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Totem Talk: Enhancement shaman changes in patch 4.3

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.)

I won't lie: The past few months have left me fairly disillusioned about playing an enhancement shaman. Nothing in Cataclysm will ever match the absolute horror that was the last patch of Wrath of the Lich King for enhancement. However, our total lack of scaling with secondary stats that aren't mastery, horrific AOE DPS every patch, and our total lack of any form of worthwhile DPS cooldown have all been ingredients in the lukewarm dish that is enhancement. If this was Iron Chef: America, even Alton Brown would be hard pressed to make us sound good.

Thankfully, the 4.3 PTR is up, and with it comes some changes to enhancement shaman that have me excited.

  • Flametongue Weapon no longer increases spell damage. It now increases all non-physical damage done by the wielder by 5%.
  • Wind Shear's base cooldown has been adjusted to 15 seconds, up from 6 seconds.
  • Improved Lava Lash now causes Lava Lash to spread a Flame Shock debuff from the target to up to 4 nearby targets. This excludes crowd-controlled targets and those who already have a Flame Shock debuff from the shaman.
  • Improved Lava Lash no longer increases base Lava Lash damage by 15/30%. This increase has been rolled into the base Lava Lash skill.
  • Mental Quickness has been redesigned. Instead of granting the shaman spell power, Mental Quickness now causes Enhancement shaman spells to behave as though the shaman has spell power equal to 55% of attack power. Enhancement shaman spells no longer benefit from spell power from other sources.
  • Maelstrom Weapon can now also proc from fully absorbed melee attacks.
  • Unleashed Rage: The melee attack power bonus from this raid buff has been increased to 10/20%, up from 5/10%. The ranged attack power bonus remains 5/10%.

The end of Eye of Purification

The first thing we need to talk about is the Mental Quickness change. There have been a number of attempts to stop enhancement from using spellpower weapons in the past. Flametongue Weapon was nerfed in 3.1, Windfury Weapon was buffed in 4.1, and Stormstrike was buffed in 4.2. None of these changes quite accomplished the goal, though.

For the first time, Blizzard has actually full-on committed to the cause. On the PTR, Mental Quickness now makes our spells act as if 55% (up from 50%) of our attack power is applied as spellpower, but the shaman no longer gains spellpower from any other source. We won't get any spellpower from the 10% spellpower buff anymore, but that's mitigated by the 5% increase from Mental Quickness. We won't get spellpower from our 20 stats to chest or the intellect from Blessing of Kings, but that was a nominal amount of spellpower anyway.

Most importantly, we won't gain spellpower from spellpower weapons, forcing us to use agility weapons. For many enhancement shaman, this is a happy day. For myself, this change makes the shaman class a little more bland and a little less interesting, but not competing with healers and casters for weapons is a welcome plus. And according to our friend Ghostcrawler, this change should be DPS-neutral for any shaman who weren't using spellpower weapons in 4.2. So this Mental Quickness change is neither a nerf nor a buff, but rather just a removal of a quirky but sometimes annoying characteristic of the enhancement tree.

The new Flametongue Weapon

But that's not all! Since enhancement can't benefit from outside sources of spellpower, and Flametongue Weapon is an outside source of spellpower, Flametongue Weapon is also changing this patch! It's going from a 747 spellpower increase to a flat 5% spell damage modifier, which is 7% fully talented. This is actually a very, very good change.

Since Flametongue Weapon started granting spellpower at the start of Wrath, shaman have noticed that it was a problematic spell. Flametongue Weapon was really good at the start of expansions, where the static spellpower buff made up a substantial amount of our spellpower, but really bad at the end of expansions, when it's a significantly smaller portion.

The 5% spell damage change will fix these scaling issues, as 5% more spell damage scales with our gear. What's more, the 5% spell damage is added on to abilities that previously weren't effected by spellpower, meaning Lava Lash is getting a small buff in 4.3. This might actually be the best part of the Mental Quickness change. It also affects the damage from Flametongue Weapon itself, which was previously changed this expansion to scale with our attack power, not spellpower. These changes should help to even out damage lost from losing spellpower weapons and provide a nice DPS increase to people who were using agility weapons in 4.2.

New AOE! Again!

But wait, there's more! This patch didn't just give us damage buffs (including the excellent extra 10% AP we'll be getting from Unleashed Rage) and the removal of spellpower weapons. It's also giving enhancement shaman a workable AOE for the first time in our history as a class. When talented into Improved Lava Lash, hitting a target debuffed with your Flame Shock will spread that Flame Shock to up to five targets within 12 yards. We can then Fire Nova off every one of those Flame Shocks, for AOE damage that might actually be competitive!

There are still some issues with it, of course. It takes two global cooldowns to set up before you can Fire Nova, and it will be annoying on fights where your raid doesn't want you to cleave damage. I'm also not sure if we can have more than five Flame Shocks up at a time. However, these are relatively small issues when faced with the reality that the years of frustration and four different patches trying to fix our AOE is finally over. If you can't tell, I'm pretty excited.

Needed PVP changes

The last of the changes to enhancement are mainly PVP-related. First, Maelstrom Weapon will stack through absorb effects. This is a very needed change, and something PVP enhancement shaman have been asking for since the Maelstrom Weapon talent was added. Priests, frost mages, ret paladins with Sacred Shield up, and shaman with Glyphed Stoneclaw Totem were all able to shut down enhancement shaman from generating MSW stacks, as a result significantly lowering their damage and healing output. This change has long been awaited, and I'm glad to see it here.

Lastly, there's Wind Shear. Good old Wind Shear, the spell we knew was too good to last. As much as it stinks to admit it, this change was both coming and needed. It's not that it was too good for us, but that resto shaman were blatantly overpowered with a 6-second ranged interrupt, and there's no denying that. The base cooldown has been increased to 15 seconds, but enhancement shaman can talent it down to 5 by spending two points in Reverberation.

Unfortunately, this stinks. For PVP, enhancement shaman will have to forgo using Focused Insight builds, which means a significant drop in their healing output, a nerf that PVP enhancement shaman really did not need. For PVE, we'll have to take two points out of Elemental Precision. This means we'll lose out on 2% spell damage and about 14 spell hit rating from our chest enchant. In a heroic dungeon or a 10-man raid, Reverberation will probably be worth taking. I'll be skipping it for 25-man raiding and leaving the interrupting to someone else for a change.

All in all, I'm very excited for 4.3. Blizzard's addressed one of our major grievances this patch in fixing our AOE. It's removed spellpower weapons, made some slight changes to help us scale better, and overall buffed our DPS through the 10% attack power buff. We're still waiting and hoping for a few more changes, such as a non-terrible DPS cooldown and 200% spell crits, but patch 4.3 is a very nice start.

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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