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The Wrath of the Shaman Part 1: Enhancement

Matthew Rossi

Okay, there's so much happening with Shamans that I don't think we can wait for the next Totem Talk to discuss it all. Between itemization changes, patch notes and new talents, there's a lot to discuss. First off, the new itemization.

In part, the real power of the shift towards granting AP from agility isn't even that it will make agility more attractive on our gear, although it will. The real power is in this move's synergy with the incoming enhancement talent Mental Dexterity. A great deal of the mail currently sneered at as 'hunter mail' has both agility and intellect on it. One example is the Mantle of the Tireless Tracker, an SSC drop. Under current itemization these shoulders grant 64 AP. With the new way items work with shamans, they will grant 86 AP, or 109 AP if you have full Mental Dexterity.

Clearly, this allows Blizzard to save time and effort on designing what we might call 'physical DPS mail'. Since both hunters and enhancement shamans deal physical damage (the hunter dealing it at range, the shaman dealing it up close and personal like) there's a certain logic to the idea of making the same mail viable for both classes. In a way, it's similar to what is being done with spellpower and is consistent with how they're itemizing, say, DPS plate for paladins and warriors (and soon, death knights). Effectively, instead of four kinds of mail, there will be two: spellpower mail for elemental and restoration shamans (whose talents will decide how it functions) and physical DPS mail for hunters and enhancement shamans. I'm cautiously optimistic about the change.

The upside is, of course, less reliance on leather for our needs. The down side is, more direct competition with hunters for mail drops, but from a shaman's perspective that's just shifting who we compete with from two classes (rogues and druids) to one (hunters). And I'm sure there will still be leather drops that both hunters and shamans look at and go "oooh". We'll know more as we get a chance to see more of the actual items.

Another benefit is that, as we now get one AP from strength and one from agi, our new Strength of Earth totem with both strength and agility will provide us with roughly the same benefit.

As for talents for enhancement, in addition to Mental Dexterity (placed on the third tier, so reasonably easy for shamans to pick it up) the other new standouts are Spectral Transformation, Feral Spirit and Maelstrom Weapon. Because I am slightly perverse we're going to talk about Maelstrom Weapon first.

The tooltip states When you critically hit with a melee weapon, you reduce the cast time of your next Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning or Lava Burst spell by 20%. Stacks up to 5 times. Lasts 15 seconds. So if I'm reading it correctly, a five stack of Maelstrom Weapon would allow you to cast an instant LB, CL or Lava Burst. Lava Burst being one of our new spells and one we'll cover much more thoroughly in our roundup of elemental combat. This seems like it could add a great deal of variety to enhancement, as you try and work up a full five stack, and then use Shamanistic Focus to get a 60% mana cost reduction on Flame Shock which you would then follow up with an instant cast guaranteed critical hit with Lava Burst. And that's just one way you could use the talent... if grinding multiple mobs you might want to use it for a big CL instead.

Feral Spirit doesn't really need a lot of discussion. You summon ghost wolves. If you've been to Hyjal, you've seen Thrall and his ghost wolves. These will probably be less cool than that, but along the same lines.

Spectral Transformation, along with the ability to instantly drop into Ghost Wolf from Improved Ghost Wolf, will have PvP utility as a means of escape. But it will also make our summoned ghost wolves from Feral Spirit a lot harder to stop, being immune to stuns, snares and movement impairing effects as well. No fear resist, but that's what Tremor Totem's for I suppose.

Also worth mentioning are Improved Stormstrike and Static Shock. A reduced cooldown on Stormstrike seems like a no brainer, but I'm on the fence about Static Shock. I mean, with all this new spellcasting going on, will we be able to forego the mana regen of Water Shield in order to get use out of this talent? We'll see, but I'm leery.

It appears to me that enhancement shamans will probably need the int they're getting on mail (and using talents to convert to attack power) and perhaps even MP5, what with all the new spells they may well end up casting. Ghost Wolf, for instance, will now cost 13% of base (not modified by gear or buffs) mana, and if you're weaving instant cast lightning or lava into your DPS rotation with Maelstrom Weapon, you can expect to need more mana. All in all it looks like a well designed synergy between new itemization and new talents to me.

We'll talk more about the talents and go in depth with new and modified skills in this week's Totem Talk. Tomorrow, we're taking a look at Elemental Combat and how it will change.

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