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Totem Talk: A week with patch 3.0.8

Matthew Rossi

Okay, first off: I haven't been able to play my shaman much at all since patch 3.0.8 dropped. It's not that I haven't tried to. No, no, I've tried and tried and tried. I had an elemental spec all picked out and everything. Unfortunately, whenever I log on to my shaman I immediately disconnect. It's not the Wintergrasp bug (which wouldn't be an issue anyway, what with Wintergrasp being disabled) and having a GM move my character didn't fix it. I can log on to other characters fine, but the shaman sits in Dalaran, unable to be on for more than a few seconds. (My death knight is having similar problems.) Edited for joy: a second move seems to have finally unlocked my shaman! Yay!

As you can probably surmise, this has limited my ability to test my shaman out with the changes. I'm going to try and take him to some heroics and possibly a 10 man Naxx run today, but that's in the future from the point where I'm writing this. Still, I will say this much: I really enjoy free respecs, and I really REALLY enjoy Shamanism. The amount of bonus damage I'm seeing on my Lava Bursts in particular is just so much fun. I'll be speccing between all three trees for the next few days to try and get a feel for how things have changed post patch, but for now we'll talk about elemental, as it's the most changed at the moment.

What all of this leads me to ponder, however, is how it's going to shake out in raiding. Right now my preferred raid spec is still enhancement - I've never been much of a caster - but I'm more and more attracted to elemental as the spec shakes out in patches like this one. My enhancement spec didn't see a terrible amount of change even with the talents moving around, but with the elemental tree having seen some love I'm discovering a newfound respect for it and since I've collected decent blues I've been playing with it as much as I can.

To be honest, I'm currently alt-tabbed out from playing the game to write this post, that's how dedicated I am to you, dear readers. Well, okay, and our tank had to go to the bathroom.

My current elemental spec (I took the time today to run a heroic HoL just to test it out) definitely needs some help. For one thing, I need to get the Flame Shock glyph post-haste. Previous commenters seem to be correct also in that I don't need nearly as much crit as I feared I did: hit, spell power and haste are much more important when you can effectively guarantee a crit every eight seconds or so. I'm finding that I'm not nearly as concerned with mana regen and can DPS pretty effectively for long periods as long as I manage to keep the Lava Burst-generated clearcasting state up, which is another reason why I need the Flame Shock glyph so that I no longer have to worry as much about letting the DoT tick before using it to crit.

I admit it: I am still a complete noob when it comes to elemental, but the spec has managed to become fun somewhere along the way. Using shocks and bursts to generate clearcasting while also fitting lightning and chain lightning isn't quite as interactive feeling as enhancement's use of Maelstrom Weapon, but for caster DPS it's growing on me. I don't at all feel detached and spamming a single spell here.
One of the things I would like to see for the spec is a means to carry this forward. Right now, elemental shamans have gone from a one trick, LB LB LB CL spamming class to one that weaves fire and electrical damage in varied ways to proc critical hits and enter clearcasting, which not only lowers mana cost but also increases damage. I like the symmetry and wish I was better at it, but I'd also like to see more from the other elements here. A cascading effect where using a frost attack after a fire or lightning one in order to set up specific conditions (either buffs to the shaman or debuffs to the target) would be welcome in order to move elemental shamans more fully into the role of masters of the elements. To my mind, shamans shouldn't be reliant on one or two schools, but should be doing damage from all of them.

One idea would be that using a fire spell would debuff an enemy to be vulnerable to a nature spell (perhaps even a specific one: Lava Burst increasing the damage dealt by Earth Shock, for instance, for say five seconds) which could then buff the shaman's spell power for the next frost or fire spell cast for a few seconds. Something to build on this new cascading effect that shamans seem to be built around.

I hope this doesn't seem like I'm unhappy with the class as of patch 3.0.8: while I have been pretty unhappy with being unable to play as much as I would have liked, and am still somewhat irritated that I now have three specs I enjoy playing (boo hoo, poor me, I now like all three shaman trees, I know there are worse problems to have) in general I think the most recent patch has been very positive in terms of the changes to the shaman class. But I have felt like a lot of the angst about elemental scaling could have been avoided if folks listened to a lot of feedback on the beta forums saying over and over again that these kinds of changes were going to end up being necessary, so in the interest of looking forward I'm still thinking about how shamans can be more 'masters of the elements' without being carbon copies of other classes.

How has patch 3.0.8 been treating your shaman? Hopefully more accessible for you than it's been for me. Any big changes, small surprises, anything to report on glyphs, bugs that you haven't seen anyone else mention?

Next week I'll probably talk more about restoration or elemental, you've probably heard enough about enhancement from me for a while. We will discuss that again too, when it's time.