Hello! This is my revised and re-written guide to Restoration Shamans, originally from before patch 4.0. It has a slight focus on someone new to Restoration, but it is intended to be useful for extra tricks or scaling numbers or talent-ideas for everyone, new & seasoned.
One caveat right at the start: I will not talk about actual numbers much (meaning stat-weights, HPS-throughputs, such stuff), as I think the Cataclysm-balance is still too young and too shaky to talk about specific per-number instead of per-design considerations. We'll see how it evolves over the first handful of patches I say, and in the meantime it's just easier to focus on the concepts behind various talents, stats and their impact on your gameplay. That, and it's easier to read for someone genuinely new to it all.
1. Why a Resto Shaman?
2. My tools
5. Item Stats
6. Lost synergy
7. Healing Roles & Handling (not yet written, sorry)
1. Why a Resto Shaman?
A very common question on any healer forum is which class someone should choose for their new healer. In many situations however, certain healer-abilities excel more than others so it is virtually impossible to say which is best suited "in general". Plus in Cataclysm the general setup of heals is being made more similar, so any non-healing or utility-healing abilities are much more defining than they were before.
So if I had to sum up why you want to play a Resto Shaman, I'd tell you this:
- You get a ton of utility. Totems can provide 7 raid-buffs, you can snare, you can interrupt, you can Thunderclap single targets, you can AE snare, you can purge, you provide Heroism and you can self-ressurect.
- Your dispel heals with a talent. This is fairly unique among the healers - Priests have a glyph for a similar effect but it only affects their magic-dispel and it isn't quite the same power.
- With Ancestral Swiftness in Enhancement, you enjoy a passive +15% runspeed and can instantly morph into wolf-form to avoid AEs or get away from other players faster.
- You provide an entire group of players with an important mana-regeneration boost via Mana Tide Totem.
- Your heals are extremely well-rounded. You get strong single-target heals with a further strong lifesaving component from your Mastery (you heal more the lower a target's health is), you got an efficient spammable Chain Heal and you can drop Healing Rain for more wide-spread group healing. As long as you're healing single targets or clustered groups you'll feel right at home!
2. My tools
So assuming you decided you want to join the ranks of Awesome Healing (tm), what do you actually have to make that happen?
Costs all include 3/3 Tidal Focus, so you'd have to add ~6,5% to all manacosts if you were to not have it. That being said you want Tidal Focus, so it makes sense to include it's cost-reduction.
Healing Wave (HW)
1981 mana - scales with ~30,5% of your Spellpower.
This heal is your bread&butter spell. Small, cheap as dirt, you can spam this all day long. Do exactly that whenever you got nothing else you need to cast, fill up with Healing Wave
Greater Healing Wave (GHW)
6607 mana - scales with ~80,5% of your Spellpower.
As slow as Healing Wave but much much costlier and more powerful, this is the heal of choice when a single person has taken a whole lot of beating and needs to be healed up.
Generally reserved for tank-healing purposes, if spammed with the benefits of Tidal Waves the raw healing output becomes scary.
Healing Surge (HS, although some still call it LHW from it's old name, Lesser Healing Wave)
5946 mana - scales with ~60,5% of your Spellpower.
Pricey, somewhere between Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave and damn fast, this is the heal you want to use whenever someone took unexpected damage and can be expected to take damage again in the near time (so healing up with the slow Healing Wave is just not an option).
Earth Shield (ES)
4183 mana - each heal it produces scales with 15,2% of Spellpower
The signature spell of your Resto line-up, it helps smooth out damage on a single target and increases your healing on it by 15% via a talent. Always use it on someone, ideally a tank. Always use it!
2202 mana - direct heal scales with 23,4% of Spellpower, HoT with 7,5% per tick.
Your 31 point talent. Solid heal with a HoT part, it procs Tidal Waves and synergizes with Chain Heal, making it an extremely potent ability. As it's really cheap, you can rather carelessly use it on whoever has taken some damage. In fights where you need Chain Heal usage, keep it's synergy in mind so you don't end up accidentially eating all your Riptide effects.
Chain Heal (CH)
3744 mana - first heal scales with 32% of Spellpower.
Loses 30% of it's healing every jump, jumps 3 times.
Your answer when a group of clustered characters take damage, this spell is highly efficient if it gets to jump around. It requires a good feel for where to aim it, as it's jumping range from char to char is limited to ~12y. Alternate which target of a group of players you cast this on to smooth out healing, and remember it procs Tidal Waves and can consume Riptide for extra healing.
