Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Zgu Hits 70!

Just in time for the expansion, my little twink warrior finally made it to level 70. I'm so proud! She's the one character that I actually enjoy playing because I like the style. I love running up to something and beating on it without worrying about my health bar. Titan's Grip is lots of fun and I'm burning through things... Warrior is just a fun class.

Zgu is also exalted with the Mag'har and has their tabard and a tan talbuk. If I could give her brown skin, I'd role-play as a Mag'har orc. She also got the Arcanite Ripper last night in Karazhan so she can rock out occasionally!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Finding a Groove

Learning to be an efficient restoration shaman post-3.0 is not easy, at least not for me. I'm happy with the small changes I made to my gear and mostly happy with my spec. It's the spells that are giving me fits. Hence this post will be a more of a flow of consciousness entry while I write about some of my experiences and observations post-3.0. I don't have any answers yet; so don't look to this as the end-all, be-all of post-3.0 restoration shaman.

Now that the Armory seems to be partially functional, I can show you some of what I did with Salanthe, including changes to her gear and spec. Here's the link to her Armory page. First thing of note, I obviously don't heal with her Riding Crop equipped (at least not all the time; mistakes have been known to happen). I use the Redeemer's Alchemist Stone instead.

The most notable changes I made were to Salanthe's gems and I switched out a few pieces of gear to give her more spell crit. I re-socketed nearly all her blue sockets with Dazzling Seaspray Emeralds for the intellect and mp5. This was done experimentally and I'm not certain if it was beneficial or not. My reasoning was this: Pre-3.0, I stacked a lot of +healing so that I could down-rank more efficiently. With the removal of down-ranking in 3.0 and the important of spell crit for mana regeneration, I thought that I could accomplish two things at once by re-socketing. Intellect improves both healing (through talents like Nature's Blessing) and improves spell crit. By using those green gems, I also retain some much-needed mp5, particularly since some of the gear pieces I switched out traded mp5 for spell crit. As I said, I'm not convinced that this was a wise change, but it seems logical.

I also traded in a couple of my staple pieces of gear for some fancy new pieces. Pre-3.o, I was using the Band of the Eternal Restorer, Earth Living Bindings, and the Sun-Touched Chain Leggings. I replaced all those to gain more crit. I feel confident in replacing the bracers and legs, particularly since it gained me the elemental T6 2-piece set bonus, but I'm less confident in the ring. The proc was really quite nice and I'm not certain that losing the both the proc and the mp5 was worth the gain in crit.

Salanthe's spec feels quite solid to me, although I regret not having talents such as Ancestral Fortitude and Healing Way. I feel it was necessary to pick up those other talents, however.

The one thing that has been troubling the most about raid healing post-3.0 is healing itself. Pre-3.0, I was consistently at the top of the healing meters and out-healing the other shaman by a significant margin. Post-3.0, I am typically sitting below the top 5 healers, while the other shaman are still at the top.

You've heard me go on about how meters don't mean much as long as the raid is staying alive and I still hold to that, but the meters are worth paying attention to because they can point out problems and areas for improvement. The fact that I am performing so much worse than I did previously while the other shaman are maintaining their positions demonstrates that I am not performing to my full potential. I have a few ideas to explain the disparity, but nothing concrete.

One possible explanation is my obsession with over-healing. Pre-3.0, I compulsively down-ranked to conserve my mana and to control my over-healing. Post-3.0, I cannot down-rank at all, so it is possible that I'm not spamming heals in response to either one of those concerns. Examining the meters in more detail, the other resto shaman are still casting chain heal 90% of the time, while I have dropped to casting it about 75% of the time.

It is also possible that I am still struggling with finding an appropriate spell rotation, while the other shaman have found something that works for them. Asking them what they do would certainly illuminate that issue. I tend to try something new every raid and every fight in order to determine what seems to fit the new talents the best, which is quite possibly the wrong approach. One other difference between me and the other shaman is that I seem to be under-utilizing Riptide. I try to keep it up on the MT so I can bomb-heal them with chain heal if necessary, but I'm finding that difficult to time and I'm struggling with concerns of over-healing. It's just frustrating to me that I haven't found my niche yet in raid healing.

