Elemental, Meta, Shaman, Spreadsheet, Theorycraft, WoW

Updates & Questions

Blogging backlog has built up astonishingly quickly this week because of the sheer number of things to discuss regarding patch 3.3.  Most of these are in the form of questions folk have been asking about things like the new Fire Nova spell, the new Shattered Ice relic, tier 9 and 10 set bonuses, the existence or otherwise of haste caps, and so on.  There are also some relevant site updates and a bit of meta to talk about.

Updates first, then I’ll move on to answering some questions.


Elemental Guides

Some of the questions I’ve been asked (though I’ll answer them below too) can hopefully be answered by the elemental guides already on the blog.  The following have been updated to patch 3.3:

The Crit vs Haste, Chain Lightning and Waiting for Lava Burst features could use some tweaking but contain nothing misleading or wrong for patch 3.3.

Spreadsheet & Trinkets

Lots of folk have been asking about the value of the new trinkets released in patch 3.3, so I’ve rushed out the new release of the ZAP! spreadsheet featuring all the trinkets I could find.  It’s now available for download and the user guide should be up-to-date also.  For a full list of changes and stuff, check out the thread on EJ.

One thing I didn’t do was just add any trinket that grants any stat we could conceivably use, as the list would be huge and would contain many healer or even physical DPS trinkets.  If you want to know the value of, say, Sliver of Pure Ice, just use the Compare Things Thingy and enter the amount of spellpower it grants.  It’s that simple!

A sliver of meta

Without wishing to make a big deal of it, the reason I started this blog was because it was something to do while a lot of the rest of my life was put on hold because of illness.  However the same thing that gives me a lot of time leaves me with very little energy.  If that makes sense.  Christmas is a very busy season in my family, and I have no idea how much energy I’ll have left for blogging once all the essentials of the season are accounted for.  I may have plenty and be able to write all the stuff I’d like to!  Or I may have none, and updates could end up being few and far between.  So if the holidays do stretch on with no posts or updates, don’t worry – I won’t abandon the blog (or WoW).

And on a totally unrelated note, I found out this week that Rahana, the author of Blueberry Totem, has moved with his guild to the same server I play on!  Apparently it really is a small world after all.  So that’s pretty cool, and (him being a resto shaman and all) I even got a chance to DPS my first heroic in weeks when we did the random dungeon the other day.

Questions & Answers

Now, on to some of the questions that folk have been asking.

Fire Nova use

Q: Is Fire Nova worth using in a normal rotation?

A: No, it is not.  It has the lowest co-efficient of any of our spells and the same effective cast time as our shocks, Chain Lighting and Lava Burst, and on a single target this makes it our lowest DPS spell.  It also has a very high mana cost.  Even when we need to cast an instant-spell due to movement, it’s better to cast Flame Shock or Frost Shock.

Q: Is it ever worth using Fire Nova on a single target?

A: Yes it can be, provided:

  • your fire totem is in range of a target and
  • your shock spells are on cooldown and
  • the only option is to use an instant cast and
  • you don’t need to refresh Water Shield, use Thunderstorm or redrop Totems soon and!
  • you have sufficient mana.

If all those conditions are met, then yes, using Fire Nova is worthwhile.  I’ve personally found that on fights with a lot of movement, Fire Nova is a valuable extra instant cast which can help fill in the gaps caused by movement or other mechanics.

Q: When should we use Fire Nova?

A: Obviously Fire Nova is an AoE spell, and it works best when there are multiple targets.  Let’s have a look at comparative damage per target for our main spells. I’ll use stats from my own gear (which is 4t9) and assume full raid buffs on everything for the sake of simplicity.

Spell DPS by number of targets
1 2 3 4
Lava Burst 11,794 11,794 11,794 11,794
Lightning Bolt 6,224 6,224 6,224 6,224
Chain Lightning 6,734 11,448 14,748 14,748
Frost Shock 4,465 4,465 4,465 4,465
Fire Nova 3,748 7,497 11,245 14,993

As you can see, with 4-piece tier 9 Lava Burst remains our highest DPS spell even when two targets are present.  When three targets are present, Chain Lightning pulls ahead.  And when four targets are present, then Fire Nova starts to come out on top.

