Wrath of the Lich King: The pros
Our boring, two-button rotation was replaced with a dynamic priority system, completed nicely with the excellent Maelstrom Weapon. Windfury/Windfury was replaced by the newly enhanced Windfury/Flametongue, which scaled with our spellpower and now gave us a passive boost to that stat. Spell hit rating/melee hit rating (and their critical rating counterparts) were rolled into one stat, so that we would be able to feasibly hit the spell hit cap at 17% without sacrificing melee hit. With the coming of Wrath of the Lich King, the entire game was restructured to allow melee/spell caster hybrids to actually work.
Totem twisting was forever removed from the game. While it was unfortunate in some ways (there was nothing cooler than pugging a raid -- yes, we did that in BC, too -- and having the rogues in the group get excited over Vent to see you twisting totems), totem twisting was replaced by having abilities in our priority that actually allowed us to deal damage. Most totems and Bloodlust went raid-wide, allowing us to reach even more people with our excellent buffs. We remained the premiere melee buff class, bringing a strength/agility buff, 20% melee haste, and 10% attack power.
These were just the gifts we received at the beginning of Wrath. Throughout the expansion, we received other useful changes. Earth Shock, which previously had to be left out of our rotation on any fight that required interrupting, was replaced by Wind Shear, the most powerful interrupt in World of Warcraft. In response to our total lack of AOE DPS, we were given Fire Nova; when we got it in patch 3.3, we considered it a good deal. Shamanistic Rage had its cooldown reduced to 1 minute, making recovering from death a significantly easier prospect.
While the end of Wrath of the Lich King left most enhancement shaman bitter and dejected, that isn't the way any of us started out the expansion. During the first patch of Wrath, enhancement shaman were the best hybrid DPS class in the game and competed for the top spot of best DPS spec, period. Our use of agility/intellect mail finally made sense, as both agility and intellect gave us attack power on a 1:1 basis. We had a viable DPS cooldown in Feral Spirit, and patch 3.0.8 gave us Fire Elemental Totem as a useful cooldown, as well.
Wrath of the Lich King: The cons
By the beginning of patch 3.1, we started to slip off the top spot of DPS meters, but it really wasn't until the end of 3.2 that we became the absolute worst DPS spec in the game. The problem was that after 3.2 came 3.3 and Icecrown Citadel, a nearly year-long patch that highlighted every one of our issues and made playing World of Warcraft
feel like a death race
The downsides of playing enhancement in Icecrown Citadel were the stuff of legend. Our phenomenally complex priority system rivaled that of the feral druid, with none of the incredible DPS that came with being a feral druid. Our abilities, though we had a lot of them, all did relatively small amounts of damage per button press. The majority of our damage actually came from passive weapon strikes, like Windfury Weapon, Flametongue Weapon, Static Shock
, and Maelstrom Weapon procs. Magma Totem
was an annoying part of our priority, a small damage over time ability whose only saving grace was that it did more damage than Searing Totem.
We relied on Fire Elemental as a DPS cooldown, which made us lose ridiculous amounts of DPS potential on any fight longer than 2 minutes or any attempts made while FE was on cooldown. This was in addition to Feral Spirit, a high-damage DPS cooldown that comprised too much of our overall damage. While Feral Spirit was up, our DPS was competitive with every other class. During the 2 minutes and 15 seconds of downtime it had, it wasn't.
We also scaled terribly with gear. Because of the static spellpower we got from Flametongue Weapon and the high spellpower we got through Mental Quickness
, we started off the expansion with higher spellpower than most casters. Coupled with our strong attack power, we were powerhouses for the first two patches of the expansion, especially when we were running a Flametongue/Flametongue build and double spellpower weapons.
Even our survivability had problems. Our main survival cooldown, Shamanistic Rage, was also our only way of returning mana. Coupled with the tier 10 two-piece bonus, it also was used on cooldown for a 12% damage bonus. With SR being used on cooldown for DPS, we no longer had an ability to mitigate spikes of damage from bosses.
Our most glaring issue, however, was movement. We had absolutely no way of closing the gap between us and the boss. On fights like Professor Putricide, this issue was particularly prominent. Our inability to maximize time on target in any fight that required much moving (Lady Deathwhisper, Putricide, Blood Prince Council, to name a few) meant that our already low DPS hit absolute rock bottom. This was such a glaring issue that many enhancement shaman picked up engineering as a profession simply for Nitro Boosts
, giving us a gap closer on a 3-minute cooldown.
And then Cataclysm
hit. Much like the first patch of Wrath of the Lich King
hit us with the answers to many of our Wrath
problems. Cooldown DPS too high? Feral Spirit damage was decreased but given a shorter cooldown. Searing Totem was made important enough that Fire Elemental was not worth dropping, so that our damage stayed consistent rather than bursting high and sustaining low. Fire Nova was removed from our single-target rotation, and Lava Lash
was given a longer cooldown and huge damage, so that our priority system was less finger-DDR
and more Guitar Hero
on medium. Static Shock was rolled into active abilities, so as to lessen the passive damage we were doing. Primal Wisdom
became our main mana-returning ability, so as to let Shamanistic Rage become an actual damage reducer like Shield Wall
. And, in one of the nicest changes to ever grace the enhancement spec, Ghost Wolf
became usable indoors, finally giving us a way to have actual DPS uptime on mobile targets.
Of course, Cataclysm
has its issues. As I've detailed before, our AOE system is beyond awful
. We still have scaling issues, and our reliance on spellpower means that spellpower weapons are still viable options in specific situations. We still could possibly use an execute mechanic, both for helping score kills in PVP and to keep us competitive in the execute phases of bosses.
What I'd like to emphasize is that, while we have always had issues, we're not the neglected, downtrodden class that many forum posters would have you believe. We're not the redheaded stepchildren of WoW
, whom Blizzard has never buffed and has no understanding of. When looking at the actual history of the game and class design, it becomes easy to see that Blizzard has addressed a plethora of enhancement issues. It's just a matter of perspective.
I'm not saying to lay down and accept what's given to us or to not enumerate and explain the issues we're faced with. That's feedback -- and without feedback, Blizzard could not have made enhancement shaman the spec they are today.
Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk: Enhancement every week. We've got enhancement-specific advice on rep gear, heroic gear, and raiding gear, plus tips on maximizing your utility skills and tactics for raiding Blackwing Descent.