Totem Talk: Misinformation

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|04.03.08

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Totem Talk: Misinformation

Totem Talk is the column for shamans. Matthew Rossi has decided to spend this week's column exploring the odd notions people, including up and coming shamans, sometimes get about the class. He'll admit that he was guilty of one of these himself, and looks forward to your guesses.

I was thinking I might talk about how to solo and quest as a restoration shaman. After all, there are a lot of new dailies out now and you might not have anyone online to run them with. Since elemental and enhancement are both DPS options, I thought it would be reasonable to talk about some things like putting Frostbrand or Flametongue on your weapon instead of Windfury (I always used to use Windfury with my dinky, 41 dps healing mace, and it was the wrong move) if you're soloing in your healing gear. Both frostbrand and flametongue get the benefit of 10% of your spell damage, making them better than Windfury for elemental or restoration shamans who won't be doing a lot of weapon damage - I use frostbrand on my resto shaman and would prefer it over flametongue if I were elemental, because I like to try and get back out to casting range, but flametongue can do a lot of damage on a fast weapon so a lot of elemental shamans like it better. And I definitely think I'll probably still do a column about proper soloing for the healer shaman. (Hint: your healing gear has a decent amount of spell damage now.)

But then I got into a discussion with an old game friend I haven't talked to in a while about shamans, and things he's had people ask him or tell him while he was playing his (he has three, making me feel like a shaman slacker) and he told me that a group he was running with recently got upset with him for not shifting to Ghost Wolf to clear an entangle.

Perhaps they thought he was a druid, you might say, even with the totem dropping and the being a troll. I find these kinds of errors to be regretfully common, and so I decided that for today, we could cover a few of them and try and clear up any mistakes people might have about shamans. A lot of these will seem obvious to long term shaman players and those familiar with the class, but believe me, sooner or later (in my case, often sooner) you will group with someone who does not know this stuff.

Totems - there are a lot of mistaken ideas held by players about totems and what they can and can't do. First off, totems only buff people in the same party as the shaman: if you want the warriors and rogues in your raid to get the benefit of Windfury Totem, for instance, they all have to be in the same party as the shaman dropping that totem. This means that poison cleansing, tremor totem, healing stream... these things only affect you if you're in the same group with the shaman. Furthermore, most totems pulse: they do not have a continuous effect as do various other classes' direct player or party buffs like Blessing of Salvation or Fear Ward. There are some exceptions (I'm reasonably sure that both Grace of Air and Strength of Earth are constant buffs) but, as an example, disease cleansing totem pulses a cleanse every five seconds, it does not simply immunize people by being present.

Furthermore, most totems have a range of about 20 or 30 yards if you get Totemic Mastery. If you are not within range of the totem, it will not provide it's effect. This is why reducing the pulse time on Tremor Totem was a buff, as people were being feared out of its range. It's still possible for that to happen, but it's less likely.

Finally, totems cost mana to drop and trigger the global cooldown. This means that a shaman can't drop them if he doesn't have any mana (the mana costs aren't prohibitive, but no mana equals no totems) and they can't all be dropped at once (you can't macro a four totem drop and expect them all to show up at once, it will take you at least four seconds to drop four totems with the new reduction in their cooldown) and you can't cast a healing spell, for example, and drop a totem at the same time. This means that sometimes, you will see a totem disappear and the shaman won't immediately drop it again because he's mid-heal or mid-cast. In this regard, enhancement shamans have it easiest, as most of their abilities are instant like Stormstrike or the various shocks.

Finally, the two elemental summoning totems cannot move and cannot be moved by the shaman, as they have extended 20 minute cooldowns. The elementals themselves, however, can and do move, often quite some distance from their respective totems. They are not pets. By this, I mean that the shaman is in no way in control of their actions: they nuke, taunt, and strike entirely on their own controlled by the game's AI. I sympathize if you find it irritating when an elemental breaks a trap or a sheep or doesn't attack the hatchlings on Jan'Alai, but there is no way for the shaman to make it do anything or keep it from doing anything apart from positioning well on the initial totem drop or pulling it up entirely. No amount of freaking out at the shaman will make the earth elemental tank any better. The fire elemental is going to attack whatever it attacks no matter how much we want it to do otherwise. And if one of the two is dropped you won't see the other one drop for two minutes, as that's how long they lock each other out for. They're great totems, I'm not complaining about them, but people often seem to expect them to be as controllable as a warlock or hunter pet, and that's not what they are.

Reincarnation - this is a great ability, no question. It can be used as a wipe recovery tool, or it can be used to pop up during a tough boss fight. But it can't often be used as both, because even if you spend the talent points for improved reincarnation, it has a 40 minute cooldown (it's an hour if you don't spend the points) and you res with low health and mana. Some folks seem to expect shamans to pop up from every death like a weeble. This is not accurate, so please don't expect shamans to just keep jumping up from the dead like Jason Voorhees. If you asked the shaman to res and keep healing and then everyone wiped, that's that, she can't res herself again. (Some folks have actually insisted that they've seen shamans do just that, res during a fight to keep healing and then res afterwards. I am willing to bet that this is due to a warlock's soulstone also being present on the shaman, and the shaman using the soulstone first, and then reincarnate.)

Ghost Wolf - just to reiterate: it does not clear roots or snares, not even if you talent it to be an instant cast. It cannot be cast indoors, meaning that you probably can't use it in most instances unless they're considered to be outdoors like the various Caverns of Time instances.

Chain Heal - I find this spell to be one of the best heals in the game, I love it and I'm not trying to tell you that it's not a great spell. However, it is not an AoE spell. It's awesome for keeping melee DPS up. It will arc from its original target (often a tank) to heal two other people in range, so firing chains into a mass of melee DPS can have great effect.

It's not the best spell for, say, keeping three hunters trying to tank one of High King Maulgar's adds occupied from dying. The hunters are hopefully spreading out to avoid Kiggler's arcane explosion so the chain heals won't get much of a chance to chain. Use Healing Wave instead if people are not close enough for the heal to chain, use chain heal if it can chain because then it becomes the most effective heal you have. If, amazingly, people actually complain (why I don't know) that you're not using chain heal in a situation it's clearly unsuited to, ignore them. There's a reason chain heal is not the only healing spell shamans have. It's great situationally, but it is not always the first heal you should be casting, and the fact that some folks don't know that doesn't change that situation any. I actually got yelled at in a Shadow Labyrinth PuG for healing with healing wave even though no one died because only the tank was taking damage, thus making healing wave the most efficient healing spell I had. Some people you group with are not going to realize that not seeing the chain heal graphic does not mean you are not healing.

I wish this was not true, but there you go.

Okay, I'm fairly sure I left some common ones uncorrected and I may have made some errors of my own. So feel free to correct anything I missed or messed up. Next week, we probably will cover soloing/questing for restoration. Unless we don't. I'm mercurial.
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