Thursday, September 13, 2012

Shaman or Monk: The Decision

Mists of Pandaria releases in 12 days from the time of this writing, and I am faced with a choice: I have to decide what my main will be, as far as my raiding group is concerned. I have narrowed this decision down to either Monk or Shaman, because I want to heal(or at least have that capability in my class), I am not interested in Paladin healing(never really got it, and the times I have tried it I was not too impressed), my fiancee who raids with the same group heals on her Priest, and we will have at least one other Druid, possibly two of them. That leaves Shaman, which is my current main class, and Monk, the new class coming.

So, my effort here will be in comparing and contrasting the two classes, especially when it comes to healing, or at least more in-depth in that area. Let's begin!

First off, some general observations. Shamans and Monks will both share the same tier tokens, but the gear type is different. Where Shamans wear mail, and have no competition in the spell part of it, other than with other Shamans, Monks will have gear competition with the other spell leather class, Druids. This shouldn't be a big deal, but it is to be considered. Flavor-wise(lore and whatnot) Monks have an edge, at least in my mind. I happen to like the whole Asian flavor thing that they have going with them, and of course, the integration of that class in the story of the expansion is something nice, just like Paladins and DKs in Wrath of the Lich King, and Shamans and Druids(although to a somewhat lesser degree) in Cataclysm. So, as far as general concerns go, Monks are ahead in story and flavor(in my viewpoint, the only one that matters in this case), but behind in general gear competition considerations.

Now, let's talk healing. This is obviously the area where the decision is going to rest, ultimately. Luckily, the two classes are so different in healing style and ability that at least there will be something to consider! The Shaman healing method mostly revolves around effectively using your 3 core heals, interspersed with Riptides to keep the casting time of them low(and crit chance high in Healing Surge). In certain situations/fights/25s the Shaman group heals also play a major part. Combine this with a set of very powerful cooldowns, a smart healing totem, and the Shaman is looking really solid as a healer, although a tad boring, in my opinion.

Monk healing, on the other hand, can be done a few different ways. First, there are the core heals of Soothing Mist(a channeled equivalent of the cheap, efficient heal), Enveloping Mist(the equivalent to Greater Healing Wave, although this is HoT), and Surging Mist(the equivalent to Healing Surge, fast but expensive). Taking them alone, they seem unimpressive, but it is in their synergy that they shine. While casting Soothing Mist, both Enveloping Mist and Surging Mist become instant cast on the player you are currently channeling your Soothing Mist on. This can make for some great tank healing, as you can channel a constant heal on them, and then get great instant burst when you need it. Additionally, with your Jade Serpent Statue out, your channeled heal will be duplicated to a group member that needs it!

But wait... there's more! In addition to those core heals, there is a HoT, Renewing Mist, which initially is just like any other basic HoT(Renew, Rejuvenation), but then becomes a sort of "smart HoT" that duplicates itself on up to 3 other party/raid members. With renewing Mist having a 8 sec CD, there is a cap(although I do not know what that cap is at the moment) to how many people you can have the HoT on at once, but the fact is, the HoT will be smart, and a set-it-and-leave-it one at that, so it will be amazing to use as a raid healer. Just like before with the core heals, there is a synergy that this spell has with another: Uplift. Using Uplift gives a nice heal to everyone who has Renewing Mist on them, and if you use Thunder Focus Tea to augment your Uplift, it also renews the duration of the Renewing Mists you have out.

If you thought that was all, you'd be wrong. In addition to the great tank and raid healing methods I have shown above, there is another way to heal: by doing damage. Think of it like Priest's Atonement, except on steroids. With your Jade Serpent Statue out(which should always be out on boss fights at least), your non-auto attacks heal others for 50% of the damage they do(within 20 yds, which can be a pain on some fights I suppose). Additionally, your special attacks will augment this kind of healing, first with Blackout Kick making your auto-attack damage also heal for 25% of the damage it does(50% at two stacks), second with Tiger Palm decreasing the cast time and mana cost of Surging Mist(your flash heal) by 20% every time you hit with it, stacking to 5, making it a free, instant heal. Combine that with the Glyph of Surging Mist, and you will be able to fire one of those off "smartly" without having to be distracted from your current target. Third, there is Spinning Crane Kick, which will do AOE healing to everyone within range. Depending on how the numbers balance out, this can be an equally viable, or even superior way of healing compared to the ways I have described above.

In addition to having some amazing and varied ways of healing in almost any setting, Monks also have some pretty interesting raid cooldowns. First is Life Cocoon, which will shield the target for a decent amount, and then increase all periodic healing by 50% for 12 sec. Second is Revival, which heals everyone in sight for a decent amount, and also dispels harmful things off of all of them. Third is Zen Meditation, which redirects up to 5 spells cast on group members onto yourself, while decreasing your damage taken by 90%. Now, weighing them up against the Shaman raid cooldowns, I don't think that they really fare that well. Granted, Shamans do not have an absorb shield, but what they do have is a Divine Hymn/Tranquility equivalent in Healing Tide Totem(the best talent on that tier, in my opinion), a group-wide(if they are in range) damage reduction and health equalizer(to minimize spike damage) in Spirit Link Totem, strong group healing in Ascendance, on-demand haste if they choose to take the talent, and 10% increased healing/20% reduced damage taken for 1 minute(every 5 minutes) with the improved Earth Elemental. The Shaman cooldowns, in my opinion, just seem much more impressive.

So, now to weigh them up.

  • Gear Competition: Shaman
  • Flavor/Lore: Monk
  • General healing Style: Monks are much more interesting and varied
  • Raid Cooldowns: Shamans have better ones
Gosh, even with laying it all out like this, it seems that I cannot really make a decision. What do you all think? And please, don't quote numbers or whatnot to show one is particularly superior to another at the moment, because number tweaking is likely to happen at some point after launch, and I would hate to go with one class based on some OP numbers right now, only to find that they get super nerfed in the first patch.


  1. I think that a monk will be the most fun to play personally. Don't know if you ever got into Shamans(Shamen?), but I heal on two 85s, a Disc Priest and Resto Druid, and getting into a shaman after that just wasn't my thing, prefer the aspects of the other 2 classes way too much (I never got into pally healing either).

    Useful to note: (don't know if you're aware) RAF bonuses will be grantable to pandas. So if you didn't want to grind from 1-90 all in the first week (don't how hardcore your guild is, raids open Oct 2nd) you could easily create a 2nd account that maybe your wife could play with you on that's RAFed to you, and grant the levels when the expansion drops. More cost efficient? No. More time efficient? Yes.

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