AoE was reworked multiple times, and 4.3's final iteration is actually very potent, particularly on longer-lasting packs of mobs such as heroic Madness of Deathwing or Yor'sajh the Unsleeping. Our priority system was also reworked to be less strenuous on your fingers, but that's mostly just led to our filling in gaps with Lightning Bolts at three or four stacks of Maelstrom Weapon.
All in all, 2011 was actually not that bad of a year for enhancement, but that's partly because anything would have been better than Wrath of the Lich King enhancement.
Where we are now
This isn't to say enhancement didn't have its downsides this year. After all, we sort of hijacked the DPS-focused Ask the Devs thread back in June, and we did organize the People for the Ethical Treatment of Shaman movement. We had a lot of grievances to air in those days! Our AoE was still in a miserable place and would stay that way until nearly the end of the year. Spellpower weapons also dominated this year. With their being the weapon of choice during early tier 11 and the Eye of Purification being BiS throughout Firelands, between a third to a half of this year was spent with spellpower weapons being our best main-hand choice.
Fortunately, these are both problems that Blizzard has made strides to fix. Spellpower weapons (which I'm still personally a fan of) have forever been removed from the minds of enhancement shaman with 4.3's change to Mental Quickness
, and our newfound inability to get spellpower from anything but our attack power. AoE has also been changed for the better
, as Flame Shock
is spread by Lava Lashing
a target it's already on, allowing you to set up some powerful Fire Novas
quickly. Is this AoE buff enough? Time will tell, as it's still somewhat awkward to use and has a longer-than-usual ramp-up time. That said, it's much better than anything we've had in the past, and I'd be content if it doesn't change for a very long time.
What does the future need to hold for enhancement?
Enhancement still has some very glaring issues that we're hoping to see addressed in the future. Overall, the spec is in a fine place right now, offering competitive single-target damage, solid long-term AoE damage, and powerful group utility, be it in personal damage reduction, buffs, or heals. However, due to the nasty beast known as stat scaling, it's impossible to predict whether single-target DPS that's competitive one patch will be as competitive the next.
Quite simply, there needs to be a change made that allows us to benefit from crit or haste. Currently, we hit cap at 1,742 hit rating, expertise cap at 540, and then stack mastery to infinity and beyond. Unfortunately, due to our sharing gear with hunters, mastery doesn't always show up on our off-set pieces, but the leftover crit/haste pieces that do show up are incredibly bad for us. Even for pieces that do have mastery on them, if the other stat isn't hit or expertise we get slightly annoyed.
And unfortunately, this is only half the problem with our lack of stat scaling. Every fight this tier (Sinestra, Alysrazor, Madness of Deathwing) has raid-wide haste buffs that don't benefit enhancement anywhere near as much as they do other DPS specs. Coupled with the main raid DPS cooldown's being Bloodlust
, and enhancement shaman end up being left in the dust during burn phases. Hopefully, when the Age of Pandas does come, Blizzard will have found a fix to help address our scaling or will decide to never put haste buffs on a boss fight again.
But that's not all enhancement would like to see addressed. There's also our DPS cooldown ... or rather, our lack of a DPS cooldown. When Feral Spirit
was first introduced at the end of The Burning Crusade
, it was both a potent cooldown and a powerful, 45-second-long heal. Unfortunately, their damage was severely neutered in Cataclysm
. Compared to the powerful cooldowns of other specs like Combustion
, Avenging Wrath
, or Pillar of Frost
, and our burst DPS for fights like Spine of Deathwing is just not as competitive as it could be. Thankfully, currently our sustained single-target damage is enough to keep us viable, even without a strong cooldown. Looking forward, though, it'd be really excellent to see Feral Spirit either redesigned or replaced with something that actually makes us feel like we're contributing in a burst DPS phase.
Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk: Enhancement every week. We've got enhancement-specific advice on the latest gear and tier gear set bonuses, and we'll help you dig in and learn to level the enhancement way.