Nirise's Shadowlands 20 Resto Shaman Guide

Updated for 9.2​

Shadowlands brought F2Ps and vets an unprecedented range of gear from which to choose, and the 20 bracket offers many ways to succeed. 20s offer random battlegrounds, wargames, arenas, tournaments, and other opportunities that can call for different approaches in playstyle and gearing. Strong heals, good survivability, and (of course) a wide range of utility make resto shamans one of the best support specs in the bracket.

If you seek fame, glory, and your name in lights...look elsewhere. The power of a resto shaman comes from boosting teammates. You slow your teammates' targets. You save a teammate from the brink of death. You cleanse the root off your teammate, stop the incoming killing blow, juke the counterspell, then blast your teammates' target so that your teammate lands the kill. Only then do you fulfill the paradox, and earn your glory.

Thank you to everyone who got me reacquainted with the 20s bracket in Shadowlands! Also, thank you to @Andre for gear additions, to @Ivo for the excellent 20 Twink Gear Database, to @youbeezy for reminding me to include the /stopcasting macro, and to @Vandiir, @Mnemonic, @Waiwhat, @Hashbrowns, @Conzil, and @Goesid ! I'm always interested in suggestions for changes and additions to this guide.


1. Stat Priority, an In-Depth Discussion
2. Off to the Races
3. Gear, Gear Everywhere
4. All the Shinies (Enchantments and Gems)
5. Shaman's Got Talent
6. Bring the Rain, or How to Play Resto Shaman
7. How to Have Fun in Random/PuG Battlegrounds
8. Wargames and Arenas
9. Macro Conditionals and Mouseovers

1. Stat Priority, an In-Depth Discussion

Most healers prioritize intellect, the main caster stat. As resto shamans enjoy one of the strongest masteries in the game, they benefit from placing int and mastery above all other stats. Next comes a choice between versatility and haste, determined by type of PvP and playstyle preferences. Crit brings up the rear, performing worse and less predictably than mastery, and largely irrelevant for a resto's strongest offensive spell (lava burst). To summarize:

1 intellect = 1 mastery = 1.7 versatility = 1.7 haste = 2.4 critical strike
Let's get into the details. A point of each stat provides (roughly) the following boost to healing spell throughput at 29 (remember that 20s scale to 29 in instanced PvP):

int = 0.35% to 0.33% (varies a little, depending on spell coefficients and consumables)
mastery = 0.29% at 50% of target's health, 0.58% at 0% of target's health
vers = 0.17% (and 0.08% damage reduction)
haste = 0.20%
crit = 0.14% (remember crit is 175% in PvP, not 200%)

At just under half health on a target, mastery overtakes intellect for healing throughput. Rarely will shaman gear make you choose between intellect and mastery. Consider whether you prefer to make a greater impact with your healing in lower-health situations (mastery) versus stronger offensive spells (intellect).

In terms of healing throughput, versatility and haste both contribute about half of what mastery and intellect provide. Haste does a smidge better than versatility both for cast spells and for reducing the global cooldown, while versatility boosts spell output (and damage reduction). Versatility favors more aggressive play, ducking in and out of enemy range, while haste favors backline play, supporting your team with your alert positioning.

For resto shamans, crit is a much worse version of mastery. If a heal crits when we go to top off a teammate's health, we overheal and waste the crit. If a heal crits when we need a large heal, our mastery augments the heal to the point that another 75% sends the heal into overhealing again. That leaves middle-placed heals as the only ones that can take full advantage of crit heals, which point-for-point still don't yield as much as (directly) versatility or (indirectly) haste. Even for offensive spells, since lava burst is guaranteed to crit on a flame shock target, crit only augments our shocks and lightning bolts. Everything that makes crit a worthwhile offensive stat brings crit to the bottom of a defensive stat priority list.

Twinked 20s typically sit in the 2800-3300 range of health when scaled up to 29 in instanced PvP. When choosing your secondary stat allocation, consider how strong you want your healing to reach when replenishing that health range, in balance with supporting your casting speed and longevity. I recommend starting with half of your secondary stat allocation in mastery and the other half split between your preferred combination of versatility and haste. A dead healer heals no one, but resilient healers with weak heals can only delay the inevitable deaths of their teammates. Somewhere in between resides different optimal spots for random battlegrounds, arenas, and wargames.

In addition to the damage reduction from versatility, 29s also receive the following benefits from stamina and armor. Remember to take these into consideration when comparing a couple pieces of gear. One extra armor and stam on a piece of gear doesn't make much of a difference, but one extra armor and stam on six pieces of gear provides an overall extra 1% physical damage reduction on top of a 3% health increase.

stam = 16 health
armor = 0.16% physical damage reduction (varies slightly on total armor, and assumes a shield)

New to 20s in Shadowlands, tertiary stats bring extra flavor to many gearing options. However, tertiary stats only work in random battlegrounds (and world PvP). Wargames and arenas see no benefit. With rare exception, only green BoEs and dungeons drops from the Legion and BfA expansions bring a possibility of a tertiary stat. Of the available tertiary stats, only two concern resto shamans.

speed = 0.67%
leech = 0.32%

Speed stacks with other movement buffs e.g. enchants, ghost wolf, etc. Shamans often cast while on the move, but must stay still to deliver their main heal (and lava bursts and lightning bolts). Higher speed allows for faster relocation, making speed a prime tertiary choice. Leech offers a more situational option for aggressive battleground healers. The extra self-healing throughput is nice, but goes to waste when not taking damage.

