(EDIT: If you’re looking for a healing guide on Lord Geoffery Tulvan for the Crucible of Carnage event The Earl of Evisceration, check out this link!)
Remember that post I made where I was lamenting the fact that elemental and restoration shamans literally could not run out of mana? Well I was certainly wrong. Now that Cataclysm has actually come and I’ve seen the changes, I’ve eaten my words. However, as far as I’m concerned at this point in time, the fact that I actually have to care about my mana again is a good thing. What does this mean for shamans? Well today’s post is mostly about restoration (one of my first), which is the spec hit hardest by Cata content in terms of mana reduction. Here’s why!
In Burning Crusade instances were fairly difficult. Crowd Control (CC) was a normal activity and one of the only ways to get through certain experiences. We saw a departure from the need for CC in Wrath of the Lich King, which made the game relatively face-rollable. There were many complaints that the game was too easy and that vanilla should be recreated. I agreed at the beginning of Wrath that the content was too easy, and when we got to the later tiers of raid progression (ToC and ICC) the availability of gear skyrocketed. You could farm random heroics for currency that would buy you the current tier of gear. In BC I would’ve been raiding Sunwell if that had been implemented but alas, I spent the whole expansion (I started near the end of BC… right before BT was released) raiding Karazhan and Zul’Aman. In Wrath after a raid went out of progression and we moved on to a new raid, hardly anyone wanted to do the old stuff. The gear level was lower and you could do a variety of things to get the higher tier gear. Perhaps these options were available in BC and I just wasn’t aware of them but regardless, I feel like many more people knew the gear was available in Wrath and that the old raids of Wrath were no longer run.
Thankfully with the release of Cataclysm we got content that was harder to get through and required skill. I maintain that if people would just learn how to CC then the content would be a breeze but I still get into randoms where the tank charges in and promptly dies because, well, I can’t pump her full of enough heals fast enough without going out of mana. If I don’t pump the heals she dies, I have mana, we wipe. If I pump her full of heals, she survives twice as long but not long enough, I go out of mana, she dies, we wipe. It’s a lose-lose situation until the other members realize that they have a spell called polymorph or hex or shackles or bind elemental or bind demon. Once they figure that out, we’re golden!
The requirement of CC is a great addition, but not the only one. The gear you get from quests is no longer enough to get you right into heroics. You actually have to work at it, which I admire. I finished up Uldum and started looking for places to get more gear. As I quested through Twilight Highlands I got enough enhancement gear to give it a try and as I did a few normals I got more gear but I was still locked out of queueing for heroics. Next thing I realized was that there were reputation vendors and they had gear that I needed. I went around and got enough enhancement gear from being honored with most factions to get into heroics. I noticed that as your reputation goes up the ilvl of the gear goes up noticeably. This is a nice feature to reward those of us who grind out rep like champs to get shoulder and head enchants.
While my mana was really suffering in dungeons I realized that there were a lot of things I -wasn’t- doing that perhaps I should have been doing. I’ll go over what I’ve discovered to help you figure out how best to conserve mana during normals and heroics. First of all let’s broach some general healing theory. It’s really very important to be situationally aware. Most times if you’re paying attention you can catch what the boss is about to do and prepare accordingly with your spells so that the tank doesn’t go down. A good example of this is the Crucible of Carnage when you fight Lord Geoffery Tulvan (the Earl of Evisceration). In his human form the damage is pretty easy going and relatively simple to heal through. I think there were a couple of times that he did some spike damage that we weren’t ready for but nothing traumatic and nothing I couldn’t heal through. When he goes into worgen form though there’s an ability he uses that is downright rough. I wasn’t expecting it the first time as we were doing CoC blind but the tank nearly died from his flurry. He hits really fast and does a lot of damage. My heart was pounding in my forehead as my clicking faltered and I accidentally put Riptide on our warlock who was sitting at a fine and dandy 95%. Luckily I managed to save him and was ready the next time Lord Geoffery used that move. After I knew what was happening I dutifully put Riptide on the tank before the frenzy started and then starting a Healing Wave. Since I was paying attention the first time I noticed the tank health going down quickly and heard the quick stabbing sounds so I knew something bad was happening. I used Unleash Elements and popped a Greater Healing Wave on him followed by a few Healing Surges (I should’ve done that the other way around though as while GHW was casting the tank went to about 3%). This is what I mean by being situationally aware. It helps if you know the fight already so that you can be prepared for something to happen but if you are raiding blind it pays to pay attention.
