Not-a-Meme: Shaman Edition

Welcome to the fourth and final edition of the healing Not-a-Meme series. This is the restoration shaman edition. As with my other three entries, these are mostly new answers with a few repeats thrown in.

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary healer?

Devanyal, Restoration Shaman

What is your primary group healing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)

Mostly 5-man heroics at this point, though I did do a couple of the easier weekly raids. Resto shammies are very nice for either environment, as far as I can tell. My spec has a little bit of tank healer and  a little bit of raid healer in it. The only thing I would change if asked to raid heal on a more permanent basis is swapping one of my more tank-centric glyphs for a more raid-centric glyph. We have the tools to do whatever we want without changing specs, though.

What is your favorite healing spell for your class and why?

I don’t really have one. The shaman toolbox as a whole is pretty nice, but all of the spells are fairly blah: just pure bread-and-butter heals in a very streamlined way. None of them seem to do anything fancy. The closest one would be chain heal, but this has enough drawbacks that the special mechanic feels less like “ooh!” and more like “eh.”

If I absolutely had to pick one I would probably go with earth shield, just because I tend to get the most mileage and versatility out of that one.

What healing spell do you use least for your class and why?

I don’t get much call for Healing Wave. Typically, people just don’t need that much healing, and if they do a quick Riptide plus hasted Lesser Healing Wave heals for just as much, but it does so faster and with a nice life-saving bridge of healing in the middle.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your healing class and why?

Shammies truly are versatile. As mentioned above, we can do anything we want without switching specs. A shammie might eek out an extra tiny bit of performance with 2 specialized resto specs, but there’s enough give in the tree to just do one spec that does it all. The most we might have to change is a glyph or two, and really, this doesn’t make a huge difference, anyway.

Adding on to our versatility, shamans have some nice CDs (like Heroism) and a wide array of available buffs that can mimic quite a few of the more popular buffs of other classes. Perhaps our best little spell, though, is Wind Shear. Not only is this an agro dump (a very nice one, despite the fact that shammies always complain that they don’t have one), it is also an interrupt. This is so nice for so many reasons. Interrupts are usually high threat moves, making them dangerous to use at times. They also tend to be fairly lengthy CDs, while Wind Shear’s is only 6 seconds. Finally, it allows us to interrupt spellcasting and special moves that might otherwise be devastating. In some situations shamans can actually prevent as much damage as any Disc priest, just not in a way that meters can measure. For example, Spell Flingers in heroic Old Kingdom cast a spell that deals 80% of the target’s health in damage. That’s one interrupt that saves you 32k in healing on a tank with 40k health (not unusual at all these days). Similar situations arise in other instances and with other mobs.

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your healing class and why?

Ironically, the same versatility that makes shammies so great to have around sometimes also makes them a tad annoying to play. It’s not necessarily a “weakness” per se, but shamans’ versatility does come at a price. You need to know which totems do or do not stack with which buff and at times you may have to make a trade-off between a nice full-time buff (mana spring totem) to a more situational one (cleansing totem) that is more appropriate for the encounter.

Perhaps the biggest annoyance is that shaman shields (lightning shield, water shield) are next to useless because with only 3 charges they go away ridiculously quickly. Even without the charges these buffs are painfully short at 10 minutes each.

The only true weakness that I would say shamans have is the nature of their buffs and spells: namely, range and how it interacts with us. Totems aren’t really portable and have a fairly limited range, which means that positioning is always key and even so, sometimes people are out of range. Likewise, our signature spell, Chain Heal, has a very short jumping distance and thus often relies on the positioning of other players (something we have no control over). Often we’ll have to choose a sub-optimal primary target for our chain heal just because it’s the only choice we have given the special geometry available to us. Either somebody gets a bigger/smaller bounce than they need or somebody doesn’t get a bounce at all.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best healing assignment for you?

Probably raid healing, specifically focusing on the melee group. This isn’t to say that shaman are not also excellent tank healers, because they absolutely are. Looking at a single tank match-up shaman and pallies are pretty much dead even, IMO. The only trade off is that Paladins can keep up two tanks in a tank-healing situation, while Shamans are more suited to running chain heal through the melee. I’d say both are equally helpful, it just changes the point at which the other healer(s) need to pick up the slack, so don’t let people sandbag you with the rubbish “pallies can heal two tanks” argument; the shaman’s melee group is worth as much healing as the pally’s second tank.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with most and why?

It really truly doesn’t matter, as long as they are good at what they need to do. Shaman versatility strikes again. Shammies: we play well with others.

What healing class do you enjoy healing with least and why?

Once again, it doesn’t matter who is doing what as long as they are competent at their role. I can do anything, I just can’t do everything. 😉

What is your worst habit as a healer?