The above table in confusing chart form.

Putting this together, we can develop a dynamic priority system depending on the number of targets there are to hit.  Given that most of our spells have cooldowns, the priority system determines which we should try to cast first, and we only go lower on the priority list if everything higher on the list is on cooldown or unable to be cast (owing to, for example, movement).

Priority for one target:

  1. Lava Burst
  2. (Chain Lightning – see the article for more information about using this on a single target)
  3. Lightning Bolt
  4. Frost Shock (though refreshing Flame Shock is often a better option)
  5. Fire Nova

Priority for two targets (with 4t9):

  1. Lava Burst
  2. Chain Lightning
  3. Lightning Bolt
  4. Fire Nova

Priority for three targets:

  1. Chain Lightning
  2. Lava Burst
  3. Fire Nova
  4. Lightning Bolt

Priority for four or more targets:

  1. Fire Nova
  2. Chain Lightning
  3. Lava Burst
  4. Lightning Bolt

So once we reach four targets, Fire Nova becomes our priority, but for two or three targets Chain Lightning should always be cast if possible even if Fire Nova is off cooldown.  Lava Burst remains our highest DPS spell even if there are two targets present.

Q: Should we glyph for Fire Nova?

A: No.  The only exception would be for a true AoE fight, say perhaps Anub’arak 25-heroic.

Q: Should we spec for Improved Fire Nova?

A: I do recommend it, as the two points will likely come out of Convection or Improved Ghost Wolf, neither of which are particularly useful for most elementals.  But your mileage may vary (YMMV).

The new tier 10 totem

Q: Should we get our new Bizuri’s Totem of Shattered Ice as soon as possible or are emblems better spent on other things?

A: Emblems are definitely better spent on other things, including tier 10 and, depending on your progression path, possibly other emblem gear such as the belt or gloves.  The totem is a very small upgrade from Electrifying Wind and not worth spending our scarce Emblems of Frost on until we’ve already got the items which are bigger upgrades.

Tier 9 and 10 set bonuses

Q: Is the tier 9 4-piece set bonus worthwhile anymore?

A: Yes it most definitely is.  While it’s worth about 45% less DPS than it was before – say, 130 instead of 230 – it’s still enough DPS to make it worth using the four-piece until dramatically higher ilevel options are available to you.

Q: When is it worth breaking the tier-9 4-piece?

A: It’s probably worth breaking for 2-piece tier 10 assuming you’ve got ilevel 232 or 245 pieces of tier 9 to replace.  The extra DPS from tier 10’s higher stats, plus the gain from the 2-piece bonus, should offset the loss of the tier 9 4-piece.  Using 2-piece tier 9 with 2-piece tier 10 would be sensible to start with.

Q: Should we aim for the tier 10 4-piece?

A: I can’t really say for sure yet as, without being able to try the bonus in-game, all we have to go on are theorycrafted guesstimates of its effectiveness.  Early suggestions are that tier 10’s 4-piece bonus will be extremely situational and could be worth as little as 30 or as much as 100 DPS, depending on (sigh) your haste value and rotation choices.

Combined with the fact that two pieces of tier 10 – the gloves and legs – are rather poorly itemised with crit instead of haste, this may mean that higher ilevel off-set pieces are better choices for these slots.  The question then is whether the combined stat benefits from these off-set pieces, combined with what you buy with the extra Emblems of Frost you’ll save from not buying tier 10, are enough to make up the DPS you miss out on from not having the 4-piece bonus.

At this stage my advice is: aim for the 2-piece tier 10 bonus, and plan to get the chest, shoulders and helm – but reserve judgement on the legs and gloves until we have more evidence.

On haste caps

Q: Does the way haste stacks not make new Elemental Mastery worse than the old one if you’ve got a lot of haste?

A: No.  Haste stacks multiplicatively, which means that the more you have the more you get from each additional effect (for the same per-point overall DPS increase).  The new haste-flavoured Elemental Mastery is demonstrably better for our DPS than the crit-flavoured version, but the way we use it has had to change slightly and will take some getting used to.

Q: Is there a haste “soft-cap” where getting more haste does nothing?

