You can queue for your first dungeon at level 15. As we assume your goal is to use your resto spec in dungeons while leveling, we will get started at this level. You will have at least 10 spells available at this point and one talent row to configure.
Modifying your gear to improve your leveling experience:
- Consider putting a spirit enchant on an heirloom item to always have a luxurious mana regeneration. You don’t have to go to extremes with this, but having a little goes a long way.
- Intellect is your first and foremost priority. The secondary stats critical strike and haste, benefit you. Picking up any of these stats will help in the leveling process. Mastery will become the most important secondary stat, but not until level 80.
Let’s cover the spells! At level 15 you have 3 damage spells available. Lightning Bolt is a single target cast. Primal Strike is a single target melee strike. And Flame Shock is an instant DoT (Damage-over-Time) that you can cast from a distance. The ranged damage spells of shamans usually don’t have a lot of range in comparison to other classes. So depending on the situation, you may find yourself moving a bit closer to a mob then you would otherwise with a ranged. Lightning Bolt and Flame Shock will stay part of your active spells all the way to max level end game content. Primal Strike however, will become irrelevant as soon as you choose a specialization (which is at level 10). Basically, take it off your bars – you will not have to use it.
At level 8, you gained an ability called Lightning Shield. This is the ‘shield’ of the Elemental specialization. You will have access to it until level 20. That’s when you will receive the Restoration version of it. Until then, whenever mobs hit you (in melee) they get hit by the shield.
You have two healing spells at this point: Healing Surge and Riptide. These spells will be part of your healing rotation now and at max level. Riptide is a so called HoT (Healing over Time) and Healing Surge is a fast single target heal that is rather mana expensive. Riptide is an instant single target heal, that continues to heal the target for 18 seconds. Until level 30, these two will remain your only healing spells. Giving you a bunch of time to get a feel for them. Use Riptide as often as you can (on cooldown). It is a good idea to always have Riptide ‘rolling’ on a tank. Tanks usually take damage. And even if the initial heal does not get the chance to do much, the HoT will pad the incoming damage over time.
At level 10, you gained a passive ability called Telluric Currents. All this does, is (passively) increase the damage of Lightning Bolt, Flame Shock, and Lava Burst (which you gain at level 34) with 100% and or those spells to cost no mana. This means that you will do ‘somewhat’ damage as resto (do not expect too much of it) and that you will always be able to cast them (due to them being mana-free).
Ancestral Spirit is your single target resurrection spell. It cannot be used in combat – unlike some other healer classes. Especially handy when someone still has a debuff from Mass Resurrection (since you will not get a debuff from being ressed by a healer / single target res).
Purge is a somewhat advanced ability for such a low level. To be fair, I am surprised it is already part of the skill set at this level. But it is, so let’s explain it. Purge removes 1 beneficial magic effect from your enemy target. Sometimes, mobs cast buffs on themselves. When they are not interrupted (or if it is not interruptible), you can sometimes remove such a buff by ‘purging’ it from the target. If you are rather new to the game, don’t get too focused on this ability. You can definitely make a big difference in instances (especially in end game) if you put this ability to good use. However, it is by no means necessary when you just get started with your shaman. Nor will you run into a lot of opportunities to use it in the first couple of levels.
Ghost Wolf! Your travel form in a way. It is an instant cast and gives you 30% movement speed increase.
And last but not least.. we have to pick a talent! The level 15 talent tree is all about defensives. You basically choose between a passive damage reduction and active damage reduction. Nature’s Guardian automatically procs when you are on low health. There is an internal cooldown on it, meaning that it can’t proc more often than once every (in this case) 30 seconds. Next to that, you have the option to choose either Stone Bulwark Totem and Astral Shift. Astral Shift absorbs more damage than Stone Bulwark Totem, but has a slightly longer cooldown.
Overall, if you feel like are ready to use an active defensive – choose Astral Shift. Unless you really need it available every 1 minute instead of every 1,5 minutes – in that case choose Stone Bulwark Totem. If you are a new player, you might feel more comfortable running with Nature’s Guardian. As you don’t have to think about when to use it. It will automatically work when you drop low on health.
Searing Totem. Your first real totem n’aww. This is a damage totem, it spews little bolts of fire at your target. Often used to min-max (optimize) damage output by resto shamans in end-game content, but not too important.
