This has been an authenticatorless week. I do not recommend weeks like this. Now that I have access to Azeroth again, however, I am reminded that the lack of substantial updates to the elemental spec implies that the developers are mostly finished with us and have been for some time. For the majority of elemental shaman, we are watching and waiting for the final Cataclysm itemization and profession details, although we certainly aren't the only class in this situation. Luckily, this latest beta build has given us a few minor details to mull over. My enforced break from the game has also coincided with my first reader emails and questions, so after I've covered the consequences of the tweaks, I'll be answering some questions.
Now, as for the small changes, I am happy to see Searing Totem finally get some love. I suspect many elemental shaman will be grinding their teeth in annoyance as I mention the shaman sweet spot on the Blood Queen Lana'thel encounter, or the frustrating positioning for Blood Prince Council, or even the erratic totem behavior on Sindragosa! The totem's low range has caused many shaman to question the value of the current Elemental Reach talent. Why pick up a talent that increases your max range to 40 yards, if you have to continually refresh a Searing Totem at a mere 20 yards? The full change and a Ghostcrawler post on the topic is after the jump.
In beta build 13241, the Elemental Reach talent has been updated to increase the range of Searing Totem by a maximum of 15 yards, making a total range of 35 yards. All our shocks and nukes are now 40-yard spells with Elemental Reach maxed out, so there is still a slight irritation potential. The change to Elemental Reach isn't slated to appear in patch 4.0.3, so we will have to wait until Cataclysm for our new Searing Totem.
It's pretty clear that the developers don't consider the awkward nature of Searing Totem to be fun at this point, so I have hope that the Elemental Reach change means that the developer team has managed to chill those latent homicidal tendencies, as mentioned above by Ghostcrawler (lead systems designer). I did some initial testing out in the wilds of beta and did not come away satisfied that the AI has been improved upon to a noticeable degree. While the range has definitely improved, I found that the totem AI remained sluggish unless I recast the totem after each initial pull. Some weeks ago, the developers hinted at an AI solution that would result in the Searing Totem targeting Flame Shocked mobs, but I didn't observe that behavior directly. I'm not too disappointed yet, as there is time for this to be corrected and this is a particularly buggy beta build.
A small change for meta gems, a large change for elemental-kind?
As far as PvE meta-gems are concerned, in Wrath, the Chaotic Skyflare Diamond reigned supreme as the meta-gem of choice for sensible DPS casters. The 3 percent increased critical damage is just too good to pass up, despite the required two blue gems. However the new meta-gem, Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond, is a different kettle of fish. The same scrumptious 3 percent increased critical damage, but with a much harsher activation requirement. Instead of a mere two blue gems, we now have to socket more blue gems than red gems.
The result? If we want to benefit from that scrumptious meta-gem, the way we gem will have to change. Stacking red gems into every slot, socket bonuses be damned, will be replaced by an even mix of blue and red gems. I suspect the aim of this change is to get the players to use different meta-gems more readily and also to make the choice of meta-gem a more compelling choice to make. Now we must balance a substantial loss of intellect gems against the 3 percent increased critical damage, and we can look again at options like Bracing Shadowspirit Diamond and Ember Shadowspirit Diamond, especially early on in the expansion. I'm not saying either of those definitely comes out ahead, as CSD will continue to scale better, but they maybe extremely viable options again.
Questions from the mailbag
Some great questions from the mailbag, and my first reader emails, so I wanted to answer these this week.
After 4.0.1, I logged in to play with my elemental shaman for a bit. And to be honest, I felt a bit underwhelmed. The big numbers from Fulmination crits and back to back Lava Bursts are really cool, don't get me wrong. I just don't feel any passion about the class/spec anymore. He's my only LW, and I know I must've loved him for a time for some reason, otherwise I wouldn't have played him. So, I humbly come to ask you. Do you have any advice for falling back in love with my alt?This question came from a reader who plays an elemental shaman as his alt, as highlighted by the word "druid" in his nickname. I suppose this falls under more general advice than shaman-specific, but one of the first things I do when ever I'm feeling a little in the doldrums with a character is do something I've never tried with them before. Whether it is changing up the spec completely, to playing around in battlegrounds or practicing double-CC pulls, try something new. Don't be afraid to throw caution to the wind and try some ridiculous spec (such as enhancement; nothing will make you love the sophistication of elemental DPS like getting up close and covered in blood while whacking things with axes, I swear.)