Healing Rain (HR, or just Rain)
10130 mana - each tick scales with 8,3% of Spellpower.
This is ground-targetted, and then creates a weird-looking light blue ground target with some liaht healing going on inside it. Due to the nature of it's healing it cannot directly save anyone, but the overall healing effect if people are all stacking up for it is very potent, especially as it gives you a good chance to proc Ancestral Fortitude on someone inside it. The procchance of Earthliving Weapon sadly is reduced, so there is no mass-ELW-potential in it. Still, if you got the mana and you got the bunched up group of people, this is a very powerful heal to fire at them - and you can continue casting while it works, too!
Earthliving Weapon (ELW)
HoT-proc scales with 5,8% of Spellpower per tick.
Your weapon enchant of choice grants you a sizeable amount of +spellpower - if limited to healing spells only - but more importantly it gives you a 20% chance to proc a free HoT onto someone you heal, doesn't matter how you did it specifically. This is rather strong as it means you constantly have your heals "echo" and fix the last few points of damage on their own.
Unleash Elements / Unleash Life (UE or UL)
A new ability from Cataclysm, you can now produce a fairly small direct heal (but it's cheap!) on a single target as long as you have Earthliving Weapon on your weapon. More importantly however this effect increases your next heal spell by 20%, which is quite the pacemaker for our healing.
Just keep in mind that you don't necessarily want to use it just as it comes off cooldown.
3280 mana - heal scales with 14,1% of Spellpower per point in Cleansing Waters
Yes, it heals for enough to be counted as an actual healing spell! Provided you took the Cleansing Waters talent, which is entirely optional but rather unique in that it allows you to counteract a widespread-applied DoT via dispelling it, instead of having to worry about the mix of dispelling and healing other healers have to do.
Keep in mind though that it will not heal for anything if there's no debuff to be dispelled.
Instead of giving you example specs - as I don't like that conceptually - I'll list you which talents to consider "Necessary" and which to consider "Optional".
So what you are then trying to do is make yourself a spec which has all the necessary talents, and choose which of the optional talents you personally like most with your remaining points.
Necessary: Tidal Focus, Spark of Life, Improved Water Shield, Nature's Swiftness, Nature's Blessing, Ancestral Healing, Soothing Rains (after lvl83), Improved Cleanse Spirit, Ancestral Awakening, Mana Tide Totem, Tidal Waves, Riptide.
Offspec: Improved Shields, Elemental Weapons, if you can manage Acuity.
PvP: Nature's Guardian, and Cleansing Waters and Ancestral Swiftness become necessary instead of optional.
- Ancestral Resolve: this can be a very nice nearly-passive 10% reduction on all damage you take, since you'll be casting pretty much nonstop. Nothing fancy, but fairly good for it's cost.
- Totemic Focus: Only useful for the extended duration for Mana Tide Totem and Fire Elemental Totem. Still, +40% mana tide is nothing to sneeze at, you'll notice this if you have it.
- Focused Insight: Allows you to shock during a short lull in damage to produce a much strong heal effect a moment later. Interesting, if pricey at 3 points. This has very useful applications in most 5man and some raid content in that there's always moments where you run instead of heal.
- Cleansing Waters: Makes you the dispeller of your raids. You do it cheaper, you do it better, the downside is that everyone will want to designate you to do it. Still, fairly unique among the healers, and very powerful.
- Telluric Currents: If there's a lull in stuff to heal, you can not only nuke some but instead of spending mana, you regenerate it. It's pretty cool for what it does, mileage varies heavily with fight ofc.
- Blessing of the Eternals: Quite powerful, and many consider it necessary. Does what the tooltip says. Good, but can be skipped for other talents.
- Ancestral Swiftness: Another talent many would consider necessary. It grants you +7% runspeed and some slight stats over what you can get from enchanting (as the enchant is 8%), and more interestingly allows you to instantly Ghost Wolf. If you keybind it well you can very very quickly escape AEs or run to specific areas, provided ofc you don't have to use RT/UL/ES/Cleanse or Spiritwalker's Grace along the way. Very powerful and versatile, however all AEs will be balanced against someone only having the 8% runspeed from enchanting, and hence neither the passive runspeed nor the wolf will ever be required.
