I tried. I really did. I waited until I had gathered more than 200 Emblems of Triumph and bought my Tier 9 set to see if it would make a difference. It didn’t. I still struggle to heal as a Restoration Shaman. I’m always a step or two behind the rest of the party. I’m looting mobs from the last pull. I’m drinking. I’m 10 yards out of range.
I’m pretty sure that it’s not the spec at fault – it’s me.
Even though I gave up on the Shaman a few months back I didn’t stop reading all the Restoration Shaman blogs that I have subscribed to. I think I was still looking for an answer, convinced that I had missed some crucial “rotation” or combination of spells, which would explain why I was so bad at playing this spec.
All that reading has paid off. I think I know why I couldn’t play the Restoration Shaman. It’s because I played a Discipline Priest first. My approach to healing with the Shaman was warped.
Why am I giving up on the Shaman? I think it comes down to two problems: no mobility and no damage prevention.
Riptide is the only instant heal available to a Restoration Shaman. And it’s on cooldown. That means that it’s the only spell I can cast to heal you while I’m moving. If we all need to run out of something nasty, I have to wait until I’m in the clear, then start up a Chain Heal or Lesser Healing Wave, then 2 seconds later you will get receive said heal.
If we all need to run out of something as my Priest I have 4 “instants” at my disposal. I can Renew (which I swear is more powerful than a Riptide tick) or send you 1 tick of Penance. I can hit you with Prayer of Mending and instantly heal you for a huge amount or I can Power Word: Shield you for an instant 2k+ heal (and that’s just from a glyph!) and then effectively pause your dropping health bar until I can fire off a party heal or a full Penance or Flash.
A Lesson from Pit of Saron
At about the time I was giving up on Restoration I was fortunate enough to be grouped up with a Restoration Shaman for Pit of Saron while I was playing Cassandri as DPS. I ran the instance with our healer set as my Focus target. I was open minded – perhaps here was my chance to learn how to play from another player, spell for spell.
As we approached the first boss I wondered how the Shaman was going to heal this. I can’t imagine a fight more difficult to heal as a Shaman. Lots of movement. And party members need to be spread out to avoid the rock throw which means that Chain Healing isn’t an option. As least we had Frost Resist Totem.
This is how I approach this fight as a Shadow Priest:
AoE off the boss to kill his adds at the start. DPS the boss until he has thrown a few rocks. When he goes to forge a weapon, run behind a rock to line of sight him. Your debuff is probably around 10-13 stacks by now. As soon as the debuff wears out, run back out to try and refresh Shadow Word: Pain before it expires. Wait til he forges a new weapon (around another 13 stacks), run behind a rock to LoS him.
The Shaman blamed the group for the wipe: “You didn’t LoS enough. You can’t let it get to 10 stacks!”
In every other run I’ve done we’ve all waited until the weapon forging – usually every second rock throw or so – before dropping the stacking debuff. Right or wrong, this means that every other healer that I’ve played with during the previous 20 runs or so could manage to heal through about 13 stacks of the debuff: Druids, Priests and Paladins.
On the second attempt we huddled and LoSed the boss after every single rock throw which gave the Shaman just enough time to get off two chain heals while we were stacked. Our health bars remained in the 30-60% range the entire fight. In the end I helped heal. My Shadowfiend and Dispersion won us the kill. Everyone else was dead.
I do think that fight is particularly punishing to Shaman. But the experience further cemented in my mind that other Restoration Shaman, not just me, struggle to keep green bars full in instances.
The Dungeon Finder Mentality
The players who run Wrath of the Lich King heroics are not approaching combat with the same mentality as my groups did when I first started healing as my Restoration Shaman in Naxxaramas/Tier 7 days.
In one of my first blogs for HoTs and DoTs I talked about how easy/difficult I found each of the Wrath Heroics to complete while healing as my brand new Restoration Shaman. I concluded by the end, when I was wearing all the ilvl 200 Epic faction rewards and Epic Heroic drops, that I was now over-geared for Heroics. How times have changed!