Shadowlands also introduced diminishing returns for secondary stats, starting at 30% except for mastery, which diminishes starting at 114% for resto shamans. Since mastery takes priority for resto shamans and we have room to stack so much of it, diminishing returns makes little if any impact.

2. Off to the Races

Worthwhile racial abilities for healer shamans significantly narrow race options. Overall output buffs and damage reduction are always nice, but quickly get overshadowed by gearing options. That leaves the following racials for consideration.
Orcs bring Blood Fury for an on-use 21 int, but the real consideration is Hardiness, which even stacks with meta gems that reduce stuns. These outclass Troll Berserking and Da Voodoo Shuffle. Tauren War Stomps often go underestimated for their utility, shining in arenas and battlegrounds when you need them the most. Goblins bring arguably the best positioning racial in the game with Rocket Jump. Creating distance, closing gaps, and preventing fall damage all make Rocket Jump a top choice for battlegrounds. The Highmountain Tauren Bull Rush may seem like a mobile War Stomp, but in fact more closely resembles a longer rocket jump (unless you cancel the rush partway through), so consider it as more of a mobility racial. The heal from a Vulpera's Bag of Tricks matches 80% of what a Healing Surge can do, great for when we get locked out of our healing spells. For Horde resto shamans, Mag'har Orcs and Zandalari Trolls don't bring as much to consider.
The +4 int (and str and agi) at 29 from Heroic Presence equates to little more than an extra gem socket, and the 3-minute cooldown on a Draenei's Gift of the Naaru make the race a third-class choice, as much as I love them anyway. The Dwarven Stoneform gets outclassed by the Dark Iron Dwarven Fireblood, the latter essentially purging magical snares and temporarily boosting intellect by 30. While the Kul'Tiran Haymaker ability looks good at first glance, the cast time makes it less of an interrupt and more of an option to create distance with a melee attacker.
And of course, a Pandaren's Quaking Palm works great as an interrupt and for creating distance between you and a foe, regardless of the faction you choose.

3. Gear, Gear Everywhere

Please note that stats shown in WoWhead links can be a little off. Cross-reference gear with the 20 Twink Gear Database which features accurate stats. Wowhead definitely does not show correct drop rates. I excluded grandfathered gear from the list below.
Head: BoE green ilvl 28 (7 int, 11 stam, 14 secondary stats, 6 tertiary stats, socket), Energized Retinal Armor, Plunderer's Helmet, Helm of Elemental Binding, Circle of Flame, Gorrog's Serene Gaze (with socket), Raven-Heart Headdress*, Cenarion Thicket Helm (for F2P).

Neck: BoE green ilvl 28 (6 stam, 25 secondary stats, 4 tertiary stats, socket), Queen Yh'Shaerie's Pendant (with socket), Talisman of the Breaker.

Shoulder: BoE green ilvl 28 (5 int, 8 stam, 10-11 secondary stats, 5 tertiary stats, socket), Ravenwing Pauldrons*, Pauldrons of Desolation (for F2P).

Back: BoE green ilvl 28 (4 int, 6 stam, 8 secondary stats, 3 tertiary stats, socket), Cloak of Martayl Oceanstrider (with socket).

Chest: BoE green ilvl 28 (7 int, 11 stam, 14 secondary stats, 6 tertiary stats, socket), Green Whelp Armor, Moonglade Robe, Hauberk of Desolation (for F2P).

Wrist: BoE green ilvl 28 (4 int, 6 stam, 8 secondary stats, 3 tertiary stats, socket), Wristlinks of Alchemical Transfusion (for F2P).

Hands: BoE green ilvl 28 (5 int, 8 stam, 10-11 secondary stats, 5 tertiary stats, socket), Stormfront Gauntlets.

Waist: BoE green ilvl 28 (5 int, 8 stam, 11 secondary stats, 5 tertiary stats, socket), Tarren Mill Defender's Cinch, Shokell's Grim Cinch (with socket).

Legs: BoE green ilvl 28 (7 int, 11 stam, 14 secondary stats, 6 tertiary stats, socket), Wyrmscale Greaves.

Feet: BoE green ilvl 28 (5 int, 8 stam, 10-11 secondary stats, 5 tertiary stats, socket), Auchenai Boots.

Rings: BoE greens ilvl 28 (6 stam, 25 secondary stats, 4 tertiary stats, socket), Demar's Band of Amore (with socket), Aguas' Band of Augury (with socket), Precious Bloodthorn Loop.

Trinkets: Inherited Insignia of the Horde/Inherited Insignia of the Alliance, Ghost Iron Dragonling.

Main Hand: BoE green ilvl 25 (19 int, 5 stam, 6-7 secondary stats, 3 tertiary stats, socket), The Essence Focuser, Pearly-White Jackknife (with socket), Shiverscale Spellknife (with socket), Scepter of the Winterfin (with ilvl 25 or 26 upgrade), Mace of the Fallen Raven Priest (with ilvl 25 or 26 upgrade), Tethis' Skull (with ilvl 26 upgrade), Blade of Eternal Darkness.

Off Hand: BoE green ilvl 25 (10 int, 5 stam, 7 secondary stats, 3 tertiary stats, socket), Disc of Indomitable Will (with socket), Silvershell Defender (with socket).

*Raven-Heart Headdress and Ravenwing Pauldrons don't drop for our armor class, so you'll need a leather-wearer to trade it to you.
For the most part, ilvl 28 greens take best in slot for resto shamans, when getting the right combination of secondary stats and offering a socket. A couple of pieces of TBC dungeon gear offer tankier alternatives. When using 2int/2secondary gems, each socket provides a touch under 0.9% more healing. Comparing mastery-heavy single-socket BoEs with multi-socket TBC gear, we find that the extra healing from mastery at least equals fully gemmed TBC gear, and exceeds TBC gear when healing low-health teammates. TBC gear is better for more competitive arenas and wargames, where we can leverage the extra sockets for greater survivability via more versatility, rather than the extra healing that ilvl 28 greens in those armor slots would provide.

