Elemental, Shaman, Theorycraft, WoW

Elemental: Glyphs

Current to patch 3.3.3.

Today we’re taking a look at our range of glyph choices, their “normal” value, and some of the factors that can influence our decision to use them. I won’t cover the reagent removal glyphs, as they’re pretty self-explanatory.

Major Glyphs

Glyph of Lightning Bolt
Increases the damage dealt by Lightning Bolt by 4%.

A 4% modifier applied to the final damage of Lightning Bolt, applied after co-efficients and stacking additively with Concussion. Testing has shown that it also affects Lightning Overload LBs. Effectively a 4% boost to over 60% of our damage.

Gains value: Any fight that involves standing in one place doing maximum DPS will inflate the value of this glyph. Any fight that involves unusual modifiers to crit chance or spell haste will inflate the value of this glyph.
Loses value: The more an encounter requires you to move, the less your lowest-priority spell gets cast and thus the less effect this glyph has compared to others. Any encounter that requires AoE DPS reduces the value of this glyph.

Recommendation: On paper our strongest glyph, and even in fights with reduced LB casting it is still very valuable. So valuable as to make it our absolute top glyph in almost all circumstances. Definitely take this.

Glyph of Totem of Wrath
When you cast Totem of Wrath, you gain 30% of the totem’s bonus spell power for 5 min.

For our max rank ToW, this is an 84 spellpower boost – nothing more, nothing less. Spellpower is our most valuable stat (when hit-capped) and it affects all of our damage spells. Note that the buff is gained upon casting Totem of Wrath; it doesn’t matter what you do afterwards, the buff will still persist for the next 5 minutes no matter what Fire Totem you have or have not got down. You can get a rough sense of its DPS value by 84 * Spellpower’s DEP.

Gains value: Any fight that reduces the value of any our other glyphs increases the value of this one, as it affects all our spells and not just a small selection. It responds strongly to fights involving lots of movement as well as fights involving unusual buffs to crit or haste. Using Searing or Magma totem also increases its value.
Loses value: Because spellpower enhances all of our damage – even our fire totems – this glyph remains strong in all situations.

Recommendation: Our second best glyph after Lightning Bolt, even if we have to use a global cooldown to refresh it mid-fight while dropping searing/magma. Definitely take this.

Glyph of Lava
Your Lava Burst spell gains an additional 10% of your spellpower.

This is an additive co-efficient boost that stacks with shamanism. While it’s a very good boost, it only affects one spell that we only cast every ten seconds or so. The most obvious value is that it reliably increases our on-demand burst damage.

Gains value: Any situation where your ratio of Lava Burst:Other Spells increases favours this glyph; this means situations with lots of movement might be worth using Lava for. Any situation where you have insane crit damage (not chance) modifiers boosts the value of the glyph, though not necessarily more than other glyphs.
Loses value: As Lava Burst’s percentage contribution to your overall damage lowers, so does the value of this glyph – thus it gets less valuable compared to other glyphs at higher gear levels with lots of crit and haste. AoE situations render it especially weak.

Recommendation: For general use this is a very reliable glyph choice, but not necessarily the “optimal” for every situation. It’s best for single-target fights with a bit of movement. Choose between this and Glyph of Flametongue Weapon.

Glyph of Flametongue Weapon
Increases spell critical strike chance by 2% while Flametongue Weapon is active.

This causes our Flametongue Weapon imbue the effect of granting us 2% crit as well as its spellpower bonus.

Gains value: As we gear up and get more and more haste and spellpower, crit becomes more and more valuable. It’s particularly good in situations where there are multiple targets and some potential for AoE, and for single target fights it’s strongest if no movement is involved.
Loses value: See my post on Crit vs Haste for a broader discussion of why this glyph loses value for us. Because it doesn’t affect Lava Burst, any situation which reduces the ratio of other spells:Lava Bursts will reduce the value of this glyph.

