Topic 2: Lava Burst and the primary stat
Lava Burst has been the focus of attention for a long time running; most of it being negative. The main complaint about the spell is that it lacks any form of scaling for stats beyond spell power. Although there is some degree of haste scaling - all spells with cooldowns on them technically have a cooldown of cast time + cooldown thus reducing the cast time effective 'reduces' the spell's cooldown to a degree - the amount is so nominally small that it isn't worth much mention. That and Lava Burst has 0 scaling from crit. Neither of these, though, are really issues that need to be addressed in any significant way.
Why bring it up then? For the reassuring factor, really. Although Lava Burst may lack in the scaling department, this does not inherently pose as a detriment to elemental shaman provided that what scaling Lava Burst does have allows it to retain a viable place within any given rotation. While it is going to be true that, at lower ends of gear scaling, Lava Burst is going to start with an artificially inflated % of overall damage that will decrease as non-scaling stats increase; none of this means that elemental's actual scaling is too low. So long as Lava Burst remains a DPS increase to use, then whatever proportion of DPS that it provides can be balanced around. Though such a system does mean that, eventually, there will be a point in which Lava Burst is going to provide a DPS loss to use, so long as that degree is not obtainable, the issue isn't.
I will admit to one thing, such a system does place extremely high pressure on the rest of the elemental shaman's abilities to scale to a greater degree than most other class' abilities. This can cause some issues within PvP being that it would mean than the proportional damage of Lightning Bolt, and thus the ability to apply pressure outside of Lava Burst, increases at an exponential rate. So long as this rate is controlled, however, the problems than may arise from this can be averted. The only issue with this system is that it does not rely upon inherent scaling of the class but rather Blizzard's ability to properly predict the gear scaling of an expansion, which isn't something they've had much success at in the past. Still, though, the problem shouldn't cause major concern.
Topic 3: The heavy reliance on a singular spell
There are no two ways around it, no matter what you change to Lava Burst or Flame Shock or Searing Totem, Lightning Bolt is the pure workhorse of elemental. A significant chunk of elemental's damage is tied up into this spell, and it is an amount that is going to increasingly scale with gear. Add into this a factor that elemental is one of the few remaining caster specs that relies upon as close to a 'pure' rotation as you can get. Elemental doesn't really have any reactivity within the cast sequence and it is very close to falling into an arcane casting format. This is not a good thing for multiple reasons. First, it puts far too much reliance on the pure scaling capacity of a single spell. Second, it does little to reward the notion of skill. Beyond the basic abilities required by any caster within a raid, such as learning how to minimize movement and maximize damage uptime, there isn't too much which an elemental shaman can do in order to push their DPS farther. They can't react faster to anything or increase their awareness of their own toolset in order to eek out that last digit.
While I would certainly never advocate the RNG hell that is Eclipse
upon any other class in the game, the basic principles of that talent is one that can, and should, be expanded into other classes. When it comes to elemental shaman, preferably this is done in a way which diverts damage away from Lightning Bolt and into another ability. Something so simple as a talent which, say, has a chance on Lightning Bolt cast to increase the damage of your next Chain Lighting or Earth Shock by a set amount would go a long way in helping to divert some raw damage away from Lightning Bolt and allow for its pure scaling potential to not be so influential. Better yet, the talent could active on Lightning Bolt, and possibly even Lava Burst, crits instead. Something simple such as:
Your Lightning Bolt and Lava Burst critical strikes increase the damage of your next Chain Lighting (or Earth Shock) spell by 5%. Stacks 3 times.
Flat damage multipliers such as that are a great balancing tool. To start with, it is exceptionally easy to tweak multipliers in order to achieve the level of DPS that you desire as opposed to tweaking, say, spell power coefficients or critical strike multipliers. Not only that, but damage multipliers neither scale nor depreciate in value. 10% is 10% is 10% no matter what degree of damage is in question.
The extreme reliance upon Lightning Bolt's scaling potential is a very significant factor of not only elemental's DPS, but enhancement's too that is often over looked. There must be a balance in all things in order for any game to functionally scale properly. Both scaling factors and damage modifiers need to exist and work in tandem with each other in order to better equalize results. Currently, elemental shaman lack in the damage modifier department. Yes there is Concussion
, Elemental Oath
, and Lightning Overload
(which is really just a glorified damage multiplier,) but they have proven themselves to not be enough. With elemental's damage being too low, the solution is not to look at scaling factors, but rather at the damage multipliers. This is elemental's real weak point.
Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk, whether reading Mike Sacco's Elemental edition or Matt Rossi's coverage of Resto and Enhancement. New to being Elemental? Check our Elemental 101, your one-stop shop for Elemental basics.