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Should you play a shaman in WoW?

If you're just getting started in World of Warcraft, the class and race options can present a dizzying variety of options. How do you know if the class you're considering today is going to still be interesting next week -- or in the next ten levels? Being informed can help: so our new player class guides try to give you an idea of what you're getting into before you burn time playing through a class that you don't really enjoy.

Today we're talking about the shaman, a class that channels the raw power of the elements to heal or harm. Shamans are a bit like priests in that they're spiritual leaders -- though they have nothing to do with the holy light that fuels most priestly abilities -- and a bit like druids in their use of nature magic -- though the shaman's channeling of the elements themselves is unlike anything a druid can do. Shaman is a hybrid class: they can serve as healers as well as doing magical or melee damage to their enemies. Unique to the class are totems, which a shaman can summon to boost their group's abilities or harm their foes. It's a class that gives you the flexibility to play the way you want while also providing a lot of utility for both you and your group. But is shaman the right class for you?

Just what is a shaman?
Blizzard describes shamans as "spiritual guides and practitioners, not of the divine, but of the very elements." And, indeed, shamans are masters of the elements, though different specializations utilize their elemental skills in different ways:

  • Elemental: This type of shaman is a standard ranged caster, focusing on elemental damage-dealing spells. They dish out damage with spells like Lightning Bolt and Lava Burst -- gameplay can be a bit like a fire mage, though shamans have heavier armor and the use of totems to buff them.
  • Enhancement: This type of shaman is a melee expert, with the ability to dual-wield weapons and perform deadly, elementally-powered strikes like Stormstrike and Lava Lash. The ability to dual-wield might make them seem like a rogue or warrior, but enhancement shaman use plenty of elemental magic to power their abilities.
  • Restoration: This specialization is for healing, with skills like Earth Shield and Spirit Link Totem. With the powerful buffs shamans can provide, they make for an excellent healing and support class.
Like other caster classes, shamans use mana to fuel their spells and abilities. But unlike other caster classes, shamans wear mail armor (starting at level 50) and can equip shields (though enhancement shamans will prefer to dual wield) -- this gives shamans a lot of survivability for both casters and healers. They can wield daggers, fist weapons, one-handed axes, one-handed maces, staves, two-handed axes, and two-handed maces -- and, as mentioned earlier, an enhancement shaman can dual-wield one-handed weapons in each hand to maximize their melee damage.

If you're interested in giving shaman a try, you have a fairly limited racial selection, however: your only options are draenei, dwarf, goblin, orc, tauren, troll, and pandaren. So if other races strike your fancy, the shaman class just won't be for you.
Should you play a shaman in WoW
It's all about the buffs
But what makes a shaman more than just another hybrid class is the totems and other unique buffs they can provide to themselves and their group. Here are the totems you'll encounter as you level up:You'll notice that each of these totems is associated with a certain element: air, earth, fire, or water. You can only have one of each totem type out at a time -- so while you could have Stone Bulwark Totem and Searing Totem out at the same time, you couldn't have Stone Bulwark Totem and Earthbind Totem out at the same time. This definitely requires some strategy in their placement and use -- which might interest you or might just sound like a lot of work.

In addition to their totems, shamans have some other powerful buffs, like Bloodlust/Heroism, Burning Wrath, Grace of Air, Unleashed Rage, and Elemental Oath. With these buffs boosting the abilities of your entire group or raid, shamans can be a useful support class in any group situation. If this is something you're looking for in a class, shaman is well worth considering.
Who should (and shouldn't) play a shaman?
Shamans are a great hybrid class, but they aren't for everyone. Here's who we think will most enjoy playing a shaman:
  • For anyone who isn't quite sure what role they want to take in the game, a hybrid class like a shaman can be a good choice. Hybrids allow you the flexibility to figure out what you want to do as you level up rather than deciding at the beginning that you want to heal or DPS. If that describes you, but shaman doesn't seem like the right fit, you should also take a look at druids and paladins, who have even more hybrid flexibility due to their ability to tank as well as heal and DPS.
  • Players who enjoy casting, healing, or meleeing, but find cloth or leather wearing classes to be too fragile to be fun might find the mail-wearing shaman to be the perfect match. If that's you, you might also want to look into warriors or death knights for melee combat or paladins for healing or melee combat.
  • If you want a great class for grouping, shaman's buffs make them an attractive addition to any party or raid.
  • If you're looking for a traditional mystic or shaman style class, this is World of Warcraft's take on the theme. If that's the type of character you want to play, this may be the class for you.
And a shaman probably isn't the right fit if:
  • You want to tank -- though shamans can use shields, tanking isn't really in their skill set.
  • You don't want the complexities of playing a hybrid. Playing a hybrid can be fun, but sometimes you want a class that's just focused on doing one thing, like hunters, mages, and rogues are focused on DPS.
  • You're not interested in managing buffs and totems. Some people don't like that kind of micromanagement, and you may be one of them.
Want to know more about shamans?
Has the shaman class caught your interest? Here are some places to learn more about it:If you've decided shaman just isn't the class for you, don't fret: there are plenty of other options! Be sure to check out our guide to druids, hunters, mages, monks, paladins, priests, rogues, and warlocks -- and look for more newbie class coverage showing up soon!
Just because you're a newbie doesn't mean you can't bring your A-game to World of Warcraft! Visit the WoW Rookie Guide for links to everything you need to get started as a new player, from the seven things every newbie ought to know to how to get started as a healer or as a tank.

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