Totem Talk: The myth of the well-itemized elemental shaman shield

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Totem Talk: The myth of the well-itemized elemental shaman shield
Guest hosting is serious business. Not everyone can live up to the challenge the way Alf did. Still, as part of a mission of mercy, shadow-priest-turned-elemental-shaman Fox Van Allen is rolling the dice and taking the helm of Totem Talk this week. How does mercy fit in, exactly? Well, have you seen what happens when rabid elementals invade the comment sections of Joe's resto version and Rich's enhancement version? Not pretty.

To get our children through their early days of life, we tell them little fictions to make things more magical and more fun.

Hurry up and get to sleep so Santa will bring you lots of presents!

You should take that tooth and put it under your pillow; the Tooth Fairy pays big money for those!

There are plenty of well-itemized spellpower shields out there for elemental shaman!
As you grow up, you learn the sad truth behind it all. That obese man coming sneaking into your house on Christmas Eve is actually trying to perpetrate a home invasion. Those who collect the teeth of others are most likely in need of serious psychiatric help. And for the longest time, we elemental shaman used to suffer the quiet indignation of carrying around gobs of useless MP5 on our shields, just because Blizzard didn't see it necessary to design shields around our specific needs.

Well, my totem-flinging friends, I have some good news -- not regarding Santa or the Tooth Fairy (sorry), but regarding that spellpower shield. You do have options. And there's more good news: With Cataclysm coming right around the corner, we're about to become proverbial kids in a candy store.

Now, maybe it's just me, but being able to carry a shield is one of the best parts about being an elemental shaman. Sure, we may not be able to churn out the same kind of DPS that a similarly geared mage can, but we make up for it in our ability to take a few hits. A good shield gives us the ability to block oncoming attacks and noticeably cut the physical damage from the slings and arrows that sneak through. We keep DPSing, while the mage next to us is reduced to a greasy smear. Shields rule.

But never forget the reason why we're in that party or raid in the first place: to deal damage, not to take it. Our shield is only as good as the amount of spellpower, crit and haste loaded on it.

Some basics about gearing your elemental shaman

Before we go on our scavenger hunt for a solid elemental shaman shield, we need to know exactly what we're looking for. And to do that, we need to spend a quick moment to cover the basics about exactly what stats you're going to want to look for.
  • Hit rating really only matters once you're running raids, but up to the hit cap, it's your most important stat. At level 80, there are two magic numbers. For Horde characters, you want a hit rating as close to 289 as possible. For Alliance, you want a hit rating as close to 263 as possible. Consider this your first priority for raiding -- hit is just that valuable.
  • Spellpower is the second most important stat for elemental shaman. If the shield doesn't have spellpower, it's not an elemental shaman shield. Period.
  • Haste is the third most important stat. You'll hear a lot of talk about soft caps and hard caps, about sneaking in extra Lightning Bolts and 1-second GCDs. All that stuff is important in theory, and we could go on for pages talking about nothing but haste alone. The most important takeaway here, though, is that more haste always means more DPS.
  • Critical strike is the fourth more important stat. That guaranteed crit from Lava Burst is one of the best things us elemental shaman have going for us. It also makes our critical strike rating less relevant. Still, we fling an awful lot of lightning in between those Lava Bursts, and it's always nice to see those hit for double damage.
  • Intellect is No. 5. It improves our DPS, but just barely. This changes in Cataclysm, when intellect will translate directly into spellpower.
Take a quick look at that list above. Notice what's not in there: MP5. MP5 sucks for elemental shaman. It does nothing for our DPS and takes up a space that could be dedicated to a better stat. Sadly, though, most of the gear for mail-wearing casters in Wrath carries MP5. You could argue that made sense in early Wrath raiding, when running out of mana could happen. In Icecrown, it shouldn't. Excessive MP5 on your gear is a waste. And yet it's forced on us anyway.

There are three stats that make for a great shield: spellpower, haste and crit. The best will have all three.

Shields for the new 80

Once you hit level 80, you're presumably getting ready to run some heroics and possibly get involved in raiding. Still, you're likely to be soloing content at the same time. You get the most benefit out of your shield when you're soloing, so it makes sense to seek one out.

If you're looking for a shield you can get for free on your own, you're hard pressed to beat the Broodmother's Protector. Sure, it may just be a quest green, but it's got a high item level (which matters when it comes to getting access into Northrend heroics), and it has both spellpower and crit. You can earn it by completing the Territorial Trespass quest in The Storm Peaks. The best part is that you can grab it as early as level 77, and it holds up well when you start running heroics.

