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Totem Talk: Getting into the Spirit of the thing

Matthew Rossi

Each week Matthew Rossi lovingly hand-crafts Totem Talk from a single switch of aged Barrens scrub pine. This week, we try and calm some fears and discuss what changes we're still hoping might make it into patch 3.2. This week's image comes from Protein, a restoration shaman on Bladefist (he didn't specify US or EU realm).

Before we get rolling on the changes that shamans haven't seen yet in the various notes to patch 3.2, let us take a look at what notes we have seen, especially the most recent ones.

  • Shaman
    • Earth Shock: Redesigned. This spell no longer interrupts spell casting, but rather reduces melee attack speed by 10% for 8 seconds (exclusive with similar effects such as Thunder Clap).
    • Wind Shock: Has been renamed Wind Shear and no longer shares a cooldown with Flame, Frost or Earth Shock.
    • Maelstrom Weapon: Now also has a chance to reduce the cast time of Hex.
Hardly massive changes, but at the same time pretty welcome. The fact that ES gives a form of Thunder Clap is weird since pretty much every tank has or will have that debuff in patch 3.2 (Thunder Clap, Icy Touch, Infected Wounds and the incoming paladin ability) so it seems odd from a PvE standpoint to give it to a non tanking class. If this is intended as a PvP ability... well, it's not terribly impressive. If your choice is between ES or Frost Shock against melee, you're probably going to try and snare them instead of debuffing their attack speed.

Still, not having to use ES as an interrupt will be a positive boon for elemental shamans who saw their DPS nosedive every time they had to keep that cooldown open for Earth Shock instead of Flame Shock, and it's not going to terribly impact enhancement in PvE at all. So I'd definitely call this one, on the whole, a positive change. And having Maelstrom affect Hex is just hilarious. Hex is kind of the poor man's poly in PvP, a combination snare and disarm that can be trinketed out or dispelled.

So, we've now established that the changes, while minor, should at least be positive for elemental shaman DPS without being painful for enhancement. But we're still left with restoration getting the lion's share of the changes this patch and I know from experience that shamans are not finding a lot of DPS mail for casters in Ulduar, that elemental shamans found the recent Q&A somewhat underwhelming, and that there have been reports of DPS not in line with that of other classes or even this class before patch 3.1.

I think it's safe to say that enhancement is in fairly good shape in 3.2 with increased health to help them deal with the only real issue afflicting enhancement in high end raiding, that is, that they die a lot. Restoration is getting quite a few tweaks to increase its flexibility as a healing spec, and so we're left to consider what, if anything, we might see for elemental shamans in the upcoming patch. Sure, we're just blue skying here, but let's consider.

Better itemization on gear

This would be my number one wish for all shamans in patch 3.2. While I am not as hostile towards armor penetration on my gear as the vast majority of enhancement shamans, I don't like seeing the stat on there (I'd almost always prefer to see expertise or even straight attack power, hit or haste for Maelstrom Weapon procs) and as for elemental shamans, the dearth of gear with stats they want instead of restoration focused MP5 is getting somewhat ludicrous at our endgame. While I realize that the designer's goal is to make gear that's useful for as many specs and classes as possible, right now only hunters and shamans are likely to want mail (ret paladins, warriors and DK's just don't want agi/AP mail with so much of its item budget spent on Int, a stat they don't really use) and hunters are remarkably uninterested in mail with spell power and MP5 on it.

What I'm saying is, the only classes who even use caster mail are shamans and holy pallies (hssss, get off of our elemental mail, there's not enough of it in the first place!) and neither elemental shamans nor holy pallies really want MP5 on their gear, and yet spell mail without MP5 is ridiculously hard to find. I'm going to dare you to find a pair of good elemental boots to upgrade from Naxx 25 in Ulduar 25.

To be fair, shamans have always been a class that has itemization woes. Certainly Enhancement is better off now that it gets its AP from Agi (and Int if properly talented) but I still find the current system for caster shamans, where one totally eschews MP5 and therefore can't effectively use more than half the caster mail that drops (and using caster leather and cloth, which is loaded with spirit - a stat shamans have zero use for - is simply not a viable workaround) irritating. This leads to my second suggestion, one that I don't think has a Hostess Snowball's chance in my kitchen of making it in 3.2 but which I suggest anyway.

Make spirit viable for shamans

Spirit, as of right now, grants shamans a higher mana regeneration rate out of combat and that's about it. That's why you don't see a lot of it on mail anymore. While Warlocks can gain spell power from spirit via Fel Armor and mages can get crit from it via Molten Armor, Balance Druids have Improved Moonkin Form, making spirit more useful for them. and even Shadow Priests can use spirit to help their Spirit Tap/Improved Spirit Tap ability. And obviously Holy Priests and Restoration Druids swear by spirit. Shamans, meanwhile, be they elemental or restoration, can stare blankly at spirit heavy gear and wish that they could do more with it than try and play five second rule bingo with it. This is doubly amusing because shamans have a high baseline spirit (take off all of your gear sometime and look at your spirit score - in fact, I've done it for you). As you can see in the picture to the right, devoid of all gear, this level 80 Draenei shaman's highest stat is spirit, at 145 spirit to 141 intellect and 135 stamina, the closest contenders.

I'll even place a close-up look at the stat box here for emphasis. Naked, your best stat as a shaman is undeniably spirit.

I'm going to postulate here that a class that has spirit as its highest baseline attribute should not nearly totally ignore spirit in its class design. I know this has basically been the case for shamans since The Burning Crusade, if not before but simply because a design decision has been of long standing is no reason to not contemplate changing it, and the holding onto shamans as the only non-spirit using caster DPS and one of two non-spirit based healers (holy paladins are even more liberated from the use of spirit as mana regeneration, to the point where they don't even use MP5 and like the same basic stats as an elemental shaman, grr) is creating real problems for shamans trying to get the best possible DPS gear for elemental. Frankly, with th epaucity of non-healing mail, elemental shamans often look to cloth or leather only to find those choked with spirit, and then have to deal with caster weapons, rings, and amulets that also load up on the stuff.

My suggestion now is that spirit grant shamans haste, through a reasonably accessible talent in the elemental tree that 51 point restoration shamans could reach (but placed at least 10 points in so that they'd have to make real choices between it and enhancement talents like Thundering Strikes) and then converting some or all of the MP5 on shaman gear to spirit. I'd also suggest having Water Shield gain a bonus from spirit to balance out having spirit instead of MP5 on gear. This way, all the various caster gear with spirit on it would grant a benefit to shamans without it being the same spell power that they were so reluctant to give mages.

In the end, I have no idea if elemental is getting any really large changes in the upcoming patch that simply haven't made it to test yet, but I doubt we'll see much more for shamans than the big resto changes. Still, I can hope. I'd enjoy playing elemental a lot more if I didn't have to pour over spreadsheets and combing loot lists trying to find the one set of bracers in all of Ulduar 25 that's worth taking. (Yay, it's Hodir hard mode!)

Perhaps it's just me, but I find the idea baffling that the shaman, not only arguably one of the most spiritual of all the classes from a lore perspective but one that has spirit as its highest baseline stat, completely eschews it in all three of its specs, including the ones that perform the same roles as other, far less spiritual classes that load up on the stuff. I just don't get it.

Check out more strategies, tips and leveling guides for Shamans in Matthew Rossi's weekly class column: Totem Talk.

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