Enhancement is a spec that has struggled with its tier bonuses in the past. Back in The Burning Crusade, we had such gems as tier 5's Your melee attacks have a chance to reduce the cast time of your next Healing Surge by 1.5 seconds, a bonus that provided absolutely no benefit to DPS beyond allowing us to live through a sticky situation. In Wrath of the Lich King, tier 8 gave us one of our best bonuses of all time: Increases the frequency of Maelstrom Weapon being triggered by your melee attacks by 20%. A patch later, tier 9 saw us unfortunately dropping that bonus for the overly boring and terribly mediocre An additional 3% chance to proc your Static Shock talent.
Cataclysm hasn't been significantly better so far. On the one hand, our current two-piece bonus is amazing. It gives us a 10% increase to Lava Lash, our hardest-hitting and highest-priority ability, as well as slightly buffing Stormstrike. At the same time, our four-piece bonus is 10% critical strike chance to just Lightning Bolt. This bonus isn't terrible in and of itself, but it's coupled with terrible itemization on both the legs and the chestpieces and bad itemization on the gloves. Most enhancement shaman will find best in slot is heroic tier 11 helm and shoulders, Heroic Tunic of Failed Experiments, Twilight Scale Leggings, and Heroic Proto-Handler's Gauntlets. Four-piece tier 11 need not apply.
Wednesday night, set bonuses for tier 12 were discovered on the 4.2 Public Test Realm. In an awesome twist, Blizzard themed all of the set bonuses around the raid they will drop in, the Firelands. Classes like death knights that don't already have fire spells to work with receive passive bonuses like Your critical strikes with melee abilities deal 15% additional damage as Fire damage over 4 sec. Specs like elemental, which already have fiery moves to work with, get set bonuses like Your offensive spells have a chance to reset the remaining cooldown on your Fire Elemental Totem, seamlessly weaving the theme of the raid with the class' abilities. Enhancement, which uses a surprising number of fire abilities itself, falls under this second category.
The enhancement two-piece bonus is worth salivating over. When you read it, you should literally drool on your keyboard and then write a strongly worded letter to Blizzard nominating the equipment design team for president of the world. The set bonus? Your Lava Lash gains an additional 5% damage increase per application of Searing Flames on the target.
For the less multiplication inclined, that is a 25% bonus on top of our already hardest-hitting ability. That is 15% more than we're getting from our current two-piece, provided we're Lava Lashing at five stacks of Searing Flames. While this bonus shines a little less on fights like Cho'gall, when you often will Lava Lash the Corrupting Adherent without switching your Searing Totem off Cho'gall, it will be absolutely amazing for single-target DPS phases.
If Blizzard follows its tier policy of tier 11 and makes hands, legs, and chest available from valor points, we'll be able to keep our excellently itemized tier 11 shoulders and helm and grab tier 12 pieces for our legs, chest, and hands. Since those pieces are currently either filled with the terribly itemized tier 11 pieces or well-itemized off-set pieces that give no bonus, replacing them with T12 won't be sad at all. My prediction is that early best in slot for Patch 4.2 will be Spaulders of the Raging Elements, Helmet of the Raging Elements, Twilight Scale Leggings, and tier 12 hands and chest, depending on how well those two pieces are itemized. That is, of course, only best in slot until we get to the four-piece bonus.
The tier 12 four-piece for enhancement is also awesome, but it's a slightly understated awesome: Your Stormstrike ability also increases Fire damage you deal to that target by 6%. At first glance, this seems underwhelming, until you consider that enhancement actually does a ton of fire damage. Lava Lash, Flame Shock, Unleash Flame, and Flametongue Weapon hits will all benefit from this fire damage increase, as will any Fire Nova's from targets next to the Stormstriked enemy. If Searing Totem benefits from the damage increase as well, the bonus becomes even more awesome.
To me, there is only one real downside to these bonuses. We haven't yet seen models or stat makeups of shaman tier, and with these excellent bonuses, we know we'll be using the pieces anyway. Right now, we have to take it on faith that this tier is gear we're going to look good in and hope that Blizzard doesn't decide to be mean and itemize all five pieces with crit rating and haste.
Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk: Enhancement every week. We've got enhancement-specific advice on rep gear, heroic gear, and raiding gear, plus tips on maximizing your utility skills and tactics for raiding Blackwing Descent.