I’ve resisted writing about this so far because it seems a bit premature, but now that everyone’s drooling over the fashion I guess I should comment on the function as it presently exists.
And yeah, it is a pretty great looking set for the frontiers of Northrend even though the thing that came to mind when I first saw it was a little rhyme that a Scottish friend once shared with me: “There’s a moose loose aboot this hoose!“ (Profound but inpenetrable, as with most things Scottish)
At present tier 10 isn’t on the PTRs, all we have to work with are the set bonuses which were released by Blizzard for players to comment on.
PTR Frost Witch’s Regalia Two-piece
Your Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning spells reduce the remaining cooldown on your Elemental Mastery talent by 2.0 sec.
I’ve got mixed feelings about this: on the one hand, it’s a pretty cool idea. On the other hand, it’s a highly situational boost to a weak PvE cooldown.
Assuming you can use Elemental Mastery early and often and the fight lasts long enough for the cooldown reduction to make a difference, and assuming that you’re casting plenty of Lightning Spells, it’s not a terrible bonus. Assuming Lightning Overload doesn’t cause the effect, the ballpark effective cooldown seems to be around 90 seconds at 40% haste – that’s a reduction of 50%.
But saying that I can’t stop thinking of the problems involved: any spell you cast that isn’t lightning doesn’t cause the effect. Any time you’re not casting, the bonus is totally inert. Any time you can’t use EM effectively – like having to save it for an upcoming burn phase, or having mobs that die too fast for it to be worthwhile – you’re not benefiting from the bonus. It’s so situational.
And the kicker is that even with a 90 seconds effective cooldown in these highly specific circumstances, it’s only about an 80 DPS upgrade. That’s not bad per se, but it’s arguably our weakest 2-piece set bonus since tier 7 (as both 2t8 and 2t9 are somewhat less situational).
It’s such a great idea that I really want it to work, but in its present form with elemental being what it is right now, it’s just not very good. The one thing I do like is that it encourages strong, early, deliberate use of Elemental Mastery as a regular part of the DPS cycle rather than just saving it for use with BL.
PTR Frost Witch’s Regalia Four-piece
The cooldown on your Lava Burst ability is reduced by 1.5 sec.
OK let me calm down a little before continuing. Deep breaths. Deep, calm breaths.
This set bonus is so ridiculous it makes me ANGRY. Well, maybe not ridiculous – inelegant? clumsy? demanding? – I’m probably being unfair. The trouble is that in a stand-and-nuke situation which the 2-piece seems designed around, fitting 6.5 second cooldown Lava Bursts into our 18-second Flame Shock duration is going to be really hard and depend hugely on having high enough haste and low enough lag. And if we’re casting more Lava Bursts then we’re casting less Lightning Bolts and reducing the effect of the two-piece bonus. GRRRR.
Ironically considering the two-piece, in a situation with a lot of movement or multi-target DPS, this is actually a pretty strong set bonus. In a stand-and-nuke scenario it’s astonishingly weak, with ZAP! rating it as worth only about 60 DPS (compared to 2-300 for 4t8 and 4t9).
Using 4t10 in a rotation
I did try some different methods of using 4t10 in a stand-and-nuke rotation to compare the relative DPS worth. There were three basic ideas floating around:
Method 1. With enough haste and low enough lag, fit 3 Lava Bursts into an 18-second Flame Shock DoT. This necessitates only casting Flame Shock right before Lava Burst to have any chance of the final Lava Burst finishing its cast before the DoT expires. At first I thought this would involve no-cast waiting for Lava Burst‘s cooldown, but with sufficient haste it’s not a problem and you can just cast filler LBs as normal (though you have to cast a very precise number).
The trouble with this is precision – it’s very easy to make a mistake and have your final Lava Burst not crit, dramatically lowering your DPS. Also the much lower Flame Shock DoT uptime reduces the DPS of the “rotation” considerably. The stats I tested it with returned a figure of 9084 DPS with a rotation frequency of 24.3 seconds.
Method 2. The next approach is seriously inelegant and still requires some precision, but it’s a lot more forgiving: you treat Flame Shock as if it were a 15 second duration and recast it some time after every 2nd Lava Burst as normal. This means you’re casting more Flame Shocks with lowers your DPS, but the DoT has a higher percentage uptime compared to method 1 which offsets the loss. The rotation frequency for this method was 16.54 seconds and the DPS was 9067.
Method 3. The third method was more “intuitive” and worked on the following assumptions: (1) only cast Flame Shock if no FS DoT was on the target and (2) only cast LvB if the remaining FS duration was greater than 1.5 seconds – in other words, pretty much what we do now. This allowed for a somewhat more flexible rotation but the impact of 4t10 was almost completely lost, with frequency at 19.24 seconds and DPS at 8935. Allowing for DoT clipping changed the figures to 17.89 seconds and 8996 DPS respectively.
The difference between these three methods is 149 DPS, or about 1.5% of the total output. Methods 1 and 2 are separated by only 17 DPS, which is small enough to be insignificant and suggests that Method 1 will fall behind if a Lava Burst is fired too late (as is the risk with that method) – in fact Method 2 is considerably more robust than Method 1 in all circumstances. The highest DPS methods are however the most demanding, least replicable and least elegant as well as the most prone to upset from encounter requirements – though they do both produce “airtight” rotations with no opportunity for variation.
The really gutting part about these tests is that, using the same stats/buffs configuration but now assuming that the player had four pieces of tier 9, the DPS output shot up to 9330. Even accounting for the ~100 DPS of 2t10 with those stats, that makes 4t9 dramatically better than 4t10, and that irritates me (4t8′s set bonuses are still better than both, incidentally).
Well honestly, I live in hope that we’ll see more sensible set bonuses before 3.3 goes live. The present bonuses taste like placeholder cooked up by someone who doesn’t play an elemental shaman. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that elemental DPS will remain useful in Icecrown no matter what our item sets end up being like! – it’s just that set bonuses which are so counterintuitive make me sad for the design state of the class-spec. Actually, I think it’s indicative of a much wider problem with Elemental’s design direction in WotLK – but that’s a topic for another post. Either way I’m confident that playing an elemental shaman will still be fun and worthwhile in patch 3.3 – it’d just be nice to not feel like we’re fighting our item designers for once.