We've had a week or so to absorb Cataclysm. I am finding it hard to focus purely on the details of preparing for raiding after such a short flirtation with the XP bar, because I'm having too much fun questing. The joys of using Thunderstorm to knock back an ettin or mercilessly delivering Lava Bursts to the faces of the Twilight Hammer are too good for me to ignore completely, so I am frequently distracted from practical preraid matters. However, weighty matters such as Tol Barad dailies and reputation grinds await me over the holiday season, so like a typical dwarf, I'll be taking my dailies with a half-pint of Thundermar Ale.
Experienced elemental shaman are already hammering along the path to raids, but one of the great things about Cataclysm has been the number of new shaman appearing, attracted by the new short-stature shaman races, dwarves and goblins. I don't think I know many people who haven't rolled a shaman sometime in the last three weeks. Even I've rolled another shaman! Now it's time to take a look at the basics for a max-level elemental shaman. Have you just changed spec from something else or just finished leveling to 85? Then this is the post for you, and it has been updated to patch 4.0.6!
So you want to be an elemental shaman
Elemental shaman are powerful casters who focus on harnessing the destructive power of the elements to defeat our enemies and empower our allies. If lightning and fire is your thing, then you've made the right choice. Our great range of utility spells allows us to support the team in a variety of ways. With the elements on our side, we can handle almost any job -- from interrupting, to offensive dispels, to kiting, to burning down adds. To be a shaman is to be a team player, to coordinate and complement the abilities that other classes bring to the team. You won't find us in the thick of things, but we often stand between our allies and death. We have a fun array of spells to sling and can even turn our hands to a little restoration of the body and mind in a pinch.
Choosing elemental combat will immediately boost the power of your ranged offensive abilities, as Shamanism makes your spells faster to cast and stronger . An elemental shaman gets access to the following:
- powerful caster buffs
- a dynamic and fun spell priority
- strong fire, nature and frost spells
- a great AoE DPS spell
- a fun knockback on top of the snares, crowd control and interrupts
- stronger DPS totems
Mail Specialization gives us a 5 percent intellect in addition to the intellect on the gear, so try to wear all mail where possible. If you've just switched to elemental and have absolutely no caster mail at level 85, then I suggest running dungeons and questing as enhancement until you've got the beginnings of a good set of mail gear. The infamous streamlining of stats that came about with Cataclysm has worked wonders for my favorite class, something resto shaman will appreciate, as you can use resto gear quite happily for elemental.
- Intellect This stat increases our mana pool, spell damage and it even adds a small amount of crit rating. All of our spells benefit from this stat, and the more we have of it, the more efficient our damage deal is. At high levels, when you have access to the talent Rolling Thunder, it increases the amount of mana returned. It also boosts the power of our fire totems; Totem of Fire Elemental, Searing Totem and Magma Totem all do more damage the more intellect we have.
- Spirit/Hit Until hit cap, spirit (which I prefer to take over normal spell hit) is our strongest stat. We have a talent that converts any spirit on our gear into spell hit. As ever, non-draenei will need 17 percent hit or 1,742 hit rating, and draenei will need only 16 percent hit or 1,640. All your hit must come from your gear, gems and enchants, as Cataclysm removed class buffs and debuffs that related to hit from the game. No longer does our gearing depend on the presence of another player in the raid or party!
- Haste This stat decreases our cast times, decreases the time between Flame Shock ticks, and thus increases the amount of spells and the number of flame shock ticks occurring in a given time period. It is a holistic stat; the more mastery and intellect we have, the more valuable haste is. In an ancillary fashion, it boosts the opportunities for Rolling Thunder to proc, and thus increases the damage from Fulmination and increases the overall amount of mana returned in a given time period. I would also like to emphasize that there is no soft haste cap to aim for and no ideal haste number (especially this early in the expansion cycle). Haste isn't as valuable as intellect or spirit, but always keep an eye out for gear with haste on.
- Mastery This new stat was introduced in Cataclysm and increases the chance for Elemental Overload to occur. Elemental Overload is chance for your next Lava Burst, Lightning Bolt or Chain Lightning to trigger a second spell on the target. This second spell is threat-free, costs no mana, and does 75 percent of normal damage. When you chose to become an elemental shaman, you'll receive a base 16 percent chance, and each point of mastery is an additional 2 percent chance. Elemental Overload is, effectively, free damage! Mastery is a good stat and fairly easy to obtain on level 85 gear.
- Crit As ever, crit remains the underdog of elemental stats due to our passive crit and because Lava Burst will crit on a Flame Shocked target no matter how little crit we have. Don't gem for it; don't enchant or reforge for it. You'll have enough.
