Cataclysm Final Grades: The State of the Resto Shaman
The next in our series of posts of Cataclysm Final Grades covers the highs and lows of the Resto Shaman. Today’s guest writer is Dyna, a good friend of mine who I first met in Wrath while she was an expert on all things Holy Paladin. Dyna has maxed healers of every class, and has since spent time raiding heroic Firelands on her druid and is now conquering Dragon Soul on her shaman.
Two additional “final grades” posts have popped up elsewhere today. The first is Squelchy’s Rogue Report Card, and the second Saz’s Final Grades for Enhancement Shaman and Feral Druids. Please follow the links and take a look!
Hello! I’m Dyna and I’m standing in as your average Joe Resto shaman for the purposes of these evaluations.
I am a jack-of-all trades healer and have every healing class and spec at max level, though I have not raided current content (past LFR!) with all of them. My main is presently my resto shaman, however, and having done the research, I feel sufficiently qualified to speak to their present state for entry-level heroic mode Tier 13 raiding.
A Little History
Resto started out this expansion in a pretty tight spot. Our heals were slow, our mana was sapped, and, in the days of yore when heroics were actually hard again- at least for PuGging!- it was rough going. Our mastery saw some use, but before the changes that made it apply to non-direct heals, it was rather underwhelming.
The general homogenization of healing when Cata was released gave us a bit more stream-lining as far as spell selection went; the three basic healing spells were Healing Wave, which was slow, cheap, and hit like a feather against tank damage, then Greater Healing Wave, which was even slower, incredibly expensive, and made a dent in a health bar’s depletion, and then healing surge- fast, hit less hard than GHW, and would OOM you very quickly. Chain heal’s impact was, in a word, underwhelming. Healing rain was fun, but pricey to try to spam, and required good group positioning.
The six second cooldown on riptide made it equivalent to a paladin’s holy shock, but with the exception of Unleash Elements, it was our only mobile heal; this put us in a rough spot when it came to movement fights.
To compensate for this, we were given our shiny new level 85 spell- Spiritwalker’s Grace. However, the duration of it when combined with the long cooldown made this a rather underwhelming solution, and shaman healing, while adequate for normal content, was noticeably weaker than most healers. Exceptional shamans could compete with average players of other healing classes, but it was a rough time to be a shaman, for certain.
Shamans remained powerful in some situations, but generally, throughout tier 12 content we lagged as healers when compared to paladins and druids. We did see some improvement when we gained an actual Real Live Raid Cooldown in Spirit Link Totem, and the improvement to our mastery and our Nature’s Blessing talent (improved to 6/12/18% bonus direct healing on Earth Shielded targets, up from 5/10/15%.) made us better tank healers than we had been before, a pleasant follow-up on Blizzard’s philosophy of allowing each healing class to be able to do both raid and tank heals.
Most of the fights in Firelands did not play to our advantages, however, and some of the heroic modes flat-out had a hard time accommodating a resto shaman at all due to our weakness as competitive healers.
Our abilities have not particularly changed, our strengths remain the same; we were not buffed in any largely significant way, but Resto Shaman is now a highly desirable healer to bring along to your content!
The reasoning behind this is that most fights are now ‘hurry up and stack’, which plays well with our toolkit of range-limited aoe healing. In addition, there is ample opportunity for our mastery to come into play, with hits that take players down to half or a third of their health in one blow.
I still find the shaman playstyle lacks cooldowns when compared to a paladin or a priest, and even druids have two raid cooldowns to a shaman’s one, but a clever resto shaman can do things no other healer can, much to the dismay of your resident holydin!
Our four-piece set bonus can be optimally utilized as a miniature raid cooldown in and of itself, and our Spirit Link Totem absolutely has saved more than a few raids. Healing rain and chain heal during heavy damage stack phases, of which this tier has plenty, distribute our earthliving buff like candy.
Mana problems are easily addressed by obtaining levels of spirit that were simply not possible at the expansion’s start, and, if that wasn’t enough, our haste helps us to cast Lightning Bolt between heals for enormous returns via Telluric Currents.
Quite frankly, the difference between Tier 13 and the rest of the expansion is not a real ‘fix’ created to address a resto shaman’s weaknesses. Movement and fights that involve the raid not being stacked together are always going to be a challenge for us when compared to other classes.
As it stands, for current content, shamans are competitive healers, even completely overpowered for some encounters.
However, not every encounter can or should be designed around the entire raid stacking close together, and unless the class is altered to address our general underwhelming status outside of stack-fights, it’s going to take a highly skilled player to remain competitive as a healer.
At least until Mists of Pandaren comes around to turn everything upside down- we know it is coming.