Mana mechanics on call
The first time I felt the impact of the new soloing model was during an attempt at chain pulling in Deepholm. I pulled; my health went low. I killed. I healed. I pulled. I was OOM. Any use of AoE drains your mana faster than I can down a bottle of Leffe Brune. The days of downtime between pulls are back. This is why the change to Searing Totem, although extremely minor, is a welcome one. I am a big fan of the synergy between our DPS and regen talents in the 31-point talent trees, and the more I understand it, the happier I am to see the back of Unrelenting Storm and Water Shield.
Our major mana regen mechanic in Cataclysm is Rolling Thunder, a talent that scales with three stats. Lightning bolts cost 1,405 mana at level 85, while my dapper dwarf shaman currently regains 1,280 mana with each RT proc. As the mana regained is a percentage of her mana pool, eventually the amount she regains will exceed the cost of a single Lightning Bolt. Haste increases the amount of Lightning Bolts cast per combat and thus increases the opportunities for a proc. Spirit contributes via its function as spell hit (via Elemental Precision) because Rolling Thunder procs when the spell lands, not on spell cast. Obviously we will be gathering spirit for heroics and raids anyway, but it is something to keep in mind when balancing your gear on the road to 85.
We still have Clearcasting, which means that crit rating continues to improve our efficiency as casters, despite not actively returning mana to the pot. Yet again intellect proves its worth by increasing crit rating, and thus Clearcasting scales with intellect as well. Thunderstorm also scales with the size of our mana pool, and thus intellect (surprise!), as do the external mana regen mechanics from other classes.
Now in terms of a leveling talent build, if you are aiming to eliminate downtime, then take both Acuity and Convection. While I've found Reverberation very useful in dungeons at 85, low levels of haste and the sheer flexibility of Fulmination means that it is not a necessary talent while levelling. Convection can take some of the sting out of casting until your gear has improved.
Hex them where it hertz
The only caveat to all this talk about efficiency and mana regen is that the new soloing model also increases the need for survivability based utility spells. I know you have these buttons, and if you're anything like me, they aren't dusty, but give them a quick polish so that they're nice and bright and easy to find: Wind Shear, Hex, Earthbind Totem, Thunderstorm and our new Bind Elemental. You will need them, especially if you intend to cling to your four-piece bonus well beyond its use-by date.
Initial soloing ended up in a great impersonation of a jam smear on the floor due to a couple of stealthy adds. That was how I learned to hex pull again, something that was never needed in Wrath. I don't think my earth elemental has had so much exercise in my entire time as a shaman as it has in these hours spent leveling to 85. So if you are really not interested in taking Convection, pick up Earth's Grasp. Your gold funds will thank you.
Last, a note about the old habit of throwing a quick Lesser Healing Wave up during or after combat. For starters, the new version, Healing Surge, has a greater mana cost. Despite being a lifesaver in emergencies, overuse will increase the frequency of mana breaks. I found a Healing Wave, slow and weak but cheap, much more effective for soloing purposes. As a result, Glyph of Thunder is a decent option for levelling due to both the mana returns and the knockback use being available for every pull.
Amping up the gear
Is it wrong that a part of me just wants to wear new gear? I love Frost Witch's Regalia, but a change of look is intensely appealing (just don't believe Kelly when she tweets a link to the new shaman T11, that's all I can say.) It is important to remember, however, that in current raid gear at level 80 you are still somewhat overgeared for the content. Early greens won't look very attractive stats-wise to those in current raid gear, and it's not until level 82 that you will truly start to feel the lack of stats on your Wrath gear. The good news is that the changes to the stat system mean that most caster mail quest rewards are useful, which is a marked improvement and a point for Blizzard (although you might be drowning in crit and spirit until you can accost the Arcane Reforger).
Fox has already mentioned some of the new shields available to us, and Caenerys is currently sporting the Brightpolish Shield, available from a quest in Deepholm, which was the first time I really felt inclined to replace my pretty Bulwark of Smoldering Steel. (Shields for life!)
The first relic I picked up was the Cannon Stabilizer via one of the long (and very fun) obelisk quests in Uldum. Scribes get access to better relics, but for the rest of us, this particular Uldum quest offers the first upgrade to Bizuri's Totem of Shattered Ice. Luckily the quest is not obscure, so there is very little chance of missing it along the way.
I am growing quite fond of aesthetics the artists picked for the quest rewards. The warm colors feel very shamanesque, and the rough-hewn aesthetic is a welcome change to the icy brutality of Northrend. Not that Cataclysm isn't brutal in its aesthetic, but it has an organic feel that isn't nearly so creepy. I felt part of the landscape I was questing through, a stalwart adventurer who didn't have time for fancy-pants armor. Frost Witch Regalia would definitely have felt out of place on the sands of Uldum.
Brrr. Enough of these leveling notes. I'm going Ohm.
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