While in theory the absolute best mainhand weapon would be a socketed BoE green with high mastery, the extra stats from The Essence Focuser at ilvl 27 come within a point. Farm it on a 20 from Silverbound Treasure Chests in Outland (thank you @Wildream!), especially Zangarmarsh. I used HandyNotes with the Old World Treasures module to track down chests. The overall extra ~2% damage from the shadow bolts spawned from the Blade of Eternal Darkness (which scale with versatility) doesn't exceed the ~0.9% extra damage and healing from a gemmed socket on a BoE green weapon to justify the epic blade on a healer over the other options, but that's getting nitpicky, and some may enjoy the epic blade (with arguably the easiest farm). If a listed quest reward weapon goes rare or epic and boosts the ilvl, that also provides a competitive option.

Remember that tertiary stats only work in random battlegrounds, and not in wargames nor arenas. If your primary interest rests on competitive PvP, don't worry about getting tertiary stats on gear.

I really wanted to add the Freezing Band to the list, but the on-the-field proc rate is so low that the severe stats loss isn't worth it. The 2-piece set bonus from the Desolation Battlegear seems really juicy, but even these overstatted pieces with extra sockets can't compare to the healing boost that mastery brings from BoEs in the same slots. F2Ps can't get some of the gear options that vets can, so Desolation pieces remain BiS for F2Ps.

Three worthwhile alternative pieces remain to discuss. The Talisman of the Breaker loses 5% healing throughput compared to a BoE ilvl 28 neck, but the 20% silence reduction makes a huge impact when we're likely to get targeted by multiple interrupts. For the same reason, using a meta socket helm lets us leverage a 20% stun reduction meta gem (among other great choices), that reaches significantly beyond the slight stats loss of choosing a meta socket helm.

While the Circle of Flame may seem an unusual choice, many healers consider it essential for wargames and competitive arenas. In more competitive situations, staying in the fight for longer can win battles and games.

Possibly even more controversial than the talisman, use of the Green Whelp Armor causes a 5-6% drop in healing throughput, a 5-6% maximum health loss, and a 1% increase in physical damage taken, thanks to the armor loss. Even more, the proc is completely random. You can play a whole game and not see a single proc. ...Or, you can see three procs in a minute, 10 seconds each, with no diminishing returns on the length or frequency of the sleeps. Against any melee class or even hunter pet, Green Whelp Armor poses a constant threat of shutting down damage for long enough to win a fight or even the game. Yes, the role of a healer is to maintain consistency and support so that teammates can coordinate and execute. Far beyond glitzy crit overheals and resisted stuns, taking an opponent out of play for 10 seconds at a time is, quite simply, one of the most powerful procs in the game.

4. All the Shinies (Enchantments and Gems)

While the number of available enchants blossomed in Shadowlands, several factors limit options for resto shamans. See @Swoops fantastic spreadsheet for a detailed list of options if you want to explore further; the list below will provide optimal choices.
Neck: Mark of the Trained Soldier (+6 mastery). Other proc-based enchantments don't match the healing throughput of more mastery.

Shoulders: Master's Inscription of the Crag (required 25 Northrend Inscription). Since most other professions bring items that don't work in wargames and arenas, this enchant makes inscription worth it. If you plan to focus on random battlegrounds, you might look for better options.

Back: Minor Power or PvP Power (+6 int). Gift of Mastery (+1 mastery) offers movement speed, but it feels suspect to lose a little over 1% healing throughput for 2% movement speed (the equivalent of +3 speed) when we already get more speed from other sources.

Chest: Exceptional Mana or Major Mana (+210 mana), or Glorious Stats (+4 int and stam). The +42 mana enchants benefit from the 400% mana bonus for healers, taking us from 1845 mana to 2055 mana, making a difference for long battlefield or arena slogs.

Wrists: Major intellect or Mighty Intellect (4 int).

Hands: Superior Mastery or Greater Mastery (6 mastery)

Legs: Heavy Leg Reinforcements (6 stam, 2 dodge). Add leatherworking to get the enchantment from Clean Pelt for your 20, then drop leatherworking after applying the enchantment.

Feet: Minor Speed (+10% movement speed) is the only feet enchant that stacks with ghost wolf, and with the cloak movement speed enchantment if you decide to take one. No other foot movement speed enchant offers a compelling reason to dismiss the advantage of Minor Speed.

Rings: Binding of Mastery (+2 mastery).

Main Hand: Major Spellpower (14 spellpower). Jade Spirit and Coastal Surge don't proc at 29, and the other proc enchants don't match the healing throughput of Major Spellpower.

Shield: Major Intellect (+6 intellect).
Crafted, all ilvls
Purified Dreadstone (2 int, 2 vers)
Purified Shadowsong Amethyst (2 int, 2 vers)
Reckless Pyrestone (2 int, 2 haste)
Timeless Dreadstone (2 int, 2 stam)
Timeless Shadowsong Amethyst (2 int, 2 stam)
Trenchant Earthsiege Diamond (2 int, 10% stun reduction)
Trenchant Earthshatter Diamond (2 int, 10% stun reduction, also sold by old Wintergrasp vendors)
Shielded Skyflare Diamond (2 stam, 2% incoming spell damage reduction)
Destructive Primal Diamond (3 crit, 1% incoming spell reflection)

Cogwheels (all unique-equipped)
Fractured Cogwheel (+10 mas)
Quick Cogwheel (+10 haste)
Precise Cogwheel (+10 haste)
Sparkling Cogwheel (+10 vers)
When making gear choices, resto shamans will obtain anywhere from 12 to 20 sockets to fill. When using 2int/2secondary gems, each socket provides a touch under 0.9% more healing, for a total of 11-18% more healing overall.

