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Totem Talk: Analyzing DPS shaman tier 13 set bonuses

Josh Myers

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

If you haven't been living under a rock for the past week, you're probably aware that tier 13 bonuses have been revealed. You might have read about them here on Wow Insider. You might have heard your friendly neighborhood boomkin bemoaning his bonuses on Twitter. You might even have caught guild members accusing each other of being overpowered months before 4.3 hits live servers. At any rate, regardless of how you heard about them, tier bonuses are here, and tier 13 offers some interesting bonuses for both specs of DPS shaman.

  • Elemental, 2P -- Elemental Mastery also grants you 2000 mastery rating 15 sec.
  • Elemental, 4P -- Each time Elemental Overload triggers, you gain 200 haste rating for 4 sec, stacking up to 3 times.
  • Enhancement, 2P -- While you have any stacks of Maelstrom Weapon, your Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, and healing spells deal 20% more healing or damage.
  • Enhancement, 4P -- Your Feral Spirits have a 45% chance to grant you a charge of Maelstrom Weapon each time they deal damage.

Elemental bonuses

First, the four-piece bonus. This is one of those bonuses that's incredibly hard to quantify, because it's so largely dependent on your current gear. Are you reforged, enchanted and geared for mastery? If so, you'll see a larger DPS increase from this bonus than you would if you were reforged, enchanted and geared for haste rating. This is also a bonus that's going to further complicate the ongoing debate within the elemental community about whether haste or mastery is better.

There are some things we do know about the bonus. First off, it will take a ridiculous amount of mastery to have 100% uptime on the 750 haste buff. According to Binkenstein's spreadsheet, we're looking at around 3,400 mastery rating needed to maintain full uptime. It might be theoretically possible to hit that much mastery next tier--I know I'm sitting at 2,200 mastery in my enhancement set at ilevel 375, so a full mastery set in heroic gear next tier might hit 3,400-- but there's no way of knowing yet if that much mastery at the exclusion of other stats will be worth it.

Multiple chain lightning effects surround a dwarf shaman
The other thing we know is that we currently won't be using four-piece tier 13, unless we see some changes for elemental in upcoming patch notes. Two-piece tier 12 is currently too good to pass up, and the fact that our Fire Elemental scales with spellpower means the bonus will keep getting better as we replace the rest of our gear in Dragon Soul. Even with the lower ilevel on two-piece T12, the set bonus will far outweigh the smaller gain from the added stats and the mediocre four-piece bonus of tier 13. If there's no change in the patch notes that gives us the tier 12 bonus as a talent or glyph, expect to be using two-piece tier 12/two-piece tier 13 through heroic Deathwing.

As you might notice, the elemental two-piece bonuses looks incredible for burst phases and synergizes quite well with its four-piece counterpart. During those 15 seconds Elemental Mastery is up, the 2,000 mastery increase is almost guaranteed to push you close to the 3,400 rating needed for 100% uptime on the 750 haste rating from your four-piece bonus. This means not only more Elemental Overloads, but more casts with the nature damage buff. Fortunately, this bonus doesn't require the four-piece bonus to be effective; theorycrafting has it as around a 1,000 DPS increase on its own. This is a small increase over the 675ish DPS increase from four-piece tier 12 and comes with the added benefit of extra stats.

Enhancement bonuses

At first glance, I was super-duper, Yo Gabba Gabba-style excited for the enhancement set bonuses. This tier has been an exercise in hardcasting for enhancement shaman, as enhance shaman with the Eye of Purification and four-piece tier 12 have been adding hardcasted Lava Bursts and Maelstrom Weapon 2/3/4-stacked Lightning Bolts to the bottom of their priority list.

The two-piece bonus here props up that idea even more. Rather than a stacking bonus à la tier 10 four-piece, there's no incentive to actually hit five stacks of Maelstrom Weapon. That means that any time your abilities are on cooldown and you have even one stack of Maelstrom Weapon, casting Lightning Bolt will be the way to go. Some preliminary testing by Ziff using EnhSim suggests this bonus is a 2.5% DPS increase, and that's without messing with the default priority list.

The tier 13 four-piece bonus is a bit trickier. On the one hand, it makes Feral Spirit an actual worthwhile DPS cooldown for the first time in this entire expansion. Seriously, those dogs went from feral beasts in Wrath of the Lich King to domesticated poodles in Cataclysm. Of course, this bonus doesn't increase their pathetic damage per second at all, but it will help to increase the casting shaman's.

However, current modeling suggests that we might be proccing MSW a bit too much with this bonus, to the point that we'll actually be wasting procs using other abilities first. To counter this, our rotation might get a little weird, possibly hardcasting Lightning Bolt at four stacks of Maelstrom Weapon rather than casting an Earth Shock, for example.

New Lightning Bolt Animation in patch 4.3
The simmed numbers for the four-piece bonus are really low, less than a 1% increase going from two-piece to four-piece. As a result, it's likely we'll be playing the same game as elemental shaman and using our previous tier's two-piece bonus in conjunction with the tier 13 two-piece. On the plus side, the increase from using tier 12 two-piece over tier 13 four-piece is so slight that eventually, the stats from the higher iLevel tier 13 might cause us to lose the tier 12 two-piece -- but that might not happen until heroic modes.

At the end of the day, the enhancement set bonuses really confuse me. To be honest, they annoy me. This entire expansion, we've been bouncing back and forth between agility weapons and spellpower weapons. The entire last tier saw us practicing hardcasting spells in our ability downtime. This tier, with its 20% more damage on Lightning Bolt casts and increased MSW generation, seems to be entirely designed around using a spellpower weapon and hardcasting spells, but for some reason, Blizzard chose tier 13 to finally put an end to spellpower weapons forever. These tier sets initially had me excited when they were revealed last week, but after Wednesday's patch notes, all I'm left doing is scratching my head and wondering why.

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk: Enhancement every week. We've got enhancement-specific advice on the latest gear and tier gear set bonuses, and we'll help you dig in and learn to level the enhancement way.

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