Totem Talk: What MoP talent updates mean for DPS shaman

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Totem Talk for elemental, enhancement, and restoration shaman. Once just the expert on enhancement shaman, Josh Myers has spent most of Dragon Soul as elemental, and he's not quite sure how he got there. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

When the Mists of Pandaria talent trees first debuted, I wasn't the most pleased DPS shaman on the block. I wasn't exactly displeased, either; my emotional involvement was most summed up by the word "meh." Stone Bulwark Totem looked interesting; Healing Tide Totem had me super psyched; and Echo of the Elements looked insanely powerful, stacked with elemental's mastery. On the flipside, the entire third tier of talents looked super boring, and the top tier of level 90 talents was so underwhelming that I almost wrote off the new talent system as a lost cause.

Thankfully, we're not in even the closed friends-and-family beta yet, and so I knew changes would definitely be implemented in time. I've been looking forward to Wednesday's talent calculator update for nearly three months now, and I'm glad to see that I wasn't terribly let down. While there still are some definite issues with the tree as it stands, Blizzard's already said that we were one of the two classes that it's currently focusing on, which is why our level 90 tier of talents is still empty. As long as the original talents don't come back, I can only get happier. To top it all off, the new talent tree reveal also showed us our level 87 spell, which is looking to be one of the coolest in our arsenal.

Talent changes

Some of the changes are convenience-based. Our level 15 talents are now all survivability-based, which makes sense; leveling characters will want to get these as soon as possible. They're exactly the same as the original reveal's second tier talents, just coming earlier. These had their place swapped with a tier of terribly mediocre movement talents, but that evaluation comes from the perspective of a player whose primary focus is PvE. Frozen Power, Earthgrab Totem, or Windwalk Totem might be very useful in PvP settings, but I can't see any of those choices mattering for shaman PvE DPS.

Tier 3 has most of the original top-tier, totem-based talents. While they were really upsetting at level 90, as level 45 abilities, they're much more acceptable. Totemic Projection will be incredibly helpful while leveling, for one. Call of the Elements is a new talent that looks really potent as a DPS cooldown for elemental, allowing you to drop two back-to-back Fire Elementals. It might be nice for enhancement too, if Fire Elemental Totem ever becomes a DPS gain to drop. Totemic Restoration looks more PvP-oriented, unless bosses smack your totems for some reason.

The tiers of level 60 and 75 talents switched places in this iteration. Healing talents are now available at 75, while DPS talents are level 60. Elemental Mastery is now just a flat 30% haste buff, which makes it essentially a personal Bloodlust. I'm not sure the loss of 15% elemental damage is worth 10% more haste for either spec, but that remains to be seen (and is probably designed to make the talent attractive to resto). Enhancement will probably go for Echo of the Elements, which gives a chance to duplicate spellcasts, much like Elemental Overload or Dragonwrath's proc. Ancestral Swiftness will likely be primarily a resto spell. Our level 75 talents still all look compelling for enhancement, though elemental probably won't look twice at Fortifying Waters.

But wait, there's more!

The real juicy stuff didn't actually come in the talent changes, though. It came in ability changes. First off, it looks at first glance like our enhancement damage is being nerfed consistently, because tooltips for Stormstrike and Lava Lash show a much smaller percent-weapon-damage modifier. This was done to address low-level PvP burst on all melee classes, but it won't affect max level; Blizzard promises weapon damage on items will be going up significantly to compensate. Rejoice!

Beyond that, it also looks like elemental shaman are losing 50% crit bonus from Elemental Fury. The current talent has us doing 100% damage on a critical hit, while the new talent looks like it increases crit damage by 50%. However, what the talent calculator doesn't show but blue posters have verified is that all classes will have 200% damage spell crits baseline in MoP. Elemental shaman are actually the only spec in the game that will do more than 200% crit damage through speccing, at 250% damage. That's awesome. This baseline 200% crit damage is also awesome for enhancement, as we've been plagued by having too much crit on gear and not enough benefit from it this entire expansion.

There are other minor changes. Lava Burst has been removed from Shamanism, but there's a good chance that the talented damage has just been rolled into the baseline spell. All specs now get the 10% spellpower bonus (what Totemic Wrath gives currently) at level 40 in a passive ability called Burning Wrath, and the new Grace of Air ability is the first raid buff we've ever seen that grants mastery. A small concern to me is that I don't see Windfury Totem, Strength of Earth, or Wrath of Air in any spec's list, but I doubt those are being removed for good. Part of me wonders if they'll actually be rolled into the weapon imbues we're using, i.e., imbuing Windfury Weapon will buff your group with Windfury Totem.

Waiting an expansion for something like this

The main highlight of this week's reveal came in Ascendance, our new level 87 ability. With a 3-minute cooldown, Ascendance turns us into an elemental for 15 seconds. It functions much like a paladin's Guardian of Ancient Kings, giving us a form dependent on which spec we're in.

For elemental, we get a Flame Ascendant form. For 15 seconds, Lava Burst has no cooldown, which means spamming 10 back-to-back Lava Bursts for insane burst damage. Ten straight Lava Burst crits? Yes, please. Chain Lightning is also morphed into an ability called Lava Beam. Currently, we have no details on how this works, but I'm definitely thinking something similar to the crimson oozes in Yor'sahj's room.

Enhancement takes on the form of an Air Ascendant, which makes our auto-attacks and Stormstrike do nature damage and allows those abilities to be used up to a 30-yard range. Considering how our weapon imbues and Maelstrom Weapon stacks are tied to auto-attacks, this ability will let you use every one of your DPS abilities at range other than Lava Lash, which will be incredibly potent in PvP. On top of that, the nature damage component means for 15 seconds, Stormstrikes and auto-attacks will bypass armor and benefit from mastery, enhancement's go-to stat. This is looking to be a super-potent DPS cooldown, though I wouldn't mind if it lasted slightly longer. It leaves me super-excited for more Mists of Pandaria news, for sure!

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk: Elemental. Let's get down to business with a heart-to-heart on 4 steps to increase your DPS, choosing a weapon in Dragon Soul, and hot topics for elemental shaman -- or start from scratch by leveling an elemental shaman in the Cataclysm era.