For regular sockets, fill with your desired combination of 2int/2vers and 2int/2haste gems. Avoid regular 3int gems, since 2/2 gems give the same healing throughput but provide either greater damage reduction or cooldown reduction. The unique-equipped Nightmare Tear says it provides +3 all stats (which would equate to +3 int and +3 stam), but only provides +2 both at 20 and 29.

2int/2stam gems will provide some extra survivability at the cost of healing throughput. The extra stamina is good for arenas, where a long CC chain can get you killed before you have a chance to escape. Battlegrounds may let you get away with less stamina and stronger heals.

Meta gems offer a few different options. Stun resistance and especially spell reflection all make for fun surprises. However, 2% spell damage reduction (which would otherwise require +25 vers) and especially 10% stun reduction do more to impact resto shaman play.

Blade's Edge Mountains offers two meta gems that require farming Apexis Shards, and doing the event that triggers the Aether-Tech Adept then the Aether-Tech Master. However, the low proc rate of the stun resistance offered by both the Imbued Unstable Diamond (3 int) and the Tense Unstable Diamond (12 crit) make these poor choices. Why risk resisting the wrong stun (or likely no stun at all), when we can hurry up the diminishing returns of every stun? Procs that act on opponents are much more effective than procs that prevent actions on ourselves. Related to that, the Mystical Skyfire Diamond's 45-second internal cooldown belies an even longer wait for a short proc, rendering it much less usable than other meta gem choices for resto shamans.

Cogwheels provide 10 secondary stats at 29, prompting many rshams to take the Ghost Iron Dragonling for a trinket slot. Because each cogwheel is unique-equipped, taking both the dragonling and the Energized Retinal Armor would force the use of the +10 crit Smooth Cogwheel, so resto shamans typically use either the helm or dragonling, but not both.

5. Shaman's Got Talent

Unleash Life will get you and your teammates out of hairy, low-health situations, thanks to mastery boosting the strength of the heal. The talent also works to top off one teammate before landing a larger heal on another teammate.

For PvP talents, resto shamans get a couple of good choices. Unleash shield acts as both a second interrupt and a way to create distance, though note that the shorter 20-yard range requires riskier positioning than the 30-yard range of Windshear. For battlegrounds, an opportune Counterstrike Totem can provide a significant amount of burst to catch nearby opponents just as they think they're about to unload into teammates. Only consider Spectral Recovery as an flag carrier, or in the rare arena where creating distance matters more than an extra interrupt.

6. Bring the Rain, or How to Play Resto Shaman

Effective play at 20 for resto shamans involves two main interlocking skills: dynamic spell rotation and positioning. We need to leverage three different spell rotations while vigilantly optimizing our position and eroding our opponents' positions. Moreover, if we consider the difference between how spells create or shrink distance, we can get a feel for how our spells affect battle.
Level 20 resto shamans bring ten main spells: Healing Surge, Riptide, and Unleash Life compose the main suite of healing spells. Earthbind Totem, Wind Shear, and Purify Spirit comprise our utility options. Frost Shock and Flame Shock do double duty for utility and offense. Lava Burst and Lightning Bolt provide purely offensive options. Let's look at each individual spell, then we can understand better how to leverage them in different rotations.

Healing Surge is our main spammable healing spell with casting time. We can refill health anywhere from a third to a full measure, depending on their maximum health and how low their health sits at the time of the heal. Riptide allows us to effectively top off a declining health bar, and the instant cast allows us to land Riptide while we move. Unleash Life essentially gives us a slightly stronger version of Riptide's instant cast initial heal, plus a bonus to the next heal we cast on any target (not just the target of Unleash Life).

Of all the totems shamans had years ago in the lower brackets, Earthbind Totem remains. An AoE slow beacon we can place at a distance, Earthbind Totem allows us to create or close distance, and momentarily distract unwary opponents. Wind Shear provides resto shamans with one of the best interrupts in the bracket. We trade low duration for low cooldown and significant range. Purify Spirit will lift DoTs off friendly stealth classes and slows off melee teammates.

Frost Shock gives us the only instant-cast spammable slow in the bracket, with the added bonus of some damage. Flame Shock can prevent enemy stealth classes from disappearing, and more importantly, acts as a miniature personal hunter's mark. A Flame Shock DoT baits enemy healers into spending a GCD to remove the DoT, and possibly missing the opportunity to remove your next Flame Shock DoT from another target.

Lava Burst provides our highest damage spell. While not as strong as the Lava Burst from other shaman specs, the guaranteed crit on a target with a Flame Shock DoT can open a focus fire opportunity for teammates, or provide the extra damage to bring a teammate's target down. Because Lava Burst takes at least a minimal amount of time to travel to its target, we can land an instant cast Flame Shock immediately after completing a Lava Burst cast, and the Flame Shock will hit the target before the Lava Burst arrives, enabling the guaranteed Lava Burst crit on the Flame Shock target. Use this technique when you're concerned that an opponent may cleanse a Flame Shock DoT before a critical (in both senses of the word) Lava Burst can land. Lightning Bolt provides a spammable cast damage spell, at the risk of getting locked out of healing if the spell gets interrupted.
Our spell rotations center on our two most spammable spells: Frost Shock and Healing Surge. While Frost Shock does 65% of the dps that Lightning Bolt offers, we can cast Frost Shock on the move, and not risk getting locked out of healing spells from interrupts.

