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Totem Talk: The confused state of level 90 enhancement 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.

I'd like to preface this post with an apology. I'm sorry, shaman. I didn't mean to disappear for the past month, but I started a new job this month, and the ensuing chaos left me neglecting my monster-slaying duties. On the plus side, I didn't leave you guys for Diablo!

Luckily, not much has changed for enhancement on beta since I slipped into solitude. And by "not much," I mean that there's been a single solitary patch note with class changes since I last posted. Flurry has been reduced to a 20% haste increase on crit, and you also gain a 50% additional benefit from haste on items.

This change is obviously intended to address our incredibly lackluster scaling from haste. It's very reminiscent of the change in patch 3.1 that gave all melee classes an additional 30% haste from items. Prior to 3.1, haste was a lackluster stat for enhancement. By the end of Wrath of the Lich King, we were gemming straight haste rating. When Cataclysm hit, shaman were changed significantly to do less passive damage. The 30% haste rating benefit we enjoyed for over a year were reverted, and our benefit from haste rating plummeted.

Too little, too late?

My worry with the buff to Flurry is that it's more useful to the spec of yesteryear than it is to today's enhancement shaman. When 3.1 hit, most of our damage was passive. Static Shock procced off melee hits, Flametongue Weapon had no internal cooldown, and Lava Lash hit barely harder than Earth Shock. So much of our damage was tied into auto-attacks that haste was a cut ahead of nearly every other stat, often eclipsing even attack power.

We don't play that version of enhancement anymore. Auto-attacking is still a significant portion of our damage, but active skills are much more important than they were years ago. Lava Lash hits harder than any other ability in our repertoire with five stacks of Searing Flames, Static Shock is tied into our active abilities, and Flametongue might win the record for most changed ability in the shaman's existence.

Totem Talk The confused state of level 90 enhancement
This is why I'm not sure Blizzard's chosen the route of an increase to haste rating gained from items as the fix for enhancement's poor haste scaling. It doesn't seem to address the core problem of enhancement not gaining much benefit from haste but instead tries to solve the problem by throwing absurd amount of haste at us. It doesn't actually make haste any better -- it just gives us more haste rating.

Which doesn't mean this change won't be beneficial; it will do what it's supposed to and increase the value of haste rating. Even if the 50% haste benefit is only applied while Flurry is up, haste in Mists of Pandaria will still be better than it was in Cataclysm. I just find the change to be like using a hammer for a job that requires a screwdriver. It might get the job done, but isn't the most elegant or proper solution.

I'm not yet too concerned ...

Though the opening to this article hints otherwise, I'm not truly bitter over the lack of changes to shaman. This is partly because Blizzard's already addressed the issue of the lack of shaman changes in a feedback post, saying:

But remember, change is not the goal. Fun is the goal. It is not our intention to introduce crazy new things every beta build. We are overwhelmingly focused on the end result. All of the developers are well accustomed with the phenomenon where we make changes early in an expansion and those classes get excited, but then what was shiny and new starts to be less shiny and new as time goes on and they see other classes get changes. If you are like most players, newness wears off quickly -- that's not what is going to keep you playing two months after Mists ships. It's more likely to be a very slippery, very subjective "I am having fun playing my character" sentiment that can keep you engaged.

These are the soothing, placating words that none of us actually want to here. They're definitely not the words that I, as someone whose job thrives on interesting class changes to wax poetic about, ever want to read. Class changes are one of the best part of writing about WoW and are honestly my favorite part of playing the game. I like relearning and rethinking how to play my class, and I love writing about it.

Unfortunately, as much as I enjoy class changes, they're not necessarily the best thing for the class. As Ghostcrawler suggests, as much as we love things that are shiny and new, that shininess fades quickly. Case in point: I didn't even manage to get to the last boss of Act 3 in Diablo III before the appeal faded for me. I don't believe patch notes are necessarily something that we, as players, should always want to see.

... but I am concerned

That said, when I left for my monthly sabbatical, enhancement was a bit of a hot mess, and unlocking level 90 talents hasn't changed this. Elemental Blast seems like a shoe-in for our talent choice, because it works with Maelstrom Weapon and no longer has a cooldown, which is something I asked for last post. I'm really, incredibly glad that Blizzard decided to do this.

Totem Talk The confused state of level 90 enhancement
However, it made the change as suggested but didn't seem to follow through to the logical ending point for making this talent good. It seems to choose a stat to buff at random, which means you only have a 33% chance of its being useful. (And the Flurry change only works for haste on gear, so Elemental Blast's haste portion will likely still be incredibly mediocre.)

It also hasn't been added onto Stormstrike's debuff yet, which makes the 200% crit damage bonus we're getting in Mists of Pandaria slightly less attractive. A critical Lightning Bolt might be worth using more than a non-crit Elemental Blast that buffs our haste. This might be on purpose, to prevent it from being the only level 90 talent we choose. If that's the case, Blizzard's succeeded. The talent is definitely better than it was a month ago, but it could use work.

All said, I hereby promise to not leave you guys without a writer for another month, since I think enhancement is on a course to become the most confusing spec in the game again, much like Wrath feral. I won't forsake you all to the fate of figuring it out alone.

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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