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Totem Talk: State of the enhancement shaman address

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!

Despising Blizzard Entertainment is easy. When things go wrong in a raid, when filthy boomkins and surly shadow priests pass over you on the DPS charts, or when buff homogenization leaves you feeling like there is no reason for your raid to bring you to progression content anymore, it is exceptionally easy to point to Ghostcrawler (lead systems designer) and say, "This is your fault."

The complaint I most often hear used to demonize Blizzard goes something like this: "Blizzard doesn't care about enhancement shaman. We're the redheaded stepchildren of WoW." Beyond just being offensive to the fiery-follicled and to stepparents everywhere, Blizzard does have a history of dealing with enhancement shaman issues.

So today, we're taking a journey of perspective. The Burning Crusade has long been heralded as the pinnacle of enhancement's glory, at least in terms of PVE. To me, it was enhancement's high school jock years. We may look back with fond remember whens and nostalgic feelings of pride and accomplishment, but the real thing will never measure up to the stories we tell about it.

The Burning Crusade: The pros

In many ways, The Burning Crusade is seen as the high point of enhancement shaman in PVE. In an era before buff homogenization, when totems and Bloodlust were both constricted to your party, it was nearly impossible to run a 25-man raid without an enhancement shaman buffing your melee group. Windfury Totem was not the raid-wide 10% haste buff it is today but was instead a mini-Windfury Weapon for your friends, offering them a chance on main-hand weapon attack to proc another attack. We also were the only party member who brought Grace of Air (+agility) and Strength of Earth (+strength) totems. Finally, we buffed our friends with the then spec-specific Unleashed Rage, as well as being the only melee spec to bring Bloodlust.

In The Burning Crusade, we were the exact opposite of Blizzard's current bring the player, not the class motto. You brought an enhancement shaman or your melee spent the entire raid whining to your melee leader that their DPS was too low.

The Burning Crusade: The cons

Unfortunately for enhancement, all that glitters is not gold. Enhancement's potential was limited to a 25-man setting and diminished in anything with smaller group sizes. A 10-man raid like Karazhan or Zul'Aman was not likely to be stacked with melee players, and in a heroic 5-man, you were almost guaranteed to not have all melee DPS. Coupled with the fact that enhancement had no crowd control in an expansion where heroics were designed around having crowd control unless you were best friends with a protection paladin, most enhancement shaman kept a healing set ready to get their daily heroics done.

Enhancement got the glory of being every rogue and fury warriors' best friend, but it was sort of being like being stuck as the perpetual wingman in every bar/party/social gathering you ever went to. Looking at logs for Brutallus, the last Patchwerk-esque fight of the expansion, three years ago, it was very common to see rogues with Warglaives of Azzinoth hitting 3,100-3,200 DPS, while enhancement shaman topped out between 2,000 and 2,100. In current content, a 1k DPS difference is paltry, even "balanced." In The Burning Crusade, a 1,000 DPS difference was around 33% less DPS than the top DPSers. In Cataclysm terms, that would be doing Pit Lord Argaloth in a 25-man raid with everyone in BiS gear and having a shadow priest do 30,000 damage per second while a flawlessly played enhancement shaman scrapes by at 20,000.

On top of that, the enhancement shaman rotation of old consisted of three main buttons: We laid Searing Totem once per minute, we hit with Stormstrike (a two-charge debuff that was largely consumed by elemental shaman casting Lightning Bolt and moonkins casting Wrath), and we cast Earth Shock. Beyond that, we totem twisted. Totem twisting was the highest art of playing enhancement in The Burning Crusade, requiring the enhancement shaman to drop Windfury Totem every 9 seconds. Since it buffed each of your party members with a 9-second buff, you would drop Windfury and then on the next global drop Grace of Air Totem so as to buff your melee group with agility for the next 7.5 seconds before you had to drop Windfury again. Only in between the gaps of totem twisting were you encouraged to use your own two damaging abilities. We also ran a Windfury Weapon setup on both of our weapons, as Flametongue Weapon scaled terribly. This meant more off-hand Windfury hits eating our possible Windfury main-hand hits, further hampering our DPS.

As if all of that wasn't enough, itemization for enhancement was miserable in The Burning Crusade. Since Shamanistic Rage was our only way to replenish mana and was on a 2-minute cooldown, we were forced to use agility/intellect mail, even though strength was the stat that gave us attack power. We had to primarily look for pieces that had attack power as a secondary stat, as our primary attributes gave us none. Strength/agility items like Karazhan's Mithril Chain of Heroism were uncommonly good for enhancement, but they didn't fit the normal gearing model and were few and far between.

Even worse, melee hit rating and spell hit rating were two different stats, as were melee critical rating and spell critical rating. Since we received all 9% hit we needed to hit melee hit cap through talents (six through Dual Wield Mastery and three from subspeccing into restoration and wasting points on non-DPS talents) and there was no spell hit rating on agility gear, we were stuck with a 14% chance to miss on our Earth Shock casts, as well as having a terribly low critical chance with Earth Shock. Also, since we shared gear with hunters, expertise rating was nowhere to be found on our mail gear, meaning we had to look to certain key items like Shard of Contempt and Skyshatter set pieces to even approach expertise caps. Unlike Wrath of the Lich King, there were no expertise gems in BC, making expertise caps much harder to reach.

This wasn't the worst of enhancement's itemization in The Burning Crusade. Case in point: the incredible two-piece Cataclysm Harness bonus, where your melee attacks had a 2% chance to reduce the cast time on your Lesser Healing Wave (now Healing Surge) by 1.5 seconds. That's right -- our two-piece bonus had absolutely zero influence on our DPS. Combine that with the Fist of Molten Fury, the off-hand fist weapon that was designed to accompany our tier 5. Despite looking like our tier gear, the 1.5 speed meant that any enhancement shaman raiding the content where those weapons drop would never actually use them.

Nostalgia can be a great thing, as happy memories are way more pleasurable than sad ones. Unfortunately, nostalgia in regards to World of Warcraft is often remembered while wearing rose-colored glasses. While there's truth that being an enhancement shaman guaranteed you a raid spot in The Burning Crusade, playing one was much akin to being the kindergartner who gets the gold star for picking up all his friends' toys but who never gets to play with them himself.

Because of the Industrial Revolution-esque working conditions of The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King was welcomed with open arms by every enhancement shaman leveling to 80. Nearly every issue we had in BC was addressed.

Filed under: Shaman, Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, The Burning Crusade, (Shaman) Totem Talk, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm

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