** This page is not updated for Patch 5.2 content just yet. See my 5.2: Shaman Changes post for an overview of what’s changing! And bear with me; I will have math and new analyses shortly, once things settle down a bit. **
|1||Design & Gameplay Changes|
|2||New Spells & Abilities|
|3||Talents Overview (Lvl 15-45)|
|4||Talents Overview (Lvl 60-90)|
|6||Extra for Experts|
While Shamans on a whole have received a number of quality-of-life improvements and powerful abilities to wield in Mists of Pandaria, the core gameplay of all three specs has not fundamentally changed. The transition from Cataclysm to Mists will be very easy for most Shamans, with the only significant obstacle being the reset of combat ratings that comes with any new expansion.
A MoP Restoration Shaman is going to play very similarly to a Cataclysm Restoration Shaman, and as such, many of the complaints from Cataclysm still hold true. We are still designed to excel in stacked situations, and weaker in spread situations than the other healing classes. We are still paying a mana regeneration tax for being able to provide Mana Tide Totem as a raid-wide benefit. We will still feel weaker in a 10-man setting than in a 25-man setting. And we still lack a tank cooldown.
It’s not hopeless, though. We are in a much better position for Mists of Pandaria than we have been for the entirety of Cataclysm. We have gained a lot of new tools that can help us bridge the gap between our spread-healing capabilities and those of the other classes, including a change to our old stand-by, Healing Stream Totem, and an overwhelming number of cooldowns to help us manage our healing throughput. And gratefully, we are no longer quite so leashed to Telluric Currents, meaning we are no longer overpowered in situations where it can be abused and woefully inadequate for encounters without increased-damage mechanics or ample opportunities to DPS.
This article will cover most, if not all, of the changes to the Shaman class that affect any aspects of the Restoration spec. As MoP is still undergoing frequent changing and re-tuning, some of this information may change frequently; as such, I am keeping my recommendations and advice to a minimum until the class becomes more stable.
Design and Gameplay Changes
Probably the biggest change for Shamans, Restoration or otherwise, in this expansion is the revamped totem system. Gone are the buff sticks that are dropped once at the start of the fight and forgotten about, only to be revisited after using a cooldown or getting randomly eaten by wayward adds. They have been replaced with a collection of utility totems, totems with short CDs and short durations that are designed to feel more meaningful and interactive; dropping the right totem for the situation will now play a more central role in our repertoire.
Unfortunately, this means that a lot of our “buff utility” has been removed to make way for the new totem paradigm. Most of this is due to changes in the buff system that have been implemented in MoP – there are now only 8 raid buffs and 6 enemy debuffs that a raid group has to manage. Strength of Earth Totem, Stoneskin Totem, Stoneclaw Totem, Mana Spring Totem, Elemental Resistance Totem, Totem of the Tranquil Mind, Windfury Totem, Wrath of Air Totem, and Flametongue Totem have all been replaced or removed to fit the new buffing system.
Several of our existing totems have had mechanics upgrades. Healing Stream Totem has been significantly buffed. Instead of providing small heals limited to a single party, Healing Stream Totem is now a one-at-a-time smart heal with significant throughput and a potential 50% uptime.The totem lasts for 15 seconds, healing the lowest-health raid member within 40 yards for 19.5k (at level 90, 25k spell power) every 2 seconds. If we drop this totem when the raid is taking pulsing AoE damage, for example, this will act as a very efficient heal, dealing almost 140k healing for only 14k mana. Since it is a smart heal, it is very unlikely to overheal unless used at a suboptimal time.
Additionally, Searing Totem and the Elementals have had their AI improved a great deal, and are still slated to receive further AI buffs in a future build. The totem AI now ensures your totems will activate as you enter combat (even if you have dropped the totem before initiating battle), will react like Assist-stance pets if you are attacked, and will respond more quickly to target changes. This should make it less frustrating for Restoration Shamans to attempt to use our DPS totems.
As part of these changes, we have lost the spells that let us drop 4 totems in a single GCD – and the totem bar UI element is gone. This means we must spend a GCD for each totem that we wish to drop during an encounter. Because of the short uptime on most of our totems, it is rare that we would need to drop multiple totems at once, but in PvP or for some as yet unforeseen PvE mechanics this could get quite annoying. It also means finding additional keybinds and action bar spots for our totems, which may be difficult to come by for PvPing Shamans or players new to the game or class.