- Totemic Reach: Only useful if for whatever reason you're the one always supplying the melee totems and you want to have full mobility during the fight, this'd make it much easier to keep totem range on the melee team. Other than that it's not necessary.
There are some other, more quirky setups. For example you could skip most of the Enh offspec to get Convection and Elemental Precision (to power up Telluric Currents / Focused Insight) and get a few points in Elemental Warding along the way. However both Improved Shields and Elemental Weapons are very strong so while I'll encourage you to experiment, don't expect a miracle from such Elemental-heavy offspecs. They probably work awesome in some specific encounters where there's a lot of lull alternating with some really brutal healing, but in average situations they're too specialized.
Prime glyphs are easy, there's no choice involved here. You want Riptide, Earth Shield and Earthliving, and only in really really bad cases of mana-troubles you'd want to exchange the Riptide glyph for the Water Shield one.
Major glyphs are tougher. Most of them add utility or interesting semi-healing effects, so the choice is largely personal. Get them all and experiment with swapping them frequently, even per-encounter. For example in a purely physical fight the Glyph of Healing Stream Totem is wasted while in multi-element encounters with blanket AE damage it's probably the strongest one.
Glyphs to consider (and experiment with) are: Chain Heal, Ghost Wolf (assuming you have Ancestral Swiftness), Healing Stream Totem, Healing Wave, Hex and Totemic Recall. For PvP Frost Shock and Stoneclaw Totem add to the pool of useful glyphs, while Totemic Recall is rarely of use there (totems get killed by other people, not yourself).
Minor glyphs are entirely your choice. As nothing here is fight-critical there is no use investing much thought into which is better suited or not, pick whatever sounds cool to you. :)
5. Item Stats
This is rather tricky, as good data about Cataclysm is tough to come by. The general rules apply however so I'll do this in a rather non-math fashion.
The stat which is never wrong. No matter how much better the raw output from Haste or Crit can be, or how much you like Mastery, Intellect-upgrades are never a bad thing.
You gain 15 mana and 1 spellpower per 1 Int, and 1% spellcrit every 650 Int.
Only necessary as far as you need more mana. One often overlooked effect is that the more spirit you have the less Healing Wave you want to cast compared to more inefficient but stronger heals so there is a sort-of ripple effect which increases your healing once you gain more spirit.
The ratio is rather complicated and also depends on the square root of your Int, so let's skip that. Use the mod RatingBuster if you're interested in detailed numbers on spirit-regen, much easier.
Usually your strongest stat for raw throughput (by a fairly large margin even above Intellect), it heavily increases your output and reaction time, but also makes you burn mana faster.
It has an additional benefit in that every once in a while, one of your HoT effects (Riptide, Rain, Earhtliving) gain an additional tick during their duration, making that amount of Haste a very viable "gearing goal".
In short, Haste should provide you with a lot of throughput, but at a questionable cost. Take note of the HoT-synergy though and check whether you are close, then it is always worth pushing to that level. (see below)
To get 1% Haste you need 128 Haste Rating.
A lot more interesting for Shamans than for other healers, this is usually better point-for-point than Intellect, but it depends on your gear and your healing role. Not only does it increase your healing output, it increases the number of Ancestral Awakening (more and even intelligent healing!) and Improved Water Shield procs (more mana return). It also increases uptime on Ancestral Healing. Very strong stat, but somewhat gimmicky.
To get 1% Crit you need ~180 Crit Rating.
If PvP is your game, then you need a whole lot of this. A whole lot. For PvP you should seek your priority stats somewhere between Resilience and Mastery as both work extremely well in a PvP environment, adding some Crit to keep the Ancestral Healing buff up on your targets. Did I mention you want a lot of this, yet? Once damage on you goes down enough you are able to keep yourself up despite the extremely high reliance on casted heals, you don't have the luxury of a lot of instants or HoTs like the other healers have.
To get 1 point of Resilience you need 276 Resilience Rating.
Mastery - Deep Healing
The mathmagicians from EJ has more or less agreed it's impossible to fully quantify. If you heal someone low on HP, this is your best healing stat (assuming you got haste to get the heal off in time and spirit/intellect to be able to cast it, ofc). If you heal someone already rather high in HP, it's your worst healing stat.
And that's the entirety of it. It's something you need to personally choose. No one can tell you which amount of Mastery is "best", it's not really mathable. If you feel comfortable with little more than the base amount, more power to you. If you stack it to kingdom come and revel in the lifesaving functions your heals have, more power to you.
