Why Resto Shaman Need a Defensive Cooldown, or Another Spirit Link Post

In case you’ve missed it, I’ve grown quite partial to the idea behind Spirit Link. I’ve talked about it recently wondering where it is. Before that I lamented its absence as the one that got away. Today I’d like to take a different approach to this enigma.

Tuesday I reported about the Cataclysm beta and how things looked so far. In that post I quoted the devs with their answers to many questions, including the state of Spirit Link. Their answer was not one I was all to keen on. Back on the 13th of July I appeared on the podcast Raid Warning with their Shaman Roundtable. I had the opportunity to talk with some amazing members of the shaman community and share ideas. While we were talking a fantastic point was made. Shaman are in need of an external cooldown.

Sure it seems like we have it all. Fame, power, sweet shoveltusk-ghost-shoulders, but the truth is we still have some holes in our healing arsenal that need to be addressed. Let me specify that a defensive cooldown is not an “OH SHIT!” ability like Nature’s Swiftness. I’m talking about cooldowns that are used in anticipation of something bad happening instead of reactionary (with a couple exceptions).

Let us compare to other healers.


Pain Suppression – Lets face it, this spell has come in handy on more boss fights than you would normally consider. Every 3 minutes Discipline priests can reduce the incoming damage on a target by 40% for 8 seconds. That is a large number, and while 8 seconds might not seem like a lot of time, 8 seconds can wind up being just enough to mitigate a boss mob’s large nasty spell or ability. If you Glyph it, you can even cast it while your stunned!  This is a great raid leading ( or heal leading) shot gun, and honestly has saved our rears quite a few times.

Guardian Spirit – Holy priests are not left without a big cooldown. Like pain suppression, this spell is on a 3 minute cooldown and increases healing received on the target by 40%. If the person dies while guardian spirit is active, the spirit will instead be consumed and the person will be healed immediately for 50% of their maximum health. It lasts for 10 seconds on the target and with the Glyph, if it lasts the entire 10 seconds without being consumed your cooldown gets reset to 1 minute. As a healing lead I love abusing this talent. It is a net, a nice cushion-esque net. You can set it on a tank and if you got OOM or have to move and cant push healing, it buys you time. Minimizing risk and compensation for “oops” is part of every raid leaders job, and cooldowns like this can help a ton.


Tranquility – 8 minute cooldown for a massive area of effect heal. There have been plenty of fights where this has come in handy, and rotations have been set up between multiple druids. Tranquility is another “buys you time” spell. It heals everyone around the druid for a sizeable chunk of health every 2 seconds for 8 seconds, but those 4 pulses of healing can spell defeat or victory as it allows you to help mitigate massive AoE damage and buys healers time to shift gears and compensate. It is often used when you expect massive amounts of raid wide damage.

Rebirth – This spell carries a 10 minute cooldown and a material component in order to cast it, but in this case the effect is greater than the cost by leaps and bounds. Rebirth brings a player who has died back to life with about 6k health and almost 5k mana. Doesn’t sound like a whole lot right? Well if you didn’t know, it is the only resurrection spell that can be cast while in combat. This is huge! Sometimes, things go bad and there is nothing you can do to stop it. A DPS ganks aggro and splats before you can heal them, but you need them alive in order to make the enrage timer. If you have a druid handy this is not an issue, they can bring that person back up and help complete the task at hand. If the druid is using the Glyph, it returns the target of the res with FULL health. This is an amazing cooldown to be able to call on in those particularly awful fights. While this one is a reactionary ability, I think it still fits in with the “defensive” cooldown abilities so I’ve made an exception and included it in the list.


Hand of Sacrifice – 2 minute cooldown and it transfers 30% of the damage taken on the target to the paladin for 12 seconds or until the paladin takes damage equal to their total health. The paladin can still use their bubble while using hand of sac in order to mitigate the damage they are receiving and it can be very strategically used to bleed off normally lethal damage on the tank. Divine Sacrifice is an area affect version of this spell that redirects 30% of all damage within 30 yards to the paladin for a maximum of 40% of the paladin’s health times the number of party members.