Tier 1 Acuity and Concussion represent straight-up damage increases and are great choices as part of a standard elemental build. Convection is all about efficiency and is one of a few talents that elemental shaman have to weigh up when deciding on a build. Personally, I found Convection unnecessary for leveling, but I have come to appreciate its charms in dungeons, especially heroics.
Tier 2 Call of Flame is the obvious choice here. Since there is no mail gear with hit on it at max level, Elemental Precision (which converts spirit into hit) is an essential talent. With Earth Shock and Flame Shock both playing big parts in our spell priority, the reduced shock-cooldown Reverberation has made my life a lot easier. However, if you feel you are able to manage shock cooldowns just fine without it, then more power to you. Elemental Warding is a survival talent, and it may turn out to be necessary for high-damage fights in which DPSers have to pay more attention to their own survival. At this point, I would say that Elemental Warding is optional at best.
Tier 3 In this tier, we grab one of the building blocks of the Cataclysm elemental spell rotation. Rolling Thunder is our main source of mana regeneration and creates the mechanism that has pushed Earth Shock to the forefront of our repertoire of spells. Another building block is Elemental Focus. This talent also does double duty as both mana efficiency talent and contributor to DPS, as EF is a requirement for Elemental Oath. Both RT and EF are a must. Elemental Reach is a simple range boost, and as of Cataclysm, it now affects Searing Totem as well. Personally, I feel the extra maneuverability is worth it.
Tier 4 Elemental Oath is the first of our spec-unique party buffs, as well as a straight-up damage increase for us, and Lava Flows is a welcome boost to Lava Burst. Happily, it also incorporates a minor PvP edge.
Tier 5 So, you know how I was talking about essentials in Tier 3? Well, if Tier 3 is essentials, this tier is the spice, the chili, the ambergris. Fulmination is the beautifully named talent that allows us to turn Lightning Shield and Earth Shock into serious pew pew. Elemental Mastery is our offensive cooldown. Use it a lot. Totemic Wrath is the source of our most powerful group buff in the form of 10 percent spellpower and should be in every elemental shaman's talent build. This talent also did away with the old Totem of Wrath and allows us to use a DPS fire totem instead of the passive Flametongue Totem. Spectacular. Earth's Grasp is a great talent for PvP, and I'm very sad that as of Cataclysm, it is no longer hard baked into our PvE talents, but it is still a very optional talent.
Tier 6 Blizzard stole wholesale from our T10 four-piece set bonus for Feedback, allowing us to use our Elemental Mastery ability more often by casting Lightning Bolt. Lava Surge is a fun talent that makes our rotation less predictable, but it requires good reaction times and UI set up to really get the full benefit. The key to Lava Surge is practice and muscle memory.
Tier 7 It's the pancake of doom. Uh. I mean Earthquake, which actually looks a lot more in keeping with the game now. This is our new AoE ability, allowing us to compete more evenly with other caster DPS. It comes with a 10 percent chance of knocking down targets within the 8-yard radius. A must-have talent, in my opinion, even if AoE is no longer the main method of getting through heroics in Cataclysm. As of patch 4.0.6 Earthquake now benefits from Elemental Oath, both the mana cost reduction and the damage boost, so try to make sure you have a proc up before you unleash it on unsuspecting opponents.
Enhancement Tier 1 Improved Shields doesn't sound like much, but remember that if each charge of Lightning Shield is 15 percent stronger, then the eventual damage from casting an Earth Shock at 7-9 stacks will be much greater. The more intellect you have, the stronger this talent is. Elemental Weapons is a decent, if mundane, increase to Flametongue Weapon imbue and works out at around 275 additional spell damage at level 85. This talent doesn't scale, but it is a solid choice if you want Ancestral Swiftness.
Enhancement Tier 2 Personally, I'm not particularly excited about some of our new abilities, but I was excited about getting my hands on Ancestral Swiftness! Technically, this is an option talent, but the passive movement speed increase means we no longer need to give over a boot enchant to run speed. The instant-cast Ghost Wolf is just pure fun and so much more useful now that Ghost Wolf is usable indoors. With the advent of Cataclysm, this talent is finally accessible to elemental shaman and is no longer teasingly out of reach. I do think it is a shame that it is not available for lower-level elemental shaman, though. Totemic Reach stacks nicely with Elemental Reach, resulting in a Searing Totem have a range of 41 yards. Personally, I like Totemic Reach, but again, this is an optional talent if you can work around the range restrictions in dungeons and raids.
Resto Tier 1 If you're looking for some survivability, then there are two optional talents in the restoration tree. Ancestral Resolve is the most likely to be of use as a two-point alternative to Elemental Warding. That said, it won't be any use while you're moving out of colorful, shiny death unless you've been practicing with Spiritwalker's Grace. I quite like the idea of Spark of Life, but devoting two talent points to a talent that depends either on someone else or on my not doing my assigned job leaves me a uneasy.