Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shaman Healing 101

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This is the last installment of our Healing 101 series! Today Rowin, Ascended's awesome Shaman class leader, explains the basics of Shaman healing and how it can be more than just facerolling chain heal.


Shaman Healing 101!

At the request of Averna (resident druid queen of Ascended), I have written this general guide on restoration shaman to give our branched brethren some insight into your resident totem dropping & heroism/bloodlust machines.

Resto shaman have traditionally been primarily raid healers, relying almost exclusively on chain heal. In Naxxramas, a restoration shaman could literally spec 71 points into resto, bind every key to chain heal, roll their forehead across their keyboard while clicking flashing grid boxes and be a fairly effective healer. In 3.1 the role of the resto shaman is starting to become more varied based on encounter, deferring to other healer’s strengths on each encounter and supplementing gaps in healing assignments. In Uludar a restoration shaman needs to be flexible, knowing when and how to utilize all available tools at their disposal to be an effective healer.

Totems, Totems, Totems!

Totems are the defining ability of the shaman class and the main source of shaman provided raid buffs. We are able to have 4 totems active at any given time, with only 1 totem up from each of the four elements: earth, fire, air, water . . . . heart! (just kidding, shaman are currently unable to summon captain planet, I have high hopes for 3.2 though). Each time a totem is dropped, our GCD is triggered. With changes made in WotLK, most of our totem buffs are now raid wide, there are however a couple of exceptions: mana tide totem, healing stream totem, cleansing totem and tremor totem. Also note, most totem buff effects have a range of 30 yards.

General totem dropping guidelines are:

Earth: If there is no enhancement shaman or DK cast => Strength of Earth (155 str and agi buff untalented). If there is an enh shaman cast => Stoneskin (1150 armor buff untalented)
Fire:
Default cast => Flametongue Totem (144 spell power buff untalented)
Air: If there is no enhancement shaman or frost DK cast => Windfury (16% melee haste untalented). If there is an enhancement shaman or frost DK cast => Wrath of Air (5% spell haste)
Water: If there is no paladin buffing blessing of wisdom, cast => Mana Spring (91mp5 buff, 109mp5 talented). If there is a paladin buffing blessing of wisdom, cast => Healing Stream *Party Only* (weak HoT, 2 sec pulse)

Situational totems

Earth: Tremor *Party Only* (fear, sleep and charm break, 3 sec pulse)
Earthbind (snare effect, 15 sec cooldown)
Fire: Fire Elemental (big fire dude, rawr! 20 min cooldown unglyphed)
Frost Resist (130 resist)
Air: Grounding (consumes 1 harmful spell, 15 second cooldown untalented)
Nature Resist (130 resist)
Water: Mana Tide *Party Only* (24% mana restore over 12 sec, 36% glyphed, 5 min cooldown) – 31 point talent
Cleansing Totem *Party Only* (poison and disease dispel, 3 sec pulse)
Fire Resist (130 resist)

Why is our raid leader so pissed off when there aren’t any shaman in the raid?

Heroism/Bloodlust 26% of base mana, 5 min cooldown

Heroism/Bloodlust is a raid wide buff, that when activated increases spell and melee haste by 30% for 40 seconds. These spells were changed in 3.1 to have a 5 min cooldown instead of a 10 min cooldown; the spells give a debuff called Exhaustion which lasts for 10 min and makes a player unable to receive Heroism/Bloodlust. The exhaustion debuff can be removed by death, so if your raid wipes to a boss, it is likely you will have Heroism/Bloodlust off cooldown for the next attempt. Heroism/Bloodlust is incredibly powerful for critical situations where you need raid wide dps to be increased for a short period of time during an encounter. The best example of this is Kael’thas’ shock barrier in Tempest Keep. Even when there is no such situation during an encounter, the buff provided effectively shortens any given fight giving the raid a little bit of extra cushion when facing an enrage timer or if a fight is extremely healing intensive.
As an added bonus, it acts as an epeen enlarger to all dps classes in your raid and they will love you for it. The only downside is having to endure comments like “ZOMG I can do like eleventy billion dps with heroism/bloodlust up!!! I am AWESOME!!!”