A: Yes.  This is 100% haste, or 3280 haste rating.  You will not reach this cap in normal situations.  With Bloodlust and full raid buffs, you might start to scrape against this cap at 1386 haste rating – but as this affects such a small portion of every fight, it’s not really significant.  And you won’t hit it with Elemental Mastery until about 2000 haste rating.

Q: Is there a point at which crit becomes better than haste?

A: Basically, no.  Crit rating doesn’t start to get better than haste rating until you have a constant 70% haste, or close to 2000 haste rating, and even then the difference is tiny.

Q: I’ve heard that haste is rubbish once Chain Lightning and Lava Burst reach a 1-second cast time, is this true?

A: It’s utter poppycock, total nonsense, entirely unfounded piffle.  Yes, haste experiences a reduction in its per-next-point effectiveness of about 20% once we reach 50% constant haste, which is when CL and LvB reach their minimum GCD-capped cast times of one second.  However at this point:

  • Haste rating is still significantly better than crit rating
  • Haste and spellpower socket bonuses are still worth socketing Reckless gems for
  • More haste from any source – be it rating, buff or temporary effect – is still a significant real-terms DPS increase

Thus nothing about our gearing strategy changes at this point.

This 50% figure is achieved with 1269 haste and full raid buffs.  And all the 1269 points of haste we already have are just as valuable as they were previously, it’s only additional points of haste rating which suffer the 20% reduction in per-point effectiveness – which, as I must stress very strongly, leaves haste rating still more valuable than crit rating and changes nothing for our gear strategy.

Q: Are there “magic” haste numbers to aim for?

A: No.  Do not gear for specific haste values.  For almost all haste values the highest DPS is obtained by chain-casting Lightning spells until Lava Burst is ready to be cast, without at any point stopping casting to wait for its cooldown to expire.  The only exception to this is when Lava Burst comes off cooldown a fraction of a second (about 0.15 seconds or less, actually) after a Lightning spell finishes casting, in which case to maximise DPS it’d be better to change your Chain Lightning use to eliminate the gap and “tighten up” the rotation.

Please, please, please do not gear to “perfectly” fit a specific number of Lightning spells between Lava Burst cooldowns.  The gear gymnastics this will require will almost certainly be less DPS than simply picking gear with the highest amounts of spellpower, haste and crit and socketing for spellpower and, for good socket bonuses, spellpower and haste combined.  And the effort will be entirely wasted when anything at all interrupts your rotation even slightly.

This is a question I see almost daily on various shaman forums and the amount of misinformation which is applied to them is upsetting.  I seriously believe that half the elemental shaman enquirers who read such threads go away thinking they have to reach a specific haste value to be any good, which is so untrue it makes me cry a little.

Anyway!  I hope patch 3.3 is treating everyone well!  I actually have some mildly amusing stories to share (though doubtless not as amusing as Righteous Orbs – that blog is so refreshing to read when you’re stressed) when I get around to it.

  1. Chain Lightning
  2. Lava Burst
  3. Fire Nova
  4. Lightning Bolt


10 thoughts on “Updates & Questions

  1. I know it’s un-classy to leave a comment of fawning praise, but please allow me to leave my extreme thanks for the incredible amount of time you clearly put into supplying the regular folk like me with theory crafting we can understand. I only recently discovered you via EJ and your signature links, and have subsequently found literally every answer I would scour EJ for hours for – navigating babble, confusing false information, and people who know the facts but are incapable of answering questions without using the most succinct and often uninlighteningly elitist language to be…well…elistist jerks.

    I must comment now because I have been concerned with haste topics for quite some time (all this haste gear being given us, I have 1100 constant haste in raid, it’s something I wanted to really understand about our class) but was never really satisfied with tidbits of info. However, here you have clarified everything from how it works, to the important haste rating markers to be aware of (i.e. at what points will be become fully GCD capped, without buffs, with buffs, with BL, with EM, etc.) that I just couldn’t find clear answers for anywhere else.

    Anyways, please forgive the lengthy comment, and thank you again!

