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Totem Talk: A fresh take for elemental shaman in patch 4.2

Josh Myers

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

Sarah Nichol, our most recent elemental columnist, has been kidnapped by patriarchal Daleks loyal to Lord Voldemort after losing the Game of Thrones. Due to this, I, Josh Myers, enhancement shaman extraordinaire, have agreed to take on the Defense Against the Dark Arts-esque position of elemental columnist. Please welcome me as your benign, bovine overlord.

Now for why you're really reading: Patch 4.2 hit approximately two weeks ago, and the game has changed for elemental shaman everywhere. Bringing us the Glyph of Unleashed Lightning, useful tier bonuses, and a legendary stat stick that would make Gandalf jealous, 4.2 is looking to be the best patch of the expansion for elemental. Not that that's hard, considering the competition.

Terrific new tier gear

Patch 4.2 introduced the new Firelands raid instance, and with a new tier of content comes a new set of tier armor. Elemental shaman were lucky to have a very nice four-piece bonus last tier, but it came at the cost of having three tier pieces with critical strike rating on them and only one piece with spirit/hit rating. Considering that hit capping is an elemental shaman's first priority for secondary stats, and the fact that crit is elemental's worst stat, tier 11 left something to be desired.

The Volcanic Regalia, elemental's tier 12 set, offers a clear upgrade over tier 11. First off, the two-piece bonus -- your damaging spells have a chance to reset the cooldown on your Fire Elemental Totem -- is ridiculously good, offering you the chance of having 100% uptime on your Fire Elemental Totem. On a fight where you can manage to get your Fire Elemental to work properly, it offers as much as a 3,000 DPS increase from two pieces of gear.

Of course, the small downside is that Fire Elemental Totem is the most temperamental DPS cooldown in the game, a totem that does his best to always attack the target you don't want him to attack or totally ignore the one you do. It's still an amazing bonus, though.

Our four-piece bonus is significantly more modest than a permanent Fire Elemental but still good in its own right. With this bonus, our Lava Burst becomes instant following a Lava Surge proc. The main benefit of this on standstill fights is that it will keep Lava Surge from being able to proc while casting Lava Burst, which will be a nice change. While the gain is nowhere near the damage gained from the two-piece set bonus, especially on standstill fights, it's a nice quality of life bonus.

However, the four-piece shines brightest in movement fights, which is nearly every fight this tier. Between Glyph of Unleashed Lightning, instant Lava Bursts, Fulmination, Flame Shock, and Unleash Elements, an elemental shaman in full tier 12 who gets lucky with Lava Surge procs will be one of the first classes in the game who can keep up a full DPS rotation while moving. That is pretty cool.

To top it all off, this tier is slightly better itemized than its predecessor. While it's a bummer that only one piece has spirit on it, it's nice to see that only two pieces have crit rating. Even better, one of the pieces with crit on it is the Erupting Volcanic Headpiece, a token drop from Ragnaros (who also drops the significantly better and higher ilevel Crown of Flame). The hardest tier piece to get is also one of the worst, meaning it's going to be very easy to get your four-piece bonus. Sarah already has you covered with a look at some of the other gear you'll be getting in Firelands.

Getting your glyphs on

Prior to 4.2's hitting the live servers, I thought Glyph of Unleashed Lightning might be a myth. It was the candy, we were the babies, and Blizzard was the mean kid from The Simpsons who was going to take it away and go, "Ha, ha." Somehow, this beautiful boon to elemental DPS went live, and now we get to reap the benefits of transforming from a turret to a jet fighter.

Of course, not all that glitters is gold, and including Glyph of Unleashed Lightning as a prime glyph means dropping one of the three we were already using: Flame Shock, Lightning Bolt, and Lava Burst. Glyph of Flame Shock is not a contender, as it saves us GCDs and maximizes FS uptime while allowing for more Fulmination casts that don't clash with FS falling off.

In reality, you should be carrying Dust of Disappearance and making glyph choices on a fight-by-fight basis. Alysrazor allows everyone in the raid to cast while moving, provided they pick up one of her molted feathers, which makes Glyph of Unleashed Lightning worthless on that fight. For other fights, it's a matter of how comfortable you are with fight mechanics and how much you see yourself needing to move.

For those fights where you do need Glyph of Unleashed Lightning, your third glyph slot will often be based on your gear. In early Firelands raiding, where you're uncomfortable with the fights and moving a lot, it's likely that you'll be losing a lot of potential Lava Burst casts in favor of Lightning Bolt, making Glyph of Lightning Bolt the better choice. Once you get decked out in your four-piece and you can Lava Burst while moving, you'll be hitting Lava Burst significantly more often. In this case, Glyph of Lava Burst might be the better choice.

Shaman AOE: Still bad, but less so

When shaman cried out last patch that our burst AOE was lacking and required entirely too much time to set up, I don't think any of us meant, "we want our Flame Shocks to have an increased duration when hit by Fire Nova!" However, that is what we got. At least Blizzard stuck it onto Call of Flame, so we don't need to waste talent points on that functionality. Also, it gave us the 15% Fire Nova damage increase as a baseline.

On the plus side, it actually is a really good change if mobs live long enough to make it worthwhile. On a fight like heroic Maloriak, where the dark phase lasts for up to a minute and a half, you'll have five Flame Shocks rolling around for over a minute while you spam Fire Nova and Chain Lightning to your heart's content. Terrible for burst, but our sustained AOE was very much improved. Now, if only Blizzard could release a tier where sustained AOE mattered and burst AOE didn't, we'd be golden.

PVP: Slightly less painful

The last thing Blizzard did this patch was provide some solid PVP buffs to elemental shaman. While I'm no elemental PVP expert (I hit 1,790 as ele in Wrath of the Lich King but haven't played it since), I'd be blind not to see how nice Glyph of Unleashed Lighting is for elemental PVP. On top of that is the change for Lava Flows, which now gives elemental shaman a 90% haste buff if their Flame Shock is dispelled, up from 30%. Thunderstorm now also has a 40% snare on everyone it hits for 5 seconds, allowing a small defense against melee with their gap closers on cooldown. And Lightning Shield can no longer be dispelled, and the new four-piece bonus for the Gladiator's Thunderfist set causes your Lightning Shield to generate charges when struck, not lose them. More Lightning Shield procs means more Fulmination casts, which means more dead Alliance. #winning

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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