Talking Class is back! You may remember it from a long, long time ago when Caleb had a chat with his fellow Hunters, and this second edition is all about Shamans. Restoration Shamans, to be precise, since those are the most active ones in top raiding guilds. We asked Method's Sonie to chat with several of his fellow top Shamans about the present of the class, how it changed over the years, what they'd change about it and anything else they might want to share.
Sharing their knowledge on the topic are none other than:
However, we're also interested in everyone's opinion but it's pretty hard to interview everyone. So feel free to join in by commenting and sharing your opinions!
First of all, can you give us a short introduction on who you are, where you come from, and how long you've been playing a Restoration Shaman?
Cirrax: Hi, I'm Cirrax! I currently play for Blood Legion on Illidan-US. I've been playing Restoration Shaman since Burning Crusade and healing since Vanilla.
Hamerfal: Hi there! My name is Max, I live in the UK, and I'm a resto shaman by the name of Hamerfal in the ScrubBusters guild on The Maelstrom. I've been playing since Ulduar was released.
Luumis: Hey I am Steve "Luumis" Luu and I have a pretty lengthy history in WoW with guilds such as, <Ret>, <STK>, <Might>, <Supermassive>, <vodka>, and most recently <Exodus>. I started playing a shaman back in Sunwell when guilds were stacking shamans for lust rotations. I guess I should mention that I played both enh and resto depending on raid needs from Sunwell through to LK. It wasn't until I joined vodka in t11 that I exclusively played restoration.
Sonie: Hello! My name is Viktor but most people know me in-game as "Sonie". I'm in the guild Method on Twisting Nether EU. I've been playing the game on and off since Vanilla but didn't start raiding on a higher level until ToC/ICC when my guild Perfectly Sane on Auchindoun merged with Incorporated to create Envy.
There has been a lot of discussion on different forums about how useful Shamans actually are today, what is your opinion on this matter?
Cirrax: Restoration Shaman can play a big role in most raids, we are considered "mana batteries", bringing strong raid cooldowns, versatile healing and increased health of our allies. With all of the changes, Resto Shaman are harder to be “good” at. There is a lot of output and utility left on the table by people who don’t play the class to the max.
Hamerfal: The term useful is quite a vague term. Shamans currently have a huge toolkit of all sorts of different spells, bringing huge utility to the game. The issue which shamans currently have, and arguably always have had, is that we’re ‘the jack of all trades, masters of none.’ In other words, we can do nearly everything; we just can’t do it well. Mists brought some decent changes to the class, but there are certainly many underlying issues that still haven’t been solved. Looking at throughput (arguably the largest factor in top tier raiding) I feel that once again we’re not in the position we should be in comparison to other healers. This isn’t necessarily to do with the raw healing we can dish out, but more to do with our limited mechanics and interaction between other healing classes. We seem to be stuck in multiple niches meaning that we’re only strong in our perfect raid environment, which rarely happens. More on this later on!
Luumis: Shaman are incredibly useful in the raid setting, especially for 25 man raids. While we may not be the highest hps healers out there, and we depend on the raid to group up a bit to be effective, our raid utility is still very powerful. Ancestral Vigor is VERY important on tanks or low hp targets when you're on progression. 10% more hp could be that difference in keeping someone alive through a big burst damage mechanic. Our totems make it so that we can fire and forget raid cooldowns so we can continue to pump HPS. I've played all healing classes at one point or another and found that Shaman felt the strongest in getting people's HP up in emergency situations. Shaman are one of, if not the best, healers that excel at reactive healing. It's hard to exactly put into words but when someone's low, a Shaman can definitely see the impact of their healing.
Sonie: Personally I think that too many people focus too much on the healing meters. While it may be a great tool for just looking at raw hps output, people often forget about raid utility. Resto Shamans have an enormous toolbox with many great cooldowns that benefits your raid; Mana Tide, 3x Raid Cooldowns and Vigor. Unless there is constant damage like on Ra-den phase 2, classes with absorbs such as Paladins and Discs will always shine on the hps meter just because absorbs always comes first.