What's in a resto shaman’s spell arsenal?

Riptide (alias RT) 18% base mana, instant cast, 6 second cooldown – 41 point talent
Riptide is the 51 point resto tree talent that gives resto shaman our only instant heal (besides a nature’s swiftness cast, 3 min cooldown). Approximately 60% of the healing is instant and the remaining 40% is a 15 sec HoT (21 sec HoT glyphed). If a target currently has the riptide HoT applied, when the shaman subsequently casts Chain Heal on that target, the chain heal for an additional 25% (this increase affects jumps), but the riptide HoT will be consumed. This mechanic only applies to riptides and chain heals cast by the same shaman and the target must be the primary target of the chain heal to gain the bonus (it does not trigger and consume on chain heal jumps). Riptide also has a 100% chance to proc tidal waves. See tidal waves in “What are a few talents you can’t live without?” below.

Chain Heal (alias CH) 3 second cast, 2.5 second cast talented
Since its arrival in Burning Crusade, this has been the restoration shaman’s signature heal and also most mana efficient. Chain heal can heal up to 3 targets (4 targets glyphed), each jump target is selected based on absolute value health deficit, healing for 50% less than the previous jump. The jump range of the spell is approximately 10 yards; if there are no targets in range or if all targets in range are at full health it will not jump. Each jump of a chain heal can crit, although the base healing done on the next jump is based on the non-crit value of the previous heal. If the primary target of a chain heal currently has the riptide HoT applied, the chain heal will gain a 25% bonus, although the riptide HoT will be removed. Chain Heal also has a 100% chance to proc tidal waves. See tidal waves in “What are a few talents you can’t live without?” below.

Lesser Healing Wave (alias LHW) 15% base mana, 1.5 second cast
This is a shaman’s small single target heal, our “nourish”. While the tidal waves buff is active, cast time of LHW is reduces and healing coefficient is increased. See tidal waves in “What are a few talents you can’t live without?” below.

Healing Wave (alias HW) 25% base mana, 3 second cast, 2.5 second cast talented
This is a shaman’s biggest single target heal, our “healing touch”.
While the tidal waves buff is active, cast time of HW is reduces and healing coefficient is increased. See tidal waves in “What are a few talents you can’t live without?” below.

Earth Shield (alias ES) 15% base mana, instant cast – 41 point talent
Earth shield is a 41 point resto tree talent that when cast, the target receives a shield with 6 charges (8 charges talented). When a shielded player takes damage, one charge is consumed and they are healed, this effect can only occur every few seconds.

Earthliving Weapon (alias ELW) 6% base mana, instant cast
Earthliving weapon is a temporary weapon imbue shaman use in place of mana oil. It increases healing spell power by 150 and has a 20% chance to proc a weak HoT on any target healed by the shaman.

Water Shield (alias WS) no mana cost, instant cast
Water shield is a base shaman talent that when cast, the shaman receives a shield with 3 charges (4 charges glyphed). This is a self buff that increases mana regen by 100 mp5 (130 mp5 glyphed) and when the shielded shaman takes damage, one charge is consumed and they receive 400 mana (460 mana talented), this effect can only occur every few seconds. Additionally, shaman have a talent called improved water shield which gives mana back from RT, HW and LHW criticals. See improved watershield in “What are a few talents you can’t live without?” below.

What are a few talents that you just can't live without?

Since the consolidation of a number of resto tree talents in 3.1, there is essentially one widely agreed upon cookie cutter spec: Elemental (0) / Enhancement (16) / Restoration (55) - (0/16/55) a.k.a. 16/55 or 1x/5x

There is minimal room for the movement of points, but it is generally not advised, usually involving sacrificing elemental weapons for nature’s guardian or healing way. Since it’s pretty straightforward going through the trees which talents are useful and which ones aren’t, I’ll hit on some of the most vital talents in each of the trees.

