Totem Talk is the column for shamans. Matthew Rossi has spent a lot of time healing inside Scarlet Monastery this week, which he didn't think he'd ever be able to say again. He got a nice couple of rings from the Horseman. Sorry that this intro is kind of dull, if it makes it any more exciting for you keep in mind that he's typing while a cat chews on his toes. Okay, that's not really any more exciting.
This week Totem Talk jumps from topic to topic like some kind of deranged frog that somehow manages to jump onto something intangible. No, I don't know how the frog does it. Maybe he's from Zul'Aman or something.
First up is news from the PTR, where I have been playing with changes to healing gear, with an elemental spec, and with good ol' enhancement and the new changes. So far, on my resto-geared shaman, the bonus to spell damage and the ability to put all of my points in resto and still use a 2h weapon has made grinding interesting, but I think that change is more aimed at someone who wants to use spells and shocks more than I do. I generally have a full enhancement set of gear that I switch to when I'm grinding or soloing and my playstyle hasn't changed dramatically just because I don't need any points in enhance to use a 2 hander, it just means I can grab even more resto talents if I want to or slap some points into elemental instead.
Since I lack a really dedicated elemental set of gear, my testing on the PTR is not conclusive, but people I've discussed it with there tell me that they are seeing a slight DPS decrease in the short term. The one ZA run I got in on my shaman also had an elemental and enhancement shaman on it, and the elemental shaman told me he wasn't entirely happy with where his DPS was. We all noticed good mana efficiency, though. The new version of Water Shield is incredibly nice. Instant cast, no mana cost to cast it, and if you don't get hit while you have it on you get back 600 mana (by the tooltip - I think it might be affected by gear, because I seemed to get close to a thousand mana back from it) so you can basically guarantee a 600 mana return every minute just by keeping water shield up. No matter what your spec, water shield just got a lot more attractive, as it's basically 50 mp5 free.
Since my gear is mostly at the Heroic/Kara level, I'd like it if commenters who are into/past SSC have any insights to share on the changes to elemental. Is it more DPS over the long term, or an out and out DPS nerf? How's your mana efficiency? Any suggestions on how to respec and maintain your viability as an elemental DPS'er? My own experience with the spec on the PTR were inconclusive at best. I seem to be saving a lot of mana and doing good damage, but I would like to hear from folks who are more heavily invested in the optimum setup for the spec.
As far as enhancement goes, I don't have anything but raves. Several instance runs on both a 70 and 64 enhancement spec shaman have led me to conclude that spirit weapons is indeed reducing our threat as advertised (I didn't even pull aggro on a really heinous WF/crit streak that would definitely have grabbed aggro before) and Shamanistic Focus combined with Water Shield and Shamanistic Rage essentially means you will have a much easier time keeping your mana up. Getting a 60% discount on shocks combined with the Mental Quickness buff to spell damage to make those shocks hit even harder after a Stormstrike crit is just beautiful. Even with a couple of green fist weapons I did very well on a heroic Sethekk run (I think I've helped something like twelve druids get their epic flight forms on test) and had very little mana difficulty.
Now that we've talked about the PTR for a while, let's talk about gear again. Specifically, let's talk about what kind of gear discussion you're looking for. Do you want more pre-raid advice, or should I be looking at gear for shaman leveling up? With the changes to experience and the new green gear available in Dustwallow as well as improved instance gear at every level from 20 to 60, I've considered writing gear guides for shaman at every ten levels or so. There'd be a guide for 20-30, 30-40, 40-50 and 50-58 (since outland gear is so nice that it generally overwhelms what's available on Azeroth between 58 and 60) as well as a general guide to the grind to 70, but I don't know if people are really interested in that kind of guide. I also want to talk more about raid gear and itemization for shamans as I progress further myself, so I'm asking you guys to let me know which of these ideas you'd like to see.
Finally, as we head further towards patch 2.3, 2.4 and eventually to Wrath of the Lich King, several columns could be written on the history of the shaman class in WoW and where it is going. Originally the horde-specific class that countered/mirrored the paladin, shamans have changed and evolved as the restriction on the class created by the necessity to provide similar functionality to the horde that paladins did for the alliance was removed. For good or ill, each faction has access to each class now. But what will shamans be expected to do in the new instances and raids? What new talents and abilities will they get? Will DPS shamans ever get a crowd control ability? Will offtanking versatility ever return to the enhancement tree? What new totems and spells could/should the class gain?
Consider this your chance to let me know exactly what you want to see in future columns. Speculation on the future? A focus on what we have on our plates as of now? Gear and leveling guides, raiding, what are you looking for from this column? More about PvP? (I'm personally kind of exhausted with PvPing on my shaman, my healer doesn't get to so anything but heal and my melee shaman spends most of his time gouged, sheeped or in love with a succubus even though I know I'm just going to end up a draenei candle.) This is the column for shamans, after all, what do shamans want to see next?