Hand of Protection – 5 minute cooldown but it makes the target completely from physical attacks for 10 seconds. This can be a great way to drop physical debuffs or just to protect someone from getting 1-shot. This was very useful in Trial of the Crusader.


I’m having a hard time thinking of anything I can consider a preemptive defensive cooldown. HeroLust is an offensive ability as is both of our elementals. Everything else we have that has a cooldown is reactionary (Nature’s Swiftness). I can’t count Reincarnation in this either as while it is nice to be able to resurrect yourself, finding the timing to do so with all the environmental effects and boss abilities are going off, as well as not being able to rez yourself at, you still only rez with a maximum of 40% of your health. With no buffs it is very easy just to splat again. In a large raid where there is a group of healers to pull abilities from this isn’t such a big thing. But when you start talking about smaller raids it is at that point it starts to become an issue.

Now with Cataclysm on the horizon a few things are happening that make this an issue that needs to be addressed. First of all, raid sizes will be smaller. Now I don’t mean blizzard is taking away 25 man raiding, but they are evening out gear distribution and content to be consistent from 10 man to 25 man. The only difference will be how much of the loot drops from 10 man compared to 25 man. My prediction is that this will cause a lot more 10 man raiding groups to pop up. While the game has come a long way from 40 man raids, organizing 25 man raids can be just as stressful.  The ability to gain the same gear from 10 mans that you do from 25 mans removes some of the incentive to actually run 25 man raids. The facts is, organizing 10 people is easier than 25.

Healing is being tuned to be quite a bit harder both on the healer themselves in terms of mana management but also for groups in terms of damage output. Having had first hand experience in the new 5 mans in cataclysm I can tell you healing has become much more difficult. There were several times where I wish I had something I could toss up on a group member so I could keep healing the tank without having to choose which of the two would die (and there were several instances in which someone WILL die), or a few occasions where a tank was getting pummeled hard and could have used something to either help mitigate the damage or use as a life line.

It is in these smaller groups (5 and 10 man content) that our distinct lack of an external cool down to help those around us mitigate damage or act as prevention really is highlighted. This means in smaller group compositions another healer type may wind up being preferable. Keep in mind that in current content external cooldowns have been used to help tanks and raids quite a bit. Examples include but are not limited to; Vezaxx with pain Suppression and Guradrian Spirit were big deals and on hard mode you almost had to have them available. Ormokk the Impailer was cake with a paladin with Hand of Prot and bubbles, and Tranquility owns the air phase on Blood Queen. These are just a few examples

The Fix

The first thing that comes to mind is that we honestly need an external cooldown. The concept of Spirit Link could very easily fill that gap. Now there is a concern that players would use it to kill other players and exactly how the mechanic would work, but there are a couple ways this could be balanced.

You can certainly make it analogous to Divine Sacrifice. Traditionally and lore wise, shaman have always been the protectors of their people both in health and physical defense. Calling upon the powerful spirits and ancestors to guide them, making offerings to produce better hunts or harvests. The idea of a AoE Spirit Link on a long cooldown could be quite nice.

Spirit Link: Instant cast 3 minute cooldown

The shaman calls upon the spirits of their ancestors to watch over their companions and help ease their burdens and suffering

30% of all damage taken by party members within 40 yards is redirected to the Shaman (up to a maximum of 50% of the Shaman’s health times the number of party members).  Damage which reduces the Shaman below 20% health will break the effect.  Lasts 15 sec.

I could see something like that couldn’t you? Could also be handy if say it could also be affected by Ancestral Resolve, we could get that much more out of it. It also stays true to the original thought and feeling behind the spell.

Maybe make it like a healing Misdiretion, where it will still be on a long cool down but maybe transfers a portion of the damage off of x number of swings or impose a time limit. maybe something like:

Spirit Link: Instant cast 3-5 minute cooldown

The current party or raid member targeted will receive 30% of the damage dealt to a secondary target for the next 10 seconds. Any effect that reduces the targets health below 50% will cancel the effect.

