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Totem Talk: PTR changes

Matthew Rossi

Totem Talk is about Shamans. Matthew Rossi would just like to say "What the heck, did we just get buffed, did I miss a meeting where they decided that shamans get buffed now, holy Puck!" Puck is Matthew Rossi's cat. Yes, he named one of his cat's Puck and the other Aurora. Eventually he supposes he will have a whole host of pets named after members of Alpha Flight. You'll notice they have a team member named Shaman.

If you managed to miss yesterday's post about changes to the PTR, let me link back to it. Okay, now that I've done that, let me shamelessly copy and paste the pertinent information. (My apologies, Eliah.)

  • Flametongue weapon puts a 50% healing reduction on the target for 5 seconds, refreshing with every hit.
  • Toughness: each point in the talent now reduces the duration of movement-impairing effects by 10%, in addition to the previous effect of increasing armor. This means 50% reduced duration at 5/5.
  • Shamanistic Rage changed; now reduces all damage taken by 30% and gives a chance to regenerate mana equal to 30% [was 15%] of your AP. Lasts 15 s [was 30 s].
  • Global cooldown on dropping totems reduced from 1.5 s to 1 s.
Okay, now take a look at that. The first thing that jumps out at me is that Flametongue buff. Now, I play both a shaman and a warrior. So speaking as a warrior, I'll tell you now that's going to be nerfed - there is no way on this planet that there is going to be a five second duration healing debuff that costs minimal mana to apply to your weapon and which can be constantly refreshed with no additional cost. Especially when it doesn't require any specialization or talent selection: if this went live, all shamans could apply this debuff. (Granted, elemental and restoration shaman don't want to melee with you.) As a shaman, I don't think it's enormously imbalanced, but I doubt highly that it will stand as it is now. Still, it made me go ooh when I saw it. (The warrior in me also kind of wants it to stick around so that MS won't get nerfed.) It also made me giggle to imagine my poor resto shaman running up to whack someone with his Hand of Eternity to apply the debuff. (Also, according to some folks, it's currently bugged in an amusing fashion.) Apparently it also works for Flametongue Totem.

Obviously the flametongue change is aimed at arenas and other PvP venues. But what about the rest of the changes? Are they good or bad and who are they good or bad for?

Clearly, most of these changes benefit enhancement shamans, who are now starting to see buffs in two patches straight. This is a mixed blessing, as enhancement has needed some buffs to make it viable in PvP, but these buffs don't carry through to resto or elemental shamans, which is a shame. With their recent streak of nerfs, I would have liked to see elemental get some love. Still, with the reversion to the Nature's Swiftness/Elemental Mastery shared cooldown, that's at least one way that elemental shamans can feel better about the coming patch.

The change to Toughness make a very big difference, in my opinion. Adding the reduction to movement impairing effects changes it from a talent most shaman wouldn't bother to take (I haven't taken it on my enhancement shaman) to one almost any serious PvP shaman is going to consider. Less time rooted in place is more time able to smack someone in the head after all. Mobility being as important in PvP as it is, you really have to consider taking an ability that not only increases your ability to take a beating but also helps you regain the ability to dispense a beating in return. With full Toughness requiring you to spec 20 points into Enhancement, I do wonder if we're going to see variant Elemental/Enhancement builds in PvP (41 elemental/ 20 enhancement - off the top of my head this could be one such build, although I'm sure you could come up with better) in order to try and take advantage of the new Toughness. I could be overestimating the change, though, we'll see how it shakes out. It would mean giving up the one-two punch of NS/EM for more survivability, so I expect it would have to be a lot more survivability to get them to give up the burst damage potential of elemental/resto PvP builds.

The Shamanistic Rage change is essentially a buff and a nerf at once, and is definitely aimed towards PvP. With the ability no longer able to be dispelled due to it being a physical debuff, a problem that mainly hampered arena and BG play (I've never had Shamanistic Rage dispelled in an instance or raid) the change to its duration is clearly meant to rebalance it in PvP situations. It's even more clearly seen when you see that the mana regeneration rate is increased by the exact same proportion as the duration was reduced (from 30 seconds to 15 seconds duration, from 15% to 30% of your attack power regenerated) that this is a change that is aimed at rewarding those shamans who can keep their physical proximity to the target of their beat-down in PvP. It's hard for me to estimate how this change is going to play out in PvE if it has much effect at all. But in PvP it makes the new Toughness almost even more essential, I'd say. If you intend to PvP as an enhancement shaman and make use of shamanistic rage, you need to try and minimize the amount of time you'll spend snared, rooted, or otherwise unable to hit anyone, because you need to hit people to get it to work.

Finally, the biggest change in the patch notes, the reduction of the global cooldown on totems.

Personally, and I realize I may be speaking as an entirely biased and partisan shaman here, but why do these things have to fire the global cooldown at all? They already cost a ton of mana and are not well suited to fights where you have to kill a mobile target or PvP at all (last night's Fathom Lord Karathress fight was brutal from an elemental shaman perspective, all that damn kiting) but as much as I'd like them taken entirely off of the GCD, I realize that's a complete and total pipe dream. The fact is, getting a .5 second reduction means that I can drop four totems in four seconds instead of in six seconds. That two second saving may not seem like much, but when healing or DPS in a long encounter being able to get those initial four totems down and then being able to refresh them with less time taken away from other things like casting a heal or keeping the DPS flow going is going to be huge. You will see significant improvements in shaman caster DPS and healing with this change. It will help enhancement shamans keep their DPS groups buffed without having to wait for a Stormstrike or shock. It is, in short, nothing but good for all specs of shaman without being imbalanced or overpowered in any way, and is the kind of love I'd be thrilled to see the class get on more regular intervals.

Now that you've had a chance to look over the patch notes, what have I missed? Was anything new added or reverted between the time I wrote this and the time you read it? Any implications I've missed? The comments as always await you.

Next week, I want to keep discussing elemental shamans, since I often fail to give them as much attention as they deserve.

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