Restoration Shaman Healing Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities — Battle for Azeroth (BfA) 8.1

Last updated on Dec 10, 2018 at 15:38 by Seksixeny 19 comments

On this page, you will learn how to optimize the rotation of your Restoration Shaman, depending on the type of damage your group is receiving. We also have advanced sections about cooldowns, procs, etc. in order to minmax your healing output and your mana efficiency. All our content is updated for World of Warcraft — Battle for Azeroth (BfA) 8.1.

1. Rotation / Playstyle for Restoration Shamans

Healing is in great part based on your ability to react to the damage that the raid takes, and as such there is no set rotation. Rather, you must understand what spells are best suited to the different situations that can occur during a raid encounter.

Unlike damage, which is always useful as long as there are enemy targets, healing is only useful if the healed players would die without it. Therefore it is also important to use your damage kit when incoming damage is not threatening.

This playstyle philosophy would translate to — roughly — the following spell priority, in both raids and dungeons.

  1. Use your short (1 minute or less) cooldown spells first — as long as they will not heavily overheal — and prioritize using the shorter cooldowns first, in order to maximize the amount of casts you can get of them in a given encounter. The spells in this category, talents included, are, from the lowest cooldown to highest:
  2. When a cooldown spell is not available, use the best non-cooldown spell for the situation. This means Healing Wave Icon Healing Wave for non-emergency single-target healing and Healing Surge Icon Healing Surge for emergency single-target healing. When multi-target healing, use Chain Heal Icon Chain Heal unless you already have two charges of Tidal Waves Icon Tidal Waves, in which case you should cast a Healing Wave / Healing Surge first. Keep in mind that these spells are either expensive or low impact, so only use them if they will not overheal much. Because of Tidal Waves, there are also diminishing returns to consider when casting a lot of Healing Wave / Healing Surge spells in a row.
  3. If no one is in risk of dying, use your damage kit! Begin with Flame Shock Icon Flame Shock, keep Lava Burst Icon Lava Burst on cooldown, and add in Lightning Bolt Icon Lightning Bolt and Flame Shock refreshes when needed. When dealing with two or more enemies stacked together use Chain Lightning Icon Chain Lightning instead of Lightning Bolt, if there are three or more enemies stacked together, replace Lava Burst with Chain Lightning as well.

2. Cooldown Usage for Restoration Shamans

Correctly utilizing cooldowns is one of the most important things when playing a healing specialization, and often the organization of the healing cooldowns is the determining factor in the success (or devastation) of a raid group. Acclimatizing yourself to your cooldown kit and understand when each applies to your current situation is key to your success.

2.1. Healing Tide Totem

Healing Tide Totem Icon Healing Tide Totem is the specialization's baseline throughput cooldown. As it is a totem, you can use it and immediately be free to move or cast other spells, without needing to channel or stand still like other healer's raid cooldowns. Healing Tide Totem heals everyone within 40 yards for a relatively low, flat amount. This means that it scales linearly with the amount of allies in its range. While its power in small groups is low for a 3-minute cooldown, when everyone in a large raid is hurt, it will do massive healing.

2.2. Ascendance

Ascendance Icon Ascendance is a powerful throughput cooldown that works very differently from Healing Tide Totem Icon Healing Tide Totem. While it is active, it duplicates all of your non-totem healing and redistributes it among all group members. This allows you to do massive burst healing if there are only a handful of allies in range, but its impact on each quickly falls off as the amount of targets the duplicated healing is split to increases. Due to this, while Healing Tide Totem works best in large groups because of scaling linearly with the amount of group members, Ascendance works best in small groups where its duplicated healing has a big impact.

2.3. Cloudburst Totem

Playing with Cloudburst Totem Icon Cloudburst Totem does not change your priority much, and you should nearly always cast it on cooldown, unless you are delaying it for a specific timing or instance of damage. There are a few interesting interactions between Cloudburst Totem and your other abilities and talents, however, and capitalizing on them will allow some significant extra healing from this totem:

  • When you are under the effects of Ascendance Icon Ascendance, the extra healing it provides will also be transferred to Cloudburst Totem Icon Cloudburst Totem.
  • When talented, Echo of the Elements Icon Echo of the Elements allows your Cloudburst Totem Icon Cloudburst Totem to have two charges. You still cannot have two active simultaneously, however, as the second charge is only usable after the first totem expires or is recalled. It does allow you to have up to 3 Cloudburst Totems active, one after another, for 45 seconds in a row. Finally, the flexibility Echo of the Elements grants allows you to nearly always have a Cloudburst Totem active when using Wellspring Icon Wellspring on cooldown.

