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Totem Talk: Pre-raid gearing tips for elemental shaman

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Totem Talk for elemental, enhancement and restoration shaman. Get some Fulmination with your Lightning Bolts! Sort the shocks from the flames with Totem Talk: Elemental, brought to you by Sarah Nichol, otherwise known as Pewter from The 'mental Shaman and the Obscurecast podcast and founding member of TotemSpot.

This holiday period has been a mixed one for me. Power-leveling my shaman's inscription was a rousing success, and I put it down to all the mince pies consumed at the time. A delectable roast turkey lunch was followed by opening my Winter's Veil presents. There was snow on the ground, there was an open fire in the hearth. There was a Queen's Speech that should have inspired me to yammer on about how important team spirit and cooperation are to the shaman class.

Instead, I borrowed my mother's laptop to have a poke at pre-raid gear. Then I went to put the laptop away and, after a week of moving house, managed to do something rather nasty to my back. Ouch. Not to worry, there's nothing like a bit of Cataclysm to take your mind off the pain.

In Cataclysm, the process of gearing is much more intuitive than ever before. We no longer have to nab cloth or leather items to fill in the holes in our gearing. Look for as much intellect as possible, spirit or hit as appropriate, and then lean slightly toward all the haste gear you can find, filling in as necessary with mastery items. Don't worry about crit; it happens.

Blizzard has done a good job of allowing players to obtain decent gear through a variety of avenues, and as a result, a lot of the RNG has been removed from the gearing process. I did not make this to be a best-in-slot list, as I prefer to look at items available in terms of practicalities. Finally, you'll note an absence of PvP items from this list. There is a lovely amount of intellect on PvP gear, so in the short term, it can be worth using some PvP items. However, resilience represents a lot of wasted item budget and is not the best choice in the long term.

Head
I can't lie: The tastiest item is available from one of the harder heroics. At this point in time, you'll need a competent group to get that cowl from Stonecore heroic. Otherwise, be prepared to reforge all the excess spirit on that justice point hat to claw back some haste. Engineers will be able to configure the killshades how they please, of course, one of many reasons to be an engineer. The JP item is essentially a better version of the honored Wildhammer helm.

Neck
This is not a complete list of caster amulets, and there are crit/mastery-focused alternatives that can be reforged, so keep an eye out for those. However, the best two amulets are available from rep or crafting, which takes something of RNG out of the process of gearing up. Quicksilver Amulet is the best non-reforged choice if you're in need of spell hit, but Celadon Pendant is a fine alternative while you wait to get a better one via crafting or rep.

Shoulder
A much shorter list due to a smaller number of choices! The shoulders from Vortex Pinnacle are the best choice if you don't need that much hit, and the Shadowfang Keep shoulders are a great choice if you do. Seafoam Mantle is, again, just fine if you're not having luck with heroics and need to upgrade basic questing items.

Chest A good amount of choice here. The crafted chest can be expensive but well worth the stack of intellect! Breastplate of the Stilled Heart is one of the better choices, but again, this depends on what heroics you are able to do and what stats you are lacking in.

Cloak Another limited selection from a large amount of caster drapes. Ritssyn's Ruminous Drape would be ideal. However, if the name of Ritssyn is upon it, I shall never ever see it. That damn Karazhan neck never dropped for my shadow priest (except to see it on the auction house for a lot of money). However, all is not lost, for one of the best DPS cloaks in the game is available for valor points, and there is a good stopgap available from Earthen Ring rep.

Wrist As with shoulders, very few decent choices available here, so take advantage of the dungeon quest while you hope for some of the others to drop. A nice starter bracer from a dungeon quest and only needs the completion of a normal Lost City of Tol'vir. Bracers for shaman seem to be very spirit-focused, which allows us to put pure haste/mastery items in other slots. Shackles of the Betrayed are by far the best bracers for us in the game, barring a zone drop from Blackwing Descent. Alternatively, it might be worth taking a peek at PvP bracers for this slot.

Gloves My dwarf shaman, to her dismay, does not currently sport the Ale Soaked Grips. Instead she's wearing the Gleaning Gloves while I tackle the Deadmines as regularly as the holiday schedule allows. Gloves are another good spot to load up with reforgeable spirit, but given a choice between haste/spirit and crit/spirit, I'm always going to go for the haste combo.

Belt
The leatherworking belt has far and away the most intellect on it, and the crit can be reforged into a more suitable stat, but the Ramkahan rep belt is a strong item due to the large lump of haste and an extra socket. I went for the rep belt rather than spending justice points on this slot.

Legs

I've seen the kilt on the auction house a few times for over 20,000 gold. Despite being perfectly itemized for a raiding elemental shaman, those prices will only be practical for very efficient players. On the cheaper side, the choice between rep legs and vendor legs comes down to a slight difference in spirit/crit and personal convenience in the matter of rep grinds and justice points. As always, there is a crit version available, this time from Blackrock Caverns, but I advise leaving those for a resto set.

Boots
I'm still wearing Fireball Treads from one of those quests that really should have been turned into a daily, but I'm aiming for the Earthen Ring boots. However, all in all, there is very little to chose between the boots I have listed above. The sheer amount of intellect on the epics makes them slightly more desirable. However, if you don't have any mastery-focused items, then the Grim Batol boots are still beneficial. At this stage in the game, I really don't understand anyone wasting valor points on the Boots of the Perilous Sea, as they are nearly identical to the epic rep boots. Save your valor points for T11, cloaks, trinkets and relics.