These aren’t perfect but it is an idea at least. It really is the only tool we are missing. A long defensive cooldown. The other classes all have their cookies and flavors for this, and with groups potentially thinning down, and with healing being changed as it is, it is personally something I think the class needs. Just… call it Spirit Link to humor me is all I ask! Once we have that I think our healing tool-set will be complete, and then we will truly be princes of the universe! (bet you were wondering why I linked a Queen song up at the top ;])

So what do you think? Do you think shaman need that defensive cooldown? What would you make it? would you change any of our spells to fill the gap?

That is it for this week folks. Happy Healing!

23 thoughts on “Why Resto Shaman Need a Defensive Cooldown, or Another Spirit Link Post”

  1. Tranquility – Heals all nearby group members for 3035 every 2 seconds for 8 sec. Druid must channel to maintain the spell.

    Tranq only heals nearby party members. Not, alas, the raid. But really, if you are going to count a channeled limited AoE heal as a defensive cooldown, I think Reincarnation ought to count too, no? Its not a very good defensive cooldown, I admit, since it only applies to you.

    I agree that shaman need a defensive cooldown, but so too do druids. It would make both classes much more effective tank healers.

  2. I find it confusing that you include Rebirth in your external cooldowns list, but claim that Reincarnation doesn’t count. While the cooldown is admittedly long, it’s certainly a very effective tool; we have saved many many wipes thanks to the ability of our shaman healer in 10-man to reincarnate.

  3. @christopher Honestly the reasoning is if you die to something, and it sits on top of you (i.e. fire) chances are likely you wont be able to pop long enough to do anything. It also only affects yourself, you can’t use it to resurrect yourself. So if you stay reasonably safe, (i.e. don’t stand in the fire) it never really gets used. However statistically when something goes wrong, someone is dying. I’ve seen tanks die to lag spikes and server hiccups only to have rebirth bring them back up to finish the encounter. The ability to choose who is resurrected in the middle of combat is what makes it an external defensive cooldown. Reincarnation is an internal one, which while it has been handy does not give you the ability to res anyone other than yourself. That’s the reasoning behind it.

  4. Tranquility will be a raid-wide heal in Cataclysm. This has been conformed.

    I agree! The Sacrifice spells that paladins have make perfect sense for Spirit Link, especially since it’s a unique raid tool that doesn’t get used often. The problems they’re having with spirit link now is that it’s tying 2 targets together, and for some reason, the Rogue doesn’t want to get hit with Tank damage.

  5. Tranquility (in LK) is really better as a reactionary ability, and not used in anticipation of an oh-crap moment. At Tree haste levels it lasts only about 5s, and heals only people (and pets) in your party (not the entire raid).

    Druids anticipate damage with HoTs (Rejuv, Regrowth, Lifebloom, even Wild Growth) which continue to heal for seven to twenty-seven seconds after the cast.

    For one or two targets, Tranquility heals for less than Nourish-spam. For three targets its healing per cast time is less than his other HoTs. For ‘x’ targets, its healing per cast time is less than Wild Growth’s (but WG has a 6s cooldown, so WG/Tranq/WG can be very strong).

    Although Tranquility may be raid-wide in cata, we don’t know how strong it will be, or what the raid-wide mechanism will be (perhaps smart-heal of 5 lowest-health raiders).

  6. Lodur, while I can see your reasoning behind listing Tranq and Rebirth – I’d like to state that rebirth is a reactionary spell and therefore more defensive. ‘Oops, tank died, let me rez him quickly’ versus ‘Oh hell, tanks about to take a big hit, he could die, let me put wings on him’.

    • @Big.Daddy Yeah, I understand that. I mentioned that in the post too. I know it is a reactionary spell, but I thought it deserved a place among the Defensive cooldowns.

  7. Thinking long and hard on the subject… the only thing I can think of that shamans have that remotely fits the bill is…

    grounding totem? 😛

    Maybe I am spoiled as a pally and my wish to be a shaman was premature?

