Totem Talk: Enhancement shaman, welcome to patch 4.3

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Totem Talk for elemental, enhancement, and restoration shaman. Josh Myers once only tackled the hard questions about enhancement but has recently expanded his sphere of responsibility to all shaman DPS specs. (And no, two-handed enhancement is still never coming back.)

I'm going to start this post by talking about how excited I am. For those of you who've read my About The Bloggers, you'd know that I considered the last patch of Icecrown Citadel to be the absolute worst patch this game has ever seen. In hindsight, 4.2 was probably the second worst. Enhancement's DPS was mediocre unless you abused a gimmick. Our AoE was pathetic. Firelands was an exercise in trying to discern how much red and orange the human mind could take in before making us go totally mental and putting a fist through the monitor.

But now, 4.3 is here! Fresh, new heroic 5-mans are here, complete with a beautiful new axe for enhancement shaman who couldn't get Gatecrasher to drop. Dragon Soul has been introduced, offering various backdrops for your boss slayings, a new super-easy mode option, and mechanics that actually seem to favor having an enhancement shaman present. Most of all, though, we received a terribly needed buff to our AoE, breathing a new quality of life to being an enhancement shaman.

The basics still haven't changed

Before I talk about what has changed, we need to talk about some of the stuff that has stayed the same for enhancement in 4.3. First off, your basic priority system hasn't changed. Searing Totem trumps every other spell in your arsenal, followed by Stormstrike then Lava Lash. Lightning Bolt at five stacks of Maelstrom Weapon is fourth, Flame Shock with Unleashed Flame up is fifth, Unleash Elements is sixth. Earth Shock will round out our priority as the last ability we use, the same place it's been all expansion. During gaps between ability cooldowns, you'll want to cast Feral Spirit, and it's very likely you want to fit in Lightning Bolts in these gaps as well ... provided you have at least a three-stack of Maelstrom Weapon.

Our gearing schema still hasn't changed; agility remains our bread-and-butter stat, the one we want as much of as humanly possible. We still need to cap spell hit and expertise at 1,742 and 542, respectively. Mastery is also still our best secondary stat, provided those caps are met. It's so good, Blizzard has to purposely avoid itemizing it onto all of our pieces -- or at least that's what I tell myself to excuse the devs for putting no mastery on half of our Dragon Soul drops. We're also totally and completely back to using melee weapons.

The best buffs since The Burning Crusade!

As for changes, we've got quite a few. First off, as mentioned in the last paragraph, spellpower weapons for enhancement are done. Say goodbye forever to your Eyes of Purification, or your Wraith Strikes, or your Torches of Holy Fire. They have gone the way of the music videos being played on MTV -- extinct forever. Blizzard has buffed the spellpower we gain from Mental Quickness to 55%, but in return, the devs made it so we can't gain spellpower from any other source.

Additionally, since we can't receive spellpower from other sources anymore, Blizzard changed Flametongue Weapon to be a 5% (7% talented) increase in spell damage. Combined, these changes actually result in a net damage buff to enhancement, a spec that was already pretty solid in the single-target DPS department. In fact, looking at preliminary reports from Simulationcraft, enhancement in BiS gear is looking to be a strong middle-of-the-pack contender and is one of the best three DPS specs if we don't include legendaries.

The real big change for enhancement in 4.3 is totally redesigned AoE. After two expansions of campaigning and something like for iterations of different ways to AoE, we finally have a way to deal damage to multiple mobs. Lava Lash now spreads an active Flame Shock to up to five targets, which we can than Fire Nova off of every 4 seconds.

My favorite part about this isn't just the ease of use; we can literally AoE by doing our single-target priority while throwing in Fire Novas in cooldown gaps. No, it's the damage. It's the beautiful, terrible numbers that flood and allow me to pretend I'm in the matrix for 2 seconds. Seeing myself doing competitive damage on Yor'sahj the Unsleeping (and on the trash before him!) was honestly one of the most exciting moments I've had playing my enhancement shaman since the launch of Cataclysm.

I would have liked this change to have come two years ago? I would have loved to have been competitive on Onyxia, to have been able to contribute on phase 1 of the Lich King, or to not have been entirely pathetic during seed phases on Ragnaros. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be, and it's taken a long while to overcome enhancement's last real hurdle as a DPS spec. While we still have some issues, gaining competitive AoE and losing the spellpower weapon gimmick addresses some of the more prevalent ones and has enhancement in a really good state going into Mists of Pandaria.

Thank you, Rouncer!

The last big change coming to enhancement actually has nothing to do with Blizzard's changes in 4.3. For those of you who don't know who a man named Rouncer is, he's an enhancement legend. Rouncer has been theorycrafting the spec since I started playing in The Burning Crusade. He's worked tirelessly to bring a voice to enhancement issues in the Damage Dealing forums and is largely responsible for the success of EnhSim. Players all over the world play their enhancement shaman to the tune that Rouncer has helped to set for at least three years, often without knowing who he is.

For personal reasons, Rouncer is quitting the game and quitting enhancement theorycrafting. As someone who would never have been the enhancement shaman or the writer that I am without his work, I find it both appropriate and needed to wish him a fond farewell. I'd like to dedicate this post, the first post of a patch that sees enhancement shaman in the best shape they've possible ever been, as a thank-you to Rouncer. Rouncer, enhancement will never be the same without you.

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk: Enhancement every week. We've got enhancement-specific advice on the latest gear and tier gear set bonuses, and we'll help you dig in and learn to level the enhancement way.