Five-man healing is much more interesting and fun with the new talents though, and I find myself preferring them to 25-man raids now, while it was the other way around pre-3.0. I find that shaman are much better equipped to handle 5-man damage than they were previously and it's much more fun to heal with the variety of spells and procs we have to manage. It is much more difficult to control those things in 25-man raids, at least for me. In 5-mans, I feel confident of the changes to shaman healing, while I am very uncertain of them when I'm healing 25-mans.

There is one small observation I would like to make. If you read this blog regularly, you will know that I also have a 70 restoration druid. She is significantly under-geared in comparison to my shaman, particularly for pve. (Her Armory is here, for reference.) I respecced her and have been healing quite frequently with her post 3.0, including some of the same content as Salanthe. In doing so, I've made an unsettling observation: my under-geared druid is much easier to heal with than my very well geared shaman. Mio feels much more in control of 5-man healing than Sal does and I find that very disconcerting. The instances I've run with both druid and shaman with the same group of people were heroic Magister's Terrace (which I'd never healed before on Mio) and AQ20.

I'm not sure what that observation means, but it concerns me a great deal, particularly when comparing their gear. I cannot say if this is a personal preference coming into play or if it really is easier and better as a druid or as a shaman. I can say that even in my gimped state, I am still out-healing druids in our 25-man raids, and our druids are very, very good. I'm not sure what to make of that observation, but I'm throwing it out there in case others have some comments or observations.

On a lighter note, I've been messing around on my warrior again. I pulled her out for some Headless Horseman summons the other night and renewed my bond with her. There is just something so refreshing about playing a dps warrior (fury, for the moment) after healing 99% of the time. And pvp is still fun on her, despite being stomped repeatedly by level 70s in Alterac Valley and Eye of the Storm (Zgu is level 67). Go, go little warrior!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quick Update

There is a lot to write about, obviously. I haven't made a post since The Patch went live. It is very late (or early) however, and I'm not coherent enough to talk about all my impressions of shaman healing post-3.0. I am coherent enough to make a brief update!

Salanthe's guild ventured into Sunwell Plateau for the first time since 3.0 last night. It was an eventful night. We've attempted Kalecgos several times previously and always been stymied. Last night, it took us four attempts to down him. Yours truly got the Protector token and is now the happy owner of Skyshatter Bands. Yes, I got the elemental tier 6 bracers. Post-patch, I decided to use my T6 elemental legs (for more crit), so the bracers give me the elemental two-piece set bonus and the restoration four-set bonus. Overpowered restoration shaman, much?

We didn't stop at Kalecgos though. We had close to an hour and a half of raid left after downing the big blue dragon, so we headed on to Brutallus. Yes, I brought 24 of my friends back to meet him. And we one-shot him. Yes, you read that correctly. We one-shot Brutallus. After that stunning victory, we set up for Felmyst and attempted him twice before running out of raid time.

All in all, it was an amazingly successful night, although I feel like we cheated. It doesn't seem right to one-shot a boss we've never seen before. A testament to the shadow priest that set up our strategy for us and explained the fight! Well, and the nerf.

As far as my knee-jerk impressions of shaman healing post-3.0, let me just sketch them for you.

  • 5-man healing is very fun. Lots of tools to use and it's very easy at Salanthe's gear level.
  • Riptide is over-powered, but don't tell Blizzard game developers that, please.
  • Mana efficiency, as I predicted, is utter crap. Shaman just cannot keep up with the other healers, priests in particular. I am willing to make such a broad statement because the other resto shaman in my guild are having just as much trouble with mana as I am.
I'll hopefully have more to say at a later date and time when I'm more coherent and have some hard data to back up my impressions. Or maybe change my mind about them, who knows!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More Totems!