  8. While I agree that shamans should get a defensive cooldown, I think druids should too (for use on another player, ex. the tank). They both need something they can toss on tanks, Blizzard just needs to figure out a way to implement these without throwing arena balance out the window (which we all know is harder said than done). You are right; rebirth and reincarnation are different spells, but they both have advantages and disadvantages. One thing about rebirth is, what if the druid dies? Especially since we seem to be discussing healers here, a dead healer means raid wipe more often than not in difficult encounters unless the situation can be fixed. So basically, you have reincarnation which is useless if you die in a fire or AoE effect (lol….), and then you have rebirth which is useless because you can’t use it while dead, and have to just hope there’s ANOTHER druid in the raid to rez you so you can use your rez on someone else.

    Having healed raids on both my druid and shaman I have to say I feel a lot more comfortable healing tanks on my shaman than I do on my druid (what can I say, I fell in love with shaman healing!), which seemed sensible to me since shamans lack the ability to pre-hot the entire raid so they would need another ‘niche’ they could half-fill. Blizzard is trying to make healers choose more carefully with their mana though in Cataclysm, so this might encourage “spammers” to choose what they cast more carefully. This also might mean that good mana efficiency could be an avenue by which Blizzard can give some healers an advantage over others in different ways. 🙂

    All that being said, I can’t wait for my shaman to get her “cast while moving” cooldown, Spiritwalker’s Grace. It will be so awesome!

  9. Couldn’t Earth Shield be counted among the tools that can help prepare for incoming damage.
    Sure, it doesn’t have a CD, but I know I feel a lot safer when my tank has a shield up for damage spikes.

    And while I like the idea of a Spirit Link as presented here, I think I would like to see a threat reduction effect incorporated in it. That is the area I think shamans really suffer. I toss points into Improved Reincarnation just because death is my only aggro dump.

  10. I like the concept of bringing Spirit Link into the game, but your interpretation of it reads exactly the same as the Divine Guardian tooltip with different numbers.

    It needs to have its own distinct flavour of sharing damage among party members but without making that abusable to kill people. Perhaps by a simple note that Spirit Link damage cannot kill a target.

  11. I’m sorry, I do not like this post. It just seems to me like you’re trying TOO hard to make your point.

    A person who got rebirth cast on them also appears on the place they died so the same problem with “not dying in a fire right after rezz” also applies for rebirth.
    And it’s not like they come back with all their buffs on either <.<.

    Actually all the problems you've mentioned with reincarnation also goes for rebirth with the added bonus that you're dependent on another person to cast it and all the things that can go wrong with it.

    Oh yeah! and the amount people come back with IS little. There are points in a fight (think: Blood-queen after second air phase here) where it's impossible to ress people as they simply do not come back with enough health to survive long enough to be healed. Fortunately that's not the case often.

    Sorry for the long post, it just annoyed me how easily you rubbed off all the problems that come with battle-rezzing, felt I had to let people know rebirth aint that easy a spell to use.

    And seriously, if you think rebirth is a spell worthy of the title "good oh-shit ability that does more than heal-alot-really-fast" then so should reincarnation

  12. Honestly, I felt you tried too hard to prove your point about shamans being the ONLY class without a ‘defensive cooldown.’
    While it’s true that priests and paladins have plenty, druids actually don’t have a ‘tank cooldown’ either, which is basically what it seems like you’re shooting for for shamans.
    You stated “I’m talking about cooldowns that are used in anticipation of something bad happening instead of reactionary (with a couple exceptions).” which I’m sure you threw in the parenthesis solely so you could give druids something under their name, because both of the spells there are still reactionary. We DON’T have something we can throw on a tank, or on a raid member who might have dc’d in Sindy’s Frost Blast; all we can do is HOT like crazy and hope it’s enough.
    You will almost NEVER see a resto druid casting Tranquility. I’ve only cast it a handful of times EVER because the party-wide mechanism is so useless [generally]. And if you’re going to throw in Tranquility, you might as well throw in priest’s hymn, since it’s basically the same mechanism, but better, since it can hit anyone in the raid.
    I find it amusing you pointed out all the flaws with shaman’s Reincarnation; “you still only rez with a maximum of 40% of your health. With no buffs it is very easy just to splat again” while “Rebirth brings a player who has died back to life with about 6k health and almost 5k mana.”
    I’m pretty sure 6k life is less than 40% of 20k [or more with the ICC buff].
    Also, I feel like Earth Shield is worth a mention. It’s an external spell that can be cast on other players when you anticipate them pulling aggro, or taking melee damage [which is usually a tank, but can sometime be a dps or even yourself…oh, and it gives pushback reduction]. Granted, it’s only melee, and not ALL damaging attacks, but it still should be worth a mention.