On a more specific note, remember that our level 80 rotation isn't complete in 4.0.1. With two shocks to manage, a dynamically resetting cooldown and a short cooldown, plus totem management, elemental combat is shaping up to be a very active spec. If an active rotation suit you, then persevere. Alternatively, dust off all those PvP buttons. One of my favorite fights in Wrath was Valithria Dreamwalker simply because there were so many jobs I could do very well, so for me, half the fun of the class is the versatility of kiting, interrupting and controlling. PvP is great training for that and will give you a head start on leveling.
This question is from Mike. The damage increase ends up directly in our Fulmination damage. Essentially, the Lightning Shield charges start out bigger, due to the Improved Shields talent, and thus add up to a total larger Fulmination discharge. This increases our direct damage on the target. If you're looking to grab utility points from somewhere, you can try skimming a point from Elemental Reach or Reverberation in patch 4.0.1 and placing those in Elemental Warding. Unfortunately, those utility points are necessary to fill out the Elemental Combat tree to a full 31 points and thus can't be repurposed to a different tree.I don't know how much the increase in damage of Lightning Shield really helps us, as it still feels that component of the talent is more geared towards enhancement. So I guess what I'm asking is does this damage increase end up in with our fulmination damage, or is it for if a charge randomly bursts on us in a fight?
Reverberation does have more use in Cataclysm than on live at the moment. In Cataclysm, the lack of T10 four-piece bonus means that you often have to juggle Earth Shock and Flame Shock cooldowns, and Reverberation smooths out the process. I certainly don't recommend using Earth Shock on every cooldown, as that would cause a rather large DPS loss. Utility-wise, the talent is very useful if you are often called on to interrupt, so Reverberation is ideal for a 10-man build. However, if Elemental Warding or Convection is more helpful for your raiding or soloing situation, go for it!Also I wanted to ask about Reverberation. Doesn't fulmination make us want to Earth Shock more? I mean, I get we'd get the most from it if the charges are at nine stacks, but if we're adding an Earth Shock in at every cooldown (barring the need to reapply Flameshock), doesn't this increase our damage output any way?
As for the damage from Earth Shock itself, the actual spell only accounts for a very small proportion of our overall DPS. As long as the Earthshock plus Lighting Shield charges are worth more than a Lightning Bolt in the same global cooldown, that is what matters for the purpose of elemental DPS. For sustained DPS, we aim to get the maximum number of Lighting Shield charges discharged in the most efficient way over the entire encounter; for burst DPS, it is a simple matter of lining up cooldowns with a high stack of Fulmination.
To go back to your original question, if we Earth Shock whenever it is off cooldown, we won't be generating Lightning Shield charges, and the amount of Fulmination will not be strong enough to make the Earth Shock/discharge worth more than a Lightning Bolt.
Charting a steady course to Cataclysm
So as Cataclysm draws closer, keep practicing your new rotation and start thinking about how to handle the new soloing experience on the way to level 85. It should be fairly steady sailing from here on in, but please keep sending your questions and comments in! It's great to hear from some of our readers, and I hope to be doing a proper mailbag again. It is best to email me your queries via firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm also interested in hearing what you all think about the Season 9 art. I'm pretty unenthusiastic about the set, but it is scale mail in the most literal sense. As several people pointed out to me since it was released, we will be wearing internet dragons as we ride out to do battle with the enemy.
Secondly, most of you have had a chance to experience the new in-game spell alerts after a long wait for implementation. Does the art fit smoothly into your UI, or have you already discarded the spell alerts in favor of PowerAuras or NeedToKnow?
Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. Whether it's Sarah Nichol's elemental edition, Joe Perez's coverage of restoration or Rich Maloy's enhancement edition, WoW Insider's shaman experts have you covered.