Improved Watershield (3/3) – Resto Tier 3
This talent is somewhat similar to a illumination for paladins. Depending on your playstyle, it can be more or less beneficial as it does not proc off of Chain Heal. Essentially, the more you cast RT, HW and LHW, the more important this talent is. For a shaman who primarily uses chain heal, this is not a significant source of mana regen. For a shaman who primarily uses LHW, this talent is critical, as without it LHW spam is not sustainable.

Mana Tide Totem – Resto Tier 7
This talent is a resto shaman’s only active mana regeneration ability. It restores a total of 24% of your total mana (36% of total mana glyphed). The true strength of this ability is it is a unique party buff that can help sustain heavy mana users in a raid, usually other healers.

Cleanse Spirit – Resto Tier 7
This talent is a must have, especially for 5 man dungeons and 10 man raids where you may or may not have a class with the ability to decurse. It also gives the added benefit of only having to use one spell to remove debuffs on friendly targets.

Ancestral Awakening (3/3) – Resto Tier 10
Depending on your playstyle, this talent can be more or less beneficial as it does not proc off of Chain Heal. Essentially, the more you cast RT, HW and LHW, the more beneficial this talent is. As of 3.1, the healing from ancestral awakening is based on the total heal value (effective heal + overheal) of your RT, HW or LHW critical. This is a smart heal and due to the 40 yard range, typically has very low overheal.

Tidal Waves (5/5) – Resto Tier 10
This talent is a must have for any playstyle, but is especially critical for any shaman that is assigned to do any amount of single target healing. It not only increases HPS through cast time reduction, it also increases HPM through coefficient boost. With the tidal waves buff active, with a moderate amount of haste, it gives LHW a cast time of less than 1 second, which increases LHW’s usefulness as a spot heal. Tidal waves is what also gives a shaman the ability to heal a tank or off tank effectively when assigned to.

Shaman glyphing!

Recommended Major Glyphs:
Glyph of Earth Shield – increases the amount healed by earth shield by 20%
Glyph or Chain Heal – Similar to druid's Glyph of Wild Growth!
Glyph of Lesser Healing Wave – LHW heals for 20% more if the target is also affected by your Earth Shield.
Glyph of Water Mastery – increases the mana regen of water shield by 30% and gives you 30mp5.
Glyph of Mana Tide Totem – Buffs your Mana Tide totem. Increases total mana return to 36% over 12 seconds vs. 24% unglyphed.
Glyph of Riptide – increases the duration of riptide by 6 seconds.

Generally, most resto shaman will take Glyph of Earth Shield and Glyph of Chain Heal and then choosing their third glyph based on mana regen needs. Glyph of Water Mastery provides the greatest increase in personal mana regen, so if mana is a significant issue, then choose this glyph. Glyph of Mana Tide Totem provides less personal mana regen, however the glyph benefits all of your mana using party members, so if party mana is a significant issue, then choose this glyph. Glyph of Lesser Healing Wave is my general third glyph of choice as it is useful in the case that you get assigned to MT healing (unlikely), off tank healing (more likely) or when a MT healer dies during a fight (good luck!). If you have no mana issues and don’t plan on doing any tank healing or if you choose to adopt a LHW focused healing approach, you may want to consider the Glyph of Riptide which will allow you to keep the riptide HoT up on more targets at one time.

How do shaman put their skills to use? Two ways to raid heal.

At present there are 2 main schools of thought regarding the optimal way to heal as a shaman. In truth, both methods can be optimal dependant on the mechanics of an individual fight, strategy used and raid makeup. As a resto shaman, your job is to adapt and choose a healing style in any given fight that you are comfortable with and allows you to cover the responsibilities assigned to you by the raid leader.

