I will try to make that post as complete and instructive as I can with all the information I have gathered so far about healing as a mostly PvE shaman. First I will point you to the very nice blog called Totemspot and its article about restoration after patch 4.0.1 . And second to the Elitist Jerks Shaman forum and resto discussion where you can find the most updated discussions about resto.
Now let us go on with the long talk, get some crackers it'll be long :)
Part 1 The Restoration Tree Bonuses
When you spec into Restoration you get 4 bonuses, the last one being tied to your mastery rating and only accessible once you hit level 80.
Earth Shield is one of the Restoration Shaman trademark, the most unique healing spell we have, and one that should be on at all times. It is obviously intended for your tank, but should be on the target on which you expect the most hits to come.
Increases the effectiveness of your healing spells by 10%, and reduces the casting time of your Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave spells by 1 sec.
A 10% bonus to healing is far from being as appealing as the 25% bonus druids have. But the casting time reduction to two of our core healing spells, combined with the Tidal Waves effect make them much more effective than they would be without it.
This talent allows you to get half of your out of combat mana regen while fighting. This allows healers to endure longer fights and the ooc/ic mana regeneration are displayed in your character sheet. This makes spirit a very desirable stat for all healers.
Mastery: Deep Healing
Increases the potency of your direct healing spells by up to 20%, based on the current health level of your target (lower health targets are healed for more). Each point of Mastery increases direct heals by up to an additional 2.5%.
Shaman restoration mastery is kind of tricky, and the final call about it's efficiency is not yet done. The healing bonus is directly proportional to the health of your target, bonus will be full if your target is near death, and zero if your target is full hp.
To say things simply:
As long as you maintain your targets near full health, your mastery will be pretty useless. But when you need it the most (large raid aoe damage, damage spikes on your tank ...) it will be at its strongest.
This very contradictory statement makes it hard to evaluate properly the value of mastery for shamans.
Deep Healing’s effects also stack with other healing multipliers, making it a very complementary stat nearby spellpower, haste and crit. The sad part though is that Earth shield is not affected by our mastery. And ES is an essential part of our playstyle.
Part 2 About our Talent Trees
I will shamelessly use the very nice talent description from Totemspot. Though this analysis is done for lvl 80, it is still very true at level 85. I added Ancestral Swiftness that was not reachable at level 80 and now considered as nearly mandatory for all resto builds.
Every talent is flagged either Optional (filler talent), Recommended (should be strongly considered, there are options but you should not leave this talent behind without care), Mandatory (every resto should have it) and PvP (guess what?).
Every talent also has x/x numbers beside it, indicating the max number of ranks and what I chose in the build I'll discuss.
The build I propose is a 3/7/31 build, including both Ancestral Swiftness and Telluric Currents.
I will discuss motivations and variations after the talent list.
Restoration Tree (31pts)
Ancestral Resolve (0/2) – Reduces the damage you take while casting by up to 10% (Optional)
Tidal Focus (3/3) – Reduces the mana cost of your spells by up to 6% (Mandatory)
Spark of Life (3/3) – Increases the (active and passive) healing your spells do on other targets by 6% and increases the healing you receive from all sources (active and passive) by 15%. (Mandatory)
Improved Water Shield (2/2) – Provides up to a 100% chance to gain a Water Shield orb when you land a critical heal with GHW, HW, or RT, a 60% chance when you crit with HS, and a 30% chance when you crit with CH. Do note, in regards to the latter spell, each CH bounce has the chance to proc Imp WS, so it is possible (although unlikely) that you will proc multiple mana returns on one CH cast. (Mandatory)
Totemic Focus (2/2) – Reduces the mana cost of your totems by 30% and increase their duration by 40%. Do note, the increased effect does apply to Mana Tide totem, adding 5 seconds to its duration, which in turn, equates to more regen. (Recommended)
Focused Insight (0/3) – Reduces the mana cost of any heal which follows a successful shock and increases the effectiveness of that heal by 30%. Do note that Wind Shear does not count as a shock which will proc this effect and the shock must land for FI to be activated. (Recommended)
Nature’s Guardian (0/3) – Whenever your health is reduced to below 30%, your total HP is increased by 15% for 10 seconds and your threat against that target is reduced. (PVP)
