Area of effect damage has long been a thorn in the side of enhancement shaman. Through all of The Burning Crusade, we had no Maelstrom Weapon. Any Chain Lightnings we wanted to use had to be hard cast, which also meant giving up our auto-attacks for 1.5 seconds. Magma Totem was our premiere form of AOE damage, even though it was a stationary totem that ticked for extremely lackluster damage over 20 seconds.
To make things worse, until Wrath of the Lich King's patch 3.2, our Fire Nova ability was actually Fire Nova Totem. This was a totem you dropped that waited 5 seconds and then exploded and despawned. The only time this was ever not a DPS loss was if you dropped it 4 seconds before adds reached you and it exploded as they got into range. Magma Totem was higher damage per second during those 5 seconds than Fire Nova Totem, but it still rendered us the lowest area of effect damage-dealer in the game.
When patch 3.2 hit, we got Fire Nova. With a talented 6-second cooldown and the ability to be activated off any of our fire totems, it seemed to be the answer to our prayers. Unfortunately, it had pathetic damage. This was mainly due to its being used as a single-target DPS spell and an AOE DPS ability; since we used it anytime everything else was on the global cooldown on single-target fights, Blizzard couldn't buff the damage to be competitive in AOE fights. As a result, enhancement AOE spent the first three expansions of World of Warcraft being as mediocre as Fox Van Allen's writing ability.
4.1 hit two weeks ago and changed enhancement AOE forever. It is no longer tied to a stationary totem like Magma Totem, but instead emanates out from any of our active Flame Shocks. We can have three Flame Shocks active at a time. It does not deal damage to the original Flame Shocked target but does hit anyone around them. This is to prevent it from being utilized as a single-target DPS ability again. It also allows us to AOE small packs of mobs without removing Searing Totem, allowing us to continue our regular single target DPS rotation while throwing Fire Novas in global cooldown gaps for some AOE damage.
Managing your Flame Shocks
The hardest part of learning to use the new Fire Nova is learning how to multi-DOT as a melee class. Death knights have Pestilence, and warriors have Rend if specced into Blood and Thunder (which 95% of don't), but no melee class has ever been in the position of needing to cast and monitor separate damage over time effects. As a result, we're going to take some tips from our warlock, balance druid, and fire mage friends, since they've been multi-DOTing since the time of the dinosaurs.
First off, you should get into the habit of using nameplates. The default keybind for bringing up nameplates is Shift-V. Nameplates show health and cast bars for enemies around you, allowing you to monitor your surroundings easily. They're something that any DPSer should be using 100% of the time.
Nameplates also come into great use when it comes to utilizing Fire Nova effectively. Using a nameplate addon -- my personal suggestion is Tidy Plates/Threat Plates -- you can set up nameplates to monitor your debuffs on an enemy. Through this, you can easily monitor all of your separate Flame Shocks as you roll them on multiple targets, ensuring you don't overwrite any.
The macro I use is:
If you're mousing over an enemy nameplate, this will cast Flame Shock on the moused-over target. If you're not mousing over anyone, this will cast Flame Shock on your target, provided it is an enemy mob.
#showtooltip Flame Shock
/cast [target=mouseover,harm][target=target,harm]Flame Shock
Wrath of the spellpower weapon
The other important thing to know about Fire Nova is that current theorycrafting suggests that spellpower weapons are seeing a return. On AOE-centric fights such as heroic Maloriak during the dark and green phases, it is highly suggested that you keep a spellpower weapon pre-imbued with Flametongue Weapon ready in your bags. The ideal enchant for this spellpower weapon would be Power Torrent, though Avalanche is also passable. Hurricane makes sense because it is also good if you use the spellpower weapon for elemental/restoration, but Power Torrent would be the best for all three specs.
Our AOE system isn't elegant, and it is still a work in progress for Blizzard. It requires way more work to master than a simple Rain of Fire or a Mind Sear, and we're not rewarded for our effort by higher AOE DPS than other classes. However, learning to use and master all of your abilities, even when they're slightly annoying, is the mark of a good player and something we should all strive to be doing.
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.