2.4. Unleash Life

Unleash Life Icon Unleash Life allows you to amplify your next direct heal by 35% every 15 seconds. You should always use this as soon as it comes off cooldown and then use the healing buff on Chain Heal Icon Chain Heal if group healing is needed, Healing Surge Icon Healing Surge (with Tidal Waves Icon Tidal Waves) if emergency healing is needed or Riptide Icon Riptide otherwise, for maximum efficiency.

3. Utility Usage for Restoration Shamans

Restoration Shamans are well known for the high amount of utility — non-healing benefits to yourself or your group — they bring. It is not always obvious how to best use these tools to the benefit of your group and, often, they are used as part of your guild's overall encounter strategy.

3.1. Ancestral Protection Totem

Ancestral Protection Totem Icon Ancestral Protection Totem grants 10% extra Health Points to everyone inside its area of effect for a long period, which helps the group survive through the hardest mechanics this game has to offer. Even if someone dies while this effect is active, Ancestral Protection Totem will consume itself to allow them to self-resurrect. As it does not count towards the battle resurrection limit, this is one of the most powerful abilities in the game whenever your group's strategy implies the sacrifice of an ally at some point in the encounter.

3.2. Bloodlust / Heroism

Bloodlust Icon Bloodlust and Heroism Icon Heroism allow your group to dish out increased damage / healing for a long duration, which is of critical importance to beating soft and hard enrages on raid bosses and succesfully dealing with Mythic keystone dungeons / PvP situations. Usually, this spell is cast at the start of an encounter / dungeon boss when allies have their DPS cooldowns, but this can change depending on the encounter's specifics.

3.3. Earth Elemental

Earth Elemental Icon Earth Elemental calls an elemental with very high Health to taunt and tank non-boss enemies for you for a long duration. This is best used to increase your DPS during an encounter or as an emergency tool to relieve some pressure off your group's tank.

3.4. Spirit Link Totem

Spirit Link Totem Icon Spirit Link Totem represents one of the most unique and flexible cooldowns within the World of Warcraft. Every second, the health of the group inside the totem's area of effect is redistributed, so all targets have an equal percentage of maximum health. It also grants 10% damage reduction to players inside its area of effect. You can use Spirit Link Totem to split overwhelming damage on a single target to everyone in the group, making it non-threatening. Or to instantly ensure everyone has high Health, just before a highly damaging ability hits the group. If you add in Darkness Icon Darkness you can also further reduce the damage your group takes by 20% with no randomness involved. Finally, because Spirit Link Totem ensures that everyone inside its effect is damaged as long as at least one person is damaged, it allows healers to rapidly heal the whole group efficiently with just area of effect healing spells.

3.5. Wind Rush Totem

If your group needs a movement speed increase to facilitate doing encounter mechanics, Wind Rush Totem Icon Wind Rush Totem is a great help, granting a significant group-wide speed boost every 2 minutes. As the totem's speed buff only lasts 5 seconds but the totem itself lasts for 15 seconds, it is possible to get multiple speed boosts from a single totem, as long as you return to it once your speed boost is gone.

3.6. Astral Shift

Astral Shift Icon Astral Shift allows you to survive / ignore mechanics you usually would not be able to, and should be used whenever you feel like you might die in the next few seconds of an encounter, preferably while you still have plenty of Health remaining.

3.7. Tremor Totem

Tremor Totem Icon Tremor Totem enables you to quickly remove Fear / Sleep / Charm effects from yourself or your group members, as long as you cast it before you are crowd controlled yourself. Its PvE usefulness depends on the encounter mechanics and it does not work on all types of Fear / Sleep / Charm you will find, but it is nearly always useful in PvP.

3.8. Capacitor Totem

Capacitor Totem Icon Capacitor Totem allows you to stun a group of enemies at will, allowing your group to dispatch them before they can deal further damage / heal.

3.9. Earthgrab / Earthbind Totem

Earthgrab Totem Icon Earthgrab Totem and Earthbind Totem Icon Earthbind Totem allow you to root / slow enemies in an area. This is very useful whenever your group has to crowd control powerful enemies (and in PvP), but ultimately its specific use depends on the encounter mechanics you are dealing with.

3.10. Hex

Hex Icon Hex allows you to crowd control a humanoid or beast target for a long while. Handy in PvP and in dungeons but of limited use in raids.

3.11. Purify Spirit

Purify Spirit Icon Purify Spirit allows you to dispel Curse and Magic effects, something that is often essential to completing dungeons and raids successfully. It also has great PvP uses, depending on the enemy compositions. Keep in mind that if you dispel a target that has just been completely dispelled by another healer, you waste Mana.