With so many instant cast spells that don't impact each other, resto shaman spell rotations rarely depend on casting order, but rather on our positioning relative to teammates and enemies. Resto shaman play is all about forcing bad choices out of opponents by triangulating our positioning so that we can stay just outside of spell range of opponent casters, and always within spell range of our teammates and melee opponents. If an enemy pursues us, we bring them in range of our teammates. If an enemy pursues a teammate, we help our teammate from afar.

Use Frost Shock and utility spells to help teammates create distance from pursuers, or close distance to retreating enemies. We can be more bold with melee classes thanks to our extra armor and our kiting utility; stay wary of casters looking to catch us in the open and burst us down. Use Healing Surge and Riptide to stabilize the front line in a battle, saving Unleash Life for more urgent situations or for opportunities to set up a big heal on a teammate that we predict will survive to receive the saving heal.

Cast Healing Surge to bait an interrupt, then stop the cast just before the interrupt lands and follow up with several freely cast heals. Or, purposefully eat the interrupt to open a few seconds for repositioning you wanted to do anyway, while firing off utility spells. When the tide of battle turns in our favor, DoT a rogue to prevent the restealth, drop an Earthbind Totem just behind the retreating front line, and interrupt the priest's Penance as it starts, leaving a teammate to interrupt the following Shadow Mend. Land a Healing Surge on the warrior pushing the front line, cleanse a druid's roots off the warrior, and in the final second before Flame Shock comes off cooldown and the priest's casting lockout ends, cast a Lava Burst on the warrior teammate's target. The moment the burst leaves our hands, hit the target with Flame Shock to make the Lava Burst crit, helping the warrior close out the kill. ...Then retreat as two opposing hunters eliminate the warrior in two globals.

Shamans bring some of the best mobility of any class in Shadowlands, along with tools to maintain mobility for teammates and reduce it for opponents. With so many instant cast spells available, fill every global cooldown. A shaman's field awareness allows for good positioning, which in turn impacts a team far beyond scoreboard numbers.

7. How to Have Fun in Random/PuG Battlegrounds

Hey there. Let's sit down for a moment and talk about why you're here. You're gonna play a resto shaman in a random battleground. Unlike DPS roles, you're queuing up to heal people at least a little, which means your fun requires at least some success on the part of your teammates. I want to set some expectations before you lose your mind in this endeavor.
Random battlegrounds are inherently unfair. Some classes are stronger than others. Some players are clearly more skilled than others. Some team compositions bring more synergies than others. When you queue up against a premade of hunters, disc priests, and arcane mages with a bonus warlock while your team features a tank with multiple missing slots of gear but a fully functional "/yell healzme" macro, you might question your choices. Ever since Blizzard added XP gains to BGs, players in random battlegrounds brought different, sometimes conflicting motivations. If you're gonna have fun, let's first consider your motivations.

Do you like turning the tide in battlegrounds? Find the best geared and best skilled players on your team and pocket heal them. Do you stick up for the underdog? Stay back from the fray and bomb the heals from afar, then laughingly kite like crazy when opponents figure out why they can't kill the scrubs in front of them. Do you like to fight to the last? Join the backcap team or even go backcap solo, or take the flag and run it away, dwindling time off the clock when your opponents were going for a quick game. Braving the chaos of random BGs as a healer requires discovery and pursuit of what you enjoy most, and then helping your team in that context.

Maybe it makes more sense to guard the bases you have, but your marauding teammates just want to cap bases. A successfully executed bad strategy will defeat a poorly executed good strategy, so maybe go heal your marauders. You shouldn't heal from the front lines, but maybe your teammates won't peel for you, so you're better off acting as bait for attention from teammates as well as your opponents. Maybe a leveler monk and druid have no chance against three ranged opponents, but your heals could turn the monk into a distracting piñata while the stealthy druid caps the base. Maybe your teammates can't do enough damage to kill enemies trying to retake the base, but you can keep enemies from killing your teammates. Resto shamans can help win battlegrounds by not losing.

You can be as objective-oriented and map-conscious as you want, but in random BGs, part of your team will include players who don't know what those mean. For every game, calibrate your expectations up front and adjust as necessary as the battleground progresses. You'll at least save yourself some rage and heartache, and you may surprise yourself and your team with a fun battleground even when you fail. If you're gonna enjoy random battlegrounds as a healer, get clear on what's fun for you and which aggravations you can dismiss.

8. Wargames and Arenas

Organized battlefield PvP works much differently than queuing up for randoms. I have yet to play Shadowlands 20 wargames and I'm not a particularly good arena player, but I can draw on previous competitive experience and provide general advice for organized PvP.
Three things matter much more in competitive PvP. First, as healers, we're higher priority targets. We cannot play anywhere near as recklessly as in random BGs, because focus fire can kill anyone in a global. Second, thanks to the aforementioned focus fire, pre-healing and keeping players topped off ascends in importance. A teammate down to half health becomes a kill target, unlike random BGs where we can make the most of our mastery stat by healing teammates who drop to 10% health. Third, positioning takes top priority for us. Resto shamans love to flirt at the edge of enemy ranges, and in competitive PvP, one misstep can lead to a swift death.

For wargames, focus on triangulation: stay behind your front line teammates, but dance in and out of enemy range to deliver shocks and shears. Every few seconds, assess your position on the battlefield relative to teammates and opponents, even when you're healing a pitched battle. When we need a peel, that's time and cooldowns spent elsewhere besides the front line of the battle.

