Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Resto Shaman in 10 man raids.

I'm going to start my first post off by saying, I'm a dual specced Enhancement/Resto, with Enhancement being my primary spec; being what I'm fantastic at, comfortable with, and most knowledgeable about and Resto being what I'm relegated to more often than not. So I tend to approach most of my raids as positive and fun experience with a tinge of bitterness that I'm healing.

I've been inside naxx a total of 4 times. 3 times healing, once smacking things in the back of the head. I've rarely gone inside higher level raids despite having a higher level gear than necessary for a given raid. I don't fault anyone other than myself. I picked a "newer players" server when I started, went on the lower population faction, and expected more than 4 guilds to be tackling higher level content. So my advice will be from very casual raid experience and 5 mans.

Resto is a bad spec to heal with. That is my conclusion. Encounter design is almost set to make resto preform badly. I tend to view each class and spec by a defined small set of skills, with notable ignorance often popping up, not to be ignorant but to summarize the general abilities you will use. A Resto shaman consist of 5 heals.

  1. Riptide
  2. Earth Shield
  3. Chain Heal
  4. Lesser Healing Wave
  5. Healing Wave
I'll explain each skill individually listing their pitfalls and advantages, my personal bias, and whatever else I can think of.


This is by far my favorite heal on the toolkit I have to work with. It's an instance cast spell that a decent initial heal (about half of what lesser healing wave does), then leaves a heal over time that ticks for a not insignificant amount. It has a short cooldown, and it should be abused. This is pretty much the corner stone of the entire healing method of Shaman.

Earth shield.
I like to think of this as a "reactive" heal. When you put this on a person, (generally the tank) whenever they take damage, they'll get healed for a set amount. If it comes off a target, it's not a big deal, but think of it as free healing. There's no reason why someone shouldn't always have this on them. Oh small consolation for having it on a target, they get 30% reduced push back from casting spells. Tanks won't make much use of it, but hey, its there. I personally consider it the most useless of our heals in a raiding environment. I put it up only if I have nothing else on my plate.

Chain Heal
This is the reason any class will even give our healing a second thought. This is a fairly powerful smart group heal. Let me explain it in detail.
It takes just as long to cast as our "big" heal, healing wave, but heals for EVER so slightly more than lesser healing wave. Why should you cast it. Well as I stated before its a group heal. When you cast it on someone, it will find people within range of them, and also heal them, for decreasing amounts. The "smart" portion means that it will target lowest health members if available. If you heal someone with 8 people standing near them, 6 of them at 50% health and 2 of them at 10% health, it'll go for the 10%ers. While generally this seems great, it does present problems. Jumping to lower health members who are in no danger of incurring more damage can get annoying. The range is also a bit disappointing as ranged dps tend to hate hanging out near each other, and melee dps tends to be JUST far enough from tanks that they won't benefit from it. Effectively it makes me feel like I have to heal 3 separate groups of people.
There's one thing I neglected to mention about riptide, and I'll mention it here because it concerns chain heal as well. When riptide's HoT is on your initial target, chain heal will consume (read: remove) that HoT and add it to the amount chain heal is healing for on THAT TARGET ONLY. This allows chain heal to act as our "big" heal, while still preforming it's intended role of group healing.
All in all its a very strong, mana efficient heal with some limitations.

Lesser Healing Wave
The typical "goto" heal. It has a short cast time, and heals one person for a bit. There really isn't much to say about it.

Healing Wave
A bigger heal than Lesser Healing Wave, that takes more time to cast. It heals for roughly double, and takes roughly two and a half times longer to cast.

Now assuming you've read everything I've said and had no outside knowledge you'd be thinking as follows:
Keep riptide rolling on different people, cast chain heal when the group is hurt, cast lesser healing wave when one person is hurt, and take healing wave off your bar because its useless, and toss earth shield at someone who needs it if you remember.

While it's SIMILAR to what's the truth blizzard has crammed an amazing amount of synergy into the talent leading up to riptide. Tidal waves is what makes shaman passable healers. When you cast chain heal, or riptide it does a ton of things. It
  1. Makes Healing Wave faster, and heal for more
  2. Makes Lesser Healing Wave more likely to critically heal, and heal for more.
Okay so it's only two things, but they're fairly significant. Healing wave time becomes almost negligible from Lesser Healing Wave, and Lesser is more likely to heal for a decent amount.

With this in mind it makes Shaman very easy to dissect. The basic is idea is to cast riptide, then cast two other spells, and repeat.

Ending thoughts?
I haven't much explained why Shaman are bad healers, although that was the premise of the article. Each of the healing specs are designed to be different and excel in odd ways. Druids are the masters of heals over time, paladins are terrific single target healers, a discipline priest excels in mitigation and prevention, holy priests are the flexible ones, and we shaman, are the group healers.

Now I do love my group healing role, I love being lazy with my heals. I personally glyph chain heal so I can group heal more effectively (it adds an additional target), but situations are VERY rare when it turns out as planned. Encounter design tends to have people standing away from each other. Habits have us standing away from each other. More importantly 3/5 of our heals have cast time (riptide and earth shield) and movement intensive fight RUIN our ability to heal. Other classes have reasons to not be as concerned.
Druids heals are all terrible low cast times, or instant cast. They take a while to get going but they can literally spin circles while healing and do just fine.
Discipline priests are able to use their staple shielding on the go, and their typical role (tank healing) is single target oriented. Shielding allows for a brief moment where they can set up a heal uninterrupted.
Holy priests have ways around movement oriented fights. they possess the shielding discipline priest have although not nearly as good, they can drop a HoT whenever they want, and their circle of healing (also a group heal, very similar to chain heal) is instant cast. I'd say they're in a very good place when movement is concerned.
Holy Paladins might have the most reason to be as bitter as shaman. I lack experience as a paladin healer but from what I understand they have 3 single target heals of various strengths, with the ability to make it dual target for a short while and they're VERY good at healing these specific targets. However their saving grace is they can "judge" a boss to cause ANYONE causing damage to this boss, to give small amounts of life back. Since this debuff happens to the boss, and it's instant cast you can comfortably heal the raid without actually healing them.

Shaman have their place though. Stationary fights with chunks of raids damage being thrown around and a small area to move around in? That's us. 5 mans, we're pretty good at that too.

Still on any encounter I'd rather have any class healing than a shaman. I know our tool kit, and I'm not comfortable being healed by it.