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Cataclysm Class Changes: Enhancement Shaman Analysis

Rich Maloy

Today is a good day to be a shaman. Actually, it will be an even better day when Cataclysm hits, based on the initial changes we were shown today. There are some very exciting things coming down the pipeline for us enhancers. While I'm not keen on all of the changes, the stuff that I don't like is rather minor and everything else looks like it will be fun.

Let's dive in and see what they have in store for enhancement when the world is torn asunder!

Primal Strike (available at level 3): Primal Strike is a new weapon-based attack that every shaman will learn very early in the game. Our goal with this ability is to make leveling as Enhancement rather than as Elemental more viable, since many key Enhancement talents become available at fairly high levels.

This addresses the biggest complaint we enhancement purists have about leveling: we feel more elemental than enhancement until level 40. The big question was, will Primal Strike be yet another spell in our rotation? Nethaera went on to clarify:

Re: Cataclysm Class Preview: Shaman
Last but not least, it's the intention of Primal Strike to let shaman play as an Enhancement at low levels. Currently when leveling in this spec, you end up just using Lightning Bolt a lot so you feel like an Elemental shaman instead. At a higher level, Primal Strike gets replaced by Storm Strike. They share a cooldown so Enhancement just won't ever use Primal Strike after that, in the same way that Prot warriors don't use Sunder Armor once they have Devastate or Feral druids don't use Claw once they get Mangle.

Sounds like it will be the one-hander version of Stormstrike. Next up, we get a very cool-sounding ability:

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%.

Wow. "Hurl" is such a special word. Any day I can work the word "hurl" into my daily vocabulary is a special day. Hurl my weapon. Hurl it. Hurl hurl hurl. HURL! I look forward to hurling all over bosses in PvE and rogues in PvP.

But seriously, 50% weapon damage plus haste increase for the next five swings is an awesome thing. Unleashed Weapon plus Flurry plus Bloodlust/Heroism will mean some seriously fast attacks. The Flametongue Weapon instant fire damage will be a nice treat too. Based on that, I think we can safely infer that WF/FT will continue as the enhance imbues of choice come Cataclysm.

Next up, more of what we've already got:

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.

Our resto and ele brothers and sisters are more excited about this, considering that enhance got this ability in since Patch 3.0. I'll take the extra 10 seconds of free casting while moving every two minutes. One potential application: in PvP Frost Shock followed by run and heal, then reengage. Depending on how the "possibly even your own attacks" plays out we could be give a few free Lightning Bolts without resetting the swing timer. Overall this isn't ground-breaking for enhancement.

The changes to cleansing look less than savory:

We're making changes to which classes and specs are able to dispel magic, diseases, curses, and poison, largely for PvP purposes. Shaman will have Cleanse Spirit as a baseline ability, but it will only remove curses. Restoration shaman will have a talent that will improve Cleanse Spirit so that it also removes magic. Shaman will no longer be able to remove poison.

I don't like this. Not at all. First, from a leveling perspective, poison is probably the most common DoT from mobs. I leveled a druid, then a shaman. When I went back for warlock and warrior, I was shocked at how much poison gets applied out there. Second, from a lore perspective, doesn't it make sense to have shamans able to cure nature-y things like poisons and diseases? But third and most importantly, this means we are just that much more vulnerable to filthy, dirty, sneaking rogues. As if I needed another reason to hate about rogues, next expansion I won't even be able to cleanse their poisons off. Not a fan of this change at all, or the change to the totem:

Cleansing Totem will be removed from the game, as we want dispels to be a decision for players, not something done mindlessly. To that end, all dispels will cost slightly more mana, and you will waste the spell if you cast it when there is nothing to remove. (Currently, the dispel is only cast when there is something to remove, which encourages spamming 'just in case.") We will balance PvE dispelling with this new model in mind.

The cleansing totem is a powerful shaman totem; it's highly valued both in PvE and PvP. Since we won't be able to cleanse poison and disease anyway, losing the totem is just an extra kick while down. While this is not good news, the next bit is:

We want to free up Enhancement global cooldowns to make the spec more dynamic to play. We're considering, for example, increasing the cooldown of Lava Lash so shaman have time to work other interesting abilities into their rotation.

I look forward to seeing how this plays out. With increased fire damage from Unleashed Weapon, I would have though lowly little Lava Lash would make a comeback, but it seems this anemic 36-point talent continues to slide down the scale. Global-cooldown-starved enhancement shamans every where wait with baited breath to see what comes next.

Lastly we get into more talent changes and mastery bonuses

Enhancing Totems will be replaced with Focused Strikes, which will improve the damage of the new spell Primal Strike and Stormstrike.

Our Strength of Earth totem will now equal a death knight's Horn of Winter, whereas currently with 3/3 Enhancing Totems we provide an extra 15%. This could end up being a buff for our singular DPS but is a loss for raids overall. That 23 strength and agility from talent points serves to buff all physical damage dealers in the raid. Unless the single enhancement damage boost makes up for the loss across the raid this is a slight nerf to raids in my opinion.

With the Mastery system, we're also considering removing a number of talents that grant passive bonuses, such as Mental Quickness, Improved Windfury Totem, Mental Dexterity, Call of Thunder, Tidal Mastery, Purification, Nature's Blessing, and others, to allow players more freedom to choose more interesting talents.

I predicted we'd see changes to Mental Dexterity and Mental Quickness based on the changes to mana regen and gearing in Cataclysm. I'm interested to see how it pans out. My only hope from this note is that they do remove Improved WF Totem and bake the increased melee haste into the base totem, or possibly give it a rank 2.

Finally, we get a peek at our passive mastery benefits:

Melee damage
Melee Haste
Nature Damage

I like what I'm seeing. Increased damage, increased haste, and increased nature damage. It all makes sense.

Just as you thought you saw it all above, Nethaera posted some Q&A that included some very interesting things for enhancement!

Re: Cataclysm Class Preview: Shaman
Q: Will Maelstrom Weapon include Lava Burst?
A: That's the plan currently.

Q: Will Unleash Weapon work with Frostbrand?
A: Yes. We just provided some examples.

Q: Will Unleashed Weapon consume your enchants?
A: No.

Q: Are you supporting two-handed weapons for Enhancement?
A: Once you start to get into the dual-wield talents, then Enhancement is a dual-wield tree.

Q: You didn't address Enhancement survivability or mobility or X and Y!
A: This was just a preview and is not a comprehensive list of every change. Much more will be revealed in beta and much will change during beta.

Q: You didn't answer the most important shaman question! What about Sentry Totem?
A: The Cataclysm is a time of great upheaval. Deathwing's return to Azeroth tore a hole in the fabric of the universe that tragically resulted in the ultimate and irrevocable destruction of all Sentry Totems. Level designers are contemplating a shrine for the Sentry Totem near that of Uther the Lightbringer. We know shaman players will greet this news with grief, but as with all class changes we'll have to get into beta before anything is final.

Holy Windfury. Do you see that major change?!? I am of course talking about the loss of Sentry Totem How dare they take away my Sentry Totem! How will I know when, uhm, the thing is coming around the corner with the stuff for those situations when Sentry Totem is perfect. Ah never mind. I mean of course the use of Lava Burst with Maelstrom Weapon procs! This could have major implications. Could. With passive Nature damage bonus from Mastery I don't know how viable a Lava Burst will be, plus the intention was to simplify the enhance rotation not add another spell. But then if they intend for enhance to use it we'll see how it pans out.

I don't know about you, but I'm really excited about these changes. What are you most excited about? What other changes do you think are in the pipeline for enhancement?

May all your hits be crits!

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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