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Totem Talk: The highs and lows of Ascendance for DPS shaman

Josh Myers

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Totem Talk for elemental, enhancement, and restoration shaman. Once a lonely tauren shaman in a bad Scarlet Crusade-themed transmog set, Josh Myers is now a female dwarf shaman with pigtails who raids using all three specs on a regular basis. He kept the same transmog set, though.

Elamism didn't hit level 87 on the beta this week. It wasn't for lack of trying, but something more akin to lack of time. Despite grabbing two heroic No'kaleds from our first heroic Madness kill two weeks ago, I still had guild raiding to do this week (I ended up picking up a heroic Rathrak for my elemental spec, so I can't complain too much), and I had to make preparations for my trip to Michigan next week. Coupled with the fact that I had to dedicate a night to testing my arcane mage as well, I wasn't able to dedicate enough alone time with my shaman to hit level 87.

Thankfully, other people have had the opportunity to play more than I did (special thanks to Ashunera, who graciously allowed me to use this Ascendance video here). It's thanks to Ashunera that we've gotten our first taste of Ascendance, the new class ability coming to shaman in Mists of Pandaria. Spoiler alert: It's totally and completely awesome.

Ascendance is a potent cooldown for every spec of shaman. It shines brightest for both of the caster specs, with enhancement coming in a fairly close third; that said, I'll let Joe Perez share the joys of resto's Ascendance with his readers.

Flame Ascendant casting Lava Burst
It's a DPS cooldown that was desperately needed by enhancement shaman, as our Feral Spirit becomes less DPS cooldown and more Look at the cute puppies playing! with every gear upgrade. Elemental didn't need this cooldown as much, as we had Elemental Mastery and Feedback in Cataclysm. However, Feedback is gone in MoP, and Elemental Mastery is looking to be a worse talent choice than Echo of the Elements, so a new cooldown is definitely a good thing.

Step aside, arcane mages

Elemental's Ascendence is definitely the shining star of the two, as it allows elemental shaman to do the one thing we've wanted to do since the spell was introduced -- spam Lava Burst for 15 straight seconds. Provided you have a Flame Shock up, which you always should, that's 15 seconds of Lava Burst crits. If you have absolutely zero haste, that's 10 Lava Bursts, and that's assuming no Lava Surge procs. (Lava Surge makes your next LvB instant in addition to resetting the cooldown.)

Ascendance gets even better when you factor in Unleashed Fury, the level 90 talent that buffs your Unleash Flame and causes it to make your target take an increased 25% damage from Lightning Bolt and Lava Burst for 10 seconds. Throw that debuff up, Ascendance, and spam Lava Bursts until the debuff runs out for some huge burst damage. Since UF's cooldown syncs perfectly with Ascendence's duration, you won't even have to break your Lava Burst spam to reapply the debuff (though it will wear off five seconds before Ascendance does). Together, though, these abilities might make elemental shaman the kings of burst in Mists of Pandaria.

Ascendaned Elemental Shaman casting Lava Beam
Elemental's Ascendance also changes your Chain Lightning, morphing it into a Lava Beam. Unfortunately, Lava Beam currently seems to have no actual difference from Chain Lightning other than cosmetics, which is really unfortunate. As it is right now, despite Lava Beam's looking really cool (think the red beam on Yors'ahj the Unsleeping), no elemental shaman worth their salt will ever cast Ascendance in order to AOE. The single-target bonus is just too beneficial to give up just to shoot fiery Chain Lightning for 15 seconds.

Passive Aggression: An enhancement mainstay

In a vacuum, Enhancement's Ascendance is pretty awesome. For 15 seconds, our auto-attack and Stormstrike are usable at up to a 30-yard range and deal pure nature damage. This second effect has a lot of bonuses:
  • Nature damage means it ignores armor. Bosses tend to have about 20% damage resistance from armor, so our auto-attacks and Stormstrike will do 20% more damage just from that.
  • Our mastery increases our attacks that deal elemental damage, and mastery is our best stat. On live, I have around a 50% increase to nature damage from mastery. Stormstrike's already good damage + 20% from removing armor + 50% from mastery is a promise for a very potent hit.
Lastly, from videos I've watched, the morph to nature damage makes our auto-attacks count as special abilities for 15 seconds. That means they use the special hit table and not the normal white hit table, which says that attacks while dual-wielding have a 27% chance to miss (26.5% on beta, according to my character sheet). This means that all of your auto-attacks while in your Ascended form will be guaranteed to hit, which is a nice and unexpected bonus.

That said, enhancement's Ascendance just lacks in comparison to elemental. First off, it just misses out on the sheer cool factor; there are very few experiences in this game that will be more fun than 15 seconds of Lava Burst crits to the opponent's face. While the long-range Stormstrike graphic is pretty awesome, it lacks the same sense of awesomeness that elemental's Ascendance has in spades.

Air ascendant using Windfury Weapon.
And, realistically, elemental's Ascendance is fun because it changes your rotation for 15 seconds. It breaks up the monotony of Lava Bursting on cooldown and filling gaps with Lightning Bolt. You can anticipate it, and you change what you're doing once Ascendance goes off. You don't change what you're doing for enhancement; at best, you hold off on hitting Ascendance until your Stormstrike is about to come off cooldown so that you can fit two in during the buff. Other than that, it's a passive, somewhat boring even if powerful damage increase. (Realistically, there's nothing fun about tying a DPS cooldown to more powerful auto-attacks.)

This isn't to say I'm unhappy with Ascendance or need to see it changed. If it hits live the way it works now, I'll be happy. We honestly have the coolest level 87 ability of any class in Mists of Pandaria. That said, if Blizzard were to maybe also make Windfury Weapon deal nature damage during Ascendance or cut Stormstrike's CD in half while Ascended, I would not complain one bit. I'd do the opposite of complaining.

Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk: Enhancement every week. We've got enhancement-specific advice on 4 ways to increase your DPS, the ups and downs of enhancement in Dragon Soul, and gearing up for Raid Finder raids.

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