Enhancement in 5.0.4, don’t panic!

With the official Shaman forums in an uproar about various things, I wanted to say something very simple.

Relax. =)

Don’t panic.

As is expected, with 5.0.4 the Shaman class received some changes.  We also gained some things, but it’s easy to focus on what we lost because we’ll notice it quicker than seeing the benefits of what we’ve gained.

You can see nearly all of the Enhancement related changes in Mists here, an overview of the new talent system here, and glyphs here.

In this post I’ll focus on addressing some concerns and what we need to know between now and Mists of Pandaria launch, rather than what we need to know after.

“OMGWTF BLIZZ NO TOTEM BAR SUCKS”
Yep.  Though you can still have a totem bar with several addons, the real drawback is the loss of the “Call of the Elements/Ancestors/Spirits” spells and not the totem bar itself.  These calls were added largely as a convenience spell for PvE Shaman halfway through Wrath of the Lich King.  Moving 20 yards to only have to re-drop four totems once you got there one at a time was a real drag, so the totem bar was a welcome addition.  It did, however, also accompany the rise of Restoration Shamans to dominance in a ranked PvP setting, where they’ve remained until the present.  While that wasn’t the only contributing factor, it is a significant one, and likely a large part of the decision to remove the Call spells.

So why nerf Enhancement and Elemental because Restoration was dominant?  Well, chances are, if Restoration was reduced in power to a point where it’s preferable to take another healer, Enhancement and Elemental would become much more attractive in organized, rated PvP play and this would very likely remain a problematic ability.  In other words, PvP balance is a much trickier topic than it looks to be on the surface, which is something I’ll be touching on in my next blog post.  No other class was able to use two to four abilities at the same time, and, well, there’s a reason for that.  I’d personally rather not be balanced around using four abilities at once.

For PvE play, this should largely have no impact.  Using a GCD once every minute to drop a Searing Totem as a Restoration Shaman is something most good ones were doing anyway.  Elemental no longer casting Healing Stream isn’t a huge loss if you account for the newly available raid healing cooldowns in Ancestral Guidance and Healing Tide Totem.  All of our buffs are carried with us as auras.  There really isn’t any reason to drop anything other than Searing Totem at the start of a fight, and having calls for your other utility totems to also drop Searing Totem isn’t a big deal either… honestly, it’s not something you’re likely to even notice in practice, and won’t have a meaningful bearing on your DPS capabilities.  This is a good post about the new totems.

“WHERE DID MY DAMAGE GO?”
A few places.  If you read the other sections of this site that I’ve linked, you’ll notice we gain a DPS ability as our new level 87 ability.  Ourselves and Rogues are the only classes to gain a noticeable amount of damage from our level 87 ability.  We’re also one of only a few classes that gains a significant source of single target damage from our level 90 talents.  There is also this bug that has arisen with our tier 13 four-piece set bonus that is causing it to no longer function, while the benefit of the two-piece has been lowered to 10%, which had to happen or else we might’ve found ourselves using it at level 90 in raids.

But honestly?  Most of our damage is still there.  Between improvements on the numbers of most of our active abilities (except Lava Lash notably) and shifts from some places to others, your damage shouldn’t have dropped much if it did at all.  So why are you doing so much less damage?

  • First, reforge your gear.  The new caps for hit and expertise are 768 for both, or a total of 1536.  Draenei need 102 less hit, Orcs with axes/fists and Dwarves with maces need 102 less Expertise, and actually getting that low will be difficult for well geared Enhancers… for now, you’ll just have to live with more of your auto attacks landing.  Don’t reforge out of Haste anymore, as it’s really very good.
  • Second, the boss level target dummies are now level 93 instead of 88.  Everyone’s damage is going to really suck against those.
  • Third, make sure you’re using Fire Elemental totem as Enhancement, it is a very serious damage boost.
  • Fourth, make sure you’ve checked your Air Totems section for Stormlash Totem and make use of it with Heroism or Bloodlust.  If you’re raiding with other Shamans, coordinate it with them.
  • Lastly, your priority has changed slightly – fire off those Lightning Bolts with Maelstrom Weapon immediately without using Lava Lash or Stormstrike ahead of them.

While we did lose a tiny amount of damage in 5.0.4, the amount isn’t as large as many are making it out to be.  Some things have changed, and after adjusting properly to those changes, most are likely to find there isn’t much difference between then and now.  Other classes have gained more, but have less to gain than we do in Mists of Pandaria.

“WHY THE FOCUS ON HEALING!!?!?!???!?
I’ve heard this complaint a lot from people who look at the new talent trees and don’t see a whole lot that is meant to improve their damage.  There’s an entire row that is for healing only.  Honestly, the new talent system was a bit jarring to those who tried it at first on beta, and is once again to players who are experiencing it for the first time on live.  Understandably, the shift in design philosophy regarding talents isn’t easily grasped without it being explained.

Talents in the old system were all yes or no questions.  Right or wrong math questions.  While I fully understand and respect the attachment to the old talent system, its drawbacks outweighed the advantages.  The old system felt like you were making an investment in and steadily steering your character toward the specialization of your choice, giving you a more pronounced feeling of growth as you level.  Once you reach the level cap, however, all of the advantages went to the wayside and the disadvantages became much more pronounced.  The old system had no real “choice” at level cap – most specs had a cookie cutter PvE spec, and a cookie cutter PvP spec.  There were very few talents you could take because you “liked” them, you just took what had a 1-2% mathematical advantage over another one.

