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Totem Talk: Four totems for the price of one

Matthew Rossi

Totem Talk is's column for all things shamanistic, and this week Matthew Rossi talks about the 3.2 changes and how he forgot to train the new Totem interface spells, leading to him having to plunk his way through Ulduar dropping them one at a time like a caveman. Amazingly, there actually are cavemen shamans in the game.

If there's one thing I absolutely don't miss in Ulduar, it's the Troggs. I'll admit to being a little surprised that I haven't run into any, but as far as I'm concerned that's just fine.

So, yeah, this week I forgot to train my new Call of the Elements, Call of the Ancestors, and Call of the Spirits spells. Since I'd been on the PTR and knew that I was supposed to train them I find this especially hilarious in retrospect, although I didn't find it nearly as funny at the time. There was some swearing, I won't pretend otherwise. Also, if you're a leveling shaman make sure to check the trainers as you hit 30, 40 and 50 to make sure you pick them up, as they're terribly useful even for the soloing shaman. (Depending on mana, you might not want to drop four totems while soloing/questing, but it's still terribly convenient to be able to do so with one button and one GCD when things get hairy.)

The New New Review

Obviously, we have a new 5 man and a new raid. I managed to get into a 10 man Trial of the Crusader this week and I have to say they buffed Chain Heal just in time, because the Northrend Beasts encounter has a lot of player movement and positioning changes to consider. For Gormok, you really just have to heal through some tank switches, that part's pretty easy as long as the tanks switch often enough (Gormok puts a stacking debuff on the tanks and letting it get too high will kill them pretty fast) but the Twin Jormungar are actually a pretty complicated fight, with the Paralytic Poison (no, you can't cleanse it) and Burning Bile debuffs to manage. We went with a strategy where one tank holds the rooted Jormungar in the center while the other tank kites his wyrm around, which seemed to work. I needed an innervate after this phase, but my gear's still basically Naxx 25 with a few Ulduar 10 pieces, so that's not terribly surprising. Finally there's Icehowl, wherein I discovered several things.

One, people are very bad at moving sideways for some reason. Two, an enraged Iceowl is going to kill a tank. This is the first time I've ever really envied a priest or paladin healer, because there's nothing in the shaman bag of tricks that's going to keep an enraged Icehowl from splattering a tank all over the floor.

Trial of the Champion and its heroic version were of course much easier. In general, I found the restoration changes to be on the whole positive. The combination of the new Healing Way and the shorter cooldown on Nature's Swiftness does indeed have me casting more Healing Waves than before (and I generally was casting a Healing Wave after a couple of LHW's before anyway). I'm still on the fence about Tidal Waves. I like that it helps proc Ancestral Awakening more now, but I miss the faster Lesser Healing Waves especially in tight situations where you absolutely have to land a heal on someone.

Talking bout my totem bar

I've gotten a few emails asking me to go over the totem bar again. Since it's a big part of this release, and since I was stupid enough to forget to train it even though I had been on the PTR testing it I can't see any reason not to go over it.

In this screenshot you can see the totem bar interface, which is pretty simple. The leftmost tab of the bar is expandable, and allows you to select between your Call of the Elements, Call of the Ancestors and Call of the Spirits sets. The rightmost tab is Totemic Recall, which as always lets you pull up all of your totems for a slight return on their mana cost. This button is not expandable because there's no reason for it to be. The four tabs in-between these buttons are the earth, fire, water and air totems and each expands out to give you the option to select every single one of those totems per element. In this case I have Strength of Earth, Flametongue, Healing Stream and Grounding Totem selected as my Call of the Ancestors totem set.

When you select a totem to be part of a set, it remains in that set until you select another option. Likewise, when you select one of your three Calls as the one you'll be casting with the Totem Bar, it remains the option until you change it. I've had other shamans in my guild inform me that they're seeing the Totem Bar reset on logging, but I haven't been able to replicate that yet. It could be an addon issue. Another friend told me his timers no longer work, but the ones on the portrait icon still seem to.

What about the frenzied crash of battle?

Yes, there is a new battleground. I've actually gone in as elemental and enhancement this week, and I have to say I don't think Maelstrom Weapon now making Hex an instant cast did all that much for us, really. Even with shocks having an extra 5 yard range, and shamans having more base health (and it wasn't exactly a huge amount of health we're talking about here) I lost count of the number of times a fight went like this:

Rogue jumps you, takes you to half health, you get out of stune and whack him a few times to get Maelstrom up, hex, instaGW and run away, he trinkets and sprints, you Frost Shock, he Cloaks and then you're dead.

I admit that I'm not the best PvPer, and I also admit there were a few times when I got the drop on a Rogue or a Warrior and did some substantial damage to them before they killed me. So that was nice. I still think for PvP, if I'm not going to heal, I'd rather stand in the back and cast as a shaman. It still feels like we're the squishiest of the melee classes hands down. I did enjoy using the new Wind Shear to ruin people's casts without having to worry about locking myself out of my own DPS.

Okay, that's been my experience so far with 3.2. Next week, I try and go elemental for an entire week even though they got absolutely no love in this patch! (Okay, they got their shock ranges extended, as did every other shaman, I'll break out the marching band now I guess.)

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

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