My party would listen to me when I said that they needed to group up around me for Chain Heal. They listened to me if I asked for a mana break. They declared “good job!” if I struggled to heal through a boss but somehow kept us from wiping. Even back then I struggled the most with heavy movement fights like Telestra (Nexus) and the Collusus (Gundrak).
These days tanks will not wait until I’m in range before pulling. Tanks will not wait while I regain my mana. Party members believe that it’s ok to stand in Flamestrike and be healed through it. Party members believe that if you want to stop in order to drink, you’re a bad healer. Party members believe that if everyone’s health bar is under 20% when the boss dies that you’re a bad healer.
It’s not so much that I’ve been spoiled playing the Discipline Priest (or maybe I have, they are pretty cool), it’s just that the way I approach healing is warped.
Discipline feels very aggressive to me, almost devious. You can quickly throw out a huge series of instant casts: shield, shield, shield, Prayer of Mending, Renew and then have a nap in the corner. Or better yet, skip the nap and hit “f” and Penance and suddenly you’re DPSing the enemy with your healing spells. Or you can just wade right into melee distance and Holy Nova while you run in circles like a mad man: healing and dealing damage at the same time instantly.
There’s a type of insanity to Discipline which I love. And it’s the only reason I hold a tiny amount of love for PVP in my heart – because this spec is so suitable for the battlefield mindset. One moment you might be struggling to keep you and three other friendlies around you alive and then the next moment you’ll realise that your teammates need a bit of help in order to finish off that enemy Paladin … and so you help bring him down with a fast Penance followed up by Shadow Word: Death. (And we all know that, just like a murloc, if you leave a Paladin with less than 10% health he’ll run away only to return with 5 of his friends looking for revenge – and with a full health bar too.)
I think a Discipline Priest enters combat, and builds healing threat, slowly. We can enter combat with our “heals” already in place. We have a bit of time before our Prayer of Mending goes off. In the Burning Crusade that Prayer of Mending heal threat wasn’t even attributed to the Priest, it was attributed to the healed target. Most of the time that first bounce would be attributed to the tank thus helping them build threat at the start of a pull. I’m used to having a few seconds to myself at the start of combat to orient myself and get into a good position before I need to start casting.
Priests are encouraged to take breaks while healing – we’re not built to spam cast one or two spells without pause for the entire duration of a boss fight. The Priest heals selectively, casting the right spell on the right target at the right time. They are encouraged to take pauses and conserve their mana pool. I believe, although I’m no expert, that this might be what Blizzard are getting at when they say that Discipline needs some work to be ideal single target healers – they can do some amazing things to mitigate incoming damage, but they can’t deliver their heals at the same steady, sure pace that a Holy Paladin can. A few seconds without heals and your tank can be dead. And a tick of Renew ain’t gonna cut it.
I believe I’m guilty of not adapting my approach to suit my Restoration Shaman. Perhaps I need more time away from the Priest, as Discipline anyway, before I should try Restoration again.
I think I would be better served spam healing my targets before they take damage instead of losing precious seconds at the start of combat. I think I need to stop trying to get into the “ideal” position and instead make do with wherever I happen to be when combat commences. I think I need to get heals on my tank (small ones perhaps) as they’re still picking up adds, instead of waiting until I’m sure they have them all neatly standing in one spot. I think I need to treat my spells as a “rotation” get into the habit of casting a set sequence instead of waiting to read the situation, then determining which spell to cast, and then casting it. I think I need to stop worrying about mana conservation and overhealing.
I think I need to work at being a bit more steady, a bit more predictable. I think the only way to “proactively” heal is to make sure that I always have heal about to land.
Do you think I’m on the right track?
Thank God for Dual Specialisation
Well all this reflection has been motivating. It’s been months since I healed as my Shaman. I haven’t completely given up on Restoration, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the healing spec for me.
At the moment I’m giving Xata a second chance by using her secondary spec: Elemental. But my adventures as an Elemental Shaman are a topic for another day, I think!