Today’s post was written on request for Damien, who writes the Icy Veins class and spec guides. Originally, this was in the form of a short* advice document to discuss the Level 100 talents for Restoration Shaman – the contents of which went towards informing the guide itself. This turns out to be quite a complex topic when you get down into the nitty gritty, so I expect that this post will go into a lot more detail. Without further ado, let’s look at the different talents which you can choose as a level 100 Resto Shaman and discuss which ones you should be taking when.
* – (only 800 words!)
Storm Elemental Totem
I’m only going to briefly touch on this talent, because there isn’t all that much to say about it. At a 5-minute cooldown, Storm Elemental Totem should be a very powerful cooldown to have over its minute duration, but its total maximum healing is extremely low. The elemental is usually going to be hitting the melee group in the raid, for which you already have a lot of healing anyway (healing rain, chain heal, etc). It doesn’t bring any useful utility for a raid, either, even when paired with Primal Elementalist. Since there is no equivalent of Reinforce or Empower (which you can get from your other Primal Elementals), the main benefit from Storm Elemental Totem is a small amount of healing combined with a small amount of damage. I would emphatically discourage the use of this talent in any raid situation unless a particular specialized use for it can be found.
Cloudburst Totem (CBT) is where this discussion begins to get interesting! Cloudburst Totem adds another short-cooldown healing totem to your rotation, which syncs* with Healing Stream Totem. This is a major modification to the rotation, since to get the maximum benefit from the totem you have to be placing it perfectly on time after Healing Stream Totem expires – failing to get it within about a second will start to lessen the benefit you gain from taking the talent. Tracking this spell will be an absolute necessity if you take it. In terms of throughput, its main feature is that it has consistent throughput throughout the fight.
* – Not actually perfectly; you’re unlikely to get them to line up 100% flawlessly due to the other things you have to be paying attention to during the raid, like healing people in a pickle.
The amount of healing it deals depends strongly on how hard you are healing throughout its uptime, which will be a benefit in periods of sustained damage but difficult to use effectively when there is burst damage happening at a defined time. If we assume that you use Cloudburst totem in your maximum mana efficiency rotation (Riptide – 2x Healing Wave – Riptide – 2x Healing Wave, fits inside 15s) then Cloudburst is 30% more mana efficient than your rotation and 16% more efficient than Riptide, which is your most efficient spell. The total healing it achieves is slightly more than one Healing Wave, which will be split between all players equally within 40 yds (not much per player, but reliable nonetheless). On the high end of the scale (replacing Healing Wave with Chain Heal, assuming best case scenario), Cloudburst does 93% of a Chain Heal heal value (a lot!) at almost three times the efficiency.
Cloudburst totem is a “value” talent; it’s more mana efficient a spell than any in your main rotation (except a best-case-scenario Healing Stream Totem) and therefore will be very attractive for general-purpose use, in particular when you have sustained periods of medium or light damage. Finally, Cloudburst totem’s healing comes in lumps which might not be beneficial to your raid and therefore it will be useful to pay attention to when damage spikes are due to hit.
Cloudburst would synergize extremely well with Elemental Mastery if used simultaneously.
This talent has already been strongly rated elsewhere, but it’s worth looking at the numbers again. Although a complicated talent to unpick fully, the best case scenario for this talent is to add the equivalent of 1.25 Healing Waves to your Chain Heal cast. That’s a lot, but you can only take advantage of this talent in a really high throughput rotation, which is very mana expensive. Conversely, in this rotation High Tide actually increases your total mana efficiency a lot more than Cloudburst Totem, since it comes at little or no extra cost.
High Tide will work best for you when your raid damage is heavy and widespread, and will be especially useful if players are spread out around the room. Casting Unleash Life before a High Tide affected Chain Heal will get you even more value. Glyph of Riptide OR Echo of the Elements synergize well with High Tide, due to it deriving major benefit from additional Riptide targets (do not take both of these talents, though, as they have anti-synergy).
Which Should You Take?
In terms of rotational complexity, Cloudburst totem is harder to incorporate than High Tide. However, in a world where mana-efficiency matters, it will be superior in any part of a fight which is not high damage spikes. High damage phases which demand a lot from your healers will benefit more from High Tide, as it significantly improves your throughput in those very high damage phases at no extra cost.
I recommend learning to use Cloudburst totem as a default option, and to switch into High Tide on fights which include strong raid damage in spikes or short phases (e.g. Chimaeron, Dark Animus, Megaera, Sha of Pride) where one can get the best benefit from it. Both talents provide distinct advantages over the other, so it’s important to state that swapping them around throughout a raid will be important for most people!
Here’s a table which sums up the differences between the two talents in terms of rotational benefits we’ve discussed here. I show High Tide’s benefit calculated for 4 Chain Heals (the same rotation as High Throughput for CBT) and its mana cost calculated by dividing up the rotational mana cost in the same ratio as the rotational healing (so if High Tide did 50% of the healing of the rotation, it’d calculate with 50% of the rotational mana cost, which seems fair).
Ultimately, I’ll be running a mix between the two. I’ve already found that Cloudburst Totem is much more efficient for 5-man runs, but when we get to raids I do expect to want to use High Tide often. Choosing which talent to use is definitely something you have to work out from fight to fight.
A Design Perspective
It’s also interesting to consider the difference between the two talents from a perspective of game design. On the one hand, you have a talent which provides fantastic value on a regular timescale, but which has inferior throughput to the competition. On the other, you have a very strong throughput talent which allows the user a truly massive amount of extra healing. What I’d really like to highlight is that the one which provides the biggest benefit overall – High Tide – is the one which is actually easiest to use. It greatly simplifies the way you use Chain Heal, and therefore makes your rotation easier. Cloudburst Totem, on the other hand, adds a lot of cognitive load to your rotation for comparatively little gain. In addition, it’s not what one would call “rotationally elegant” – it operates on such long timescales and under the Water Totem constraint that it doesn’t feel like it fits comfortably into a routine.
Overall, Cloudburst Totem actually takes a lot of learning whereas High Tide doesn’t really – I feel like this should be the opposite way around! Surely the best talent for throughput should come with the downside that it enforces a higher cognitive load onto the user. For these reasons, I think that even though there are interesting choices to be made on this tier of talents, the talents themselves aren’t very good from a design perspective.
The other major talent I’d like to talk about is Echo of the Elements, which got a massive change with the update. I didn’t rate it much at first, but I’ve come to think of it as a really elegant example of depth without complexity. Look at the talent; it’s rather simple in design.
It’s just a chance for your next spell to ignore its cooldown, but the actual rotational depth which it results in is really cool. Most analysis has focused entirely on the usage of Riptide from the talent, but in addition I think that the usage on Unleash Life and Dispel can’t be overlooked. While I’ve been testing it in 5-mans, the double Unleash has saved tanks countless times and the double Dispel has had its moments as well. Overall, the talent removes a certain amount of rotational rigidness which Resto Shaman have suffered from for a long time (Riptide being bound to Tidal Waves is the main cause of this), and it makes the healing feel a lot more fluid when it needs to be. In the end, it opens up choices to the Shaman which aren’t available with the other talents! So I like Echo of the Elements.