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Totem Talk: Elemental stats and reforging principles in 4.0.1


Every week, WoW Insider brings you Totem Talk for elemental, enhancement and restoration shaman. Get some Fulmination with your Lightning Bolts! Sort the shocks from the flames with Totem Talk: Elemental, brought to you by Sarah Nichol, otherwise known as Pewter from The 'mental Shaman and the Obscurecast and founding member of TotemSpot.

The lead-up to Cataclysm represents an ideal opportunity to take the time to get re-acquainted with with the new principles around which a class revolves, without the pressures of normal progression raiding or leveling. I've always felt that the puzzle of perfecting a character can be absorbing even if you are not particularly inclined toward numbers and spreadsheets. Knowing the principles also makes it easier to adapt the common knowledge to your personal playstyle and circumstances. The new 31-point talent trees and three-tier glyph system make it much harder to go wrong with a basic spec these days, with glyphs so easy to swap in and swap out. I've found the past few weeks have been stressful, but there has been a wonderful sense of freedom in many of the discussions I've participated in.

In case you can't tell, my maudlin draenei is being supplanted by a very cheerful dwarf shaman with a much more optimistic persona! Despite my grumpiness about Panquakes of Doom, and the lack of aesthetic pay-off for Fulmination, despite the bugs with Reincarnation and the expected stealth nerf of the elemental T10 two-piece bonus, I'm really enjoying this tremor phase of the Cataclysm buildup. The more I investigate and test things, the more I grow to like them. Even Earthquake is starting to look good, albeit in a chocolate chunk kind of way.

Right, I was talking about shaman wasn't I? Ah yes. So there's a lot to cover this week, from reforging, to haste and mastery, to dots and totems and damage modifiers. It seems that the devil is in the details.

Principles for reforging

Before I discuss the interaction of mastery and haste in more detail, I've had a few questions about exactly what to reforge to what and some number goals. Seeing as I didn't cover this in previous 4.0.1 posts, for those of you still feeling a bit bemused by reforging, remember:

  • There are no hard and fast numbers that you should attempt to reach. There is no elemental haste cap or minimum amount of haste. You should be able to reach 800+ haste pre-ICC, but reaching 1,000 haste isn't a marker to stop stacking it.
  • Do not stack one stat to the exclusion of all others. While mastery is definitely our strongest stat (after intellect), reforging all your haste and all your crit into mastery will not have the result you're hoping for.
  • The point of reforging is transforming 40 percent of a weaker stat into a stronger stat. A stat's being weaker doesn't mean it is valueless, however.
  • Reforging is our only source of mastery. Consider using Brilliant Spellthread, gems (such as Sparkling Majestic Zircon or Purified Dreadstone ), Arcanum of Blissful Mending and Greater Inscription of the Crag. This will allow you to reforge some excess hit on your gear into mastery without loosing precious haste (or still-useful crit.)
  • Our stat priority is better seen as a stat strength ladder. (spirit/hit to hitcap >) intellect > mastery > haste > crit
For an item-specific guideline, I turned to Masanbol's rules to reforging and tweaked ever so slightly to get the following:
  • Reforge any unnecessary spirit or hit to mastery.
  • If more spell hit is needed, reforge crit to spirit.
  • Where items have haste and crit, reforge crit to mastery.
  • Where items have necessary spirit/hit and crit, reforge crit to mastery.
  • Where items have necessary spirit/hit and haste,reforge haste to mastery.
  • Don't forget to reforge haste or crit on your trinkets.
  • Don't be afraid of leaving haste intact if your mastery percentage chance is already very high.
Balancing mastery, haste and crit

Going back to the initial principles I laid out above, while mastery is our strongest stat (bar intellect), reforging all your haste to mastery is going to result in some very slow-cast casting times. Glacial, even. The only good thing about reforging all your haste to mastery is some relief from RSI. This is because mastery increases in value at high levels of haste. Why? Well, Elemental Overload has a chance to occur each time you cast Lava Burst, Lightning Bolt or Chain Lightning. In very simple terms: haste increases the speed of casting, and therefore, the number of spell casts you can fit into a given time period. More frequent casts mean more frequent opportunities for Elemental Overload to proc.

So the ideal situation is to balance your haste and mastery percentages so that there is a balance between the opportunity to proc and the increased chance of a proc. Haste increases the opportunities for Rolling Thunder, as discussed last time, and is thus important for Fulmination's damage and efficiency. All of those benefits are on top of the traditional benefits of haste to our rotation (via cast times, DoTs and so on.) Finally, each time your haste percentage changes, you will need to practice in order to feel comfortable at a new casting speed. Hopefully, all of this makes it clear how integral haste remains to elemental shaman, even though mastery is now a top-notch stat.

