Recently some of the folks behind the scenes here at WoW Insider have been piqued to start their own shamans. This led to a discussion about how best to level as a shaman (enhancement! enhancement oh sweet lord roll enhancement! It's the best thing ever!) which of course I and others answered with our usual cool detachment. (Enhancement!) This then led to a discussion of the old saw among shaman players that while grinding you shouldn't drop totems.
This was an old saw I hadn't heard. I believe I actually sputtered when I read it. Let's recreate the moment.
"Don't drop totems? Don't drop totems when grinding? Why not just roll some other class if you want to be a weak retread of a warrior, or mage, or priest? Totems are our thing!" And then I sputtered a lot and went on and on about kids today and their weird hairstyles and their baggy or overly tight jeans (whichever is currently the issue) and their non-totem dropping ways. What would be next, telling aspiring shamans not to use shocks? Don't cast lightning bolts? Why I never!
After I stopped being Wilford Brimley, I decided to write a column for all shamans from 1 to 70 (although at level 1 you don't have any totems, so you won't be dropping any. I guess you level 1 shamans can go ahead and not drop any totems. Sorry.) about totems and their proper use.
(We're not doing that bit anymore! It's about totems now!)
The first reason most people give for why you shouldn't drop totems when you're out questing or grinding is their rather large mana cost. This is true. They cost a lot of mana. The second reason given is their immobility. This is also true. Even with totemic call it's still an expensive pain to run to one area, drop four totems, kill a clefthoof, then pull them up for a fraction of the mana it cost and run over to kill another clefthoof.
So don't do that. Don't drop four totems, pull them up, and drop them again. Drop one or two totems in a nice central location and pull things back to it until the totems expire. If you're out soloing, how many totems do you actually need? Not all that many. But each totem is usually a very nice buff. A soloing enhancement shaman with windfury on his weapon can still benefit from grace of air and strength of earth. An elemental or resto shaman could make good use of wrath of air. You could always drop a healting stream or mana spring totem to help with downtime between fights. Using one or two totems and then clearing an area around them means that you don't have to over-rely on totemic call to enhance your mobility since it won't be an issue, you can save it for when you need to pull a totem up to keep a mob from aggroing it that you don't want to deal with.
Using totems in this fashion will still allow you access to their rather extraordinary buffs. At level 65, a grinding enhancement shaman can get 88 strength (176 attack power) and 77 agility (roughly 3% to crit, plus dodge and armor) from just these two totems. The bonus to a level 42 shaman would be less, of course, but at that level 42 agility isn't meaningless. You don't have to drop all of your totems every time you start a fight... that would be clearly overkill and would drain your mana ridiculously fast... but you honestly don't need to either. At level 10, it almost never hurts to drop searing totem for the extra damage it will bring. Even if you're not dropping anything else, there's no good reason not to drop searing while soloing in those early levels before you get direct buffs that outshine it. Even when you get magma totem, you may prefer searing if you want to minimize the chance of aggroing nearby mobs.
Please remember that when soloing, totems and their placement are there for you to benefit from. In addition, soloing is a good time to experiment with what various totems do without having to worry about accidents in a group. But even if you're resistent to the idea of using totems while soloing, for the love of all that's good and pure, don't make Warchief Thrall or Farseer Nobundo cry by refusing to drop totems in a group!
Totems are magnified almost exponentially by group size and makeup. You will probably never drop windfury totem for yourself. For one thing, you have your own windfury which is superior, and for another thing you might be a caster or healer. But in a group with heavy melee (say a tanking warrior, DPS warrior, rogue and two shammies decide to go to an instance) then drop that windfury totem. The tank will love it for aggro and rage, the DPS warrior will love it for damage, and the rogue will love it for damage. The presumably healing and ranged DPS shamans will probably wish they had wrath of air going, but they'll be happy with the elemental shaman's totem of wrath and the restoration shaman's mana spring and healing stream totems. Plus, two shammies means eight possible totems, so they can have wrath of air and everybody wins!
Trust me, eight totems in a group each providing some great buff or another to a couple of the classes in the group can be magnificient. Whether it's stacking totems in a melee or caster DPS group in a raid or just a plain instance run lucky enough to have two shamans, the multiplication of each totem to affect up to five players makes them far, far greater when grouped. When I see shamans who refuse to drop totems in a group, I honestly feel very very sad for them, as they're missing out on the best aspect of their class, the power it holds to make a group stronger. If you replaced the warriors and rogues in the above group with a feral druid tank, a hunter and mage for DPS, then you can simply switch to grace of air and everyone's still happy.
Totems. Leam them, love them, drop them. No, you don't have to drop them pell mell every time you have the mana, but that's why you have the option to drop less than four of them at a time. You don't have to become some demented Gorthok Totemseed, just use a couple when soloing to make you better at killing things. In groups, use em baby.
You'll notice I didn't mention flametongue at all this week. That's because I don't really care all that much. I knew it wasn't going to make it live in that form, although the rollback surprised me. Hopefully shamans will get something new instead, but we'll just have to wait and see on that.
Next week we'll probably do some talking about concerns for up and coming shamans before discussing raid or higher level concerns again. The pendulum swings.