Ancestral Healing (2/2) – Reduces the physical damage taken by a target of one of your critical heals by 10%. The effect lasts 15 seconds and can be refreshed by subsequent critical heals on the target in question, though it’s worth noting that the effect does not stack with multiple shaman nor does it stack with Priests’ Inspiration. (Mandatory)
Nature’s Swiftness (1/1) – When activated, it makes your next spell an instant-cast, provided that you cast it within 10-seconds of activating NS. NS can be combined with any cast-based spell in the Resto arsenal, very useful with CH and GHW for urgencies. (Recommended)
Nature’s Blessing (3/3) – Increases the effectiveness of healing done on Earth Shielded targets by up to 15%. This applies to direct healing spells only (HS, HW, GHW, and CH) and is shared between Resto shaman (meaning that your healing on an ES’ed target is increased even if it is not your ES on the target). Do note that this effect also stacks with other healing modifiers like Spark of Life and Focused Insight. (Mandatory)
Soothing Rains (2/2) – Increases the amount healed by your Healing Stream by up to 50% and increases the amount healed by your Healing Rain by up to 30%. Healing Stream will be your totem of choice if you have a Blessing of Might when raiding, if it is the case don't skip this talent. (Recommended)
Improved Cleanse Spirit (1/1) – Enables you to dispel magic effects along with curses. Do note that this no longer enables you to remove poisons or diseases. Magical effects are the most common debuffs in Cataclysm, you should not pass that talent. (Mandatory)
Cleansing Waters (2/2) – Reduces the cost of cleansing by up to 40% and provides a small heal on the cleansed target. Dispels cost a lot more in Cataclysm and you should strongly consider this talent that even provides a small free heal. (Recommended)
Ancestral Awakening (3/3) – After you critically heal with any single-target healing spell (HS, HW, GHW, and RT), you will also heal the lowest HP target in your party or raid for up to 30% of the amount of the critical heal. Do note that this effect is not instant, as indicated in the tooltip, but rather follows your critical heal by about a 1-second lapse. (Recommended)
Mana Tide Totem (1/1) – Increases party members’ Spirit by 350% for 12 seconds, 17 seconds when you pick up Totemtic Focus. Do note, in patch 4.0.1, MT was changed to a 3-minute CD to align with other class’s regen mechanics. (Mandatory)
Telluric Currents (2/2) – Will restore 40% of the damage dealt when you cast a Lighting Bolt. Do note, this talent is intended to be mana-neutral and not a viable regen mechanic for Resto Shaman. Nevertheless when you reach raid level gear, even at tier11 pre-raid gear, you will do enough damage to regen with this talent, especially during enhanced damage boss phases. This could be your only hope during long fights when you get near the zero mana state. (Recommended)
Tidal Waves (3/3) – After casting RT or CH, you will gain 2 charges of a Tidal Waves buff which will decrease the cast time of the following GHW or HW spells by 30% and increase the critical effect chance of Healing Surge by 30%. Tidal Waves will last until 2 spells are cast or after 10 seconds. (Mandatory)
Blessing of the Eternals (0/2) – Gives your Earthliving hot an 80% chance to proc on targets below 35% HP. This talent no longer increases critical strike chance, as of the patch. This is a minor healing gain, but it is a free one, if you have spare points it is ok to put them here. (Optional)
Riptide (1/1) – An instant cast spell which also applies a hot to the target, it will also increase the healing done by a CH hit by 25%, if CH is cast on a target with a Riptide hot still active. (Mandatory)
Enhancement Tree (7 pts)
Elemental Weapons (2/2) – Increases the passive bonus granted by Earthliving Weapon by up to 40% and increases the effectiveness of Unleash Elements. (Recommended)
Improved Shields (3/3) – Provides up to a 15% increase in the return of Water Shield orbs and a 15% increase in the healing done by Earth Shield. This effect stacks with other healing modifiers like Spark of Life. (Mandatory)
Ancestral Swiftness (2/2) - Reduces the cast time of your Ghost Wolf spell by 2 sec and increases movement speed by 15%. This does not stack with other movement speed increasing effects. This a very strong mobility talent. (Recommended)
Elemental Tree (3 pts)
Acuity (3/3) – With an increase of up to 3% on all spell critical chances (both dps and healing), Acuity is a very good talent to have. (Recommended)
The whole build can be found here: Resto Shaman 3/7/31 .
There are variations of the build to get 3/3 Focused Insight. If you want to get Focused Insight, which can be better either for instances or for some bosses when you can't find the time to shoot any Lightning Bolt, you have the choice to drop some of these: Totemic Focus, Cleansing Waters, Telluric Currents. If you have another resto shaman in your group with Totemic Focus, then you can probably drop these 2 points and 1 into Cleansing Waters. The other option is to drop Telluric Currents and another point either in Totemic Focus or Cleansing Waters.
