(Image from wowhead.com)
One of the things that’s always gotten me, being a spellcaster for most of my WoW experience, was how to do the correct rotation or priority when raiding. When I started the game and was new to the UI and how spells worked, my warlock would fling countless shadow bolts at a target while occasionally putting up a DoT or two. Obviously this changed as time went on and I eventually started raiding, but I only figured it out by sitting down for a bit and attempting to use logic to sort out the most efficient way to cast. There was no math involved and it was more of a stream of thoughts on how I could constantly be casting. The way I ended up casting in Karazhan was less than optimal from a numbers standpoint, but as far as I could see, I sure was doin it rite! After a little while though, the patchwork rotation of DoTs and shadowbolts I had built got boring and I was always on the bottom of the DPS chart. Luckily, right at this time, Lich King was released and I rolled a Death Knight. Out of necessity for my desire to raid, I hit the numbers and have since been able to top the DPS charts in the few progression raids that I joined. Now that I’m playing a shaman at mid level, I am again encountering that question that will undoubtedly turn me into an obnoxious spellcaster: what’s the most efficient rotation? A brief look at elemental and restoration after the jump!
The first thing, and arguably the most important for the leveling shaman, is how to use your spells efficiently for the Elemental talent tree. I may have been one of the few that decided to level my shaman as an elementalist, but for those who joined my craziness, here is what I have gathered thus far in my experience.
At the very lower levels, it’s easy to just throw lightning bolts and the occasional shock, and most times you will kill things pretty quickly. However when you get up into the mid level range (between 30 and 80) and you start entering instances, a more refined rotation is necessary. At this point there isn’t anything besides mana savers that are proccing for most versions of the elemental spec, so you don’t need a priority, as far as I can see. What I do at ~55 as a shaman in an instance seems to be pretty effective, and I’ve topped the DPS charts every time from AoE damage. I usually drop my totems and lay some lightning bolts down on the tank’s target for a ranged pull. I do this because sometimes if the grouping is a bit wonky a chain lightning won’t hit all of the enemies. This is a small, relatively insignificant point, but in the end, every bit helps. Once the group is in an ideal clump I start laying down chain lightning and fire nova. On cooldown I usually put up flame shock on a target that doesn’t have it, or if the tank is getting pummeled I’ll earth shock. This is all about situational awareness which is a very valuable skill to have when you hit the raid scene. Most DPSers only look at what will increase their numbers the most, but when you have a specific case where the frequency of damage can be prevented on an under-geared tank or one that is not getting healed properly, it’s usually a good idea to use any skill you have that will help so as to promote raid survivability. In an ideal raid setting, this won’t be necessary as the tanks and healers will all be geared for the raid.
In my experience at higher levels (40 and up) the solo rotation is a mix of lightning bolts and shocks. That seems to be most effective for me right now, however I will experiment more as I get higher up.
So, for recap: In a situation where you are dealing with multiple enemies at once, most commonly in a raid setting or an instance, the best idea is to use your AoE skills! (Who would’ve thought?)
Totems > Chain Lightning > Fire Nova > Water Shield/Shock > Lightning Bolt? (if you have gcd left) > rinse and repeat.
For solo environments use your non-AoE skills (heh, do I even need to say it?)
Lightning Bolt (until melee range) > Flame Shock > Lightning Bolt (wait on Shock CD) > Earth Shock
There’s obviously a longer and more complex and perhaps effective rotation once you get into the 70s level, but since I’m not there yet with my shaman, I couldn’t really tell you!
Here’s where it gets a little tricky. If you want to level strictly as restoration… well good luck. That’s not the most efficient way to do things, even from a casual standpoint, as the restoration talents don’t do much at all for elemental dps. On the bright side at such low levels the gear difference between elemental and restoration is essentially non-existent so you can spec for elemental and still get along as a healer. The way I took my shaman up, at least initially, may not apply to most of you. I had a friend who I played with, another shaman, that was enhancement while I was elemental. She’d usually head in to a group of mobs and I’d heal her and cast the occasional lightning bolt. If however, you are like 90% of other shamans on this planet, you’ll probably solo most of the way up to max level. If you do this, the best suggestion I can give if you want to be restoration is to follow the elemental tree and heal in instances to get a little practice. Up until level 40 you shouldn’t experience any problems.
Once level 40 rolls around, two things occur which allow you to become more effective and require a change in your talents. To begin with, we get chain heal, arguably the coolest and most useful of the shaman’s healing abilities (from my level 55 standpoint. Experienced shamans don’t kill me!) which will greatly increase your ability to keep a group up. The second wonderful thing is that dual spec becomes available at level 40. The price can be a little steep if you aren’t an experienced auctioneer and aren’t trying to make lots of money. Getting the specialization will cost you 1000 gold, and you can obtain it from your class trainers. To help with earning the gold you need, I highly suggest you check out Markco’s blog Just My Two Copper and the forum that is connected with it. Their IRC channel is frequented by big names like Markco himself and Basil Bernstein from www.wow.com.
