Being the Shaman Behind the Meat Shield


Back on the 13th, Mera asked a question that I felt deserved a post to fully answer it.

“Can shamans make good MT or OT healers, as in to the same standard of other healing classes?”

I provided a short answer of yes on the 13th, but I’m going to try to flesh it out a bit more here.

Shaman have been given a lot of tools when Patch 3.0 was brought live. These tools allow us to be competitive with other healers in single target healing. Really we can break this down into a few sections – Spec (talents), Glyphs and Strategy.


There are three very popular specs out there right now:

  • 0/16/55 This has been referred to as the cookie cutter spec.
  • 0/14/57 This spec. This spec moves points out of Elemental weapons to buff ancestral healing.
  • 0/14/57 A build which takes a few points out of Thundering Strikes in order to have a maxed Healing Way and Ancestral Healing while forsaking Improved Water Shield.

Each has different strengths they bring to the healing fight so to speak so lets take a quick peak at some of the choice talents.

Let’s take a look at the talents we pick up in enhancement first.

Thundering Strikes: This talent is five points of wonderful. It boosts your crit by a solid 5%. This is great because when you are on a Tank there can often times be spikes in damage. Having a higher crit ensures a better chance of being able to top off the tank with one healing wave instead of two or three.

Improved Shields:  This talent increases the bang for the buck you get out of your Earth Shield. That 15% counts for a lot in the long run, and your tank will thank you for picking it up.

Elemental Weapons: More spell power is always good.  This gives you an additional 45 spell power, no reason not to take it.

Now, those are very straight forward. One can argue the same about the next set but I’ll highlight the talents in the restoration tree that, in my opinion are great main tank healer abilities, or have been updated recently and can fill that role.

Healing Way: I’ll start with Healing Way, which is second only to Earth Shield in my book when one thinks of Shaman healing a tank.  This talent recently underwent a change that make it a very useful talent once again. The full affect of the talent is applied when you use the spell once. This means that you no longer have to spam the ability 3 times to get it rolling. Front loading the effect means that you can toss a Healing Wave on the tank, and then burn another 15 seconds worth of spells and Global Cool Downs until the ability expires. Tossing another healing wave on the tank will immediately receive an 18% boost and keeping this in mind it’s very very easy to net 20k crit heals and higher. I personally feel this is a must for shaman doing tank healing.

Earth Shield / Improved Earth Shield: These are pretty self explanatory. Earth Shield is a bread and butter talent. For as long as we’ve had it, we’ve been using it and rightly so. You toss this up on the main tank and it can help to create a very nice reactive buffer for health loss. This talent also underwent a fix recently. Previously the chance for the shield to crit heal was based on the person you put it on. Meaning a fire mage was more likely to get crit heals then a prot warrior. They’ve fixed it now so that it has a chance to crit based on your crit at the time of casting. Looking at your talents you have 14% built in before gear and INT are calculated. This just helps improve something that was already golden.

Ancestral Awakening: A lot of people don’t like this talent, but I personally love it. Taking a look at it, Ancestral Awakening really fits well with a main tank shaman healer. It procs off of Lesser Healing Wave, Healing Wave and Riptide. If you are on a tank, you’re going to be using a lot more Healing Wave then you usually do, and as a result this will proc more often. It heals for 30% of the amount healed. Lets say it procs off of a nice Healing Wave crit for 20,000 hp. The talent (like beacon of light) only spreads around the part that’s effective healing. Lets say 10,000hp of that heal is actually healing. That’s still a 3k heal that lands on someone who needs it.

Tidal Force: Again, pretty self explanatory. Having something that boosts your crit for Healing Wave is always a good thing

Tidal Waves: This talent is also very nice. It procs off Chain Heal and Riptide. We can assume that you’ll be using Riptide pretty liberally as it’s an instant cast hot with a flash heal at the front (so yes you should be using it if you’re not), and so this should be up all the time. It reduces the casting time of your Healing Wave spells by 30%. That extra little bit of haste helps to deliver your big heal faster.


For Glyphs it might be a bit hard to choose for tank healing duty but we do have some good ones to choose from.

  • Glyph of Water Mastery: More mana! I hope I never hear anyone complain about more mana =D
  • Glyph of Mana Tide Totem: Again more mana, in this case taking full advantage of all the INT you have.
  • Glyph of Healing Wave: This takes advantage of your Healing Wave casts by returning 20% of the effective healing done, ignoring overheal amounts. Great glyph for AoE bosses and fights where you might not be able to heal yourself.
  • Glyph of Lesser Healing Wave: Less mana to cast, and faster then it’s big brother, this glyph lets LHW strike an Earth Shielded target for a respectable amount on par with non crit Healing Waves.
  • Glyph of Earthliving: This helps make sure you have a HoT up as much as possible. 5% more Earthliving procs can help cushion your healing a bit.
  • Glyph of Chain Heal: Even though you’re going to be casting more heals then Chain Heal, it still remains our most efficient heal. Casting it in between Healing Waves can help keep Tidal Waves up, and if you happen to catch any low melee in the process, so much the better.

