The very first Cataclysm Class Preview is our preview, posted by Nethaera a little earlier today, and already commented upon by pewter (and doubtless soon many others!). I’m just gonna talk about my thoughts and feelings on the elemental side of what’s been announced, assuming everyone’s already familiar with the details themselves and leaving the restoration stuff to other people and/or another post. So no theory, no maths, just delicious, succulent waffles here.
A lot’s been done to improve shaman levelling in the past couple of years, but it’s still a little less than ideal as so many of both Elemental and Enhancement’s core abilities and/or talents come so late. So I’m glad that there’s mention of a new spell specifically to help lowbie enhancement shamans. But what about elemental? Well, my take on this is that the combination of Mastery, fewer “boring” talents and an entirely revamped lowbie gear environment will sort out the remaining problems suffered by elemental – most of which are, I think, basically gear related. Well, all remaining problems except for the fact that we basically use one spell from level 1 through to level 75 – there’s no sign that they’re lowering the level at which Lava Burst becomes available.
Which brings me neatly onto this issue of spell choice. Presently elemental tends to be derided by some as an “easy” spec because our basic rotation seems so simple and foolproof. Even some pretty good “advanced” elementals in top-end guilds give this impression, which I think is unfortunate… because the difference between a “good” elemental shaman and a “bad” elemental shaman is at least as extreme as for any other DPS class, quite possibly more. There is already a lot of room for skill, experience and general mastery of the class even with our simple rotation, and a quick perusal of World of Logs reports would show this to be true.
(Please bear in mind at this point that I am someone who has played a kitty druid, shadowpriest, and arcane mage in the WotLK endgame, so I’m familiar with some very different styles of play and levels of “complexity” in “rotations”.)
Simplicity has, in fact, been a hallmark of elemental since its inception. Basically it’s been all about Lightning. This has been justifiable, I think, because with our totem usage, our capacity to perform multiple utility functions at once (such as snatch-healing, kiting, interrupting, grounding, cleansing, snaring, rooting, managing one of the most important raiding cooldowns there is, et cetera), our utter dependence on being in precisely the right place at the right time for our utility spells to work and no fast way of getting there, the elemental shaman has needed the simplicity in rotation to allow room for the complexity of the class as a whole. Elemental has filled this niche in a way that the other specs haven’t: with its boss-in-face positioning, small mana pool and lack of utility talents, enhance tends to be consigned to pure DPS, and restoration is likewise too focused on keeping health bars in the green to employ much of the class’ innate utility and strength in most situations.
In my mind, this has left elemental as the de-facto shaman utility spec, with the combination of a few key talents (Elemental Reach, Storm, Earth and Fire, Booming Echoes and Thunderstorm), our at-range wide-perspective positioning, our surprisingly strong shield-and-mail armor and the fact that we always gear to the hit cap leaving us in the perfect position to do “odd” jobs for a group.
So no, I don’t think elemental needs a lot more complexity to its rotation. Managing hasted Flame Shocks with Lava Burst cooldowns is quite enough, thank you. With that in mind, the addition of Unleash Weapon seems to be a welcome way to spice up our spell choice without adding too much brain strain.
What I am genuinely surprised by is that there was no mention of any change to Lava Burst‘s mechanics. The guaranteed critical strike the spell produces has caused headaches with both crit and haste scaling for elemental, confused a legion of new players trying to figure out what they should do if Lava Burst is on cooldown for less time than Lightning Bolt takes to cast, and been a PvP balance nightmare.
For me those first two issues are actually pretty serious and I’d really like to see them dealt with. I don’t suppose it’d be too hard to make Lava Burst continue to be a fun spell that’s worth casting while removing its 100%-crit-chance thing. The predicted interaction between this, the new Elemental Overload Mastery effect and Unleash Weapon sounds like a recipe for PvP disaster, but I guess with higher health pools and whatnot burst will be less of an issue.
I do like the idea of overload affecting all our damage spells – that’s cool.
Earthquake! Well! Have any of us played Warcraft III and not wanted this awesome spell in our arsenal? Our AoE is already pretty strong with Magma Totem and Fire Nova and our “ranged cleave” is second to none. Earthquake promises to be sustained, targetable and usable at range, which would add a very welcome flexibility if our present totem mechanics remain as they are. Even if it’s not a very powerful spell in itself, it would be freakin’ cool.
Which is an open question, seeing as they’re “considering” letting us cast Searing Totem from range. This could mean increasing the range of the totem’s attack, or it could mean some kind of remote totem placement which could conceivably extend to all our totems. Using Searing at range is definitely something we should want to see, as our bizarre niche as the melee-range caster is not really very raid-friendly and sort of works against that complexity stuff I was talking about above.
