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Totem Talk: A Cataclysm 101 guide for enhancement shaman

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Totem Talk for elemental, enhancement, and restoration shaman. This week, Josh Myers joins us to review the lowdown on playing an enhancement shaman in the Cataclysm era.

As an enhancement shaman, the last time I was afraid of taking on a mob solo was the third grade. With Bloodlusted wolves at my back, Windfury in my hand, and the massive power of instant Greater Healing Waves every 10 or so seconds, soloing was a breeze. Chillmaw? Soloed him daily. Attumen the Huntsman? Weekly. Gamom, level 5 elite neutral tauren? Every chance I got (until Blizzard force fed him "performance" pills).

Going into the Cataclysm beta, if Blizzard wrote a post on its forums warning that solo mobs will actually start threatening my life, I would have written it off as a Public Service Announcement for those pesky mages and rogues who had to worry about things like dying in leveling content. Actually, when Blizzard did write that post on its forums, I wrote it off as a pesky PSA for pures with no self-heals. And then I died. I died quite a bit ... until I stopped trying to AoE grind.

Mobs in a Deathwing-infused world hurt. Moreover, they have a lot of hit points. They're no longer just problems for squishy mages and hardy but heal-less warriors. If you pull too many mobs, don't kill fleeing mobs before they warn their friends, or attempt to play chicken with the Whale Shark, you will die. This post will attempt to help you with surviving the first two. For the third, you're on your own.

Speccing your shaman for leveling

The required talents There are a number of mandatory talents, both for pure damage purposes and for the sake of moving further down in the tree. All of these talents will be available by level 80 and should be picked up in nearly any competitive enhancement spec. They are:
  • 2/2 Elemental Weapons
  • 3/3 Focused Strikes
  • 3/3 Flurry
  • 3/3 Elemental Devastation
  • 1/1 Stormstrike
  • 3/3 Static Shock
  • 3/3 Searing Flames (required to unlock the following)
  • 2/2 Improved Lava Lash
  • 2/2 Unleashed Rage
  • 3/3 Maelstrom Weapon
  • 1/1 Feral Spirit

Some of these talents boost survivability as well as or instead of damage. Maelstrom Weapon is a very effective DPS talent, but its ability to allow for instant, mana-free Greater Healing Waves will keep both your blue and green bars happy. Feral Spirit is also an excellent DPS cooldown, and the powerful 30 seconds of self-healing it provides while doing beastly damage is just icing on the cake. These talents form the core for your talent tree and should not be skipped.

The optional talents As many of you might have noticed (or after reading this, will go back and notice), the above talent tree doesn't quite work. In order for you to actually reach Feral Spirit, you need to invest 30 talent points. Discounting wolves, the listed tree above falls short at 25. Out of the talents discussed below, you will need to choose five points to invest before you get your paranormal puppies. At the end of the day, you have 15 optional talent points in all. Here's a list of the optional enhancement talent points and whether or not they're a good idea.
  • Improved Shields Improved Shields is a good talent ... if you're a caster shaman who needs to subspec enhancement in order to get Ancestral Swiftness. For enhancement shaman, three talent points for 15 percent damage on Lightning Shield is a worse investment than Lehman Brothers stock. Go 0/3 and don't look back.
  • Ancestral Swiftness In reality, this talent is mandatory for leveling, for PVP, and for PVE damage. Instant 30 percent run speed is incredible, 115 percent base run speed is excellent, and the ability to shift during movement-impairing effects and run at 100 percent speed is just awesome. I can't see a single spec ever not taking this talent, but it didn't provide a pure damage increase, so I left it off "mandatory damage talents." 2/2 or bust.
  • Totemic Reach Totems are your friends while leveling, and having a little bit more range might conserve mana provided you pull mobs to you. However, the range increase is really short, and there's no reason you can't pull mobs the extra 10 yards to stay within a totem's base range. If you really hate dropping totems repeatedly, maybe consider this.
  • Toughness 9 percent more stamina, and the duration of movement-impairing effects on you is reduced by 30 percent -- both good advantages, so if you find yourself dying more than normal, it might be worth considering. It wouldn't be my first choice of talents, but it's solid for survivability. I'd say skip it if you're leveling with Wrath epics, but shaman making the jump from Northrend quests to Cata quests might see a benefit.
  • Improved Fire Nova This talent is both boring and useless. AoE grinding is dead for the most part. Pulls of 2+ mobs will be handled more with Hexes and single target DPSing than Magma Totem + Fire Nova, which makes this point mostly useless. It's worth considering if you're planning on DPSing 5-man instances, though.
  • Frozen Power I heavily endorse this talent for leveling. Mobs love to run away from you, and having a slow effect on them will help you get in the killing blow before they leave melee range. And since it's applied through weapon swings, it's a slow that doesn't require you ditching your hard-hitting Earth Shocks for the frosty variant. The 10 percent damage bonus makes up for the spellpower lost through not imbuing Flametongue in your off hand, and the Frost Shock > root is a clutch move for stopping runners. This talent is definitely skippable, but it's also one I'd consider taking the time to think about.
  • Earthen Power Removing snares is nice, but most of the time you'll be toe to toe with mobs, not chasing them down. For those few occasions where you do need to chase a mob that's snared you, you have Freedom Wolf. This is a purely PVP talent, and should be avoided for leveling.
  • Shamanistic Rage Your main "Oh $%#@" button. 30 percent reduced damage might allow you to survive an attack and get a Healing Surge off. It also allows you to continue dealing damage to finish a mob off if healing has run you out of mana. Lastly, it provides those of us in tier 10 a damage bonus until we get to Deepholm and start replacing our gear. Like Ancestral Swiftness, I'd be inclined to say this is near-mandatory.

This will be my leveling talent spec, before subspeccing.

