Totem Talk: The future, shaman?

Welcome back to Totem Talk. Last week I said we're talk about pre-Kara cloth and leather gear for shamans. So of course, being my usual distracted, scatterbrained self, I've spent the entire week poondering and fretting about completely unrelated issues like shaman stacking for 25 man raids, the future of the shaman class when totems go raid-wide in Wrath, shamans in PvP and other such issues facing the class.

The cloth and leather discussion is still important (the comment thread from last week was very active, which I always take as a sign that you guys want to talk about it) and so I want to give it the detail it deserves. I think at this point it should go beyond Karazhan and into drops in ZA, SSC, TK with an eye towards gearing your shaman for Hyjal Summit and Black Temple. Which means I should also expand on a basic gear guide for what drops you'd want to get BT/Hyjal ready for all shaman specs, and that's going to take a few columns to do properly. I'm aiming to start that next week, unless you guys leave a lot of comments telling me you're totally uninterested.

So first let's talk about PvP, or at least my recent experiences with it, and then we'll talk about Shaman Stacking..

Okay, shamans in PvP: in my experience, it's still resto or elemental unless you're more than averagely talented at PvP.

I am not more than averagely talented at PvP. At best, I'm getting better at going into some weird furious spasm of hate and unloading damage, but my poor enhancement shaman is getting rolled like the town drunk in arenas. 2x2, 3x3, 5x5 it really does not matter. I don't know that I think we really need much more in the way of fixing than what's coming in Wrath already, but as of right now, enhancement is still not the best choice for arena PvP in my opinion. It can be done... my 2x2 partner plays his enhancement shaman in a 3x3 setup and does really well with... but it requires both skill and a really precise knowledge of the class in PvP that I, frankly, lack. I find it much, much easier to spec resto and heal my way through the Arenas, because (barring things like counterspell, stunlock, or being killed by focus fire) it's more or less the same in PvP or PvE: find the people losing health and cast a heal on them.

I run 3x3 with an elemental shaman on my warrior. Let me just say holy crap, my hat's off to you, I could never do that. While I'm still learning and experimenting with elemental as a playstyle the 40/0/21 build can crank out some really impressive burst damage. It's definitely a gib or be gibbed spec but when it works, it can put a massive hurting on a team. Again, I'm not geared nor skilled enough to pull it off myself. Basically, my experience in PvP seems to be saying that what problems shaman have revolve around mobility and escape, and that while I'd argue that they're not broken there is a level of skill required for playing them to their fullest that I haven't mastered yet. Hex is going to be very welcome, I can say that with assurance.

Quite frankly, what I really want to hear from you guys is how you cope with Arena PvP. What are your specs, your strategies? I can read various forums and websites until my eyes bleed, but after a while it starts to run together, and one of the things I enjoy about writing this column is how much I can learn from you guys. Any tips for enhancement PvP would be welcome. Are you guys finding the instant cast Ghost Wolf to be worth the points? (I've resisted picking it up, but if I'm wrong I'll be the first to go grab it.)

Now that we've covered that at least well enough for you guys to come in and school me (be honest, you were going to do so anyway) let's talk about 'shaman stacking'. This is the practice for guilds on the bleeding edge of raiding content to bring four or five (or more) shamans to a raid in order to have access to multiple Bloodlusts or Heroism casts to make killing a boss easier. You really see this in Sunwell guilds more than at any other level of raiding, as the ability to chain cast 30% haste on a DPS group helps burn down hard bosses much faster, assuming that threat isn't an issue. Other groups use it to get a near raid-wide haste effect, since five shamans = one for every 5 man group in a 25 man. While this particular use of the ability doesn't grant the sustained higher raid DPS that stacking and rotating shamans in and out of DPS groups can, it does mean that healing and tanking also benefits from the haste effect, allowing for overall boosted raid productivity in all three areas.

To a degree, I don't see what all the fuss is about. My guild often raids with six or seven druids, just because that's who we have to raid with: two or three feral tanks, two druid healers and two moonkin. You could just as easily say we're battle-res stacking with that many druids. If a guild is taking five shamans to raids that still leaves 20 slots for the other seven classes. As for the argument that it trivializes raid content, I don't get it. When we bring four or five paladins (which happens quite often, as we have two dedicated prot paladins and three healing paladins who rotate in and out, plus a ret paladin who specs prot when needed) no one complains that five paladin blessings available trivializes anything. Does anyone not like getting Kings, Might, Salvation and Light? (Casters might prefer Wisdom, admittedly.) Or having the potential for an almost total raid coverage from auras? Sure, having access to a longer or more raid-wide period of haste for really hard fights is pretty nice, but so is having six DPS warriors to spam execute when a boss is at 20% (I have been in this raid, it was kind of awesome) but in the end guilds are going to raid with the people they have. We didn't set out to have more druids than the eye could see, it just sort of happened. (To provide context, we raid with three shamans, one of each spec, and frankly that seems to be enough shamans for us to kill the bosses as we come to them.)

Are some end game guilds recruiting and/or having players reroll shamans, even bringing them along on BT and Hyjal runs to gear them up fast? Yes. We know this is happening, my question is, why is it bad? A bare 2% of guilds are even in Sunwell, according to Wowjutsu (I have no idea how accurate this number is, but let's run with it for discussion) and so, to my mind it's not having a tremendous impact on how the majority of people play the game if those guilds stack for any specific class or benefit. Furthermore, unless new information comes to light, at present I see no movement away from Bloodlust/Heroism working on a party level, meaning that while you'll have raidwide totem benefit (which to my mind will make having at least three shamans of varying specs absolutely delightful for raiding) you'll still need to stack shamans if you want raidwide haste, to say nothing of rotating shamans into a DPS group to maximize its hasted output.

I guess I just don't see the problem or how it trivializes anything, but I'm admittedly not in Sunwell yet.

Okay, now we leave things open for you to comment... well, that happens anyway, really, we have a form for it and everything. Shaman stacking, bad, good or neither?

Do you play a shaman ore are you curious about one? Would you like to see our leveling guides for Shamans? Every week Matthew Rossi writes Totem Talk just for you.

This article was originally published on WoW Insider.