I really like healing. I currently have a priest, a paladin and a druid at level eighty, all of whom have at least one healing spec and a set of healing gear that ranges from solid to awesome in quality. I've used all of them to heal in five-mans, raids and (with the exception of the paladin) PvP. I guess as such it was only a matter of time until I would turn my attention towards the one healing class that was still missing in my stable, the shaman.
I decided to mainly level as enhancement, since I once tried to level a draenei shaman as restoration and it was pure agony (though this might also have been related to the server she was on). Even this time I started to collect healing gear early on though, and mostly focused on keeping my fellow team mates alive in low-level battlegrounds. At forty I purchased restoration as my proper dual spec, but since finding groups for low-level instances is still such a pain, I never got to try it out in a PvE group environment - until I hit Outland that is, where I have now successfully healed Hellfire Ramparts, the Slave Pens and the Underbog so far.
I have to say, my first impression of shaman healing is that it's really kind of slow and boring. This might change once I get riptide, which I don't have yet due to prioritising some PvP talents first, but as it is... yeah. I'm still having a good time, but this is mostly because I'm excited about experiencing something new.
The thing is, I like how priests and druids have tons of different spells. It means that there are different ways to deal with every situation and always decisions to make. Paladins have fewer abilities, but if nothing else their healing style with the hasted holy light bombs is fast and still requires on-the-fly decisions about who to heal first, since you can only heal one person at once (two if you have beacon of light up).
Now, shamans... they only have few spells, but said spells are simply too good. If there's no aoe damage going around, you can just put earth shield on the tank and then go AFK for the next pull. Since it's "smart" and only consumes charges when the target actually takes damage, you don't even have to worry about regularly refreshing it after x seconds like you would with a regular heal over time effect. At first I couldn't believe that a single spell could be this good and kept trying to supplement the earth shield healing with the occasional lesser healing wave, but I just ended up doing a lot of overhealing.
When more than one person gets hit, things usually get interesting for the healer. Who should be healed first and with which spell? Is it feasible to heal multiple targets at once, and if so, which ones? As a shaman, as soon as you see more than one person taking damage, you just target someone, anyone, and then cast a slooow chain heal. Then you repeat this until everyone is topped off. Argh.
What did end up being more interesting than expected was totem management. Duh, you say, totems are what shamans are all about! Well, obviously I knew that, but it's still different to actually be walking in a totem carrier's shoes yourself. The first thing that struck me was just how often I had to drop my totems and then pick them up again; I swear I spent more mana on that during my instance runs than on anything else. I shudder at the thought of what that must have been like before the option to drop four totems at once was introduced...
The thing is, totems bring so many and such powerful buffs, yet non-shamans seem to be completely oblivious to them. I almost miss people nagging my paladin about whether they want blessing of kings or might - at least they care! When you're a shaman, nobody gives a crap about whether you drop strength of earth or stoneskin, healing stream or mana spring, and good luck figuring out which of your totem buffs are at odds with buffs that other people in your party give by default! Unsurprisingly, nobody pays attention to the location of your totems either. You try to drop them in a nice, central position so you can take down several pulls within their range, but people will run off and just out of range anyway. So into the bag they go (the totems, not the people), you run thirty yards ahead and then drop them again. Good times...
My final observation so far: Reincarnation is amazing and awful at the same time, kind of like spirit of redemption is for priests. If you've ever been a priest healer in a pug where you died, managed to keep everyone alive for the rest of the fight while in spirit form, and then had to make a corpse run on your own while the rest of the party congratulated each other on what an awesome job they did, you'll know what I mean.
Case in point, we over-pulled some Underbog trash and ended up with three groups at once. A few mobs went for me and started beating me up. I blew a nature's-swiftness-plus-healing-wave combo on trying to save my life while I ran to the tank, but I still died shortly afterwards. Of course I couldn't let the rest of my group die to vicious sporebats though! So I hit reincarnation, dropped a mana tide totem and successfully kept everyone up until everything else was dead. The tank started to apologise, saying it was his fault, but the dps death knight immediately interrupted with: "No worries, we're all alive!" Yeah, now we are, no thanks to you. Thanks for not even noticing my dramatic demise! Though I guess I can be glad that this method at least doesn't involve a lonely corpse run.
Well, whaddya know...
4 hours ago