    I play both a shaman and druid healer; I honestly feel the lack of external cooldown a lot more strongly with my resto druid than I do with my shaman, even though my druid is much better geared.

  13. What shaman takes improved reincarnation? Most of the time, the shaman will be coming back up with 20% of their health which will be less than what the druid rebirth will bring you back with.

  14. “What shaman takes improved reincarnation?”
    The same kind of druid that uses Tranquility on a regular basis or glyphs Rebirth.

  15. I agree that shaman could use a defensive cooldown and Spirit Link has always sounded like a really cool spell.

    However, like most commenters, I completely disagree with your analysis of druids. We don’t have any defensive cooldowns either. Tranquility is next to useless in a 25man raid (and even the description of how it will behave in Cata only seems marginally more useful). Rebirth, while an awesome spell in general, is not in any way defensive.

    Do you think defensive cooldowns will be as useful in Cataclysm? I’m thinking with the increased health levels there won’t be as many situations where if the tank doesn’t get a Pain Suppression or a Hand of Sacrifice they die. Of course reduced damage is always good, but I don’t think druids and shaman will be at too much of a disadvantage for not having one.

  16. I think the real problem with the creation of a Shaman defensive cooldown is that they want it to feel different from the other cooldowns already out there. If they give Shamans another bubble-sac or raid-wall, then they’re just that: bubble-sac and raid-wall. They’re boring and homogeneous raid abilities that are really only there to make the class more viable in 10man raiding.

    It’s likely that the entire “cooldown management” model is here to stay for tanking on fights. Lich King and Soul Reapers are probably going to be repeated on a vast majority of Cataclysm fights. Thus Shamans obviously need something that keeps their resto spec viable at the top-end of raiding.

    A cool direction to go with Spirit Link would be to give a cooldown that completely mitigates X number of attacks. For example:
    “You link your target with the spirit realm, causing the next 8 direct damage attacks against them to deal no damage.”

    It’s very different and opens the door for a lot of cool boss encounters that could be designed with it in mind.

  17. ToL in cata is the big CD for druids.
    LoH for pallies definitely needs to be mentioned in here as well for the major pally cd.

    I like the idea of Spirit Link acting as a reverse Divine Guardian. Transfers x% of dmg from a single target to all raid or party members. Effectly take tank dmg and make it raid dmg. This would help with reducing tank burst as well as take some thought about when to use (as you wouldnt want to hit it when there is strong raid dmg coming in at the same time.)

  18. I think you’re incorrectly dismissing Heroism/Bloodlust as a preemptive tool for healing. While it’s normally considered a DPS boost, it affects _all_ spellcasting, including heals, so it also is an HPS boost. When ICC25 plague wing first opened, my guild used heroism on Festergut’s 3rd inhale to provide an on-demand boost in HPS to keep the tank up.

    • @Strum I’m not dismissing it at all, but the fact of Heroism / Blood lust is that while it is a good cooldown, from a shaman perspective it doesn’t add quite enough. Haste is something a lot of healers are stacking. I’ll use shaman as an example, at about 1300 haste your average shaman will be throwing around 1.7 second cast chain heals. (this accounts for ret / boomkin and totem) with heroism / blood lust active that pushes it to 1.6 seconds. While that 0.1 second reduction in cast time is nice, it isn’t that significant of a boost. With other healing classes they may see more benefit from you using it as they may not stack as much haste, but it doesn’t compare to say Divine Sacrifice as far as defensive cooldowns are concerned. To me it is more of an on demand raid buff often times at the mercy of the raid leader’s discretion when to use it, and so becomes more of a raid tool than a cooldown you yourself can dictate when to use. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE my heroism and I am not attempting to discount it or dismiss it, just stating it’s not so much a defensive cooldown so much as it is a raid utility cooldown.