As of Patch 5.1, all Shaman totems are classified as Spells, not as Physical abilities. This means that Shamans will be unable to drop totems when Silenced or when locked out of the appropriate Spell Schools. Fire totems fall under the “Fire” school of spells, while all other totems fall under the “Nature” school of spells. This change has tremendous implications for Shaman PvP, which I am not really qualified to discuss here, but for PvE it is not terribly impactful. Do keep in mind, however, that this change may prevent you from casting totems in some very rare PvE situations – for example, if a player under the effects of Imperial Vizier Zorlok’s “Convert” ability uses an interrupt with a spell-school lockout on you while you are casting a heal, you will be unable to drop non-Fire totems until that lockout expires. It is also possible that future encounters will have silence or lockout mechanics that will impact PvE Shamans, so this is something to keep in mind as you consider your cooldown strategy for new fights.
Core Healing Spell Changes
I’ll address the elephant in the corner quickly here. Telluric Currents has been reworked, and the new implementation is a mere shadow of its former self. This change is part of Blizzard’s attempt to unlink Intelligence/Spell Power and mana regeneration, and in all this is a good thing, but it will come as quite a shock to many Shamans, and has the potential to drastically change our carefully cultivated Lightning-Bolt-weaving play style. I’ll discuss this in more depth in the Glyphs section, because Telluric Currents is now a Glyph.
As far as our healing spells are concerned, we are still designed around the “holy trinity” of a small-but-efficient Healing Wave, a large-but-slow Greater Healing Wave, and a fast-but-expensive Healing Surge. However, Healing Surge is no longer a useless spell as it has been since the PvP-oriented nerf in Cataclysm! It is the only single-target heal that non-Restoration Shamans have access to, so its throughput has been improved drastically for all Shamans. The higher chance to proc Resurgence, due to Tidal Waves’ interaction with Healing Surge, makes this spell a compelling choice whilst our mana regeneration suffers in dungeon and early raiding gear.
We have also received a few boosts to our healing toolkit. The tier 12 4-piece bonus, which allowed Chain Heal to benefit from the presence of Riptide on its primary target without consuming that Riptide, has been baked into our Chain Heal. We should feel even stronger now in stacked-healing situations, since we can maintain our Riptides more easily whilst also ensuring every Chain Heal is 25% larger. In a similar vein, our healing done to our Earth Shielded target is now increased by 20% (up from a talented 18% in Cataclysm), giving us slightly more tank-healing power.
Water Shield’s mechanics have also been updated with a huge quality-of-life improvement. Our Water Shield now lasts for 60 minutes and has no charges. Instead, it simply returns mana to you if you are struck directly by an ability. We will have no more maddening Water Shield mini-game in MoP! This frees up valuable GCDs that we can use instead on managing our veritable stable of totems.
In the latest Beta build, Healing Rain can now benefit from Unleash Life (not the additional buff provided by Unleashed Fury, though), which will certainly be the best use of Unleash Life for any encounter where the raid can stack and there is heavy AoE damage to counter. Unfortunately the Unleash Life cooldown does not line up well with Healing Rain’s cooldown, but every second Healing Rain could be buffed by 30%. Since it is not otherwise a good idea to use Unleash Life on cooldown, this change should encourage us to get more use out of this historically underutilised ability.
Finally, Earthliving Weapon has received a significant buff compared to its Cataclysm incarnation. The Blessing of the Eternals talent has been incorporated baseline into the Earthliving Weapon imbue, and its proc rate on AoE healing has been increased.
|Earthliving Weapon: Cataclysm vs MoP|
|Spell||Cata Proc Rate||MoP Proc Rate|
|Above 35%||Below 35%||Above 35%||Below 35%|
|Riptide, Healing Wave, Greater Healing Wave, Healing Surge, Unleash Life||20%||100%||20%||100%|
|Healing Rain||Unknown; very low chance||6%||30%|
What We’re Missing
It’s not all sunshine and roses, though. A few of the abilities we know and love have been removed or reduced in power, primarily to make way for more streamlined spellbooks and the new buffing system. For example, we can no longer cast Water Breathing – not a terribly useful spell for PvE, given that most quests that require you to go underwater provide you with a Water Breathing buff anyway, but there also didn’t seem to be any reason to remove it.
More significantly, we have lost Ancestral Fortitude (10% reduced physical damage buff from healing critical strikes), although we do retain Ancestral Vigor (the stacking +health buff). Combined with our loss of Ancestral Resolve and the self-healing portion of Spark of Life, we are shaping up to have a lot less survivability in MoP. We have also lost access to several skills that complemented our offensive toolkit, such as Totemic Reach, the Spirit-to-Hit conversion, and Focused Insight. It’s hard to see these losses as anything other than PvP nerfs, but they will negatively affect our PvE survivability and utility as well.