Monday, March 22, 2010

Totems 101: Enhancement (OOC)

Well, my lovely and talented Faeldray has written up something interesting, and based on that and the shaman I had the...dubious honor of grouping with on my alliance rogue, I think it's time I wrote a little something on my favorite class. This is meant primarily as an overview and introduction to the class for new players, or players who are new to shaman. So please, pencil and paper only, and there will be many tests on the subject as you level. :)

First, there are the talent trees: Elemental, Enhancement, and Restoration. These three trees encompass spell dps, melee dps, and healing, respectively. If you are just starting to put talent points together, think carefully about what you want to do in the game, and how you want to do it. This post will cover Enhancement; I'll go through the other specs in later posts.

Enhancement is my primary spec on Kazimierz, my personal favorite to play, and the best for those who like to solo and quest their way up the levels. This tree favors melee combat, and allows a number of powerful group buffs that aid those with similar talents: 20% melee haste, 10% increased attack power, and the highest strength/agility buff in the game. If you enjoy getting up close and personal with your opponents, this tree is ideal.

Given this focus, you want to maximize melee DPS. As a shaman, you gain 1 AP per point of STR and one AP per point of AGI. Since AGI adds crit chance as well, it is the clear winner. Low-level enhancement shaman should try to gear for agility, crit, attack power, and some hit if they find it. Strength isn't bad, per se, but agility gives you much more. Gear with intellect isn't particularly useful at this time, and spirit should never be considered for any flavor of shaman, as it gives nothing beyond its underwhelming passive, out-of-combat regeneration.

As far as weapons go...from 1-39, you'll want to grab whatever two-hander you can use and has the highest base DPS. Agility is nice, of course, but base weapon damage counts a lot more. You should imbue this with Flametongue or Rockbiter; whichever one you've trained a new rank in most recently is generally a good bet. Both improve damage on hit; flametongue also buffs your spell damage (but not healing). Both are inferior to Windfury, which you train at level 30-this should /always/ be on your weapon once you have it, as it gives a chance to effectively hit three times with buffed damage. Unless you PVP regularly, Frostbrand isn't going to do a lot of good, and brings very low DPS compared to the other options. In this level range, you will typically be using totems sparingly, but they are very handy for tough fights or mob-heavy areas where you won't move a lot. Use Earth Shock, auto-attack, and keep Water Shield up: it'll keep you in mana (and thus health) for no cost.

Now, at 40, you will gain the ability to dual-wield, if you talent for it. Scratch that, you will talent for dual-wield; it's a massive boost in both DPS and smoothness over the two-handers. Combined with the ability to wear mail, this means a very big jump in your ability to kill quickly and without taking a huge amount of damage. This ability to dual-wield means you have to think about what kind of one-handers you use, however, and the answer is based on your Windfury Weapon. Every time WF triggers, a hidden 3-second timer counts down, during which no more windfury procs can be generated. This, combined with the other useful talents Stormstrike and Lava Lash, means that the slowest possible weapons are advantageous. Additionally, you should imbue your offhand with Flametongue; the WF timer does not discriminate between weapons, and the extra attacks will be much weaker if they're from your offhand.

As you advance from there, your combat priority changes: start with Stormstrike, then use your Earth Shock to profit from the nature damage boost, using magma/searing totem and Fire Nova as your mana allows. Mental Dexterity means you can profit from Intellect on your gear, so don't discount it anymore, and at 50, you gain access to the wonders of Shamanistic Rage: 15 seconds of damage reduction and mana generation. Proper use of shamanistic rage and Improved Stormstrike will make it much easier to keep your mana up, allowing you to drop totems as a matter of course. The best are generally Strength of Earth, Magma, and Windfury; healing stream or cleansing are both solid choices depending on how toxic the region you're fighting in may be. As you obtain Lava Lash, add it after Earth Shock in your priority.

As I mentioned your priority, I should say a little more about it. You do not, as an enhancement shaman, have a rotation. You have a priority, and at any given moment of free global cooldown, you want to use the highest available skill on the list. Thus, for you 50ish shaman, it's Stormstrike/Earth Shock/Lava Lash, with Fire Nova on either side of Earth Shock depending on if it's a solo mob or a group. Learning to prioritize with each new skill should be a goal while you level, as you have rather a lot of them by the end-game. It's not too important as you level, of course, but if you want to maximize your damage output, it's something to practice.

As you approach 60, one of the most valuable talents becomes available: Maelstrom Weapon, which, when capped, will give you a 20% cast time reduction per stack on any lightning or healing spell. At the 5-stack maximum, this gives you instant-casts on some very useful spells. Soloing, you will find great use in Healing Wave to quickly patch yourself up mid-fight, while in groups, use of lightning bolt or chain lightning will up your damage dealt considerably. For optimum DPS, using a 5-stack of Maelstrom to cast Lightning Bolt is the highest priority of all your damage-dealing skills.

Your capstone talent in the Enhancement tree is Feral Spirit, and it summons a pair of wolves that make you into a tiny god for 40 seconds. They attack, they taunt, they give you faster movespeed, they break snares, and they heal you for the damage they deal-it's an amazing talent, and combined with shamanistic rage and maelstrom procs, you will be able to solo a great deal of the group quests in Outlands.

Grouping as an enhancement shaman is slightly different from soloing; the mobs aren't hitting you anymore (hopefully), and you don't have to worry about healing. First, the basics of DPS apply as always: watch your threat, target what the tank is targeting, and don't pull before the tank does. After these, you have a few more considerations beyond soloing.

First, you want to attack from behind whenever possible. While you have no Backstab-style skills, rear attacks are not subject to the enemy's full block/parry/dodge chance, meaning more damage and more chances for useful procs. Positioning like this also helps give the tank a chance to build threat, which is useful due to the sometimes-bursty nature of your DPS.

Second, you need to watch your totems, both to ensure they're giving the proper buffs and to make sure they aren't left in the path of a patrol. Familiarize yourself with your totems and what buffs they grant; death knights can duplicate your Strength of Earth effect, and allow you to drop Stoneskin instead; they can also duplicate your Windfury totem's melee haste enhancement and allow you to drop Wrath of Air for the healers. Knowing the mobs in the instance (or paying attention, if you've never been) will let you know when it's a good time to swap to Cleansing totem, or the ever-useful Tremor to strip fears and mind control. Proper use of these two totems will almost guarantee the healer's love in certain encounters. :)

Third (for higher-level shaman): use your cooldowns wisely. Shamanistic Rage lasts for 15 seconds, so if you're running low on mana, try to conserve until a relatively big or tough pull. Use your spirit wolves on every boss, and if there's a long time between them, don't be afraid to pull them out for trash. And Reincarnate wisely! It can be the difference between a bevy of corpse-runs or resurrection, or it can be the difference between a wipe and victory. You're low on health and mana when you come back, so take a moment to look around before you hit the button-AOE or void zones in your vicinity will be immediately fatal when you return.

The enhancement tree makes for a very entertaining and self-reliant shaman, combining good DPS with useful tools, potential off-heals, and flashy, powerful cooldowns. Look carefully at everything you can do, and you'll be amazed at the situations that you'll be able to get through.

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