Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Resto Shamans in 3.2

The final patchnotes for 3.2 are out, as is the patch itself in the US. We over here in the EU will have to wait another day for our chance to fight not one, but TWO jormungar worms. Time enough to have a detailed look into what the patch changed for us restoration shamans.
I will break this down into two sections - one for PvE and one for PvP. Changes that affect both types of gameplay will appear twice.

PvE (read: Raiding)

Our much loved but recently abandoned signature ability Chain Heal got a few buffs. For one, they increased the jump range by 25% to 12.5 yards. If this doesn't seem a lot to you, consider that a 25% increase in radius means a 56% increase in area covered in this case. We should, essentially, see about 50% more jumps on our Chain Heals. Maybe this will even enable us to bounce Chain Heals off the tanks again - something that recent boss sizes made impossible in most encounters.
Not only will Chain Heal jump more often now, it will also heal more on each jump. The loss in healing done per jump was reduced from 50% to 40%. This results in a 20% increase of healing done on the first jump, 44% increase on the second jump and a whopping 73% increase on the third jump. The clever folks over on Elitist Jerks have calculated the total heal per second (HPS) increase for Chain Heal to be 22% percent, though I do not know how they ended up at that figure. Either way, this is quite a big boost to CH healing.
Chain Heal can also proc Improved Water Shield now, which improves the spell's mana efficiency as well. Will this mean we can put out as much burst AoE healing as a druid or priest? Unlikely. But we now have the best longevity for AoE healing by far.

[Image taken from Fatty/Fatts on the wcradio.com forums. Check out her music!]

The changes to Lesser Healing Wave are harder to judge. Tidal Waves now improves the critical strike chance of LHW by 25%. Raidbuffed I have about 40% crit on LHW now, that will then increase to 65% which is obviously huge. Not only does this greatly increase the average healing done by LHW, it also gives us 25% more procs on Ancestral Healing, Ancestral Awakening and Improved Water Shield.
Alas there is a downside to this - Tidal Waves will no longer improve the casting speed of LHW. Considering that many shamans found themselves in the role of a spot healer lately, throwing instant Riptides and .8 speed Lesser healing Waves at people who took burst damage, this is an issue. A 1.2 second cast LHW is still good but no better than comparable spells from other classes. It is to be anticipated that we will no longer excel at this task.

Resto Shamans didn't really use Healing Wave anymore, outside of a Nature's Swiftness macro. We did have Healing Way which promised to increase Healing Wave output by 18% but never really did because it required constant casting of Healing Waves on the same target. Well, Healing Way got redesigned and now is a flat 25% bonus to Healing Wave. Yepp, 25% for 3 talent points. That's pretty huge. Considering that Healing Waves are almost as fast as Lesser Healing Waves now (about 1.2s cast on LHW, 1.5s on HW) and heal for more for slightly less mana per heal they might actually be useful. We still have to consider, however, that Healing Waves, especially when critting, can end up being mostly overheal. Overheal isn't bad as such but it means the heal was less effective. You will also get way less crits to keep up Ancestral Healing on the tank. If you need raw throughput though, this will now be the go-to heal. Our friends at Elitist Jerks calculate the new Healing Wave at 12k health per second, 80% more than the throughput of LHW.

While most classes get a nerf to their mana regeneration we seem to get a buff. Replenishment got reduced by 20%, which obviously hits us, but mp5 on gear got increased by 25% and Improved Water Shield no longer consumes Water Shield Charges. That means we no longer have to waste a global cooldown on refreshing Water Shield. It also means that Glyph of Water Shield is very insignificant now, just like all other minor glyphs.

There are a few more small changes that I'll pretty much just list here. Ancestral Healing no longer increases armor but instead reduces physical damage taken. This is a slight nerf to the buff unless your tank is armor capped or the damage comes from bleed effects. Your Wind Shocks are now called Wind Shear and got a little better. You gain 5 yards additional range and they no longer share a cooldown with your other shocks. This is mainly a PvP change but does help in encounters such as Yogg-Saron phase 1 where I find myself on interrupt duty more often than not. Also our base health increased slightly. While nice, I doubt that this really makes a difference in PvE. Usually if I die, I die hard. Nature's Swiftness cooldown has been reduced to two minutes (from three.) That should give you an additional use each fight, not bad. We also get to drop all our totems in one global cooldown which is great on bosses where you have to move on the pull or in between. (i.e. Vezax) I often find myself without enough time to actual drop or redrop my totems during combat because I have to heal all the time. This should fix it.

Gearwise we will lose our five second riptides and the fast chain heals but gain 20% more healing on Riptide and 5% crit on Chain Heals. Losing the tier 8 4-piece bonus will definitely hurt our Chain Heals, but at least those crits will increase the mana return from Improved Water Shield. The lost 2 piece bonus makes RT-LHW-LHW-RT and RT-HW-HW-RT rotations impossible, meaning you will probably have to weave in Chain Heals to keep up tidal waves. A 20% increase in healing done is huge though, especially considering the high percentage of my healing done that Riptide currently produces. This goes a long way to making a horribly inefficient but otherwise good spell decent.

