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Totem Talk: First impressions of elemental shaman in Mists of Pandaria

Outlandish's guild screencap of their victory over heroic madness
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Totem Talk for elemental, enhancement, and restoration shaman. Once a lonely tauren shaman in a bad Scarlet Crusade-themed transmog set, Josh Myers is now a female dwarf shaman with pigtails who raids as all three specs on a regular basis. He kept the same transmog set, though.

"Elamism, Savior of Azeroth" has a nice ring to it. For the first time in my time raiding, I'm officially done with a tier of raiding before the next has been released, and I'm pretty psyched about that. (The fact that I picked up two heroic No'Kaleds for my enhancement spec has me grinning ear to ear.) With Dragon Soul behind me, I can start focusing on the future, which makes it very timely that my invite to the Mists of Pandaria beta came last night.

Before my raid tonight, I got to spend some time playing elemental on the beta, and I have some good news and some bad news to report. The bad news? Not much has changed from live for beta elemental shaman. The good news? Not much has changed from live for beta elemental shaman.

Part of this is a level cap issue. Pandaria is only open for leveling up to level 86 at the moment, which means that you don't yet have access to any of the real game-changers being introduced in Mists of Pandaria. Ascendence, our new DPS cooldown and all-around coolest spell in the game, will be our prize for hitting level 87, and the tier of talents that includes Elemental Blast, Unleashed Fury, and Primal Elementalist isn't available until level 90. Since those talents are all complex and will all drastically effect your DPS, there's a lot to look forward to.

I'll never say no to more damage!

In reality, though, elemental on the beta is very similar to what it is on live, with a few key changes. The similarities mainly come in the DPS rotation, which hasn't yet changed a bit. You still avoid using Unleashed Elements, prioritize Lava Burst, and use Lightning Bolt as filler. Lava Surge has been slightly changed, making your Lava Bursts instant after it procs, which is a nice quality of life buff.

The one really nice change, however, is the damage these abilities do. They haven't received any huge buffs themselves, but the change to Elemental Fury that makes elemental the only spec in the game to crit at 250% damage makes them all hit really hard when you crit. I was reliably hitting 60k Lightning Bolts on mobs with no spellpower debuff and only self-buffs, which made me feel quite powerful. With addons not working yet, I couldn't use Skada or Recount to see how much more powerful than normal, but it felt potent.

Lightning Bolt has been buffed to crit hard
Since Primal Elementalist isn't available yet, we don't have access to a smarter, totem-less version of Fire Elemental on the beta. What we do have is a 5-minute-cooldown, 1-minute-duration Fire Elemental Totem, which is a very nice change. While it might look like a nerf, your FET will have the same amount of uptime as an unglyphed Fire Elemental Totem on live, and it will be up twice as often. This makes it ideal for quick dungeon runs, where you often don't have 10 minutes between fights.

A redesigned totem system!

One of the real big changes to Elemental (and something that's noticeably different when playing) is totems. It was the weirdest experience realizing I didn't need to find a keybind for Call of the Elements, which no longer exists. I dropped individual totems when I needed them and was really surprised by the amount of different, unique totems I had at my disposal. Using totems like actually abilities is a vast improvement in my eyes, and having the Burning Wrath and Grace of Air buffs passive and always applied is a great change from live.

The last really new change from live is survability/healing, which has been moderately improved. Stone Bulwark Totem and Astral Shift are both really attractive talents. Bulwark offers the same absorb Glyph of Stoneclaw Totem currently does and then absorbs another 8,000 damage absorb every 5 seconds for 30 seconds. Astral Shift reduces damage you take by a flat 40% for 6 seconds but has a 2-minute CD. I can see both being potentially useful -- Bulwark in the case of raid encounters with constant sustained raid pressure, and Astral Shift being better for fights like heroic Ultraxion where you know you need to absorb a big hit ahead of time.

Healing Utility: My favorite kind of utility

I also like some of the changes made to our healing repertoire. While we lost all access to Greater Healing Wave in our DPS specs, Healing Surge has been buffed a fair amount to compensate. Beyond this, Healing Stream Totem has been redesigned. It now has a 30-second cooldown and 15-second duration, and it heals the lowest hit point target in the raid for a small amount every 2 seconds. I know some people will complain about the loss of a mediocre HoT that realistically never saved anyone's life and only existed to pad healing meters, but I enjoyed being able to drop the new HST in periods of high-intensity healing today. It's even cooler if you glyph it, and the HST glyph might actually be a realistic choice given our relatively awful glyph selection currently.

Screenshot with a mouseover of Healing Tide Totem
Also, speaking of healing and being able to help: Healing Tide Totem. It has a 10-second duration, a tick interval that scales with haste, and a nice, 7kish heal every tick to the five most injured party or raid members, on a 3-minute cooldown. This is our version of a boomkin's Tranquility or a shadow priest's Divine Hymn, without the downsides of an 8-minute cooldown and the need to drop out of form. The only possible downside is that it's in the same tier of talents as Ancestral Guidance, but I actually really enjoy having two compelling talent choices. Makes things interesting!

All in all, I need more time play testing in the beta, but I do feel the beta version of elemental is an improvement over the live version of the game. It doesn't feature any drastic, totally class-changing differences other than maybe the new totem mechanics. Honestly, though, when we were already using half of our totems individually when we needed them to begin with, that more seems like the logical ending place than any truly meaningful change. You won't see me complaining, though -- I like this logical ending place.

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk: Elemental. Let's get down to business with a heart-to-heart on 4 steps to increase your DPS, choosing a weapon in Dragon Soul, and hot topics for elemental shaman -- or start from scratch by leveling an elemental shaman in the Cataclysm era.

Filed under: Shaman, Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, (Shaman) Totem Talk, Mists of Pandaria

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