With Cataclysm looming ever larger on the horizon – I’d be surprised if we don’t see it around November/December time – the series on how primary stats work for elemental finally gets around to the less important stats. Except they’re actually really important, and will get more so when Cataclysm launches. Wait, what?
No, that’s not a way of trying to make the following post seem more interesting than it really is – although mana regeneration is still really important for elemental shamans, the current raid game is structured so that we get all we need passively without having to gear or plan for it. The only people who really have to worry about mana regen is raid leaders. Even our tier 1 mana saving talent, Convection, is mostly ignored by raiding builds because we simply don’t need the extra mana (see the analysis of mana saving talents in the TTT for more).
Yet we still see the three stats – Intellect, Spirit and MP5 - appearing on a huge amount of gear that looks attractive to us, especially if we’re limited in what content we have access to. Today I’ll break down how valuable or otherwise they are, what lengths we should go to in order to avoid them, and take a quick peek at how they’ll be affecting us after patch 4.x, with some tips on how a bit of forethought now can help you be better equipped when Cataclysm does finally launch.
Given what we know about real shamanism, spirit should be our go-to stat… except I don’t think it’s really talking about that sort of “spirit”. I presume the game reference is more along the lines of something akin to, um, pizazz, verve… uh, morale? That sort of thing. Rather than, y’know, spirits. “Lifting your spirits” spirits rather than “commune with the spirits” spirits (and “I could really use a strong spirit right now” is right out, unless you’re a dwarf in which case it’s probably right in).
Spirit’s a blue stat when it comes to gemming and is one of the five so-called primary stats – the others being Agility, Intellect, Stamina and Strength - so is affected by Blessing of Kings and similar buffs.
Other classes have talents which affect the benefit they gain from Spirit, but shamans don’t – all we get is the baseline, which is some mana regeneration in combat but only if we’ve not cast a spell for 5 seconds. This “5-second rule” means that the average elemental shaman is going to get almost zero use out of spirit in any fight ever because of the Always Be Casting rule. The best we can hope for is the odd phase transition or relaxing period of bone spikage when a few ticks kick in. However, the strength of those ticks is dramatically less than it once was because prior to patch 3.1 it was determined that healer druids and priests were being encouraged to stop casting for more than 5 seconds whenever possible to try and get a kick of that super duper outside-five-second-rule mana regen before they started casting again.
So, if we’re casting spells and in-combat, spirit does precisely nothing for an elemental shaman. Nothing whatsoever. No-thing. Zip, zilch, nada. Spirit is almost totally wasted on us.
Unfortunately, the way items are designed and distributed in-game doesn’t always give us the ability to choose between an item with spirit – which is useless – and without. Sometimes items with spirit on are simply the best available to us for a while. There’s no shame in taking something with spirit (Freudian slip: I typo’ed “shame” as “shaman” and only caught it while proofreading) on it. However spirit is quite valuable for healer druids and priests especially, as well as for warlocks and mages – so be sensitive when considering a spirit item that’s technically an upgrade for you when in competition against another player.
MP5 is a wonderful and simple stat, as it does exactly what it says on the tin – you get the stated amount of mana every 5 seconds. Nothing affects the benefit we get from the stat, it’s always exactly as much mana as it says it’ll be. MP5 is also a blue stat on gems, and because our resto brethren quite like a bit of it now and again, it quite often appears on mail gear, one-handed weapons and shields.
It’s (hopefully) common knowledge that elemental is one of the most mana efficient caster DPS specs in the game, thanks to the low mana cost of our spells, the Clearcasting mechanic combined with our frequent crits, and the lack of any real way to regain serious amounts of mana on demand. Even if you use Chain Lightning a lot, chances are you won’t go out of mana quickly in a raid environment. Without any CL use, ZAP! tells me that I’ll go out of mana in just under 10 minutes of constant casting, without any water shield procs or pots or anything. With really aggressive CL use even during Heroism/EM, I’ve still got three and a half minutes of chain casting time before I run dry.