Pick glyphs that help fill in gaps in what you need. If you need more mana, two glyphs will go along way to help that. If you find yourself taking damage and not being able to peel away from the tank, there is a glyph that help you keep standing long into the fight. Now these are just the Resto ones, I’ve heard people using ones to finagle more crit and such.  Take a look Here and find ones that work for you.


Lets face it, loling around and chain healing a raid isn’t rocket science. Using our tools to their full potential while raid healing take much more finesse. Switching gears from Raid Healing to Tank Healing takes a different mindset. First thing to remember is Resto Shaman don’t really have any preventative measures to help mitigate incoming damage beyond Stoneskin Totem and Strength of Earth Totem to add armor or STR/AGI for mitigation. Our healing is all reactive aside from maybe our two HoTs, and even then we only have full control over one of them. Earth Shield requires the person you put it on to be hit before it goes off. As a result we spend a lot of time overhealing when we’re on a tank in an attempt to keep them topped off. With the amounts of mana regen we usually have, it’s not hard to keep the spells constantly streaming while keeping up on mana. You will also make full use of all your healing spells as a tank healer. Be adaptive to the situation and be ready to move with your tank. With raid healing it’s easy to sit put and plug away but a lot of times with the tank you’ll have to move with them to keep them in healing range or line of sight.


With all this in mind my answer to the question is Yes, I feel that shaman are more then capable Tank Healers, on par with other classes. We have all the tools necessary to fill both roles of the Raid Healer and Tank Healer effectively. There may be fights were a certain type of healer is better for the job (like a Discipline Priest healing the Sartharion Tank on Sarth 3D) but that doesn’t mean it’s the case every time. We can keep up with the Priests, Paladins and Druids in single target healing just fine.

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9 thoughts on “Being the Shaman Behind the Meat Shield”

  1. Thanks for the info, very nice in depth post, will help me out a lot when organising our healers, my previous method of dealing with shammies was ‘shamans raid heal’ 🙂

    It still makes sense to me to keep them as raid healers if we have tanks covered with paladins or disc priests, but now I have an answer from a good source I’ll definitely be giving them a try on the MT on some fights and allowing CoH priests a little more freedom to raid heal.

  2. Hey, like the post. Some comments from experience…

    Glyph of healing wave is not terribly useful. If, as you suggest, there’s a ton of aoe damage floating around, earthshield on the tank will be all the additional healing he should require as you spam chain heal. You probably won’t be casting healing wave at this point.

    I swapped my glyph of healing stream totem (which will probably need to be looked at when they merge healing and mana streams together…) out for a chain heal glyph. I look at the chain heal glyph less as a free 1k heal (the average on that 4th target) than a chance to proc earthliving on another target… which makes it slightly superior to the earthliving glyph, especially when you get that auto application from talents on targets below (20%?) health. Making chain heal an even more valuable aoe healing spell… considering the new competition we have from wild growth and coh.

    There’s a huge argument going on over lesser healing wave vs. healing wave. You mention 20k crit heals. How much of that is over healing? Considering the passive nature of shammy mana regen, and earthliving applications… and the uberness of the lesser wave glyph… the “spam lesser heal” strat might make more sense, at least until you get enough crit and the tier 7 4piece bonus… I’m making the painful transition from a lhw spam monkey to someone that breaks out the healing wave when the boss hits an enrage timer…

    And last, no discussion on shammy healing is compete without a few musings on the proper role of ancestoral awakening…

    Dagashais last blog post..don’t think cause i’m easy, i’m naive

  3. Just a pet peeve I have about Shaman builds: if you have more than 51 points in Resto, there is no reason to max Tidal Mastery before Thundering Strikes.

    My biggest quibble, however, is taking Elemental Weapons over either Thundering Stikes or Tidal mastery. This decision is exactly the same as choosing a piece of gear, that has 15 more spell power but 45 less crit rating. This is a bad decision for both HPS and HPM.

    Also there is the added inconstancy in the third spec. If you take Healing Way and Ancestral Healing, you probably plan on casting a lot of riptides and Healing Waves. Even if you only cast two riptides and two Healing Waves every 15 seconds, and you only have 20% crit, 3/3 improved shields is worth 127 mp5. Or, to make it consistent with the gear comparison method above, 1 talent point in Imp. Water Shield is like 42 mp5.

    So, when making a decision between EW, TS/TM, and IWS, it breaks down to whether you would want a piece of gear to have 15 sp, 45 crit, or 42 mp5.

    Folding in Healing Way adds another wrinkle, but if you are going to be tank healing, your decision should still be weather you want to either have the increased AA and AH procs from more crit or the increased efficiency of IWS. Taking EW would be the last priority for a tank healer.

