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Look! Up in the sky! It's Shaman changes!

Tipster VyseV1 hit us up with a mail pointing to Ghostcrawler's latest post on the beta shaman forums, and it's chock full of shaman changes. Some of them aren't really changes at all, but rather things that didn't change, interestingly enough. As an example, Ghost says:

"Maelstrom Weapon -- We have a concern that the proc per minute frequency is too often. According to our numbers, it's balanced for a two-handed weapon and a bit generous for a dual-wielder. However, this would be a nerf to Enhancement dps overall that we'd have to make up elsewhere, and it seems to be a fun change shamans are enjoying. So we're going to let this ride for now. It's something to keep an eye on, but we aren't going to change it yet. "

For the complete post in case you can't get to the forums, hurtle across the dark void with me now! Hurtle!

There's a reasonable amount of text here, so instead of posting it all and responding at the bottom, we'll discuss each paragraph individually. Italics are GC's post.

Tidal Waves -- Riptide now also procs this effect.

Good. Any buff to Riptide is a good thing.

Riptide -- We're going to increase the initial healing component.

See my comment on Tidal Waves.

Storm Reach -- now called "Elemental Reach" and includes Lava Burst.

I'm glad to see Lava Burst get a range increase, hopefully this will mean Elemental Shamans will be able to work it into their rotations more easily.


Improved Fire Nova Totem
- Increases the damage done by your Fire Nova Totem by 10/20%, and your Fire Nova totem has a 50/100% chance to stun all targets damaged by your Fire Nova Totem for 2 sec.

This totem goes back and forth a lot between the movement impairment and a stun effect. I guess the stun will be good for PvP and on trash. Honestly, I don't think I've ever put points in this talent. That might just indicate why I'm not a very good Elemental Shaman though.

Thunderstorm -- We will probably boost the mana return to 8% of total mana. That seems more in line with similar effects. We talked a lot about buffing its damage, but decided that may not be a good idea. With its short range, it isn't a great rotational spell for a raiding Elemental shamans, and making you run up to hit a boss and run back is giving up a lot of cast time. Instead we're going to try to keep the damage and knockback more situational (in PvP it will get used a lot) and make the mana return the big PvE raiding focus.

8% is better than 5%. Not much else to say about that, they seem determined that the 51 point Elemental talent be situational. It will clearly be used in PvP and PvE for the reasons Ghost indicates, but I also expect to see builds that omit it entirely at least until we're clear on how much mana regen Elemental will need at higher levels. Can't really complain about a buff, even if it's not the buff you wanted.

Maelstrom Weapon -- We have a concern that the proc per minute frequency is too often. According to our numbers, it's balanced for a two-handed weapon and a bit generous for a dual-wielder. However, this would be a nerf to Enhancement dps overall that we'd have to make up elsewhere, and it seems to be a fun change shamans are enjoying. So we're going to let this ride for now. It's something to keep an eye on, but we aren't going to change it yet.

The cynic in me translates this to "We're going to nerf this as soon as we get enough data to confirm our suspicion that it procs too much" and I really, really hope I'm wrong. Then again, I can't disagree with the premise that it procs too much more than I do. Really, to me this is like someone saying "We're concerned that fried chicken you're eating is too delicious."

Lava Burst and Lightning Bolt -- And now for a few words on Elemental damage. One of the things we were trying to do to make Elemental dps more interesting was to have a Lava Burst + Flameshock variant. We also themed some new deep talents to support this play style. The problem is that lightning still seems to do more damage than fire, which in turn makes the new talents feel lame because they benefit fire and not lightning.

Now we think that Lava Burst is doing appropriate damage for its cost and if anything Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning are a little too good. (Remember they benefit from Curse of the Elements and similar spells now.) However, nerfing lightning would make it harder to level as well as making 3.0.2 kind of brutal for Elemental shamans, since Lava Burst is level 75. Hurting lightning would feel like a flat out nerf, and even though you'd partially make up for it at higher level, overall we think this would feel, um, yucky. So no big changes to lightning spells.

We talked a lot about just buffing Lava Burst and a deep fire-based talent or two. This will make Lava Burst too good on paper, but it might work out okay in the game itself. We'll just have to see. We aren't 100% sold on this course of action, so I'll update when we decide for sure.

Once again, these decisions were the consensus of our design team, so please don't give me the credit. In fact, if there are any changes you specifically don't like -- those I had nothing to do with. :)

Okay, this is actually the meat of the post, and it's again about changes they didn't make, and changes they may make. Now, I don't have access to the data Blizzard does, which is several builds ahead of what's on the beta, and so I can either accept or reject their contention that LB spells are 'too good' right now but either way I'm doing so based entirely on what other people are saying. I don't have the numbers. So I'll leave it to Elemental Shamans who are out there testing to decide if LB is too good based on CoE or not. I know losing access to Enhancement Shamans' Stormstrike didn't do them any favors.

I do have to say that I'm glad they decided that nerfing level 70 Elementals with the promise of buffs to come at level 75 would be a bad idea. Brutal doesn't really cover how bad it would be to spend a month with your damage decreased and then have to level once Wrath actually came out with that same decrease. Raiding Elementals would feel it, but the ones who would really suffer are those in lesser gear who would find themselves dying a lot more often.

I hope they find a way to buff Lava Burst that they find acceptable and not terribly unbalanced. Perhaps it should add a debuff that increases the damage fire spells do on the target? At any rate, shamans got a few nice changes and dodged some pretty enormous bullets here.

Filed under: Shaman, Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Expansions, Leveling, Talents, Buffs, Wrath of the Lich King

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