Subspeccing Back in The Burning Crusade, enhancement shaman subspecced restoration. It gave us 3 percent hit and was part of the reason we were the only DPS class in the game that didn't have to gem hit rating. Those days of yore are far gone, and for the past two years, the game has primarily been "elemental subspec or bust." At 85, this will still be the case for enhancement PVE, as Concussion, Acuity, and Call of Flame all provide flat damage increases. For leveling, however, I'd like to point to some stellar talents in the restoration tree that may contribute to making sure your shaman enjoys a long, healthy life of hunting mountain trolls and killing cultists.

  • Spark of Life This talent is excellent because it double dips. (No, not like that one gross friend with the nachos at the party last week.) If you Healing Surge yourself for 10,000, Spark of Life's 6 percent bonus will make that heal 10,600. And then, since you're healing yourself, that heal will be increased by another 15 percent to 12,190. Even if you invest all your other points in Elemental for damage, I'd consider going at least 2/3 in here.
  • Focused Insight As an enhancement shaman, you're going to be shocking a lot, generally every 6 to 8 seconds. With 3/3 Focused Insight, that means you'll be able to Greater Healing Wave yourself for 75 percent its normal mana cost and 30 percent more healing every 10ish seconds. Due to the fact that your haste and flurry uptime will be dropping substantially as you level, you're going to be stacking Maelstrom Weapon a lot less frequently. Focused Insight will allow you to spend those instant casts on damage while keeping the cost of healing low and its output high. It won't beat Maelstrom Weapon for "Oh noez I'mma die!" moments of glorious burst healing, but for keeping yourself topped off while methodically dealing out death like you're Boba Fett, it's solid. The only real downside is that you have to invest two points in Tidal Focus to get to it.
This will be my leveling talent spec at 84. (At 85, I'll respec to a more PvE-centric build.)

Glyphing for success

Prime glyphs These are some of the easiest choices you'll make. For a leveling enhancement shaman, Glyph of Feral Spirits is your No. 1 choice. Thirty percent more attack power means your wolves do more damage. Spirit Hunt, the wolves' heal ability, heals them and the shaman for 150 percent of their damage done, meaning glyphing Feral Spirits leads to both a DPS increase and a healing output increase. Our other two Prime Glyphs -- Stormstrike and Lava Lash -- add high amounts of damage to some of our most-used attacks. While Glyph of Windfury Weapon is a contender, it doesn't give a bonus in the same league as these three glyphs do.

Major glyphs Enhancement shaman have a wide array of major glyphs to choose from: Chain Lightning, Ghost Wolf, Healing Stream Totem, Hex, Lightning Shield, Shamanistic Rage, Stoneclaw Totem, and Totemic Recall are the main choices. Here's the breakdown.
  • Glyph of Chain Lightning Skip it. While this glyph might have potential as an AoE DPS glyph, the lack of pulling you're doing leveling to 80 will see this glyph giving no benefit. With the number of other, better choices out there, this will just be taking away from using something useful.
  • Glyph of Ghost Wolf Skip it. Five percent run speed is OK, but not especially noticeable. Considering that most of your Ghost Wolf movement will be short stints in between mobs, shaving a second off travel time will not really be the biggest bang for your buck.
  • Glyph of Healing Stream Totem Consider it. Partial and full resists can save your life if pulling multiple caster mobs, and even resisting a spell when you're at full health will keep you from needing to blow Maelstrom Weapon on heals. Since totems can be a real bother to worry about while leveling this glyph might not see much use, but it's worth thinking about.
  • Glyph of Hex Consider it if you're the type of leveler who runs into awkward situations a lot. Personally, I'd skip it -- Hex is not normally an ability I use on cooldown.
  • Glyph of Lightning Shield This has been the number one sought-after change to Lightning Shield for years. With this glyph, you only have to click Lightning Shield once every 10 minutes, as damaging procs no longer consume orbs. I'd encourage every leveling Shaman to get this glyph for the sheer quality of life improvement it provides.
  • Glyph of Shamanistic Rage I can't recall if there are loads of mobs that put magic abilities on you in Cata leveling. However, being able to wipe DoTs or other harmful magical effects off you once a minute is really helpful. This glyph is in my top three.
  • Glyph of Stoneclaw Totem A damage shield tied to a stick of wood that taunts and stuns bad guys. The ultimate mob escape mechanism, this glyph allows you to make expeditious retreats while the two-headed ogre stands stunned from magical stick feedback. This is my No. 2 leveling glyph choice, next to only Lightning Shield.
  • Glyph of Totemic Recall If you're afraid of commitment, a nomad, or really just enjoy planting glowing sticks in the ground, this glyph is for you. With this glyph, you get 75 percent of the total mana cost of your totems back whenever you remember to recall them. Great for mana efficiency if you like to move a lot, less good if you like to plant your totems and pull mobs to them.

All together, most of this will likely be overheal (overkill seemed counterproductive in this context) for keeping yourself alive, at least for those of us leveling in our 264/277 Wrath epics. If you choose the resto subspec, glyph Stoneclaw Totem, Hex, and Shamanistic Rage, dual-wield Rockbiter Weapon (10 percent damage reduction, of course!) and pull one mob at a time, you might get to 85 without ever dying ... but it might also take you an extra week or two.

These are all suggestions for how to improve your longevity. You have a buffet of talents and glyphs to choose from to make staying alive more than just a Bee Gee's song. Overload on them, and you'll be a lethargic leveler. Ignore them completely, and you might find yourself weak and squishy. Finding the right balance is up to you.
Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. Whether it's Sarah Nichol's elemental edition, Joe Perez's coverage of restoration or our enhancement edition, WoW Insider's shaman experts have you covered.

Filed under: Shaman, (Shaman) Totem Talk

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