OK, not really. Relax, enhancement shaman. I am not here to write about enhancement full time. As much as I love the class and the spec, I don't have the time to devote to enhancement the way I can to all things warrior. But my current alt of choice is an enhancement shaman, and I intend to level him in Mists of Pandaria, so I thought a guide to what's changed and what we can expect would be worth writing.
There are a lot of little changes that improve quality of life, but they also take some getting used to.
How shaman have changed
Here's some "I have been under a rock for a while" facts about shaman in Mists, because I have been under a rock for a while about shaman in Mists and was surprised and sometimes even pleased to find them out.
- Weapon imbues all last 60 minutes now. This is really nice. The interface for them has also been given the expanding tree treatment that totems use, so you can put them individually on a bar or have the Weapon Imbue box slide open to pick the one you want to apply.
- Lightning Shield (and Water Shield, too, but we don't get that one) lasts a full hour and has no charges. You don't have to reapply it when you get hit; it's just there for an hour.
- Totems are heavily changed. You don't drop a totem for a long-term buff anymore; they're all for short;term use. Searing Totem and Magma Totem last 1 minute and can be cast repeatedly, limited only by mana. Fire Elemental Totem lasts 1 minute as well but has a 5-minute cooldown.
- Several former totem buffs are now just auras. Grace of Air and Burning Wrath are just baseline for enhancement shaman now.
- Several former talents are baseline, learned abilities now, including Maelstrom Weapon, Static Shock, Flurry and Feral Spirit. Let's face it, you were going to take them.
Different rotation? Not really
The rotation itself seems fairly unchanged. You keep Searing Totem up (or you could switch to Magma if you're in an AoE situation), which is a lot easier now, then keep Flame Shock up, and otherwise hit Stormstrike and Lava Lash on cooldown. I use Unleash Elements when it's up and nothing else needs hitting to get the melee haste from my unleashing Windfury. I hit Earth Shock when I don't need to refresh Flame Shock for the Weakened Blows debuff, and I hit Lightning Bolt whenever Maelstrom procs. You can use Feral Spirit every 2 minutes for added DPS, and of course you have Fire Nova for more AoE oomph. If you're playing enhancement on live, it won't seem unfamiliar to you.
While I'm only level 86 on the beta, the one ability I'm most excited about is Ascendance, partially because of the lore implication that shaman learned new tricks from the elemental invasion of the Cataclysm (which is cool) and partially because I literally cannot wait for a 2-minute cooldown that makes my auto-attacks and Stormstrikes do pure nature damage and lets them work at range. What can possibly be better than punching someone in the face from 30 yards away? Nothing. Nothing can possibly be better than that.
The tiers of talents and enhancement
As for talents, some tiers are less interesting to enhancement than others. That doesn't make them bad, and they give you a real chance to customize. The level 15 tier presents us with three survivability options, Nature's Guardian, Stone Bulwark Totem and Astral Shift. I personally like Astral Shift because I like its active nature -- you cast it when you think you're in trouble, but Stone Bulwark Totem is just as active and it can be used more often. Nature's Guardian wins if you just want an ability you don't have to activate.
Level 30 offers up three abilities dealing in one way or another with snaring or rooting. The one I like, Windwalk Totem, clears snares and roots for you and all party/raid members. That seems useful for both PvE and PvP situations, but if you want to be putting the root on others, Earthgrab will take care of that for you. Seems like this could easily devolve into "I root you! Well, I unroot us!" pretty fast.
Finally, there's Frozen Power for those of us who want to root a single target with Frost Shock. Frozen Power looks like it would be ideal if you knew you were going to need to keep a single target under control and it could be rooted. I kind of wish it also did more damage or something to targets that can't be rooted to make it more interesting, though.
Totemic Projection is nice for high-movement situations where you want to move your Searing or Magma Totems to wherever you are now, since they now have a 1-minute duration. Totemic Restoration is interesting for situations where you drop a totem like your fire elemental and then only use 40 seconds of its minute duration, since you can shave some time off of your next use of it by pulling it up. I'm leaning toward Totemic Projection at the moment, but Restoration might have some good use.
Level 60 is a more directly compelling tier for enchancement, with three spells with potential for DPSing. Echo of the Elements is the ability the legendary staff Dragonwrath made famous, a chance for a direct damage spell (like Earth Shock or Maelstrom'ed Lightning Bolt) to hit twice. We do enough spell damage that it's compelling to consider. Elemental Mastery's bonus haste could help you stack up a Maelstrom and get more white damage from auto-attacks, and combined with Ascendance, it could be pretty brutal since it lasts for 20 seconds. Consider it a personal mini-Bloodlust/Heroism. The active effect of Ancestral Switfness is just an on-demand Maelstrom for Enhancement, which makes it less desirable, but the passive 5% haste bumps it up. I'd still probably go with one of the other abilities, but a case could be made for AS.
At level 75, we see three healing talents. Of the three, Ancestral Guidance is the most appealing to me because it won't force me to actively heal anyone directly, and it will actually turn my dealing damage into a source of healing for others. Healing Tide is just a fire-and-forget and will probably do more healing, but it has a longer cooldown and doesn't reward me with more healing for doing more damage, and Conductivity just doesn't appeal to me at all. I do like that it also rewards me for doing damage, but I don't want to have to cast Healing Rain. I guess if I end up using it with Maelstrom a lot, I'd take Conductivity over Ancestral Guidance.
Finally, the level 90 talents -- the big bombs. These are Elemental Blast, a nuke that also buffs one of three key stats by 3,500 when you cast it, on a 12-second cooldown. It's a 2-second cast. It stacks with Maelstrom, and the stat you get boosted is random. I'm seriously considering this one over Unleashed Fury, just because I like the basic idea, but UF seems very attractive as well. The idea of getting extra out of Unleash Elements makes me happy. Then again, Primal Elementalist will buff the heck out of Fire Elemental Totem and turn it into a proper pet, so if you like the idea of a pet every five minutes with 50% better damage than the current totem, this may be your talent of choice.
Hopefully this will cover some basics for people who are as overwhelmed as I was when I started playing enhancement on the beta. With patch 5.0 just around the corner, we all need to start bracing ourselves for the changes.
It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!