Crit is still important to our DPS, but it doesn't interact with mastery quite as directly. Even before the current patch the value of crit was undermined by guaranteed crits with Lava Burst. As a result the boost we get from Acuity and Glyph of Flametongue Weapon, along with the crit we can't reforge, is sufficient for our needs.

Lava Surge, Fulmination and Lightning Bolt

One of the ongoing discussions in the elemental community is the placement of a nine-stack Earth Shock in our dynamic priority system. Now, there are answers that work in a perfect testing environment that don't allow for human error, lost Rolling Thunder procs due to overzealous Lightning Bolt spam, or incoming damage destroying Lightning Shield charges. However practically things aren't quite so simple, due to the new spell queue system, latency and pure human error. That and the number crunching is still going on!

In my first post here, I discussed the specifics of managing Fulmination. In my opinion, a fulminant Earth Shock is appropriate to cast whenever its damage (ES+Fulmination combined) exceeds that of a Lightning Bolt. As with Chain Lightning, part of the spell's value is our ability to weave it in-between our Lightning Bolts, fitting it in where a Lightning Bolt won't fit, in order to be able to cast Lava Burst as soon as possible. This is not quite so important as it used to be, due to the unpredictable nature of Lava Surge, but Lava Burst is still a larger proportion of our damage. The longer we leave an available Lava Burst un-cast, the more DPS we lose, while an un-cast nine-stack Earth Shock only loses potential sustained DPS if Lightning Bolts are cast instead, thus wasting potential Rolling Thunder procs. In addition, Fulmination also depends on your spellpower and crit rating at the time you cast the Earth Shock, so in theory there is some damage to be gain by casting when Clearcasting is guaranteed to be active, due to the spellpower bonus of Elemental Oath.

I'd like to emphasize the flexibility that this system gives us. You can pop in a six-stack Earth Shock in between your last Lightning Bolt and Lava Burst coming off cooldown (without a Lava Surge proc.) You can let it hang for a moment while you refresh Searing Totem or hit your trinkets and other such cooldowns. It gives us the freedom to make choices that are appropriate for the moment and for the fight. In a stand and nuke fight we may be able to pick out the risky nine-stack as the ideal, or at least we will once they've fixed the spell queue, but this new dynamic spell priority is so much more than that. Not to mention the fun you can get using Chain Lightning on multiple targets!

Flame Shock, Elemental Mastery and haste

I've seen a lot questions about the worth of recasting Flame Shock during high haste moments in order to roll a hasted DoT for the rest of the fight. Haste is actually applied dynamically to Flame Shock, and currently decreases the amount of time between DoT ticks without decreasing the total duration of the DoT. The time between ticks will be decreased for the duration of the haste effect, but will return to normal once the haste effect expires. This mechanic is shared by most HoTs and DoTs in the game at this time, and means that there is no way to keep a super-hasted Flame Shock rolling on a mob when using the T10 four-piece set.

What Flame Shock does benefit from is damage modifiers and temporary spellpower bonuses, and it is possible to keep these rolling with Lava Burst. So recasting Flame Shock after Elemental Mastery , potions and trinket procs will result in a reasonable DPS increase. A nice bonus is that an accidental recast of a weaker Flame Shock will not overwrite the stronger existing Flame Shock, so we don't need to worry about losing the boost unless the DoT drops off completely. If your shaman isn't using the four-piece bonus, any recasts of Flame Shock will simply start the duration all over again at your current stats, and would be a DPS decrease in such cases.

Now, for completeness of understanding here are the totems (although I'm sure many of you are aware of this already). Searing Totem takes your spellpower and crit at the time of casting for the full duration, and comes with it's own Totemic Wrath buff so it automatically receives the ten percent modifier. Fire Elemental scales with your spellpower at the time of casting, but apparently has his own ideas about crit rating and simply disdains any damage modifiers you have. The snob.

Round up

If you've got any questions, I'll be posting every two weeks although you might see me helping out with BlizzCon coverage, but you can send me an email or join the bunch over at TotemSpot. I'd also like to give a special thanks to Masanbol, who is the most patient shaman I know. As we get closer to Cataclysm, I'll have more juicy dissection of elemental details for you, but this weekend is Blizzcon and all the madness that ensues. I'm going to be watching the live feed and joining Medros and Gazimoff live on air as part of the An Obscure All Things BlizzCon Weekend, and I am extremely excited about an event I'm technically not attending, so I wish you all a happy BlizzCon weekend!

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. Whether it's Sarah Nichol's elemental edition, Joe Perez's coverage of restoration or Rich Maloy's enhancement edition, WoW Insider's shaman experts have you covered.

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