Shaman on the other hand is great for the cooldowns that we bring and for healing the raid when they drop low, obviously they have to be stacked aswell. ;)
Another ongoing discussion is how Shamans are performing in 10/25 comparison. Is there any difference in how the class is played in the different brackets and if so how do you feel about that?
Cirrax: There are many differences in how the class is played but the biggest factor is our lack of utility in 10 man raids. The class is limited by the abilities as many of our healing spells are not as effective in 10 man raids. For example, our smart heals (Ancestral Awakening with T15 4 piece, Healing Stream Totem and Healing Tide Totem) play a much bigger role in 10 man but it still don't compare to what Priest and Paladin can do with their absorbs, or a Monk's smart heals.
Hamerfal: Healing in 10 man should be different from healing in a 25 man. But not so much that players should feel that they’re unable to use half their spells. I healed nearly all the ToT bosses on the PTR in 10 man, and felt completely hindered. Since Healing Rain is such a strong spell, not being able to use it is a huge loss for us. In 25, you’ll always be able to drop it on melee for some decent output, but disregarding it altogether is a huge loss. Shamans definitely need some quality of life buffs both in 10 man and in spread healing situations overall. I will however say that in 10 man you don’t carry the burden of being a mana battery for your other healers so much from Mana Tide, so can gem/enchant for as much personal throughput as you like as long as you’re comfortable with your own regen. It’s something!
Luumis: The only time I've gotten to play in the 10 man setting is for PTR testing, and I have to play much more differently simply because it is 10 man. Since there are less people, it's less likely I'll be able to get my Chain Heal to bounce. There'll be less people to to stand in my Healing Rain. If anything, I find myself using single target heals a lot more if not for the majority of the time. It honestly feels super frustrating because I can't use half of my kit. It's like re-living the Dark Animus during progression nightmare all over again.
Sonie: I've never enjoyed healing in 10m as Shaman, you feel quite handicapped because you can't use your major healing spells the same way as you can in 25m. Instead you are forced to do more single target healing instead. The 4p t15 comes in very handy here though, as it is far more superior in 10m than 25m. However, I still don't like the idea behind the fact that you can't really put Healing Rain and Chain Heal to a good use.
Tranquility, Divine Hymn and Revival are getting buffed by about 240%. Do you feel left out since Healing Tide Totem didn't receive the same buff and how do you think this will affect the class?
Cirrax: I think HTT didn't get buffed because of the recent increase in healing from Ascendance after the buff to Healing Rain, Chain Heal and Earthliving. It will be considered a lesser cooldown and I think it will affect our utility.
Hamerfal: This is a tough one as resto druids are also weak at the moment, and no one plays holy. The change is needed by these classes (maybe not so much MW monks), but if it’s done we’re going to be more than left behind. There’s absolutely no reason why we should be left out of this list. Ideally HTT should be made baseline and given the same buff (perhaps nerf the healing from the current numbers slightly to bring it in line), and then offer something else in regards to the talent tier. Considering nearly every resto shaman takes HTT anyways, it seems like a no-brainer to me.
Luumis: I honestly don't mind it too much in the case of Tranquility and Divine Hymn. Druids/Priests have to stop what they're doing to channel. The buff to Revival doesn't really make sense to me. Then again the mistweaver monk class takes zero skill to roll Renewing Mists and spam Uplift.
Sonie: I think the core problem is that HTT is not a baseline spell like Tranquility, Divine Hymn and Revival is. If they buff HTT no one will ever pick Ancestral Guidance which is rarely used even as it is now. I don't think Shamans necessarily need a buff to their cooldowns as they already have 3 of them, all of which are powerful. I think the issue lies somewhere else.
However, I must admit that it worries me a bit that monks are getting their Revival buffed when they already are powerful on almost every single encounter when it comes to healing output. Holy Priests & Druids deserves the buff though!