  4. I strongly agree with Justin on this one, Elemental Weapons is not worth the points, except when starting out heroics perhaps and sitting on ~1400 spellpower (and even then you get a whooping 3,2% more spellpower – WOW! …oh, wait).

    The new healing way sounds good on paper, but either in heroics or raid environment the benefit of glyphed LHW cannot be underestimated. The health pool of tanks isn’t just high enough to justify 20k crits. With the exception of very good geared druids perhaps, if your tank just lust 20k worth of health points heal him up as fast as humanly possible. And that would be Riptide / LHW.

    And last but not least: you didn’t point out that Ancestral Healing is damn awesome for tank healing. With 3 talent points you’ll have a near 100% uptime.

    My main problem with full tank healing is/was either mana or that he died because I didn’t heal fast enough.
    So get your glyph of LHW, Water Master and talent for IWS and you’re good to go. and don’t dare to spec out of Ancestral Healing 😉

  5. I’m going to link this to our Shaman officer. I feel Shamans have indeed become more viable as tank healers in 3.0 (and thus more flexible healers in general).

    I do have a tricky question. One of our shamans got stuck in Saph 10m, trying to dual heal it with a paladin. They put the pala on tank healing and him on raidhealing. He felt severely restricted since Chainheal worked rather poorly as the dps scrambled about to avoid the blizzards etc.
    Some of our officers, including me, reasoned that perhaps in this odd setup they would have been better off with the shaman on tank healing where his (odd) chainheal would heal tank, melee dps and himself while keeping a list of tools ready to put more healing on the tank. The pally could then grease the tank with his bacon for support and play extreme wack a mole on the raid (which should be doable with spamz).

    Would you feel this is a proper approach and/or reasoning? Is this a viable strategy for the Shaman?

  6. Elemental Weapons is not a priority for Resto Shamans. There are too many other good talents in my mind.

    Tank healing is much more manageable for us now but we still can run into mana problems if our crit % is lacking. With enough crit, you can regen a decent amount of mana via Imp Water Shield. Resto shaman are back to being primarily raid healers but we can now adequately substitute in for tank healing when necessary. It’s not a question of can we do it. It’s more a question of what we’re best at.

    As for tank healing on Sapphiron, the Chain Heal won’t really jump from the tank much, if at all. There’s too much distance between him and everyone else. Raid healing is also difficult because of the same reason (although there’s usually a few people in each area). With 2 healers, the only way you can do well on Sapph is for the dps to avoid blizzards. The pally is the better tank healer in this situation and maybe slightly better at raid healing if people are spreading out a bit. I’d keep the pally on tank healing and hope he can help out on the raid and try to keep the raid grouped up in small groups for chain heal to work (i.e. group up melee and ranged as much as possible and tell them to move away from blizzard with their group). But if your dps can’t avoid the blizzard, you don’t have much chance.

  7. Keep in mind these were just descriptions of the tools available.
    @Dagashai: with 20k crits sure a lot of it can be over healing. But I’ve also had an “oh shit” moment where that 20k crit took the tank from half to full.

    @Gornek: I don’t know about your tanks, but all of mine sit around or over 35k, that’s DK, Druid, Paladin and Warrior. Again it was just to point out that it can be useful.

    @Zusterke: Having done the two healer Sapph fight, chain heal is one of the spells you’re not going to be using very much. Here I will be a large supporter of Riptide and LHW. The tank also should have enough avoidance that if you’re doing it with 2 healers you can let them go for a couple seconds while you remove curses and heal up the raid, especially with an ES up on them. I agree with mekias that the paladin would probably be better served on the tank while your primary focus is the raid.

    Keep in mind this post was just highlighting the different tools in the arsenal. There is no right or wrong answer, Just find a way that works for you and roll with it =D

  8. @Lodur
    all between 35k and 39k. And still, if they lost 20k of health: heal as fast as possible. Maexxna hit our paladin with 16k if I remeber correctly and I was trying out Healing Way. Yes, he died and 0,7 seconds are an eternity.
    I don’t know about 10-man healing, though. The damage should be more manageable there and things might be a bit different.

  9. I only ever use Healing Wave on Patchwerk. That’s in 10-man or 25-man tank healing. Every other fight I use Lesser Healing Wave, Riptide, and Chain Heal if dps is close enough to the tank, even when I’m tank healing. That cast time is super long, and the LHW glyph is just really great since I always have ES up on the tank. Just healed a 10-man Naxx where the other healer was severely undergeared and I was carrying most of the healing weight, and it just locks you into a heal for too long. At one point the tank got super low on health and it was just much better to spam LHW than to pray that my HW had time to go off and maybe crit. Maybe not mana efficient, but I rarely run out of mana…

    Taras last blog post..iTunesLibraryEdit v1


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