Chain Heal focused healing
This is the stereotypical healing strategy used by the majority of shaman. The basic strategy is to decrease the cast time of chain heal as much as you can and spam chain heal as much as possible. Your main responsibility is to keep your totems up and make sure that your Earth Shield is up on the tank at all times. Riptide is used as a tool for spot heals, to give a weak HoT for a target who you know will be taking damage and to super charge your chain heals. Lesser healing wave can be used to spot heal when Riptide is on cooldown and a player is taking spike damage quickly, giving you no time to cast a chain heal. When you aren’t doing any of the things listed, you are looking for a target to cast chain heal on. In this play style, it is not uncommon or unusual for Chain Heal to make up 70%+ of your total effective healing. Using a Chain Heal focused strategy is most effective when most of the raid is grouped tightly together, increasing the chance that your Chain Heal will be able to heal 4 targets every time you cast it. It is excellent for when you are assigned exclusively to melee healing as melee are almost always grouped close enough together on any given fight for Chain Heal to hit the maximum number of targets.

Lesser Healing Wave focused healing
With the original nerf to improved water shield, decreasing the proc rate from 100% down to 60%, many people had presumed this strategy to be dead. A many shaman had difficulty regenerating enough mana to keep up the LHW spam and CH was able to push much more HPS with the fight spacing in tier 7.5 raiding. Due to a number of factors, this strategy has experienced a resurgence in support and is being utilized by many shaman in progression guilds. At a certain gear level, with enough intellect and critical strike rating, LHW spam can be sustained reliably. The tier 8/8.5 set bonus reducing the cooldown to Riptide by 1 second, allows a smoother RT/LHW/LHW spell rotation allowing almost all LHWs to be cast with Tidal Waves up, thus increasing healing throughput. The change to Ancestral Awakening now being calculated off of total heal, instead of effective heal, in addition to the introduction of the Riptide glyph, have given a nice throughput boost to the play style as a whole. The other factor having a big impact on making this play style viable is the fight spacing in Ulduar, with many encounters requiring raid members to spread out right at the limit or beyond the range that Chain Heal is able to jump.

The basic strategy here is to cast Riptide whenever it is off cooldown and cast Tidal Waves hasted LHW a la a Vanilla WoW Paladin flash of light spam. Again, your main responsibility is to keep your totems up and make sure that your Earth Shield is up on the tank at all times. The rest of the time you are playing raid frame whack-a-mole casting Riptide and LHW. As Riptide is an instant cast and a Tidal Waves hasted LHW is typically well under a 1 second cast, the theory is to raid heal with fast reactions and the ability to directly target many players and heal them in a short period of time. Ancestral Awakening procs will help to even out the damage taken across the raid. It should be noted that even while utilizing a LHW focused strategy, Chain Heal is still a valuable tool, especially when the raid is grouped close together and you can predict when the damage will occur and start your cast ahead of time.

What happens when sh*t hits the fan?

Nature's Swiftness (alias NS) 3 min cooldown
Just like druids, shaman also have nature’s swiftness, 21 point resto tree talent. It makes the next nature spell cast an instant cast, this includes heals and damage spells.

Tidal Force
(alias TF) 3 min cooldown
Tidal force is a 11 point resto tree talent that increases the crit chance of the next healing wave, lesser healing wave or chain heal by 60%, with each critical heal decreasing the buff by 20%.

The most common way shaman use nature’s swiftness is to macro it with tidal force + healing wave - it will make your healing wave an *instant* heal and almost guaranteed to crit (common macro alias: NS + TF + HW). If you want to take it a step further you can also bind any on use trinkets you use as well as gift of the naaru if you happen to be an alliance shaman.

How do shaman choose their shiny purples?

Primary Stats – Intellect and Spell Power and Stamina:
You will find intellect, spell power (and stamina) on all pieces of resto shaman gear. Your intellect, spellpower and stamina levels will be primarily dependant on gear iLvl as stat allocation for intellect, spellpower and stamina remain relatively similar amongst items of the same iLvl.

Intellect (int)
Your primary stat is going to be intellect. Without mana, you cannot cast any heals, that’s why it’s your number 1 stat. Intellect increases your mana pool and mana regeneration from Replenishment. It will also boost your spell critical strike rating and also your spell power through the talent Nature’s Blessing.

Spell Power (sp)
Your other primary stat is going to be spell power. Spellpower isn’t really number 2 to intellect, but more like 1b, you will need both intellect and spellpower to be an effective healer. Spell power is a great way to increase your HPS and HPM since it will make your spell casts more powerful. Also, for the only way to increase the healing effectiveness of the HoT portion of riptide is increasing spell power as haste and crit provide no benefit to HoT spells.

