Totem Talk is the column for Shamans. Matthew Rossi has played two shamans to 70 and is working on a third, his main problem being he can't decide whether to level another Horde or Alliance shaman. Yes, he's technically working on two elemental shamans at once. Once again, we at Totem Talk hasten to point out that no one has ever said that he was very bright.
Okay. You've hit 70. Now what?
Now you begin working towards what they call endgame. How does one go about doing that? Well, hopefully you're in a guild that can run at least the five man instances. If not, you'll have to PuG them, but while doing that look towards getting into a good guild. By good, I don't just mean sharding Bulwarks of Azzinoth here... a fully progressed guild may not actually need you all that much, and even if they're looking for a shaman with your spec, sometimes it's more fun to find a guild with which you can progress rather than one that's already done everything. Look for a guild you can get along with first and foremost, because you're going to be spending a lot of time with these folks inside unpleasant places packed with horrible things you'll be trying to kill to crack them open for their nice shiny loot.
Either way, you first need to run instances. In a perfect world, you'd go from instances to heroic instances, then 10 man raids, then up to the 25 man raids if your guild has the numbers. This may or may not be the case: some of the best players I know are in smaller guilds and run just the 10 mans. But you will have to dedicate some of your time to getting gear, it's the nature of the beast, so to speak. You can't step into Karazhan in greens and expect to do well unless you're being carried, or you really are Chuck Norris. If that's the case, thank you for reading my column, sir.
The first thing to consider is, what spec are you intending to play in raids? Do you want to be a caster? Are you looking to deliver the melee damage? Or would you rather heal? Once you've decided what spec you want for endgame, the first thing you could do is work on one of the 'Dungeon 3' sets that drop in the various level 70 and heroic instances. There's only two problems with this approach. One is that there's no restoration spec 'set' per se. There are three mail Dungeon 3 sets, and none of them are good for a restoration shaman. One's a clear Hunter suit (it will work for an enhancement shaman, but the set bonuses are clearly aimed at hunters), one is primarily aimed at elemental shamans, and the last is a tossup between hunters and enhancement shamans. I personally wouldn't heal in any of it, although of the three the Tidefury would be the best of a bad bunch for healing sets. (It's nice for what it was designed to do, don't get me wrong.) So what does this mean? Well, if you're a restoration shaman (and to be honest, they're the most in-demand spec for raiding) you're not going to be able to wear a 'set' as such. Fortunately, there are several pieces of good restoration mail in the instances you'd be running to put together an elemental or enhancement set anyway, so it's not hopeless.
The second problem is related to the first one, but is a more general issue - sometimes the dungeon sets are not your best alternative. Furthermore, even if you're lucky enough to have a set tailored to your spec, you still need to assemble trinkets, boots, a belt, bracers, a cape... gearing up to run higher level content can sometimes seem like a treadmill. Luckily, Totem Talk has already covered your belt, bracer and boot options before the start of raiding. Make sure you don't let drop rates freak you out and make this more of an ordeal than it has to be, and also, don't confuse 'green' with 'bad'. A full set of all green quest gear probably isn't going to cut it in Kara, but you can walk in the door with a few green trinkets, or rings, or even a green fist weapon (in fact, many enhancement shamans are not going to find two 2.6 speed weapons right away and will have to use a green offhand to keep their windfury procs from overlapping) and do well. I main healed Kara with two green trinkets for an embarrassingly long time, and we did fine.
More important than gear, however (blasphemy!) is that you take the time to learn from these instances, especially if you haven't really run a lot of them before. In my experience heading into the 25 mans, Blizzard has seeded the five mans with encounters that serve to help train you for encounters you'll experience later. Especially when you're running the Karazhan attunement quest, pay attention to bosses like Zereketh the Unbound. It will be useful when someone has to explain the Netherspite encounter to you later. As a shaman, it's especially important to use these fights to help train yourself to place your totems effectively to cover as much ground as you can, and to get into the habit of dropping them as they run out if possible (addons like enhancer can help, as they give you a totem timer so you know when your totems are running out, but it isn't strictly speaking necessary to use one) so that their buffs are always available to your party.
For those of us who have been playing the game for a long time now, it's important not to just sleep your way through these five man dungeons just because you've seen them before. I don't know if you've been away from the game, if perhaps your shaman is a new alt, or what have you, but take advantage of the opportunity to explore what the class can really do in a shakedown situation like the five mans. Raids can often be higher pressure just because people are often looking to progress through content and are not interested in wiping (even though some wipes must happen), and even when an encounter is on 'farm' it can still wipe an unwary or cocky group. Five mans serve to help sharpen skills you'll use later and are a good place to let yourself really explore what you can do. No matter your spec, shamans can be a very flexible class.
Okay, then. You've found a guild, run the instances, gotten a solid set of gear for your first ten man raid. What do you do now?
That's exactly what we'll talk about next week. What do enhancement, elemental and restoration shamans do in raids? (Obviously they DPS or heal, but there's more to it than that.) We'll talk about specific Karazhan fights (you will probably have to Earth Shock Julianne) and talk about loot you'll be wanting. Hopefully there will be time to talk about ZA, too.
Oh, and thanks again for reading, Mr. Norris.
Looking for tips and tricks for leveling up your mains or alts? Check out our page of WoW Insider Class Leveling Guides!