Skip to Content
4-03-2009 @ 10:24AM
Unfortunately Lava Burst was an interesting idea with what ended up being a vital flaw, and why elemental had so many problems at Wrath's release. The 100% crit was an interesting idea, in that it would allow crit-based procs to have a periodic, reliable trigger. Unfortunately, this caused a slight oversight on Blizzard's part.The fact that Lava Burst has 100% crit, means it does not scale with crit.Why is this a bad thing?Most people that have raided long enough can tell you that scaling is everything. As you acquire more gear, it's in a way as though you're still leveling up, but through the gear that you're wearing. As you progress further into raiding, content will come to expect this higher level of performance. Abilities that do not scale, or scale very poorly, suffer the further into raid content that you progress.So here we have Lava Burst. It crits 100% of the time. At first, this sounds great. But you have to remember that this 100% crit on lava burst isn't a free gift you've been given because blizzard thinks you're cool. In attempting to balance your class, blizzard assumed that you would be critting lava burst at 100%, so really it's just another portion of your dps that simply appears in large chunks. All it really took to see that right at wrath's release was to compare your overall dps over the course of an entire raid boss fight to other classes. There are other classes that didn't have a 100% crit nuke that were doing as much dps as the shaman when measured over the course of an entire raid boss fight.Now, it's not that Lava Burst does not scale at all. It does of course scale with spellpower. If blizzard had then seen fit to fill the drops and elemental tier set with items that spend their budget on pure spellpower and the necessary hit and no crit, this would have been fine. The item budget would have been spent on stats that affect all of the shaman's spells. But while elemental shaman itemization needs shifted, it seemed that part of the dev team didn't get the memo. Shaman gear continued to look pretty much the same as it always has, with large amounts of spell crit.People didn't necessarily notice that this was bad at first, because again it's an issue of scaling. An freshly minted 80 just setting foot into Naxxramas with a bunch of other freshly minted 80's didn't really notice a problem. However, players that were topping the charts at the start, fell to dead and distant last once everyone in the raid was fully decked out in Naxxramas epics, especially in Naxxramas 25 where the gear levels were higher. The reason for this is that Lava Burst, which provides a very large portion of the elemental shaman's total damage, had gotten no benefit at all from all that crit on their gear. Meanwhile, other spellcasters were getting gear that was far less wasted. A mage, for example, has most of their damage, perhaps even all depending on spec and situation, scale with both spellpower and crit. This isn't a discussion about mages, so yes, perhaps they were or weren't at the top of the charts, but assuming equal skill the mage was still most likely better off than the shaman in terms of their dps throughput.For some of you who may point out that there is gear that doesn't have crit or has very little crit, you'd be right. And it's usually called Cloth. Now, the silliness of being forced to use Cloth aside, we still run into some of the same problems. Those sorts of items tend to have spirit, which most clothie classes were designed to scale with, while shaman not only gets no damage at all from spirit to any ability, it's also an undesirable stat even for regen, as shamans favor mp5. It was performing slightly better, but still had some of the same problems, and just you try to wrestle it away from those stuck in cloth.Furthermore, so much of shaman's damage being sucked up in a single spell that has a midrange cooldown caused major problems with what seems is Blizzard's favorite stat in Wrath, Haste. People doing extensive dps testing and modeling discovered that due to the huge dps output of a properly handled Lava Burst, it should take priority over all other spells in an elemental shaman's rotation. This means if you have a choice to casting an extra lightning bolt, but it will clip into time that Lava Burst is off of cooldown, you're better off simply waiting until you can cast Lava Burst. Clipping your lava bursts will actually cost you dps. Cooldowns are not affected by haste. Therefore, other than some small effect on gcd's and totems, haste is an odd case for elemental shamans in that it does not scale linearly. Haste now only benefits an elemental shaman if they gather enough of it for an entire extra lightning bolt in the space between Lava Burst cooldowns.So, now we have two stats appearing on a lot of gear that do extremely poorly for elemental shamans. Shamans deep into Naxxramas were doing very poorly, and Blizzard finally took notice. They shuffled elemental talents around, and gave shamans talents that boost the benefit from spelldamage, bringing elemental shamans back up to par. This may in time, though, prove to be a temporary band-aid. The issues of crit scaling and haste scaling remain, they've just been beaten to death by a boost in spellpower's scaling. This may, depending on how far gear scales, prove to become a problem as we progress into Ulduar and especially into later raid instances unless they further refine and tweak things.In the end, I'm not a big fan of Lava Burst for these reasons. It also went from the promise of a secondary nuke useable in nature-immune situations to a cooldown dps gimmick that caused a new set of fresh problems.
4-03-2009 @ 10:35AM
My attention span isn't what it used to be...
4-03-2009 @ 11:37AM
Remember when the only tier set for Shammies was resto?Yeah gearing elemental is complicated, but it's still very possible. Its just not for mathematically challenged.
4-03-2009 @ 12:34PM
+1, this should have been the article. Maybe WoW Insider should commission a few guest columns...
4-03-2009 @ 1:31PM
@ jrizutkoIn this case, it's not really about figuring out how to gear that's my issue with Lava Burst and the way it affects shaman mechanics. It's that the mechanics are at cross-purposes with current itemization, making elemental theorycraft rather a pile of kludge that may show further problems down the road. While elemental is now performing quite well in Naxx25, I feel the buff they gave may have just been a temporary fix that will need further revision as we progress into Ulduar and beyond. Sometimes this can happen even with less obvious or severe looking scaling problems. Lack of efficient crit scaling is why, for example, shadow priests are going from high in the charts to very low in the charts as the raid gears up in Naxx 25, with the same players at the helm. Blizz acknowledged that, and this is why the upcoming changes are going into Shadowform, and shadow priest crit scaling in general.
First time? A confirmation email will be sent to you after submitting.
Members enter your username and password.
Enter your AOL or AIM screenname and password.
Please keep your comments relevant to this blog entry. Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments.
When you enter your name and email address, you'll be sent a link to confirm your comment, and a password. To leave another comment, just use that password.
To create a live link, simply type the URL (including http://) or email address and we will make it a live link for you. You can put up to 3 URLs in your comments. Line breaks and paragraphs are automatically converted — no need to use <p> or <br /> tags.