Let's take a deeper look at the talent tree and be all the shaman we can be. We're going to know when to pop Ancestral Swiftness to help out our healers, and when dropping Windwalk Totem will be an asset to the raid. That's right. We're going to be the most useful badasses this game has ever seen.
Tier OneThe life-prolongers.
Nature's Guardian: Choose this talent if you don't want to worry about hitting another button for survivability situations. Given that it can trigger once every 30 seconds, it's actually pretty good. The catch is that once triggered, you need to be healed up quickly, as the health gained from the ability is temporary.
Stone Bulwark Totem: This will absorb damage for 30 seconds, and being that it has a 1-minute CD, that's a decent amount of uptime. Fights with constant, annoying damage call for this totem as it can provide some relief to the healers.
Astral Shift: Though a relatively short duration and long cooldown, this is my go-to talent. When paired with Shamanistic Rage, it can mitigate some serious damage. It's been good to me when out questing, and good to me in raids.
While the choice within this tier is really up to player preference, in some situations, an ideal choice will be clear. As shaman, it's up to us to recognize when that is.
Tier TwoI like to move it, move it. Movement!
Frozen Power: Truth is I don't ever use this talent. Perhaps it emerges as the clear winner in PvP situations, but its limitation lies in the fact that it only CCs one target. Shaman already have a single-target CC with Hex, and there's another talent in this tier that will root multiple targets at once.
Earthgrab Totem: While personally I feel the claim it "ensnares the legs of all enemies within 10 yards" is a bit grandiose, I often choose this talent. It's great for escaping a sticky situation when questing, though its use in raids is rather limited.
Windwalk Totem: This one actually grants a short duration of immunity to movement-impairing effects. If you raid, I'm sure you can think of several scenarios where this might be helpful. Since I don't strategically PvP, I can't comment on its usefulness in battlegrounds and arenas.
Overall, your choice in this tier will depend on this situation. Nine out of ten times, I go with Earthgrab when questing, though rely on Windwalk for some raids fights. Is it necessary for those raid fights? No, it is not. However, it can provide a small quality-of-life boost, even if for only six seconds, that your fellow raiders will appreciate.
Tier ThreeAnd now, a perk for your totems.
Call of the Elements: This can be useful for reasons related to your Tier One and Two choices, as this ability essentially allows shaman to drop back-to-back Earthgrab/Windwalk, Healing Stream, Capacitor and Stone Bulwark totems, to name a few.
Totemic Restoration: I most often use this talent because of Fire Elemental Totem. If I ever have to hit my "OH S%$T" sequence after taking on more than I can handle, the threat is usually neutralized within 30 seconds, meaning if I recall my totems I'll be refunded a significant amount on the elemental's CD.
Totemic Projection: Very situational, but I have heard tales of its merit PvP. From a PvE standpoint, shaman would only choose this if they anticipate the need to move a LOT during the course of a fight.
I run with Totemic Restoration 90% of the time. It doesn't add another button to my bars, and I don't see too much use in the other two choices as they pertain to my playstyle. I will admit that Call of the Elements probably has more utility than I'm giving it credit for.
Tier FourGo forth and augment thy damage, young shaman.
Elemental Mastery: A personal Bloodlust every minute and a half. Not bad. Very good on fights where you temporarily deal increased damage. Though situational, skilled shaman will choose this in situations that will benefit them the most. Think Jin'rokh, Elegon & Gara'jal.
Ancestral Swiftness: The passive haste is interesting, but its other function doesn't appeal much to me, though I will choose this when I'm healing in my offspec. Know it's not wrong for enhancers to choose this talent. I just don't prefer it.
Echo of the Elements: The "choose it and forget it" talent for this tier.
By all accounts, and with all else equal, these talents perform similarly, though certain fight mechanics may lend well to specific choices as alluded above. I choose Echo in all cases except for those where I do increased damage for short durations during a fight, like Elegon and Gara'jal.
Tier FiveCause it's not enhancement without the heals.
Healing Tide Totem: Drop it and forget about it; powerful heals for 10 seconds with the drawback being its 3-minute CD.
Ancestral Guidance: Heals the raid, but very dependent on the shaman's DPS. Players must make sure they are in a position to do a good amount of damage for its 10-second duration to ensure this talent lives up to the other choices in this tier. The shorter CD is also appealing.
Conductivity: Can be good in situations where the group is often stacked together AND your healer could use some extra help.
These talents should perform relatively the same when used correctly. While Healing Tide might seem like an easy choice, I've really had a lot of fun with Ancestral Guidance. Time its use with a burst CD or two and we can easily put out 150k damage per second. Then 40% of that number gets copied to nearby allies as healing every second for 10 seconds? Yes please. During one particular nasty end to Feng kill where we had no healers alive, I popped my damage CDs with Ancestral Guidance and essentially negated the damage done to the raid for one entire channeling of Arcane Velocity.
Tier SixThe capstone: choose a way.
Unleashed Fury: The "choose it and forget about it" talent in this tier; however, choosing this means you should use Unleash Elements whenever it's off CD.
Primal Elementalist: Trying saying that fast, and five times in a row! Prollomollolumpulus. That's what I get on the second try. Anyway, this makes your elementals look cooler and act even more OP.
Elemental Blast: Adds an ability to the shaman rotation that didn't exist prior to MoP. If you haven't tried this and find yourself bored with the traditional rotation, or are feeling adventurous, check this out. You'll want to make it a priority and use it whenever it is off CD.
According to other resources I read, such as Icy Veins, these all perform equally when played right, with Primal Elementalist pulling ahead for shaman in T15 gear. So, for the most of us, there's isn't a "best" choice currently.
I'll admit, I am having a fun time with the talent system and how it's set up for situational utility. It allows players to make choices that are smart, even if optional, so they can play their character in a significantly different way than someone else. Not only do I have my personal setups for when I'm out questing, but I'm able to swap in specific talents if a boss fight mechanic calls for it. And I really like having that choice.
What about you? Do you take full advantage of the more niche abilities in your talent tree?
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