Totem Talk: Leveling a shaman in the Cataclysm era

Josh Myers
J. Myers|12.25.11

Sponsored Links

Totem Talk: Leveling a shaman in the Cataclysm era
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Totem Talk for elemental, enhancement and restoration shaman. This week, Josh Myers, the dean of DPS shaman, and Joe Perez, the Robespierre of restoration, do a Dragonball-Z style fusion dance and combine their class knowledge to bring you a concise shaman leveling guide.

So, young padawan, you want to play a shaman. You're following in the footsteps of some of the greatest characters in World of Warcraft lore -- Nobundo Farseer, Thrall, and yours truly. Just know that you have the full support of myself and Mr. Joe Perez, and we'll only judge you a very small amount for not choosing shaman sooner.

The shaman class has three distinct specs that each fulfill very different roles. Enhancement, which we'll talk about first, is a melee DPS class, which means standing very close to bosses and whacking them repeatedly with blades or maces imbued with flame and wind. Elemental is a ranged caster DPS class, preferring to stand at a safe distance while hurling balls of lava and electrocuting enemies. Restoration, the last spec we'll talk about, is a healing spec, revitalizing friends by creating super-soothing puddles for them to stand in. Seriously.

Leveling as enhancement

Enhancement is a melee DPS spec that focuses on dual-wielding weapons and using instant-cast spells. Prior to level 40, you'll be competing with rogues, druids, and hunters for leather armor. After 40, you'll be switching to mail, which is only shared with hunters. While leveling, there are two gearing rules you want to follow. First, agility is the most important stat you can get, worth way more than any secondary stat like crit or haste. Second, you want to be using slow, one-handed weapons in each hand, preferably 2.6 speed or slower.

The basic talent spec for enhancement leveling involves grabbing every damaging talent you can get your hands on. Why? Because talents like Toughness do provide boosts to survivability, but enhancement is already a very strong self-healing spec. Healing Surge and Healing Wave top our health off between pulls very easily, while Primal Wisdom allows us to regenerate the mana we spend healing quickly. As a result, we can focus on pure damage to kill things faster rather than putting points into survivability talents.

The main attack in enhancement's rotation is Stormstrike. An instant attack that hits for increased damage with both our melee weapons, Stormstrike also puts a debuff on the target that increases the nature damage taken from our spells. This is great, because we also use Earth Shock frequently, especially when Stormstrike and Lava Lash are on cooldown. If the mob we're fighting is going to survive a while (an elite or other high-hit-point monster), Flame Shocking the target and placing a Searing Totem down are both good choices.

As a basic rule for fighting common enemies, Stormstrike, Lava Lash, then Earth Shock will be your core rotation. It gets more advanced as you advance in levels, but that works for low levels. Basically, your priority will boil down to this:
  • Shock while running toward the mob. Flame Shock for elites, Earth Shock for normal mobs.
  • Stormstrike as soon as you're in melee range (Primal Strike when level 28 and under).
  • Lava Lash.
  • Wait for Shock Cooldown. If you're above level 63, instant Lightning Bolts fit here, too.
The other integral part of enhancement DPS is the fact that we can have two weapon imbues at once. When leveling prior to hitting level 32, you'll be using Flametongue Weapon on both your weapons. Once you've hit 32, you'll keep Flametongue Weapon in your off-hand weapon and use Windfury Weapon on your main-hand. You also want to do your best to try and always have Lightning Shield up, since it's effectively free damage when fighting mobs. This becomes significantly easier when you hit level 25 and gain access to your first major glyph slot, as you can then equip Glyph of Lightning Shield.

There are a few instances that are really worth running while leveling your enhancement shaman. Wailing Caverns drops the Embrace of the Viper set and the Stinging Viper mace, which both work very well in an enhancement's hands. Uldaman and Razorfen Kraul also both have some nice agility gear choices, and both have bosses that drop enhancement weapons. Stratholme, Scholomance, and Blackrock Depths are all long instances with plenty of enhancement drops.

Leveling as elemental

Elemental, the shaman's other DPS tree, is a ranged caster spec. While enhancement confronts enemies at close range, elemental prefers to keep its distance and use hard-hitting spell casts.

Like enhancement, elemental will want to use leather gear until 40 and mail gear afterwards. Unlike enhancement, elemental wants to focus almost exclusively on intellect; crit, haste, and spirit are all secondary stats that are much less beneficial than pure intellect. Because of the focus on intellect, you might have a hard time finding leather and mail gear that's correctly itemized for you. Don't worry about this; cloth is a very acceptable substitute for leather or mail, at least until you hit level 50 and gain Mail Specialization.

With elemental, your talents and glyphs will focus on two main concepts. First, you're taking every possible damage-increasing talent. Second, you want to keep mobs away from you; to this end, you're going to want to pick up Earth's Grasp and Glyph of Unleashed Lightning as soon as both become available. Thunderstorm will also help you in this regard, and Stoneclaw Totem's taunt mechanic can be a life-saver. You'll want to use a spec that looks something like this leveling spec.

The ultimate ability in elemental's rotation is Lava Burst, which you learn at level 34. Lava Burst is a hard-hitting, short-cast-time spell that is a guaranteed critical hit provided your Flame Shock is on the target. As a general rule, you'll want to start the fight with your Lightning Bolt spell, since it has a long cast time. Once your Lightning Bolt has hit the target and you're in combat, you'll want to Flame Shock, then quickly Lava Burst. If the target isn't dead from the automatic crit from Lava Burst, you'll use Lightning Bolt until Lava Burst comes off cooldown.

The priority breakdown looks something like this:
  • Lightning Bolt to pull
  • Flame Shock
  • Lava Burst
  • If the target is still alive and won't die from FS ticking, you can Lightning Bolt. Chain Lightning is also a good spell to use due to its quickness, but it has a high mana cost.
Much like enhancement, elemental likes to use Lightning Shield for instant damage, as well as for building up stacks to unleash a hard-hitting Fulmination. However, low-level elemental shaman will also want to keybind Water Shield, as the mana regeneration it gives is very beneficial.

Between Thunderstorm and Water Shield, it's very easy to avoid needing to drink to regenerate mana, even with you healing in between pulls. You also want to remember to keep your Flametongue Weapon imbued on your weapon at all times, as it is a significant damage increase.

A big thing to remember with elemental leveling is that totems are very useful for increasing your damage. Wrath of Air Totem gives you 5% spell haste, while your Totemic Wrath talent will give you 10% more spellpower if you have a fire totem down. If you're fighting long-lived mobs, this can be Searing Totem; if not, Flametongue Totem works fine. Just remember that you're going to want to pull mobs into the radius of your totem buffs, as constantly redropping totems when you move can be a real pain.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Popular on Engadget