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.)
DPS is an art. It's not art in the sense that the Mona Lisa or Friday by Rebecca Black are art, but it's art. It requires practice, knowledge, and dedication to make work, and judging by the Battle.net forums, Twitter, and various other social media outlets, it's an art form that a lot of people still have trouble getting right. As a DPS shaman (really, as any class), there are a few basic rules every player should follow to enhance their DPS.
1. Use addons that make up for what the default UI lacks. I know that there's a set of players out there who totally swear by using the default UI. In reality, I can understand that sentiment. I didn't realize it until I found myself with a sprained hamstring and only able to raid my borrowing my boyfriend's laptop and downloading an addon-less WoW onto it this week, but I actually thought the default UI looked really cool.
Unfortunately, despite how cool it looks, default isn't optimal. Doing the Raid Finder as elemental, I realized a couple of things -- that of my 30-plus-addon suite, I really only missed six or seven of them, and those six or seven I missed were ridiculously important. I was lacking OmniCC for watching my cooldown timers, and I didn't have Power Auras to watch Fulmination stacks or ForteXorcist for tracking my DoT timers (important for both ele and enhance). I know that I played sloppily as a result. I missed Lava Surge procs like crazy, I Fulminationed as Flame Shock ran off, and I made other small mistakes that I would normally not make because I have addons to help me keep track of the fight.
Those weren't the only addons I missed, either. Despite its only being Raid Finder and my familiarity with all the Dragon Soul fights, not having the Deadly Boss Mods timers threw me for a loop and caused me to make simple errors like blowing DPS cooldowns right before Morchok's Earthen Vortex. And finally, I missed Recount, because while I knew I was playing sloppily, I had no actual way to gauge how much it was affecting me.
I'm not saying that not using addons will make you an awful player, but it can definitely contribute.
Just as with addons, there will be people who swear that they're able to play just as well as everyone else without keybind anything other than their 1-= buttons and while keyboard turning. I'm sure that could work, particularly in easier content like the RF, but as you get into harder forms of PVE content, this just won't cut it.
The point of keybinding and mouse turning is that it makes your reactions faster. If you suddenly find yourself caught in the middle of Blackhorn's Shockwave with a flame patch on either side of you and you need to Shamanistic Rage to survive it, chances are you will die in the time it takes you to mouse over and click it. By binding keybinds to areas that are accessible with your non-mouse hand or using a gaming mouse with multiple bind buttons like the Razer Naga, your reaction times will become considerably better and you'll survive longer. And, as we'll talk about later, surviving is a really big deal in DPS.
3. Do your research. I feel like this one goes without saying, and people who are regular readers of Totem Talk already likely do this already, but you absolutely need to do your research to win at World of Warcraft. I honestly don't expect people to put the same amount of time into researching their class that I do, and I know that everyone has a life outside of WoW that can prohibit their time spent metagaming. That's totally cool, and as I said, I don't expect people to sim every possible iteration of their gear to maximize their DPS like I do.
You also should know your rotation and the no-nos that come along with it. Elemental almost never uses Unleash Weapon, particularly when glyphed with Unleashed Lightning, as the increase to subsequent Lava Bursts isn't worth the GCD loss. Enhancement should not be hard casting Lava Burst at all this patch, as casting keeps you from meleeing and makes you miss out on weapon imbue procs and other beneficial things.
I try to keep Totem Talk readers up to date on everything they need to know about their spec, but if you feel anything is missing, you can also check Totem Spot and Elitist Jerks. Also, you can always, always, always send me either an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me at @Elamqt if you have a question. (Twitter is hands down the best place to reach me, as I always have my phone with me and tend to check Twitter on bus rides, at the doctor's office, out on dates ... pretty much anywhere.)
4. Stay alive. There's an age-old WoW adage that says dead DPS is no DPS, and this really is the rule to live by when DPSing. Even in an age where nearly every raid has at least one battle rez available, and even though you have Reincarnation, losing your raid buffs and valuable time on target because you stood in fire is a DPS loss. It doesn't matter the numbers you can put out if you're spending every Blackhorn attempt on the floor because you got Charged, and so situational awareness is what you really need to focus on. This is particularly important for Blackhorn, which definitely is the fight most designed to kill tunnel-visioning DPSers this tier, but it's relevant on other fights as well.
Also, you should always have basic knowledge of the fight you're doing before you do it. Always. The main thing that differentiates good raiders from bad raiders is time and practice, and raiders who have the time to make multiple attempts on encounters per night start to get a feel for what they're supposed to be doing at all times. Knowing what you're supposed to be doing before you see the fight for the first time is an extension of this and will really give you a leg up on the competition for progression. It also doesn't hurt (and is recommended) to run boss timer addons to enhance your situational awareness.
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.