My view at the moment is that I can not be sure I'll be able to finish a long fight without Telluric Currents, when mana regen becomes better with gear then we can probably go away from it.
Part 3 The Glyphs
With Cataclysm, the glyph system changed to a 3 layers one, with Prime glyphs, Major glyphs and Minor glyphs. Not all classes/specs have the same amount of useful glyphs and we are probably in the middle, with some glyphs being mandatory as boost to our core play, and other just marginaly useful.
- Glyph of Earth Shield – Increases the amount healed by your Earth Shield by 20%.
- Glyph of Riptide – Increase the duration of Rptide by 40%.
- Glyph of Water Shield – Increases passive regen of your WS by 50%.
- Glyph of Earthliving Weapon – Increases the effectiveness of your ELW’s periodic healing by 20%.
Earthliving Weapon is much stronger for raid healing than instances, and could be an alternative to consider once you're starting to run more raids than instances. There has been some interesting tentative raid log analyses about the "hps" value of each of these glyphs. The conclusion seem to be the following:
As long as you need the regen keep the Glyph of Water Shield, once you're doing well mana wise you can drop it for ELW. Until then, for raids, ELW seems to be roughly the same strength as riptide, and about half better than ES. So drop ES and take ELW, even if you're tank healing. This is partly due to the fact that, sadly, ES does not benefit from our mastery.
- Glyph of Chain Heal – Increases the healing done to targets beyond the first by 15% but
- decreases the amount received by the first target by 10%
- Glyph of Ghost Wolf – Your GW gains 5% additional movement speed.
- Glyph of Healing Stream – Increases resistances by 195.
- Glyph of Healing Wave – Your Healing Wave also heals you for 20% of the healing effect when you heal someone .
- Glyph of Hex - Reduces the cooldown of your Hex spell by 15 sec.
- Glyph of Renewed Life – Your Reincarnation spell no longer requires a reagent.
Part 4 The Relative Weight of Stats
Now that we have considered our basic bonuses, have looked at our mastery talent, and all our other talents, we can discuss the relative use of the different basic stats we will be interested in as a healer.
Many analyses have been done on sites like the elitist jerks forums about the relative values of each stat. If for some classes a common point has been found it is still unclear for shamans, mostly because our mastery is very hard to model.
The agreed point is that intellect will be better than anything else, as for all other healers and casters. Int is a main stat though, a difference from any other we will discuss. Knowing what stat is better than another (at least on paper) will be important for several things: choosing the right gear, gemming correctly, and finally reforging.
I am not going to details the discussions I have read, and a final common ground hasn't yet been found by the community, but the one that makes the most sense to me is:
INT > SPI > CRIT > MASTERY/HASTE
The reason is that mana regen, at least for the moment, is very important. Some classes have tools or abilities to regen mana, shamans have very few, the two strongest being spirit and water shield with Improved Water Shield procs, hence crit rating. Because of IWS, crit is for us both a throughput stat and a regen stat, when haste and mastery are only throughput stats. That is the reason for crit to be considered better for resto shamans than haste, which was our desired stat at the end of LK. Take also in consideration our numerous talents that are activated by crits.
Haste can also be considered a "plateau" stat, also called "break points" because some specific values of haste can now give you more ticks of hots during a fixed hot duration. I copied for you an extract of the EJ forum with the 3 break points you should consider (at least for your first raids):
Number of Riptide ticks Haste Needed Haste Needed with WoA Totem
9 ticks 708 Rating 518 Rating
10 ticks 1176 Rating 964 Rating
11 ticks 1645 Rating 1410 Rating
You should probably target 518 haste at first, and then 964 when your gear increases. The next break point should probably not be your target before the next tier of raiding (tier 12).
To Sum-up the stats discussion:
When you chose gear, keep to the Int > Spi > Crit > Haste/Mastery choice.
When you chose your gems, always go for a pure Int gem, unless the socket bonus is good, and then gem for Int/Spi (Blue socket) or Int/Crit (Yellow socket).
When you reforge, follow this priority: Haste / Mastery reforged to Spi / Crit
You can reforge mostly haste as long as you keep to one of the break points, having at least 518 haste rating. Haste is a good stat but only crucial for urgencies and mastery will serve mostly the same goal with no mana cost. Keeping up to a Riptide hot break point is a good plan though.
As for Spirit or Crit, that depends on how you feel with your mana regen and your ability to keep WS up at all times (trust me, that is a skill that has to be learned). If your mana is ok, reforge to crit, if you're oom often, reforge to spirit.