To get 1 point of Mastery and hence 2,5% Deep Healing, you need ~180 Mastery Rating.
If you want some fast&dirty&crude rule, use Haste (if close to 916) > Intellect ~= Crit* > Spirit > Haste, with Mastery being outside the system and Spirit having a minimum you need to satisfy first. There is also a very real background to getting swap-pieces (usually Crit vs Mastery) for slots to capitalize on fights which have everyone on high respectively low health a lot.
* Crit: Crit has higher value if you are still hurting for mana and/or are unhappy with your Ancestral Fortitude uptime on tanks. Once you feel good about those, drop it lower.
6. Lost Synergy
The four effects Deep Healing (our Mastery), Focused Insight (the talent), Nature's Blessing (the talent) and Unleash Life (the baseline ability) sound as if they affect whatever you do, especially at first glance. Some specifically mention direct heals, some don't, but all in all especially if you are a newcomer you could think that if you cast Unleash Life your next healing spell will heal for more.
Intentional or not, this is not the case!
Specifically, each of them only works for a certain amount of things:
- Healing Wave, Healing Surge and Greater Healing Wave are always affected.
- Deep Healing does not affect:
- Riptide's Heal-over-Time effect
- Earth Shield
- Earthliving Weapon procs
- Focused Insight does not affect:
- Riptide's Heal-over-Time effect
- Earth Shield
- Earthliving Weapon procs
- Healing Rain
- Unleash Life fails to affect:
- Earth Shield
- Earthliving Weapon procs
- Healing Rain
- Earth Shield's +15% buff with Nature's Blessing doesn't bless:
- Earth Shield (hrm... that'd be funky, anyways ;) )
- Earthliving Weapon procs
- Healing Rain
- It affects Riptide HoT, but it only checks the moment it's cast, so retroactively casting ES on a target the HoT is running on does nothing for you
(excuse the weird formatting, the forum code bugs out a bit here)
Some of those are rather intuitive, some aren't. Hope it helps you a bit with judging stats and talents. Mind you that none of these make any of the effects inherently weak. The most important thing to take away from this is this:
Mastery affects Healing Rain! Despite what 90% will tell you, it does. Drop yourself to 5% HP, cast it while no one else is around to stand in it, check.
7. Healing Roles & Handling
There are generally 4 different roles you can find yourself in as a healer: You can be the sole healer, such as in a 5man, you could be a tank healer, you could be a raid healer, or you could be a specialized healer.
I'll go over them one after the other in that order, as most of us run into the biggest problems as the sole healer of a heroic 5man team at lvl85.
There is also the role of a PvP Healer, but lacking sufficient Cataclysm PvP exposure I don't think I can talk much about it's pitfalls. In general concept it's not unlike being the Sole Healer, just that predicting the flow of the fight becomes rather complicated.
For simplicity's sake I'll assume this means a 5man and not a specialized raidfight where the healers can only heal one at a time.
As the sole healer, you obviously need to have everything covered. As you'll usually lack full raidbuffs, and/or might have other obligations like Binding Elementals or interrupting, this requires some heavy triage.
The first really important thing is: Stay cool. People don't need full health, not even the tank. You want to (eventually) top the tank back off, but the rest of the group will be fine with Healing Stream Totem (which can tick for 1100+ easily now, so don't underestimate it).
The second big problem follows directly from it: You cannot safe a group which does not want to safe itself. This is tricky, and can net you negative comments if the people who are taking needless damage also refuse to accept it's their fault. But they have to do it themselves. DPS especially is responsible for their own HP!. Heal them back up with Riptide / Healing Stream Totem, but unless there's a fight-mechanic involving heavy bursted AE damage, you're not there to make them survive. They got Blink / Deterrence / Recuperate, let them use it.
Meanwhile, your priority lies in balance and proactive thinking. Be aware of how much health everyone needs 5s/10s/20s from now, so you know when to cast heals on who. Try to be as far ahead as you can so you can use Healing Wave and Riptide more instead of having to rely on Healing Surge and Greater Healing Wave.
When fights involve big AE damage, ask the group to stack close to the melee (even Hunters can go really close now), so you can fully utility healing rain and continue to heal the tank while it ticks (or help with Chain Heal where necessary).