Mana’s not really a problem, is what I’m saying.
Because we so rarely need any extra mana regen, MP5 is for all intents another junk stat, just like spirit. However it does have the redeeming feature that, unlike spirit, it actually grants us reliable mana regeneration.
Most of our MP5 comes from buffs. Our own Mana Spring or a Paladin’s Blessing of Wisdom grants us between 91 and 110 MP5 depending on talents. Our own Water Shield spell grants us another 100 MP5. And our Unrelenting Storm talent functionally turns 12% of our intellect into MP5.
In most raid fights, MP5 on gear will be utterly irrelevant to the elemental shaman, and just as with spirit, the consideration we have to focus on is what other stats are on the gear with MP5 and what other options are available to us. On the rare occasions when something goes really wrong and we end up spamming heals or half the raid is dead we might get a sliver of extra casting time from our MP5, but that’s not really enough justification to start gearing for it – especially as we have Thunderstorm and Water Shield orb procs to tide us over if things are going badly.
(Water Shield orbs are, by the way, another significant source of regen in many raid fights, granting 400 mana each time we get hit by most AoE or RSTS effects.)
Some folks use Spellpower/MP5 gems to meet their Chaotic Skyflare’s blue gem requirement instead of Spellpower/Stamina. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but in most cases you’re more likely to die from not having enough stamina than you are to wipe because you ran out of mana.
Intellect is a yellow stat and grants 15 mana for each point we have. Being a primary stat like spirit, it’s boosted by Blessing of Kings, and we even have a talent which increases it by 10%. Pretty much every single piece of gear we get will have intellect on it, so it’s not a stat we have to go out of our way to find. Because of this, we have loads of intellect without having to worry about gemming or enchanting for it.
As well as increasing the size of our mana pool, intellect also provides a small benefit to our crit chance as well as the MP5 we just mentioned from Unrelenting Storm. But it’s the mana pool part which is important, because the most significant source of our mana regen in WotLK comes from the sheer size of a shaman’s mana pool. This is, of course, Replenishment:
Replenishment: 1% of your maximum mana every 5 seconds.
Our 51-point talent crutch regen is also based on our total mana pool:
Thunderstorm: 5% of your (maximum) mana (8% with glyph).
If we happen to somehow be in a group with a resto shaman, same principle applies to Mana Tide:
Mana Tide Totem: 6% of total mana every 3 seconds for 12 seconds.
Replenishment is the single largest source of mana regen in WotLK and will be worth around 300 MP5 to the average-geared elemental shaman – that’s equivalent to BoW, Water Shield and Judgement of Wisdom put together.
So, factoring in Ancestral Knowledge, each point of intellect is worth:
- 16.5 extra maximum mana
- …which is also 0.165 MP5 with replenishment.
- 0.132 MP5 from Unrelenting Storm
- 0.0066% crit chance
Scaling all that up a bit, if you have a rather conservative 1500 intellect from gear and raid buffs (before Ancestral Knowledge), then you’re also getting:
- 24440 extra mana pool (the first 20 points of intellect only gives 1 mana)
- 244.4 MP5 from replenishment (plus another 44 from base mana)
- 198 MP5 from Unrelenting Storm
- 9.89% crit chance
As you can see, the benefit from an individual point of intellect is really small, so small that it’s not worth taking over another stat like spellpower or haste. This is why we never ever gem for intellect, it’s simply nowhere near worth it instead of the stats we could have instead. However, all the intellect we get anyway on our gear and from buffs adds up into a great big huge whack of benefit.
Interestingly, this is all changing with patch 4.0, because in Cataclysm intellect is becoming our spellpower stat. We’ll still have spellpower on weapons, but now instead of having it on gear we’ll have just intellect. 1 intellect = 1 spellpower, so that’s nice and easy to understand.