Recommendation: The problem isn’t that this glyph is bad, but that there are three other glyphs which are potentially better. It basically ties with Lava for third place. Choose between this and Glyph of Lava.

Glyph of Flame Shock
Increases the critical strike damage bonus of your Flame Shock periodic damage by 60%.

Since 3.3.3, this glyph boosts the amount of damage done by Flame Shock’s periodic critical strikes. The initial hit is unaffected. Although it starts off weak, with very high amounts of crit, haste and spellpower, this could be a contender for third glyph slot in certain situations.

Gains value: Any situation that involves us Flame Shocking multiple targets at once, any situation where our flame shock ticks while we are unable to cast.
Loses value: It’s devalued when we overwrite Flame Shock due to movement (thus delaying ticks), or to avoid clipping the Lava Burst cooldown. Any fight where we cannot keep Flame Shock ticking for any reason obviously devalues it too, as does any fight where stuff dies too quickly for Flame Shock to tick its full duration.

Recommendation: Avoid it unless you’re near the maximum gear level and are looking to experiment with maximising your damage in specific situations.

Glyph of Fire Elemental Totem
Reduces the cooldown of your Fire Elemental Totem by 5 min.

The Fire Elemental lasts two minutes and puts out somewhere in the region of 1.5k DPS on a single target. This works out as roughly 300 DPS over a 10-minute period (the length of his cooldown). Generally 10 minutes is enough to be used once per serious boss attempt. So the question of whether or not this glyph is worth using depends on:

  • Whether it’ll allow you to use the Fire Elemental when you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to and
  • Whether or not the Fire Elemental will be in range of its targets and alive for at least half of its duration

If a fight lasts seven minutes it can be worth a lot of extra damages, especially if there are multiple targets. But if a fight lasts only 5 minutes you’ve wasted a glyph slot. And if your fiery buddy gets killed or lost you’re totally screwed.

Glyph of Fire Nova
Reduces the cooldown of your Fire Nova spell by 3 seconds.

With the Improved Fire Nova talent and this glyph, your Fire Nova cooldown could be as low as 3 seconds.

Gains value: In an ideal AoE situation this would be a gain of about 500 DPS per target, minus the global cooldown you spent casting it.
Loses value: Against a single target it’s pretty much worthless and vastly outshone by the Big Four.

Recommendation: While it’s worth considering if you want to have a specialised AoE build, it will gimp you on a single target. Avoid unless you have a specific scenario in mind.

Glyph of Elemental Mastery
Reduces the cooldown of your Elemental Mastery ability by 30 sec.

Elemental Mastery is a decent PvE cooldown, but it’s simply not strong enough to justify using this glyph over the Big Four – not even with two pieces of tier 10. Unfortunately because it only reduces the base cooldown of EM, the effective cooldown reduction with 2t10 is only about 15 seconds and gets less as gear gets higher.

Gains value: With two pieces of tier 10, this glyph about doubles in value. But it’s still only about one more EM use per fight, which is not a significant DPS increase even in optimal situations.
Loses value: This glyph only suits “ideal” fight scenarios, and even then it doesn’t suit them very well.

Recommendation: Avoid it – there’s simply no contest between this and the glyphs above.

Glyph of Chain Lightning
Your Chain Lightning strikes 1 additional target.

The additional chain suffers the same diminishing damage as the first and second chain, making the damage benefit from this glyph very small: the final hit will only deal 34% of the original hit’s damage.

Gains value: Any situation that requires an absolute freakin’ maximum of ranged AoE.
Loses value: Any situation that doesn’t.

Recommendation: Again, this is a glyph that can’t really justify its existence, especially since Magma Totem was buffed to be useful AoE damage.

Glyph of Water Mastery
Increases the passive mana regeneration of your Water Shield spell by 30%.

We don’t have mana problems in PvE, and if we did, this glyph is the last way we’d think of trying to solve them. Note it does not affect the mana gained from orbs “proccing”.