If you were allowed to make one class design change, what would that be?
Cirrax: Increase our ability to be efficient healers when the raid is spread out. Our current toolkit limits our ability to be effective healers for spread out encounters compared to other classes.
Hamerfal: To fix spread healing. I myself don’t mind so much that we have a niche in stacked up healing. Healing Rain was possibly one of the best changes resto shamans ever had. The issue, however, is that even when the raid is stacked, we’re still not outperforming other healers. If we’re going to be limited to a certain way of healing, at least make us good at it. If not then give us the ability to heal in a spread out situation. Otherwise we’ll be forever hoping that the fight mechanics will be suited to our play style, which is an unfair situation to be in. Something should be done to solve this instead of applying ‘band-aid’ fixes every now and again to keep the resto community happy.
Luumis: I would make a glyph that would change Healing Rain into Healing Storm and work similar to Viktor's ultimate from League of Legends where you can control where the storm moves. One could tie the storm's location to a totem, which could be moved through totemic projection. This glyph could help abate our problem with our mobility and spread out healing.
Sonie: I would try to address the spread out healing issue, even though GC has stated that he likes the fact that we have a niche which is stacked healing. I don't think it's a very fun position to be in where you feel "decent" on stacked fights and the complete opposite on spread out encounters such as Dark Animus. I didn't enjoy sitting out on Dark Animus progress, but I didn't really have any choice. When you push for World Firsts you want to optimize everything that's possible, and Shamans couldn't even come to close to a Paladin or a Disc Priest on this encounter.
Maybe it would be fine if we actually made up for this by being far superior on stacked fights, but sadly that's not the case. And even if it was, would you then bring 6x Resto Shamans to fights where you stack? Instead I think they should "try" to balance every healer to be decent on every encounter, however I know that it's not that easy to do ofc!
Mastery: Deep Healing feels questionable. Are you happy with it or would you like to see some change to it?
Cirrax: I would like to see the Blizzard developers change it, but it's a very difficult topic to discuss because of the implications that this can have in PvP.
Hamerfal: Hate it. It’s straight up the worst part of our toolkit, and needed a change years ago. We never see the full effect as snipe heals/absorb classes completely devalue it, and once again it confines us to a niche, and not a good one at that. We’re strong when the raid is low, but with the current state of the game and other healers, there’s very little chance for our mastery to shine. Most people will say ‘oh but it’s great for progression’, when it really isn’t. Disc/H palas will always trump us, since damage mitigation > pure healing every time. Changing mastery could also help fix our spread healing issue and kill two birds with one stone.
Luumis: Honestly, I've got a split feeling with this question. On one hand, our mastery plays well for my play style as a reactive healer. It helps us in high raid damage situations. On the other hand, the mastery that other classes such as paladins or monks get is just so strong. It's hard not to be envious.
Sonie: I think the mastery needs to be changed, however not now. It would have too big of an impact on PvP if you would do it during an expansion. They should change it, though, for the next expansion. It's a really crappy Mastery just because of how absorbs always come first. So either remove Absorbs (everything except Power Word: Shield) or our Mastery, something has to go!
If you compare the class from today to an earlier stage in the game, are there any changes that had a big negative impact on the class?
Cirrax: Our role changes every tier and it's vastly affected by the scaling system. In BC Shaman were very strong because of the utility we brought and how we could afford to spam a low rank Chain Heal.
Comparing the current to last tier, my role went from bulk raid healing to strong in some fights and weak but useful in others.
Hamerfal: I really liked the Telluric Currents talent introduced in Cataclysm, was a shame to see that go as it was really nice for personal regen. Other than that, most changes have been nice, a few more would be great though!
Luumis: The worst change for us is not being able to drop totems while silenced.
Sonie: After how powerful we were in Sunwell something obviously had to change. However, I still think they haven't found that "sweet spot". Even though I love Healing Rain, I think it has hurt the class more than it helped us just because we are balanced around scenarios where we can make 100% use of Healing Rain, which is rarely the case except for Dragon Soul where you stacked up during almost every encounter.