Because intellect is becoming so much more powerful to casters, the way it interacts with other talents and buffs is being tweaked also. We’ll get less innate crit from intellect and mana regen is being nerfed across the board so that healers won’t have infinite amounts of it. As for us elementals, we’re getting a new mana regen toy in the form of Rolling Thunder. As well as getting us to change from Water Shield to Lightning Shield for raids, this is a 60% chance to regain 2% of our maximum mana every time we hit with LB or CL (and yes, it can proc multiple times off a single CL that hits multiple targets).
Though we’re also losing the regen/mana savings of Unrelenting Storm, Shamanistic Focus and Ancestral Knowledge (though Convection and Thunderstorm are still around), the intent is that DPS casters don’t have to worry too much about mana so it’s unlikely we’ll want to gear for more of it…
…which is just as well, because MP5 is disappearing as a stat anyway. Everything that presently has MP5 on it will have spirit instead, and elemental shamans get a talent to convert spirit to hit. This means that in Cataclysm, suddenly we’ll be wanting (and getting, whether we like it or not!) gear with spirit on it. If the plan to have higher tier raid bosses require more hit goes through, then we’ll be needing more and more spirit as the game progresses.
The dynamics of spirit mana regen are also changing, with the 5-second rule gone and instead replaced with out of combat/in combat rules and healers getting talents to allow regen in combat instead of while casting. There’s actually already an in combat/out of combat rule regarding spirit’s effect on health regeneration – you regen health out of combat based on your spirit – but that effect is so small that I imagine few people really notice it’s even there.
Mail, Mastery and Reforging
Two other salient points regarding Cataclysm and the regen stats: these are Mail mastery and Reforging.
Mail mastery is really important to be aware of if you’re presently using cloth and leather items in some slots. This is totally normal because many of present our best-in-slot items are cloth or leather. However, come patch 4.x, we’ll get a 5% bonus to our intellect from wearing entirely mail gear (excluding necks/rings/cloaks/trinkets/weapons/etc). That’s a 5% boost to the spellpower we gain from our gear (excluding weapon), which is huge. Wearing even a single piece of leather or cloth will break that bonus.
The problem at present is that the mail gear that there is, is generally not itemised well for us, having MP5 and haste at best or MP5 and crit at worst. In Cataclysm, the MP5 will convert to spirit, which will in turn convert to hit; meanwhile, we’ll lose the hit buffs from the draenei racial and from Shadowpriest/Moonkin talents, so we’ll probably need extra hit anyway.
This means that if you want to be prepared for levelling through the first few zones of Cataclysm, or even just for raiding for the window of time between patch 4.0 and the release of Cataclysm, you should aim to get hold of mail pieces to fill any leather/cloth slots even if they have MP5 on them. Now, I’m not suggesting we all go out and make healers cry by stealing their loots – just grab what’s going to be sharded anyway.
In addition to this, Reforging will allow us to take 40% of a non-primary stat on any piece of our gear and change it into something else. The primary stats which can’t be reforged are Agility, Intellect, Stamina and Strength… but NOT spirit. That’s right – we can reforge to or from spirit. This is great because it allows us to balance our hit more precisely, but it also means that we can take gear which presently has suboptimal stats and get more use out of them in Cataclysm. It also means that if we end up with way more than we need for levelling, we can reforge some of our spirit/hit into stats which are more appealing – which would presumably be haste or mastery, depending on how those math out.
- Don’t gem for Intellect, Spirit or MP5 – at least until Cataclysm!
- Gear with MP5 and spirit is rarely ideal for us, but sometimes it’s the best option available – don’t be ashamed to wear it if you’re sure it’s worthwhile.
- While soloing, PvPing or doing instances, your mana mileage may vary. If raiding isn’t your game bear in mind you may have more mana concerns than a raider.
- Prepare for Cataclysm by making sure to have mail options available for all your slots, even if they have MP5 on them.
That’s probably it for the stats posts, as I’m not sure how much I could usefully say about spellpower other than “it’s awesome, get loads of it”.