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Totem Talk: Starting a Shaman

This week, Totem Talk's Matthew Rossi finds himself heading down nostalgia lane.

Before I explain who that fine orcish chap to the right is, I wanted to take a moment and share some things with you. Specifically, this, this, this, this, this and this. These are some of the drops of interest from the level 80 Onyxia raid coming in patch 3.2.2, and I'll just point out that these are all the 10 man iLevel 232 drops, meaning that for everything you're looking at, there will most likely be a 25 man iLevel 245 version.

Frankly, if you're an enhancement shaman (especially an orc) and you're not excited about the Empowered Deathbringer, I don't even know you anymore. With a 2.7 speed and a 628 dmg top end, it's hitting almost as hard as the Golden Saronite Dragon. Imagine how hard the 25 man version will hit? I'll admit to being a little disappointed they didn't leave the speed at 2.9, but even so great googly moogly is that not a hot little axe? Well, okay, a hot big axe.

if the 25 man version of Deathbringer keeps pace with the 25 man version of Vis'Kag, we're looking at one of the best possible Main Hand/Off Hand combos for Enhancement. I don't think it's possible for me to explain how excited I am over this. I start twitching when I think about it, to be honest with you.

Now that we've had this moment to geek out over upcoming loot, as is right and proper to do, what about this fine you lowbie horde you see before you?
Frankly, he's my window into what it's like to level a Shaman nowadays.

It's true: it's different to level a Shaman now than it was the last time we talked about it. This is the danger of playing a constantly updating MMO like World of Warcraft, and Patch 3.2 definitely added some new things to consider for anyone thinking about starting a new shaman.

Of course, some things haven't changed. Between 1 and 20, you're still wearing leather, casting a spell or spells and using shocks until your target gets into melee range, then finishing it off with melee and shocks. You're still going to have very little variation between Elemental, Restoration and Enhancement as a lowbie shaman. What, then, has changed?

To help us answer that question and many more as the weeks pass, I introduce you to Greythok, a fresh level 11 shaman on Kilrogg. Greythok will be leveling (when I have the time, so don't expect him to be 80 next week) sans access to things like Heirloom shoulders, chestplates, or weapons. Greythok will be our lens through which we recover what it is like to level a new shaman in the current game. Because frankly, two shamans down the road, it's sometimes hard to recall what true lowbie newness felt like.

However, one of the things we do need to take into account for people starting an alt are those very same Heirlooms. While Greythok happens to be on a server where I don't have access to them, it's likely many players considering a shaman alt for the first time will have access. Patch 3.2 created more options for leveling with Heriloom Chests and several new Heirloom Weapons. Aspiring Enhancement Shamans will no doubt be interested in the Champion's Deathdealer Breastplate as well as Champion Herod's Shoulder. As for weapons for your leveling Enhancement, if you have the Emblems you can pick up the Bloodied Arcanite Reaper until you get Dual Wield around level 40 or so (which is to day, 20 levels higher than we're talking about now) and that will see you through the first 40 levels or so. If you want to plan ahead for the next 40 levels, pick up a pair of Venerable Mass of McGowan.

As for caster shaman, at these lower levels it's not terribly important to distinguish DPS from Healing gear. The Mystical Vest of Elements and Mystical Pauldrons of Elements would serve either spec, as would the Devout Aurastone Hammer. Things to remember whether or not you have these items, there have been several small tweaks to the class that should help with leveling. For starters, your young shaman has more health now than he did before patch 3.2, 7% more base health. This is very handy in those early days when you're still playing the 'cast and bash' game with every pull. In additions, your shocks have a longer range (five more yards) which is always helpful for trying to kill them before they get to you. More range is always good. You'll be getting an interrupt (Wind Shear) at level 16 that's not linked to your shocks so you won't have to chose between doing damage and interrupting a spell cast (although that's not really a major issue at lower levels).

Making leveling easier, you'll be getting Ghost Wolf at level 16 and your first mount at level 20. Ghost Wolf has been changed so that "While in this form, snaring effects may not bring the shaman below base normal run speed" which makes it a very nice clutch escape ability for your younger shaman even after he has his first mount.

To be honest, this is about all that's changed for your shaman between 1 and 20. Once you go between 20 and 40 you start seeing a lot more (you'll gain two of the totem bars, one at 30, one at 40) and you'll have the opportunity to get Dual Talent Specialization and an epic mount at level 40. Dual Talents is till 1000g to train, so it's something alts might get if bankrolled by a level 80 main, but your average level 40 who is just discovering the game isn't going to have that luxury. An epic mount, however, isn't completely unaffordable at 40. 60 gold will get you there. The various shaman quests are still unchanged (if I'm wrong about that, Greythok will be discovering that shortly) but they should be easier to do with mount and GW closer to hand.

It's not tremendously altered, just more convenient in several ways. Now is probably the best time ever to start that shaman or shaman alt and see what you've been missing, now that you won't have to plink four totems down one at a time very long, will be mobile faster than ever, and have many ways to streamline your leveling available.

For this next week, I'll be leveling Greythok up the Elemental tree (the goal with Greythok is to stick with Elemental, the tree I've done the least with) while simultaneously raiding Ulduar and Trial of the Crusader with that spec. I'll report back to you on how that goes.

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

Filed under: Shaman, Patches, Items, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Expansions, Alts, (Shaman) Totem Talk, Wrath of the Lich King

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