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Totem Talk: Why enhancement hates haste

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!

The era of Icecrown Citadel was a strange time for enhancement shaman. After spending 2/3 of the expansion gemming primarily attack power, haste rating became our king. I still remember the odd whispers I got from concerned guild members as they saw all yellow gems lighting up my gear, and how my go-to jewelcrafter was always certain to ask "are you sure" every time I asked him to cut a Quick King's Amber.

The enhancement of ICC breathed haste. It sped up our white attacks, which in turn increased Flametongue procs, Static Shock procs, and the then all-important Maelstrom Weapon procs. This wasn't necessarily a good thing, because nearly every other melee at the time was scaling with armor penetration, a non-linearly scaling stat that absolutely murdered its victims. While other melee classes and hunters saw their damage climb steeply, the graph of enhancement shaman's damage plodded on in a straight line.

Cataclysm brought about a change for enhancement shaman and their old wingman, haste rating. With Maelstrom Weapon being lowered in the priority list, Static Shock being tied into our weapon abilities, and having our actual abilities hit for more damage, haste rating went from being our best friend to our worst enemy. It's like high school, but for stat ratings.

To understand why haste is so bad for us now, it's necessary to first understand what makes it so good for other classes. Up first, HOT and DOT classes.

DOTs, HOTs, and Haste

Before Deathwing nerdraged and destroyed Azeroth, most heal-over-time and damage-over-time spells didn't scale with haste. Around the time of Icecrown Citadel's release, Blizzard added in glyphs to a small number of DOTs and HOTs in order to see if the introduction of haste scaling to these classes would break the game. It didn't, and in 3.3 Blizzard changed haste to effect a lot of DOTs, including our very own Flame Shock. At that point, HOTs and DOTs had their durations shortened by haste. For enhancement, our haste generally meant we had Flame Shocks that were shortened to be less than 12 seconds, allowing us to maintain a 1 Earth Shock/1 Flame Shock rotation.

Cataclysm was a total shift. First off, nearly every heal-over-time and damage-over-time spell in the game now scales with haste. (Spells only -- sorry people who use bleeds, death knight diseases, and hunters!) In addition, haste now affects over-time abilities differently: rather than drastically shortening the duration of a HOT or DOT, haste now increases the number of ticks that HOT/DOT does while on the target. For instance, assuming absolutely no modifiers to your spell haste, Flame Shock ticks 6 times. If you want a 7th tick, you need 1,063 haste, or 402 with a Wrath of Air totem down. If you want an 8th tick, you'd need 3,202 haste, or 2,433 with Wrath of Air down. The duration of Flame Shock will always be around 18 seconds, give or take 1.5 seconds. (For more numbers on FS haste scaling, Binkenstein made a nice Google spreadsheet.)

This makes monitoring our DOTs loads easier. On the flipside, however, it makes haste even less attractive. For the HOT-centric resto druids, their entire gearing mindset centers around getting extra ticks on their heals. For enhancement, haste is simply unattractive.

Haste and how it blows things up

Heal and damage over time classes aren't the only ones who scale with haste. After them, we have the rest of World of Warcraft's casters, the ones who cast direct nukes. Fireball, Lightning Bolt, Wrath; these nukes all have one thing in common: the faster they cast, the more DPS a caster does during a fight.
Primarily direct-damage casters scale with haste in a way that is totally different from their DOTcentric friends. Whereas haste allows DOT casters to do more damage per cast, DD casters instead cast more nukes per minute. Whereas crit gives a chance for a cast to do more damage, and mastery might increase the damage of a cast by a small amount, haste will allow you to get off an entire other spell.

In contrast, the only spell enhancement casts more of thanks to haste is Lightning Bolt. Whereas casters get more buttons to press as they get more haste, enhancement's damage is tied entirely to cooldowns. The only class in a similar situation to us, retribution paladins, have this remedied through the talent Sanctity of Battle, which allows haste to lower the cooldown on their Crusader Strike/Divine Storm. While haste remains ret's worst stat, the idea is intriguing, and one that could potentially help enhancement.

More haste means more hitting

The last specs that use haste are the resource managers: Death knights, feral druids/rogues, and hunters all have abilities that are limited by their resources, not by their cooldowns. Energy replenishment for feral druids and rogues scales with haste at a rate that is most noticeable during large haste effects. Warriors generate rage through their white hits; more auto-attacks means more rage, which translates into more special ability use.

Death knights get a double whammy from haste: It increases their rune regeneration, which allows them to use their rune strikes more. Using rune strikes generates runic power, which allows them to cast their RP dumps more. Their RP dumps then each have a chance of proccing Runic Empowerment, giving you more runes. Death knights scale better than any other melee class with haste.

Hunters also double dip in haste. First off, haste works with focus in a similar way to rogue energy, replenishing it faster the more haste you have. Second, hunters have haste plateaus that allow them to weave more Steady Shots and Cobra Shots in between their focus-costing shots. Since SS and CS build focus themselves, this in turn allows them to cast more of their higher-damage shots that cost focus. All of these classes mentioned also share auto-attack/auto-shot haste scaling with enhancement shaman.

Unfortunately, enhancement has no such resource to speak of. Our resource is mana, and Primal Wisdom has us full of it 100% of the time. Thus, rather than being restricted by resources, we're instead restricted by our cooldowns. We do build Maelstrom Weapon stacks, but with 150% damage spell crits and Lightning Bolt's low priority, that isn't a huge vote of confidence in haste.

The problem is Bloodlust

Enhancement's scaling with haste is compounded by two big problems. First, we don't scale very well with critical strike rating, meaning that both crit and haste are somewhat undesirable on our gear. Second, and more importantly, there is no Bloodlust for crit or mastery rating. Bloodlust is now a required raid buff that 10- and 25-man encounters are balanced around. For 40 seconds of every encounter, your raid is fighting at a heightened state with 30% more haste. What does this mean?
It means your DOT casters' DOTs are ticking more times per cast, while your nukers like fire mages are spiking incredibly high on the damage charts by casting an absurd number of Fireball. Your hunters are forgoing some Steady/Cobra Shots for higher damage shots that cost focus, as the focus they would have been generating through SS is being replenished from haste. Even your rogues and feral friends are in on the fun, allowing more combo-point-generating attacks and finishers to be cast until the buff wears off. Your retribution paladin buddy now has a Crusader Strike available every global cooldown, which in turn leads to more stacks of Holy Power.

You, on the other hand, are white swinging more. You're proccing more Flametongue Weapons, more Maelstrom Weapons, maybe even some Windfuries. Your Flame Shock, a pittance of your damage, is ticking 8 or 9 times rather than 6 or 7. Your white damage has increased, but while all your friends are doing more you're following the exact same rotation you were doing outside of Bloodlust.

I don't miss Wrath of the Lich King, and I never want to return to gemming Quick King's Ambers. There was nothing fun in WoTLK about the way haste interacted with enhancement, and there's nothing fun about it now. Having a stat that just benefits your white swings while allowing nearly every other class in the game to use more abilities is just painful, and if we're going to balance fights around Bloodlust or design encounters like Sinestra, it needs to change.

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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