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Totem Talk: Shields, totems and buffs, oh my!

Welcome to another article by elemental shaman specialist Matt Sampson, otherwise known as Binkenstein. By day, he's a geek; by night, he's also a geek, but with spreadsheets. He's also the shaman behind TotemSpot and is currently leveling a mage alt ... sshh, don't tell anyone!

Welcome to another post on Cataclysm beta information for the best spec of all: elemental. There have been one or two changes in the latest patch, along with things being fixed (Unleash Elements, for example). This means we can start doing some testing, play with the mechanics and get a better feel for how elemental is looking. First, patch notes!

  • Magma Totem now costs 18% of base mana, down from 27%.
  • Lava Burst damage has been increased by 25%.
  • Totem of Tranquil Mind *New* - Summons a Totem of Tranquil Mind with 5 health at the feet of the caster for 5 min, causing party or raid members within 30 yards to lose 0% less casting or channeling time when damaged. (Value NYI, Concentration Aura)

As you can see, the patch notes are fairly small and are mostly balancing tweaks. The additional 25 percent damage on Lava Burst only applies to the base damage, so instead of dealing 1,441 damage (on average) it now hits for 1,801. This extra damage will be multiplied by talents as well, so that becomes 460 extra damage before considering the critical strike multiplier, which brings it up to 1,022. In other words, that 25 percent base damage increase turns out to be a 6.4 percent increase in overall damage, assuming an average critical of 16,000 before the change.

Now with bonus free totem!

The Concentration-On-A-Totem addition in the form of Tranquil Mind is an interesting one. We already have enough buffs to provide in a raid, and this supports the exact opposite of what we have been told about shaman buffs. However, it needed to go somewhere, and odds are you will have a caster shaman or a holy paladin in the raid to provide this aura. My only real complaint would be that it ideally should be an earth totem, rather than a water one, as there are no caster-based buffs in that element.

Elemental Overload updates

The mastery abilities have been added in, so we now get to play with Elemental Overload. It's been changed from a 20 percent base chance for a second cast at 60 percent damage to a 16 percent chance at 75 percent damage, which works out to be no net change on average (0.2*0.6 = 0.12, 0.16*0.75 = 0.12). I don't have any concrete details of the rating-to-percentage conversion for mastery, although as part of some testing by masanbol over the weekend, I've been given a figure of 550 rating gives a 34 percent proc chance.

One amusing thing to come out of masanbol's testing was that the overload procs of Lava Burst also increase the duration of the Flame Shock dot via the tier 10 four-piece set bonus. He was able to get a 7-minute duration on his DoT due to overloads and Lava Surge before running out of mana with the time remaining up to 40 seconds at some points. This suggests that the tier 10 set bonuses will remain useful at the beginning of the level 85 dungeons and raids, similar to how useful the tier 6 bonuses were after Wrath was released. I'd say that during leveling, you may just want to keep the extra 2 seconds off the elemental mastery cooldown, as everything will die too quickly for an extended Flame Shock DoT to have any effect.

Speaking of the Flame Shock DoT, after the feedback on my last post, I did some hunting around for reference posts on the changes to the DoT haste mechanics. I was linked this post on the priest preview, and with the help of Hylas from the Totemspot IRC channel, I was able to establish how this new mechanic works. What it does is essentially the same mechanic as the Flame Shock DoT increase from the tier 10 four-piece bonus. It works out the time between ticks, divides the base duration by that figure, rounds to the nearest whole number and then multiplies it back out by the time between ticks to give an overall duration. The working itself is a bit complicated, which is why I'm trying to reduce it down to some basic formulae.

Subtle hints

Rounding out the post are some more comments from Ghostcrawler. He characterizes the elemental playstyle as similar to a mage, worrying about procs, short cooldowns and movement. The examples given were Lava Surge, Elemental Mastery and Unleashed Weapon. I have a few problems with the first and last examples, as I don't think that Lava Surge will have any great impact on overall DPS due to the limited window of usefulness (this is a combination of the 8-second cooldown plus the fact that there will be a delay before you can make use of it) and the new cooldown syncing behaviour that we will be using. Unleashed Weapon only increases the direct damage portion of Flame Shock, meaning that we will want to cast it before Lava Burst and we'll be using this almost as often as possible, so it will be more likely to be on cooldown when moving than not. The cooldown sync issue is that you'll be using UW before every second Lava Burst to get the most out of it, so if that Lava Burst is reset so you can cast it before UW is up again, it creates the "Do I? Don't I?" dilemma.

More changes on the way?

I'll leave you with the latest post from Ghostcrawler, replying to a question about shields for elemental. I should also mention that I'll be working on a bit of math and theory fir a bit, so I'll be reducing my posting frequency to once every two weeks rather than weekly.

In the next beta build (or the one after that), you will see two important changes to Elemental shaman. First, you will use Lightning Shield (for damage!) instead of Water Shield. Second, you will want to use Earthquake for AE over Fire Nova. These changes, especially the former, will provide Elemental shaman with a bit of an upgrade in the rotation over what you're used to in LK.

I don't want to oversell it, because players have a tendency to imagine herds of glittering ponies when left to their own imaginations, but it should be a fun change.

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. Whether it's Matt Sampson's elemental edition, Joe Perez's coverage of restoration or Rich Maloy's enhancement edition,'s shaman experts have you covered.

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