Another good practice of the healing arts is to be not casting as much as possible as this helps your mana to regen faster. Obviously I’m not saying to let your DPS die or your tank to get very low but if you know the damage is going to be relatively small you can avoid healing the DPS in favor of saving some mana for later. A lot of classes have abilities that will heal themselves and some have AoE abilities do damage but also heal the party (Divine Storm from Paladins).
It’s essential that you know and understand what spells you have available to you and how they work, including their heal amount, their cast time and how much mana they take. For a comprehensive guide check out http://www.totemspot.com under the Wiki. I’m not going to go over all of them right now but some key abilities that you may not think about as being heals are important to know. The first is Spiritwalker’s Grace which is a fantastic spell usable regardless of spec to heal while moving. This is great for movement heavy fights or situations where you are immobilized from casting by being moved. Examples of this would be the Mage fight in Nexus where she tosses you around a bit or the Twilight Terror in CoC who puts down stationary AoE damage. It’s great to be able to heal while moving. Unleash Elements has the guise of an elemental spell but it has an effect when you unleash Earthliving. It will do some instant healing and then increase the effectiveness of your next direct heal by 30%. I usually use this when the tank goes low suddenly I pop Riptide onto him and then Unleash Earthliving and use Healing Surge. The last I’ll mention is Healing Rain which is a new spell in Cataclysm that gives us a drop-and-forget spell. It’s similar to the Druid’s Tranquility but we don’t have to channel it. It comes with a heavy mana cost but if you need to pay more attention to a certain group or the tank then it’s great to put this down and let it tick up your DPS’ health while you focus on the tank. It doesn’t last very long and it’s a fairly small area that DPS seem to like to move out of, but in the long run it helps out a lot.
The best strategy of mana conservation I’ve found, by far, is to use Crowd Control. It’s simple, it’s effective, and everyone should know how to do it. Note that even you have a CC that you can use: hex. I’ve used it more than a couple of times at the request of the tank or the group leader to help cut down on incoming damage. The next best strategy is to instill in your DPS to not stand in the shit. This is an oft forgotten but specifically required principle of raiding since WoW came out. It reduces more damage than any healing will. Sadly we can’t control the DPS so if they stand in the shit you have to make a choice, and making a choice in the context defines your skill as a healer. Prioritize! The tank absolutely has to stay up. If the tank dies it’s very likely the party will wipe. The next most important person in the party is you. Many healers don’t realize this but you NEED to keep yourself healed otherwise you’ll go down. If you go down, the party will most likely wipe, though the healing role is more easily filled by DPS than the tank role (depending on the comp of your party). If one of the DPS is about to die and you are about to die, heal yourself! There’s a good saying that I didn’t come up with but it’s handy: If the tank dies, it’s the healers fault. If the healer dies it’s the tanks fault. If the DPS die it’s their own damn fault. This isn’t always true, but the majority of the time DPS have it in their power to reduce the damage they take. Not pulling aggro, not standing in shit – it’s a simple principle that any good DPSer has to know.
Being economical with your spells is pretty easy once you know the spells. If the party is taking almost no damage and the tank is taking minimal damage, I just use Healing Wave on the tank and spot heal and DPS that gets nabbed by an AoE or pulls aggro momentarily. Doing this keeps my mana topped off (I always have Mana Stream Totem up as I have more mana problems than getting enough heals off, though I may play around with Healing Stream to see how it works). If the tank takes some big damage I pop Riptide and keep pumping HW into her. If things get dire I’ll throw a Healing Surge or two onto the DPS or tank to keep them higher than lower and continue on with my Healing Wave spam. This usually allows us to end the fight with me above 50% mana and the party in good health, so to speak. I rarely ever spam Healing Surge anymore even though that’s what I did at the end of Wrath. Always keep Earth Shield up and Water Shield up and use Chain Heal sparingly as it doesn’t heal for that much even with Riptide buffing it. It’s better to pump Healing Wave with enough haste to make it NOT painful. For relevant stat weights check out Elitist Jerks or the Totemspot articles on the front page about Restoration. It’s not currently up to date 100% but I should get a guide up pretty soon with the relevant info.
If you have any questions about healing efficiency for shamans or how not to /oom midfight, leave me a comment or email me (click “About”). Happy HW pumping!