I'm sure that you've been busy preparing for Mists of Pandaria, logging into the beta and testing things out for yourself. Maybe you haven't gotten into the beta yet but have been testing things out on the PTR. Either way, with the announcement of the release date for Mists, things have been kicking into high gear. More beta invites are going out, and now more than ever, player feedback is incredibly important.
Over the last two weeks, I've been thinking about a recent change restoration shaman have had to their level 45, or tier 3, talents. I've had a few discussions about it on Twitter with fellow shaman in the community, and after much deliberation, I've decided that it would in fact be the major topic for this week's article.
What's the hubbub, Bub?
Two weeks ago, I talked about some recent changes centered mainly around our mana regeneration and Glyph of Riptide in the upcoming expansion. Since then, there have been a couple changes that have been made on the beta.
First, Water Shield has had it's mana restoration increased by 56%. This is roughly an 800 MP5 gain over what it was set to prior to the change and is an attempt to bring up the numbers on restoration shaman mana regeneration. It was stated many times by the developers at Blizzard that any changes to resto shaman mana regeneration would revolve around Water Shield because it would be much easier to tweak and for the changes to be noticed. I agree with that, and honestly I'm happy to see that shortly after that statement it's been getting looked at, though I suspect that as more raid data filters in these values will continue to change right up to release, if not past it.
Second, Greater Healing Wave has has its cost reduced to 31.6% of base mana, which is down from 36.3% of base mana. There's actually a pretty solid design reason behind this. Before the change, on the beta, the HPS (healing per second) of GHW wasn't much better than Healing Surge with Tidal Waves. This was a problem because Healing Surge was cheaper and faster, and there should be a larger gap between the two. By increasing the mana efficiency of the spell, it ensures that you can and will use it more often. Over the course of a normal boss fight, that should equate to GHW accounting for more HPS overall. Again, I expect this to change often before release, if not continue to evolve past that date.
Third, and the point that I will be spending the bulk of my time talking about today, Call of the Elements now has a 3-minute cooldown, down from 8 minutes. It now finishes the cooldown on all totems with a base cooldown shorter than 3 minutes, down from 5 minutes. This is a major change and a major nerf to the talent as a whole. It was by far the best and most fun talent of the level 45 tier for restoration shaman.
Before this change, we could use it to reset Mana Tide Totem, Healing Tide Totem and Spirit Link Totem for a quick bounce back into the fray. The problem was that the talent, even with an 8-minute cooldown, was insanely powerful for restoration shaman. As we gather more healing ability, more stats and ultimately more gear, it would continue to become more and more powerful when combined with our three awesome totems.
Design philosophy and understanding the nerf
It's important for me to clarify that while I understand the need for the change, I'm still not happy about it. Even before Mists, when Cataclysm was still in the early stages of beta, the devs came out and said that they wanted to try to make talents more fun and less mandatory. They shouldn't be game-breaking or role-dependent and instead should add flavor to your character and class and fit your playstyle. The redesign for Mists certainly has done that, and I like the vast majority of our talents. The sole exception is the entire level 45, or tier 3, talent lineup.
Call of the Elements was always too powerful for us, right from the get-go. I understand that. The ability to reset three major totems that can result in huge swings in raid-wide mana, raid-wide health and your own personal healing done is nothing to take lightly. It could single-handedly stop a wipe, power through an enrage and let you push over healing to the upward limits. It represented what we call a huge power shift, and letting it stand without edits was never in the cards. The problem was that, in my opinion, it was really the only interesting talent for resto in the tier.
Totemic Restoration is a talent that allows you to reduce the cooldown of your totems if they are killed or removed before their normal duration is up, up to a maximum of 50% of the full cooldown. For resto, our major totems last 18 seconds or less, with cooldowns of 3 minutes. Taking off 9 seconds from the cooldown isn't really useful and ultimately it isn't fun.
It has a much higher synergy with say, Grounding Totem, which is much more PvP-oriented. Will it be useful in PvP? Yes, but I have a hard time seeing it as useful elsewhere. It could also be used with Stone Bulwark Totem, but even then it's fairly limited.
The last talent of the tier is Totemic Projection, our would-be totem launcher. This is certainly a fun talent, but it's incredibly bulky to use. The cost of the talent is that the totems already have to be down, so the glorious idea of using it to launch SLT into that group of melee 40 yards away from you, while possible, isn't very good. You lost ticks of the totems while you cast them, then use the talent, then target the location and then launch the totems to it. You'll be lucky if you can get one or two ticks out of it. Over time, you'll probably become much more efficient at it, like hunters with Trap Launcher, but aside from the novelty of throwing totems, I'm not sure how useful it will ultimately be. Overall, with the nerf to CotE, the entire tier of talents feels rather drab and lackluster.
Salvaging the tier
I don't believe in giving criticism without offering at least one plausible solution, so I thought long and hard. I think that Call of the Elements could be tweaked further. How about bringing the cooldown back up to 8 minutes? It seems like a good timing for it, but instead of having it affect only totems with a shorter cooldown than 3 minutes, let's make it more interesting. What if it could affect totems with cooldowns of 3 minutes or less, but with the added caveat that when it came to Mana Tide Totem, Spirit Link Totem, and Healing Tide Totem, it would finish the cooldown on whichever had the shortest time left on cooldown? Let's say you get through a particularly hard phase in a boss fight and you've blown all three totems; you could then bring one back as your ace in the hole.
This would do two things. First, it would give you a useful tool as a healer, and second, it would force you to think about when to use it. You'd get it once per boss fight still, and you couldn't rely on it to completely save your hide. You'd have to pay attention to your totem cooldowns and when you used them, and you'd have to make the difficult choice between extra healing, health redistribution and damage reduction or more mana. I think that could be a good balance, adding a layer of skill to the talent that would appeal to long time resto shaman and maybe enticing other people to try out the best healing class around.
Totemic Projection, I think, could have a trade-off where you use it and then you get to launch your totem set, but it reduces the duration of the totems by 10% to 30%. It lets you eliminate some of the bulk in the operation of the talent, adding some interesting utility and still having a balanced downside to using it. As far as Totemic Restoration goes, I don't really have any suggestions for it at this time, but if anyone from Blizzard happens to read this, I ask that you take another look at the level 45 talents and see what you can do about them. Don't give up on them, but please don't consider them quite done yet.
Now, I think I've ranted enough about the level 45 talents for now, but I'd be very interested in your input on the subject. Leave comments or send an email and let me know what you think of the talents. How would you change them? Do you think they're fun and useful? Also, let me know what other trouble Steve the Yak should get in to on his adventure through Pandaria with Lodur.
Totem Talk: Restoration lends you advice on healing groups, DK tanks and heroics and mana concerns in today's endgame -- or take a break and look back at the rise of the resto shaman. Happy healing, and may your mana be plentiful!