A belated survival guide to enhance post-5.0.4

The new NPCs in Orgrimmar make me very cognizant of the fact that the expansion is still a bit over two weeks away. Bastards.

Apologies I couldn’t have something like this up sooner!  The massive spike in hits on the 28th makes me sorry I couldn’t have been a helpful source of information to all you poor enhancement shaman.

So, “briefly,” here’s what you need to know to survive as enhance in our post-Cata world.

Stats

This is the big one!  Two major changes to our stats have gone into effect, which unfortunately mean a lot more work.

The first is a welcome bout of relief for enhancement shaman everywhere:  a reworking of the hit and expertise stats.  If you’ll recall, pre-5.0.4, enhancement shaman were the only class in the game that had to hit both the spell hit and soft expertise caps, forcing us to spend 2283 secondary stat points at 85 on stats that actually let all our attacks hit the boss.  No other class had to sacrifice that much just to hit!

5.0.4 simplifies hit and expertise.  The new calculations involve needing 7.5% hit and 7.5% expertise (expertise is a percentage now, so bear that in mind!).  The 7.5% hit handles your melee hits, while the 7.5% expertise handles dodge.  In addition, expertise provides spell hit as well, allowing for the 15% spell hit we need to make sure our spells hit the boss.  This equates to roughly 769 of each stat at 85 (I’ve currently got 768 expertise and have 7.5% dodge reduction, so it’s not exact).  The problem that comes up is that we’ve needed so much hit for so long, you’ll probably have a couple hundred more hit than you need, even after reforging it all away!  This is only a minor concern for the next month, so don’t fret.  Just get rid of as much as you can, and make sure you have the expertise you need.

The second involves our other secondary stats, and unfortunately makes our reforging and gemming a bit more complicated.  Haste is no longer our worst stat; it’s actually toe-to-toe with mastery, edging out when you have certain talent combinations.  Crit is now our reforge fodder; 200% spell crits make it nicer than it was, but not good enough to compete with haste or mastery.  For a basic strategy, reforge all your hit into expertise, then haste or mastery (whichever your gear will let you do), then reforge any and all crit into either of those stats.  It’s more complicated than that, but this is meant to be a survival guide, not an in-depth guide!

Gemming is pretty much the same.  Agi gems for red, agi/mastery or agi/haste for yellow, and agi/hit for blue.  If the socket bonuses are less than +20 agility, it’ll probably be more worthwhile to socket straight agi gems.

Talents and Glyphs

Gone are the old talent trees, and in are the latest iteration of the system.  For those who have been living under a rock, in Mists, you’re given six talent points, one every fifteen levels.  Each talent level has three options for you to choose from, centered around a theme.  There’s no such thing as a wrong choice; most are more suited to certain situations, and it’s rare to find one that you’ll definitely use for every minute of the game.  Luckily, they’re as easy to swap around as glyphs were in Cata.  As of right now, the first five tiers are available to use.  Note that most of my choices revolve around what works best for me in solo play.  I like soloing old content, but these talents should suit anyone well while leveling in Mists  That having been said, here are my picks and why I chose them:

  • Tier 1:  Survivability.  I picked Astral Shift.  It’s handy to have a second Shamanistic Rage-like cooldown, and the effects stack if you need a huge amount of damage reduction.
  • Tier 2:  Movement.  For this, I chose Earthgrab Totem.  An AOE root that still maintains the AOE snare of Earthbind?  It’s fantastic.
  • Tier 3:  Totems.  Totemic Restoration felt like the right choice.  It allows you to get a chunk of your totem’s cooldown removed if you call it back early.  It was a tough call between that and Totemic Projection, but I feel the latter is more situational.
  • Tier 4:  Output.  Echo of the Elements has been appealing to me ever since it was announced, and it’s just as nice in-game.  It’s like having your own personal Dragonwrath!  It’ll also proc on heals, which boosts survivability.
  • Tier 5:  Healing.  This tier, I chose Healing Tide Totem.  It makes for some quick, massive heals when you really need it, and allows you to avoid hardcasting or blowing Maelstrom stacks on Healing Rain for Conductivity, or have to line up your major bursts with Ancestral Guidance to maximize healing.
  • Tier 6:  Damage.  While it’s not available yet, I believe that I’ll probably prefer Primal Elementalist by default.  It’s good enough I get my fire elemental back, but to make it even better?  Nice.  It synergizes better with Tier 4’s Elemental Mastery, according to the theorycrafters, so I might have to give up EotE for it.  We’ll see!