    Posted by Acariel - Shu'Halo | December 16, 2009, 7:10 pm
  2. Thanks for that about the totem. I knew conventional wisdom would prevail! 😉

    Posted by Tahas | December 16, 2009, 10:46 pm
  3. Another happy reader here. I recently moved from enhancement to elemental as my dps spec, and was floundering for a bit. Your guides have done a ton of good – I’m contributing more and more to my guild’s efforts, and having a blast (so to speak) at it. 🙂

    Posted by Ceri B. | December 17, 2009, 3:36 am
  4. I’m the odd-shaman out of this gaggle, as my specs are Resto (main) and Enhancement (off). I’d probably do a lot less hair pulling if I just went Resto-Elemental, since there is some gear overlap, but I like to melee.

    That being said, my Resto self loves the new Fire Nova spell. One thing I find myself doing frequently is dropping a Magma totem on large pulls just to help burn things down. As long as things are looking sane, it’s pretty easy to use a GCD every once in a while to fire off the Nova. In any normal dungeon run, 80% of the time I’m acting as DPS number 3.5 since Earth Shield mitigates most of the tank’s life loss, so the extra damage on large pulls is really appreciated.

    As Enhancement, I’m generally tossing out Chain Lightning as soon as Maelstrom weapon hits 5, if it’s off-cooldown, and Fire Nova is an excellent option if CH is unavailable and I’m waiting for Lava Lash or Stormstrike to queue up. If you fire off the Nova right after you drop the totem, you can easily get two blasts out of a magma totem before it fades.

    Keep up the good work. You might yet convert me to the Elemental side.

    Posted by Shatterhoof | December 17, 2009, 12:22 pm
  5. Thanks for the kind comments! While I really do value (and seek) criticism and constructive disagreement, there’s something very cosy and warm about comments of “fawning praise” which is much appreciated.

    @Shatterhoof: Indeed, my first experiences of Fire Nova were in healing places like CoS, where the ability to instantly flambé zombies trying to get a mouthful of blue venison was very welcome. It’s taking a lot more getting used to as Elemental, especially with the extra totem placement considerations.

    Posted by Charles | December 19, 2009, 2:53 pm
  6. Just a quick question C, you wouldn’t happen to know whether the Black Magic weapon enchant is any good for general use over +63 spellpower?

    Posted by Tran | December 19, 2009, 6:03 pm
    • Not really! Though they can be pretty close on paper, spellpower is just a more robust choice for pretty much every situation, from soloing to heroic dungeon trash to raid bosses.

      Posted by Charles | December 19, 2009, 6:26 pm
      • Black magic enchant equals to 71 haste .Given the fact 2 tier10 pieces give crit and not haste I would go for black magic instead of the sp enchant.Btw how good in terms of DEP is our 4pc t10 bonus ?

        Posted by aLex | December 21, 2009, 1:07 pm
      • @aLex: Your estimate of the equivalent haste of Black Magic is a little bit out, actually. But I just posted on the Black Magic thing, so hooray!

        But to answer your question, there’s no need to try and keep a certain amount of haste. If a piece has crit and no haste and a sufficient combination of superior ilevel and set bonuses, it’s still an upgrade even if you lose some haste. If you then start socketing for haste or swapping to haste enchants, you’re just costing yourself DPS unnecessarily for absolutely no gain whatsoever. There’s simply no point from a DPS point of view in switching to Black Magic, ever.

        As for 4t10: The post above does actually talk about the DEP of tier 10 – remember that DEP stands for “Damage Equivalency Points” or, more accurately, “DPS Equivalency Points”. The DEP of 4t10 can range from very low (~30) to moderate (~100), and seems to average at about 65. That’s low enough that it might be worth taking better itemised non-set pieces for the gloves and legs slots rather than trying to scoop the 4-piece bonus. But as I say above, the jury is still out on this.

        Posted by Charles | December 21, 2009, 7:24 pm
  7. Thank you for your thorough reply .My choice was based on some target dummy testing and ofc on a static fight black magic is superior.
    I’m really disappointed at our 4pc bonus,compared to other casters’ dps set bonuses it’s ridiculous the very least.I think I’m gonna go for 2t9 and 2t10 for a long time.

    Posted by aLex | December 21, 2009, 11:40 pm

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