But remember: Proactive thinking and most importantly independant DPS healing/defense is what wins fights in the role of the sole healer. It can be annoying that you can't it "yourself", but a good group will feel worlds different from a bad one.
One last thing: Timers for Hex/Bind can be very handy if you need to CC while healing. /focus is also very good for that purpose.
As a pure tank healer - usually in a raid - your priorities lie in steady healing, availability of emergency tools, good contact and solid reaction with heals.
Steady healing means you want to always be spamming Healing Wave when not doing something else, and keeping Earth Shield and Riptide up. Yes I know this usually applies in all circumstances but it's importance is bigger here, you need that steady and dependable income of healing to properly "see" when the tank is actually taking extra damage.
Emergency Tools are few and far between for us, but on-use trinkets and Nature's Swiftness provide us with two good tools to briefly increase our healing output. More importantly, your reflexes with Spiritwalker's Grace can make or break tankhealing. You can freely move while casting, for 10 seconds. Whenever a tank gets tossed around unexpectently, or has to relocate, we Shamans can keep up the healing anyways. Experience is key here, the more you practice when and how to use Spiritwalkers, the better. Use a very easily reachable key- or mousebinding for it, so you can always hit it in the blink of an eye.
(Mine is on Shift+R, and my fingers rest on ESDF with the pinky on the shift-key)
"Good contact" is mostly a single golden rule: Never stand at 40y range! Never. One step of the tank, and you're out of range. In the world of tankhealing this can easily spell death, even if it was a brief moment, your heal aborts, you need to move into range, then recast. Given the current haste levels this lull in healing will cause other healers to see a problem, spike heal your tank, so their targets drop. The cascading effect can easily kill people.
A good rule of thumb is that while tankhealing, you want to stay in Flame Shock range of a target. :)
Lastly, your reaction ability massively impacts how long your mana will last. If you are able to do all "spike" healing reflexively then you are free to cover the tank with HW + RT + ES and save tons and tons of mana. Good examples are bosses which pump out heavy tankdamage on very slow swingtimers (Chimaeron comes to mind). This is mostly practice, but try to play conservatively whenever you get away with it, this gives you practice.
Raid Healing is potentially the simplest role to understand, but it's usually the toughest to pull off. We got four basic tools which except at raidhealing, those are Chain Heal, Healing Rain, Healing Surge and Riptide.
Two things are important: Riptide and Chain Heal (if it bounces 3 times) are fairly efficient. Healing Rain and Healing Surge usually ain't.
Healing Rain's strength is that you can do other stuff while it's running, Healing Surge OTOH is lightning-quick.
This gives the following setup for covering raiddamage:
Random but light damage? Riptide and Healing Wave.
Random, fast, burst but rare damage? Healing Surge, ideally after Riptide so it crits.
Light and spaced group damage? Let people stand together and CH.
Light but steady group damage? Let people stand together and use Rain, then cover with Healing Wave.
Heavy and bursted AE damage? Let people stand together, Rain while running into the stack (Swiftness or Spiritwalker's), then CH into the group on top of that.
Mind you, options #2 and #5 run you out of mana really really fast.
This is basically everything else.
There's a lot of fights which have healers in very specific roles. I can't really give you a good advise here, it depends entirely on the fight. If in doubt, communication is the key.
Remember, when assigning healers, Shamans except at versatility (so basically we don't excel :P), but our big achilles heel is that both of our multi-heals need proximity. If there's a job of healing 3 people who stand at different ends of a room, that's sooooo not something we should do. :)
I hope you enjoyed reading this guide, more importantly I hope it helps you decide whether to play a Restoration Shaman respectively helps you improve your setup and gameplay if you're struggling with that.
I apologize for any bad grammar or wrong choice of words, english is not my mother tongue. I also apologize for any bad formatting as this is the first time I post such an extensive post on these forums, and I had to adapt the formatting from the sticky I got on the official forums. Further, I wanted to actually use links to the mmo-champion database for the spells / talents, but it gives me an error message that I need to post a few times before I am allowed to link. Which makes sense, even though being links to the own database and on a forum meant for submission of guides, well, should probably be exempt. Anyway, if this gets unlocked in some way I'll re-edit the guide and add spell- and talent-links.
Lastly, I dedicate this post to Healing Stream Totem - our silent and always unloved healing companion, quietly providing 500-550 HPS per person and saving tons of mana and groups everywhere. We know you're the real hero of every heroic and raid!