  19. Hi. I play all of the healing classes at end game tho mainly i raid on disc/holy priest, resto druid and my baby resto shammy. To be honest in a progression guild which my priest was in until recently nearly all your cool downs have been assigned a spot by the healing lead eg when sindy comes down, or soul reapers, or etc. Bosses that are closer to farm you get more control over your cds eg marrow, fester. (Im speaking of heroic attempts here cepting lk, but I’m sure the same holds true for guilds progressing these at nomral levels.)

    I definitely wouldn’t call tranquility a cooldown, when I’m healing on my shammy vs my druid I feel the same lack of external cds. Tranquility doesn’t cut it because — i’m probably not in the tan’s party, if i am in the tank’s party someone else might be taking damage, 50% of the fights i will need to move during channeling, during channeling my hots will fall off of other raid members and my overall usefulness will drop. On my priest my PS and GS are a 1 gcd cast and I know visibly that my GS has saved lived many times. Even a pally’s DG isn’t channeled. As a note I use Divine Hymn on BQL on her second air phase (this too is dictated by the healing lead other pries tin 25 goes first, in tens i go second even if no other priest cause theres more damage later) — I use DH second transition LK (not dictated but smart) — my point being I guess i could use tranq in the same places as a druid but I don’t — because of the party wide limitation.

    When I healed ICC10 on my just-adequately geared shammy with a druid friend and an ele shammy going resto for 3rd healer i strongly felt the lack of a DG, HOS, GS, PS equivalent. To people who say ES is a cd — do you seriously consider a priest PWS as a cd on par with GS? because it’s not. It’s a nice buffer but it ought to be on the tank, or whovers taking most melee damage all the time. That’s not a cd; that;s a normal part of healing, nice and cool nonetheless but not an external cd.

  20. The biggest issue that I have with Spirit Link is how do you translate the WC3 ability to WoW? Here’s the text from WC3 as a refresher:

    Spirit Link
    Links 4 units together in a chain. All units with Spirit Link on them will live longer, by distributing 50% of the damage they take across other Spirit Linked units.

    This is most definitely not an ability that translates well into WoW. And it’s something that arguably another class already does; Paladins via Hand of Sacrifice and Divine Sacrifice. The only way I could see it working is by allowing you to predesignate a target for the link, but the only way to do that in the game currently is by setting a focus target. Not nearly ideal enough for folks who don’t dig into mechanics much. Given that the game allows you to designate tanks now thanks to dungeon finder, you could link the target to the tank, but then you’re just duplicating an ability, which honestly isn’t very interesting.

    As to whether or not shaman need another ability or cooldown, I personally don’t think so. I’ve played the class since launch. I’m out of raiding these days, due to a crazy schedule. However, I have raided with the class as it sits today, and it feels more complete than it ever has; I’d honestly say that we have too many cool downs as is.

  21. If I was a Blizzard designer, and on the lookout to give both druids and shamans a single target (tank) cooldown, which I can see an argument for, they would be:

    Shaman: Elemental Empowerement. An activated ability on the Earth Elemental where it merges with the target in some way. Granting damage reduction, or increased HP for a certain amount of time, after which the elemental dies. Ability only usuable the first x amount of seconds after the elemental has been summoned. (could also be added to the fire elemental to grant a damage buff, sort of like a burst dps cooldown for the target, think Power Infusion)

    Druid: Shield of Thorns: Target becomes encased in a shield that absorbs the next X amount of damage, where X is the remaining heals left on druids hots on target. (bit more polished obviously, I’m not going to throw actual numbers out there) Basically this works like Swiftmend I think (not a druid connaisseur) but gives the tank or whoever you dont want to die a sort of big Disc shield.

    I don’t see giving these cooldowns to both classes as gamebreaking. It homogenizes healing classes more, but I don’t mind sharing at all (my main is a Disc priest). I’d rather have some more survival options in case of trouble. The question is of course, do we still need powerful cooldowns in the new healing scheme?


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