The premise: Resto shamans are in a pretty decent place in 25 man content, although they still lag behind in certain fights. Playing a resto shaman in PvP is generally pretty competitive, and in some cases, almost overpowered. In contrast, we are almost universally the worst healing option for most 10 man fights. You can kill a boss with a resto shaman healer, but sometimes you have to ask yourself, would it have been easier if I was just playing another class?
The support: On what basis do I make these statements? A bit of personal experience, a bit of anecdote, and some solid data from WoL. Lets start with the data first, since everything else is pretty unconvincing. Here are the numbers from an average of the top 200 healing parses from 10 man heroic bosses, from State of DPS. On just about every fight except Chimaeron, resto shamans are solidly in the rear (Holy Priests aren’t looking so hot either, to be fair). In some cases, it’s a pretty minor difference. In others, however, a 2k HPS difference between a skilled and talented resto shaman and a skilled and a talented resto druid can be the difference between a kill and a wipe.
When you look at 25 man heroic content, the numbers are a bit more balanced, although resto shamans still end up on the bottom overall. Based on what I have been hearing around the internet and in-game, I’m actually surprised that the 25 man numbers look as bad as they do. So, perhaps the changes I suggest below will help out 25 man resto shamans as well.
Personally, I feel very underpowered as a 10 man healer right now. In 25 mans during Wrath, I was used to being consistently one of the top healers in the raid. I felt extremely important to the success of the group. I know that when I didn’t heal well, people would die, and when I did heal well, people would live. Now, I struggle to even get close to the output done by our resident Resto Druid. He is also a really solid player. Yet, I feel that no matter how well I play, I have a very hard time being as valuable to the team as he is right now.
The source of the problem: Resto shamans shine on one heroic mode fight: Chimaeron. Why is this the case? It is because we can generally (a) stand in one spot for most of the fight, negating our lack of instant cast options, (b) abuse the heck out of Healing Rain during Feud phases and (c) actually get a lot of benefit out of our Mastery ability, since the raid is constantly at low health levels. In no other fight do we have this perfect confluence of shaman-friendly healing. We either have to constantly be moving, the raid is too spread out to take advantage of our Healing Rain, or the raid is generally above 50% health, reducing the impact of ourDeep Healing. We are reduced to mostly spot healing with our single target spells. In 10 mans, even Chain Heal becomes hard to use effectively on most fights.
The proposal: Buff our single target heals. Healing Rain is already a solid solution to grouped up healing. Chain Heal still feels underpowered at times, but buffing it will help 25 man raiders much more than 10 man raiders. By making our single target spells hit harder, you can give Shamans a useful niche in the raid: the spot healer. It’s not a fun spot in the raid for most of us, but at least we can feel like valuable members of the team. We have already been reduced to this role in 10 mans, but it would be nice to be really good at it, so I don’t feel like rolling a resto druid to help my guild through heroic content.
Buffing our single target cast-time heals (Healing Wave, Greater Healing Wave, Healing Surge) should not do much to upset the PvP balance. My sense is that we are generally very strong in certain arena comps because of Earth Shield, Riptide, and most importantly, our ability to dispel magic debuffs while healing at the same time through Cleansing Waters. The impending nerf to Cleansing Waters supports this hypothesis. Getting off a long cast time in the arena is pretty tough to do with all the interrupts, stuns and CCs flying around. If it does present a balance problem, then simply increase Healing Wave and GHW, leaving the faster Healing Surge alone.
The alternate proposal: Of course, what I would rather see happen is to give shamans a viable mastery mechanic. It is clear that mastery works great on Heroic Chimaeron. I had expected it to work more effectively on other heroic mode encounters, but even in this level of content, people do not stay at low health long enough for us to really see an impact.
I will acknowledge that “life saving heals” are hard to track on the meters. Perhaps our mastery is keeping people alive so that other healers can top them off. However, I’d argue that the opposite is just as likely. Our heals on low health targets simply “pad the meters,” giving us a bit more initial healing done on people that are likely to survive anyway. What generally saves lives from a raid healing perspective is the ability to crank out a large amount of HPS when needed, to keep the raid topped off and out of imminent danger.
Thus, I would really like to see our mastery mechanic changed. It’s fairly clear to me that the key to sustained HPS in the current raid environment is either the ability to get HoTs rolling on multiple players (Druids) or the ability to get sustained throughput on more than one target (Paladins). So, the most obvious solution might be to give us a mastery closer to Holy Priests. I feel like the ability to roll HoTs on the raid in ICC through our 4-piece bonus is what really made us strong healers in that content.
However, I think a more unique possibility would be to allow our mastery to increase the effect of Ancestral Awakening. Since I have accepted that our best role at the moment is generally to use our single-target heals to spot heal the raid, why not improve that ability with our mastery? It seems like that was the goal with our current mastery, but it just doesn’t work well in practice. So, what if mastery increased the percentage heal of AA? If we got to the point where AA crits were healing a second low-health target for 50% of the original heal, that would greatly improve a shaman’s ability to raid heal in 10 man content, where everyone is spread out.
Of course, this might be a horrible idea. Maybe it makes us too reliant on crits. Maybe it results in a lot of overheal. Maybe it would make us as good at tank healing as Paladins, which is just not allowed. What do you think should be done to make resto shamans more competitive PvE healers, without making us Arena gods? Or am I just making too much out of minor differences in the healing meters?