3.12. Wind Shear / Purge

Restoration Shamans make ideal candidates for doing interrupt and dispel assignments, as they have a ranged short cooldown kick. Take advantage of Wind Shear Icon Wind Shear whenever possible, though you should avoid compromising raid healing if this is during a period of heavy incoming damage. Purge Icon Purge is also great on fights where a dispel is necessary, but bear in mind that this costs Mana, so if resources are tight consider asking a DPS to fulfill this job.

It should also be noted that Restoration Shamans are the only healer equipped with an interrupt, which further adds to our value and utility above other healers.

4. Optional Read: Mastering Your Restoration Shaman

4.1. Mana Management

As with all healing classes, Mana management is at the core of this specialization. It is important to choose your spells and timings wisely so that Mana can last until the end of the encounter, especially in a progression raid setting. Ideally, you should aim to keep your Mana pool roughly at the same percentage as the enemy's Health Points over the course of an encounter. This ensures that you both keep enough Mana around for the later parts of the fight, and also that you end the fight around 0% Mana, thus not wasting any of its potential healing.

Using a logging tool to analyze how your Mana was spent (or wasted) during an encounter can be a great way to improve your Mana management. No one is perfect in this regard, and practice is the key to success. Even seasoned veterans of the specialization will take some time to learn each individual encounter, and how aggressive they can afford to play with their Mana pool while still having enough reserves to last the entire fight.

4.2. Dealing Damage

Very often it can be beneficial to deal damage rather than heal, especially during periods where the incoming damage is low and you want to recoup your Mana. Lightning Bolt Icon Lightning Bolt is cost-free, allowing you to help push some important timings or assist with high priority targets while your Mana bar fills up. Shaman is also a well equipped class to assist in dealing damage at minimal cost to healing time with instant cast Flame Shock Icon Flame Shock and Lava Surge Icon Lava Surge procs, but keep in mind the high Mana cost of these spells.

4.3. Mastery: Deep Healing

Mastery: Deep Healing Icon Mastery: Deep Healing is your Mastery as a Restoration Shaman. It causes your heals to be more powerful on low health targets. When you heal a target with full health, you get no additional healing. When you heal a target with 0% health (1 health point), you get the full benefit of your Mastery.

Your Mastery heavily influences the way you play a Restoration Shaman.

  • When raid healing, you should focus on low health targets more so than any other type of healer, as you have the most efficient tools to heal them.
  • When single-target healing, your Mastery has less influence because you should give priority to your assignment and cannot freely choose low health targets. By being aware of how much damage your assignment will take, you can optimise your heals to benefit from your Mastery.

4.4. Movement Management

Proper movement / usage of movement abilities is paramount to maximizing the time you have available to heal / DPS while dodging encounter mechanics. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to explain how to move and reposition within a fight, but as a healer there are some basic principles you should follow as much as possible.

  • Position yourself central to your raid for best access to all targets.
  • Ghost Wolf Icon Ghost Wolf can allow you to avoid mechanics easily even while slowed, as it stops you from being slowed below 100% movement speed.
  • Take advantage of your instant cast spells and totems when you have to move. If none are available, use Ghost Wolf Icon Ghost Wolf to get to your destination faster.
  • Track mechanic timers and position yourself in advance to avoid moving later.
  • If you have time, take stutter steps over an extended period to reach your intended destination. Every time you use an instant cast, take a few steps while you are locked by the Global Cooldown.

4.4.1. Quiet Movement

Many players will unconsciously move during fights, despite it being unnecessary. For example, sometimes the boss or adds will be moved by the tank a couple yards, and though you are still in range to cast, you subconsciously mirror that movement, costing you global cooldowns. Consciously work to "quiet" your movement, and reduce unnecessary movement to a minimum. The best way to see this in action is to take a video of your raid, then watch yourself play. Most players will be surprised by the amount of wasted movement they commit. When you are forced to move, make use of the tips above, and make your path as direct and decisive as possible.

4.4.2. Spiritwalker's Grace

Spiritwalker's Grace Icon Spiritwalker's Grace should be used during periods of heavy movement where healing throughput is a concern. It can also be used to allow you to reposition while continuing to heal your group.

5. Changelog

  • 10 Dec. 2018: This page has been reviewed for Patch 8.1 and only minor changes were necessary.
  • 13 Aug. 2018: Updated for Battle for Azeroth launch.
  • 20 Jul. 2018: General text clarifications and style improvements.
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