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Totem Talk: Why enhancement AOE doesn't work

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 shot web? The answer to the first two is "no," and roll a hunter for the third!

I love making the best of a terrible situation. When life gives me lemons, I make a cake. When I'm at the gym in the morning and the only thing on the television is Rachael Ray's talk show, I focus hard on committing delicious recipes to memory. And, when Blizzard hands us the worst area of effect ability in the game, I write a post about how to maximize its limited potential. I'm moving away from that line of thinking today. Instead, this post is dedicated to diagnosing why Fire Nova is so bad and what Blizzard can do to change it.

To begin, I'd like to say that I actually enjoy our AOE at its most basic level. Fire Nova erupting from Flame Shock to me really fits enhancement, which is a spec defined by its use of shocks and other instant-cast spells. I think the actual feel of the spell works and fits with the overall theme of enhancement, and the problem lies in the actual implementation of the ability.

So, we need to figure out exactly what the problem with Fire Nova is. We've all seen the symptoms, such as being #1 on the damage meter going into Maloriak's green phase and coming out at #10. We know the numbers we're generating aren't where they should be, but why exactly is that?

The issues

First off, there is the issue of ramp-up time. In order to reach our full AOE potential, we need to have three Flame Shocks up on separate targets. This means that in order to even start AOEing at full capacity, we need to wait 12 seconds after our first Flame Shock. On some fights, such as Maloriak's Dark Phase, the Vile Swill are alive for a minute and a half, and this ramp-up time is not a terrible issue. Unfortunately, Dark Phase is the exception. For fights like Maloriak's Green Phase, Cho'gall's Fester Blood phase, and nearly any trash pack in heroic 5-mans, 12 seconds will be nearly the entirety of the phase.

To add on to that, adds do not all die at the same time, and any add that has a Flame Shock on it when it dies pushes your AOE ramp-up time back 6 seconds. For packs that last short periods of time, it is very likely that we won't be able to push our maximum AOE DPS at any time. More than anything, this long ramp-up time and total lack of burst AOE is the biggest detriment to our AOE DPS.

That said, even without the long ramp-up time, our AoE is simply mediocre. The damage it does while Flame Shock is rolling on three targets is at best adequate and isn't actually competitive with most other classes' AOE damage. Here is a parse of my guild's heroic Maloriak kill from Wednesday night (ignore the part where I died at the end!). If you check out the graph of our demonology warlock's damage at its peak (when he was Metamorphosed and Hellfiring) and compare it to my damage, I was doing between 25,000-27,000 damage per second with three Flame Shocks rolling, while he was spiking significantly higher. Granted, a demonology warlock's only saving grace is his AOE damage, so the comparison isn't totally effective.

And, finally, the other limiting factor in our AOE DPS is that it is dramatically affected by human error. It is terribly easy to Flame Shock the mob that is about to die and have no Flame Shock to Fire Nova off for 5 seconds, or to accidently overwrite a Flame Shock already on a mob, or to cast Earth Shock over Flame Shock. It also is reliant on weapon swapping to a spellpower weapon to do maximum damage. Our AOE is not only low-damage but super-unwieldy to use.

The fixes

So what can Blizzard do to fix this without utterly gutting the Flame Shock/Fire Nova idea? There are actually a lot of potential fixes. The first and simplest would also be the least satisfying: a percentage-based increase to Fire Nova's damage. If Blizzard were to increase the damage of Fire Nova by a significant amount (to the tune of 300+%), it could push our DPS to at least being competitive with that of other classes. But we'd still be reliant on an unintuitive, clunky system that relies on a spellpower weapon for max damage and has a 12-second ramp-up time.

As a second idea, Blizzard could increase the damage by Fire Nova by something like 300% but allow it to only explode off your most recently applied Flame Shock. So you'd only have one Fire Nova going off (rather than the three you would normally have), but it would do three times the damage. This would keep our AOE DPS at around the same damage it currently is but would highly decrease the human error factor and give us solid burst AOE. It would also allow us to remain using our single-target rotation without losing much DPS from trying to micromanage AOE. While this doesn't end in huge AOE damage for us, it would end in respectable damage that's easy to use.

The last (and coolest) fix would be an ability that hit everyone within 10 yards of you with a Flame Shock, on an 18-second cooldown. This would totally eliminate ramp-up time beyond the first global cooldown, be super-easy to use, and definitely provide some of the numbers needed to push our AOE into the "great DPS" range. Beyond just the Fire Nova damage, multiple, concurrent Flame Shocks would be excellent damage. In fact, it might be too good and would require limiting to a smaller number of Flame Shocks, like five.

The only real downside? Just like every other AOE suggestion, it still would be highly reliant on a spellpower weapon for maximum damage. To me, though, competitive AOE damage would be worth the trade.

What about you, readers? How would you fix our AOE system, so that it is no longer as painful as watching an Everybody Loves Raymond marathon?

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, Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, (Shaman) Totem Talk, Cataclysm

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