Wind Shear. Now this is a really important one. Your shaman interrupt. Like with most shaman caster spells, it has a slightly short range – 25 yards. However, it is one of the best interrupts in the game. It is only on a 12 second cooldown. If you manage to put this on a good keybind, and actively use it, you will make your dungeons a much better place. Healing does not exclude you from the responsibility to interrupt. In fact, it will make you a much better healer. You avoid damage by interrupting. A preventive style of healing if I may say so.
Purify Spirit. Another big one. This is your dispel. Every 8 seconds, you can remove all curse and magic effects from a friendly target. Consider it like Purge, but then usable on yourself and allies. This is really important. In dungeons and raids, debuffs often tick for large amounts on people in the group. This makes them at risk of dying when they take damage from other abilities. Therefore, we dispel them if we can. If you dispel on cooldown (this doesn’t happen very often), you may find yourself low on mana. Dispelling a target costs 16,39% of your mana. This is no problem for the occasional dispel, but just know it can cause you to drop low on resources if used often.
But how do you know when you can dispel someone? Many end-game healers use raid frames that are configured to light up in a different color when they can dispel someone (for example with Vuhdo). This is a situation you want to work towards if you are serious to get into healing in end-game scenario’s. If you don’t know how to set this up yet (or you’re just getting started as a healer), you can always get a little addon called Decursive. It will create little squares for each member of your team. Whenever someone is affected by a debuff you are able to remove, it will color up. You can then remove the debuff by clicking (configurable) on the square, of by using Purify Spirit on the affected member in the group/raid frames.
Water Shield. Remember how we discussed Lightning Shield? This is your restoration shield. You need to have this on you AT ALL TIMES. It works rather simple – every 5 seconds you receive mana if you have this shield up. Simple right? It only disappears if you let it run off (1 hour buff) or if you cast a different kind of shield on yourself, like Earth Shield. But more on that at level 26.
Water Walking. Oh yes! One of the goodies as a shaman. Do mind that if you get hit by something while walking over water, your buff is removed – meaning: you drop into the water again. The buff lasts for 10 minutes and you can cast it on allies too.
We can choose the first glyphs! At level 25, 50 and 75, both a major and minor glyph slot become available. If you want to know more about all interesting major glyphs, check out our glyph post! It will be a little bit difficult choosing your first glyphs, as a lot of them affect abilities you will learn at higher levels.
As a minor glyph, choose whatever you want. I can recommend just buying / crafting all of them. Not because they are needed, but because they’re loads of fun. Want to create a rain of frogs? Then maybe you should pick up ‘Rain of Frogs’. A lot of minor glyphs are applicable to spells you will learn later on. So check back on them later as well.
Earthbind Totem. A totem that drops next to your feet and that slows all enemies in 10 yards for 20 seconds. Mobs that are slowed can be kited more easily, and generally make it easier to kill them. Is a tank pulling large packs of mobs, then it might be helpful to use this totem. Are you being attacked by a mob, and are you running into melee? Perhaps dropping this totem will slow the mob(s) and prevent them from hitting you while the tank takes agro again.
Earth Shield. Most healers have single target damage reduction cooldowns. Resto shamans don’t really have that, but they do have Earth Shield. If a friendly target has Earth Shield on them, your heals on that target will be 20% more effective. On top of that, they will have 9 charges active for 10 minutes that trigger a small heal when they take damage. Earth Shield has been very strong in the past, but is not too exciting in present day. It can be useful to give Earth Shield to a target that you anticipate to take a lot of damage. Usually this is the tank, but in some situation a dps (dealing with specific mechanics) can be a good Earth Shield target too. Be careful with casting Earth Shield on yourself. Since you can only have one shield active at the time, it will replace your Water Shield. Generally, you should avoid that situation. Keep Water Shield up on yourself, while you put Earth Shield on other friendly targets.
Chain Lightning. An AoE damage spell. A cast that hits three targets. It hits each target for less than a Lightning Bolt, but the sum of two is more than one Lightning Bolt. So only use this spell against multiple targets.
Healing Stream Totem. Finally! You’re a real resto shaman now! You just got access to your first real healing totem. This totem will heal someone in your party that is low on health, with frequent ticks for 15 seconds. It can be called a ‘smart heal’. It looks for the person with the lowest health, and heals that target. This ability is available every 30 seconds, make sure to use it as often as you can (on cooldown).
Totemic Recall. The idea is, if you remove your totems before their duration ends (when they despawn) – you will be refunded 25% of their mana. This used to be a thing in the past, but right now not so much. You can safely discard this and not put it on your bars. The mana cost of your totems is not affecting our gameplay in the current state of the game.
