Back when Ulduar was relevant content, there was a very mean boss named General Vezax. General Vezax constantly cast an ability called Searing Flames, and the only way to prevent him from casting Searing Flames was to interrupt it with abilities that locked out his fire school for long periods of time -- Counterspell, Pummel, Mind Freeze. Back in those days of yore, when brains had tentacles and Wind Shear didn't exist, we had to drop Earth Shock from our rotation entirely. Our sole interrupt was also tied to our main DPS shock, and we had to sacrifice damage to avoid screwing up the Kick rotation of classes with better interrupts.
Thankfully, patch 3.2 saw the introduction of Wind Shear into the enhancement shaman's arsenal. No longer were we the DPS class that screwed up interrupt rotations. On fights for which we were the sole interrupter, we no longer had to hold off on DPSing in order to interrupt an important ability. This change would have been totally awesome for PvE ... had Wrath of the Lich King possessed any heroics in which not interrupting an ability would cause a wipe. As it was, a handful of encounters in the rest of the expansion had any relevant interrupting -- Lord Jaraxxus, Faction Champions, Twin Valk'yrs, and Lady Deathwhisper were the only four out of the last 17 raid bosses who actually had interruptible spells.
Thankfully, we're not in Wrath of the Lich King anymore. Cataclysm has come, and the shattering of Azeroth has brought an entirely new style of gameplay into PvE content. It's no longer any DPS player's job to care simply about DPS; interruptible spells from the lowliest of trash mobs can wipe you if you're not careful. Healer mana matters, so avoiding damage is the norm. Luckily for us, enhancement shaman have some of the best utility in the game for making sure your group doesn't wipe.
Interrupting better than Kanye
Wind Shear is our interrupt spell. Wind Shear is off the global cooldown, like every other interrupt in the game, allowing it to be cast while in the middle of your DPSing with no loss of DPS. Since caster classes with interrupts (mages and elemental shaman primarily) need to stop casting to interrupt, you'll make lives infinitely easier by doing the interrupting. And since Wind Shear only costs 480 mana (thanks to Mental Quickness), you're a much better choice to interrupt than death knights, rogues and warriors, who all have resource management to worry about. (Hint: you don't.)
When you couple this with the fact that Wind Shear has a 25-yard range (30 with PvP gloves) and a 6-second (5-second, talented) cooldown, Wind Shear is bar none the best PvE interrupt in the game. The only exception to this rule is encounters like General Vezak in which spell lockout matters, but I haven't seen any of those yet. My personal suggestion: Due to the need for quick reactions to interrupt crucial spells, bind this ability to one of the most easy-to-access keys for you. I use mouse wheel scroll up for shearing my current target and scroll down for interrupting my focus target.
Important interruptible spells:
- Maloriak's Release Aberrations Boss in Blackwind Descent
- Halfus Wyrmbreaker's Shadow Nova Boss in Bastion of Twilight
- Temple Shadowlancer's Pact of Darkness Trash in Heroic Halls of Origination
Enhancement has two dispels at its disposal. First, Cleanse Spirit is a defensive dispel that allows enhancement shaman to dispel their friends of any nasty curse spells. While most PvE dispellable debuffs are magic effects, certain spells like Ivoroc's Curse of Mending are cleansable by the attentive DPSer.
More important than Cleanse Spirit, Purge is an enhancement shaman's best friend. Purge removes two magical buffs from your target for the deliciously low cost of 820 mana. This stupidly low mana cost makes you a way better choice for offensive dispelling than elemental shaman and shadow priests, both specs that actually need to worry about mana. On certain fights, your mage friends might ask you to not Purge so that they can Spellsteal vital buffs, but as a general rule, you should Purge to your heart's content any time you see a boss put up a magical buff.
Examples of dispellable buffs:
- Maloriak's Remedy Boss in Blackwing Descent
- Arcanotron's Power Converter Boss in Blackwing Descent
- Isiset's Veil of Sky Boss in Heroic Halls of Origination
- Empyrean Assassin's Vapor Form Trash in Heroic Vortex Pinnacle
Back in The Burning Crusade, a best-in-slot enhancement trinket came from heroic Magister's Terrace. Unfortunately for enhancement shaman, Magister's Terrace required CC (or being best friends with a paladin tank). During those days, our version of CC was re-rolling restoration for instances and inviting a mage. An expansion later, we saw the introduction of Hex, a 30-second CC with a 45-second cooldown. An overwhelmingly underwhelming ability, Hex's mediocrity never had to see the light of day in PvE, since crowd control was rarely used. Now, in Cataclysm, shaman are privy to two awesome crowd control abilities, at least from a PvE point of view. In certain instances, this means a good shaman can bounce crowd control around on half of a trash pack, greatly increasing the chances of surviving trash intact.
Now, Hex is a minute-long CC with a 45-second cooldown. Hex will be your staple crowd control in instances (as nearly every instance in Cataclysm has at least a few humanoid mobs). It's not nearly as easy to break as lesser crowd controls like Polymorph and is able to take an erroneous hit or two. If you find yourself being the primary CC in an instance (generally happens in PUGs), you might want to consider choosing Glyph of Hex as a major, as you'll be better able to compensate for other people's CC failures.
