Mists of Pandaria beta: shaman impressions update

After some time in the beta, I decided to open my own inn.  I ran into trouble with authorities when they realized that I wasn’t serving pandaren so much as I was “serving pandaren.”  Needless to say, my stint as an innkeeper was short-lived.

Well, now that I’ve had some more time, and I’ve gotten to level 87, I figured some additional insights on how enhance plays are warranted.  As I mentioned before, enhance plays relatively the same to 4.3.  Your rotation is the same, your damage is pretty consistent, and overall the class feels the same.

However, there are some key differences, and some added abilities you’ll want to make use of.

It’s kind of funny, that Unleashed Elements bug I mentioned in my bugs post.  Using a key ability would crash the game!  It was as if Blizz wanted enhancement shaman to stop playing.  Not I, no sir.  I pressed on until it got fixed (which is to say, I played other vidya until the bugfix patch went out) only to find myself plagued by Error 132.  I steeled my resolve and bore the pain (read as:  gave up and played more vidya) until that too got fixed.  And now, I can give you an update on how I feel the spec plays.

Ascendance

It’s as good as you’d expect, though there may be room for improvement.  Ascendance for enhance turns you into an air ascendant (similar to the Twilight’s Hammer guys, except with less of a squidhead).  Empowered thusly, your Stormstrikes and melee auto-attacks are given a 30-yard range, and are converted to nature damage for the 15-second duration.  This gives two benefits:  increased mobility for movement phases, and extra damage thanks to our always-lovely mastery.

The turtles will feel my wrath.

How does it feel?  Once you do your first ranged Stormstrike, you’ll want to rename yourself to Palpatine.  It’s nice to have easy ranged capabilities, albeit on a short cooldown and long timer.  Still, the boost to damage is easily felt; I’ll have to see how much it boosts my damage in a dungeon.  Compared to elemental’s Ascendance, however, I feel like we got the short end of the stick.  Elemental shaman turn into Flame Ascendants, empowering their Chain Lightning to become Lava Beam (cosmetic, apparently) and giving their Lava Burst no cooldown.  Effectively, an elemental shaman gets 15 seconds of Lava Burst spam.  Compare that to enhance, and…well, it feels a bit low comparatively.  I hope we get a bit more out of it, perhaps something to improve our burst damage (which still does feel lacking).

Totems

I’m still mixed on my opinions of the new totem model.  On the surface, I approve.  It’s nice to have a wide array of utilities at my disposal, and I’ve got a totem for just about everything:  damage (Searing, Magma, Fire Elemental), protection (Stone Bulwark, Earth Elemental, Grounding), crowd control (Earthgrab, Capacitor), group damage buff (Stormlash), healing (Healing Stream, Healing Tide), and harmful effect breaking (Tremor).  And that’s not including totems exclusive to other specs, or other talented totems I didn’t take.

Still, it feels weird to have so many different totems to use.  I’m used to having four totems that I always drop:  Strength of Earth, Searing, Healing Stream, and Windfury.  In Mists, I always drop Searing, except for Fire Elemental when it’s off cooldown.  My other totems I drop situationally.  Group needs some heals?  Throw out a Healing Stream or Tide.  Mobs getting out of hand?  Earthgrab, Capacitor, or Earth Elemental.  Sleeping?  Tremor.  Group needs some extra dps?  Stormlash.  Need a little self damage mitigation?  Stone Bulwark.

I’ve got so many totems, my bars are still a mess from trying to figure out where to put them all.  It’s something I’ve still got to learn to get used to, and I’ve definitely got to work on my keybinds.

Everyone knows the shaman rotation involves getting pelted with giant eggs.  It’s third on the priority list, after Lava Lash.  They didn’t tell you Egg Pelt was our new core ability?  Jeez, where have you been?

Rotation

Well, it’s still the same.  Stormstrike still takes priority over Lava Lash from what I can tell; the lower cooldown and great damage means you’ll want to get more of them off anyway.  At five stacks, cast Lightning Bolt, or Chain Lightning if appropriate.  Flame Shock, then Earth Shock, then Flame Shock again.  Unleash Elements when you can, but before Flame Shock.  Use DPS cooldowns (oh it’s nice to have a plural there) when appropriate.