Arenas especially emphasize positioning because fewer players on the field allows DPS to more boldly pursue targets. Know and watch for your opponents' abilities. Sitting in a well-executed 15-second CC chain means your teammate dies, and juking an interrupt with a well-read fakecast can open a window of opportunity for teammates to play more aggressively. Arenas also allow for much more use of line of sight. Use those pillars to LoS and kite opponents!

With our focus on topping off health bars and maintaining more preventative healing in competitive PvP, gear and gem for greater survivability, especially stamina. Big heals are fun. Staying alive is more fun, and glass healers bring the wrong combination of advantages and disadvantages to competitive PvP.

Above all, more important than anything else we do in competitive PvP, communication matters. Don't pollute the comm channel with information teammates can already see on the interface. "I'm dying" confirms what your teammates already know from your health bar. "No heals 5 seconds," "Slowing the warrior," and "I got second kick on mage," all provide teammates with vital information by which they can better judge when to use cooldowns, when to back off, and when to push hard. I cannot stress this enough -- great players with bad communication will always fall to good players with great communication. Sure, PvP skills count for a lot, but no skill makes a greater return-on-investment impact on the field than teamwork, and communication empowers 90% of teamwork in World of Warcraft.

9. Macro Conditionals and Mouseovers

Perhaps more than any other role, support characters leverage macros to maximize battlefield effectiveness. Mouseovers, focus and party targets, and spell conditionals will not only impact your performance on the field, but also make a battle much more fun! Let's look at some fundamentals about macros, then apply them to resto shamans.
In their most basic form, macros allow us to combine multiple actions to a single button, so that we can more quickly do what we intend. Let's start with a basic Wind Shear macro.

/use Wind Shear​

If we save this macro and put it on an action bar, it will work exactly the same way (minus the icon) as dragging Wind Shear from our spellbook to a space on an action bar. As a resto shaman, there are often times when we're in the middle of casting a spell and we want to immediately stop and shear an opponent to land the interrupt. Normally, we would need to either move (to break the current cast) or hit the ESC button on our keyboards. Instead, we can add another action to the macro.

/use Wind Shear​

In one macro i.e. with one press of a button, we can immediately stop any cast and fire off a Wind Shear, no movement nor ESC necessary! The stopcasting Wind Shear macro is a staple of resto shaman gameplay, making us quicker on the draw with interrupt opportunities. Some resto shamans add /stopcasting to Riptide and Unleash Life macros, though I prefer otherwise so as not to accidentally cut off a critical cast if I'm stacking healing spells. Consider the spells and abilities you use, and whether you may want them to potentially stop your current cast and take priority.

Macros also allow us to stack certain actions if they don't share a cooldown (including the global cooldown). For instance, we can't stack a series of spells in a single macro like this:

/use Unleash Life
/use Healing Surge
/use Riptide​

All of these spells share the global cooldown, so this macro would cast Unleash Life first and nothing would happen with the other two spells. However, we could indeed use several consumables and items at once:

/use Eternal Horizon Choker
/use Wildvine Potion
/use "Third Wind" Potion
/use Super Healing Potion

/use healthstone
/s My tummy is full!
/use Arena Grand Master​

With one push of a button, we eat, drink, activate our neck and trinket on-use options, and even tell the world how we feel. Note that we have three different potions in that macro, the Wildvine Potion, "Third Wind" potion, and the Super Healing Potion. If we carry any Wildvine potions, the macro won't let us use the following two potions since the potions share a cooldown. But if we're out of Wildvine potions, the macro will then choose the "Third Wind" potion, and so forth. No need to edit macros when our supplies change!

While action stacking certainly helps, the real power of macros resides in the multitude of ways we can give ourselves more targeting options and spell selection options on the same button. Gaining such power begins with understanding macro conditionals.
Conditionals are the constraints you put on a particular spell or ability in your macro. Consider the following macro with no conditionals:

/use Healing Surge​

We can also write that macro like this:

/use []Healing Surge​

Anything we put inside the (currently empty) brackets will put particular conditions on the use of healing surge. If we want Healing Surge to land on our focus target, we can add that conditional.

/use [@focus]Healing Surge​

Using this macro, Healing Surge will only hit our focus target. If we want to hold down a modifier key (shift, ctrl, or alt) to allow the spell to fire, we can add that modifier plus a comma between both of the conditionals.

/use [@focus,mod:alt]Healing Surge​

Healing Surge will only work if you have a focus target and if you hold down the ALT key. Of course, you may want the option for another target. Therefore, we add another set of brackets and their conditionals.

/use [@focus,mod:alt][@player,mod:ctrl]Healing Surge​

Now we can route the Healing Surge spell to a Focus Target or to ourselves. Heck, while we're at it, let's add the option to target an arena buddy if we play 2s, so we don't have to worry about targeting our arena partner first before saving them with a heal.

/use [@focus,mod:alt][@player,mod:ctrl][@party1,mod:altctrl]Healing Surge​

Notice three things here. First, we smooshed two modifiers together to route Healing Surge to our arena mate. Second, the order doesn't matter -- altctrl and ctrlalt do the same thing. Third...this macro actually doesn't work. If we hold down alt and ctrl to send healing surge to an arena mate, the macro will see that we do indeed have alt held down, and send the Healing Surge to our focus target before the macro even has a chance to reach the conditionals for our arena mate! Let's fix that macro.

