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Totem Talk: Elemental Combat in the Wrath Beta

Matthew Rossi

In testing elemental this week (and trying to get through the bugs, crashes, etcetera) I've come to several conclusion about the spec. One is that it still needs work, but probably not as much work as my experiences with it would make you think. For starters, I'm poorly geared in Karazhan/Heroics level gear (some of which was originally restoration gear) and a few quest trinkets. Secondly, I'm not a talented caster DPS player. It's not my prefered playstyle. Thirdly, I spend way too much time running around, gathering piles of mobs and Thunderstorming them off of cliffs in Borean Tundra. I'm not sure if I love this spell or hate it: the long cooldown means it's basically a gimmick, and I have yet to use it in an instance run, but it makes farming quests (kill X of Y) hilarious fun. How many Loot Crazed Poachers can I send hurtling to their watery graves today?

In general, if you're playing an elemental shaman on live, you won't change your playstyle very much until level 75, when you finally get Lava Burst. Just one video I found showing the damage potential of Lava Burst is this one, which highlights the effective synergy of the spell. There's some debate as to whether or not having to put the flame shock up to get the guaranteed critical Lava Burst throws off the rotation and lowers your DPS, which is not something I can answer effectively as I have a hard enough time with rotations as it is. For soloing, however, the Flame Shock - Lightning Bolt - Chain Lightning - Lightning Bolt - Lighting Bolt - Lightning Bolt - Lava Burst rotation I tried out doesn't let FS tick for the full amount but same level mobs don't often even last this long. (I often have to go Flame Shock - Chain Lightning - Lava Burst because if I wait longer things will be dead before the Lava Burst.) Even in instances, mobs sometimes don't last long enough for a full rotation, although if you weren't as quick to mash spells off as I was you could probably get it to full duration on a boss fight.

I expect that in raids with an enhancement shaman and an elemental shaman the enhancement might want to slap flame shock on there from time to time to help make sure it's ticking for a lava burst, but I'm no expert in synergy between these specs for DPS reasons. Things die very fast when I put my mind to it, though, even in my crappy, outdated gear, so I'm not terribly worried that the coeffiicent changes are going to to drastically hurt shamans in a raid. I do think elemental shamans might see more of a DPS drop when first raiding at 80, though, if only because of the way raid buffs now work, but I'm happy to report that Totem of Wrath is working nicely and stacks with Flametongue Totem (or seems to, anyway) since their mechanisms don't directly overlap.

What I really felt in leveling was, while much of the damage output with lava burst is nice and thunderstorm is fun to play with, we didn't really see much of anything new for the elemental shaman so far. I know it's beta, I know it's not done yet, I'm not tearing my clothing and gnashing my teeth but I would point out that there's not much in the elemental shaman's toolkit as of the most recent beta build that's unique to them. Lava Burst is an elemental spell, but it's one any shaman can use. Thunderstorm simply isn't going to see much instancing or raiding use at all (you certainly can't use it on AoE pulls because you'll knock all the mobs out of AoE range) while Feral Spirit has at least the potential to be a great help in and out of PvE and PvP, and Spirit Link could be amazing if it wasn't somewhat buggy. This is a minor complaint and not one that kept me from enjoying my sincere if inept attempts to play elemental, but I didn't want to avoid mentioning it because part of the reason we play this game is for the cool factor of abilites and talents.

I was somewhat saddened to find out that my Elemental Oath talent doesn't stack with moonkin aura under the new scheme: I suppose I was lucky to manage to keep Wrath of Air and Flametongue. The new raid buff system means that you'll get the same buffs from various classes, of course, which dilutes to some degree the power of a buff heavy class like shamans (especially elemental, who have extra buffs in the forms of a unique totem and raid wide crit as well as ones all shamans have) but without raiding on beta I can't speak to how much it's really going to matter. The Bloodlust/Heroism change really just means you won't use it throughout a fight to keep an entire raid hasted, which was a change we knew was going to come in once the made various abilities raid wide. It's not a specifically elemental issue, although it does spell the end of rotating our elemental shamans into the melee group to keep them hasted (plus side, won't need to rotate anyone anymore, minus side, you get 40 seconds of haste and that's it for five minutes). I find myself actually using Bloodlust about the same, for soloing and five mans it makes absolutely no difference.