On level 30 you also have to select another talent. Your options are Frozen Power (rooting 1 target), Earthgrab Totem (rooting multiple targets and replaces Earthbind Totem – the AoE slow), and Windwalk Totem (cancelling/immuning slows and roots on your allies in 40 yards). I can highly recommend picking up Windwalk Totem. It is a great addition to your skill set as a resto shaman. You already have the ability to slow in single target (Frost Shock) and AoE (Earthbind Totem). Adding the ability to remove slows/roots that affect you AND your team, is just a great bonus.
Another one of those shaman goodies: Reincarnation. When you die, you will get the option to ‘resurrect’. Basically, you can combat res yourself. For those wondering, no this does not count towards the available resses in raids. You can’t this ability endlessly. It has a cooldown of 30 minutes. Meaning, the option to resurrect can’t occur more often than once per 30 minutes.
Astral Recall. Again, a shaman bonus. You get a second hearthstone. Starting to love shamans yet?
Grounding Totem. This is advanced shamanism, but oh so cool once you get the hang of it (again, I don’t understand why we would gain this ability so early on). The basic idea behind this totem is that a cast of an enemy (boss or random mob), will be absorbed by the totem – instead of hitting the target. This can avoid a simple fire bolt, but can also be used to counter fight mechanics in the end game scenario’s (for example preventing the purple void fire from spawning on Xhul’horac). This is a very strong tool if you know how to use it. Enjoy it while you can – before it disappears in Legion.
Resurgence. This passive shares the icon of Water Shield. The principle works like this: if your heal on someone crits – you get mana back. How much mana depends on the type of spell. You get most mana refunded from a Healing Wave that crits (which you learn at level 60). Followed by crits from Healing Surge, Riptide and Unleash Life (which you learn at level 81). Followed by crits from Chain Heal. In Mists of Pandaria, resurgence was incredibly powerful. Therefore, a lot of shamans tried to gather as much crit and haste as possible. That allowed them to spam Chain Heal, and not lose any mana. This has changed in Warlords. As you can see, crits from Chain Heals give a lot less mana back then other spells.
Chain Heal. The iconic resto shaman spell. A heal that first hits the target it is aimed at, and then continues to jump to (in total) 4 targets. Each target will be healed 10% than the previous target. Chain Heal does not jump from one target to another target if they are far apart. Instead the ‘chain’ will stop. In dungeons, everyone is usually close together. Losing Chain Heal ‘bounces’ (as it is usually referred to), is not very likely. When you join raids at max-level, you may find yourself in a different situation. Chain Heal is very powerful. In end game content, you should always try to always get the maximum amount of bounces.
The third tier of talents is available! Call of the Elements, Totemic persistence and Totemic Projection. A lot of new shamans tend to pick ‘Call of the Elements’. An understandable choice, since an extra Healing Stream Totem is probably very tempting. Totemic Persistence can be convenient on niche fights (again Xhul’horac), but is not a necessity. All totems can belong to one of four schools of elements: air, fire, earth and water. You can only have one totem of each school up at the same time. Using a second one of the same school, will destroy the first one. The ‘simple’ solution to this problem is not this talent, but knowing what totem belongs to what school. Luckily for you, we’ve made an overview. On our totem pageyou can see all the totems you can have and to what category they belong.
However, I want to try to persuade you to pick up the third talent: Totemic Projection. This allows you to move totems you already placed. Moving them can be convenient if you group moved to a new location, or if the mobs moved out of the totems’ range. The best convenience of this talent comes from being able to move Capacitator Totem (level 63) and Spirit Link Totem (level 70) after you initially dropped them. But more on that later.
First of all, you can grab another major and minor glyph! Go go get one. Since you have Healing Stream Totem now, that would be a great major to choose.
On top of that, you gain a new passive ability: Tidal Waves. This is one of those underlying concepts that I didn’t really get to understanding until I played my shaman for quite a while. Tidal Waves is a buff you can get that spices up your spell casting. Whenever you cast Chain Heal or Riptide, you gain this effect. If you then decide to cast either Healing Wave (level 60) or Healing Surge, you benefit from this. The Healing Wave would be 20% faster to cast, and the Healing Surge has 30% more chance to crit (remember crits refund mana). This is why alternating your casts slightly in end-game content is beneficial.