However, there are some things of note:

  • Feral Spirits are no longer pets.  They are now classified as guardians, and behave as such; they can no longer be controlled, told to attack certain targets, or have various stances.  This also means that we lose our only current stun, but Capacitor totem should help a little bit there.  Their AI, unfortunately, is pretty poor at the moment.  They take forever to switch targets, sometimes not even attacking a target at all, just sitting there until they realize “oh hey, we’re supposed to be helping!”  I really hope they go back to being pets.  Hell, I’d love if it were an option for them to be permanent pets, but that seems unlikely.
  • As an aside to Feral Spirits, the movement ability Spirit Walk has been decoupled from the ability.  You can now cast it without having to summon your wolves.  This is such a bonus I don’t know why it took them this long to implement this.
  • Fire Elemental Totem is worthwhile to use again, as its attacks will stack Searing Flames on its target.  When I hit 90, I’ll experiment with how controlling it and the Earth Elemental work, thanks to that Primal Elementalist talent.  In fact, I’ll look into the level 90 talents quite a lot when they’re opened up to us.  For now, just know that, after two long years, you’ll be able to use your trusty elemental again.  (Magma is still pretty much worthless.)
  • Your healing repertoire is cut down significantly.  As opposed to your many healing spells now, there are only three healing spells (apart from totems) that enhance has access to:  Healing Surge, Chain Heal, and Healing Rain.  DPS specs of healing hybrids have been affected similarly across the board.  I assume this is a PVP balance fix, as many of these hybrids are hard to kill because of the number of healing spells at their disposal.  Limiting them to a few heals will probably make it harder for them to self-heal and have an advantage over pure DPS classes.  Anything to make ferals less OP is alright by me.
  • Enhance brings three passives to your party.  Burning Wrath is similar to Totemic Wrath, except it’s brought by (I think) all DPS shaman instead of just elemental.  Burning Wrath provides 10% extra spell power, though enhance doesn’t benefit from this (thanks, Mental Quickness).  Grace of Air is a new buff, providing +5 mastery (enough mastery rating to equal this, that is).  This is very nice for enhance, and others will appreciate it too.  Finally, Unleashed Rage works differently from its current incarnation.  Instead of +20% melee and +10% ranged attack power, Unleashed Rage provides +10% melee and ranged attack speed.  Less good for enhance since we still don’t like haste, but we’ll see how that works out.

In short, you should have no problems adapting.  The changes are fairly minor, and it just takes some getting accustomed to them.

Talents

For the sake of brevity, I’m not gonna go back into these.  Refer to my earlier post where I discuss the talents, or just look at this screenshot.  These are my current choices, but I had to do a lot of thinking about which I liked and which I didn’t.  Feel free to choose whichever you like the most.  The only talent I would suggest being mandatory is Echo of the Elements, as the other two for that tier are just awful for enhance (haste, uuuuuuugh).

Glyphs

Ah, glyphs.  Gone are the days of the prime glyphs which never changed.  Instead, we’re back to six glyphs total:  three major, three minor.  Major glyphs change how various aspects of your class plays, while minors are entirely cosmetic or fun.  Are there right or wrong choices?  Not really.  The only wrong glyphs are glyphs that can’t possibly apply to your spec (taking Glyph of Riptide as enhance, or Glyph of Healing Storm as resto).  All the rest are up to you.

So what glyphs do I recommend?  Honestly, go with what you’d like.  Think about how you play, and what is most useful to you.

That having been said, here’s my list of glyphs and if you should consider them.  Majors are rated on a scale of Recommended (consider taking one of these), Situational (take this under certain circumstances), or Not Recommended (doesn’t apply to enhance, or isn’t much of a good glyph at all).  Minors are rated as Fun, Useful, or Worthless (for enhance, mind).