The new system rectifies this, while being much easier on the eyes and minds of newer players.

In the current system, each talent has advantages and disadvantages, but none of them can be determined by just looking at the talents themselves.  Some are preferred by different playstyles (Death Knight Runic Empowerment/Corruption and Blood Tap tier come to mind here) while some are situational – Enhancement might like Elemental Mastery for burn phases, Echo of the Elements for AoE, and potentially Ancestral Swiftness for a PvP tool.  In most areas of the game, though, the new talents all have uses and you can use the ones you like or what suits your play style the most and achieve similar results as someone with a different talent setup.  This means that most talents will no longer be focused on increasing your overall throughput, because those are just math questions.

When you see healing talents in your talent tree as a damage dealer, part of it is an attempt to get each class back to their roots.  As a Shaman, a part of your toolkit is the ability to heal, and that is something that applies to all three Shaman specs.  If you never ever want to cast a healing spell, well, you’re playing the wrong class.  That doesn’t mean you need to cast a lot of heals, it doesn’t mean that you’re a healer either, but embracing the entire toolkit of your class will make you a better player and leave you more satisfied with it.

Regarding the talents not being all focused on your own specialization’s role, the new talents are abilities that have a very wide range of benefits and can all be very powerful in their own right in different places.  Did you log in to do math?  Did you log in just so you can log or tab out to look at someone else’s math?  Or did you log in so you could make a choice to play the way you like to play?  We used to have option one or two.  We now have option three.

“OUR GLYPHS SUCK!
This, similar to talents, is the intended design.  No, not that glyphs suck, but rather that glyphs provide you with minor changes to your abilities to provide you with character customization choices.  The old Prime Glyphs were all math choices – chances are few of you actually did the math for yourself and instead went to your favorite website and asked someone there, or read a guide online somewhere that told you what to take… and if you did neither of the above, you very well might’ve made a bad choice.

The new glyphs alter your spells.  Some add secondary effects to spells, some change how a spell works, but almost none of them will have a meaningful impact on your damage (or healing) in most situations.  They are there for utility.  Do I like to heal myself for more as Enhancement, or do I want to be able to cast Spirit Walk more?  This is a choice, just like Major and Minor glyphs were nearly always a choice.  My answer before the patch to someone who asked me about which glyphs to use was “Lightning Shield, Lava Lash, Stormstrike and Windfury”.  Now?  “Use the ones you like!”

I like giving the second answer more, it’s more fun for the player who hears it.

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6 responses to “Enhancement in 5.0.4, don’t panic!

  1. Excellent read, although I have one point which is the Burning Wrath buff, I was just wondering if it is the only buff that a spec provides that has completely no benefit to the spec bringing it ie: Enhancement Shaman?

    • That’s true, in a way. We obviously don’t benefit directly from the buff itself, but the buff’s existence has been worked into our Mental Quickness passive, so it’s the same as the buff providing us benefit. 50% of your attack power should be equal to your agility, which would mean we get the same spell power from our agility as a spell caster does from their intellect. Mental Quickness is 55%, accounting for the 10% buff. So we don’t technically benefit from the buff we bring, but we *have* the buff we bring.

      If Blizzard were to make changes here, it would likely be lowering Mental Quickness to 50% and changing the wording on Burning Wrath to include Enhancement, making it a neutral change.

  2. I followed this link from a post on the WoW forums and I have to say, this has been a wonderful read. I was really frustrated earlier this week when we were all plopped into this new patch together. My DPS was way down, my totems were completely gone, my talent tree was a mess and I couldn’t make out what I wanted to do with my glyphs.

    Then something struck me after an hour of reading all the tool tips and benefits. I could do whatever the hell I wanted to do.

    In fact, I looked at Conductivity in conjunction with Healing Storm and I immediately thought to myself “maybe I could help heal my friends…” As it turns out, not only can I help heal my guild in a raid, but I can provide enough healing for those fights were it’s hard too choose — do you want a DPS or do you want a healer? We can do a little bit of both, now.

    Then, once I realized the way I had my gear finely tuned with reforging for the last patch wasn’t the way it should be tuned for this patch, I was well on my way to gaining back a majority of my damage. I picked up some more haste, lowered my hit and expertise to acceptable levels and now, I’ve gone from 25K DPS on a test dummy to 37K DPS. That’s a 50% increase in damage!

    I finally get what an Enhancement Shaman is all about. With situational totems that help buff the whole group, prevent damage and reduce the effect of malicious spells, we’re there to enhance the raid, not just ourselves anymore. With choices of what we want to do as far as talents go, and with our glyphs, we can play the way we want to play.

    I only wish I could have read this article before the patch on Tuesday, it would have saved me a lot of headaches. As it stand though, reading this has only strengthened my position on what I came up with myself. Shamans are going to be great at 90, and there’s no need to ragequit and roll another toon.

  3. Pingback: You Can Touch My Totem « A High Latency Life

  4. I am a new Enhancement Shaman, and after reading the forums I’m wondering if I made the right choice, but I came here and saw such great posts I decided to keep leveling my guy, and enjoy him like I have been doing. Great post, great blog. Keep up the good work.

  5. @theervis You should definitely keep playing as Shaman are great fun, also you have to take what is posted on the official Shaman forums with a grain of salt as it is never as bad as the posters there are making out. I tend to stop by here or check out the MMO-Champion Shaman forums for a more balanced view of the current state of the Shaman class.

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