Totem Talk: When should Restoration Shaman break the tier 17 set bonus?
Since the time of tier and set pieces, players have been rewarded for having multiple pieces of a set with some form of bonus. Every raid tier we receive new bonuses, and almost every time we find ourselves faced with a dilemma: when should we break the old set bonuses for new gear? Most times, upgrading is the right answer, but every now and then you get a set bonus that is so good it becomes incredibly hard to let go of it. This is the potential situation that at least Restoration Shaman have found themselves in way too often over the years.
Tier 18 brings with it this exact challenge, mostly because the set bonuses from Tier 17 were incredibly good, despite being counter to the design philosophy that was presented at the beginning of the expansion. We’ve talked about this in the past, about how for almost the entire course of the games lifespan, each healing class excelled at a specific role. Paladins dominated single target healing, Druids were HoT machines blanketing the entire group, Priests were the undisputed masters of bubble healing and Shaman were the raid healing masters. Over time there was a call to homogenize the healing a bit, and to attempt to bring all of the classes closer in parity with each other. The success or failure of this is something that can be debated forever, but in the end, Shaman are still healing the raid like champs.
The set bonuses and pieces
The Tier 17 set bonuses cemented our role as a raid healer by buffing Chain Heal a substantial amount. The 2-piece set bonus gave us a chance to cast a free Chain Heal on any target healed by one we cast. It acted in the same way as a regular chain heal inasmuch as target selection and diminishing returns between bounces, and at the end of the day it was a chance at free healing. That was a really good incentive to utilize CH. The 4-piece set bonus gave us an 8% chance after gaining the Tidal Waves buff to reduce the cost of CH by 50% for 8 seconds. Together this basically caused a positive feedback loop that could let you just crank out massive amounts of group healing in short order at a reduced cost. This is something that could potentially be quite powerful for quite a long while.
So with something so good, how does the next set stack up? Are the new bonuses worth making the switch? Lets start by looking at what the set bonuses do. The Tier 18 2-piece set bonus for restoration gives Riptide an additional 25% crit chance. With Riptide no longer buffing CH by 25% after the patch, it may seem like an odd choice, and by itself you would be right. It’s a useful spell, and one that by now you should be used to using very regularly, but by itself it’s just not that impressive. The 4-piece set bonus however gives you a 65% chance to apply Riptide to the primary target you cast Chain Heal on. That is free healing any way you slice it, and anything that gives you free healing is worthwhile. It also gives you a bit of control where it gets placed as it occurs on the primary target of the CH. It may not be as impressive as the previous tier bonuses, but this is ultimately what we have to work with.
Stat-wise the jump between the tier pieces is a regular graduated jump, with nothing really out of the ordinary or unexpected except that the Embrace of the Living Mountain packs a little less mastery than it’s tier 17 counterpart, and instead shifts that towards haste. They do, however, carry with them the expected increase in Intellect, so they do add that much healing power.
Making the switch
When should you make the switch? Well, that depends. If you only have the 2-piece set bonus from tier 17, you really don’t have a whole lot to worry about, so you can start trading up pretty quickly. If you’re sitting on the Tier 17 4-piece however, that reduced mana cost proc rides the line of being just too good to give up early. My recommendation may be an unpopular one, but unless you’re really hurting for raw stats, I would sit on your Tier 17 set bonuses until you can swap it out with a Tier 18 4-piece bonus. This means giving others a chance to work on getting their tokens, or maybe banking on getting them from your fate rolls. I personally don’t feel that the extra crit on Riptide for the 2-piece bonus is worth breaking the 4-piece from tier 17, but the tier 18 set bonuses combined may lessen the impact.
Really, it’s a situation in which I almost wish the roles were reversed between the set bonuses and that tier 17 and 18 had swapped places. I think that here in the last raid tier of content, with the rather large amounts of raid-wide damage I’ve seen so far from bosses, it just seems right at home. Truth be told I’m still not 100% convinced that the previous tier set bonus doesn’t still beat the new tier set bonuses outside of just raw stat upgrades. It may be worth experimenting and seeing how the new stacks against the old once you can nab a 4-piece. This is an odd one, with potentially lackluster set bonuses that may not really give us the lift that we need in the final tier, but I really don’t believe it is worthwhile to break your tier 17 set bonuses until you can field a 4-piece bonus of Tier 18.
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