Moving on to some more positive stuff. Are there any changes that had a very good impact on the class?
Cirrax: The changes made to Healing Stream Totem, the change to raid heals that will probably take effect in the next patch (currently in PTR stages), the introduction of Healing Tide Totem and Ascendance.
Hamerfal: The MoP toolkit was more than decent. Having two extra big cds in Ascendance and HTT really gave an ‘oomph’ to our playstyle, as well as the totem changes which has already been covered. Instant Ghost Wolf with the ability for it to be used indoors and Water Shield being permanent so we don’t have to constantly re-buff it during fights were huge back then also.
Luumis: Riptide no longer being consumed by chain heal is up there. To be fair the devs did give us a lot of quality of life changes that have made life as a resto shaman better.
Sonie: That would have to be Chain Heal not consuming Riptide and making totems into cooldowns instead of something that you just keep dropping and forgetting about. I think that it gives a more interesting playstyle as you have to really think about when you drop your totems.
Is there any ability that you simply can not live without?
Cirrax: Spirit Link Totem, it’s usually overlooked because of the minor damage reduction it brings, but it can be very useful if used properly.
Luumis: Any good healer can adapt, but two abilities I find myself using compulsively are Water Shield and Nature's Swiftness. The key for my Water Shield is almost as worn down as my WASD keys. I also find myself pushing my NS keybind to save people even when I know it's gone on cooldown 20 seconds before.
Time for some history. Starting with the dark times, what was the worst period for the class that you remember?
Cirrax: During Wrath of the Lich King I saw very few resto shaman, I would swap between my paladin and my shaman a lot, I ended up getting Val’anyr on my paladin and my shaman would only be used for 10 man and alt raids.
Hamerfal: Firelands was a pretty bad spot for us. In fact it was so bad that I chose to reroll ele full time once Alysrazor was dead and didn’t come back to resto until Dragon Soul was released. The start of T11 was pretty dire as well (the few weeks before the Purity buff was introduced.)
Luumis: I've been raiding for a long time, ever since MC with a guild called <MTD> back on Arthas. It took me a while to really consider resto shaman over these last 7 or 8 years. Things were rough during the MC days. Nobody liked us for LK. We were shunned in Firelands. Life has been rough for us at least 1 tier of every expansion. That said, I do believe our darkest days were this current tier with Dark Animus being the nadir.
Sonie: Hm, I only recently rerolled to Shaman but I do remember how bad the class was in Firelands. I remember in Ensidia when we benched Mek's Shaman on Ragnaros just because how awful the fight was for the class because of how spread out you were and the movement. I think that Firelands was the rock bottom for the class.
What's been your favorite period of the game with the class, and when were we the most OP?
Cirrax: Favorite period of the game as a shaman was Dragon Soul, finally feeling that the class was useful to the raid after a few tiers of disappointment was great. As for the most OP time, I can only think of BC - Sunwell and BT were fantastic for shaman.
Hamerfal: I personally really enjoyed ICC healing (chain heal, chain heal, chain heal…) but my favourite had to be Dragon Soul. I looked forward to Madness every week as the haste buff along with being stacked for Blistering Tentacles was just insane for us.
Luumis: Probably during the Sunwell days. It's a bit fun spamming one button while swapping all the shaman through one group to stack lust for the 4 big dog dps of your guild.
Sonie: Again, didn't play Shaman for that long so my favorite period with the class is Throne of Thunder! But the class was definitely the most OP in Sunwell, I think no one will ever forget about how powerful Chain Heal was at that point.
Totems were changed from being something that you put down and then forget about to being more of a cooldown. Do you agree with this change?
Cirrax: I definitely agree with this change, having to think which totem to drop, on a set order and work around recalling them to get the most out of them has made the game a lot more fun to me.
Hamerfal: Most definitely, I’ve already spoken about shaman utility, and this change certainly made it feel totems had more of a use than just buff sticks. It actually feels like you’re achieving something when you drop them now.