Once you have worked up enough money somehow to get dual talent specialization, it becomes much easier to level as restoration. What I do is stay in my elemental spec until I need resto during an instance or some other situation that could arise. This allows me the survivability, damage increase and mana efficiency of casting offensive spells while still being able to beat the queue times and get into instances. Also, by taking on the role of one of the high stress positions in the instance, it decreases the chance of failing (provided you have the hang of healing) as there is only one other position that can majorly screw up and affect the rest of the group. So what’s the best way to heal?
It’ll sound like I’m repeating myself but the answer is situational awareness. For the basics, you should either configure an action bar with your healing spells and your instants or get a healing addon. I won’t make a case right now for either method, but my personal suggestion is to get an addon like Vuhdo or Grid. Each individual addon allows different customization options so I won’t go through each one, but if you click on the Vuhdo minimap icon it will show you the configure window which you can explore around a bit. I’ll do a feature later tonight or later this week (whenever I get time) on Vuhdo and how to configure it with nice pictures etc.
So back to situational awareness. The most important skill for any healer (really for any raider) is to be able to respond efficiently to each situation. In this vein, it’s hard to proclaim a certain rotation or priority like you could for a DPS class, because it all depends on who you’re assigned to heal and how much damage they’re taking. The main healing spells (thus far for me) that a resto shaman will use are Lesser Healing Wave, Healing Wave, Chain Heal, Earthliving Weapon, Water Shield and Earth Shield. Things will be changing in Cataclysm for restoration (more on that later) and so this set will probably not stay the same. The best I can do is give you a couple of common examples for when each spell is necessary (aside from the buffs).
To begin with, the three buffs that you have at your disposal can be very important to survivability. Water Shield costs no mana to cast and will increase your mana regen. If you experience an unfortunate frostbolt or three from an AoE during a boss fight, the shield orbs will be consumed and transferred into extra mana for you. That’s not to say that if you get low on mana it’s a good idea to try to get hit, but it’s a nice passive increase. Keep Water Shield up as frequently as possible. I don’t believe that the number of orbs increases or decreases the amount of regen, so you shouldn’t need to refresh the shield until you lose it completely. Earthliving Weapon is a great weapon buff, but it could be at odds with Flametongue weapon depending on what you want. I have always kept earthliving and probably will unless I see convincing evidence that the spellpower increase from flametongue is definitely worth it. In the mean time, I won’t scoff at a an occasional passive HoT on my target! Earthliving synergizes well with Chain Heal in that each individual target that the Chain Heal hits has the possibility of applying the Earthliving HoT. This means in a five man, if you get lucky, you can get that HoT up on all of your group members at once (however the chances of this are fairly low)! Earth Shield is fantastic to put on a tank. It adds a static 30% decrease in pushback for channeling and casting and also heals the target every time they are hit, with a few seconds in between each activation. It is standard practice in a raid environment to have an earth shield up on your target or the tank (if they aren’t the same).
From my experience raiding as a DPS, I’ve noticed that shamans usually get assigned to raid healing over individual tank healing. In most cases, this means that you’ll be throwing down chain heal after chain heal and maybe spot healing a tank if the situation arises. Generally chain heal is effective if it hits more than one person. If it doesn’t hit more than one person it heals for a little less than lesser healing wave and I believe costs a little bit more. Make sure your group members are in range and relatively close together. For small area fights this obviously isn’t an issue, but if you’re constantly spread out like with the Anub’rekhan fight, then it becomes a little more difficult.
Last but not least are the instant casts that we have available to increase the usability of our healing spells. Nature’s Swiftness, which is obtained through talents, is nice for both elemental and restoration specs, but most applicably with restoration. This allows you an instant cast for your next nature spell, which could be any of your healing spells. Nice to use if the tank’s health gets low and you need to shoot him a greater healing wave. Also good for emergency healing in any situation. The other that I have available (not sure if there are more above me in levels) is Tidal Force which puts a 20 second buff up that will increase the chance of critical strikes, decreasing for each crit you obtain. These can be used effectively together if you really need to get a tank up fast from the health doldrums, however they might be used more effectively separately. I don’t have enough experience to know for sure.
So in the near future I’ll get a Vuhdo tutorial up and maybe take a look at Grid and see what I like and dislike about it. Feel free to share additional thoughts in the comments!