First off, if you happened to check the blog over the last couple of hours before this post, you may have seen a phantom post that was there and now isn’t. This is not a mistake. I got started very late on the post I had intended to do today and got it published it right before dinner… then came back and read it over a couple of times and realised it was awful. The structure and format I was going with just didn’t work, and the overall quality was low. So I’ve put it back on the drawing board. The topic was 10-man itemisation for elemental shamans as part of a broader look at the state of the class-spec in WotLK; hopefully I’ll have a simpler, more complete and more informative version up tomorrow.
Tonight I’ll cheat a bit and post here what I’ve already mentioned elsewhere: first impressions on the changes to Elemental Mastery currently being tested on the PTR. Here’s the current, live version:
Elemental Mastery: When activated, your next Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning or Lava Burst spell becomes an instant cast spell. In addition, your Fire, Frost, and Nature damage spells have a 15% increased critical strike chance for 15 sec. Elemental Mastery shares a cooldown with Nature’s Swiftness.
On the PTR the 15% crit increase has been changed to a 15% haste increase.
At first glance this is great! We love haste way more than crit! Hooray! But then you start thinking about the sort of haste levels we’re currently running with and the fact that haste stacks multiplicatively and the worry of “soft-capping” our spells to the point where their cast time is limited by the fixed GCD and you get worried.
The Haste “soft-cap”
Shocks, Chain Lightning and Lava Burst hit the soft-cap pretty early, at 50% haste. It’s possible to have that much haste with present gear, as it’s only 1269 rating with raid buffs. However, haste is still really really really valuable even when these spells are soft-capped, because Lightning Bolt - which forms the vast bulk of our damage output and DPS – remains positively affected by haste right up until 100%, which you won’t reach without 2785 rating.
During temporary haste effects such as Power Infusion or Heroism/Bloodlust, it’s a bit easier to reach the soft-caps: for CL/LvB it’s only 220 haste rating with BL or 511 with PI. However, for LB, the soft-cap is still not hit until 1386 haste rating with BL or 1775 with PI. Even then, Heroism/Bloodust only lasts 40 seconds every 10 minutes, so it’s not a huge problem if a little bit of our haste rating does get wasted during it.
So at present, the haste soft cap is nothing to worry about. Even when some of our spells are being affected by it, haste rating is still way more valuable than crit rating.
New EM + Heroism
PI and Heroism don’t stack, but what if new haste-flavour EM and Heroism do stack? Then it’d only take 609 haste rating to cap out LB‘s cast time with both active. That would mean using the haste-flavour EM during heroism/BL will be less DPS than the old crit-flavoured EM. So even if they do stack, we’ll want to avoid using both at the same time. ZAP confidently asserts that even though it’s not used during Heroism, the new hastey EM is more overall DPS than the old critty version.
What this means is that, assuming this change goes live, we want to use Elemental Mastery as early and often as possible rather than saving it for use with Heroism. That makes it a very definite long-term DPS increase over the crit-flavoured version we have now because not only is the effect better, but we’re using it more often.
Is this a buff?
One effect of this change for most raiding elementals will be to slightly reduce our burst damage during the period for which Heroism/Bloodlust is active; it’ll also increase our mana usage slightly. However, on balance, it’s a slight buff: although the haste flavour EM isn’t vastly better than the old crit-flavoured one, it is better in most circumstances. And if this change makes us use it more often, then it’s contributing more to our DPS overall. ZAP certainly rates it as a clear, if slight, DPS increase even though we can’t use it during Heroism.
Finally, this change does increase the value of our 2-piece tier 10 bonus as it presently stands. Standing and nuking with 2t10, we could have as much as a 20% uptime on the haste-flavoured EM, which means a 15% haste buff for nearly a fifth of every fight. It takes the value of the set bonus in my present stats from 78 to 97 DEP. It also boosts the value of Glyph of Elemental Mastery with 2t10, but the glyph is still far less valuable than our normal four choices.