I've become very unhappy with the state of shamans in Cata. I know quite a few people are tired of me, as well as other shamans, qq'ing, and some people are saying, "well priests have it worse" but if you really look at the numbers, you'll realize they don't. Ask almost any player that has at least 3 of the 4 healing classes at 85 and has done some raiding and they will tell you that there is a HUGE disparity between all 5 healing specs, with Shamans coming in a the bottom. Look at the healing forums, as well as the general forums and the specific class forums, and you'll see the trend. And the upcoming patch is honestly not doing much to fix the problems they are facing.
The problems are much more obvious in 10mans where there is less player stacking and thus much less reason to drop HR or spam CH. In 25s, though they still suffer the same basic problems, they are doing much better then their 10man counterparts.
I am constantly scrounging the forums, the blogs, the websites, looking for any useful information on how to better play my class. And yet I end up coming across the same thing. Shamans, of all specs, are just not in a good place right now. This became really obvious by reading the following 3 completely separate blog posts.
All these three posts are basically stating the same things; Shamans have no CDs, they don't have enough of a mobile arsenal, if people aren't stacked, their thoroughput is completely lacking, and lastly, shamans are someone losing what it means to be shamans. The great things about all three of these posts that they aren't necessarily generic bitching and qqing. They are simply pointing out that there are problems and something should be done. The problem I have with these posts though is that I find myself agreeing far too much with them. I don't like that I'm currently feeling sub par when it comes to healing, or that I'm not doing my best. I don't like that I keep thinking I want to switch classes. I want to be loyal to Cees. I like knowing I can hold my own in any given situation and I'm not currently feeling like that when it comes to resto shamans. Instead, I'm almost feeling like a burden. And though I tell myself it’s not wholly my fault, it doesn’t change how stressful or disconcerting the current situation is.
The first post I recommend is kraylessa's post about healing between Resto Shamans, Holy Paladins and Resto Druids. The first comment she makes that I could have written myself, I agree so much is, "I did everything I could to try to improve. I respecced multiple times. I reforged all my gear for different stats. I read everything I could on EJ and the WoW forums. But, it turns out that Resto Shaman just plain suck. Shaman throughput is just woefully lacking and mana cost/regen is a major problem. In order to achieve even half-decent throughput, Shaman have to spam high-cost spells that put them OOM quickly. Cutting back to more efficient spells means they might as well not even be healing with as little throughput as they are generating. It says something that one of the more common builds for Resto Shaman involves an Elemental Subspec requiring hit cap to be able to regen mana through DPS. That means there are chunks of fights where Resto Shaman are spamming Lightning Bolt just so they can afford to cast expensive spells in short bursts. I can't believe this is what Blizzard intended for Resto Shaman."
Than later in comparison to how her Holy Paladin is doing she mentions how lacking shamans are in cooldowns, "For every GCD on my Paladin, I have to choose the right ability for that moment and that makes it challenging and fun. On my Shaman I have to resort to basic rotations, depending on my assignment, with no deviation for fear of going OOM even faster."
Finally, she ends up rating the healing specs as follows "1) Paladin - great throughput, great mana management, great utility
2) Holy Priest - great throughput, decent mana management, great utility
3) Resto Druid - good throughput, good mana management, fair utility
4) Disc Priest - poor throughput, great mana management, good utility
5) Resto Shaman - poor throughput, poor mana management, utility? what's that?"
Next entry I found myself at was the blog entry by Vixsin, on her popular shaman blog, Life in Group5, focused more on shamans a whole rather than just one spec. For her entry, she goes into how Shamans, once a class prided on utility because of their hybridness and willingness to pay the mythical hybrid tax, are now seemingly losing what it means to be a shaman. She begins with talking about the history of the shaman and how they've played out and changed from Vanilla to BC and BC to Wrath and now, finally Cataclysm. Her final point is probably her strongest;
"Cataclysm marks the latest step towards breaking down the walls of specialization. No longer are there “AOE” classes or “single-target only” dps. No longer are healers categorized by niche—tank healing versus raid healing. No longer are tanks divided between mana sponges and avoidance. As Blizzard has stated time and time again, the goal for this expansion was very simple—bring the player, not the class.
And so, we come to the point at which we now stand—with Paragon and their “optimized” Sinestra raid comp. It is a single fight in game, with no more merit than any others, save the fact that it is intended to be the pinnacle of Tier 11 raiding. So why does it matter that shaman were absent from the World First kill? The short answer is … it doesn’t. It didn’t matter, individually, on any of the previous World Firsts that I showed above either.
What it does demonstrate beyond the trend of low shaman performance, and what I think is missing as a point in the proliferation of QQ threads on the forums, is how incredibly far the game has come. Yes, that’s right—we’ve come such a long way from the days of Vanilla raiding. From raids where multiple shaman were used so that every conceivable buff was covered, to an expansion’s first end boss kill that had exactly zero totems, it took two expansions for WoW to progress from the Sunwell level of specificity and strict raid stacking, to a world with the diversification necessary to support a raid composition defined by qualities other than buffs.
And, ladies and gentlemen, that is my point. Having a raid formed without the constraints of buffs is a great thing. But, Shaman are a class defined by utility, defined by our buffs, told that our totems should matter, and described as having a “high degree of hybridization” by Blizzard’s most notable, and much to his credit, most vocal Designer. For a whole of the previous expansion, we were propped up by those totems and buffs which were ours and ours alone. We sat at the bottom of meters on the first kills of heroic mode encounters, brought along because of the buffs we offered to other classes. But our buffs have now been fully distributed, our massive deeps raid CD parsed out to pures, and the uniqueness of our totems stripped down (except for Resto Shamans’ Mana Tide). We have been left to stand on our class merits alone, and it is … a bittersweet victory indeed."
Finally, on a post on the WoW Forums, Kalanii, a resto shaman from the top US guild, vodka, makes a brilliant post that goes beyond just the typical qq'ing found the forums and instead makes suggestions that face all the current shaman problems face on. She admits that she's currently been sat out on more than one fight because, as vodka is a hardcore progression guild, her class just isn't up to the challenge.
She states, "The obvious problem with resto at the moment is that we're not competitive on the healing meters. Thoroughput is an issue, but I don't really believe it's our biggest issue. I've been sat recently for a ret paladin in off-spec/blue holy gear because he can do similar thoroughput to me (I do often beat him), but he also brings a lot of necessary cooldowns that shamans just don't have. Over the past 1-2 years Blizzard has decided to homogenize the healing classes, which is fine, but in doing so they have taken away nearly every unique buff shamans bring and given them away without really giving us anything useful in return. We still have tide, but because most healing classes have their own forms of regen it's more of a "nice to have" thing instead of being a "mandatory" thing, especially when gear levels go up.
Right now, shamans are great if these 3 conditions are met: 1) raid is stacked, 2) raid does not have to move, and 3) raid is at a low HP/taking lots of AOE damage. If any one of those conditions are not there (aka every fight except Chimaeron), shamans become basically useless compared to other healing classes. We can do great HPS with these conditions met and while using HR+CH combo. Otherwise, we're mediocre."