Glyph of Thunder
Reduces the cooldown on Thunderstorm by 10 sec.

See above. I guess this might be useful in PvP, but we don’t need the extra mana or the extra AoE/knockback in PvE. While it might sound useful, remember that taking this prevents you taking one of the other glyphs that does actually benefit our damage output.

However, note that if you’re struggling with Deathbringer Saurfang‘s adds, it’s worth noting that the cooldown reduction afforded by this glyph will allow you to use Thunderstorm’s knock back every time he summons his Blood Beasts.  This might give you the extra time and space you need to kill them.

Glyph of Stoneclaw Totem
Your Stoneclaw Totem also places a damage absorb shield on you, equal to 4 times the strength of the shield it places on your totems.

The buff lasts 15 seconds and absorbs 4340 damage. It’s not affected by any buffs. The cooldown on Stoneclaw is 30 seconds.

Gains value: If you need to absorb 4340 damage to survive.
Loses value: If you don’t.

Recommendation: This is a glyph which could potentially be useful in very specific situations. If you really want to be prepared, you could carry a stack of these and your usual damage glyphs around with you and mix-‘n-match. However, I really can’t imagine this being a game-making deal. I mention this glyph only because it’s pretty cool even if we don’t use it.

Glyph of Shocking
Reduces the global cooldown triggered by your shock spells to 1 sec.

We use one shock spell every 18 seconds, or every 27 with 2t9. If we’re using them more often, it’s because we’re moving and there’s nothing we can do with the saved GCD time (which is, at best, only 0.5 seconds anyway). This glyph just isn’t useful for us.

Glyph of Hex
Increases the damage your Hex target can take before the Hex effect is removed by 20%.

We’re not really meant to be damaging our Hex targets in the first place. Of marginal benefit to soloing and PvP-style fights. Detrimental to our DPS as we have to sacrifice a proper major glyph to use it.

Minor Glyphs

Glyph of Water Shield
Increases the number of charges on your Water Shield spell by 1.

Not to be confused with Glyph of Water Mastery, this is simply a one orb addition to our Water Shield spell.

Gains value: A lot of random environmental / damage effects proc Water Shield and can lead to us having to refresh it mid-fight. This essentially saves you one full GCD every 12 charges of Water Shield, or allows you to not have to worry about recasting it for longer.
Loses value: If mana isn’t an issue or if Water Shield isn’t proccing.

Recommendation: I do actually recommend using this glyph, as it can benefit our DPS very, very, very slightly in certain situations by freeing up a GCD.

Glyph of Thunderstorm
Increases the mana you receive from your Thunderstorm spell by 2%, but it no longer knocks enemies back.

Not to be confused with Glyph of Thunder, this removes the knockback of Thunderstorm and increases the mana gain to 10%.

Gains value: If you want to use Thunderstorm without knocking stuff back! Or if you’re using Chain Lightning so aggressively that mana is becoming an issue, this glyph is a way to offset that without using up a major slot or gearing for mana regen.
Loses value: The big deal for this is that you lose one of the most situationally useful features of Thunderstorm.

Recommendation: I recommend not taking this. If you find yourself with a need for more mana that Convection won’t fix, you could carry around a stack of these glyphs and use them on specific fights where you’re in trouble.

Glyph of Ghost Wolf
Your Ghost Wolf form regenerates an additional 1% of your maximum health every 5 sec.

If you took Improved Ghost Wolf for your talent build, then this glyph might be for you. It heals you slightly while you’re in ghost wolf form. Of course, you’re unlikely to be in ghost wolf form for 5 seconds in any raid fight ever, but it’s a fun little glyph to consider anyway.

Glyph of Astral Recall
Cooldown of your Astral Recall spell reduced by 7.5 min.