Instances where Hex is useful:
- Every heroic but Shadowfang Keep
- First trash packs of Bastion of Twilight
Bind Elemental is a form of crowd control newly introduced in Cataclysm, and has the benefit of being the coolest looking CC spell in the game. Bind is only useful on elemental mobs (surprise!?) and is spammable as it has no cooldown, which is great because it breaks on any damage. Like other forms of crowd control, it is restricted to being on a single mob at a time. The only really sad part about Bind Elemental is that it doesn't effect druids in Tree of Life form.
Instances where Bind Elemental is useful:
- Heroic Grim Batol
- Heroic Stonecore
- Heroic Vortex Pinnacle
- Heroic Blackrock Caverns
- Possibly Heroic Throne of Tides. I'll find out for sure if I ever manage to see it pop up when I random.
Raiding in Cataclysm is an entirely new beast. Any of you reading who have a resto offspec, or those of you who have just been following what's been going on in the game, know that healer mana at level 85 is supposed to matter. Beyond that, incoming damage is supposed to be significantly less spiky, but health pools will rarely ever be totally full. Staying alive and saving healer mana has become a job for DPS in and of itself, and it's more involved than just clicking the Lightwell and standing in the Efflorescence.
Enhancement comes with a variety of ways to stay alive in raids. First up is Glyph of Stoneclaw Totem, which is a major glyph provides a damage absorption shield on you for 16,000 damage. This may not sound like much, but it's nearly equal to the average Greater Heal non-crit of my 10 man raid's holy priest. Being able to save my healers from casting a Greater Heal every 20 seconds is pretty excellent. On a fight like Magmaw, where AoE damage is nearly constant, you can absorb a good 150-200,000 damage over the course of the entire fight just by being attentive to dropping Stoneclaw, doing your part to keep your healers from developing complexes or breaking down and sobbing. The one drawback: if you're not raiding with a warrior or a death knight, you have to remember to twist in Strength of Earth Totem after every Stoneclaw.
Additionally, Shamanistic Rage is excellent. Since Primal Wisdom is now responsible for almost all of our mana regeneration, the lower mana cost Shamanistic Rage affords can be largely ignored in favor of it's more potent ability: a 30% damage reduction for 15 seconds every minute. This damage reduction can be used in a few ways, such as popping it before Magmatron's Incineration Security Measure or Maloriak's Scorching Blast to take the edge off. Conversely, you can use it any time you're standing in "the bad" and need to attempt to survive a few seconds longer to get to safety. Additionally, you can glyph your Shamanistic Rage to remove all magical debuffs on you. This hasn't proven exceptionally useful in my experiences so far on any boss but Argaloth in Baradin Hold, but I haven't seen every encounter in the expansion yet.
The real breakthrough utility of the expansion is enhancement's heals off Maelstrom Weapon. In Wrath of the Lich King, I blew Maelstrom Weapon on healing on one fight -- heroic Sindragosa, and only after she had flown away and we were running to the stairs. In Cataclysm, I can't think of a single progression fight where I haven't dropped at least one Healing Rain on. Healing Rain has incredible throughput, provided you're using it on a clump of 4+ people who are in no danger of being overhealed. If you're using your Maelstrom Weapons on heals when people are already close to full, you're skipping out on vital DPS you might need to beat a bosses' enrage timer in favor of overhealing. If you use it when you see everyone around you is low on health, your DPS sacrifice might be what the healers need to catch up on stabilizing the raid. And, if you're the only one damaged, remember that an instant Greater Healing Wave can bring you back from the brink of death to a point where healers can fix you up. As you get more comfortable with bosses and your healers get more gear, you'll see a decline in your use of instant heals. For now, embrace them.
But wait! There's more!
There are a lot of other things enhancement shaman can do that qualify as useful utility. Switching to Rockbiter Weapon and casting Unleash Elements provides a taunt which I've used to great effect in heroics to move bosses out of bad things. (Tanks, please stop trying to tank Forgemaster Throngus' mace mode!) Tremor Totem and Grounding Totem both provide really unique effects, catching spells you weren't able to interrupt and stopping fears. Earth Elemental Totem isn't a particularly strong tank, but he is a disposable tankesque creature who can hold a boss for the last few seconds to score a kill from a near-wipe or provide time for a Rebirth to be cast. And, of course, from Healing Stream to Mana Spring, from Wrath of Air to Windfury, and from Strength of Earth to Stoneskin, we bring all the above utility to the table along with a slew of immobile but potent buffs, a selection of which is second only to a Beast Mastery Hunter's. Oh, and on top of all this, we get Bloodlust. It's a good time to be an enhancement shaman, provided you can do more than just stare at your bars and tunnel damage per second!
Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk: Enhancement every week. Manage the trip through Cataclysm content with WoW Insider's tips for the best enhancement macros.