Of course the really big revelation here – which doesn’t come as a surprise so much as it comes as a relief – is the planned overhaul of Totem of Wrath/Flametongue Totem. Scaling issues? Fixed - it’s going to be a percentage increase in spellpower rather than a flat value. Locking us out of fire DPS totems? Fixed - Elemental will be able to talent into getting the effect from any fire totem. Competition with Demonic Pact? Presumably fixed - I’d imagine DP would provide the same 10% bonus that our new Totems of Wrath will.
The DPS-while-moving cooldown will be as useful as the developers allow it to be. If there are boss fights requiring us to move for 10 seconds every 2 minutes, it’ll be great. If not, it won’t be. Either way it’ll be a nice addition to our range of utility options. Unlike some folk, I don’t think elemental is penalised that much for moving – if anything, we have it easier than most casters, especially if we’re using fire totems (this is offset by the need to redrop totems in new positions and the need to potentially drop our fire DPS totems in odd places requiring extra movement that other casters don’t have to worry about). So to me this is one of those “oh, neat” things rather than an “AT LAST!” thing.
No mention of Elemental Mastery? Sorry Blizzard, but I think its current incarnation is weak and boring – unlike Icy Veins’ effect on those big slow mage spells, we don’t really notice a meagre 15% spell haste increase all that much – especially when we’re used to heroism’s big beefy 30%. I’d love to see it given some love and made more interesting.
The fact that no mention is made of Thunderstorm leaves me hoping it’ll remain largely unchanged. I have to confess that I really like its current incarnation.
Spell damage and crit are perfect for us. Yes, I know crit is one of our weaker DPS stats, but the alternative – that our already short spellcasts get shorter and shorter as we spend more talent points – is not very appealing, and would create problems for scaling with haste on gear and particularly with the usefulness of big cooldowns like Heroism. However we do expect to see lower overall haste levels in Cataclysm due to less gear ilevel inflation.
Turning Lightning Overload into something that affects all our spells and is passive to the tree is unexpected and cool. I wonder if we’ll still get any talents specifically boosting it? It’s long been one of our signature effects and most fun passive abilities – my guildies call it the MOAR LIGHNING!!1 talent.
Spirit-to-hit conversion we already knew about, and I think it’s a fairly elegant way of handling the caster mail issue. Let’s just hope that haste and crit are a bit closer in their relative values for both caster specs in Cataclysm.
I don’t want to talk about this at length here and it wasn’t technically part of the class preview. But I will mention that my feelings are basically very simple if a little contradictory:
- I’m pleased at the direction the dispel game seems to be heading in.
- I’m very sad indeed to be losing the ability to cleanse poisons and diseases.
The latter is mostly a flavour issue more than anything else, but curing toxins is a deeply inbuilt part of who or what shamans are right now. Cleansing totem has been, frankly, a bit overpowered for most of WoW’s life and seeing it disappear entirely isn’t really surprising. I recognise the potential of the changes to the dispel game so, assuming Blizzard get it right (and they’ve got a pretty good record!), I’m totally prepared to welcome the change and look forward to more fun, interesting encounters as a result – and, hopefully, more flexibility in the 10-man raid team combined with safeguarding against “mechanics decay” when scaling down from 25-player design. (e.g. Noth-10 vs. Noth-25 – the curse goes from being crucial to cleanse in 25-mode to being merely beneficial to cleanse in 10-mode, because Blizzard could not reasonably expect every 10-man raid team to have a decurser (caster druid, mage or resto shaman). Contrast Lich King 10 with Lich King 25, where you must have someone able to remove diseases in the raid even for the 10-player format or you are utterly screwed.)
Overall my primary impression is relief, because there doesn’t seem to be anything hinted at which risks changing the class to the point where I might stop loving it so much. I was (and, to a degree, will remain) rather concerned about this after seeing BM hunters, shadow priests, affliction warlocks and feral druids become – to me personally – unrecognisable upon certain expansion transitions.
What’s more, some of our biggest concerns are being addressed or, at least, acknowledged again – which is very encouraging.
I’m just really confused that no mention has been made of Lava Burst. OK sure, it’s a lot better now than it used to be, but it’s still basically a Problem in my mind. With PvP health pools getting bigger we can hope that its burstyness will no longer be a concern, giving more room for tweaking the spell in PvE – but I’d really really like to see the automatic crit thing disappear, or at least to see the spell benefit from crit in some way. After all, a third of our mastery bonus is going to go towards “crit” – if that’s “chance to crit” rather than “size of crit” (which I realise is by no means a safe assumption) then it’d be silly to leave out Lava Burst.
So that’s where I am right now. What about you folks? What do you make of all this – what are your first impressions, gut feelings, things you’re looking forward to or things you’re dreading? Am I right to be worried about Lava Burst?
IMPORTANT UPDATE: What, no more sentry totem?!?! NOOOOOOOOOOOO