If we could use Astral Recall in combat, this Glyph would be pretty great for escaping wipes… Sadly we can’t, but it’s great if you love to go home a lot. I mean a lot. Get this baby with a Hearthstone and a Kirin Tor ring and you can teleport to Dalaran 12 times every hour!!


For PvE DPS there are only really four major glyphs to choose from: Lightning Bolt, Flame Shock, Totem of Wrath and Lava. Though there are some nice other glyphs, they will cost you DPS to use. There’s more flexibility in minor glyphs, as well as a choice to make over whether to glyph for Thunderstorm of not.



9 thoughts on “Elemental: Glyphs

  1. Some other minor glyphs worth noting are the ones for water walking, water breathing, and Reincarnation, each glyph making it’s respective spell not require a reagent. Having all 3 of those frees up ~6 inventory spots. The Reincarnate glyph also insures that your raid won’t have “that shaman” that goes to pop, only to go “lol I don’t have ne moar ankhz”. I like having the utility of the water breathing/walking spells available without having to farm old world reagent mats (neither of which drop in Northrend, so it’s almost like they expect shaman to have these 2 glyphs).

    I can say in 3ish years of playing a shaman, “that shaman” was never me. 😛

    Posted by Kazgrel | October 26, 2009, 7:47 pm
  2. I recently got the 4 set bonus, and am umming and I am vacilitating over the Lava Glyph, as we run 25 mans with 2 (sometimes 3) elemental shamans and I get a little tired of totem twisting.

    For Lava, this occurs at around about 3.2k spellpower with the tier 9 4-piece set bonus or 4k without.

    This seems to contradict ZAP at the moment. I put in my ‘stats’ and the Lava=ToW number came out at 3.8k with the 4 set t9 bonus. I have approximately 3044 spell power raid buffed, and am running with Sundial/Abyssal rune. Do my trinkets make up the missing ‘difference’ there?

    Posted by pewter | November 25, 2009, 12:41 pm
    • I wrote this article before I finished ZAP!, and at the time the accepted figure quoted by the community was always 3.2k, based on SEIC’s maths.

      There were a couple of minor things slightly undervaluing ToW in SEIC at the time (crit chance was 5% lower than it should have been and LO couldn’t crit), but the biggest difference is that it shipped with “Cast Delay” set to 150. ZAP! ships with “Cast Delay” set to 0. The higher the cast delay, the fewer LBs/CLs/etc you cast compared to Lava Bursts, and thus the higher Glyph of Lava is valued. I personally found that I was experiencing almost no effect from the 180ms or so latency I had in-game, and that using a cast delay figure was offsetting my results in the spreadsheet. This won’t be true for everyone. And Cast Delay can be used to try and roughly simulate the effect of occasional movement or breaks in casting during a fight.

      So what’s the real threshold? Well, the answer is that it depends. It’s certainly somewhere between 3.2 and 4k spellpower. The spreadsheets can give a fairly precise estimate. I’m not sure if I should remove the figures from the glyphs guide altogether or just make it more clear how variable they are. I admit it’s slightly confusing as it is… hm.

      Edit: I’ve changed the wording slightly, should be a bit more accurate now!

      Posted by Charles | November 25, 2009, 3:50 pm
      • Thank you for the update! I’ll continue using tow for now and do some experimentations with sims/dummies and raids over the next few weeks. All changes soon anyways, so I suspect it’s not a make or break for my personal dps at this time.

        Posted by pewter | November 25, 2009, 3:58 pm
  3. Hey Charles, great work on the new version of ZAP! I was playing around with it a bit, and I’m quite surprised with how close our glyphs have become. I plugged my current stats, as well as 25-man raid buffs in and noticed that at my current crit level, Glyph of EM passes Glyph of Flame Shock and is on-par with (about 2 dps difference) Glyph of ToW on a single-target theoretical standpoint.

    However, the next gear swap I make with emblems will net me about 90 more crit, which puts Glyph of FS back up at 2nd and EM/ToW glyphs roughly tied for third.