Part 5 The Way of the Wave
Here I will try to talk a little about gameplay. I'm only playing a resto shaman since a few months, and have only raided normal ICC with her, I'm now trying my hands at heroic cataclysm instances but have yet to touch lvl 85 raids.
This is to warn you that even though I did my research, please take my advices with a grain of salt, and if you want to add ideas and comments, you are the most welcome.
Playing a resto shaman is a very interesting experience. There is a lot of synergies between very different abilities created through the restoration talent tree. I'm going to detail them by order of importance:
Tidal Waves - TW will allow you to burst heal (increasing the crit chance of your HS) or fast spam costless heal (hasted HW) or faster cast a big heal (hasted GHW). This talent is the reason for which you should never cast a direct heal if you're not under the effect of TW, unless there is a pressing urgency (Riptide coolddown being a little longer than 2 casts of HS). Remember if you have a free gcd that Water Shield needs to be recast regularly (it costs 0 mana to cast) and that Telluric Currents, if you have it, is a mana regen.
Improved Water Shield - Most of your crits will give you mana through this talent. Recast Water Shield as often as you can, and preferably before it reaches 1 charge left. TW + HS + IWS is a strong combo, strong enough for TW+HS being considered better hps and hpm than TW+GHW, despite HS being worst hpm than GHW on paper.
Nature’s Blessing - Increases the heals you give to your Earth Shield target. This is the second reason for which you should keep ES on your tank at all times (the first one being that ES is really good by itself).
Ancestral Healing & Ancestral Awakening - Two other talents activated by your criticals. The first one is a damage reduction for your tank, the second one a free heal proc on your raid. Both are passive and you won't have to look for them, but they are here as reminders that our crits are so very useful for us on many different ways.
Focused Insight - If you have this talent, it can make good combos like TW+Shock+GHW for a big strong burst of heal. You can also use Earth Shock that reduces atatck speed by 10% on any mob not immune to that effect, that will be roughly 10% less damage on your tank. Having FS is getting used to shock regularly will ensure you don't forget to do it when it can be of use.
Now that we have looked at the synergies provided by our skills and talents, let us discuss about gameplay.
The basics are: Earth Shield is your friend precast it before any fight and keep it up on your tank, Tidal Waves is super good and you should use it as much as you can, Improved Water Shield as so nice you should never ever let your Water Shield go down.
If we refine that into "classic" situations and try to provide simple "rotations" for them (I use quotes because rotations are much more common to dpsers than healers, and these should not be considered as optimal but as guidelines).
Low Mana Cost Rotation
Riptide (6s cd) > Healing Wave (1.7s) > Healing Wave (1.7s) >This ensures that you use the 2 TW buffs with fast and very low cost HW. You can then chose what you want to do during the remaining time until Riptide goes off cooldown.
Water Shield / Lightning Bolt / Chain Heal
Water Shield / Lightning Bolt / Chain Heal
High Throughput Rotation
Riptide (6s cd) > Healing Surge (1.5s) > Healing Surge (1.5s) >This is the same idea, where HW is replaced by HS for burst. If you really need the healing output you can replace HS by GHW, they will provide you more reliable healing. But you should know that, under TW, HS is a better heal than GHW, both hps wise and mana wise.
Water Shield / Lightning Bolt / Chain Heal
Water Shield / Lightning Bolt / Chain Heal
In group/raid damage situations, Chain Heal and Healing Rain are your main tools. Be careful though, they cost a lot of mana, and if people aren't close enough they could be a big waste. In some occasions snipe healing with TW combos will be your best choice.
I can't say I always have the same totems, in fact I change very often, even sometimes during a single fight.
Wrath of Air is probably the only one I always have, unless there is another resto/elemental shaman in my group/raid.
I use the mana totem most of the time, though not if I can have a Blessing of Might, switching then to Healing Stream.
As for the fire totem, unless it is already provided by another character, I use the spellpower one.
My earth totem is the one that changes the most often during a fight, to use tremor for anti-fear, or even sometimes the slowing totem. On usual I use the armor or strength totem.
If you took Ancestral Switness you will both have a basic speed boost (very nice) and an instant change to your Spirit Wolf form for emergencies.
Keep your SW form change on a hotkey, and react quickly, the faster we are out of the fire, the faster we can heal again securely.
I hope this big wall of text was of some use to you. And I wish you a lot of fun with your shamans. To end this all, please all remember: "Keep your water shield up!" :)