The past few days have been a crazy basket of news for us Shaman players. The Alliance will have a second Shamanistic race with the inclusion of Dwarves (which makes sense, really, since Dwarves are effectively descended from beings of pure earth) and the Horde will get a fourth race of Shamans in the Goblins.
Frankly, an expansion based around the upheaval as Deathwing himself smashes the elemental plans pell-mell into Azeroth is pure bliss for a Shaman. This is what we're for! The elements in disarray, Ragnaros bucking wild on Mount Hyjal, the planes leaking through into Azeroth... time to get out there and do what we do best.
But that's not all. With stat simplification gear is changing, Mastery will change the way our talent trees function, and then there will be the Path of the Titans to help customize us even more than Glyphs did. Shamans are going to gear differently, have five more talent points (but the talents themselves will be changed and streamlined, we're told) and play differently in Cataclysm. Let's start talking about how.
No more Int for Enhancement, MP5 for Restoration or Spell Power for Elemental
That's right: as a side-effect (perhaps) of the change to Hunters removing their reliance on Mana (they use focus now) Enhancement is also going through a redesign that will lead them to gear similarly to our old opposite numbers the Retribution Paladin. While this means that Enhancement will probably continue to share the same gear as Hunters, we won't be getting Int on that gear, and therefore won't be getting AP from Int either (expect Mental Dexterity to get changed or even removed) and we'll probably see a talent similar to the Paladin's Touched By The Light granting us Spell Power from Agility or perhaps even just treating our Attack Power as Spell Power for purposes of Maelstrom Weapon casts.
It's a very interesting change for Enhancement since Wrath has basically made the spec play like a real hybrid of a classic melee DPS class (you're up in close, whacking stuff with axes, hammers or fist weapons) and a caster DPS class (and then once you hit something enough times Maelstrom procs and you unleash a sizzling torrent of lightning to burn your enemies). Removing int from our gear and simplifying gear will have as yet unforseen effects on the class.
With stats like AP and SP now purely derived from statistics rather than being present as separate stats on gear, and stats like armor penetration (which shamans are at best meh about and at worst loathe like the vile corruption of the grave) MP5 (Resto shamans are in for a shakeup) with Spirit now everyone's regeneration stat (which, as we covered before, is a change long in the making for Shamans) we're looking at re-learning how we gear our Shaman whether it be Enhancement, Elemental or Restoration. I can imagine Spirit being good for Shamans being a major stumbling block as we move from WotLK to Cataclysm.
Mastery and Path of the Titans
To put it mildly, Mastery and Path of the Titans will totally change the way Shamans are played.
Mastery sounds like possibly the best thing to ever happen to Shaman talents. Pruning away talents that we take just to get passive benefits (Healing Way, Ancestral Knowledge) and folding those talents benefits into the trees themselves (you spend more points in Restoration, your Healing Wave gets better) is a fantastic idea. At this early juncture it's hard to know how exactly this is going to play out but the potential to really separate and define each talents spec from one another via this process has me giddy just thinking about it. The idea that Mastery on gear will help enhance the benefit your spec gives you as well as changing how specific abilities work (the example given was a Ret Paladin seeing his ability cooldowns lowered, so we could easily imagine faster shocks or more frequent Maelstrom procs from Mastery) for a class is just pure dynamite if the execution pans out.
Path of the Titans is big for everyone, of course, but for Shamans who deal with the elements you can imagine that the idea of choosing a whole new path of personal progression by identifying with a Titan and its cult (especially for our new Dwarven contingent) and having each path be non-class specific means that, for once, not every Shaman will have the same abilities at max level. It's going to be interesting to see how these new abilities change the way folks look at the way the game is played. I'm sure we'll see recommendations for how each spec should Path for maximum DPS or healing, but it'll definitely be a whole new modular ballgame.
I, for one, welcome our new Dwarven and or Goblin Overlords
The addition of a new Shaman to each faction is bigger than you might think, both from a lore and a gameplay perspective.
Goblin Shamans in the Horde change the very nature of Shamanism to some degree because they're Goblins. Goblins do several things very well. They blow things up, they get their little mitts into everything, and they make deals. Frankly, the little menaces bring a whole new approach to the elements and the art of negotiation to a class that's all about coming to terms with the elemental spirits. Since part of Cataclysm is all about the elemental planes breaking through into Azeroth and elementals bucking wild on our world, maybe it's time for a less reverential, more results oriented form of negotiating with the spirits. Goblins are shrewd bargainers and tough tradesmen who approach the world in a very flexible mercantile way, who will be unafraid to roll up their sleeves and say "Do X for me and I'll do Y for you" and who are not adverse to clearcutting Stonetalon if it gets them what they want. Frankly, as much as I love Thrall and his more peaceful, brotherly way with the spirits, guys like Ragnaros don't respond well to it.
If anyone can hoodwink the more aggressive elementals and come out on top, it's a Goblin. Plus, right now, Goblins have some fiendish racials, man.
However, when Goblin craft, guile, and love of explosions reach their limits, who can we turn to? Who can show us the way to deal with the spirits in this tumultuous time? Well, how about a Dwarf?
Dwarves have a refreshingly simple take on complex issues. There are hammers, and there are things which you hit with hammers. If those things happen to be Firelords, oh well.
We ran into Dwarven Shamans in the Storm Peaks and other zones of Icecrown, actually: I got hit with Stormstrike from Iron Dwarves more times than I can count. Since we know that the Dwarves' Titan creators were the ones to first make the elemental planes and stick the elementals in them in the first place as well as empowered Deathwing himself to act as the Earth Warder, it's clear that Dwarves are now just rediscovering the elemental connections that their Wildhammer cousins simply intuited years ago.
It makes even more since once you realize that all dwarves are descended from the Earthen, and thus, basically are elemental beings themselves. The straightforward dwarven way combined with the talents and traditions of their Earthen/Titanic ancestry makes this a pretty solid path for them, and I look forward to seeing many a dwarf slapping some sense into an errant elemental who thinks it's time to leave the planes the Titans crafted for them. The elementals were on the losing side of the Titan/Old God conflict the first time around, and I don't think it's going to go any better for them if they start it up again this time.
Dwarven racials seem particularly well suited to Enhancement, but I can't imagine any shaman saying no to Stoneform. Perhaps Find Treasure will be buffed to work well with Archaeology as well, the new secondary profession.
In conclusion, this is a very interesting time to be a Shaman. The lore of the expansion is squarely in our class' bailiwick, we're getting two new playable races with their own ways of doing things, and with gear, talents and personal customization all looking to undergo radical change a hybrid like us will be entirely new.