Bashes With Wolves is a semi-regular feature that takes a look at the duel-wielding badassery that is the enhancement shaman: news, tips, reviews and more. Is there something you'd like covered? Feel free to drop me a note. Elements guide you!
Hybrid classes have the most representation in World of Warcraft. That's no secret. Seven of the eleven available classes can perform at least two combat roles, while warlocks, rogues, mages and hunters are restricted to damage-dealing. A recent Blizzard Watch article on shamans looked at this distinction as it relates to spec and argued enhancement represents the last true hybrid in game. The idea is that enhancement can perform tasks effectively in combat that overlap multiple roles---healing in this case.
And in truth, it's been one of my favorite attributes of the spec, and why I've been maining the class since the Burning Crusade. I've always enjoyed having the choice to sacrifice a few GCDs of damaging abilities to ensure the raid stayed alive. Who, as a damage dealer, wouldn't love credit for rescuing their entire raid from the brink of death with some well-timed cooldowns?
Sadly, this is no longer possible. Even though enhancement shaman didn't see much at all in terms of the ability pruning most other classes saw during the weeks approaching Warlords of Draenor, the healing abilities we still have at our disposal feel rather weak. Chain Heal, Healing Tide Totem, and Spirit Link Totem became Restoration-exclusive abilities, stripping enhancement of the majority of its powerful healing cooldowns. I can understand this to a degree: those are pretty significant abilities for a damage-dealer to have. That said, the abilities we've retained---Healing Wave, Healing Rain, Healing Stream Totem, and go-to talent Ancestral Guidance---have had a serious reduction in their effectiveness.
Simply, they're not very effective.
In stark contrast from Mists of Pandaria, it's difficult to notice much of an effect from Ancestral Guidance, even when lined up with damage-increasing cooldowns. Effective usage has become a lot more situational. An instant-cast Healing Wave is but a drop in the pool that is tank health, and that GCD is almost always better spent on a damaging ability. Healing Rain feels about as powerful as a butterfly fart, but I'll still use it on occasion because it makes the floor look pretty and washes away some of the melee stink.
The point being: yes, when you look at enhancement on the surface it appears to have an amount of hybrid utility that's unique to the game. However, on closer examination, the effectiveness of the abilities really doesn't warrant their use---unless we just accept that for all these years, enhancement healing utility has just been too powerful. Now, if the raid group is relying on weak heals from their enhancement shaman to stay alive, there's likely a much larger issue at work.
While you can technically still call enhancement a hybrid spec, it's getting to the point where it feels like a hybrid-in-name-only due to the ineffectiveness of the abilities it can lend to the healing side. It leaves the spec feeling like a hollow form of its former self. The healing abilities are still there, but if you're a wise enhancement shaman you'll treat them like sculptures in an art museum.
Look, but don't touch.