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Totem Talk: The Beta Yo-Yo Effect


The great and terrifying thing about the beta is watching everything about your character change from week to week. For instance, this week the level 70 PvP blues changed from looking like Sunwell gear to looking like the picture above.

Now stop laughing at me and let's discuss the changes aside from me looking ridiculous. Man, the difficulty in finding a good hat for a tauren.

We're seeing lots of small tweaks this time. Lava Burst is cheaper, does more damage, and only consumes your own flame shock, meaning that Elemental Shamans will not be able to use Enhancement Shamans shocks to trigger their own crits with the spell. Similarly, enhancement will now find that the Stormstrike debuff is enhanced (so to speak) and only affects your own spells, meaning that the days of shamans seeing rogue poisons eat those charges are also gone. Thunderstorm gets its range back, Ancestral Awakening chooses a target based on health percentage, and Spirit Link doesn't work on polymorphed targets anymore. All these changes and more, after the jump.

And yes, I know the hat looks dumb, thank you.


Elemental Combat

Quite a few changes here. Thunderstorm gets its range bumped back up, to 20 yards. This restores the PvP viability of the ability. Meanwhile, Lightning Mastery doesn't affect Lava Burst anymore, which, well... didn't make a whole lot of thematic sense, admittedly, but as a nice damage boost it will be missed. Elemental Fury moves down to the third tier and is a five point talent giving you up to 100% at full investment on the critical strike damage of your Fire, Frost and Nature spells as well as your Magma, Searing and Fire Nova totems. Meanwhile, Call of Thunder moves up the tree to take it's place, costs one point and gives you 5% critical strike chance on your various lightning spells, namely Chain Lightning, Lightning Bolt and Thunderstorm. But to my eyes the biggest change is the one where Lava Burst only consumes your own Flame Shock's DoT effect to give a guaranteed critical hit, and Stormstrike over in Enhancement only affects the caster's spells.

I'm not sure how this is going to shake out. Clearly, elemental shamans will no longer be taking Stormstrike charges to increase their DPS. Especially with how Stormstrike has expanded, this causes them to lose a potential source of powerful debuffs. I guess you just have to hope Curse of the Elements is up. The talents switching place and cost really just changes how offspec shamans will spec in elemental, and even that's not going to be much if they want to go 51 points in another tree.


Enhancement

Enhancement gets a new ability, Lava Lash, that is clearly aimed at trying to break the habit of enchanting Windfury Weapon on both hands. This, if it works out to good effect for DPS, could see the end of shamans having to hunt far and wide for a slow offhand. It may not, it depends on if Lava Lash + Flametongue Weapon can come close to WF/WF's damage output, but there are various reasons they could.

First off, the damage of Flametongue Weapon will now be boosted by the shaman's Stormstrike charges, which he can rely on being on the target for him to use in this manner because Stormstrike will only affect his or her own spells. Secondly, Flametongue ignores armor, as it is fire damage. Thirdly, Lava Lash itself will do up to 125% of the weapon's damage as fire damage (and that's not even counting the Stormstrike debuff) when it is used. Fourthly, Flametongue Weapon increases spell damage, meaning that your shocks and Maelstrom Weapon instant casts will do more damage.

It's too soon to tell if this means shamans will be free to use fast offhand weapons or not. But it is a good sign that Blizzard is trying to create mechanics that no longer force enhancement into slow/slow combos. It is still possible that the nature of Lava Lash (that 125% weapon damage every six seconds) will reward a slow weapon with more of a damage range or if you'd rather have a fast weapon for Maelstrom Weapon procs.

Besides all this, the change to how Stormstrike works (affecting Fire, Frost and Nature spells, but only those cast by the shaman) and Lava Burst means that, for good or for ill of raid DPS, enhancement shamans are now no longer going to see their Stormstrike charges used up by others, and can ensure that their Flame Shocks get the benefit of their Stormstrike and work to boost their Lava Burst into a guaranteed crit. More so than before, Enhancement has become a true melee/caster hybrid, to the point where all that intellect you'll be stacking is starting to look very important.

Spectral Transformation is removed in this build. The new talent, Earthen Power, gives your Earthbind Totem a chance to clear all snares when it pulses (50/100%), Weapon Mastery is now 3 points for the same effect as its old 5 point version, and Thundering Strikes now works with spells as well as melee attacks. Maelstrom Weapon now scales its chance to reduce the cast time (from 20% to 100% at full investment) by 20%, stacking five times. So if you put a point in it you'll still get a small chance to stack it to full if you crit. Finally, Toughness now only reduces the duration of movement slowing effects by up to 30% at full investment, down from 50%.


Restoration

Not so many changes for restoration: there's no big shift in how healing effects work comparable to the changes to shocks and debuffs only affecting the caster's own spells. Spirit Link is changed so that it breaks rather than deal damage to a polymorphed target, meaning that the spell loses its anti-CC ability. Ancestral Awakening now works by targeting the player with the lowest percentage of health rather than simply the lowest actual health, and heals for up to 30% of the amount healed at full investment, up from 20%. And Nature's Guardian now has a built in 8 second cooldown, up from 5%.

Finally, in non-talent news, there's a new glyph, the Glyph of Renewed Life. It increases all stats by 5% for one minute after you reincarnate. I guess that's nice, if you want to use reincarnation more as a self-battle res and less as a wipe recovery.

Summing it all up: elemental lost a means to punch out higher raid DPS but will get more DPS out of Lava Burst for less mana, although the loss of Lightning Mastery affecting that spell could cause it to be ultimately neither a gain nor a loss. The talent switches don't seem to really affect much of anything. However, at least elemental shamans will not have to worry about losing their Flame Shock before they can cast Lava Burst.

Enhancement got buffed, and possibly (or possibly not) freed from having to use slow MH/slow OH with double windfury, and now seem poised to be the most hybrid spec of a hybrid class, combining physical and magic DPS in a much more expansive way. In addition, the synergy effect of enhancement (where abilities cascade to make other abilities better) will only be increased if the Lava Lash/Flametongue combination becomes widely used.

Restoration is still basically the same. A few small tweaks.

Overall I'd say this patch both buffs and nerfs, but more importantly really changes how shaman DPS shakes out, and is definitely the patch where enhancement became a full fledged hybrid spec within a hybrid class.

And finally, wow, that PvP set is ugly.

Filed under: Shaman, Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Expansions, Talents, (Shaman) Totem Talk, Wrath of the Lich King

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