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Totem Talk: Elemental shaman leveling from 1 to 20


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 podcast and founding member of TotemSpot.

Last time, I talked about how elemental shaman have gradually begun to evolve from turrets into athletes. All that talking about patch 4.2 and that running around has my dwarf shaman longing to put her feet up and have a beer. So while my grouchy dwarf peers into the depths of her (pewter) tankard and ponders on the delightful looks of tier 12, I've been exploring the world of troll shaman. That's right, I'm leveling a new elemental shaman from scratch in the post-patch 4.1 game.

Meet Zuulfi, a young troll shaman on her way to level 85. Right now, she still randomly hits things with her staff and throws out the occasional Earth Shock. Eventually, the plan is to for her to match strides with the gray-haired dwarf I normally put above my columns. Why a troll? I play a dwarf -- time for a taller Horde point of view.

Preparing for the journey

Now, mapping out the travels ahead from level 1 to level 20, Zuulfi will:

  • Wear leather gear
  • Obtain a variety utility spells
  • Obtain several totems
  • Gain 5 talent points
I'm playing a troll largely for aesthetic reasons, but if racials are important for your endgame experience, I suggest draenei, goblins or trolls. Draenei get Heroic Presence, a self-only buff that increases spell hit by 1%. Goblins get Time is Money, which increases casting speed by 1%. Finally, trolls get Berserking, which is a tasty little cooldown every 3 minutes that works out to roughly the same as the goblin racial. Orc's Bloodfury racial is also okay for PVE.

If those races are not your cup of rosey lee, dwarves get the recently transformed Stoneform, which is absolutely amazing for helping your healers out, and tauren get to squish gnomes in PVP with Warstomp.

Dressing for the weather

This early on, there is very little gear to chose from (if you aren't packing heirlooms). However, you should look out for leather gear at this stage, with intellect and stamina. Some spirit is okay. The armor value is not so important, and it's okay to wear cloth (although avoid rolling on cloth against priests, mages and warlocks unless absolutely necessary).

If you have the justice points to spend, then pick up the "elements" set, but if you already own cloth or leather caster heirlooms, they'll work just as well (especially at lower levels, as the bonus to experience is more useful than the minimal additional armor). The caster mail heirlooms are ideal, of course, and become better after level 50 when Mail Specialization kicks in.

On the matter of weapons and accessories, I took the easy route and purchased the Dignified Headmaster's Charge, but a one-hander such as the Devout Aurastone Hammer partnered with an off-hand weapon will do well, too. For trinkets, I would use one Swift Hand of Justice and one Discerning Eye of the Beast, but any combination of those two is just fine.

What about breakfast? (levels 1 to 5)

At this early stage, one shaman is pretty much like like every other shaman. At various points through the initial levelling process, Zuulfi picks up four new abilities. Some of these will be fond companions for the rest of an elemental shaman's career; others, not so much. Lightning Bolt is the steady rhythm of our journey, and many elemental players will never move the spell from the 1 keybind.

With no talents available, levelling will involve a buffet of melee and ranged attacks. Shaman start out with the basic Lightning Bolt and will pick up a basic melee attack, Primal Strike. Our first earth totem, named Strength of Earth, buffs melee attacks, so it makes sense to continue hitting things and using Primal Strike at this stage. Shaman also get Earth Shock, which makes a nice finisher.

Second breakfast? (levels 5 to 10)

Finally Zuulfi is a true hybrid, for the spirits have bestowed Healing Wave upon her! This saves having to carry around food as well as water in those precious bag spaces and helps with surviving tricky situations. Lightning Shield, at this stage, is not yet the necessity it will be later, but if things be hittin' ya, you may as well be doing some damage back. Try to keep this up at all times.

Zuulfi is also getting to play with fire at last. Searing Totem can be more trouble than it's worth. I have memories of my draenei shaman killing what seemed like an endless stream of ravagers because of that totem's aggressive qualities. The AI has been improved since then, but it can get costly to re-drop for every pull, so put some planning into the placement of your totems and get to know their range. While you won't get any mana back, you can cancel a totem by right-clicking the totem you want to remove on your totem bar. For more general totem management, I suggest picking up Totem Timers (and disable the EnhanceCDs module in the settings).

Thunderstorm and other stories (levels 10 to 15)

At this point, as dungeons become a reality, we get our resurrection spell, Ancestral Spirit. We also get a second group buff in the form of Flametongue Totem. As a proto-elemental shaman, I would be inclined to prioritize dropping this fire totem in groups as opposed to Searing Totem, because it will help out your healer and boost your own spellpower. Flametongue Weapon, the first weapon imbue, will also boost your spellpower. You will need to refresh it every 30 minutes.

Specializing in Elemental Combat brings increased spell damage and reduced casting time on offensive spells via Shamanism, as well as Thunderstorm. Thunderstorm is amazing fun, but be wary of annoying tanks and other players when using it in dungeons. Knockbacks are extremely inconvenient for tanks, so try to make sure you're standing at max range before using it for the mana return. Out in the world, it's great for mana efficiency, as well as saving your health bar by knocking an enemy back just as it reaches you.

The new offensive ability is Flame Shock, and for the most part, it will replace Earth Shock in single-target spell casting for now. It goes hand-in-hand with Fire Nova, our first AOE spell, which we will get later on. We also get a new utility spell called Purge. Great for PVP. If you have trouble tracking dispellable buffs on your targets, try installing Mage Nuggets to show when there is a purgeable buff on your target.

You'll get three talent points, one each at levels 10, 11 and 13. I suggest putting these straight into Concussion, to boost the power of your spells and set you on your path to become a true elemental shaman. Between those three talent points and the Flametongue buffs, there will be much less need to do any melee damage at level 15, and I recommend dropping Primal Strike from your action bars if you haven't already.

It never raids but it pwns (levels 15 to 20)

This level bracket brings more utility, a second earth totem and our first water totem. The fun spell is Ghost Wolf. It is usable indoors, so keep it accessible on your action bars; it makes those corpse runs less onerous. Earthbind Totem is just the thing for moments when the only thing going through your mind is "Run away! Run away!"

Wind Shear is our fabulous ranged interrupt, something every shaman should keep close to hand. Its short cooldown makes it one of the best interrupts in the game -- so good, in fact, that Josh has written about it extensively (amongst other things). What goes for enhancement shaman, goes for elemental shaman.

Finally, the water spells. Cleanse Spirit removes curses from friendly targets. Personally, I use addons like Vuhdo or Decursive to handle this; a click with a mouse button on a unit frame is more efficient than using a keybind or actionbar button. Healing Stream Totem is worth plonking down in a spot that you can pull mobs to when solo. On dungeon runs, it might be worth leaving it for boss fights only or times when everyone is taking damage. Healing Surge is a faster, more expensive heal that is useful for a quick top-up in combat. We also get Water Shield, which for a young elemental shaman is more useful for efficient farming and dungeon runs than Lightning Shield.

Last but not least, you will get two more talent points in this bracket at levels 15 and 17. If you are feeling mana-starved or find you have to drink a lot between pulls, then go for two points in Convection; otherwise, plop them into Acuity.

Next time on "Travels With my Totems"

Zuulfi explores Kalimdor from raptorback, and I'll be talking a little bit more about quests and dungeons to hit up on the way to level 40 as an elemental shaman! In the meantime, you can send me an email with any questions or send a tweet to @mentalshaman.

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, dig into pre-raid gear and DPS trinkets, and find the addons that'll help your performance shine.

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