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Totem Talk: Enhancement shaman Q&A grab bag

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Totem Talk for elemental, enhancement, and restoration shaman. On Saturdays, Josh Myers tackles the hard questions about enhancement. Can we tank? Can we DPS with a two-hander? How does one shoot web? The answer to the first two is "no," and I have no idea about the third.

Last week, I asked readers to send in whatever questions they had about enhancement to my email. The two readers I have who are still using email (the archaic form of communication that it is) gave me some pretty awesome questions. For the rest my readers who have decided that email is so two-thousand-and-late, I also asked my Twitter followers to chip in with some questions on what they're struggling to figure out about enhancement. Of the questions asked, I picked four to answer.

As always, if your question wasn't answered (or hasn't been asked yet!), shoot me an email at josh@wowinsider.com or tweet me at twitter.com/elamqt (I prefer Twitter!).


Biting into Rockbiter
What exactly is the use for the Rockbiter Weapon imbue, or if it doesn't really have a use anymore then can you grant some insight into why it might have been kept in the game in a useless state rather than simply removed like Sentry Totem was? -- Mully Athen
Rockbiter is actually a pretty awesome tool in your arsenal for both PvP and PvE; it just requires a lot of care and preparation to be useful. The first function of Rockbiter Weapon is its Unleash Elements effect. Unleash Earth functions forces the target to attack you for 5 seconds. This is not a Taunt. Taunt effects move you to the top of the aggro list. Unleash Earth functions like the warrior ability Mocking Blow. It has no change to your aggro; it just forces the target to attack you for 5 seconds. After that time period, if you have not built up enough threat (such as through Frost Shock), the mob will return to the person with the most threat. A quick weapon imbue switches followed by an Unleash Elements can buy your healer 5 seconds of life while the tank reestablishes threat.

The other use for Rockbiter is to pre-imbue to weapons with Rockbiter before entering an arena or battleground match. Then, equip your regular weapons and imbue them with a normal Windfury/Flametongue or Frostbrand/Flametongue setup. Set up two equip macros, one to equip your two Rockbiter weapons and one to equip your damaging imbue weapons. When you're being focused and you absolutely need the 10% damage reduction offered by Rockbiter, you can then switch weapons in combat and quickly swap back to damaging weapons when you're free. In that way, Rockbiter is akin to a warrior's Defensive Stance or a death knight's Blood Presence, reducing your damage output while increasing your survivability.

Does enhancement really have problems?
I've seen many QQ at the start of the expansion about Enhancement shamans and how they horribly did in raids, how bad they were in Arena, and how much they died in anything due to their lack of "defensive cooldowns". The peak came when Paragon downed Lady Sinestra without any Shaman in the raid...And Paragon even pointed out shaman concerns such as low Enhancement dps and very low healing throughput. My question(s) is (are): Are these concerns actually true? Is Enhancement that bad in raids? What is your opinion on all this QQ? -- Stand
The thing to remember with any quote from a top-tier guild like Paragon is that they are playing on a level that practically no one else is playing on. They're so incredibly good and have such a pool of talent to choose from that minor imbalances in DPS become huge problems.

Enhancement shaman DPS is in a fine place right now; while we're not the top DPS spec in the game (or even close to being there), we're at a point that our DPS is competitive with other DPS specs. A good enhancement shaman is going to do better than a mediocre shadow priest. A great enhancement shaman is going to do better than (or at least compete with) a good moonkin.

Paragon doesn't really have mediocre players. They have good everything, and in that context of utter top-tier play, enhancement is worse off. For the other 99% of us, the spec is fine.

Also, for the record: According to World of Logs, there are 63 enhancement shaman who have killed Sinestra on 25.

Putting a leash on Unleashed Elements
What's the deal with Unleash Elements? How does it fit into the priority, and when is the best time to use it? What is the best spell to use after it? -- Aaronsteinberg and Saandstom, Twitter
The only spell an enhancement shaman ever wants to cast with Unleash Flame is Flame Shock, and you want that Unleash Elements-buffed Flame Shock to be up almost 100% of the time. Since the actual Unleash Flame buff lasts 8 seconds, you want to cast it any time there are fewer than 7 seconds left on your Flame Shock. Even if it is off cooldown before that (and since it has a wonky 15-second CD, there will be times it comes off sooner), you're going to want to delay it slightly. Once you're within that 7-second window, feel free to cast UE. Remember to use your higher-priority moves like Lava Lash, refreshing Searing Totem, and even Stormstrike to eat up your GCDs so that you can cast Flame Shock as the other one is about to fall off.

UE is also tricky because it has a relatively low priority, but a UE-buffed Flame Shock is one of our highest priorities. What this means is that you want to prioritize attacks like Maelstrom Weapon Lightning Bolt above UE while the FS dot is still above 3 seconds, but if it gets down to 3 seconds, you want to fire off an Unleash Elements and get that buffed Flame Shock up.

Hitting the hit cap
How important is hitting the hit/expertise cap, also is it possible to hit the crit cap and what is it? -- OreoNation, Twitter
Spell hit is an incredibly important secondary stat. A missed Flame Shock costs us a Flame Shock cast, and we have to wait 15 seconds for the Unleash Elements to be up. A missed Earth Shock or Lightning Bolt is no damage and lost chances to proc Elemental Devastation. Even more crippling is a missed Wind Shear on a Shadow Nova on heroic Halfus, damning your raid to a short run back to the instance.

While less important than spell hit, expertise is really needed. For me, non-crit Lava Lashes hit for around 25,000 damage, fully raid buffed. A dodged Lava Lash is a lost chunk of DPS, while a dodged Stormstrike means 8 seconds with no nature damage debuff.

While these stats are important, it's also worth noting that they're still secondary stats. In nearly all cases, agility is shown to have more value point for point than spell hit, meaning that you should only reforge and enchant for spell hit, never gem it. A 40 agility gem is almost always going to be better than a 40 hit gem. The only exception to this rule is if you are absolutely needed for interrupts, when capping spell hit is required. (However, this will be going away in 4.1.)

The critical cap is a different beast entirely. It's a point where you cannot add any more crit to your gear without adding more hit to eliminate glancing blows. However, we reached critical cap in Wrath of the Lich King for three main reasons:
  1. Talents like Thundering Strikes gave us way too much passive crit.
  2. There were more crit-oriented raid buffs and debuffs than in Cataclysm.
  3. Wrath of the Lich King was never designed to support the gear levels we eventually got to, as Blizzard didn't decide to include hard modes with separate and greater gear until after the first tier of raiding.
We were never supposed to hit iLevel 272 or 284 loot, and so we had way more crit at the end of Wrath of the Lich King than intended. All of these combined to make us worry about the crit cap. With all of those factors lessened or removed in Cataclysm, it should not be an issue.

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk: Enhancement every week. We've got enhancement-specific advice on rep gear, heroic gear, and raiding gear, plus tips on maximizing your utility skills and tactics for raiding Blackwing Descent.

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

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