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!

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