This week, Totem Talk talks about leveling a shaman through PvP. That's right, I said leveling a shaman through PvP. Matthew Rossi has discovered the joys of returning to the Horde this weekend with a level grinding AV blitz that even he doesn't really understand.
Before we even get started: I'm working on a post about the change to Glyph of Flame Shock and the Earthen Power changes. It will be its own post, it probably won't be a Totem Talk all by itself. It's one of those "Enough to give it some focus, not enough for a full column" changes. For now, here's a relevant forum thread with blue feedback on the issue.
Alterac Valley's transformation into The Great Level Grinding Gulch (apologies to Warsong Gulch) has had one significant benefit to my Horde shaman: it's gotten me to dust him off and start playing. What's even more amazing is, it's been fun to play an enhancement shaman in PvP again! I think I may have suffered some subtle form of head injury, but there it is. This experiment was initially inspired by my desire to get back to my Horde roots without repeating all the content in Northrend for a sixth time. You know, it's well designed, and I do expect I'll go run Zul'Drak again for the Ampitheatre quests, but I wanted a shortcut and Alterac Valley has provided one. At present I honestly think any leveling guide should recommend a daily dose of AV to help speed the process up.
Oh, I die a lot. Pretty much any time I don't have Feral Spirit up, I die. I die if the Alliance Rogues sneeze on me, which they do often, and with great relish, often snickering at my Zul'Aman enhancement gear and my poor green offhand. It does its best! But even with all the dying (to the point where the Orc death animation is sort of soothing to me now and if I go too long without having two rogues making me the meat in a stabbing sandwich I sort of miss it) I'm sort of impressed with how much I can actually do as an underlevel, completely undergeared Shaman leveling up purely through AV.
First off, it's worth it to invest some points in PvP talents if you intend to do this. AV gives you the great advantage as a leveling character of being one face in a mob, making it harder for the level 80's to immediately pick you out of the crowd and crush you to death with two swings of their 232 DPS 2h weapons. (That's what Divine Storm, Whirlwind and Heart Strike are for!) It's worth picking up utility talents like Frozen Power and sacrificing DPS (let's be honest, you don't have any) for possible snares and increased damage on people your Frostbrand has slowed.
Secondly, with the new Totem Interface, you have no excuse to not have a nice set of PvP totems picked out and ready to drop for any flag defense. Tremor, Grounding and Cleansing should be in there. When i first started this PvP blitz two levels ago (I was level 73 and it was yesterday, so the strange tone of this paragraph where I make it sound like oceans of time have flowed by is really rather inexcusable, my apologies) I took part in at least two defenses of Tower Point where four of us, none above level 74, held off a level 80 DK and Shadow Priest via creative use of these totems (and a Magma to keep then occupied) bought us the time we needed. Remember, your totems buff everyone from 70 to 80, and it's especially helpful when you can break fears, cleanse poisons and diseases, and keep that first big spell hit from ripping 80% of your piddly level 73 health pool away in one shot.
I actually preferred playing as Elemental for the first day, I only switched to test out Enhancement. In either spec, the first thing I noticed is that it's worth your while to throw healing spells around, especially once the opposing players have decided you are a weak DPS target and started ignoring you. It is a very bad idea to be an easily identifiable level 73 healer in AV, I find. But once you pop the Spirit Wolves or do a Thunderstorm or otherwise done something to identify yourself as not a healer, it's actually really fun to start Chain Heals out the wazoo and watch the enemy spend seconds trying to determine who's healing. You'd think the totems would be a big giveaway, but it can take a surprisingly long time for a Murder of Rogues (that is the proper plural, right?) to come descend upon you and pick the flesh from your very stationary bones.
At least in my experience, however, Elemental seems to provide a lot more oomph at these levels in the gear I've acquired. Most of my old epics from BC endgame are caster mail, though. Yay for my Karazhan wolf hat!
Basically, I think Shaman players are in a unique position to benefit from AV, or PvP leveling in general (although I tried WSG and AB as well as AV and AV definitely seems to offer the best XP bang for your buck) because you can do your offspec job while in a different spec. Unlike a Druid, you don't have to shift forms or anything complicated like that to start tossing a few heals around, and unlike a Paladin we actually have, and benefit from, Int on our gear in either of our DPS specs so we have better (although still not ideal) mana pools for a few frenzied heals. Elemental also have the benefit of wearing high spell power gear, while Enhancement usually has talents that convert AP to SP and if I lower the gas tank too much throwing heals, I just pop Shamanistic Rage and run up to hit somebody. The best part of doing that is, once Maelstrom Weapon stacks I can throw an instant Chain Heal off and go back to punching.
To be fair, I could have prepared to do this much more effectively. I have level 80 toons on Malfurion, I could have arranged for some Heirlooms to help with the XP gains (at least the small ones for killing stuff in a raid, I don't know if Heirlooms work with the XP for killing Balinda or blowing up towers - I'm told by our new PvP expert that they do, however) as well as a pair of maces so that I didn't have to worry about replacing weapons before level 80. I could have stockpile some consumables, loaded up on potions, and otherwise been methodical about it. I could even have broken out my PvP trinket instead of leaving it in the bank this entire time.
Next week, hopefully I'll be 80 and will have a more detailed look at Elemental as it steps its first foot onto the ladder that is endgame PvP. Expect many, many more deaths. For the next few weeks at least, Totem Talk is going back to its old school roots as Horde.