Rings
That archaeology drop is wonderful, isn't it? However, it isn't worth hanging around for. There is a huge list of caster DPS and hit-focused rings available; however, I am very keen on the JC craftable and the Therazane rep ring. That works for me currently, but I certainly wouldn't object to some of the other rings available from heroics.

Weapons

Like many casters, I favor a one-hander plus shield/off-hand combo instead of a staff. There are fabulous staves available, especially from heroic, so grab them if you're still sporting greens in those slots and opportunity knocks. However, with the introduction of an off-hand enchant (+100 int) that works on all off-hands, not just shields, the combo remains the most viable option. As such, I haven't listed any staves.
Most weapons appear to come with a big dollop of spirit or hit, but if you're already sorted for the raid hit cap, then Biting Wind becomes an attractive option. I'm very pleased that decent weapons can be had from a variety of sources, with a decent crafted item from blacksmithing (there is a crit-focused dagger, as well) and a weapon available from Tol Barad rep. Finally, Gurgthock's Garish Gorebat, a truly ugly weapon, is okay in a pinch, but I'd definitely replace it with one of the others as soon as you can. Beak of Julak-Doom is an BoE, and so you might be able to obtain this from the auction house with a fair amount of cash. All in all, I'd avoid the Shimmering Morningstar until you've picked up your Stump of Time trinket. Save those commendations!

Off-hands As you can see, there is a good range of elemental itemized off-hands available through several avenues, although there are crit-focused alternatives such as the Crepuscular Shield and the Shield of the Mists. The Elementium Stormshield is well worth getting crafted for raiding. Reforge any excess spirit into mastery, and you're good to go. Inscription off-hands appear on the auction house pretty regularly, so keep an eye out for Divine Companion.

Trinkets

Now, trinkets are a somewhat more difficult thing to process and decide on. I have always favored a spellpower/intellect or direct damage proc over a secondary stat proc such as haste. The very best before raids definitely comes down to the Darkmoon Card, the Tol Barad exalted trinket, and the valor points trinket, but the best combination for you is down to your preferences, cash flow, and dedication to the daily heroic. Just remember that mastery and hit can be reforged into haste if needed and that spirit trinkets will most likely always be healer trinkets!
In an ideal world, a combination of the first three on the list would be best. I'm not a fan of on-use trinkets and so have doomed myself to a long and grumpy rep grind with Baradin's Wardens. Historically, I've always advised against haste procs, but due to the new spell priorities and the fact that Flame Shock scales dynamically with haste, such trinkets are probably worth taking a second look at if you're still using ilevel 325 trinkets. Sorrowsong is an intriguing trinket that invites a lot of burst DPS in the crucial final moments of a boss's life but contributes a lot less for the rest of the fight. Consider keeping it in reserve if you are lucky enough to have it around spare.

Relics
Tattooed Eyeball, gruesome as it is, is a good start point, especially if you aren't really in need of hit. Caster relics do not seem to be loaded with mastery for the most part, so keep an eye out for a haste/crit or haste/spirit choice. Inevitably, the Relic of Norgannon is strongest in pure DPS terms, due to the high amount of intellect and other stats. Captured Lightning comes out top for those inching towards the raiding hit cap.

Final thoughts

One of the things that strikes me, looking at these lists, is that Blizzard has spread the gear very well. By denying us certain stats in some slots, I feel they have improved the gear puzzle. There isn't always the ideal choice available, but there is always a strong choice.

Remember that stacking haste or spirit to the exclusion of all else will not yield great results. I've purposefully chosen a range of itemizations to allow you to pick and chose items that complement the gear you have already. Putting haste/spirit items in every slot will leave you woefully low on mastery, and possibly intellect too, which is a shame, as mastery and haste are somewhat interdependent. The more you have, the better both are (in very simplistic terms.)

Finally, keep in mind that the heroic hit cap is 6%, which means you do not need to inch toward the 17% raid cap until you're actually signed up and going to a raid. I spend a lot of time reforging gear back and forth in order to make the most out of my gear in both situations, so don't be afraid to reforge on an ad hoc basis! It's a relatively cheap way to get the most out of your gear. Put in green gems if you can't afford rares yet, and don't forget the the cheaper enchants. With so many people leveling professions, enchant scrolls are going for one-tenth of the cost of materials involved in many cases.

Getting the most bang for your buck is key for raids, heroics, and dungeon achievements. Pick a few things to nab from justice points, one or two things to get crafted, and work your way through heroics such as Throne of the Tides and Deadmines until you're able to tackle Stonecore heroic on a regular basis. Just don't forget your rep tabards.

As ever, send me an email if there is something you'd like me to touch on in more detail, or head on over to TotemSpot and join me in conversation there. As ever, a big thanks to the Totem Recall gang for all the hard work they do!

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. Ready to take your elemental shaman up to the new level cap? We'll help you get to level 85 with our guide to leveling an elemental shaman. Once you're there take a refresher with the Cataclysm 101 for elemental shaman.

Filed under: Shaman, Raiding, (Shaman) Totem Talk

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