Totem Talk: Enhancement 101

Rich Maloy
R. Maloy|02.06.10

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Totem Talk: Enhancement 101

Axes, maces, lightning, fire, frost, and wolves, and best of all, Windfury. It can mean only one thing: enhancement. Rich Maloy (aka Stoneybaby) loves it and lives it. His main spec is enhance. His off-spec is enhance. And he will be penning the enhance side of Totem Talk.

It seems 101 guides are all the rage these days, which makes enhancement shaman 101 a convenient place to start with my inaugural post. Playing an enhancement shaman, and playing it well, means dealing with the most extensive spell rotation in the game, having two caps to hit in gearing, and a dozen cooldowns to track. Not to mention the need to run out of fires, avoid whirlwinds, and generally dodge all that hate on melee. It's safe to say enhance is one of the most complex specs to play. It's also one of the most fun.

My favorite part is that we're right up front making a mess of things with both physical and magical damage–to deadly effect. You want to play enhancement? Let's dive right in to get you started!

Spec & Glyphs

First things first, a spec. 19/52/0. Okay, that's done.

The best two glyphs are Feral Spirit and Stormstrike. I swap between Windfury Weapon and Fire Nova depending on the fight, but if frequent glyph changes isn't your thing then go with Glyph of Windfury Weapon.


After the spec and glyphs are nailed down it's time to dive into priorities. First and foremost, before doing anything, before you invest one single gem in anything at all: get spell hit capped.

  • 341 for Alliance
  • 367 for Horde

These numbers are for raid bosses and assumes you have a balance druid with Improved Faerie Fire or shadow priest putting Misery on the boss. Don't worry about those debuffs with 5-man dungeon bosses because they are level 82 and their required hit cap is much lower.

Going over the hit cap is good but as a rule don't gem or enchant for more than the spell cap. Hit the cap and any extra hit from gear is a bonus. And we don't worry about the melee cap because we have other priorities than hitting 100% of the time with our off hand weapon; occasional melee misses are perfectly acceptable.


Because you're an intelligent enhancement shaman and took the above spec you now have the required 3/3 Unleashed Rage, which increases expertise by nine. You now need an additional 140 expertise rating. The end result is that upon opening the character sheet it reads 26 expertise.

Extra expertise over 26 is bad. Sometimes you don't have a choice such as with trinkets and gear, but as a rule, if you can avoid going over exp cap, do so.


The third priority is crit. Get to at least 30% unbuffed physical crit, which should easy with all levels of gear. Once you're at 30% unbuffed crit don't worry about it any more.

Gems & Enchants

Once you start getting more into the ways of enhance you'll come across two schools of thought: The AP stackers vs. the haste stackers. What's best for you is really situational (you'll hear "sim it" as the answer to just about every theorycrafting question), but since you're just starting out here is my recommendation:

  1. If you're not spell hit capped, gem/enchant for Hit
  2. If you're not expertise capped, gem/enchant for expertise
  3. If you're not at 30% unbuffed melee crit, gem/enchant for crit
  4. After that, gem AP (Bright) in red, haste (Quick) in yellow, one Nightmare Tear in a blue to activate your meta
  5. Gem AP for remaining blue sockets
  6. Use Relentless Earthsiege Diamond for your meta

Starting out I would suggest going the AP route -- but not being maniacal about it -- because AP affects your physical as well as spell damage (through Mental Dexterity Mental Quickness).


Let's talk about weapon speed. Enhance choices are slow and ... slow. Let's review: slow and slow. Slow is the way to go. If it ain't slow then it's a no. Slow fo' sho'. Slow is pro. I can do this all day people. Go slow mo-fo.

Get the idea?

Fast weapons are for your filthy Rogue friends -- not that one can ever be friends with a rogue with all that backstabbing and shadow stepping and vanishing about and such. But in so much as one can befriend a Rogue one should pass all fast weapons to them.

A few months back I ran some simulations using the amazing enhancement shaman simulation tool, EnhSim, trying to find the breakeven point for Slow/Fast. At that level the very best fast off-hand weapon was equivalent to Stalactite Chopper from Sons of Hodir rep. That's right iLevel 200 rare quality rep-reward slow = iLevel 258 fast.

Slow/Slow is the only way to go. The reason has everything to do with Flametongue Weapon: "Slower weapons cause more damage per swing."


Speaking of which, weapon imbues are as easy as weapon speeds. Imbue Windfury on your main hand and Flametongue on your off hand. WF/WF was pre 3.0 and FT/FT with caster weapons was a flash in the pan for a hot minute. WF/FT is the way to go.


Standard Drop:

  • Earth – Strength of Earth Totem
  • Fire – Magma Totem
  • Water – Mana Spring or Healing Stream Totem
  • Air – Windfury Totem

Depending on the situation you will be responsible for putting down Tremor Totem or Cleansing Totem for your group.

Spell Selection & Rotation

I saved Rotations for last because they are the most complex part of playing an enhancement shaman. In total there are 12 spells to track, including Heroism/Bloodlust. I'm just going to give you the crash course in enhance spell rotations here, and we'll save a more in-depth explanations for a later post.

Here's the short list to get you started:

  1. Drop your totems
  2. Cast Lightning Bolt (LB) as soon as you have five Maelstrom Weapon procs (MW5) if you don't have 5 just keep attacking
  3. Use Stormstrike (SS) as soon as it is available
  4. Cast Flame Shock (FS) and don't use it again it runs its full duration
  5. Cast Earth Shock (ES) in the meantime
  6. Lava Lash (LL) if everything else is on cooldown
  7. Fire Nova (FN) if everything + LL is on cooldown
  8. Time your Spirit Wolves (SW) with Heroism/Bloodlust
  9. Use Shamanistic Rage (SR) when you're below 30% mana
  10. Refresh Magma Totem (MT) and Lightning Shield (LS) when they run out.

Even typing that out makes it seem fairly complex. In fact it is complex and does take some getting used to, especially in the heat of battle. It deserves its own post. Tune in next week for Enhance 102: Spell Rotations & Priorities. Until then...

May all your hits be crits!

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. For other Shaman 101 Guides check out Mike Sacco's Elemental 101.

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