Secondary Stats – Haste, Crit and Mp5:
Except for when gemming, with intellect and spell power effectively fixed when choosing between items of the same iLvl, you choice will depend on 3 stats: haste, crit and m5. Commonly, most items have 2 secondary stats in addition to intellect, spellpower and stamina. Which item you choose will depend on your play style and current stat balance.

Haste Rating
Haste rating is primarily a stat that increases chain heal HPS. Lesser healing wave derives a significantly smaller benefit from haste rating due to its shorter base cast time and the fact that tidal waves hasted lesser healing waves are already shorter than the GCD (since tidal waves reduces only cast time, not GDC length). Also note, haste will not affect the output of earth shield, riptide or earthliving. Although haste only provides a significant benefit to only one of your heals, the mechanics of chain heal benefit hugely from haste, scaling significantly better than any other stat. If you are a heavy chain heal healer, then haste rating will be your focus. If you are a heavy lesser healing wave healer, haste is more the icing than the cake.

Critical Strike Rating (crit)
Critical heals will heal your target for 1.5 times the normal amount. Critical strike rating will benefit all of your non-HoT direct healing spells, primarily chain heal, lesser healing wave and the non-HoT portion of riptide. Crit also provides the benefit of applying the 25% armor buff from ancestral healing on targets you critically heal. In addition to making your heals crit more often, your critical riptide and lesser healing waves will also trigger a couple of talent based procs. Ancestral awakening will trigger off of your riptide crits and lesser healing wave crits, it should be noted that the effective healing of ancestral awakening procs is typically very high. Improved water shield triggers 100% off of riptide crits and 60% off of lesser healing wave crits, increasing mana regeneration; this is a key source of mana regen for any shaman who heals primarily with lesser healing wave.

Mana Per 5 Seconds (mp5):
There are two regen stats in the game, spirit and mp5. Spirit is a regen stat for priests and druids and is completely useless for shaman, you should never have any items with spirit equipped unless you are a new shaman and a rotting piece of priest/druid gear is of a significantly higher iLvl than your current item. Mp5 increases your mana regen while casting spells and is the regen stat intended for use by shaman and paladins. The amount of mp5 you need is going to be dependent on the length of the fight and the amount of haste you have since haste is the only thing that will cause you to burn mana faster. How much mp5 you gear for is entirely up to you, the rule of thumb is if you run out of mana regularly, you need more mp5 and if you always have mana left over, you have too much mp5.

Balancing and prioritising your stats:
There is no magic number of intellect or spell power to obtain as they are both good all around stats and more of either will always benefit you and the will both naturally increase as your gear improves. Most shaman look for items with crit/haste as the two secondary stats seeking to maximize thoroughput and then fill in the other slots with crit/mp5 and haste/mp5 items. If you are a shaman who primarily uses chain heal, then haste will be prioritized over crit. If you are a shaman who primarily uses lesser healing wave, then crit will be prioritized over hit. Remember that crit is also beneficial to the chain heal play style and haste is beneficial to the lesser healing wave play style, so don’t completely stack one while totally ignoring the other. The most important thing to remember is balancing your stats is that more haste needs more mp5 and the more crit you get the less mp5 you will need.

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3 remarks:

Xanderith said...

I believe that you are over-valuing the Glyph of Mana Tide. It should be 28% glyphed and 24% un-glyphed instead of 36% and 24% since it only pulses every 3 seconds not every second.

Corry F said...

The jump range of Chain Heal is 12.5 Yards, not 10.

Shamanic Healing said...

Shamanic Healing?" and that is quite a hard question to answer! Is it spiritual healing? Is it emotional healing? Is it psychic healing, or like Reiki? The best answer is, Shamanic Healing is probably all of those things put together and more besides. Shamanic healing is the oldest form of healing known to man, yet is very gentle, and works at a very deep level to clear emotional problems, mental problems, energetic and physical wounds along with conditioning and imprints.
Shamanic Healing