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Totem Talk: Patch 3.2 PTR

Patch 3.2 has been announced, and shamans saw some changes. That's the short version.

Well, we've had the big patch notes bomb dropped on us, and they weren't kidding about changing restoration around, were they? Of course, if you're an orc shaman, you also got expertise with fist weapons added on to your racial, which is pretty neat all told. We also finally saw the debut of the new totem interface, which I can't say enough good things about. The ability not only to drop up to four totems in one GCD but to have up to three customizable sets of four totems for different uses (I plan on making a set just for when there's no DK's around and I can finally use Strength of Earth totem instead of freaking Stoneskin) just made the clouds part and a host of glorious angels descend upon me. Turns out they wanted some money, but still, for a moment it was pretty keen.

Before we get rolling, though, I want to remind people: I want your horde screenshots! Otherwise this column is just going to be goat-men from the Twisting Nether, and I know you don't want that. I personally don't care, but you guys get so upset, and while that orc racial does make leveling my orc shaman appealing, I don't really think I have the time.

I should probably also mention that rogues got axes in an attempt to give the design team more freedom to actually put some axes into the content. (Yay for one 1h DPS axe in all of Naxxramas, EoE, the Obsidian Sanctum and Ulduar!) I can only look forward to the host of axes in Argent Coliseum that are too fast for shamans to use effectively. On the up side, goodbye, totem stomper macros! We hate you!

First off, let's look at those patch notes for shamans. We'll break them down and comment on each change as we go along, to save time and allow me to use the plural personal reference for no good reason at all.

  • A customizable totem bar will now be available for shaman allowing the storing of 4 different totems. These totems can be placed on the ground at once in one global cooldown for the combined mana cost of all 4 totems.
I've already commented on how awesome this is, and in fact I would think so just for the ability to drop four totems in one GCD. Since that ability alone would have been like Christmas on Caffeine Mountain for me. Since we also know that we'll have three 'sets' of totems with the Call of Fire, Call of Air and Call of Water abilities I keep having to touch my face in concern at this strange curved shape my mouth keeps setting into. My wife tells me it's called a 'smile.'
  • All Shocks now have a default range of 25 yards, up from 20 yards.
A solid, unremarkable but welcome change. More range is good.
  • Base health increased by approximately 7% to correct for shamans having lower health than other classes.
We've been talking about this around here for a while now so really, all I can say is good, I hope it balances shamans against other classes in the ridiculous AoE damage whirlwind that is Ulduar, especially on hard modes. I have grumping about how 'hard mode' really means 'harder on the healer' to do, but that can wait.
  • Chain Heal: Jump distance increased to 10 yards. In addition, the amount of healing now decreases by 40% as it jumps to each new target, instead of 50%.
Speaking as a guy who had to spec back and forth between enhancement and restoration last night for a 10 man that felt like it was never ever going to end, good. Myself and a paladin trying to heal Ulduar alone? Yeah, uhm, anything that helps give shamans back some of that AoE healing niche you keep telling us we have is a good thing. I'm still not going to just mindlessly spam CH anymore with this change, but it will be nice to throw a chain heal into the melee with less fear that they're all so spread out to avoid the charged pillars in Thorim's arena that it won't hit anyone.
  • Ghost Wolf: Can now be learned at level 16. While in this form, snaring effects may not bring the shaman below base normal run speed.

The change to when you can learn it is obviously due to the mount changes. I'm actually mildly impressed with the change that gives Ghost Wolf a bit of utility for getting out of permasnare in PvP. Spamstring, though hath lost thy sting. (Since my other toon is a warrior I suppose I should be unhappy, but I have my shaman hat on now so we'll ignore him.) Will it work on Chains of Ice? If it works on Chains of Ice I may have to kiss someone. (Note: Yes, it's going to be you. And I'm going to use tongue. Lots and lots of thick, muscular tongue. Hope you like beards.)

Disclaimer: if you are not my wife, I'm not allowed to kiss you. Unless you're an distaff relative. So if any of my aunts are reading this, get ready for some tongue I guess.
  • Talents

    • Enhancement
      • Shamanistic Rage: Cooldown is now 1 minute, down from 2 minutes. Successful melee attacks now have a chance to generate mana equal to 15% of the shaman's attack power, down from 30%.

