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Cataclysm Class Changes: Elemental Shaman Analysis

Michael Sacco

How good are the elemental shaman changes Blizzard announced today? So good that even longtime elemental detractor Matt Rossi is ready to break down and spec elemental in Cataclysm, that's the long and short of it. Some of these proposed changes sound so crazy-awesome that he says he'll finally give in and go dual DPS with his specs. Here's just one reason why.

Spiritwalker's Grace (level 85): When this self-targeted buff is active, your spells are no longer interrupted by movement and possibly even by your own attacks. This will give shaman of all three specs another way to heal or do damage when it's necessary to move in both PvE and PvP. Instant cast. 10-second duration. 2-minute cooldown.

So you're saying that I could make it so Lava Burst, Chain Lightning or Lightning Bolt don't stop casting when I move? This could be absolutely huge for casting spells in high avoidable-damage situations. Imagine Defile is about to cast and you know it. You hit Spiritwalker's Grace and you can run away without losing that Lava Burst you're casting. Sure, it'll be huge for healing shaman too, but frankly this ability will solve one of my biggest problems with elemental as a playstyle: all the damage you lose jumping out of things. The longer cooldown means this'll be a situational ability as opposed to making you an unstoppable chain-casting machine, but the 10-second duration means you'll have plenty of time to get a few casts off before it ends.

There's more, though. Much more.

Nethaera - Cataclysm Class Preview: Shaman
Totem of Wrath now will replace Flametongue Totem for all shaman, and dropping this totem will buff the group's spell power by 4%. Elemental shaman will have a talent that lets all Fire totems provide +10% spell power, allowing them to drop Searing, Magma, or Fire Elemental Totems without losing their spell-damage buff. The 4% and 10% buffs will be exclusive with each other and with the warlock's Demonic Pact, so you can't benefit from all of them at once. We're also considering letting Elemental drop Searing Totem at range.

This is arguably the biggest change for elemental shaman in this announcement, and one we've been asking for for a very long time. We're currently restricted in which fire totem to drop -- the one that provides the group buff (Totem of Wrath) or others that directly help our DPS (like Magma Totem). This change removes that problem completely by allowing any fire totem to provide ToW's spellpower buff. It also solves the problem of demonology warlocks providing a superior buff without having to make a DPS-or-buff decision by making the fully-talented totem a 10% spellpower boost instead of a flat increase. We asked, Blizzard answered.

But what about the crit bonus that Totem of Wrath currently provides? I don't see it mentioned here. Ominous!

Nethaera - Cataclysm Class Preview: Shaman
Unleash Weapon (level 81): Unleashes the power of your weapon enchants for additional effects (see below). A dual-wielding Enhancement shaman will activate the effects of both of their weapon enchants. Instant cast. 30-yard range. 15-second cooldown. Undispellable.

Here are a few examples of effects we're considering for this ability:
  • Windfury Weapon – Hurls a spectral version of your weapon at a target, dealing 50% weapon damage and increasing the shaman's Haste for the next five swings.
  • Flametongue Weapon – Deals instant Fire damage and buffs the shaman's next Fire attack by 20%.
  • Earthliving Weapon – Heals the target slightly and buffs the shaman's next healing spell by 20%.

This basically amounts to a shaman Judgement, but I care not -- these sound great for all three specs. The elemental one in particular has both a direct-damage component and a huge boost for our next Lava Burst. With the ability on 15-second cooldown, you could feasibly boost every other Lava Burst you cast by 20%, effectively increasing your total Lava Burst damage by ~10%. Not an insignificant amount. Obviously there's theorycrafting to be done as to whether using the GCD -- if there is one -- for Unleash Weapon is worth not casting a Lightning Bolt, but that's for another time. For now, I'll bask in this awesome buff.

Nethaera - Cataclysm Class Preview: Shaman
Elemental Reach will be simplified so shaman have a more consistent spell range.

A small but welcome change.

Nethaera - Cataclysm Class Preview: Shaman
We plan to add Earthquake as a deep Elemental talent for targeted and persistent AoE.

Another fantastic addition. Elemental shaman suffer from lackluster AoE capability: our most powerful AoE spell (Magma Totem) is incredibly expensive and requires us to be right next to the mobs we want the totem to damage. For a ranged class, that's rather silly. Earthquake should let us become competent DPS in group situations.

Nethaera - Cataclysm Class Preview: Shaman
Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses: Elemental

Spell damage
Spell Crit
Elemental Overload: Your direct-damage spells have a chance to proc a less powerful 'bonus" version of the spell. This will work much like the current Lightning Overload talent, but would also apply to Lava Burst.

Of all of our current elemental talents, Lightning Overload always felt the most ... elemental, I suppose. It was the perfect passive talent -- cool as hell when you got it and useful as a DPS boost 100% of the time. It only makes sense that this would be the talent that got converted into a mastery bonus. The fact that it now works with Lava Burst, especially combined with the Unleash Weapon: Flametongue ability Blizzard announced, is a welcome and wonderful change. What does remain to be seen is how the proc rate will work -- right now Lightning Overload has a very high proc rate, and it's a not-insignificant chunk of our DPS. Changing LO to a Mastery bonus could mess with this paradigm, though I'm sure Blizzard has thought of this already.

I am a little concerned about the second-tier bonus, though -- crit has always been kind of a second-banana stat for us, due to Lava Burst being a guaranteed crit, and so far there haven't been any changes announced that'd make it more useful. Haste seems like it'd be the obvious choice for a mastery stat to me. We'll have to wait and see what else is up Blizzard's sleeve.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In's Guide to Cataclysm you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From Goblins and Worgens to Mastery and Guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.

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