As ever, when I logged in to patch 4.0.6 (on the EU servers, of course), I spent a good amount of time cooing over the little changes. Even with the PTR, there is a lot that goes unremarked or unnoticed simply because I'm so focused on the theory changes. I bid farewell to a large pot of archaeology grays and was uncommonly happy about the appearance of the Elementium Stormshield graphic and the ability to mount up next to the Stormwind flight master. I am ecstatic about the graphic changes to healing spells. The watery hands effect on Greater Healing Wave, Healing Surge and Healing Wave has turned me into a smug shaman. The spell effect is a small change, but it adds a great deal to the flavor of the shaman class -- even if many people on my Twitter don't like the sound effects.
A couple of weeks ago, I was not impressed by the changes to our spells as they were on the PTR at that time. In the end, the changes have been a little more substantial and subtle, but the overall fragility of our DPS in heavy movement fights will remain an issue for those of us that raid. What has this patch wrought for us? Stronger AoE, a more powerful flame nuke, increased efficiency and a change that will have us shocking our socks off. Let's talk about some of the changes, after the jump.
Lava Burst gets a buff
The 10% buff to Lava Burst is a straight-up buff, as the developers increased both the base damage and the spell coefficient. As a result, Glyph of Lava Burst is now one of our two main prime glyphs. Glyph of Fire Elemental Totem is worth swapping in for any fight over 7 minutes, but that's nothing new and is a decision that is reliant on your ability to maximize the useage of Fire Elemental Totem. For most fights, elemental shaman will be choosing between Glyph of Flame Shock and Glyph of Flametongue Weapon to fill that third prime slot.
As far as our AoE is concerned, Earthquake has been buffed and now benefits from Elemental Oath and Clearcasting, so try to be sure that Clearcasting is up when you start casting to benefit. This will make fights with AoE phases such as Coreborus, Magmaw and Maloriak easier to handle, especially for fresh raiding shaman.
Rolling Thunder and shock management
The changes to elemental are deeper than they appear, in the grand tradition of the "simple" elemental spec that actually has a great deal of intricacy in the details. The choice of third glyph is more crucial now that Rolling Thunder has a chance to proc from overloads of Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning. This change to Rolling Thunder results in a noticeable difference to the speed at which Lightning Shield stacks up. Waiting for a full nine-stack Fulmination is to risk losing two charges of Lightning Shield, and as the amount of haste on our gear increases, Earth Shock is almost ready to use again as soon as the cooldown is up.
Going back to Glyph of Flame Shock, I feel that this glyph will be even more important as the faster stacking of Lightning Shield will bring the shared shock cooldowns into conflict with increasing frequency. While a straight-up comparison between Glyph of FTW and Glyph of FS would imply that 2% crit is a more pure damage increase, the value of easing shock management cannot be underestimated. The improvement to our mana regeneration also makes Reverberation even more attractive and devalues Convection. Even when lacking a replenishment, I haven't felt the need to spec back into the mana cost reduction talent.
Mastery vs. haste battle continues
As ever, I really recommend simming and spreadsheeting your own gear to figure out the the best options for you and your gear setup. That said, the change to Rolling Thunder does mean that haste and mastery are on average much closer in value once again. There will be peaks and troughs in the value of both stats due to the incremental nature of mastery and mini-haste thresholds such as an extra Flame Shock tick; however, in a live environment, these points are largely irrelevant. Crit remains relatively weak, so it is still our main target for reforging after excess spirit and hit.
Gemming in 4.0.6
If you haven't already, you should be re-gemming with Brilliant Inferno Ruby nearly all the way, but consider your socket bonuses carefully and be prepared to use a Purified Demonseye in blue sockets and a mixture of Reckless Ember Topaz and Artful Ember Topaz for yellow sockets. Bonuses worth grabbing are mastery, haste, and of course intellect bonuses. Crit bonuses can be ignored, as 40 intellect gives more crit than the bonus! It is also best to ignore spirit/hit bonuses when over the 16-17% cap. The value of intellect means that pure mastery or haste gems are never preferable to an orange gem.
Ideally, we should all be grabbing Burning Shadowspirit Diamond, but if you would rather wait until prices come down (or a guildie gets the cut), then Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond is an acceptable alternative, if you don't feel the 54 intellect is worth the auction house price tag.
DPSing on the move
I'm hoping the Rolling Thunder change will also alleviate our movement problems. The speed of LS charge stacking will mean that any movement is likely to coincide with a fair chunk of Fulmination damage to unload on a single target. The use of this will of course still be restricted by the shared cooldown, but Earth Shock is now a prime spell to use when on the move, with Unleash Elements as a good backup.
I'm not going to complain about the extended duration of Spiritwalker's Grace, as we can definitely use every tool Blizzard gives us when it comes to mobile DPS. Is it enough? It remains to be seen. Unleash Elements remains a great spot spot for small movements, but Spiritwalker's Grace is a lot more flexible and can be used for things like laying down a Healing Rain on the Feud spot or casting Earthquake while moving back to the ranged pile after a Pillar of Flame. I treat this spell like a trinket -- there is little point trying to save it for some special occasion, so I use it as often and as soon as I can unless I have a definite plan. Otherwise prioritize Earth Shock, or use an Unleash Elements+Flame Shock combo when forced to move. Always Be Casting still remains true.
Yet another keybind
Ah yes, those PvP tweaks. The result for a raiding shaman is that Tremor Totem needs to be much more easily accessible as a quick cast as a opposed to being pre-cast and planned for. In the past, I selected it in my totem stomp when I knew a fear was involved in a fight, but now we'll need to be able to cast it quickly, so make some space for it on your bars. There is a lot of grousing about this change, but having a raidwide fear break brings us a raid utility cooldown. Not quite the same as those healing cooldowns our restoration kin are after, but I like the uniqueness and activity involved in this new totem design.
A positive result
Well, I do adore this spec, so I'm unlikely to be entirely grumpy after any patch, but 4.0.6 has left me feeling positive and intrigued for what the future holds for the spec. With so many classes being balanced, I haven't entirely had the chance to get a real comparison going, but my early tests lead me to believe that the elemental spell priority is even more active and dynamic than when the 31-point talent trees were launched. I would have liked the developers to invest a little more time in the totem AI, but despite the panic about the state of shaman in general for progression raiding; we're doing just fine for the average player.
If you've got any questions for me, don't hesitate to email me, and if you've got a resto off-spec, check out Joe's restoration shaman 4.0.6 survival guide.
Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. Ready to take your elemental shaman up to the new level cap? We'll help you get to level 85 with our guide to leveling an elemental shaman. Check out our Cataclysm 101 for elemental shaman, or pick up our pre-raid gearing guide.