The first thing to consider is, what spec are you intending to play in raids? Do you want to be a caster? Are you looking to deliver the melee damage? Or would you rather heal? Once you've decided what spec you want for endgame, the first thing you could do is work on one of the 'Dungeon 3' sets that drop in the various level 70 and heroic instances. There's only two problems with this approach. One is that there's no restoration spec 'set' per se. There are three mail Dungeon 3 sets, and none of them are good for a restoration shaman. One's a clear Hunter suit (it will work for an enhancement shaman, but the set bonuses are clearly aimed at hunters), one is primarily aimed at elemental shamans, and the last is a tossup between hunters and enhancement shamans. I personally wouldn't heal in any of it, although of the three the Tidefury would be the best of a bad bunch for healing sets. (It's nice for what it was designed to do, don't get me wrong.) So what does this mean? Well, if you're a restoration shaman (and to be honest, they're the most in-demand spec for raiding) you're not going to be able to wear a 'set' as such. Fortunately, there are several pieces of good restoration mail in the instances you'd be running to put together an elemental or enhancement set anyway, so it's not hopeless.
The second problem is related to the first one, but is a more general issue - sometimes the dungeon sets are not your best alternative. Furthermore, even if you're lucky enough to have a set tailored to your spec, you still need to assemble trinkets, boots, a belt, bracers, a cape... gearing up to run higher level content can sometimes seem like a treadmill. Luckily, Totem Talk has already covered your belt, bracer and boot options before the start of raiding. Make sure you don't let drop rates freak you out and make this more of an ordeal than it has to be, and also, don't confuse 'green' with 'bad'. A full set of all green quest gear probably isn't going to cut it in Kara, but you can walk in the door with a few green trinkets, or rings, or even a green fist weapon (in fact, many enhancement shamans are not going to find two 2.6 speed weapons right away and will have to use a green offhand to keep their windfury procs from overlapping) and do well. I main healed Kara with two green trinkets for an embarrassingly long time, and we did fine.
More important than gear, however (blasphemy!) is that you take the time to learn from these instances, especially if you haven't really run a lot of them before. In my experience heading into the 25 mans, Blizzard has seeded the five mans with encounters that serve to help train you for encounters you'll experience later. Especially when you're running the Karazhan attunement quest, pay attention to bosses like Zereketh the Unbound. It will be useful when someone has to explain the Netherspite encounter to you later. As a shaman, it's especially important to use these fights to help train yourself to place your totems effectively to cover as much ground as you can, and to get into the habit of dropping them as they run out if possible (addons like enhancer can help, as they give you a totem timer so you know when your totems are running out, but it isn't strictly speaking necessary to use one) so that their buffs are always available to your party.
For those of us who have been playing the game for a long time now, it's important not to just sleep your way through these five man dungeons just because you've seen them before. I don't know if you've been away from the game, if perhaps your shaman is a new alt, or what have you, but take advantage of the opportunity to explore what the class can really do in a shakedown situation like the five mans. Raids can often be higher pressure just because people are often looking to progress through content and are not interested in wiping (even though some wipes must happen), and even when an encounter is on 'farm' it can still wipe an unwary or cocky group. Five mans serve to help sharpen skills you'll use later and are a good place to let yourself really explore what you can do. No matter your spec, shamans can be a very flexible class.
Okay, then. You've found a guild, run the instances, gotten a solid set of gear for your first ten man raid. What do you do now?
That's exactly what we'll talk about next week. What do enhancement, elemental and restoration shamans do in raids? (Obviously they DPS or heal, but there's more to it than that.) We'll talk about specific Karazhan fights (you will probably have to Earth Shock Julianne) and talk about loot you'll be wanting. Hopefully there will be time to talk about ZA, too.
Oh, and thanks again for reading, Mr. Norris.
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