Obviously the enhancement changes are meant to balance the fact that much of our damage is through instant casts now and to address the fact that Death Knights have basically the same talent as Unleashed Rage but for much less of a point investment. Now they'll be basically even (the nice critical hit boost isn't a huge deal, but hey, every little bit counts). The Spirit Weapons change is much bigger than it first appears. With Maelstrom Weapon and Static Shock enhancement damage is much more magic based than it was in Burning Crusade (where it was almost all physical) and so changing Spirit Weapons to a flat threat reduction really only makes sense and will prevent an unlucky shaman from critting on an instant cast LB or Chain Lightning and spending the rest of the fight admiring the floor after four mobs turn to eat his or her face in a Violet Hold run.
Not that that has ever happened to me.
The change to Storm, Earth and Fire is just plain good. More damage! It always seemed a little wonky to me that the talent only buffed the periodic damage of Flame Shock and not the whole spell, so yay. The change to Chain Lightning is more interesting as it has a positive (four targets) and a negative (less damage.) I don't know if they mean that it will do less damage per jump or just plain less damage than it does now, but I'd hope and also assume that they mean the current damage will be spread out over four jumps instead of three. If I'm right, then Chain Lightning becomes a more effective way for elemental shamans to do damage in AoE situations. Heck, with Maelstrom Weapon it becomes a more effective way for enhancement shamans to do damage in AoE situations, although clearly elemental is the spec that will be most affected.
I'm worried that they're just flat dropping the damage, which would be bad. Elemental got some well-deserved and needed buffs in 3.0.8 and I wouldn't want to see it take a step backwards like this.
The best news to my eyes is that they're working to streamline more totems. Now, I've always been a huge advocate of totem consolidation. Not only does merging the Mana Spring and Healing Stream and Disease and Poison Cleansing totems make sense, it bodes well for the class in the future because it shows that the developers are starting to prune back all of the totem clutter. Making us have to drop more than one totem to cleanse or for regen was just silly, and I'm ecstatic to see us following in the footsteps of the excellent SoE/Grace of Air merge. Frankly, I want to see this kind of thing continue. Making Totem of Wrath baseline and merging it with Flametongue comes to mind (and yes, this would mean Elemental would need a new talent, and frankly I'd like to see them get one that's more unique to the spec than just another, better totem - Enhancement got glowing transparent wolves and Elemental got another stick?) or perhaps Windfury and Wrath of Air as the 'Haste Totem' so we don't have to decide which group we're going to buff, casters or melee.
Now, I understand that to some degree we have to be careful with this. Too much consolidation and you have four totems and they all overlap in the new buff system so that one shaman drops four totems and the rest don't do anything. That would be totally boring and I'm not advocating that at all. The totem streamlining announced this time is pretty sweet, though.
Finally, we have the welcome, if nebulous, announcement on shamans in PvP. On the one hand, yes, it's good that they're looking to give enhancement and elemental shamans more utility in PvP. On the other hand, it's hard to get terribly excited over something as vague as 'more utility'. I mean, I enjoy guessing as much as the next person, and in the light of the earlier post this week speculating that shaman health is too low in PvP we can wonder if a buff in that area is coming, but the phrasing 'more utility' doesn't really sound like it means that. I mean, is taking more damage before you die really PvP utility?
Of course it's easy for me to say that, because I'm not the one who has to actually sit down and come up with what, exactly, the utility should be. Should it be a more effective way to escape stuns or burst? A more straightforward CC than Hex? Giant sharks with laser beams on their heads? A new kind of elemental shield that actually absorbs incoming damage and converts it to health or mana? I don't envy them here, it's a fine line to walk between making a class competitive and making it ridiculous and PvP is notoriously hard to balance, as players are ornery and find ways to do hideous things to each other with abilities that might have seemed relatively harmless.
So, what we have in the announcement for patch 3.1 for shamans is almost entirely positive. I'm as shocked as you are, I assure you.
Patch 3.1 brings us Ulduar, dual specs, significant changes to all the classes, and more! We've got you covered from top to bottom with our Guide to Patch 3.1.