I guess I'll be using Shamanistic Rage more often. Not a really big deal, I don't think, one way or another. The ability will grant less mana when you use it but you'll use it every minute so it will average out and you won't have to wait the extra minute if you're feeling low on mana. Not entirely a non-change but not terribly significant, either.

And now we get to the big list of changes, namely restoration. Hold on to your hats, they've done a lot of work on this tree, it seems.
    • Restoration
      • Ancestral Healing: The buff from this ability now reduces the physical damage taken by the target by 3/7/10% instead of increasing the target's armor.
This change means that rather than trying to figure out how much of a benefit that increased armor actually is, you'll just straight up reduce the incoming physical damage. I would have greatly prefered a flat 10% damage reduction fully talented (so as to allow this talent to also help with massive bursts of magical damage like those we see in most hard modes) but it's a minor positive change. It will keep the talent viable when applied to tanks with extremely high armor values.
All you're going to get out of me here is a 'yay, about time.'
    • Earth Shield: Dispel effects will now remove charges of Earth Shield rather than the entire aura.
A nice small change for PvP, not really earthshatteringly significant but better than having a whole stack of Improved Earth Shield wiped out in one mass dispel.

    • Healing Way: Redesigned. Rather than providing a chance of increasing Healing Wave spells on a friendly target, this talent now innately increases the effectiveness of the shaman's Healing Wave by 8/16/25%.
It's less gimmicky: you don't have to cast a heal to get Healing Way to place itself on your healing target to get the increased effectiveness and it's straightforwardly more benefit to your Healing Wave. Instead of having to cast one HW to get 18% more benefit from your next HW, you just straight up have 25% better Healing Waves. While the purist in me will miss the old Healing Way, this is just a better talent all told. You're still mostly going to use Healing Wave as a clutch spell or in combination with Nature's Swiftness when the tank is dropping fast, but when you do, it'll heal for more. Simpler is sometimes better, and I think that's the case here. I approve of anything that makes it harder to kill a totem that costs this many talent points to get.

    • Nature's Guardian: Redesigned. Now has a fixed 100% proc rate, has a 30-second internal cooldown and increases the shaman's maximum health by 3/6/9/12/15% for 10 seconds.
Okay, it's better, and I might actually take it for PvP now. I still don't think I have enough talent points in my PvE resto build for five points for this talent though. This synchs up with the change to Healing Way to make HW a more often used spell by resto shamans, since you'll be able to throw a big instant HW out every two minutes. It's surprising how much difference shaving a minute off of a cooldown can make in how often you will use it, so I rate this as a very nice (surprisingly nice, even) change to the talent.

    • Tidal Waves: No longer reduces the cast time of Lesser Healing Wave by 30%. It instead now provides +25% critical strike chance to Lesser Healing Wave, along with the previous 30% cast time benefit to Healing Wave.
Well, to be frank I'm really going to miss the cast time reduction on LHW. With proper use of Riptide I was able to throw a couple of really fast LHW's when healing on a tank. On the other hand, more crit on LHW (which is still our fastest cast heal) will allow for more Ancestral Awakening procs and more of the new Ancestral Healing benefit. We'll see how this one shakes out in actual use before I whine too much.
    • Improved Water Shield: This talent now has a 10/20/30% chance to be triggered by Chain Heal, and the charges of Water Shield are no longer consumed by this talent.
I'm happy that it finally includes CH, and I'm very happy that it no longer consumes the orbs, because I disliked having to use the GCD to do it while in a heated healing situation. An overall positive change.

Overall this is a pretty solid patch for shamans. Some of the changes (axes for rogues, for instance) are intended as an indirect benefit to us, while the restoration overhaul is pretty solid and seems aimed both at giving us some group healing bite back and making us stronger single target healers. And man, I cannot exaggerate how happy I am about the totem changes. What the heck, I'll threaten to kiss people over those, too.

Check out more strategies, tips and leveling guides for Shamans in Matthew Rossi's weekly class column: Totem Talk.

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

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