Player vs. Player has always been a polarizing aspect of WoW to me. There are times that I absolutely love it, and there are times where I want to throw my computer out the window as a result of it. I like to play it in bursts. I’ll go a few weeks doing nothing but doing Battlegrounds, and then I won’t even press the “H” button on my keyboard for months. Lately, I’ve been doing them a fair amount. I wouldn’t consider myself a PvP expert by any means but I’ve been doing it on and off since Vanilla so I feel I have some advice to offer. Note, that I typically play Resto only in PvP so I don’t have much Elemental advice to give.
The first thing I’ll recommend is that in any node capturing match in which a flag has to be channeled to cap (ie Arathi Basin) – lay your magma totem. Most any amount of damage interrupts a flag from being capped and magma does this perfectly. To most unsuspecting players, they may think that no one is on them and go for the cap. If you’re smart and in the heat of battle, move in to drop magma totem and then back away from the flag and go back to DPS’ing a target or healing your teammates. Elemental Shaman have the lovely bonus of not having Chain Lightning on a cooldown so that you can spam it, so throw down Magma then start Chain Lightning targets by the flag and they’ll be SOL in going for a cap. You can also use Earthquake, but I feel that Magma is a more viable solution considering it’s an instant cast and not on a cooldown.
I highly recommend getting the addon Battleground Targets. For most BGs it’ll be able to tell you who is on the other team, what class and spec they are. So for example if they had a Boomkin it should show the Boomkin’s name/server and that it’s DPS. They also sort them by role from top to bottom: Healers, Tanks and DPS. It also let’s you click their names for easy targeting.
When to use your cooldowns? You can use them fairly at your own leisure and it really depends who you are PvP’ing with. If you’re on your own I tend to be fairly selfish when I use Mana Tide or Spirit Link Totem. For example, if I am being focused and there are a lot of my teammates nearby I’ll use Spirit Link Totem to get my health back up and buy myself some time so that my teammates can kill whoever they are on and hope they are smart enough to start focusing on whoever is on me. It can be a fairly life saving cooldown either way. If I’m PvP’ing with my warrior friend I’ll typically pay attention to his health as well. I’m sure most of you know that sometimes in Battlgrounds that people aren’t too wise about where/who the healers are and they’ll be ignored. This can be a good thing. If my buddy is being focused down and I’ve been relatively untouched I can pop in and use Spirit Link Totem and automatically our health is redistributed evenly! So I try my best to time it for when my teammate health is fairly low but not in execute range (sub-20%).
For Mana Tide usage, if you want you can see any other healers near you (sad fact: a lot of the times I’m one of two healers in a Battleground) and then use it, or just use it when you feel it is necessary. You may want to use your own judgement here. Let’s say that you’re fighting at a node and you’ve been healing consistently. They’ve killed more of your teammates than you have theirs and you’re at 50% mana. Unless you do a quick scan and see any reinforcements for your team it wouldn’t make sense to use Mana Tide because it sounds like a losing battle. Sides, if you die you’ll return with full mana anyway. A good example of using it would be at a node – Waterworks in Gilneas at the start of the match, both teams will probably have at least 5 people there. These can go on for a good while. Try and use it when you have a reasonable amount of mana gone but not too much. I try to use it at about 50-60% mana. The reasoning for that is you want to make sure that you’re able to keep your mana as high as possible at all times. Plus by using it earlier with such high mana, you’ll be able to use it again quicker and you may or may not be in a similar situation.
Who do you want to heal though? This is entirely up to you. I typically look to see whose health is dropping quicker than the others, alternatively if I’m with a friend I give them priority. What heals should you use? Make sure to use Riptide on cooldown so that you can get the Tidal Waves buff for certain. You then have 3 choices for the most appropriate heal. Greater Healing Wave, Healing Wave or Healing Surge. Greater Healing Wave and Healing Wave will have the same cast time with GHW healing a lot more – if your target is ~60% use this. If your target is 70%+ I’d stick to using Healing Wave. Healing Surge is a quick heal but the benefit that it gets from Tidal Waves is that it’s critical chance is increased by 30%. The amount that it heals, non-critically, is a middle ground between Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave. This is just poor play on my part but I don’t use it as much as I should to be completely honest. I’d save this for a lower amount of health than I would for Greater Healing Wave usage. A crit from this spell can be a god-send, you have 2 casts with the benefit of Tidal Waves which should put you roughly at 40-50% crit for Healing Surge. You aren’t guaranteed a critical strike though and you’re using a large percentage of your mana to get a quick heal out so you have to make a judgement call to use either Greater Healing Wave at a relatively quicker cast speed (compared to when you don’t have Tidal Waves) vs. an even quicker cast of Healing Surge with a chance at getting a critical strike. I’ve never been one to rely on critical strikes which is why I don’t use Healing Surge that much and instead use Greater Healing Wave.
Gemming can go quite a few different ways. I’ve gone the way of mostly intellect with the odd Intellect/Resilience gem. A lot of high-end players tend to go straight resilience for the survival benefit, but this is mostly for Arena or Rated Battlegrounds.
For reforging, I try to balance Haste and Mastery. I have enough Haste to get an extra tick of Riptide, which in the context of PvP may not be all that useful anyway. I’m always a fan of Mastery and considering in PvP where damage can spike and how our Mastery works it, in theory, makes it seem very desirable. Of course you cannot rule out the usefulness of spirit and resilience. Keep in mind that you do want to have some hit and spell penetration (get the Diffusion necklace) so that you’re able to Windshear and Hex without them missing or being resisted.
To prove how I’m not probably an expert on PvP and is contradictory of everything I said above, here’s a top rated Resto Shaman from my battlegroup. Notice how they have no haste at all(!), only 285 mastery, and 418 crit (which was mostly reforged away) and have gone with a lot of spirit and reforging to hit. I will say that it can depend on your play style as well. I prefer to do a lot of random battlegrounds which is an entirely different beast than arenas. For example, the chances of you being focused down are much smaller. Unless you’re facing a mostly pre-made team, there won’t be an entire DPS team focusing on you. Instead, they’ll have 4-5 players attacking 3-4 different targets which to me is easier to heal than a single target being focused down and having things like haste (and the extra Riptide tick) and mastery make it easier to do.
The amount of skill “in general” in a random battleground is also lower. How many times do you hear one or two people barking commands in chat and no one pays attention to it and does their own thing when in fact the person giving commands are giving you completely valid strategies. This means you can get away with being a bit more “PvE” focus with your spec, reforging and gemming. I’m not saying you can go in there with full PvE gear and kick ass, but you can get away with some of the smaller things.
The most important piece of advice I can also give you is to not get frustrated! Yes, you will die and sometimes it will be frustrating. Nothing is more annoying to me than being stunlocked to death or constantly crowd controlled, but it’s a part of PvP. Though I view PvP in WoW as mostly being able to reduce the control of the other player and strongly dislike it – that’s just the way it is. Just remember to have fun with it!