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Totem Talk: Sentry Totem

Matthew Rossi

Totem Talk is the column for shamans. Last week, Matthew Rossi warned you that he'd write an entire column about Sentry Totem, but you didn't listen, did you? You didn't pay any attention to his warning and now here we are, stuck with an entire column about Sentry Totem. You brought this on yourselves.

Yes, this column is going to be about Sentry Totem.

No, seriously. It really is.

Okay, look, if I give you a few minutes to stop laughing, can we get serious about this? Okay? I'll just be over here, waiting. You collect yourselves and when you're done we'll get started.

Okay. The serious discussion of Sentry Totem.

I won't go so far as to say Sentry Totem is entirely without merit. It is, however. the least used totem on my bar. The only time I've ever used it is in WSG matches when I want to have the ability to check on the flag room without having to actually be in it. And the five minute duration and low health makes it fairly useless even for that. Even if someone grabs the flag while I'm watching, all I can do is tell people what is about to be announced to the entire battleground anyway. If I get seriously lucky and no one kills the totem, and no one kills me while I'm standing entirely motionless somewhere checking on the totem, unable to control my character at all, then I might be able to tell the group which tunnel they ran out of.

You used to be able to use the totem to indefinitely fall by switching between your perspective and that of the totem. Every time you 'switched' to the totem, it would reset your fall back to the place you were when you started. This neat, if slightly useless trick was removed a while back, depriving Sentry Totem of even gimmicky utility. I stand here now saying that of all my totems, I don't think I've ever used Sentry Totem for any other reason than the one I listed above, and even that was me desperately searching for a use for it. I've talked to many other shamans and so far no one's offered me any hope for the totem. The situation is only made worse by the fact that Sentry Totem is an air totem. In an instance, no one is going to be happy to forgo one of the really excellent buffing totems like Wrath or Grace of Air in order for you to drop a totem that lasts five minutes and sits back where you have already cleared, so that the shaman can switch to look at where you used to be.

There are other totems with a similar problem, of course. But no totem is so universally unused as Sentry Totem.

Some totems are perennial favorites with other classes, of course. Warriors love Windfury, rogues and hunters love Grace of Air. On a recent Durnholde Keep ground I boosted the DPS warrior to a massive lead in damage dealt by dropping Windfury Totem until he made several snide comments about the hunter and myself being beneath him on DPS, so I switched to GoA and watched the hunter climb up to eclipse him. (I stayed in second throughout, although GoA did boost my damage more than WF does, since I always imbue my weapons with my own personal WF and thus the totem does nothing for me.) There are less beloved but still useful totems like Windwall and Stoneskin, good in specific situations. There are reliable always drop totems like Healing Stream or Mana Spring, which will always go down unless there's a compelling reason to drop something else (like when Poison Cleansing or Disease Cleansing totems are necessary) and then there's stalwarts like Tremor Totem, which will only go down in very specific circumstances but, despite the drawbacks of totem pulsing mechanics, you'll want to use on every situation where they're warranted.

Then there's Sentry Totem, which in over a year of dungeons and raids on my shaman, I have never dropped, nor ever been asked to drop. Not once. There has never been a reason for me to use it. I've found situations where Windwall was useful, where every single resistance totem came in handy, I've dropped one or another of the cleansing totems. Of all the totems in each group... Fire, Earth, Water or Air... Sentry Totem stands out as the one with absolutely the least group utility and practically no soloing viability. You could use it to try and see if a rare spawn in an area is back up by planting it in one place and heading over to another where the mob spawns, if you don't mind aggroing anything else in the area. But you'd probably do just as well with Far Sight, and not have to risk random mobs getting torqued off at your totem that aren't the one you want/need.

Okay, I've pretty well bagged on Sentry Totem and in the past I've made jokes about it. What I haven't done is come up with anything better to do with the totem instead of running my smart mouth off about it (or smart fingers in this case) so that leads us to the crux of the issue: how should they fix Sentry Totem? Or would it be better to just pull it from the game and we could all go on with our lives?

Since I don't like giving up on things, here's some ideas for Sentry Totem.

First off, why not give it the ability to increase the stealth detection of a party? That fits the 'sentry' notion of the totem, that it is effectively 'watching out' for things. And since it's an air totem it makes sense that it can detect unseen things by their passage through the very air. Another possibility would be to move Sentry Totem out from the Air group, which is packed with totems you'd prefer to use. The problem there is, where would you put it? Are you going to put it in Earth and have it take up the space you'd normally devote to Strength of Earth or Tremor? Or deprive your group of mana or health regeneration by making it a Water totem? I'd personally actually rather see it go in Fire, just because in an instance you'll often forgo a fire totem for fear of breaking CC with a magma (I don't know if Searing Totem is smart enough to not hit CC'd mobs, I've never wanted to risk it... if it is, then you don't want to replace a Fire totem either without a significant boost to what Sentry Totem does.) It seems problematic to contemplate moving it, even as it's problematic to keep it where it is.

Another possibility would be to finally introduce the 'fifth totem', that of the Wild. It's been mentioned in the lore several times, including the efforts that Thrall made to rediscover Shamanism for the orcs: the level 50 shaman quest has you make a similar 'spirit totem' that is also not one of the four standard elemental totems. By moving Sentry out to a fifth totem, you'd be able to drop it without blocking the use of any other totems. Of course, by introducing a fifth totem group, you'd allow for the dropping of five totems, which would no doubt lead to the creation of other, more useful totems in the fifth group, and no one would use Sentry without buffing the totem.

In the end I'm forced to conclude that either we will be living with Sentry Totem as the Linus Van Pelt of totems fo a long while to come or it will have to be buffed. Without some sort of buff to its usefulness, be it stealth detection or something else (maybe it could, in its role as guardian, increase your defense or resilience while it was up?) the totem will continue to languish.

Thus ends our lament for the poor, unloved Sentry Totem. Next time, back to leveling I promise.

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