Now, once you jump into heroics, you're going to be wanting something better. You could pick up the blue quality Saronite Protector from the auction house (and you should certainly do that if it's cheap), but purple is the color of gear that truly sets our hearts aflutter. The best entry-level shield for level 80s is the Protective Barricade of the Light. Listen, I know the damn thing has MP5, but at a cost of 35 Emblems of Heroism, it's really easy to get. Just run some heroics, farm up Emblems of Triumph, and have them exchanged for Emblems of Heroism. It's quick and it's dirty, but it works.

Shields to prep you for Icecrown

Here's where the elemental shaman finds a real dilemma. The Protective Barricade of the Light is a mere ilevel 200 item, and ideally, you want to grab something better. There's one other shield you can grab pre-raid, and that's the Protector of Frigid Souls out of normal Pit of Saron. The good news is that it's a noticable upgrade over any other shield you can find outside of a raid. The bad news is that it comes loaded with MP5. Oh, and the fact that the only people who seem to run normal Pit of Saron these days are paladins and shaman looking for that very same shield kinda messes with your odds a bit. When it comes down to it, unless you're going to be off-spec resto, there's no reason for an elemental shaman to waste the time.

Breaking the mold and ditching the shield

Listen, you were bound to hear the cold, hard truth eventually: The screw job that elemental shamans got in Wrath is so severe that you'll be better off forgetting the shield entirely, at least when you're preparing for Icecrown.

Like I said before, our job is dealing damage. Sure, we can provide a clutch interrupt here and there, but the extra protection a shield provides just isn't as relevant in a raid as you'd assume it to be. Obsessing over shields pre-Icecrown is an exercise in madness. Instead of running Pit of Saron over and over again, the smart elemental shaman will spend his time in The Halls of Reflection trying to grab the Shriveled Heart.

Does it suck that the Shriveled Heart adds nothing to your defense? One-hundred percent. But considering the gigantic DPS boost it gives you over the lame MP5-containing alternatives, it's a sacrifice worth making.

Icecrown: When Blizzard finally noticed elemental shaman

For most of Wrath, there was a recurring theme in shaman shields. They were soaked in MP5, making them perfectly itemized for resto shaman. And as for elemental shaman ... well, no one really plays that class, right? I mean, they can just take the same shields. Whatever.

Then came patch 3.3. The terrible hybrid spec abuse stopped. Blizzard figured out that people actually do play elemental shaman and that we'd appreciate having gear that actually works to maximize our DPS. They ditched most of the MP5 and gave us that sweet spellpower, crit and haste we love so much on our gear.

And they gave us ... the shield. The shield. The Bulwark of Smouldering Steel. It's the ultimate in elemental shaman equipment. Just look at that itemization -- it's perfect. I want to marry it. I want to have sweet metallic babies with it. It's that good. (Not that the Lost Pavise of the Blue Flight isn't a nice consolation prize. It is. But seriously ... that Bulwark is sweet as hell. It's so hot that it's smouldering. With a U.)

Into Cataclysm and beyond

While it's great that Blizzard got Icecrown Citadel right (at least the 25-man version), what's really important is that we keep this momentum going forward. And great news: There are some phenomenal options for elemental shaman already in the Cataclysm beta client. Some are even good enough to merit cheating on the Bulwark of Smouldering Steel.

What do our quest greens look like? Well, heading into Mount Hyjal (an area appropriate for level 80s), one of the first elemental shields we come across is the Seedfilter Deflector, obtainable by completing the quest Seeds of Their Demise. You can already see the kind of stat inflation we're in for -- that quest green is nearly as good as the Cataclysm version of the Bulwark of Smouldering Steel. Remember, in Cataclysm, each point of intellect translates to a point of spellpower.

It only gets better from there, of course. Drop-kick Ascendant Lord Obsidius in the brand new level 78+ Blackrock Caverns and you can get the Crepuscular Shield (that spirit converts to hit). Or better yet, just make it to level 82 and hire a blacksmith to make you a Stormforged Shield. That beast blows the Bulwark out of the water like whoa.

And you know what? That's just the beginning. Better itemized shields that provide better DPS are great, but what's really great is what it all represents. These new shields point to a new fundamental truth about Catacylsm: Blizzard gets what elemental shaman are all about and is actively designing content for us. That's something we can all get behind.

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. Visit our articles for other shaman specs, including Joe Perez's coverage of restoration and Rich Maloy's enhancement edition.'s shaman experts have you covered!
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