For glyphs, practically every glyph is situational or flavor-based, which makes choosing six a difficult task!  Prime glyphs are gone, and we’re back to three majors and minors again.  My default choices (my default build will focus on soloing) are as follows:

  • Glyph of Healing Storm.  100% healing increase for every MW5 spent on a healing spell means I’ll still be good at throwing down emergency heals.
  • Glyph of Shamanistic Rage.  Unchanged from before, and a self-dispel is nice.
  • Glyph of Feral Spirits.  Boosts the healing from wolves significantly, and their healing really does make soloing much easier!
  • Glyph of Far Sight.  I can finally look around indoors!
  • Glyph of the Spectral Wolf.  Improved from the old Arctic Wolf glyph, you can now copy the appearance of your spirit wolves!
  • Glyph of the Lakestrider.  More useful in PVP, you get free water walking when you shift into Ghost Wolf form.  Unfortunately, the water walking disappears when you shift back.  I’ll probably swap it for Totemic Encirclement, just because I miss dropping four totems.

I’ve heard that Glyph of Flame Shock is a DPS gain, though how much I’m not sure.  It essentially means that you cast one FS, then two ES’s.  I’ll have to test it out and see for myself, though if the gains are trivial, I might not take it.

It’s the little things that make WoW fun.

Totems

I’ll devote a section here to totems, because we’ve got quite a few new ones!  Don’t be overwhelmed by all the new stuff, there’s plenty of familiar faces.

Earth

  • Stone Bulwark Totem.  Level 15 talent.  Creates a damage-absorbing shield around the shaman, absorbing up to a set amount of damage for 10 seconds.  The shield is refreshed with another shield one-third the strength of the original every five seconds thereafter.  Lasts 30 seconds, 1 minute cooldown.
  • Earthbind Totem.  Learned at level 26.  No real change from the old Earthbind here.  20 seconds of an AOE snare, 30 second cooldown.
  • Earthgrab Totem.  Level 30 talent, replaces Earthbind.  Upgrades the Earthbind effect to root an affected enemy for 5 seconds.  After rooting them once, the totem proceeds to snare the enemy like before.  30 second cooldown.
  • Tremor Totem.  Learned at level 52.  Same as before.  Six seconds of rapid fear, charm, and sleep effect removal, can be cast while afflicted.  1 minute cooldown.
  • Earth Elemental Totem.  Learned at level 56.  Summons an earth elemental to act as a temporary tank for you.  Unchanged from before.  Lasts 1 minute, 5 minute cooldown.

Fire

  • Searing Totem.  Learned at level 16.  Basic single-target damage totem, unchanged.  Lasts 1 minute.
  • Magma Totem.  Learned at level 36.  Basic multi-target damage totem, unchanged.  Lasts 1 minute.
  • Fire Elemental Totem.  Learned at level 66.  Summons a fire elemental to aid you in damaging your enemies.  Unchanged from before, save that its attacks stack Searing Flames.  Lasts 1 minute, 5 minute cooldown.

Water

  • Healing Stream Totem.  Learned at level 30.  Rather than being a weak AOE heal, HST is now a smart-healing totem, targeting the most damaged party/raid member and healing them automatically.  Lasts 15 seconds, 30 second cooldown.
  • Mana Tide Totem.  Resto spec ability, learned at level 56.  Boosts all party/raid members’ Spirit by 200% of the shaman’s Spirit.  Lasts 16 seconds, 3 minute cooldown.
  • Healing Tide Totem.  Level 75 talent.  Heals the five most damaged party/raid members by a significant amount every 2 seconds.  The time between ticks is affected by haste.  Lasts 10 seconds, 3 minute cooldown.

