This is also the part where you’ll finally start to care about your stats — depending on your luck, your gear can have enough of an impact to make your ancestors take notice.

Personally, I find leveling as Restoration in the current dungeons more rewarding, and a better learning experience than in an Looking for Raid or attempting to learn through PvP. While those are things you may want to try, you can get quite a bit more out of dungeons. The smaller party size means that you alone are responsible for your party’s health (with the obvious caveat that having them using their defensive cooldowns is necessary), so it gives you a better barometer of your grasp of your chosen role. You also learn very quickly how to balance your mana, which, is something you need to be mindful of even while leveling in Warlords, and it’s perfect training for healing max level content.

With the new restrictions to classes and mana regeneration and the limiting of spirit, learning how to triage your party is actually a powerful skill. It’s a skill you’ll be using it many tiers into the expansion, while improving your gear and item level will help, there are several encounters that will tax your mana: there, knowing when not to heal is as important as knowing when to heal. Take the time you spend leveling learning how to work with the other classes. Learn which tanks can take a little extra abuse, or which DPS can heal themselves. While it won’t be a perfect picture, it will give you the framework to feel more comfortable later on not having to heal everyone to full all the time. Your mana, and your team will thank you later for learning that lesson.

Leveling as Restoration is rewarding, and can still teach you a lot of tools for your end-game healing toolbox. True, once you hit the current expansion content it will take a little bit longer than if you were to level by questing, but the time spent to the role immersion I feel is worth it. In fact, I personally do this every expansion just to shake the rust off and come back down from the end of expansion high of being all powerful. There is still value in leveling as Restoration and through dungeons, so do yourself a favor and don’t count it out.

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