/use [@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl][@player,mod:ctrl,nomod:alt][@party1,mod:altctrl]Healing Surge​

There. Now the macro knows to ignore the focus target and ourselves if we hold down ctrl at the same time as alt. The macro works great! Unless the focus target isn't an ally. Then the macro turns our cursor into a pointer, waiting for a target to heal. One more thing to fix.

/use [@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl,help][@player,mod:ctrl,nomod:alt][@party1,mod:altctrl]Healing Surge​

With that addition, our Healing Surge macro will heal our focus target if we hold down alt, don't hold down ctrl, and if the focus target is friendly. We're always friendly to ourselves, and we can only group with friendlies, so no worries on the other two conditional sets. Now, we have a bunch of conditionals inside three sets of brackets, but what about just a regular, good old fashioned target that we clicked on (or switched to)? Just add a set of brackets right before the spell itself, and remember to use the "help" mod in case you have an enemy targeted, otherwise the spell will wait for you to target a friendly (the same issue we saw previously with the focus target).

/use [@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl,help][@player,mod:ctrl,nomod:alt][@party1,mod:altctrl][help]Healing Surge​

Looks good. What if the focus target is an enemy? Could we add a different spell in the same macro that fired from the same key? That way, we could use something like Lightning Bolt against enemies and Healing Surge for friends, as both spells feature a similar cast time. Yes, please!

/use [@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl,help][@player,mod:ctrl,nomod:alt][@party1,mod:altctrl][help]Healing Surge;[@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl,harm][harm]Lightning Bolt

See how we can copy all the same mods for the focus target (other than changing "help" to "harm") for the Lightning Bolt? And of course, we don't need the player or party1 conditionals for Lightning Bolt, since we can't attack teammates. The critical part of this macro addition is the semicolon that separates the Healing Surge section from the Lightning Bolt section. Make sure you remember the semicolon to separate multiple spells in the same macro!

Our macro is really doing work. Two spells, four possible targets. And we're just getting started! But we see a slight problem. If we target a teammate and set an enemy as our focus target, we'll never be able to hit our focus target with Lightning Bolt because the macro will see our heal target first. How can we reprioritize the order in which our spells work? Let's answer that question by first learning about mouseovers, the most important targeting option for battleground healers.
Mouseovers are the fancy term for macro targets that let us fire off an action or ability to wherever our mouse pointer is on the screen, without clicking something first. That may not sound like much, but the slivers of time it takes to switch between targets in a large battle add up fast. Especially for battleground healers, using mouseovers will make an immediate difference in your performance. Instead of healing a teammate, clicking an enemy and interrupting their cast, then clicking another teammate for the next heal, you can just heal, interrupt, heal. No clicking. Save a click, save a teammate. Here's how it works.

/use [@mouseover]Healing Surge​

That's it. Mouseovers are target conditionals, just like focus targets. And similar to focus targets, let's not forget to specify we want to use Healing Surge for friendlies. Otherwise, the mouse pointer will wait for us to click a friendly, defeating the point of mouseovers in the first place.

/use [@mouseover,help]Healing Surge​

Want to stack multiple mouseover spells in the same macro just like in the Healing Surge/Lightning Bolt example before? Let's go!

/use [@mouseover,help]Healing Surge;[@mouseover,harm]Lightning Bolt

Thanks to the semicolon that separates both spell sections, all we gotta do is move our mouse pointer over a friendly or an enemy, and hitting the button for this macro will automatically send the right spell in their direction. ...Almost. Mouseovers get confused if you want to attack an enemy target that's already dead, so they wait for you to click a live enemy. Let's add a conditional to prevent that from happening.

/use [@mouseover,help]Healing Surge;[@mouseover,harm,nodead]Lightning Bolt​

Now we're cooking! Mouseover macros work on nameplates and unit frames. If you can click it, you can mouseover it. All mouseover macros do is remove the need to click the target first, and that little change makes such a big difference in battlegrounds.

For Arenas, stick with keyed targets in macros. Using macros with party1, party2, focus targets and regular targets will always work much faster than doing any targeting with a mouse. But for battlegrounds, mouseovers are part of what make World of Warcraft one of the most versatile PvP experiences in an MMO.

You might ask, is there a way to combine regular macros and mouseover macros into one? You bet! Let's start with how not to do it. Remember the Healing Surge/Lightning Bolt macro from before? This is what we would normally assume a mouseover macro addition would look like.

/use [@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl,help][@player,mod:ctrl,nomod:alt][@party1,mod:altctrl][@mouseover,help][help]Healing Surge;[@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl,harm][@mouseover,harm,nodead][harm]Lightning Bolt​

If mouseovers are just macro conditionals, why not just add the conditionals to their respective groups? This will work up until we're in the middle of a pitched battle, and we want to launch the killing blow at a clutch time to an almost-dead enemy focus target, and just before we cast, our pointer wanders over a teammate and suddenly we're healing a teammate?! WTF?!

Remember in our previous example where we had to add nomod:ctrl to the focus target conditionals because the macro checked the focus target conditionals first before checking the party1 conditionals? The same concept applies here. If we add the mouseover conditional to the pile for Healing Surge, we're saying that Healing Surge mouseovers take priority over any Lightning Bolt conditionals, including focus targets. Instead, let's organize spell priority by target. First, we need the original macro without mouseovers (and without regular targets, for now).

/use [@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl,help][@player,mod:ctrl,nomod:alt][@party1,mod:altctrl]Healing Surge;[@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl,harm]Lightning Bolt​

Healing Surge sees three targets, then Lightning Bolt sees one. We want focus targets and teammate targets to take priority. Now, let's add the Healing Surge mouseover target and regular target to the end.