I sat down tonight and worked out a chart to use for assigning totems when the patch comes out.

Couple things to note: Unessential or situational totems are in brackets, while essential totems are not. This does not take into account spatial arrangement, meaning I have not considered where shaman stand in relation to the rest of the raid or to each other.

Enhancement shaman: Strength of Earth Totem, Windfury Totem, Flametongue Totem, [Poison Cleansing Totem/Fire Resistance Totem]

Elemental shaman: [Tremor Totem/Stoneskin Totem], Wrath of Air Totem, Totem of Wrath, [Poison Cleansing Totem/Fire Resistance Totem]

Restoration shaman: [Tremor Totem/Stoneskin Totem], [Grounding Totem/Wrath of Air Totem], [Frost Resistance Totem], Mana Spring Totem/Healing Stream Totem/Mana Tide Totem

This chart makes a few assumptions as far as spec goes. For enhancement shaman, it assumes that the shaman will have full points in the following talents: Enhancing Totems and Improved Windfury Totem. For elemental shaman, it assumes the shaman will have Totem of Wrath. And for restoration shaman, it assumes the shaman will have full points in Restorative Totems and a point in Mana Tide Totem.

There is one small problem to consider. The talent that improves Stoneskin Totem, Guardian Totems, has traditionally been considered a pvp talent because it also reduces the cooldown of Grounding Totem. It is not a common talent in pve specs, particularly for elemental or restoration shaman.

I would like to see my raid provided with improved Stoneskin Totem, but I have yet to figure out how to manage it without specifically asking an elemental or restoration shaman to spec for it. The problem could be alleviated if an elemental shaman took the talent points for Enhancing Totems and the enhancement shaman would then be able to drop Stoneskin Totem instead of Strength of Earth. However, it would require the elemental shaman to stay in range of the melee.

I have yet to see the specs my shaman will choose for The Patch, so I may modify totem assignments slightly based on their specs. Speaking of, this is the spec I'm currently considering for The Patch.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Three days remain until The Patch. Three point zero point two. Armageddon.

Melodramatics aside, The Patch will have sweeping ramifications on raiding. As one of the few guilds left on my server that still raids and as the shaman class officer, I've been working hard at determining totem responsibilities for The Patch. I've found myself wishing for a shaman version of Pally Power. I am not skilled enough with computers to write a fancy add-on of my own, but perhaps someone will read this blog and see the need!

Why would such a tool be necessary for shaman, though? What changes are coming in The Patch that affect totem distribution?

There are two notable changes. Firstly, totems with a 2-minute timer will be increased to 5 minutes. Secondly, totems will no long affect just a shaman's party. They will be raid-wide. The first change will have shaman everywhere leaping for joy. The second major change, that of totems affecting the entire raid instead of just the shaman's party, will produce mixed reactions, and it is responsible for my sudden obsession with organizing totems.

Causing totems to affect the entire raid instead of just the shaman's party is a mixed blessing, depending on your point of view. One of the oft-stated goals of the upcoming expansion is to reduce a raid's reliance on certain classes. Developers want to give players the ability to compose raids with a wide variety of classes, instead of stacking certain classes within a raid (i.e. resto shaman for M'uru). This is great news, but for a shaman who is accustomed to always having a raid spot by nature of their specialized buffs and unique abilities (Totem of Wrath, Bloodlust/Heroism, Windfury Totem, Chain Heal), it is disconcerting.

For example, my raid usually contains four to five shaman. One enhancement shaman in the melee dps group for Windfury Totem, one elemental shaman in the caster dps group for Totem of Wrath, and two to three restoration shaman for their chain heals and to distribute totem buffs to other groups. In making totems raid-wide, there are more shaman than totems. Granted, it is a very minor concern and is certainly a positive for the vast majority of raiding guilds.