On the shaman my worst habit is to overheal and waste mana. Shamans have a fairly long cast time on most of their spells, which leads me to tend to overcompensate by casting heals that aren’t really needed (healing stream totem or riptide tops them off while I’m casting).  I just get antsy about the possibility of somebody taking an unlucky hit during the ~2 seconds it takes me to get a heal to them.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while healing?

Nothing new here. The same as it is and has always been: rude people. An unfortunate side effect of being the healer is that quite often people look at you to cover other people’s mistakes, which tends to lead to the idea that everything is the healer’s fault. If the rogue dies, it was the healer’s fault (never mind that he ate the heavily-telegraphed whirlwind move that he was supposed to back out of).  If the warlock dies, it’s the healer’s fault (nevermind the fact that he just lifetapped six times in a row while throwing off every spell in his arsenal at a mob with spell-reflect up). If the healer has to drink after the pull, he sucks. Nevermind that the reason he’s so low on mana is that everyone is taking tons of avoidable damage by standing in puddles of acid or that the tank has stacked stamina and only stamina to the point that he has half the avoidance expected for his class. I mean, it’s one thing to expect the healer to cover for your shortcomings, but it’s quite another to expect him to take abuse while doing it.

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other healers for PvE healing?

Yes. Shamans sem to be balanced quite well both within their own right and with how they interact with others. While there are some annoyances here and there, for the most part, the class is fine. Although I may not always agree with the way we are limited, or dislike the extent to which a function was limited, I understand that some limitations had to be placed on shaman to prevent them from being overpowered.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a healer?

Well, obviously I prefer that nobody dies during the battle. If somebody does die, I check to see whether it was something I could have reasonably prevented. I am so over being blamed for the deaths of people who stand in puddles or don’t move out of whirlwinds and such. Mechanics matter. Do them.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your healing class?

That shaman are poor tank healers or that shaman are just raid healers. Yes, shaman certainly are excellent raid healers, but then again, so are Holy Priests and Resto Druids. Shaman are just as good as tank healers as Resto Druids or Discipline Priests. The biggest difference is, unlike priests, shamans don’t really need a new spec to switch roles.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new healers of your class to learn?

Probably the special geometry involved in getting the most out of your totems and your chain heal. I know this is what has been giving me the most trouble. I still often get a chain heal that has either no bounces or only one. I can usually place the totems in range of everyone just by placing them halfway between the ranged group and the melee group, though sometimes movement fights can be difficult.

If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a healer via recount, what sort of patterns would they see (i.e. lots of overhealing, low healing output, etc)?

That I am still having mana issues, I guess. I probably need to work on lowering my overhealing and being a bit more patient with letting healing stream totem work. It really is an amazing little HoT when you give it time to do its thing.

Haste or Crit and why?

Can’t I have both? I try to maintain a sort of balance between crit, which (much like the old paladin model) provides both regen and throughput, and haste, which increases throughput and casting time. To quote from this section on my paladin edition: “Nothing is more frustrating than just chaining/spamming heals on a target whose health is still dropping. Everyone is yelling that “X needs heals” or complaining that “so and so didn’t get heals” but usually, they did get heals and we’re still spamming heals on them when they die. Sorry, guys, but we’ve only got what our haste will allow us: we can’t make our big slow heals go any faster no matter how loud you yell at us.” Shamans have the same problem with an arsenal full of big, slow spells. If you fail to interrupt something bad, stand in something nasty, or otherwise ignore mechanics, there’s a really good chance that we won’t be able to save you.

What healing class do you feel you understand least?

If forced to pick I’d say that it’s still the resto shammy, simply because he’s the one I have the least experience on. In truth, though, I think I have a pretty good understanding of all 4 healing classes, now. (At least until Cataclysm comes along and changes all the rules on me).

What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in healing?

I use Healbot for healing and decursive for cleanses. Yes, I know that Healbot can handle cleansing, but I found it easier to just use decursive than to try and sneak in a key-modified click into an already pretty full set-up. I’ve grown fond of macros these days. I have a panic button for both single-target emergencies and mult-target emergencies with Nature’s Swiftness macroed into Healing Wave and Chain Heal, respectively. I have warning macros, and some situational awareness warnings macroed into some spells/totems. (For example, when I drop Mana Tide to restore mana, I automatically notify the raid that I have dropped it and they need to stand within 30 yards of it to get the effect).

Do you strive primarily for balance between your healing stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?

I try to maintain a balance, as always with my toons. I’m still a sucker for socket bonuses and hybrid gems instead of min/maxing every last iota of one “best stat” out of my gear. I like having a nice, well-rounded toon that will perform well in all situations rather than a toon that will perform really well in one situation and not-so-well in others. As such, I like to socket for spellpower, haste, and mp5, as appropriate.

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