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Totem Talk: Choosing to play an enhancement shaman

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Totem Talk for elemental, enhancement, and restoration shaman. Josh Myers once only tackled the hard questions about enhancement but has recently expanded his sphere of responsibility to all shaman DPS specs. (And no, two-handed enhancement is still never coming back.)

Any seasoned video game veteran is used to the idea of choices. In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, you made choices that determined your character's alignment. In Pokemon, you chose between Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander, and that choice determined your rival's team for the rest of the game. In World of Warcraft, character creation is a system of choices: What race will you be? What gender will you be? What faction will you choose? And, of course, the most important choice: What class will you be?

If you're reading, this, I assume you made the right choice and chose a shaman. You spent the first 10 levels in an awkward, liminal space where you weren't quite sure whether or not you were supposed to melee mobs or cast at them. Maybe you did both, casting Lightning Bolts in between your Primal Strike and Earth Shock cooldowns. If you're stuck in this in-between area, where you're not quite sure what you're supposed to be doing or what the purpose and playstyle of the two DPS specs for shaman are, this is the right place. Today, I'll discuss enhancement.

The enhancement shaman

An enhancement shaman is a melee damage dealer who dual wields weapons. The spec focuses on instant weapon strikes and spellcasts to do damage. The entire spec is built around using a weapon in each hand. Lava Lash, the weapon attack you get when you choose the specialization, requires an off-hand weapon, while Stormstrike requires weapons in both hands. Enhancement also has a heavy reliance on Shock spells. For mobs that will last longer than 18 seconds, Flame Shock is your best bet. For short, quick fights, Earth Shock is your best choice.

Agile gearing

For gear, you primarily want to be looking for agility. Agility is your best stat at all levels of the game. Critical strike rating is your best secondary (or green) stat at low levels, but once you hit level 80, your focus will switch to wanting mastery rating. Hit rating is also somewhat desirable but not needed unless you plan on doing PVP, dungeons when you're at the lowest level possible to enter, or you are level-capped.

You also want to grab the two slowest possible weapons; anything 2.6 or slower is best. Weapon DPS is also really important to look for in a weapon. Don't feel bad at low levels if you have to choose between a high-DPS strength weapon and a low-DPS agility weapon. The strength weapon is better.

The leveling game

Enhancement has two things going for it as a leveling spec. First, Windfury Weapon provides excellent burst damage through leveling content, taking huge chunks of opponent's life in a single swing. Second, enhancement has incredible self-healing capabilities, especially while leveling. Healing Surge is a quick and very mana-intense heal that will generally heal you to full from nearly dead.

Since we have Primal Wisdom, we're constantly regenerating mana from attacking. As a result, enhancement shaman can mow through mob after mob while topping their health with Healing Surge and never stop to drink. Maelstrom Weapon at level 60+ allows you to stack a buff that will eventually make your mana-heavy Greater Healing Waves instant and mana-free, which helps to make your downtime nearly nonexistent. On top of this, your Feral Spirits at level 69 will give you a burst of healing and damage every 2 minutes for added survivability.

One of enhancement's major cons is that it is very much Dance Dance Revolution for your fingers. Enhancement's playstyle revolves around the GCD (global cooldown). The global cooldown is a 1.5-second cooldown that activates anytime you use an ability. With cast time abilities, the global cooldown is generally over before the cast is. Since enhancement uses only instant-cast abilities, the global cooldown is what you'll be noticing.

The enhancement rotation involves using abilities every 1.5 seconds as they come off cooldown. At low levels, you will have a lot of gaps of not doing anything while you're waiting for ability cooldowns. This is fine, but won't last until level cap. When nearing 85, you'll start to notice that enhancement has a fast-paced, almost frantic, playstyle. While I personally love the chaos and quick thinking that enhancement requires, it isn't for every player.

Totem talk

Totems are both a positive and negative part of enhancement. Enhancement is the most mobile leveling spec, since it has access to Ancestral Swiftness very early and because it needs to close in on its enemies to engage. Since enhancement is so mobile, it makes it very annoying to try and useless to drop totems, as you'll be running out of totem range constantly. Also, since mobs don't last very long while leveling, dropping Searing Totem for damage is very rarely worth the global cooldown.

However, totems are a benefit in group play environments such as dungeons and PVP, in those situations where enemies last longer and more players than just yourself are being buffed.

In short, play an enhancement shaman if:
  • You want to play a melee character.
  • You want very little downtime while leveling.
  • You want to be a vital addition to a group of players.
  • You want a fast-paced and engaging spec.
  • You can handle watching cooldowns like a hawk while watching your environment.
  • You don't mind that a class-defining ability is used sparingly.
  • You want to play a class that mixes might and magic.

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk: Enhancement every week. We've got enhancement-specific advice on the latest gear and tier gear set bonuses, and we'll help you dig in and learn to level the enhancement way.

Filed under: Shaman, Analysis / Opinion, (Shaman) Totem Talk, Cataclysm

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