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I have a priest and a shammy in World of Warcraft. My shammy is 85, but my priest is only 80. Thus far I've only used my shammy for dps and I've tried to stay away from making him a healer. My priest - although he is only level 80 - has always primarily been a healer (mostly just heroics with the occasional raid).

However, I've been throwing around the notion of dual spec'ing my shammy and making him a healer, which leads me to my question. Should I spend the time and gold on setting my shammy up as a healer, or should I work on leveling my priest up and just use him to heal. What is driving this question is a concern that I have as to whether shammy healing is really worth the effort or not. I've seen chat in the trade channel where player's specifically say that they need heals for a raid but not shammy heals. If I'd just seen this once then I wouldn't worry over it, but I've seen it multiple times.

Also, I was in a 5 man heroic last week and someone in the group asked which is the best healing class. The healer (who was a priest) responded that pallies and priests have it the best for healing right now. It's just little things like this that make me doubt it's worth my time to set up a healing spec on my shammy. Oh, and I did peruse the shammy forum with this in mind, and I saw a lot of posts from shammies griping that healing sucks as well.

EDIT: This question was posed on Jan. 12, 2011. It should be noted that any input given by board members upon this question might have been made obsolete due to patches, class changes, etc, or in other words, the accuracy of this question and its answer(s) is highly subjective to the passing of time.

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4 Answers 4

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First off: I would warn against basing any decision like this on month to month balance considerations. Things change so often in WoW that you should really decide based on how much you enjoy a particular classes playstyle, toolbox, and yes, even aesthetics. Healing Balance is Pretty Good right now. All five healing specs have a role to play, and a (25 man) raid which doesn't have the flexibility to see them all represented is a 25 man raid that is going to run into trouble. At the five man level, all five specs are more than capable of handling any content you'll see, though Discipline Priests in particular may find Heroics somewhat more challenging than most due to increased gear dependency.

That said, the current state of PvE healer balance at the high end is this: Priests are somewhat above average at Group and Raid healing - this is reflected by the nerfs to Prayer of Healing in the upcoming 4.0.6 patch, but those nerfs don't really change the overall state of things. Additionally, Priests bring extremely powerful cooldowns to a group such as Pain Suppression, Guardian Spirit, Leap of Faith, Divine Hymn, and Power Word: Barrier, all of which are defining abilities that have had entire strategies built around them. If you see raids specifically looking for Priests to heal, this is why.

Shaman by contrast, are currently the kings of PvP healing because they are extremely durable, mobile thanks to the new Spiritwalker's Grace ability, and bring substantially more offensive utility than other healers thanks to Heroism/Bloodlust, Wind Shear, Totems and Purge. In PvE, every 25 man raid wants at least one Resto Shaman for Mana Tide - and 10 mans love to have it as well. Mana Tide is the single most powerful mana regen ability in the game, and it is absolutely essential for success for many groups in many encounters. Additionally, you may find it easier to gear up a Shaman for healing because there will be less competition on mail pieces with intellect than you will find on similar cloth pieces - and because if you already have decent DPS gear, you always have the option of DPSing your way to a healing set.

My advice to you? Try out healing on the shaman. Chain Heal, Spiritwalkers Grace, Riptide and Healing Rain are all enormously fun abilities, and the Shaman healing style is unique among healers in WoW. Unless you're pushing bleeding edge content the class balance issues seen there are going to be largely moot for you - what matters much more is your own competence and gear.

As an aside, checking the WoW forums will always find you nothing but gripes. A saying I'm fond of is that the forums are as much an indicator of players happiness as a hospital is an indicator of public health.

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Awesome answer! I really don't PvP much with this guy, so I have no interest in PvP healing, and life doesn't permit me to raid much either, but I do get time to run perhaps one heroic a day. Your knowledge of the class is well-founded, it seems. Do you by chance have a shaman yourself? –  Jagd Jan 12 '11 at 20:14
    
I have to completely agree with this answer. I have a shaman myself, dualspeced for dps and healing and almost every 25man i respec for specific encounters, because having a shammy healer is extremely helpful for some encounters. Also it is true you will find it much easier to gear up because the competition is considerably lower on mail healing gear than on cloth or even plate. –  PeterK Jan 13 '11 at 9:30
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While the 4.0.6 patch doesn't necessarily change the balance of the healer hierarchy, it should be noted that Blizzard is definitely aware of the overall gap between the healers at the moment, as is made obvious by the PvE related Resto Shaman/Druid buffs and the slight nerf to the "spammy" PoH Holy builds. It obviously remains to be seen as to how much the scales will tip as time goes on, of course. –  TheQ Jan 13 '11 at 18:58
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Play the class that you enjoy playing the most. Otherwise all you'll see will be the problems.

I've got a lvl 85 resto sham, ilevel approx 339 and I really enjoy healing with him.

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Wow is a constant shifting tide of balance and class changes. With this being said I find it very difficult to pick a class by whats good at the moment. Chances are within two months the good class will have been nerfed and the poor class buffed.

With that being said here is my take:

By playing 1 character you expose yourself to better gear then if you try and play two characters. As a character that can fulfill both roles your chances of getting into frequent raids is probably higher (same is true for a priest as well if you dual spec). So to answer your initial question, I don't think its that important which healer class you pick just so long as you enjoy it as it will be balanced soon anyway. However, I would be careful about trying to play two 85's because your gear will be split two ways. If you really want to be competitive, focus on one or the other.

With this patch I believe priests are more capable pve healers, but that is likely to change as gear increases and as Blizzard balances the game.

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Priest is ALWAYS better than a shammy for heals. Period.

EDIT: Based on my experiences in 5 man heroics, groups tend to be far more successful with a priest healer over a shaman healer. There are fewer wipes, and healer level is less of an issue; e.g. a lower level priest can keep up, and a similar leveled shaman can't. So all things being equal, a priest is a better, more capable healer. I don't raid much anymore, so I can't speak to that situation.

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This is just flatly untrue. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Jan 12 '11 at 17:43
    
Simple: Ask a lvl 85 heroic group who needs a healer who they'd rather have, a priest or a shaman. What will the answer be? Most groups I've played with will opt for the priest every time. –  morganpdx Jan 12 '11 at 17:52
    
@morgan Then you must be running with some pretty bad groups. If we're talking about Heroic 5 mans here and there isn't a Mage or a DPS shaman around, I'd want the Resto for Heroism every time. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Jan 12 '11 at 17:58
    
@Less that may be so, but we seem to do ok. I am a mage tho, so there's that. –  morganpdx Jan 12 '11 at 18:02
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This is like saying, "Hunter is better than Death Knight, period." You're not making an apples to apples comparison. Shaman's have some huge abilities that can be critical for some fights and make them more desirable than a priest, despite the priests edge in healing. –  Satanicpuppy Jan 12 '11 at 21:16
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