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Totem Talk: Enhancement shaman changes for patch 4.0.1

Axes, maces, lightning, Windfury and wolves. It can mean only one thing: enhancement. Rich Maloy lives it and loves it. His main spec is enhance. His off-spec is enhance. He blogs about the life and times of enhance and leads the guild Big Crits (Season 2, Episode 1 now out!) as enhancement shaman Stoneybaby.

I can't wait for the new talent trees to kick in with patch 4.0.1. The game designers truly streamlined talent trees, including Enhancement. They've even gone so far as to make Primal Wisdom, our mana regen talent, into a base ability, and they've taken one point out of Unleashed Rage. This frees up two talent points right away and gave us some very viable specs to use right out of the gate of 4.0.1 for our last hurrah at level 80.

I see two different possibilities for level 80 specs for enhancement: Fire Nova or Improved Shields. First, an Improved Fire Nova spec of 5/31/0. Not only did this talent get moved to the enhancement tree, but it got dropped down deep, out of reach for elemental. The unfortunate part is that come Cataclysm, Fire Nova will require a Magma, Fire Elemental or Flametongue Totem and will not work off our new and improved Searing Totem. To further confound matters, the improved nova is right beside Searing Flames, the Searing Totem special kicker.

The improved novas make a big difference in fights requiring both boss and AoE damage, such as heroic Halion-25. Outside of that fight (or any future fights like it), Improved Fire Nova is a waste; better to put the points in Improved Shields. My main spec at 80 will be 5/31/0. Just moving those points isn't going to push your DPS up significantly, but with the changes to Lightning Shield, making it effectively a 10-minute, non-depletable buff (when glyphed), those two points are well spent there at 80.

Dipping into the elemental tree, after our requisite 31 points in enhancement, three points in Acuity are a must-have, especially as we start to level again. The last two points going into Concussion will pack an extra punch.

Check your caps

As Sarah Nichol pointed out, shadow priests and balance druid hit buffs no longer affect the raid; we effectively lose 3 percent hit. Despite this, we still want to maintain hit cap, because our spells continue to be a significant portion of our damage, and so we want them to hit every time. As any experienced enhancement shaman will tell you, we never waste a cooldown, so a spell miss is as good as not pressing a button.

Draenei need 420 hit, while the rest of us need 446 in order to maintain that raid 17 percent hit cap. This shouldn't be a problem because if you're in ICC gear, you're swimming in hit. We're not losing anything on our physical hit, because the soon-to-be-gone 3 percent raid hit buff only affected spells. All that extra hit is coming in handy now. Was there a master plan by Blizzard designers to give us lots of hit in ICC because they knew they were going to take away a buff? Mostly likely not -- but thankfully, it all worked out in the end.

One of the good talent tree changes was making Unleashed Rage a two-point ability, which frees up an extra point to put elsewhere. However, it will increase our expertise by only eight, with two points invested when 4.0.1 goes live; currently, it is a three-point talent, adding 3/6/9 expertise. Thankfully, losing one point of expertise (or 26 rating) is an easy fix. Hit up a Precise Cardinal Ruby and an Accurate Ametrine to get back up at or over the expertise cap, or pop on Enchant Gloves – Expertise.

Stormstrike promotes ED uptime

Stormstrike will no longer debuff your target. This is a welcome change, as it removes another layer of complexity from our rotation. No, we're not taking Stormstrike out of the rotation; we're eliminating such things as "SS_0" and "ES_SS" from the optimal spell priority rotation. SS_0 means cast Stormstrike if there is no active Stormstrike debuff on the current target. ES_SS means if the Stormstrike debuff is active on your target, then cast Earth Shock; otherwise, cast Stormstrike to apply the debuff. Complicated? Don't worry; it's simplified in patch 4.0.1, with Stormstrike yielding an increased chance to crit.

That extra crit chance from Stormstrike means more ED uptime. That's Elemental Devastation. What did you think I meant? Since we won't have any guaranteed critical strikes, we want to maximize our chance to crit with spells for the increase to melee crit.

Ancestral Swiftness and Feral Spirit

Ancestral Swiftness -- what an awesome talent. Aside from Feral Spirit, this is the best talent point spend in the tree, in my opinion. Well, Unleashed Rage is pretty good. And so is Flurry. And Stormstrike. And ... OK. It's not the best, but it's damn good. For two points, we get insta-wolf and a permanent run speed boost of 15 percent. Plus, baseline Ghost Wolf is usable indoors! Ever get jealous when you hear the whoosh of a warrior charging back in after a Defile? Ever make a special spec, just to include Ghost Wolf for just one boss? Fret not, young shaman -- insta-wolf is nearly here.

Speaking of Feral Spirit, the cooldown goes to 2 minutes and the wolves only last for 30 seconds. By my estimation, this is actually a slight nerf for most boss fights, though of course the nerf/buff depends on the fight duration. I ran some numbers in Excel and posted them here. Assuming we pop our wolves at the very start of the fight and then again on every cooldown, by breaking boss fights down into 30-second increments, the current 3-min./45-sec. setup of Feral Spirit edges out the forthcoming change two to one.

As for clearing trash and PvP, this should be a good change. We'll use the wolves more often, and they'll coincide with more cooldowns, which inevitably means more time in Storm Peaks farming Chunk o' Mammoth to make Spiced Mammoth Treats. We lose the ability to use Spirit Walk twice in the same feral spirit duration -- which I rarely used more than once per pop, anyway, in PvE.

New, improved and angry Searing Totem

Our go-to totem is the new and improved Searing Totem. Long the outcast of the enhancement world, shunned by its fellow fiery peers, looked down upon by all other totems, even the lowly Sentry Totem hasn't given Searing the time of day since patch 3.1. We now get to experience first hand the comeback of the Searing Totem! No more will Magma kick sand in Searing's face and run off to the beach with Ophera Windfury. The day of the searing has arrived!

From what I've read, the Searing Totem is fast to switch targets, quite aggressive towards critters, and smartly ignores crowd-controlled enemies. The mechanics on getting it to always follow our active target are still being worked on, but getting the CC-safe functionality completed first was an excellent move. In what we expect will be a CC-centric expansion, a wild totem breaking your bound elements and hexxed people simply wouldn't get use. Thankfully, we don't have to worry about that. Searing's ready for prime time; it's got half a brain and a bad attitude to boot.

Like the last pre-expansion patch, 4.0.1 is going to bring a lot of changes. Stay tuned for more updates as they come.

May all your hits be crits!
Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. Whether it's Sarah Nichol's elemental edition, Joe Perez's coverage of restoration or Rich Maloy's enhancement edition, WoW Insider's shaman experts have you covered.

Filed under: Shaman, (Shaman) Totem Talk

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