At this point I'm going to go over the past few weeks columns and find specific questions about elemental to try and answer to the best of my ability.

Poster Zeronomous asked (well, okay, stated): When you test out elemental, please commented on the reported DPS nerf to LB spells. Supposedly they "fixed" our damage coefficient back to where it was supposed to be. Read: screwed again.

I won't lie to you, Zero, they did change the coefficient and, while I'm not elemental on live very often, my initial level 70 play with the spec I did feel the change. It's hard to determine how much this will affect us: if they implement the coefficient change in the pre-Wrath patch 3.0 release, then elemental shamans DPS will go down, especially in light of the changes to spell hit we're also looking to experience (as pointed out by poster Sloegin in a later column). We'll have new talents like Elemental Oath as well, and changes to Totem of Wrath and Wrath of Air, but in general, I don't think you can escape seeing a DPS decrease for elemental shamans even with the new debuffs mentioned in the original coefficient blue post. Keep in mind that I have not had a chance to run in a group with someone who could do more than Stormstrike a mob for me.

Runstadrey asked You entered Northrend in Kara/T4 quality mail, will those of us who aren't that well (lucky, determined ... good take your pick) equipped be able to survive? I have mostly faction rep blues and PvP purples with little hope of seeing any raid drops ... ever.

I think you'll do just fine. Here's an example of a world drop blue I picked up for my elemental shaman while questing, and here's a caster dagger available from the entry Borean Tundra questline. The gear is in place at least in the starting zones to catch you up nicely for any spec you want to play.

Angus asked me to do something specific: Find someone with lava burst. Put Flame Shock on the mob, does their LaB eat your FS? This is a major concern as several shaman I know have said they'll just eat my FS as soon as they can along with my SS charges. I would very much like some of my own stuff for my use and the FS,LaB, ED combo is huge, if they are eating my stuff, I am losing a lot of DPS. Rogue poisons will be eating enough of my stuff.

As far as I can tell, yes, it does, although I only got a chance to run with one other shaman and neither of us were entirely sure which flame shock was getting eaten by which lava burst. He was elemental when I was enhancement, and I've not run a group with another shaman since. I'm 95% sure that yes, lava burst will just eat any flame shock that's on the mob in question, kind of in a reverse Stormstrike way (rather than an elemental shaman using the Stormstrike debuff to increase his or her nature damage, one shaman can use Lava Burst to consume another's Flame Shock DoT.)

Leprakhan (who wins the "Let's make Matt misspell my name a lot" award) asked about the Convection talent. In beta, how many points can be put into the Convection talent at maximum? I ask because on the official WoW site it shows it only has a 3 point cap, but on WoWhead it's shown as a 5 point.
I checked other sites i know that have talant calculators and couldn't find any other Wrath calculators.

So far it seems to be five points as of the most recent build. I have five points in it right now.

To sum up my impressions: elemental as a spec is at least grounded in a good direction, and my main concern is that it doesn't really have as much of a unique, fun feeling for all of its aspects. Since I haven't got a chance to PvP with it, I have no idea how good Astral Shift and other talents seemingly aimed at PvP survivability are in that role: if they're really awesome, that still won't change the fact that elemental feels a little like the same old same old right now. It's certainly not a bad spec, though, and feels viable for what people generally use it for.

I even healed a Nexus run with it. Granted, we had three DK's and our healer went link dead so I took over, I wouldn't want to be doing that evey run.

Okay. For next week, I'll either do a big roundup of where the class seems to be headed (I expect a new build by then) or I'll talk more about elemental as I level in it. I'm also looking to answer more questions, as it's the easiest way for me to figure out what you guys want me to talk about and what you don't.

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