Let's reproduce the patch notes section that deals with shamans here so we can discuss them more easily.
- All totems are now considered on the "Physical" school, and no longer magical spells.
- Ancestral Knowledge (Enhancement): Now increases your Intellect by 2/4/6%, instead of increasing your total Mana by 2/4/6/8/10%.
- Call of Flame (Elemental): Now also increases the damage of your Lava Burst spell by 2/4/6%.
- Call of Thunder (Elemental) now also increases the critical strike chance of your Thunder spell.
- Concussion (Elemental) now increases the damage of your Thunder and Lava Burst spells.
- Convection (Elemental) is now a 3-point talent, down from a 5-point talent. Now lowers the mana cost of Thunder and Lava Burst.
- Earth's Grasp (Elemental) is now a tier-1 talent, up from tier-2.
- Elemental Detestation (Elemental) is now a tier-2 talent, up from tier-4.
- Elemental Focus (Restoration): Now also can proc off Lesser Healing Wave and Healing Wave, and can be used on all healing spells.
- Elemental Fury (Elemental) now requires Elemental Focus as a pre-requisite
- Elemental Precision (Elemental): Chance to hit reduced to 1/2/3% from 2/4/6%, but threat reduction increased to 10/20/30% up from 4/7/10%.
- Enhancing (Enhancement) Totems is now a Tier 1 talent, up from Tier-2.
- Flametongue Totem is now a flat spell damage totem. All ranks have been modified.
- Frostbrand's snare effect has been increased to 50%, up from 25%.
- Ghost Wolf's mana cost is now 13% base.
- Grace of Air Totem has been removed. (Agility has been rolled over into Strength of Earth Totem)
- Improved Fire Totems (Elemental) is now (again) Improved Fire Nova Totem. It now has a 50/100% chance to stun all targets for 2 sec.
- Improved Lightning Shield (Enhancement) is now Elemental Shields, and is in Tier-1.
- New ranks have been added of Water Shield, starting at level 20. (Level 20, 27, 34, 41, 48, 55, 62, 69)
- New Spell: Earthliving Weapon - Imbue the Shaman's weapon with earthen life. Increases healing done by x and each heal has a 20% chance to proc Earthliving on the target, healing an additionaly over 12 sec. Lasts 30 minutes.
- New Talent: Cleanse Spirit (Restoration) - Cleanse the spirit of a friendly target, removing 1 poison effect, 1 disease effect, and 1 curse effect.
- New Talent: Elemental Shields (Enhancement): Increases the damage done by your Lightning Shield orbs by 5/10/15%, increases the amount of mana gained from your Mana Shield orbs by 5/10/15% and increases the amount of healing done by your Earth Shield orbs by 5/10/15%.
- New Talent: Mental Dexterity (Enhancement) - Increases your Attack Power by 33/66/100% of your Intellect.
- Rockbiter ranks 5 through 9 have been removed. Windfury Weapon is intended to replace Rockbiter at level 30.
- Shapeshifting will no longer cancel Water Walking.
- Shield Specialization (Enhancement) - Now a 2-point talent, and increases the chance to block with attacks by 10/20%, and increases the amount blocked by 5/10%
- Stoneskin Totem now increases armor instead of reducing physical damage.
- Storm Reach (Elemental): Now also increases the radius of your Thunder spell by 10/20%.
- Strength of Earth Totem now also increases agility.
- Tranquil Air Totem has been removed. (Threat is being addressed by modifications to the base threat of players and/or "baked" into tanking abilities.)
- Unleashed Rage is now raid wide.
- Windfury Totem is now a flat 20% melee haste totem. All ranks have been modified.
- Windwall Totem has been removed.
- Wrath of Air is now a flat 10% spell haste totem.
