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Cataclysm Talent Preview: Enhancement shaman

Rich Maloy

With the release of the Shaman talent tree came some big news for enhancement, some new spells, and a request from Blizzard for feedback.

What are we enhancers looking at with the talent changes in Cataclysm? Other than some rearranging of the clothes in the closet there are some notable new talents:

  • Focused Strikes
  • Ancestral Swiftness
  • Searing Flames
  • Totemic Vigor
  • Improved Lava Lash
What did Ghostcrawler have to say? How do the new talents play out?

Enhancing Totems will be changing to provide an additional shaman-only buff when the buff totems are down. Technically that implementation is tricky so we just haven't finished it yet. In general you are correct that there should not be "buff my buff" talents. There are a few exceptions where a buff is elevated from a minor bonus to a more serious bonus (Elemental's spell power for instance).

Mental Quickness is something Enhancement and Retribution need in order to be a mana-using spec without mana on gear. In general you won't see stat conversion talents, though warriors and DKs might keep their armor conversions. We'll see.

We may need additional mana restore mechanics than we have now for Enhancement, but that will take some more testing.

We're not sure what we'll do with Ancestral Swiftness. We made that talent before you could wolf indoors, so it may be less attractive now.

The Searing Totem mechanic is obviously something new and will take some iteration.

Someone mentioned Imp Windfury Totem. I think you're looking at an old talent tree.

Enhance is intended as a dual-wield tree. We aren't going to support a competitive 2H spec. We aren't going to prohibit it, but it won't be competitive.

There are going to be some hard choices in all the trees. It's not our design intent that you scoop up every single talent in your tree."Enhancing Totems in the current tree doesn't mention the self buff, but maybe we'll see that in the future.

Be sure to pop over there to contribute to the discussion. But while I've got you here I'll share my analysis of the forthcoming talent changes.

Focused Strikes

First of all Focused Strikes will be awesome for leveling as enhancement, especially in low levels. No more baby hits and little dribbles of white damage while we pretend to be melee but really we're just casting Lightning Bolt and hoping no one notices mobs are dying from spell damage alone. No more I say! Primal Strikes will be the lowbie version of Stormstrike so having a talent that enhances it (pun intended) is key. Plus an additional 40% damage on top of SS at max level will keep that ability as a primary damage dealing component in our rotation.

Ancestral Swiftness

Ancestral Swiftness will be an interesting component. There has been much discussion in the past weighing the trade-off between Cat's Swiftness or Tuskarr's Vitality versus Greater Assault. How much does run speed increase overall output? The questions has always been, how much running time makes up for the slight buff loss? I look at it from a different angle: if raid encounters in Cataclysm are anything like those in Wrath then run speed will give enhancement shamans an edge on staying alive.

What do I mean? All the running around melee has to do for target switches and damage avoidance. Lightning Overload, everything on Freya, Mimiron & Yogg-Saron, getting to safety on Anub, run from ghosts on LDW, everything on Blood Princes, chasing volatile experiments on Professor Putricide, getting between ice blocks on Sindragosa, and of course everyone's favorite: Defiles on Lichie Poo. Convinced run speed will help keep you alive? I am. Convinced it's worth 3 talent points? We'll see.

Totemic Vigor

Before I saw the new fiery stuff, Totemic Vigor had me scratching my head. Increasing the health of totems helps us how? Stoneclaw Totem's shield is not based on totem health, it's a fixed amount and boosted by the glyph. There are no other talents, spells, or abilities that benefit from increased totem health. But I was scratching my head because I'm mainly a PvE'er and this is a PvP talent. Gone will be the days of drive-by totem murders. Filthy rogues and the like will have to make a concerted effort to kill totems most likely spending more than a GCD.

Fiery stuff

Now let's take a look at Searing Flames & Improved Lava Lash. I'm pleased to see Searing Totem get a buff for us on single-target fights; not managing a Magma Totem means one less cooldown we will have to monitor. However, it adds in a new boss debuff to monitor: stacks of searing flames on the target. Rakhman over at Flameshock already did the research and the math for us on Searing Totem: with Searing Totem casting every 2.6 seconds it's 13 seconds from planting the totem to the 5th stack, or as he puts it 10.4 seconds from the application of first stack to the fifth. If we hold off on applying Lava Lash until the 5th stack of searing is up we'll only be using LL every 13-15 seconds or every 9 to 10 GCDs.

The 130% damage increase to Lava Lash (30% + 20% per stack of Searing x 5) is quite a nice boost, but I suspect we may not want to wait every 10 GCDs. Just some quick back-of-the-napkin math leads me to believe that striking with Lava Lash on a 3- or 4-stack will yield more damage on any fight over 26 seconds. In other words, on any boss fight it may be better to cast a Searing-enhanced LL more often rather than wait for a full 5 stacks. We'll see how it plays out, and I look forward to all the theorycrafting that will come of this combo.

What's Missing

Improved Windfury Totem is missing and I can only assume this will be rolled into the totem itself keeping it on par with Improved Icy Touch, which itself is a so-called passive talent. So will we see the melee haste buff go down to 16% or will the native spells get buffed to 20%?

Mental Dexterity is of course going away because our gear won't have intellect on it and we'll be getting and regenerating mana in new ways. It seems Blizzard is already seeing the need for additional mana regen, as noted above in the blue post. What do you think they'll give us? Change up Mental Quickness? A new talent entirely?

What do you think of the new talents and GC's comments?

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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