Since the build for this heal style is the cookie cutter 0/13/54+4 with required points in AA and Imp. WS, this is more of a "how it works in practice" article and assumes you're stacking crit by wearing eleshaman gear. My theorycraft backing for this is located in this spreadsheet (google docs), from which you can draw your own conclusions and which I'd appreciate vetting. Thanks to Daidalos for providing the intial spreadsheet.
LHW in depth
The LK LHW offers:
- Good efficiency - Talented LHW costs 626 mana. Talented water shield returns 492.2 per globe, or 78.6% of the spell cost on crit. With the 2t7 bonus plus full talents, water shield returns 535 mana, or 85.4% of the spell cost. These are both significantly better than illumination, but are offset by the need to regularly refresh water shield.
- Medium Throughput - The throughput of LHW spam is good but will never approach the amount a pally bombing 2 second Holy Lights. It is, however, considerably higher on a glyphed target than any other 1.5 second cast, putting it squarely in the medium heal range priests have been requesting since the downranking nerf.
- Fast reaction time - With tidal waves up and WoA down, the heal hits in < .9 seconds. You have to wait out the GCD but the heal is delivered very fast.
- Crits proc Inspriation - It's called Ancestral Fortitude but the real name is inspiration. 25% armor bonus 100% of the time is simple to hit even with basic gear due to all the crit talents. The warrior/pally tanks I was running heroics with were reporting about a 5% increase in the reduction from armor on their paper doll tooltip.
- 195% crits - Crits are traditionally not counted in healing mechanics, but I believe that this is a mistake in the case of LHW. I've been healing reactively rather than proactively so my overheal is in the 10-20% range and my Ancestral Awakening overheal is under 5%. HW crits still seem to be mostly overheal.
- Nice Totem - At the time of writing, totems at 80 aren't really itemized. The changed from supplying resilience on target (s1-s4) to providing 204, 236, and 263 SP. With Naxx levels of SP in the 2.1-2.3k range, this offers a ~10% SP boost rather than the CH's ~10% discount.
- High Earthliving uptime on the tank.
All in all, much improved from the BC state and a solid general purpose spell.
AA is 30% of the amount actually healed by your crit. The heal arrives approxiamently 1 GCD after the crit lands and heals the lowest health member --determined by the lowest percentage of total health-- of your group or raid regardless of whether the crit target is in your party or not. This does include pets, so you can feel good about saving the ghouls, felguards, and kitties of the world when you're tank is getting pounded.
The delay is the crucial thing for making this ability good and further favors reactive LHWs. When timed naturally (i.e. you wait for a hit to land with tidal waves up and cast when it does), the LHW will land, top off the tank, the next hit comes in the gap, and the AA+ES will hit to fill the gap. The two together are roughly equal to a non-crit LHW at 2k SP, so crits that top off the tank provide a buffer for the water shield refresh.
I have seen multiple people commenting that AA isn't worth taking because its a small portion of a shaman's healing output. This is true if you're primarily using CH, but the amount depends entirely on your crit rate and amount of LHW. I am running 40-45% LHW crit in raids and if I am just LHW spamming, it's normal for me to see 15% of my overall output from AA.
Riptide is a nice way to proc TW on a single target. When the tank is on an avoidance streak, I'll RT when he gets hit. This is fairly safe because an ES goes off at the same time and I have a fast LHW following. If the boss hits particularly hard and the tank is on an avoidance streak, I'll RT just for the buff+hot and be ready for the hit. I use it just before I refresh my water shield since it gives me a fast LHW to catch up from the missed GCD.
For raid healing, it heals for more than a non-crit LHW does, so I use it on slightly more damaged raid members when I'm raid healing and let the hot+AA take care of them. I also use it as the first heal on a melee dps since it provides TW for immediately taking care of the tank and sets up a big chain heal within range of the tank for later.
Since this benefits from all the single target talents, RT is quite a bit less expensive with a crit heavy build and you can freely use it in conjunction with LHW spam. For pure throughput on a single target, it's not that useful and I normally won't hit it just for the haste when I'm tank healing.