Air

  • Windwalk Totem.  Level 30 talent.  Grants party/raid members immunity to movement impairing effects.  Lasts 6 seconds, 1 minute cooldown.
  • Grounding Totem.  Learned at level 38.  Unchanged from before, absorbs a harmful direct-damage attack, destroying itself in the process.  Lasts 15 seconds, 25 second cooldown.
  • Capacitor Totem.  Learned at level 63.  Explodes after 5 seconds of being dropped, stunning all nearby enemies for 5 seconds.  45 second cooldown.
  • Spirit Link Totem.  Resto spec ability, learned at level 70.  Unchanged from before, reduces damage and redistributes health amongst those in range.  Lasts 6 seconds, 3 minute cooldown.
  • Stormlash Totem.  Learned at level 78.  A raid-wide DPS cooldown, empowers all party/raid members’ attacks and spells with lightning, adding additional nature damage.  Lasts 10 seconds, 5 minute cooldown.

I really do like Totemic Encirclement. Just dropping a Searing does the job, I suppose, but nothing beats being surrounded by your totems.

Gameplay

The priority is pretty much the same as before, except MW5_LB is now at the top of our queue again.  There are tons of other quality of life improvements, but here’s a summary of things I’ve noticed so far:

  • Searing Flames is now a buff on yourself, rather than a debuff on your target.  This makes target-switching easier, and also buffs your Flametongue damage 8% per stack, up to 40% with a full 5-stack.
  • You can drop Fire Elemental Totem again without worrying about not having Searing Flames stacks, as its attacks will stack the buff quickly.  With a good amount of haste, I’ve found myself with a 5-stack in about three seconds or so, meaning longer time with buffed Flametongue.
  • Magma Totem finally counts as kills for yourself, rather than kills by a pet!  This makes AOE damage to very weak mobs much less painful than before.
  • Cleanse Spirit now removes all curses at once, but has an eight-second cooldown attached to it.  This makes decursing easier, but you have to be smart about it if you’re going to be cursed again shortly.
  • Weapon imbues and Lightning Shield both last for an hour, and Lightning Shield no longer has charges attached to it, meaning no more worrying about refreshing it or spending a glyph on it.
  • Spirit Walk has been decoupled from Feral Spirits, so you don’t have to blow a DPS cooldown to gain a movement speed increase!  Unfortunately, wolves have also lost their taunt and bash abilities, which is a damn shame.
  • No more reagents required for Water Walking or Reincarnation!  We lost Water Breathing, sadly, but then again it’s not like we used it that often.
  • Wind Shear has been tweaked to be less awful.  The lockout has been increased to three seconds, with a cooldown of 12 seconds.  We can glyph it to add another second of lockout, but the cooldown is bumped up to 15 seconds.

I won’t bother going into the passives, as they’re pretty much the same standard talents from the old system.  I’ll briefly mention that we provide three buffs baseline to a party:  Burning Wrath, a spellpower boost; Grace of Air, a mastery boost; and Unleashed Rage, a melee and ranged haste boost.  Also, Flurry has been reworked slightly.  It now has five charges, and in addition to a 15% attack speed boost, it also grants us 50% more haste from items, helping haste to be a very powerful stat for us.

So how does it play?  In a nutshell, it plays pretty similar to before.  If you’ve been playing enhance the last few months, you won’t be thrown for a curve.  You will have to adjust to dropping totems situationally, rather than dropping four at the start of a fight and refreshing when Searing runs out.  I like this model more, though, as it makes totems into an active part of the game, rather than just “blow a GCD just so you can provide buffs.”  I’ve gotten quite a bit of use out of the various new totems, and I’m learning quickly when the best time is to use them.  Stormlash is by far my favorite addition!

I hope that answers most players’ lingering questions about 5.0.4.  Now’s as good a time as any to get back in the game and familiarize yourself with the changes before the expansion drops.  If you have specific questions, please leave a comment and I’ll respond as soon as I can.

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