    Finally, in my pre-heroic BiS gear set, Glyphs of ToW and FS both pass EM again (although not by much). Hooray for being a Scribbler and able to make my own glyphs 🙂

    Ultimately, though, it looks like until BiS gear levels, we have three glyphs within 10 or so dps of each other for two slots (various fights will adjust each one’s value, of course), then near BiS levels, Glyph of FS becomes a staple again, and then we have two glyphs that are quite close with each other for that third slot.

    It’s quite interesting to see that we no longer have exactly 3 glyphs that should be used, but rather as our gear changes, we have a bit more freedom in glyph selection (for two slots at least) with a largely minimal dps change.

    Posted by Shkarn | January 31, 2010, 12:07 pm
    • I’ve spent all my math-energy getting the new version into a (nearly) releasable state and don’t have anything left to actually play around with it just yet 😦 But what you describe does seem possible with your specific gear setup. Which is very interesting (if the spreadsheet isn’t telling LIES).

      Have you considered posting your findings on EJ?

      (Another interesting thing to me is that Glyph of Lava is going from being a serious contender for third glyph in some scenarios to just falling dramatically behind.)

      Posted by Charles | January 31, 2010, 12:33 pm
      • I’ve thought about posting that on EJ, but I’m having a hard time coming up with a way to say it that doesn’t just sound like me rambling or “blogging”! Relating to my previous post, though, I also think it’s interesting how trinkets, CL use, and fight duration drastically affect the glyphs we should be using as well.

        For example, using Abyssal Rune, regardless of how much CL use I have, Glyph of EM gets ranked lower than both FS and ToW, however if I swap back to Illustration and select CL use after LvB, Glyph of EM jumps up past FS.

        Now, if we finally have a DFO drop this week and I snag it, there is no change in relative glyph value when comparing with Illustration, however if it fails to drop yet again, and a Spyglass finally drops next weekend and I snag it, Glyph of FS shoots up to 2nd again, passing both EM and ToW just due to the crit gain.

        Also, I noticed that Glyph of Lava thing, too – it’s really dropped in value. I wasn’t able to create a setup that pushes Lava back up to comparable (granted, I didn’t try too hard yet).

        Posted by Shkarn | February 1, 2010, 1:00 am
      • I’ve got 2 sets of gear at the moment, a t9 4pc set bonus set, with 2914 sp and 1010 haste (and about 29% crit), and a t10 2pc/t9 2pc bonus set with 2958sp, 958 haste and and 32% crit.

        In the 4pct9 set, Lava still comes out stronger than EM. I have a large dislike for glyph of tow, and feel that the dps difference is probably made up for me by the fact I don’t have to fiddle around with keeping the buff refreshed, and using GCD on recasting. A really on-it shaman with great frame rates and no lag is going benefit from tow more, of course.

        On a test dummy, with each set, the strongest at an average of 5.2k dps (tow totem, no other raid buffs) was lava glyph+t9 4pc.

        The second strongest was EM glyph + 2pc t10/2pc t9

        The weakest was Lava glyph + 2pc t10/2pc t9.

        Currently my haste is such that I find it better to leave CL out of my rotation almost entirely, except for the occasional deadspace in my rotation. As soon as you drop 4pc t9, lava definitely falls behind as I noticed a large drop in my dps despite getting 4 upgrades.

        Posted by pewter | February 1, 2010, 9:12 am
  4. Keep in mind that in a raid setting (assuming you have all the haste buffs you can get), your 2 T10/2 T9 with Glyph of EM will perform better than self-buffed against a target dummy due to the increased uptime of EM from the additional haste.

    How does the new version of ZAP! rate 4 T9 + Glyph Lava compared to 2/2 + Glyph EM when you include all the raid buffs you get, and do you think those results make sense with what you see in practice?

    Posted by Shkarn | February 1, 2010, 7:06 pm

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