Healing Wave is primarily useful in combo with a tidal waves+NS macro for emergency saves. HW is poor for general use. With Healing Way completely stacked, HW spam only offers only slightly (~15%) more HPS over glyphed LHW with comparable/lower efficiency. If you can't keep Healing Way up, it's considerably worse on both counts. Note that the Healing Wave glyph only works off effective healng.
Because Tidal Waves only reduces the cast time of LHW and HW and doesn't affect the GCD, HW with tidal waves up is the highest spammed HPS spell we have since LHW is GCD capped. For single target healing, CH and RT's initial heal offer comparable HPS. If RT is already on the target, then CH offers higher HPS. So for tank healing where you're truly spamming, RT->HW->HW->CH->HW->HW is the most HPS you can put out.
Chain Heal is still a good spell. If you can hit 3+ targets with CH, then CH is generally the most useful spell to cast. Building up a healing set with 'normal' healing stats (i.e. Haste/mp5) is recommended since some raid fights are simply better handled with CH spam.
The HEP calculations here are done off 2080 SP, 42.3% raid crit, and 15% haste (my current stats) and are based on pure LHW spam.
Int is the best all around stat for any shaman healer. You want to gem for int more or less regardless of your playstyle as long as you have any concerns about mana. 100 Int grants (assuming BoK):
- 1815 increase in your mana pool
- 20.4 mp5 from replenishment with a 90% uptime
- 7.25 mp5 from Mana Tide on cooldown (435 mana per tide)
- 36.3 SP to heals
- .726% crit
For LHW spam, crit is primarily a regen stat and because we get such high returns from imp. WS on LHW spam, it's a pretty good regen stat that scales with haste in addition to being a decent throughput stat. Every 2% crit takes about 10 mana off the effective cost of LHW. At no haste, this would be 33.3 mp5 for spammed LHW, at 15% haste, that ups to 38.3 mp5. In terms of itemization budget, 100 crit rating (2.17%) is equal to 40 mp5. The 2t7 bonus is additive, so these numbers are exactly 10% higher with that bonus. For throughput, 198 Crit Rating provides the same increase as 120 SP or about half the effectiveness.
Haste provides an excellent increase in HPS per itemization point but no increase in HPM. For throughput, 109 haste provides the same HPS increase as 120 SP, so slightly worse per itemization point for pure HPS at this level of SP. The one thing particularly nice about haste is that it lowers the GCD time of all the water shield refreshes high crit LHW causes. It tends to be itemized along with mp5 on mail because it's useful for increasing CH HPS without generating a lot of overheal on the first target.
With the downranking nerf, SP is no longer the best stat, but it is a very good stat for throughput. You'll get plenty on your gear and the best enchants are all SP, so you don't particularly need to go out of your way to get it. If you decide you have more mana than you need, SP would be the next stat to start gemming.
Mana per 5 seconds
The primary use case for this stat is in speed runs. Individual fights aren't generally long enough for mp5 to deliver more mana than int per point and crit provides comparable longevity on LHW spam along with all its other benefits.
Obviously, the is essential to this style. The (30 mp5) is also very nice because you will have very little mp5 on your gear and a bit of mp5 from another source goes a long way. The third glyph is more interesting. I prefer for raids and for heroics. There are very few heroic fights that favor straight CH spam (Loken, the 3rd boss in Oculus if you have melee) while I find a use for Healing Stream in almost every instance.
The provides only a 3% increase in crit healing. If you're familiar with the family, you might expect more, but that's only the case when you have talents that directly increase the value of the crit bonus. This meta is still the strongest bonus for throughput given a healthy crit rate, but its advantage over the is minor. The would be the best for longevity.
This post brought to you by the letters L & W, the number 9, and the joy of holiday travel.
Update 11/29: I'd initially thought that gheal spam outdid LHW spam, but I'll now say that they're comparable when you ignore WS refreshes.
Update 11/30: Finally got a parse with 2t7, post updated accordingly.
Update 12/06: AA seems to be percent based targeted rather than absolute
Last updated 2008-12-06, patch 3.0.3