As promised Blizzard is giving Shamans some love in the next expansion. The Beta patch notes deliver on some of that. Most of what we're seeing at this time is changes to talents, but there's quite a bit of totem news in there. Some totems stand to get buffed, others nerfed and some removed from the game altogether.
As expected totems will be placed in the physical school, rather than magic. To date, one of the major downfalls of totems is that has been if the Shaman is locked out of the Nature school of spells, they are more or less out of luck until the effect wears off. Even when completely silenced it will still be possible for Shamans to drop their totems. This will be handy in both PvE and PvP, but will probably be more influential for PvP Shamans.
The biggest changes so far seem to affect primarily Air totems. Blizzard also promised that some totems will be combined. So far in the beta notes we only see Grace of Air Totem combined with Strength of Earth Totem.* From Blizzard's WWI announcements, we should be able to expect more combinations in the future. I find this a great help as I tend to drop both Strength of Earth and Grace of Air, and this will free me up to twist Windfury or Wrath of Air with my Grounding Totems.
It looks like Windfury Totem is in for a bit of a nerf. At rank 5, the tool tip currently reads "The totem enchants all party members' main-hand weapons with wind, if they are within 20 yards. Each hit has a 20% chance of granting the attacker 1 extra attack with 445 extra Attack Power." The new version is a "20% melee haste totem" While this would be enough melee haste to cancel out the probable attack-speed penalty of a Warrior using Titan's Grip. Theoretically this should add up to the same number of hits as the current incarnation of this. The downside of this change is that the bonus hit will not have the same Attack Power bonus. I mentioned this one to my Warrior of a significant other, and the expression on his face was almost as sour as it was when I mentioned the deletion of fear resistance from Death Wish. Enchancement Shamans, take heart! The notes do not say if this change also applies to the Windfury Weapon spell.
Wrath of Air is also slated for change. Instead of the current description, "Party members within 20 yards of the totem have their spell damage and healing increased by up to 101." The totem now gives a 10% bonus to Spell Haste. This one looks to me like a boon to PvE Shamans who stack Spell Haste gear and a bane to PvP Shamans who rely more on resilience gear. Like any other totem, this one will be best in group settings. This one probably more so than others, as it will be of particular interest to caster buddies who can complete their channeled spells faster for the same total effect.
The talented ability Improved Fire Totems, will be making an exit, in favor of a return of Improved Fire Nova Totem. What's lost in this deal? "Reduces the delay before your Fire Nova Totem activates by 2 sec. and decreases the threat generated by your Magma Totem by 50%." What's gained? The new and improved talent gives the Fire Nova Totem a 50/100% chance to stun all affected targets for two seconds. If I'm reading this correctly that sounds to me like having a War Stomp every 15 seconds. The totem can be destroyed within the first four seconds of its existence. This gives the Shaman a touch of much needed crowd control. The patch makes no mention of the Hex ability, but this totem along with that polymorph-like ability should significantly help Shaman Survivability.
The only other talent that specificly apples to totems that appears in the Beta notes is Enhancing Totems. This ability is being moved from the second tier of the Enhancement Specialization to the first tier. Though many of the totem effect changes listed in the patch notes have not appeared in the skill drafts posted on MMO Champion, the Enhancing Totems ability is listed in the first tier of talents in their calculator.
Flametongue Totem and Stoneskin Totem are getting facelifts. In the Patch Notes Flametongue Totem Reads "now a flat spell damage totem. All ranks have been modified." It used to have a variable damage effect. Instead of reducing physical damage, Stoneskin Totem will increase armor. The official numbers for these have not been posted, but will scale up with totem rank.
Windwall Totem will be completely removed, at this time it does not appear to be combined with any other existing totems. Tranquil Air Totem will also become a thing of the past. The patch notes say "Threat is being addressed by modifications to the base threat of players and/or "baked" into tanking abilities." This is most likely happening because totems will likely affect entire raids in the future. Currently the tooltip reads, "the totem reduces the threat caused by all party members within 20 yards by 20%." In raids this would also reduce threat for a tank. No word on the ever popular Sentry Totem.
Blizzard has also told us that Totems will affect entire raids in the future. This was not included in the Beta patch notes. Blizzard announced that is an incomplete list of changes. All things in Beta are subject to change, and we'll see many more promises broken and kept in the future.
It looks like none of the water school of totems have been changed in the current iteration of the patch notes. One of the things I would like to see is a combination of Healing Steam and Mana Spring Totems in the future, even if it was a Resto talented ability. Other popular totems like Grounding Totem and Earthbind Totem have not been adjusted.
This list does not introduce any new totems to the Shaman's shtick. There is plenty more Shaman goodness in the patch note. I'm sure there will be a fair amount of information in the weeks to come.
* Tooltips in this post reflect abilities as they exist today.
Edit: Sorry about the yellow, should be all better now. I'm not even sure how that got there. Thanks!
Wrath of the Lich King Beta testing is going live. WoW Insider will keep you posted on all of the latest and greatest news and information from patch notes until release. Remember that we still have no official date for the expansion, but we're one step closer today.