Major

  • Capacitor Totem:  Situational.  I could see this being useful in PVP, but little content in PVE will likely call for Capacitor Totem anyway.  It’ll make for a good surprise when people find they can barely avoid it before the timer goes off, but otherwise, pass on this one.
  • Chain Heal:  Situational.  I don’t use Chain Heal much myself, but if you find yourself using your Maelstrom Weapon stacks on it, consider it.  It evens out the healing a bit, allowing later targets more healing at the expense of your initial target.  Up to your playstyle.
  • Chain Lightning:  Not Recommended.  Our AoE is Fire Nova, ele has Chain Lightning spam.  This is a glyph more suited for certain ele playstyles.  Don’t take it as enhance.
  • Chaining:  Situational.  The cooldown isn’t really that big of a deal, since MW5 stacks usually take more than four seconds.  The jump distance is useful in PVP, but probably less so in PVE, since PVE causes natural clusters.  Consider it for PVP, but I would avoid in a PVE build.
  • Cleansing Waters:  Not Recommended.  The situations for this are very low, and the heal isn’t very large.  Your glyph slot is better filled with something else.
  • Feral Spirit:  Recommended/Situational.  Feral Spirits do quite a bit of healing with their attacks, and this boosts that healing.  Useful for soloing or PVP mostly, or as a help to your “oh shit” moments.  I personally use it, but might swap it out later.  Depends on how well that extra healing feels.
  • Fire Elemental Totem:  Not Recommended.  Having a minute of lovely Fire Elemental damage is too good to pass up.  Maybe on longer boss fights in raiding, but for leveling/dungeons, not worth it.
  • Fire Nova:  Situational.  If there’s a fight with spread-out adds that need to be AoE’d down, this will give you a head start on the AoE.  It’s a glyph solely for enhance, but only take it in situations that call for it.
  • Flame Shock:  Not Recommended.  We refresh it enough that duration is never an issue.
  • Frost Shock:  Situational.  The additional slowing effect would be useful in PVP, but probably not PVE.  Take it if you want it.
  • Ghost Wolf:  Situational.  Another glyph that feels better in PVP than PVE.  Adds the ease of movement back into Ghost Wolf, which is more commonly used in PVP.  Use it if you think it’ll be useful to you.
  • Grounding Totem:  Situational.  PVP players will get more use out of it, I believe.
  • Healing Storm:  Recommended.  It’s just so good.  Doubling the effectiveness of a MW5 heal is just fantastic.  It’s almost too good, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it get nerfed.  Still, it makes Healing Surge into a fantastic oh-shit button.
  • Healing Stream Totem:  Not Recommended.  A magic damage reduction for using that totem is nice, but the totem is such short duration you’d need to keep it up constantly for it to have any real effect.  I’m forgetful, so this glyph would probably go unused.
  • Healing Wave:  Not Recommended.  Healing Wave is off-limits to enhance, rendering this glyph useless.
  • Hex:  Situational.  Yet another PVP-centric glyph.  Useful there, less useful elsewhere.
  • Purge:  Situational.  More PVP glyphs!  This brings back the old, slightly imbalanced Purge, the one that dispelled two magic effects rather than most others’ one.  It was removed due to balance issues, but this glyph brings it back to those who want it.  If you do, take it.
  • Riptide:  Not Recommended.  Resto spell, resto glyph.  Don’t take it.
  • Shamanistic Rage:  Recommended.  I’ve never let this one go since Cata started, and I don’t intend on it.  Being able to get rid of all magic debuffs when you need to is great for soloing or PVP.  It’s a great glyph and makes Shamanistic Rage worthwhile to use.
  • Spirit Walk:  Recommended.  If you find yourself using Spirit Walk a lot, and want to use it even more, this glyph is for you.  I might end up swapping to this one in place of Feral Spirit.
  • Spiritwalker’s Grace:  Not Recommended.  I’ve not used Spiritwalker’s Grace since Cata hit.  I’ve found it worthless for enhance (though others might disagree, I’ve yet to see anyone else use it).  Making it longer duration doesn’t make it more useful.
  • Telluric Currents:  Not Recommended.  Mana regen hasn’t been a problem since Cata started.
  • Thunder:  Not Recommended.  Elemental spell, elemental glyph.  Worthless for enhance.
  • Totemic Recall:  Not Recommended.  Totem mana cost is incredibly low, and again, mana regen is not an issue.  Don’t use this glyph.
  • Totemic Vigor:  Situational.  In PVP, this could come in handy.  In PVE, it’s pretty worthless, since mobs won’t target your totems in general.  Take it if you do more of the former than the latter.
  • Unleashed Lightning:  Not Recommended.  I could see this being slightly useful in PVP, but otherwise, don’t take it.  It’s more an elemental glyph.
  • Water Shield:  Not Recommended.  We haven’t used Water Shield since Wrath, and it hasn’t changed now.  Thus, this glyph is still worthless.
  • Wind Shear:  Situational.  This one’s up to you.  If you want an increased spell lockout, and don’t mind a longer cooldown to do so, then take it.  If not, don’t.  Simple choice, and one that’s more PVP-oriented.

Minor

  • Arctic Wolf:  Fun.  I’ve never gotten a chance to use this one in Cata, as my slots have always been filled with glyphs that remove reagents from spells.  It’s nice to be able to use it now.  My ghost wolf form is so pretty!
  • Astral Recall:  Useful.  In a previous build, it reduced cast time by 40%.  I guess they figured a 6 second hearth was OP, as it now reduces cooldown by 5 minutes.  Useful if you hearth a lot.
  • Earth Shield:  Worthless.  Resto spell, resto glyph.
  • Far Sight:  Useful.  If you hate that Far Sight is only allowed outside, and really want to look around inside buildings, then this is the glyph you want to take.  If it really bothers you, that is.  (It bothered me.)
  • Lava Lash:  Useful?  I can’t imagine any situation where you wouldn’t want Lava Lash to spread Flame Shock.  But if you want to do that, then take this glyph.
  • Lightning Shield:  Useful.  With Lightning Shield being a 60 minute buff, this glyph makes it easy to set it up, then proceed to forget about it until your imbues are gone.
  • Thunderstorm:  Worthless.  Ele spell, ele glyph.
  • Totemic Encirclement:  Fun.  If you really miss being surrounded by totems, Totemic Encirclement is for you.  Casting any totem spell will cause unpowered totems of the other elements to spawn, giving you your classic totem circle back.  Pretty neat.

So, that about wraps up my updated impressions.  To summarize:  it’s fun, the damage is still good, and I really want to get to 90 already.  Those talents are calling to me.

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