/use [@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl,help][@player,mod:ctrl,nomod:alt][@party1,mod:altctrl]Healing Surge;[@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl,harm]Lightning Bolt;[@mouseover,help][help]Healing Surge

There's the semicolon again! If we can add another spell after a semicolon, nothing stops us from adding the same spell but with different conditionals! Now the macro will always check for focus targets and teammate targets first for both spells, before looking for mouseover targets and regular targets for Healing Surge. Ready to add the Lightning Bolt mouseover and regular target options? You know what to do!

/use [@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl,help][@player,mod:ctrl,nomod:alt][@party1,mod:altctrl]Healing Surge;[@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl,harm]Lightning Bolt;[@mouseover,help][help]Healing Surge;[@mouseover,harm,nodead][harm]Lightning Bolt

Look at that beauty. From one key plus any modifiers, we can cast our Healing Surge or Lightning Bolt at any possible target we want. We save keyboard space, we save time, and we save teammates.

Why stop here? Consider the spells you use. Think about their similarities and differences in cast time, friendly/enemy targets, and purpose. I use macros that leverage four different spells from one key. That may sound confusing at first, but if you design macros that share patterns in your spells and abilities, you can transfer the complexity of WoW's interface to your macros and make your gameplay experience more seamless.

A word of warning: stay consistent with your macro modifiers. I always use the shift key to choose between different spells and abilities, and the ctrl and alt keys to choose between different targets. However you choose, making your modifiers serve the same purpose in all of your macros will help your gameplay feel more natural.
We can use mouseovers with totems and other placement spells (thank you @Vandiir!) and items (e.g. engineering explosives) by substituting in @cursor for @mouseover.

/use [@cursor]Earthbind Totem​

While I prefer taking the extra split second to click the placement of totems and other items for better precision, others prefer to save the time, and now you can choose! And, just like stacking spells, we can stack different totems.

/use [mod:shift]Counterstrike Totem;[@cursor]Earthbind Totem​

We could also stack consumables for different types of bombs, and even stack spells, totems, and consumables all together. Find the patterns that make the most sense to you, and let your macros fly!

Blizzard limits us to 255 characters for macros. However, we can surpass this limit using the "click" function to chain macros together, as long as those macros follow the same rules they always do. Consider the following pair of macros.

/use [@mouseover,help]Healing Surge
/click MultiBarRightButton7

/use [@mouseover,harm,nodead]Lightning Bolt​

As long as the second macro sits in the MultiBarRightButton7 slot, the first macro will launch the second macro (assuming no mouseover healing target for the first macro), essentially functioning as a single macro. No more worries about limiting the number of targets, spells, and items you can fit into a single macro.

A focus target helps us to keep an eye on an additional player beyond our primary target. While WoW allows us to bind a key for setting focus targets, consider this macro.

/focus [@mouseover,mod:shift,exists][mod:shift]​

Just like a spell, a focus target macro allows us to quickly set either a mouseover target or our primary target as our focus target. But there's more!

/assist [@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl][@mouseover,exists][]​

An assist keybind lets us immediately change to the target of our target. An assist macro like the one above lets us immediately jump to the target of our focus target, mouseover target, or current target. Note the empty brackets at the end of the macro -- that's how we tell the macro that we want our current target as an option, even though we don't need any modifiers. We can do even better by simply adding both macros together, making one key launch all of our targeting options.

/focus [@mouseover,mod:shift,exists][mod:shift]
/assist [@focus,mod:alt,nomod:ctrl][@mouseover,exists][]​

By putting both lines in the same macro, creating a focus target automatically matches our current target to their current target. This can more quickly help us determine if we should heal, damage, or leverage utility spells in a given situation. Plus, we can still use the assist function independently when we want to.
Last edited:
For this excellent class/spec guide, there's one small extra macro conditional I'd add that shamans can use (allowing earthbind totem to be placed on mouseover cursor):
/cast [@cursor] Earthbind Totem
The [@cursor] conditional is for spells that involve placements instead of targets (like Earthbind Totem), and much like [@mouseover]s, it saves clicks.
It works exactly like [@mouseover] but for placement spells, which won't respond to [@mouseover] macros since [@mouseover] requires something targetable while placement spells involve a different kind of "target".
Note: similar placement spells from items [like some trinkets or engineering items/attachments] involve using /use instead of /cast, although as the OP shared, /use also works with spells.

Macros of course are a larger topic, though that's a small mouseover-like macro I'd add for shamans.
Last edited:
The [@cursor] conditional is for spells that involve placements instead of targets (like Earthbind Totem), and much like [@mouseover]s, it saves clicks.
It works exactly like [@mouseover] but for placement spells (which won't respond to [@mouseover] macros, since [@mouseover] requires something targetable while placement spells involve a different kind of "target").

Good note, and I added that to the guide. Thank you!
Impressive work! I'm thinking about making a Resto Shaman now :)
you missed this helm (I am switching to this now that talasite is nerfed)

It's a decent enough helm, but I'm not sold on it compared to the other options. The triple socket helm with 2int/2stam gems will do more for survivability against hunters, meta helms will give more survivability for casters thanks to the 2% spell damage reduction meta gem, and the slight healing throughput loss doesn't make sense when we can stack versatility in other sockets and incur a lesser penalty for doing so.
Sweet guide! Seconding Glance’s comment on the Tethis’ Skull, didn’t know it was a thing!
Credit to @Ivo on that one, I didn't know it was a thing either until I found it in his TwinkDB.
[doublepost=1637364494,1637361141][/doublepost]I added an Essentials entry to the macros section of the guide, after @youbeezy reminded me that I left out the all-important /stopcasting option about macros.

Users who are viewing this thread