Blizzard has begun posting the current state of their thinking regarding how our classes will be evolving into Cataclysm, as a series of Class Previews. These are preliminary and should in no way be construed as a promise, but they do show the directions in which they see the class moving which is valuable insight.
I’ll take them class by class, picking out the more important or interesting bits, and there will be a summary post looking at the big picture once the dust has settled.
Spells and Abilities
Healing Wave (level 4): While the shaman already has an ability called Healing Wave, we’re adding another spell to the class’s direct-healing arsenal and giving it a familiar name. The current Healing Wave will be renamed Greater Healing Wave, and the intent is for the ‘new” Healing Wave to be the shaman’s go-to heal. Lesser Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave will be used on a more situational basis.
In line with previous statements on the subject, this is a step closer to giving every class a more standardised toolkit with the class-specific things being the “fun” extras. I expect a little bit of concern to arise about increasing homogenisation, but on the whole making sure every class has a decent set of basic tools is a positive, especially given the increased prominence of 10-man raiding and heroics over time.
I’m not convinced Shaman needed a middle-of-the-road direct heal, but I’ve not raided on mine for a while so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
Unleash Weapon (level 81): Unleashes the power of your weapon enchants for additional effects (see below). A dual-wielding Enhancement shaman will activate the effects of both of their weapon enchants. Instant cast. 30-yard range. 15-second cooldown. Undispellable.
Here are a few examples of effects we’re considering for this ability:
– Windfury Weapon – Hurls a spectral version of your weapon at a target, dealing 50% weapon damage and increasing the shaman’s Haste for the next five swings.
– Flametongue Weapon – Deals instant Fire damage and buffs the shaman’s next Fire attack by 20%.
– Earthliving Weapon – Heals the target slightly and buffs the shaman’s next healing spell by 20%.
Interesting. For Restoration at least it seems like a good way to add another dynamic element to a spec which can drift into a rotation mindset at times. I suspect the size of the heal will be comparable to a Flash Heal or Lesser Healing Wave, similar to the way Surge of Light works for a Priest currently. One more to add to PowerAuras, anyway.
Healing Rain (level 83): An area-effect heal-over-time (HoT) spell that calls down rain in a selected area, healing all players within it. There is no limit to the number of players who can potentially be affected; however, there are diminishing returns when healing a large number of targets, much like the diminishing returns associated with AoE damage spells. This should give Restoration shaman another healing tool that improves their group-healing and heal-over-time capabilities. 2-second cast time. 30-yard range. 10-second duration. 10-second cooldown.
I’ve been wondering when this sort of effect would turn up, since we have plenty of ground-targeted AoE damage spells, but no similar heals. Good examples of times I wish I had access to something like this would be Pact of the Darkfallen (aim it at the central point), Lich King Phases 1+2 (great for clearing up Infest when we’re all grouped up) and Sindragosa (on the melee throughout or on the ranged in P3).
The best bit is that (currently) it doesn’t seem to be channeled, which means that in theory it won’t be a terrible inconvenience to maintain a “healing well” for the bulk of a fight, either over the melee or for players to run to if they take random damage. This will be highly dependent on the mana cost and the AoE cap, of course.
I’m slightly jealous that Lightwell didn’t get the same fire-and-forget treatment.
Rohan at Blessing of Kings made the excellent point that this is a departure for most healers in that it requires you to target the game world, not a coloured box. Having played the Mass Dispel bot on heroic Faction Champions, I know how different the fight looks from that perspective and know too well the tunnel-vision you get when Vuhdo becomes your world.
I’m also curious to see the animation they go for. I picture falling leaves, like the flutter you get from some heals already. I really hope we don’t end up with a sickly green Blizzard…
Anyway, more of this type of thing please!
Spiritwalker’s Grace (level 85): When this self-targeted buff is active, your spells are no longer interrupted by movement and possibly even by your own attacks. This will give shaman of all three specs another way to heal or do damage when it’s necessary to move in both PvE and PvP. Instant cast. 10-second duration. 2-minute cooldown.
Healing Rain has the “wow!” factor, but this one has so much potential too. Shaman in particular have been hamstrung in the past by great difficulty healing on the move, so this is a nice acknowledgement. Putting it on a moderate cooldown says, to me anyway, that while the developers recognise this as a shortcoming of the class, they would rather you work around it where possible, rather than just giving the class more Instants or HoTs.
