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Patch 4.1 brings the AoE for elemental shaman


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, co-host of the Obscurecast, and founding member of TotemSpot.

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, it's our chance at a preview of patch 4.1! There I was, all set to rant about mastery and haste when some datamining popped up. I for one am pretty happy about the content of the patch, although I've heard a lot of consternation on Twitter about rehashing of old content. Comparing 4.1 to the first big content patch of Wrath? Wrath doesn't come close. Two raids, three 5-mans, the story getting progressed in Mount Hyjal, new pets and new mounts ... There's an awful lot to look forward to.

On the elemental shaman front, so far there are a few direct patch notes and some tweaks to other areas of the game that we'll want to keep an eye on -- or at the very least, celebrate.

  • Fire Nova has been redesigned and decoupled from shaman Fire totems. Instead, it now pulses that same area-of-effect from each target that is afflicted by the shaman's own Flame Shock debuff. It now damages all enemies except the target hit by Flame Shock. The ability's cooldown has been reduced from 4 seconds, down from 10.
  • Magma Totem now lasts for 60 seconds, up from 21.
  • Stoneclaw Totem's area-of-effect threat pulse no longer affects critters.
  • Earthquake is no longer a channeled spell. It now has a 2-second cast time, lasts for 10 seconds, and has a 10-second cooldown. Its damage has been reduced by 40% from its channeled version.

A new AoE priority system

So in my opinion, this does lessen the value of the Earthquake talent to a certain extent -- but before I get grouchy, let's take a look at the new elemental AoE priority sytem.
  • Earthquake (2-second cast, 10-second cooldown)
  • Flame Shock (instant, 5- to 6-second cooldown)
  • Fire Nova (instant, 4-second cooldown)
  • Chain Lightning (1.5-second cast, 3-second cooldown)
  • Unleash Elements (instant, 15-second cooldown)
Earthquake will now take a little more thought to apply, as we can't simply recast if mobs get moved out of it. However, the new version lasts 3 seconds longer than the channeled version. To give you a rough idea of what we'll be be trading for, in my mix of 346 and 359 ilevel gear and without raid buffs, Earthquake ticks for 1,939 damage and crits for 4,053, and the 40% damage reduction will knock off approximately 700 damage from a normal tick -- that is, if Blizzard reduces the damage in the same way it buffed Lava Burst. However, with the longer duration, that's an additional three ticks of Earthquake, meaning that at the very least, we eak out a little more damage per mana.

Fire Nova in its current incarnation hits for 2,305 and crits for 4,761. The developers don't appear to have made any changes to Fire Nova's damage, so it is likely to do much the same on the PTR. The major change is a cooldown reduction and that it now emanates from any targets within 40 yards of your character that you have managed to DoT up. If an AoE pack takes long enough to kill, you theoretically could ignite five targets at once, with Flame Shock glyphed. Fire Nova and Flame Shock multi-DoTting will be interwoven with Chain Lightning, which should be glyphed for larger packs of adds. Glyph of Fire Nova will enter our optional glyphs list once more.

The change to the duration of Magma Totem is likely aimed at enhancement. On single targets, Searing Totem, with its higher base damage and larger crits, should still beat Magma Totem. However, for AoE packs, if you can place the new, 60-second long Magma Totem efficiently, it will add significant DPS. My longing for a Totemic Throw ability just tripled. Any benefit from Magma Totem is still offset against the need to run into melee range. With all the other cooldowns and cast times to manage, this is really additional DPS that you'll need to set up in advance.

Weaving in Chain Lightning, instead of dumping a lot of mana into Earthquake and then standing there channeling like a numpty, should alleviate our AoE mana problems somewhat due to potential Rolling Thunder procs, and Fire Nova is currently cheaper to cast than Chain Lightning. While Chain Lightning will obviously build up Fulmination quickly, I suspect Earth Shock will remain locked out, as you'll need use shock cooldowns to keep Flame Shock rolling. The inclusion of Flame Shock in AoE rotations will also increases the utility value of the Reverberation talent, enabling us to keep more Flame Shocks up at a time.

Forethought and ramp-up time

Finally, to add to all of that, we have Unleash Elements. In an ideal world, you would use UE when you have three to five Flame Shocks rolling, although of course you could use it earlier. However, as much as I applaud the apparent move to an active AoE rotation, unless the cooldown is removed, our AoE will be slow to ramp up and rely on several fiddly cooldowns, as well as a planned totem drop to really boost it sky high. For many players, this may be no problem, but knowing my own capabilities and frustrations with tab targeting and nameplates, I feel that AoE that requires this much planning, timing, and ramp-up time may well prove frustrating when often it is immediate burst damage that is required in boss fights. However, on the upside, we are able to be a bit more mobile, and thus we will be able to react to damage easier while maintaining our AoE.

That said, it's very early yet. I'm really looking forward to getting my teeth into the PTR and seeing how everything will pan out in practice. It's one thing to visualize all this in my head and another to functionally hit the keys and make it happen. I will say that I would really like to see shock cooldowns revisited, perhaps as a function of the elemental tree, and for more than just to simplify our AoE.

All non-damaging interrupts off the global cooldown will now always hit the target. This includes Pummel, Shield Bash, Kick, Mind Freeze, Rebuke, Skull Bash, Counterspell, Wind Shear, Solar Beam, Silencing Shot, and related player pet abilities.

Another change that I am extremely happy about (and I know our tanks are, too) is this change to interrupts! While this doesn't directly impact on a raiding elemental shaman, it may mean that we get to share our interrupting duties a little more. At the very least, there is a definite backup interrupt in emergency moments.

Another change to note is the addition of a red socket to Elementium Stormshield, at the expense of some base intellect, haste and spirit. This was an expected change, as Blizzard has been adding sockets to a lot of the 359 crafted epics. I will add the new into my trinket spreadsheet and discuss them in detail at a later date. There are several options that look extremely tasty, but then there always are when it comes to trinkets!

The tweaks keep coming

Overall, I'm excited about this patch and looking forward to all the content, and I'm pleased that elemental continues to get tweaks. These were my first impressions of the patch notes. These are very early, of course, and a lot will change over the course of the PTR. If you've got any questions or want me to clarify anything, please feel free to shoot me an email!

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk. Ready to take your elemental shaman up to the new level cap? We'll help you get to level 85 with our guide to leveling an elemental shaman. Check out our Cataclysm 101 for elemental shaman, or pick up our pre-raid gearing guide.

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