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Totem Talk: An enhancement view of Patch 4.1

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 roll a hunter for the third!

There are two things on everyone's mind this week. First, it's time for the royal wedding (Thrall and Jaina, if I recall correctly?). Second, patch 4.1 hit. With patch 4.1, we've seen some pretty awesome things. For instance, the Zandalari are back and dedicating their purpose to trolling all of Azeroth; queuing as a DPSer for a random heroic now takes one-fifth of the time; and frost mages got a damage buff.

Unfortunately, enhancement was barely a footnote in the greater scheme of patch 4.1, receiving a grand total of three changes. These changes range from "complete and utter nerf" to "slight AoE buff." To be honest, I'm actually not bitter about 4.1 for enhancement, as we were already competitive in PvE, where our main concern was our abysmal and complex AoE DPS. For people who play primarily enhancement PvP, this patch was considerably more of a letdown.

The bad

The main problem with 4.1 is that Grounding Totem was nerfed, going from a 15-second cooldown to a 25-second cooldown. Grounding Totem has long been one of the most unique and powerful tools in a PvP enhancement shaman's arsenal, allowing for clutch interrupts of CC and damaging spell casts while the all-powerful Wind Shear was on cooldown. It also was incredibly useful in higher tiers of PvP content, where really observant players could predict and catch instant-cast spells like Deep Freeze and Hammer of Justice. While these spells are still groundable, the 10 second-longer cooldown puts a huge dent in enhancement survivability.

The annoying thing about the nerf to Grounding Totem is that it hurts enhancement and elemental PvP more than it hurts restoration PvP, the spec that we believe Blizzard was primarily intending to nerf. Restoration was a ridiculously powerful healer in top-tier arena content in 4.0.6 and managed to retain the title of healer kings of PvP post-patch. Enhancement and elemental, specs that were already lagging behind in 4.0.6, suffered more than restoration.

The mediocre

In a move that makes everyone happy, Improved Fire Nova was removed from the game, and Fire Nova was made into a 4-second cooldown baseline. In a move that makes no one happy, it was replaced by the talent Seasoned Winds. At first glance, Seasoned Winds seems as if it could be worthwhile, providing 195 resistance to an interrupted damage spell's type. This stacks with the resistance offered by Elemental Resistance Totem, making subsequent spells cast on you deal less damage.

Unfortunately, this talent doesn't really help enhancement in PvP. First off, you're rarely ever interrupting damaging casts. The spells you almost always focus on interrupting first are crowd control casts, such as Polymorph or Fear. A 20k Frostbolt crit is recoverable from, whereas your healer's getting stuck in a full 8-second Polymorph because you Wind Sheared the Frostbolt will kill you. After CC spells, you generally will look to interrupting big heals, such as Greater Heal or Divine Light. It's only when you don't need to worry about the opponent casting a CC or a heal that you'll be hitting damage spells, which is a rarity.

Beyond that, we have no innate resistance to shadow. Elemental Resistance Totem gives us nature, fire, and frost resistance, but we don't have shadow. This means that interrupting spells from affliction warlocks and shadow priests, two of arena's prominent caster classes, will only bring you to 195 resistance. Nearly every competent caster in the game gems and enchants enough spell pen to make 195 resistance useless, making Seasoned Winds only useful against balance druids, elemental shaman, and frost and fire mages, unless you have someone on your team supplying shadow resistance. In the end, it's a very mediocre talent that isn't worth taking points out of Elemental Warding or Spark of Life for.

The (slightly) good

Before patch 4.1, enhancement AoE was terrible. Magma Totem was a stationary stick in the ground that removed our Searing Totem to use, killing our single-target DPS. It was impractical and nigh impossible to use effectively on any AoE situation that required moving, such as heroic Maloriak, and the global cooldowns needed to set up our AoE meant that we were less effective on adds that needed to be burst down, such as Chogall's Festering Blood.
In 4.1, Fire Nova was changed to no longer require Magma Totem. Instead, it emanates from each of your Flame Shocks. Because of the cooldown on Flame Shock, you can only have three up at a time, but each of those Flame Shocks can throw out a Fire Nova to hit everyone around them. The really positive part about this new AoE system is that it allows you to keep up Searing Totem while AoEing, letting you maintain high single-target damage while fitting AoE in the gaps. Additionally, it's more mobile. Magma Totem had to be redropped any time mobs we were AoEing moved more than a few feet, making AoEing frustrating. Since Fire Nova is an instant and a debuff on the mob that is moving, it's much easier to use while mobile.
This change is definitely a buff from 4.0.6 -- but 4.0.6's AoE was so awful that anything would have been a buff. The damage Fire Nova does is still somewhat weak, compared to other classes' AoE. More to the point, I've been reading a lot of complaints by people that they find out new AoE system harder to use correctly than our old one. Personally, I think it's loads easier and effective to use than its predecessor system. Since I'm running out of space in this article, I'll be letting you know my tips on how to Fire Nova effectively next Saturday.

At the end of the day, I'm actually happy with 4.1. While Grounding Totem was a nerf that I truly feel was unwarranted, I don't focus enough on PvP for it to ruin my patch day. I also feel like Seasoned Winds is a real letdown, but I can admit that I don't know enough about PvP to write it off for good. And I actually like the Fire Nova change and like the complexity it brings to playing enhancement. I actually had fun on heroic Maloriak this week!

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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