All in all we have received a pretty decent buff to our healing as well as our longevity, but lost the niche of spot healing that we had before. I can see the modern shaman either tank healing pally style or stacking haste and raid healing with Chain Heals, Riptides and Lesser Healing Waves. Haste got a lot better with these changes since Chain Heal might finally be useful again and LHW now actually profits from haste. (Before it was below the global cooldown and didn't really benefit much.)
In general you should see yourself rising on the meters - unless all you do is sniping, that will be a lot harder now!

PvP (read: Arena)

I will freely admit that I'm not particulary good or experienced at arena play on my shaman. I barely got my Deadly Gladiator's Totem of the Third Wind the other day. My observations may therefore not be valid for play at high ratings or anything other than 2v2. If you have insights on that, comment. If you don't, comment anyway ;)

Earth Shield is now dispelled or spellstolen one charge at a time, which is huge. This should greatly increase your survability against shamans, priests, hunters and I suppose protection warriors. It will be even better against mages since it not only prevents them (well, almost) from removing your Earth Shield, it also makes them gain only a single charge with Spellsteal instead of your full buff. This was a much needed change.

You can't be slowed below 100% runspeed while in Ghost Wolf form now. It seems that we are getting a small portion of the druid ability to put distance between us and enemy DPS. Shifting forms does not remove movement impairing effects on us, but we will still be able to move at normal runspeed. Combined with a Frost Shock and/or Earthbind Totem we should be able to escape now. Unless the enemy has charge or Deathgrip or Shadowstep or... Well you get the picture. Finally an escape skill for us. Whether it's good enough has to be seen, but it sure is a buff.

Mana Tide Totem now has 10% of our health. Whether this is current or maximum health the patch notes do not say, but I would assume that it is maximum. This makes Mana Tide slightly less vunerable but still very killable. Melees will still be able to remove it quickly, but it's harder for a healer to just mace it to death while running past or a mage to Ice Lance it. If you combine it with Stoneclaw, your tide may actually get through.

Lesser Healing Wave has 25% more crit now with Tidal Waves up but no more haste bonus. This feels like a huge nerf to me since it is far easier to interrupt a 1.2 speed heal than a 0.9 speed one. Standing still, having a rogue beating on you and just casting RT-LHW-LHW without him being able to kick you in time seems to be a thing of the past. On the other hand we do gain some mana efficiency this way that might help a lot in those fights against priests and druids.

The fact that Lesser Healing Wave got slower, combined with the 25% increase to Healing Wave from the new Healing Way, may actually make HW situationally useful outside of Nature's Swiftness macros. If you are in the comfortable position of being able to heal without risk of interruption, Healing Wave will now give you a lot of throughput on the target that's being focused down. That might mean that we have to spec into Improved Healing Wave and lose Totemic Focus. It remains to be seen what is the best course of action here.

The Nature's Swiftness cooldown reduction seems far better in Arenas than in PvE. I often use my swiftness early to deal with an initial burst by the opposing team - now it will actually be ready again when they have their cooldowns back. This and the 25% increase in Healing Wave healing should make for some formidable burst healing.

Wind Shock (I mean: Shear) is now off the shock cooldown and has 25% increased range to boot. How cool is that? I can't count the number of times where I wanted to Frost Shock someone to either catch or kite them but had to keep Wind Shock up for interrupts. Now you can just do both. You can also use your shocks now to help bursting a target down while still interrupting the healer when she comes out of Hex. The additional range is icing on the cake, giving us thirty yards shock range for more windy and frosty goodness. Earth Shock also gained some usefulness in that it now reduces melee attack speed by 10%. That should help keeping that rogue under control if kiting doesn't work out.

Nature's Guardian got changed to a 100% proc for a mini last-stand effect with a 30 second internal cooldown. This increases your chance to survive bursts but makes the whole talent less effective overall. You will have to heal more and in situations where your health is generally low and you jump above and below the 30% mark, you will no longer be able to abuse Nature's Guardian for free heals. If you often die in stunlocks or very quick bursts then this is probably a buff for you. If you spend your time soloing the Rogue while your partner deals with the healer? Nerf.

In other news we get 7% more base health (yay), no more lost Water Shield charges on crits and the ability to set all totems in one global cooldown. The latter could actually be quite good, since repositioning does happen often in PvP. I tend to vary the totems I use though, and we drop Earthbind, Stoneclaw and Grounding Totem on demand anyway.


What we have here are some very nice buffs for restoration shamans with a few nerfs thrown in here and there. Overall, I see us imporving in both PvE and PvP but we may have to adapt playstyle and specs - especially if healing wave really turns out to be good. What do you think?
Comments have been disabled because the blog has moved to procrastinationamplification.com. Please head over there, bookmark the new site and comment away :)