Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Art of War(craft), covering battlegrounds and world PvP, and Blood Sport, with the inside line for arena enthusiasts. Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? Battlemaster Zach Yonzon, old-world PvP grinder and casual battleground habitué, rambles on about anything and everything PvP.
Gah. A few more days left, and we're only on shaman. This can't be good. Let's get right to it, then. Shaman are incredibly fun to play, especially with the changes that came with 4.0.1. The improvements on the totem interface in the past have made it much easier for shaman to manage their totems. The best shaman utilize their totems in the heat of battle, and one interesting skill to master is knowing not just which totem to put down for a situation but which sets of totems, now that shaman can drop it down all at once. It's a convenience that changes a few things. There is also higher survivability, better mobility, and clearly defined playstyles for all three specs.
Elemental shaman PvP It helps to have a PvP-friendly specialization from the get-go, and elemental gets the wonderful Thunderstorm, which was exciting when it debuted but becomes even better now that shaman can get it free at level 10. Add the Glyph of Thunder (major) and you're all set to blow enemies off cliffs with more frequency. Elemental shaman are extremely potent AoE combatants, which means a whole lot of damage going in the battlegrounds. The overall nerf to stuns across all classes has neutered one of the shaman class' biggest weaknesses, which only means good things for you.
- Elemental Warding Basic, pricey investment at three points, but it's a 12 percent reduction to magical damage. In the new PvP environment, it's all about survival and mitigation. The damage reduction is a hefty one, even if it only works against magical damage.
- Reverberation Faster is better, as I always say, and here you get 1 second off the cooldown of shock spells and the all-important Wind Shear. Elemental Warding and Reverberation are the two talents worth going down the elemental tree for as an enhancement shaman, as well. An interrupt every 5 seconds with a 2-second school lockout? Very sweet. While you're at it, Glyph of Shocking (prime) is a shocking addition to your arsenal. One second GCD, baby.
- Rolling Thunder and Fulmination This is a great DPS mechanic for shaman, but it adds a new dimension in PvP play because players can choose to build up charges before unleashing Earth Shock. The trick is keeping charges up -- avoiding expending Lightning Shield orbs to keep up a decent stack for Fulmination. I recommend glyphing up with Glyph of Lightning Shield (major), which ensures that you'll always be at 3 orbs. Burst damage is at a premium in the new environment where fights will be longer, but the new resilience mechanics ensure that big crits will be fun. So stack those orbs and shock away.
- Elemental Reach You're a caster. You want some distance between you and your opponent. This talent gives you said distance for two points. Any questions?
- Lava Flows While this talent seems to be a PvE talent at first glance, there are a couple of things that make it an excellent investment for PvP. First, resilience no longer reduces critical strike chance, which means you will crit more in the new environment and the damage bonus will offset the reduction granted by resilience. Second, the dispel element in the description actually procs more in PvP than in PvE, so that you get a little bit of a bonus when players remove Flame Shock before that Lava Burst. I should, however, point out only specific specs have access to a magical dispel these days.
- Elemental Mastery and Feedback One point for a long-cooldown, activated ability is almost always a good investment. In this case, it's an excellent investment to gain access to an instant-cast spell and spell haste. Feedback ensures that you get to do it again much sooner. It's no Nature's Swiftness, but instant is instant. Glyph up with Glyph of Elemental Mastery (major) to make dual use of Elemental Mastery -- you can use it defensively and avoid casting Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, or Lava Burst to have a 20 percent blanket damage reduction for almost 30 seconds (cast that offensive spell before the buff expires to make the most use of it). In Cataclysm PvP, mitigation is king.
- Earth's Grasp The one, true PvP talent in a PvP-hungry tree, Earth's Grasp is an important tool to help you create distance between you and your opponents. Even more important, it's an AoE root, which is extremely powerful in the battlegrounds. Just note that it's a pulse effect that works upon casting the totem, which means you'll have to have opponents in the area when you pop it, otherwise it will just function like a normal Earthbind Totem. That leaves you open to enemies, but being able to stop flag pursuit en masse can be a worthy sacrifice.
- Lava Surge You want any talent that lets you get to do things faster, sooner. Since you'll be casting Flame Shock at opponents all the time, you'll want this talent because it lets you get to Lava Burst sooner.
- Earthquake I'm mentioning Earthquake because it has an important chance-to-knockdown component, which means it has great utility in PvP. It is a ranged AoE, which is cool in itself, and can be used in a pinch to defend key battleground points, such as flags and other objectives.
- Ancestral Swiftness A PvP talent so shallow in the tree is a good sign. Instant Ghost Wolf and a passive, standard 15 percent speed increase is as good as two point talents get.
- Toughness Another PvP talent right after Ancestral Swiftness? Sweet. Toughness has been reworked to grant a stamina increase, which translates to a whole lot of health in Cataclysm. Add to that a reduction to slowing effects and you've got a truly worthy three-point investment.
- Frozen Power So. Freaking. Sweet. If it wasn't already clear, you should be using Frostbrand Weapon on your main hand for PvP (EDIT: That's OFF-HAND. I'm just an idiot). Frostbrand essentially keeps opponents permanently snared, and this talent ensures that you'll get a DPS boost from your ranged damage spells as a bonus. Even sweeter is the root component it tacks on to Frost Shock, which gives you almost unrivaled control over your engagement distance.
- Improved Fire Nova You might think this an odd choice for a PvP talent, but Fire Nova is another source of damage, which makes your totems a threat. With Glyph of Fire Nova (major), it gives shaman really good AoE options, and you should always have a fire totem down at all times, anyway. Having instant access to AoE lets you easily kill unglyphed Snake Traps, Bloodworms, and other low health targets.
- Earthen Power Although this talent no longer grants the crazy-awesome immunity to snares it used to, a constantly pulsing snare removal is very, very good for PvP. It also makes enhancement shaman incredibly difficult to kite. One trick to enhancement PvP is pumping up totems to make them legit threats, which means that your totems become viable targets -- they'll need to be destroyed. Unfortunately, you can't pair this with Glyph of Stoneclaw Totem (major), mostly because they share the same element and because it's too good it's obscene. You'll want to activate that glyph for its damage mitigation, regardless.
- Shamanistic Rage A 30 percent damage reduction for 25 percent of the time? That's pretty insane. Coupled with Glyph of Stoneclaw Totem and Toughness, I think you'll be pretty tough to crack. Throw in Glyph of Shamanistic Rage (major) to shrug off magical debuffs, and you become downright scary.