Cataclysm has been out for a month and a week now. Natural Order has finally started our raiding schedule and it is time to start farming raid mats, and leveling alts.
With the time put into the expansion I would like to take a look at the Shaman healing toolkit and talk about when to use what heal.
Riptide: Our only non-proc HOT (not counting healing stream). Glyphed Riptide lasts 21 seconds, if you are at the haste soft cap you will get an additional tic out of your riptide. You should cast it every 6 seconds on cool down to any member of your raid taking damage. Do not cast over a currently ticking Riptide, that is just a wast of mana. This is our second cheapest heal, and is REALLY efficient to top off raid damage, or to give you a couple seconds of breathing room to land that big heal.
Healing Wave: Our baby heal. Cheap. Very small heal. Use it to top off only. I actually don't even have this on my regular cast bars. It is setup with a cast modifier and isn't used much.
Healing Surge/Greater Healing Wave: Big heals. Until 4.0.6 don't even bother with Greater Healing wave, as it is more expensive, slower and its heal is barley bigger than Healing Surge. We will revisit this after 4.0.6 when it is supposed to get bigger (20% bigger) but it's mana cost will also getting a 10% boost. Healing Surge is big, fast and sexy. Use it on the tank, or to bring a DPS from almost dead to near full health.
Healing Rain: Heal over time, AOE. The sexy. Heals anybody standing in it for a pretty good chunk, throw a chain heal or two during a healing rain and you have healed five or six people to almost full, but you have also just burned through 20% of your total mana. Situational for massive raid damage, try to overlap with other AOE heals to create a ven diagram of healing on the ground during raids to bring the raid back to full health.
Chain Heal: Used to be the iconic heal of the Resto Shaman. It has become slightly underpowered, and fairly inefficient. That should change some in 4.0.6, but we will have to wait and see. Still works great if you are on raid heals, procs up to 4 earthliving weapon HoT's. Use it anytime you have extra mana and raid wide damage to top off. Again works great with Healing Rain.
Water: Mana Spring, probably wont be used in a raid if there is 1 or 2 pallys. Use Healing Stream. It is a decent HoT, in current Heroic/entry Raid gear it heals for about 400 every 2 seconds. It isn't going to save anybody but essentially lowers incoming damage by 1% or so.
Earth: Again you will probably have a Pally or DK providing Earth's buffs, so drop Stoneskin Totem. Increases tank mitigation and lowers incoming damage. Earth has a few utility totems you may have call to use, on add heavy fights you may want to drop Earthbind to slow adds, or Grounding Totem to eat a spell every time it's CD is up. It just may save a tank on a magic heavy encounter.
Air: You are probably always going to use Wrath of Air . Unless someone specifically asks for windfury. I have never been asked to do this.
Fire: Fire totems are kind of problematic for the Resto Shaman. There really is nothing usefull for us here. There is usually a Elemental (at least in my raids) providing the superior Totemic Wrath on their fire totems. I usually either drop Searing Totem to contribute a tiny bit of DPS, or no fire totem at all.
Finally I am going to give Mana Tide it's own section as it really is too important to place with the other totems. This is our big mana regen ability. Use it every time you are below 75% mana and then every time it is off cool down the rest of the fight. Don't try to save it until later in the fight. If you are below 50% mana, it is too late and you will be oom before the fight is over. Pop it early, pop it often as it is on a 3 minute cool down. You may be able to pop it 3 times on a longer boss fight. In 4.0.6 it becomes raid wide, so it will really help your healing team.