Luumis: Yes, this made them much more fun to use, forcing us to be more thoughtful with our decision making.
Sonie: Yep, as I mentioned earlier I think it makes the class a lot more interesting to play. IT wasn't really fun or interesting to drop your totems and then just forget about them. Now, instead, you actually have to plan ahead and think about when it's a good time to use your cooldowns (totems). And I think that's something that makes the Shaman very unique and interesting to play. We are the class with the most cooldowns for sure.
What's the single best item you've ever gotten as a Shaman?
Cirrax: During Cataclysm I switched specs a lot and during Firelands I played ele mostly. Finally getting Dragonwrath felt like a great achievement. Because of how weak Shaman were in WoTLK, I opted to get Val’Anyr on my Pally first.
Hamerfal: Was lucky enough to get ‘Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa’s Rest’ in the Firelands tier for my ele off-spec. Besides that, I remember playing with Trauma and the Halion trinket back at the end of Wrath, was always fun to see nothing but numbers lighting up my screen!
Luumis: Probably when I got my normal mode Deathwing mace. Before getting it, I had always made it a habit to stand behind the raid so that I can see what people were doing. This made it so that I could react faster to mishaps. Once I got my Maw of the Dragonlord, I got a huge upgrade to my throughput. Not a widely known fact, but Adam and I duo healed 25 H Ultraxion during progression. That was probably the most fun I've had as a healer.
Sonie: I'm gonna have to go with the very recent Meta Gem, It's pretty fun to react to procs. And when this one procs you will want to try to "spend" as much mana as you can by trying to squeeze in as many heals as possible, for Example 2x Healing Surges and a Riptide.
Is there any AddOn that you feel is a "must have" as a Resto Shaman?
Cirrax: I can't think of one that's specific to shaman but with the right use of WeakAuras you can get almost everything you need from that single addon.
Hamerfal: I’m not a huge one for addons, but any addon that tracks cds in a more visible way is a must. TellMeWhen/WeakAuras to see totem cds etc. is a real must. A raid cd tracker is pretty decent too so you can sync with your other healers to get the most out of HTT/Ascendance.
Luumis: I'm actually a pretty default UI kind of guy. It comes from all the PTR testings and having to rebuild my UI because X addon wasn't updated. But if i had to name one, it would be WeakAuras. You literally can make it show you anything relevant that you want to know when it comes to WoW.
Sonie: Definitely WeakAuras, you can do close to everything with this addon. It's also the addon most people ask for when I streamed which is why I uploaded most of my WeakAuras strings (that can be found here). I use it to track cooldowns, uptime on my totems and abilities but I also use it as sort of a 2nd BigWigs.
Any shoutouts to other Shamans out there, or just anyone in general that you think is worth mentioning?
Cirrax: Riggnaros, Xariis, Brighleaf a.k.a. Leaf, everyone else in Blood Legion, Blizzard for creating WoW and all my friends that I talk to every day, some of them visit my stream and we have great times discussing the game.
Hamerfal: Sonie, Cirax and Luumis – All shamans I’ve looked up to in the past. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to answer some questions on this, a real honour!
Halby – GM and fellow resto shaman/drunk in ScrubBusters, always a pleasure to raid with you. Fantastic guy.
Tibberia – Always nice to see you flying the flag for resto shamans on MMO and via Twitter, keep up the good work man.
Luumis: Thanks Sonie for asking me to participate in this. Notable shaman shoutout would be to Blossomz, Bondadunk, Goohara, Redlol, and Dess. It's been an honor crossing jesus beams with you gents. Of course shoutouts to the old vodka bros, the new Exodus bros, and everyone else I've played WoW with.
Sonie: First of all, a huge thanks to my Shaman brothers Cirax, Hamerfal and Luumis for participating in this interview. But also a big shoutout to my Shaman partner Leeds in Method, and Barrelroll who recently left the game!