Concerns over my "guaranteed" raid spot aside, let me return to the topic of totem distribution within a raid. Each shaman can buff the raid with four totems at once. There are, I would argue, seven totems that are necessary to have out at all times: Totem of Wrath (elemental shaman only), Flametongue Totem, Stoneskin Totem, Strength of Earth Totem, Wrath of Air Totem, Windfury Totem, and Mana Spring Totem. Important situational totems are Tremor Totem, Poison/Disease Cleansing Totem, Frost/Fire/Nature Resistance Totems, Earthbind Totem, Mana Tide Totem (restoration shaman only), and Healing Stream Totem.

It takes two shaman to provide the raid with every necessary totem, with one water totem spot left over for Healing Stream Totem. And only one of those shaman must be an elemental shaman. The other shaman could, hypothetically, be any spec at all.

It's not that easy, however. Certain specs have talents that improve certain totems. For example, it is preferable to have an enhancement shaman provide Windfury Totem, Strength of Earth Totem, Stoneskin Totem, and Flametongue Totem. You must have an elemental shaman to use Totem of Wrath, and restoration shaman are best for providing Mana Spring Totem, Healing Stream Totem, and Mana Tide Totem.

Concerns such as those are why I wish shaman had an add-on like Pally Power. I could sit down right before each raid, plug in which shaman I wanted to take care of which set of totems, and that would be it! Such simplicity. Instead, I will be busy inspecting each of my shaman to see what talents points they have, taking into consideration their T6 set bonuses (elemental shaman in 2-pieces of T6 need to have four totems down at all times), trying to make sure each shaman has some responsibility for providing totems to the raid, and typing it all out in the shaman channel (and hoping they are paying attention!).

One additional challenge in managing these buffs is range. Totems have a limited range. They only affect raid or party members within 20-30 yards of the totem (depending on talents). This means that shaman will have to learn to become aware of their position within the raid and in relation to other shaman, particularly if they are dropping the same totems.

The best example of this important consideration is for providing totem buffs in a raid setting such as the Illidari Council, where the raid is spread across a vast area. The shaman stationed on the dias will need to provide different buffs for his/her melee than the shaman following the paladin around, or the shaman on the other side of the room near the mage. It complicates fights such as Kalecgos because raid members will never have access to all their necessary totem buffs at once. It makes me wish that add-ons like Big Brother had a totem monitor so I could keep track of totem buffs.

Many, many things to consider and juggle. I am still doing some testing and research, but I hope to have a post soon regarding totems and how I plan on dealing with some of these issues within my own raid. And if any readers have suggestions, please comment!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Random Musings

I have a lot to write about regarding the expansion, but not the will to do so just yet. The one thing on my mind most recently has been to figure out how to organize totems amongst my shaman, since they're going raid-wide. It's trickier than it sounds.

I also want to discuss some of the resto shaman talent trees and talents. I made a post on my guild's website with several different spec ideas, but haven't received any feedback yet.

Basically, I need to do some more research before I write about some of the things rattling around in my head. When I do, I will certainly update the blog.

In lieu of any meaningful posts regarding the patch, beta, or the expansion, let me talk to you about a dare of sorts. As you are well aware if you follow this blog at all, I have a healing problem. Both my 70s are restoration and I have an interest in leveling all four healing classes so I can learn how to heal on them. It is one of the things I find most enjoyable about the game.

I also find it to be one of the most frustrating things and my complaining inspired a friend of mine to suggest that it might be a good idea for me to have a class that cannot heal. Yes, I have the warrior, but she's been stuck at level 66 for a while now. It's not that I have no interest in leveling her; I just have more interest in other things at the moment.

That is how Keiaz the mage became the focus of my efforts. At my friend's encouragement, I've been working hard at leveling her. She's a tailor and enchanter, of course, and I've had brief thoughts of possibly making her my main come the expansion. There are so many reasons I can't picture it though; namely that she is a troll mage and not a tauren shaman. She is a good diversion though.

In other new, I was promoted to a full officer and healing class lead in my guild. Huzzah.