Last week, we started our trip back to the beginning of the days of our restoration shaman pioneers, those brave souls who endured 40-man raids, laggy servers, limited toolkits and short-duration totems! They survived the harrowing times of downranking and the collapse of the 40-man raid into 25-man raids and helped restore the Sunwell. Truly, this was a time of legends.
This week, our trip through WoW's history will lead us toward more recent events. While we can reminisce about the good old days of the release and first expansion of WoW, we can't deny the impact the current expansion, as well as the one before it, had on the evolution of the shaman healer. I mean, it's not like they heralded the end of the world as we know it, right?
A game of frozen thrones
The big expansion, the one that everyone had been waiting for since the game was first released, The Wrath of the Lich King represented our opportunity to step into the world and right one of the great wrongs that has plagued the lands of Azeroth. Arthas, a name that would forever haunt the good citizens of both the Alliance and the Horde, was finally within our reach.
Truth of the matter is that this expansion helped play a rather large role in the future of shaman healing. It started with the first beta and the inclusion of our new tier of talents. It was the first time that we got to see the glorious vision that was Spirit Link. The spell never made it to live, however, and it was replaced by what would become our ultimate 51-point talent, Riptide. It would mark the first time that restoration shaman had access to a controllable HOT that wasn't Earth Shield. The early days of raiding in the expansion carried on in a way similar to what they did at the end of The Burning Crusade. Chain Heal and MP5 were still kings of the castle (or rather, the citadel). The tight confines of Naxxramas and the encounters themselves certainly gave us a bit of an advantage.
Then Ulduar was released, and the raid environment shifted drastically for shaman. The raid boasted fights where players had to be quite spread out, and the room sizes themselves edged Chain Heal out of being an effective healing spell choice. We suffered for it at this time, and in this period of competitive world firsts and progression, two well known restoration shaman spoke up on the topic. Restoration shaman were being put on spot heal duty or in some cases even being sat during hard-mode encounters. It even sparked a response from myself during this time on the topic. To stay competitive with other healers, shaman started rolling Riptides and Lesser Healing Waves. It was an uphill battle all through this tier of content, and one that continued through the Trial of the Crusader.
It wasn't really until Icecrown Citadel that we started to get some of our moxy back. We ended the raid content better than where we started, but at the end of an expansion cycle, that was little consolation to many of the restoration shaman struggling to maintain their raid spots.
Probably the biggest factor, though -- the thing that weighed most heavily on us throughout our healing careers in Wrath -- was the introduction of the variable raid size and the nature of the new hard-mode encounters. Smaller raid environments, namely the 10-man raid, further emphasized the size of the zones we were in. If it was tough to get a good Chain Heal bounce in a 25-man raid, it was near impossible in most of the 10-man encounters. Add to that hard-mode encounters that could really push the value of tanks, DPS and healers, and you have a recipe for potential disaster. Every shortcoming of every class was highlighted during this time, and ours definitely were noticeable. That said, we weren't quite defeated yet and still had quite a bit to offer. It would not be the last we were heard of.
Now we finally make our way to current day. Cataclysm brought with it the potential for change as well a new hope for restoration shaman. First was the inclusion of new talents and spells such as Telluric Currents and Spiritwalker's Grace. They seemed to answer many of the questions and concerns that we had leaving the last expansion. eventually lead to the current 31-point talent tree system. It also introduced our new Mastery, which gave us an interesting new stat that played right into the mechanics of hard-mode fights and progression raids. We were also informed that resto shaman were being looked at as the model of healing for the new expansion, both in terms of mana consumption and healing styles. While we rejoiced at that sentiment, when the game was actually released, we had yet to see how we were the healing model. We could make it through the encounters with hard work, but we certainly seemed to be a deficit, especially when it came to raids.
Before release, there were rumors and discussion of bringing Spirit Link back. While it didn't make the initial cut, Spirit Link Totem was added as a much needed cooldown back in March where we first said hello to our new talent. The totem gave us a new versatility and really helped to give us an edge in many encounters already in the game. It was used with great effect through Blackwing Descent, the Bastion of Twilight and Throne of the Four Winds. It continues to serve us well through Firelands.
Healing Rain has proven to be quite a champion for us in any fight where we can get people grouped up, and all of our talents and spells have a place. Throughout the entire course of the expansion, restoration shaman have been tweaked and adjusted to help balance the class against the other healers. We've charted these changes here on Totem Talk since the expansion's release. While it's true there are some fights we seem to struggle with, I know many restoration shaman who are fighting tooth and nail and earning their raid spots by proving they can keep up.
I'm not saying that we're perfect, as I'm well aware of the amount of hard work we have to put in as healers, but it is possible to keep up and not wind up in last place even in hard modes with enough elbow grease. I think we've endured more tweaks and changes in this expansion than any other before. My gut tells me that we haven't quite seen the last of those tweaks, as the developers strive to seek balance between all the healing classes and the current content. But only time will tell.
It's been a bumpy ride from the days of Molten Core being endgame content, but it certainly has been a fun one. For all the hiccups, the valleys and peaks, I know I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'll be a proud restoration shaman until the bitter end.
Head honcho for a day
Last week I asked a question for a bit of input from you, the readers, and I want to repeat it here. Let us say that you got the chance to be a developer at Blizzard for a day. Your task is to review the restoration talent tree for shaman. Take a look back over all the years of the game, from vanilla WoW to The Burning Crusade to Wrath, all the way up to the most recent patch for Cataclysm. What changes would you propose? Would you change a key ability? Would you change any of the restoration tree talents from their current incarnations? Would you take anything away or maybe add something that we don't have access to at this time? Feel free to leave your answer in the comments on this post, on my Twitter or in email. Your replies will have a chance to be featured in my post next week.
Totem Talk: Restoration lets you Ask a Shaman about the tricks of the trade. We'll introduce you to the very latest pre-raid gear and show you how to manage your cooldowns. Happy healing, and may your mana be plentiful!