Matticus expressed doubts about the cooldown being a bit long. I can see where he’s coming from, since most boss abilities are on shorter timers than 2 minutes, but I think this is meant to be used more selectively. Compare it to Divine Hymn: I’d love to use it on every Bloodbolt Whirl on Blood Queen Lana’thel but the cooldown prevents me, so I either use it when I feel the raid is in most danger, or coordinate with a fellow priest to use one per phase. More coordination gets my vote every time.
My wonder is if the 10-second duration will come down for PvP reasons once beta testing gets properly underway. Only time will tell.
Restoration shaman and other healing classes will need to pay attention to mana more than they’ve had to during Wrath of the Lich King. Spirit will be the Restoration shaman’s primary mana-regeneration stat.
I doubt this is news to anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past six months, but yes, every healing spec will now use Spirit and the Meditation mastery (see below) to regenerate mana. This is essentially a non-issue, really just a change of name for the regen stat.
We’re making changes to which classes and specs are able to dispel magic, diseases, curses, and poison, largely for PvP purposes. Shaman will have Cleanse Spirit as a baseline ability, but it will only remove curses. Restoration shaman will have a talent that will improve Cleanse Spirit so that it also removes magic. Shaman will no longer be able to remove poison.
Cleansing Totem will be removed from the game, as we want dispels to be a decision for players, not something done mindlessly. To that end, all dispels will cost slightly more mana, and you will waste the spell if you cast it when there is nothing to remove. (Currently, the dispel is only cast when there is something to remove, which encourages spamming ‘just in case.”) We will balance PvE dispelling with this new model in mind.
Oh boy, the dispels change. I might get round to dedicating a post to this, but the short version is that of the five types of dispel in the game (offensive magic, defensive magic, curse, disease, poison) each healing class will be able to dispel three, one of which will be a defensive magic dispel.
Shaman will keep Purge (offensive magic), all specs will be able to remove curses with Cleanse Spirit, and Restoration Shaman will be able to remove defensive magic with a talented Cleanse Spirit.
Along with this normalisation, all “dispel-over-time” abilities such as Cleansing Totem, Abolish Poison and Abolish Disease will be going away. Personally I’m neutral on this change: there’s only rare times when this mechanic is valuable, and as long as content is balanced around single dispels I don’t see a problem.
Spirit Link will likely be worked back into deep Restoration in some form. The idea is that you will be able to link targets together so they share damage. When we had previously tried to implement Spirit Link, it was hard to balance and a little confusing. However, we really liked the concept — and so did players — so we are trying to bring it back.
I never got to play with the old Spirit Link so I can’t comment on how awesome it was (or wasn’t) but this sounds like it would be quite handy. Something like a Hand of Sacrifice but with both ends targetable, so you could have a vulnerable player linked to an off-tank, for example.
I can see how it might be hard to balance though. If you have a situation where a random ranged DPS can become a tough tank by sharing damage, what do you do if your raid doesn’t have a Restoration shaman? HoS is balanceable, but would Spirit Link still be as amazing as it sounds with a short duration or low transfer percentage?
Ancestral Knowledge will boost mana pool size, not Intellect.
With the Mastery system, we’re also considering removing a number of talents that grant passive bonuses, such as Mental Quickness, Improved Windfury Totem, Mental Dexterity, Call of Thunder, Tidal Mastery, Purification, Nature’s Blessing, and others, to allow players more freedom to choose more interesting talents.
Not much to say on these, but they’re here anyway, for completeness.
Deep Healing: Your direct heals will do more healing when the target’s health is lower. This will scale to damage (e.g. someone at 29% health would receive more healing than someone at 30%) rather than have arbitrary break points.
I never really got into Test of Faith on my Priest, so at first glance I wasn’t especially taken with this Mastery bonus. On the other hand, part of the reason I never got into ToF is that players tended to go 100% –> 20% –> 100% in a couple of GCDs, so you may or may not actually realise the benefit of the extra healing. With players staying at lower health for longer, this could turn out to be much more valuable.
I’m also intrigued by the lack of break points. Does this mean that you get a (tiny) increase in healing even comparing 98% with 99% as well, or is there an upper limit? The way it’s worded suggests the former. Combined with Chain Heal’s “smart heal” nature, this could easily work out to be a significant buff for Shaman throughput.
Note also the appearance of Meditation, to convert a proportion of your Spirit-based, Oo5SR regeneration into Io5SR regeneration.
Looking at the list, it looks like being a good time to be a Shaman. Healing Rain is a great new toy, and the big bugbear of mobility has been addressed to some extent with Spiritwalker’s Grace.
On the negative side, RIP Sentry Totem.