Once Cataclysm came along, I was forced to put my shaman on the back burner for a while. Raid needed tank. Me tank. Me tank hard. (Okay, so I neither write or speak like that.) I also got to enjoying messing around with the various warrior DPS specs. But with the passing of time, as my warriors got geared enough to perform the roles expected of them, I got to missing my shaman.
My orc, I may never level again (at least not until I finally break down and buy a race change to tauren -- you can thank Garrosh "Where did my neck go?" Hellscream), but my draenei, I still enjoy a great deal. I know a lot of Alliance shaman players went dwarf, but I'm fond of my big blue. So I went back and started leveling him and quickly discovered a few things.
- I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. A lot of the essentials of the class are still there, but a lot really has changed. Fire Nova works entirely differently now. Stat weights are entirely different. We have whole new abilities, and our older abilities were either redesigned, moved around, or in some cases removed entirely.
- Sentry Totem is gone. I won't lie: I cried.
- We have two forms of CC now! Two! Holy crap, I remember when Hex was barely even viable. Now, it's pretty solid.
- Mages have stolen Heroism. This also made me cry.
In his recent watercooler chat about talent tree design, Ghostcrawler (lead systems designer) talked about pros and cons of the talent pruning. I didn't really get to experience some of those positives on the shaman. I didn't, for instance, get to feel like an enhancement shaman at level 10 because I was level 80 when I picked up the shaman again. May have to roll another one to get the leveling experience. But what I did notice almost immediately is that a lot of talents I was used to holding my nose and picking were gone -- and strangely enough, I actually missed them. Not because they were good, but because they were familiar.
I also found myself realizing that I had to relearn not only how to spec and how to fit in new talents and abilities like Spiritwalker's Grace (which is really nice when I have to run away from a boss but want to throw a heal out anyway). I also had to figure out how to heal again. I haven't healed seriously since early Wrath. Suddenly, there's Healing Rain and Healing Surge to wrap my head around. Enhancement is fairly changed from Wrath with new priorities (keeping the Unleash Elements buffs active at the right time so I can use an unleash boosted Flame Shock, for instance), but healing is entirely new. It almost feels like a completely alien game, and one I admit I am not even close to expert at yet.
It has actually been somewhat exhilarating to play him. With the warriors, I did a lot of PTR play and jumped straight into leveling and performing my roles as quickly as possible. I researched and understood the talent changes before they even went live. But coming to grips with how mastery works for enhancement and restoration, learning my DPS priorities, and figuring out what my healing spells even are has helped bring back a sense of discovery. I went into level 80 not knowing how to play this class and have had to learn slowly as he leveled up.
Now at level 85, I'd say I'm about 90% there in my enhancement spec and less than 60% as resto. I enjoy resto more than enhance for this very reason. I may even spec elemental and experience complete ignorance. At least I'll be learning something.