Comparing Toolboxes

My first experience raid healing was as a paladin.  It sucked.  If you are  a paladin healer and are reading this, I salute you, because finding enjoyment in 2-3 spells per battle, well… it’s just ain’t fun.  You’re awesome, I want you in my raid — I just don’t want to be you.

I was a paladin tank in BC, which meant, if there wasn’t a mob pack coming down the Mount, I could and would be asked to respec — sometimes multiple times a night, and most often for a little extra healing love.  This trend continued into Wrath.  I got swapped between main tank, off-tank, and emergency “omg, a healer didn’t show” healing duty.  Thinking I could solve the last problem with an alt, I rolled up a priest and started heading to 80.

Turns out — I like to heal.  I couldn’t believe I’d waited until mid-Wrath to try this out.  Zala was by no means a master of the craft, but I could tuck her into a handy Malygos run when needed (when it was end-game) so I didn’t feel too shabby.

While I leveled as disc, I got easily bored in heroics and Naxx with penance.  That and the “disc can’t heal sucker” spam this late in the game were a little more than I wanted to put up with on alt nights, so I made the swap to holy.  Holy was awesome.  I have not one, but two awesome heals of raid save, a pair of wings, a hot, and all the flashing that I could handle — I had a heal for every single job — trash, boss heals, group heals, stupid dps heals, I feel pretty heals, you name it!

And now, we come to Windsoar.  Restoration shamans are pretty damn fine healers — I wouldn’t want to leave home without one.  However, I’m discovering that I feel naked all alone.  While I’m capable of tank healing, and capable of raid healing, I feel naked without another healer to support my efforts.  I know that sounds odd — healers always come in teams… yet the fact remains, with a priest I felt I could master any situation with a little help from my friends — as a shaman, I feel I am the little help for my friends.

Some of this I blame on my toolbox — it’s got a good collection

Big Heal

Little Heal

Group Heal

Dot

Instant Cast

However, the compilation of these tools is a little different.  Big and little heal are pretty standard —  they get some buffs from talents, other spells, they can provide the armor buff, yada yada, nothing that really sets them apart — we can leave these alone.

Our group heal — the defining spell of our class — is chain heal.  In some ways its still uniquely ours.  In conjunction with riptide it can belt out a tank saving heal (and hey we were already casting it right?) in addition to its smarty pants auto-detect player in distress goodness.  However, in some ways it has been overshadowed.  While priests always had that un-smart group heal, guess what, it was also slow as molasses, just like our chain heal.  Now, they have a super quick AND smart healing tool, and we still have the painfully slow, smart but only 4 not 5 healing monster.

Our dot, well, it’s not only a dot — its tied irreverably to riptide — and that dot can be eaten on a regular basis by chain healing love.  So, it’s like a dot that’s not used as a dot unless you don’t really need to heal, but … ok, it’s an odd mechanic.

Earth shield doesn’t really fit any of these, but for all intents and purposes its a reflexive dot — kinda like a tree dot except I only refresh it after my tank uses it 8 times.  I don’t feel like I contribute anything to the poo shield though — since I don’t “do” anything with it, it feels like… a shield — that doesn’t prevent damage, and which may or may not heal what I think it should — or something.  Not very positive about the whole “I fling poo” scenario, but that’s ok, I’m allowed to dislike something, right?

Which brings us to our lovely splash, riptide.  By itself, riptide is just awesome — it’s a instant cast lesser healing wave with dot attached.  Sure, it’s got a cooldown, but it’s instant health in a bottle.  And when our dot is on a target, if they’re hit first with chain heal, it auto crits them some healing love.

It’s not that our healing toolbox is naked, or that I’m unhappy with the spells — if I didn’t like ’em I’d do something else — my elemental set has almost caught up (finally!)  While I’m throwing a lot of heal mojo, I am always aware of the reliance I have on my team.  If I’m on raid duty, I have to trust that the druid is keeping the hots rolling so people have a couple ticks of goodness between death and when my chain will head their way.

If I’m on the main tank, I don’t have an “oh shit” button really.  Sometimes I find myself saving up my riptide — even to letting my dot fall off — because I know there’s a really bad hit coming up soon, and I need to be able to burst the tank with quick heal so I have time to shore up the problem… but I really feel way more awesome when the disc priest is behind me blowing some penance shots.

I’ve been in a couple of dual resto shaman healing 10-man runs.  While I don’t mind them on most things, I know that some fights — Mim and Vex in particular come to mind — would be a nightmare on our end.

While I don’t like the idea of a homogenized toolbox for all healing classes — I like that paladins are still pretty much tank healers, that druids can switch between the two but have a unique assortment of healing tools, that priests have a choice between bubbles or straight divine lovin’ — I do wish my toolbox was a little… heftier.  Not much, perhaps another spell — particularly something that would prevent some kind of damage!

I’ve seen quite a few new shamans (heh — maybe old shamans, but new to me :P) struggle with how to handle their tools.  There are not ton of choices, is should be easy to say — chain heal on groups, healing waves on tanks, riptides on whoever’s low, and ummm, oh right, earth shield on tank… but it’s never that simple, is it?  Factors such as raid composition, raid position in the room, number of injured members, probability of incoming damage, size of said damage, who else is on the raid team — all of these factors can drastically change the types of spells you choose to use in a certain situation, and frankly, like all healers, the longer you delay in deciding the more likely you’ll have a dead player eating dirt due to your indecision.

Now that I’ve opened this can of worms, I’ll try to finish up and talk about possible uses of what and when in another post to be coming… shortly.  Until then, keep your toolbox tidy, and your shield up!

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4 thoughts on “Comparing Toolboxes

  1. Really nice write up. I love your Riptides. 🙂 Quite often you can get me out of trouble faster than I can get a heal off on myself.

    I think most healers have toolbox envy occasionally. As a long time paladin healer who has also healed as a priest (and to a lesser extent as a druid and shammy), I miss having a HOT or a party heal (although the Holy Light glyph splash healing has saved a lot of melee over the course of Wrath). Early in Wrath I only had issues healing one fight (Heroic Loken) as a pally because of the lack of group heal, HOT, and limited abilities to use while moving, but found with a little better gear (for myself and my party) and some tactics refinement it got easier.

    As much as I might complain about not being able to do it all, I am darn thankful to no longer be living as a “back up healer”, “mobile totem”, and “buffbot” that were the reality of being a pally healer in vanilla WoW. We’ve come a long way in terms of equality of utility among healers without sacrificing too much in our uniqueness.

    I think this is a hard thing for Blizzard to balance. How to make each healer unique in play style and abilities, give them a niche to fill in a raid, but maintain the ability to solo heal any 5-man, heal 10-mans with one (or at most two) other healers, and move out of that niche when needed. As much as we all want to be able to "do it all", I like the challenge of using the tools I am given and find I appreciate my fellow healers more for the tools they bring that I lack. 😉

    • Hey boss-lady 🙂 Welcome to the blog!

      I think healers have definitely come a long way — but like tanks pre-Wrath, I think the healers are to the point of needing a evaluation — if we're supposed to be taking the player over the class, it'd be nice to have some more "woot-eh" death savers for the non-priesties 😛

  2. I'm with you on the shaman healing. I've never healed as a priest, but druids are fairly similar with the variety of heals. When I'm healing on a druid I feel like I can do anything, though I prefer raid healing. On a shaman, I feel like I can do anything as long as the fight involves people being clustered up ^.~ I do like earth shield though

    • Poo-flinger!

      I like the "don't have to do anything aspect" and I hate it as well — passive healing just doesn't feel like much to me — maybe if I was constantly refreshing it or something I'd feel better about it.

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