Well, for starters, we can see that several totems or abilities have been removed. Windwall being gone isn't really terribly bad news... how often did you really use it? I dropped it occasionally in AV and that was about it. Rockbiter is now just relegated to the dustbin at level 30, which isn't so much a change as Blizzard recognizing reality. Grace of Air is being rolled into Strength of Earth, so it's not really gone in a meaningful sense. Tranquil Air Totem is gone, baby, gone, as the entire notion of how threat works seems to be undergoing some changes in Wrath.
The change to Windfury Totem and Wrath of Air totem (adding melee and spell haste, respectively) is interesting. Speaking as a shaman, these may well be positive changes for us, but I know that the Windfury changes in particular may be seen as a nerf to other physical DPS. Several feral druids of my acquaintance have already told me how irritated they are to finally be getting access to Windfury only to have it change so drastically. It will certainly not help bear tanks or warriors generate rage nearly so well as it did before, and since it doesn't provide the added attack power it once did, the fact that the haste will probably work out to the same basic attack boost as the old chance to proc did will have to be carefully evaluated. Does DPS decrease with the change? Without the ability to sit down and observe how it shakes out, I'd cautiously assume it's going to drop some, but the change to SoE might balance it out. Also, Unleashed Rage being raid wide helps cement the idea that enhancement shamans don't have to be in a specific group to benefit everyone. Bloodlust/Heroism still seem to be party based, though, so if you want even more haste than the two totems provide you need a shammy in your group.
I assume the change to Wrath of Air was due to the change on Flametongue Totem, adding flat spell damage (and since spell damage replaces damage/healing in the new system coming in Wrath, also boosting healing) which to my mind is massively positive. Finally a reason for resto shamans to drop a fire totem. Stoneskin's change means it may even be dropped in raids for hard-hitting non-crush bosses
, which seems to be the direction Wrath is going in. Since bosses won't crush and will therefore have more reiliable damage output, a totem that boosts armor could very well become very useful.
Talent changes and additions that are unvarnished improvements for shamans include the one-two punch of Ancestral Knowledge (granting more base int now) and Mental Dexterity, which grants up to 100% of your intellect as attack power. Int on enhancement shaman gear will no longer be a wasted stat. By itself, these two changes go a long way to improving shaman itemization on mail gear, which we've discussed before
as being less than ideal. I'm not sure yet how much of a difference a 50% snare on Frostbrand Weapon is going to be, but I won't kick it out of the beta if you know what I mean.
Elemental Devastation (I know it says Detestation up there, every version of the patch notes I've found has that error) moves to a much more accessible level, while several other elemental talents either change in terms of how many points they require, how much effect they have, or in the case of Elemental Precision now include a threat reduction element. Elemental playstyle looks like it will be getting some substantial tweaking with the new spellpower mechanics, that much seems obvious. The idea that Elemental Focus (labeled as a restoration talent? Typo or change, I don't know at this time) can now proc off of healing spells is an interesting one, possibly increasing the viability of Elemental shamans as offspec healers? We also see that Elemental Fury now requires it as a pre-req. The new Lava Burst spell looks to be of great importance as its named in all the changes.
For restoration, I can't gush enough about Earthliving Weapon. The idea that you can use this in addition to a mana oil of some kind (if it turns out to be be the case) and talents like Elemental Shields in low-tier Enhancement boosting the healing of Earth Shield make me giddy to try leveling as resto. I'll just move straight into instances. Cleanse Spirit allows shamans to cleanse curses, making us capable of taking off everything but magic effects: this cannot be seen as anything but a straightforward buff, can it?
Overall, this is looking pretty promising for synergy across the talents as well as boosting the viability of each spec. The Windfury change aside (and it affects other classes more than shamans, my only concern being that I hope it doesn't overshadow the positives and make raids less enthusiastic about bringing shamans along) we're seeing positive moves to address threat, itemization and role within the three specs. And you can water walk in ghost wolf! That's just awesome. Of minor importance, but awesome nonetheless.
Hungry for more
Wrath of the Lich King Beta news? WoW Insider has a slew of articles for you now that the NDA has been lifted and the Beta forums open up to the public. Keep checking the site for more class analysis and insights to the changes.