Friday, March 1, 2013

Bashes with Wolves: 5.2 changes for your enhancement shaman

With 5.2 literally just around the corner, I must say that I've never been unhappy with enhancement shaman DPS. Not since I began playing it seriously near the end of the Burning Crusade (yes, once I find a flavor I like I stick with it). Granted, I'm not in a hardcore guild claiming a spot anywhere near the bleeding edge, but I'm still having fun.

Though I must be honest: I haven't really taken advantage of the flexibility of the redesigned talent system that shipped with this expansion. The potential for situational builds is impressive, though I haven't done to much aside from swapping out Stone Bulwark Totem for Astral Shift. But next week's (fingers crossed) patch demands a closer look at how I approach the class.

5.2 will usher in some subtle, yet interesting changes for us, but they are changes that don't really affect our DPS one way or another. In this post, I look at a handful of the most impactful changes. Disclaimer: I'm not a numbers, spreadsheets or SIMS guy. Mathematics and I don't get along in general. So you won't find any of that here. That might make me a hack to some and endeared to others. To each their own. Oh, and please excuse the fact that all of my raid boss references are limited to Mogu'Shan Vaults. It's been a slow, slow tier for our guild.

TL;DR: Damage largely unaffected, some nice quality-of-life improvements. 

Conductivity no longer requires that the target be within the area of effect of Healing Rain.

I don't know if it's the way the tooltip is worded or if it's the limitations of my brain, but this change confuses the shit out of me. Perhaps a fellow enhancer who uses it can weigh in.

At present, Conductivity causes certain damaging attacks to heal your allies standing in your Healing Rain if the enemy or enemies you're attacking are also standing in your healing rain. Phew. Yeah, it can't be just me. So the question is, stack much? Answer: nah, just occasionally, and for short durations, so this talent kind of sucks for enhancement, although elemental shaman may report having a better time.

5.2's change doesn't do much to change its attractiveness for enhance. The major difference is that your target no longer needs to be standing in your healing rain, meaning damaging any enemy no matter where they stand will now provide additional healing to allies so long as they are standing in your Healing Rain. That's less confusing, right? This assumes you even want to use a global CD to toss about an instant-cast Healing Rain. Mmmmmeh.

If any enhancement out there can think of a situ where this talent rocks it, let me know.

Chain Lightning will now deal the same damage to subsequent targets as it does to the first.

Neeto.  In the past I've reserved Chain Lightning for fights with three or more targets. This change will definitely affect our AoE damage, but won't do anything to single-target DPS.

Elemental Mastery now has a 90 second cooldown (was 2 minutes).

When the pre-MoP patch dropped, I chose all passive talents in order to grow accustomed to any new quirks in the rotation. Given that, I haven't really messed with this talent, though it does offer a significant benefit on fights with critical burn phases, or fights where players do increased damage. Essentially, it provides us a personal Bloodlust every 90 seconds. The reduced CD in 5.2 brightens its appeal and I will be trying this out. Elegon, Will of the Emporer and Gara'jal come to mind.

Ancestral Swiftness passively increases spell haste by 5% and melee haste by 10%, instead of 5% each.

Personally, I've stuck with Echo of the Elements for this entire tier; had DPS been the reason why our guild progression was slow, I would have experimented more. With this talent's buff to melee haste come 5.2, I'm still having a hard time identifying fights where it would have the clear advantage. Perhaps the fact this is changing ONLY for enhancers is a sign of Blizzard trying to make this talent seem more appealing. If that's the case, I'm not sure it worked.

Stone Bulwark Totem now absorbs 25% more damage.

The most appealing aspect of this talent to me has always been its relatively short cooldown. Using either this talent or Astral Shift with Shamanistic Rage provides massive damage reduction. From what I can tell, Stone Bulwark Totem would be best chosen for fights with regular, constant damage where as Astral Shift may be better for fights where there are instances with high damage spikes.

I choose this talent when leveling to 90, but once the guild began raids, I put my trust in our healers and opted for Astral Shift to steal of a few more seconds of aliveness during those really sticky situations, like when I shaman tank. You see, enhancement shaman tanking isn't a choice. It's a lifestyle.

Unleashed Fury - Flametongue now increases Lightning Bolt damage by 20% (was 30%), and Lava Burst damage by 10%.

Now, where did I put that.....aha! NERF BAT! No, not really. We get a slight reduction to the damage this talent effect provides, meaning it will ever-so-slightly decrease our single-target DPS. It's not a nerf. 

Glyph of Flame Shock has been redesigned. This glyph now causes the Shaman to heal for 50% of the damage dealt by Flame Shock.

Prior to 5.2, most theory-crafters I rely on maintained that Glyph of Flame Shock was mandatory for enhancement shaman. Why? Flame Shock's increased duration keeps the global cooldown freer for longer, increasing overall damage. Blizzard seems to have acknowledged its mandatory nature by incorporating the glyph's function into the base ability: come 5.2, Flame Shock's duration has been increased by 25%.

Applying the glyph causes the shaman to heal for 30% of the damage done by Flame Shock. This may mean we have some more interesting choices when it comes to filling that glyph slot.

Ancestral Guidance now copies 60% (was 40%) of the amount healed.

Mwahahahahaha. I really like this talent. The sheer utility of the shaman is probably one of the reasons it soon grew to be my favorite class. When timing its use with some of my damage cooldowns, it can really help our raid healers in a pinch. As we mentioned earlier, Conductivity is a moot choice, so that leaves Healing Tide Totem, a talent I opted for at the start of the expansion. Now that I have more control over my burst, I've found Ancestral Guidance to be more beneficial overall, even if it heals only the 3 nearest raid members as opposed to Healing Tide Totem's five.

And now we get to do even more healing? Count me in.

Spirit Walk's cooldown has been reduced to 1-minute (was 2 minutes).

This. is. huge. To me. I'm a baaaaaaad shaman, and don't have Spirit Walk keybound. It will remain that way until 5.2, because with a 1-minute CD, this thing will become extremely useful. Perhaps only situationally in raids, but for day-to-day getting around? Mmm hmm.

There are some other minor changes in the official notes, like the change to the AoE damage cap, but nothing earth-shaking. What about you? What has you most excited about these looming changes to enhancement shaman?

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