Tremor Totem. Another one of those amazing Shaman only things. This totem cancels fear, charm and sleep effects for not just you, but for your whole group. There is one catch: if the spell affects you too, you will have to cast it before you get feared/charmed/or put to sleep. You will not be able to cast it during one of those effects. If you want to help a group member, you can of course cast it after the effect is already on that person. This ability will also be removed in Legion, so enjoy it while it lasts.
Earth Elemental Totem. This totem summons (as the name says) an Earth Elemental. With a hefty 5 minute cooldown, this elemental will occasionally taunt enemies. Off you, and off tanks. Although tanks with a bunch of treat will usually not be too bothered by this, in low level dungeons the elemental might actually be successful in taunting. This is a great tool for questing.
At level 60, you receive two new spells and another set of talents to choose from. First of all you gain Healing Rain. A circle of healing in which up to 6 targets are healing for the duration of the rain (10 seconds). Being rather mana intensive (about 1/5th of your base mana) and not too efficient in healing, you don’t have to give this too much priority. If you are bored, and swimming in mana.. use it, it’s pretty. In Legion, this spell will play a more important role in shaman healing. Something that is welcome after not using it that much for an entire expansion. For those that are coming back to their shaman after Mists of Pandaria – no you can’t unleash your Healing Rain anymore (a combination of Healing Rain and Unleash Life – learned at level 81 – that is no longer working).
Secondly, Healing Wave. Your second single target (straight forward) heal. Now you can choose to either cast Healing Surge or Healing Wave. Healing Surge is a faster heal, but more mana expensive. Healing Wave is a slower heal, but cheaper. Remember how we discussed Tidal Waves at level 50? This meant that you could gain a stack of Tidal Waves through casting Riptide or Chain Heal. If you were to spend it on Healing Wave, the cast would be faster – which is great since it is a slow heal. If you were to spend it on Healing Surge, the cast had a high chance to crit (refunding mana – see Resurgence at level 40) – which is great since it is an expensive heal.
Last, but not least, the level 60 talent tree. Elemental Mastery, Ancestral Swiftness, and Echo of the Elements. In end game scenario’s resto shamans usually alter between Ancestral Swiftness and Echo of the Elements. Echo of the Elements mostly because “double” Spirit Link Totem (level 70). Counting those abilities as ‘double’ isn’t exactly true. When you start a fight, you have two charges available, which will recharge at the normal ‘cooldown’ time. This gives you initially an extra charge of the spell, but after that they will recharge normally. The other benefit is that if you spend two, after the first one is recharged you continue to recharge the second one. Leaving room for ‘catching up’ later with the one you otherwise should have spent earlier. This is why so many people enjoy this talent for the ‘double’ Riptides. It is more lenient in keeping up a lot of Riptides since you have more time to put them on a target before the charges go to waste. If all of this sounds like Chinese to you, don’t worry. Just let it be and return to this information once it is relevant to you.
So that leaves us with two options, Elemental Mastery and Ancestral Swiftness. The first offering you a cooldown (every 2 minutes) providing you with 30% haste for 20 seconds. The second one offers you a passive haste increase (so always effective) of 5% , plus an ability gives you the option to make a (nature) spell an instant cast every 1,5 minutes. An instant Chain Heal or Healing Rain is amongst the options. You can put down a Healing Rain at the target destination while your group is running, or turn two quickly succeeding Chain Heals into a mini cooldown with Ancestral Swiftness. Generally, Elemental Mastery is used to for ranking strategies (quickly bursting a ton of healing to pad meters). Ancestral Swiftness is the most commonly used talent if two Spirit Link Totems are not specifically necessary.
Your level 60 healing rotation
And there you have it, level 15-60 of restoration shaman. To conclude, this is what your resto shaman gameplay looks like at level 60:
Before starting a fight:
Your healing rotation:
- Riptide (on cooldown)
- Healing Stream Totem (on cooldown)
- Fill with Chain Heal, Healing Surge, and Healing Wave (depending on what suits best)
- If you are bored, full of mana, and your group is stacked: put down Healing Rain
Your DPS rotation (when there is nothing to heal):
Excelling at resto shaman gameplay:
- Interrupt casts with Wind Shear
- Remove buffs on enemy targets (if possible) with Purge
- Remove debuffs on friendly targets with Purify Spirit
- Slow groups of mobs with Earthbind Totem
- Absorb enemy casts with Grounding Totem
- Removing slows on yourself and your team with Windwalk Totem
- Prevent and / or remove sleep/fear/charm effects with Tremor Totem