Welcome to the first-ever article on WoW.com by elemental shaman specialist Matt Sampson, otherwise known as Binkenstein. By day, he's a geek; by night, he's also a geek, but with spreadsheets.
So unless you live under a rock somewhere or are completely obsessed by all the Real ID drama recently (huzzah for the final outcome!), you've heard that the talent trees and mastery system are being completely revamped. (Would you like to know more?) What will the changes for our beloved elemental spec be? (Or in a topic-based-on-a-song version, Should I Stay or Should I Go?) Looking at the current Cataclysm preview/beta information, there are 26 talents and over 11 tiers, comprising 76 talent points. If we assume that there will be two or three talents per level, we're looking at 13 to 19 talents overall, with at least 31 points. Exactly how the secondary tree stuff will work is a guess at this stage.
Starting point: 26 talents, 76 points
First off, all the percentage bonus talents will probably get removed. Say goodbye to Convection, Concussion, Call of Flame, Elemental Warding, Shamanism and Acute Overload. The only "real" flat bonuses in the bunch are Convection and Concussion, at 10% mana cost reduction and 5% damage bonus respectively. Both of them are mainly point soak talents, so they'll go. Call of Flame is a limited flat bonus, so using the same logic, it'll go too. Elemental Warding, however, is an interesting one. It'll probably go -- but it might not, either. Personally, I hope it stays because I like taking 10% less damage.
Shamanism, on the other hand, is one of those "need to put talent in to fix elemental DPS so it is OK compared to everyone else" talents. It makes sense if they're shrinking the talent trees down from 11 tiers to seven that things like these would go, to end up being baked in to the tree mastery itself (or even not required at all). This is also where one of the elemental tree bonuses would be used to adjust overall DPS. Acute Overload, on the other hand, is the replacement for Lightning Overload itself and is designed to increase the overload damage. It's another flat bonus talent, and seems like another likely candidate to be removed.
Current count: 21 talents (lost 5), 55 points (lost 21)
Next, they'll probably drop out some of the odd talents from the tree, such as Elemental Devastation and Reverberation. Devastation is one of the talents in the tree that hasn't been touched in a long time, if ever. Since Blizzard plans on locking you into a single tree until you hit 70, it doesn't strike me that they'll leave a talent in the tree that isn't going to be used by any elemental shaman. Reverberation suffers the same fate, being an expensive and impractical talent (for elemental, anyway), although I think it may be used in some PvP builds.
Current count: 19 talents (lost 7), 47 points (lost 29)
We know that Thunderstorm is going, as it will become a skill you get at level 10 when you chose elemental. (Why would you chose anything else?) Since we have so few talented abilities, it is going to be interesting to see what else gets put in there. Eye of the Storm will most likely also go, due to reviews on how spell pushback works (again), and since we will be stacking Intellect, Unrelenting Storm will have to go (predicting a regen-while-casting talent).
Current count: 16 talents (lost 10), 40 points (lost 36)
By now, the tree will be a shadow of its former self, but in a better position to be used as a seven-tier tree. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if we not only lose the talents listed above, but also some of the remaining ones, too. Of course, these would be replaced by "new, improved, and exciting" talents, as I think Blizzard is working towards more active talents than passive ones. It's just a question of how long it will be until we see them.
Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. Whether it's Matt Sampson's elemental edition, Joe Perez's coverage of restoration or Rich Maloy's enhancement edition, we have you covered.