Friday, December 9, 2011

WoW: MoP and Enhancement Shaman Talents

Note: The Tree has been updated since this was written.

There's a lot of whining that it's all PVP talents in the Shaman tree and, worse, that there's no specific Enhancement Talents. Lets look at the first part of that and we'll get to the last in a bit:

Tier 1:
These all look like PvP talents until you start to look at some of the fights Blizzard's been putting out lately. Don't you wish you had a Totem on Rag that could AoE throw adds away from the hammer? Hey, look... Repulsion Totem. There's a bunch of adds in the room? To the point where you're stacking the raid with Druids for Roots? Hey, look... Earthgrab Totem. Frozen Power is what you grab when there's one add and not many.

So, there are current fights where these have use. Judging from the ability overlap into other Classes trees, expect more of them.

Tier 2:
Nature's Guardian is what you take when you're up against Decimate mechanics and the healers aren't quite there yet. Especially when they also involve threat dumps because we're still early threat whores due to Windfury.

Stone Bulwark Totem has absolutely no obvious use in PvE. Except on Ultraxion... Maloriak... Alysrazor.... you know, pretty much every fight with metric tons of outbound unavoidable damage where a shield that's going to approach ~50% uptime (depending on how many seconds apart the "waves" are - it refreshes every 5), is going to be of high value to help keep you on your feet and killing. The metric between it and Astral Shift? Can you afford to lose 50% of your DPS output for 6 seconds and are the attacks frequent or far apart. On DPS + Healing checks like Ultra, the answer is a straight line no. On a fight like Nefarian where you're primarily looking to mitigate crackles? Likely yes. Depends on what that shield looks like at 85/90 and the simple reality that only taking 50% of the hit is more than likely going to be better for you than simply absorbing some of it.

Tier 3:
Improved Ghost Wolf is all about: "How do I improve mobilty for me" while Windwalk Totem is all about: "How do I improve mobility for everyone". Both of these have a place in Dungeons or Raiding where bosses that either slow, snare, or root are not unknown.

Tranquil Mind is a somewhat new idea that seems to be spreading across the Trees: group/raid wide silence immunity. If you're wondering where this comes into play, think Nalorakk in Zul'Aman. Again, when you see counters spreading widely into the toolset, expect more PvE fights to make use of them in the future.

Tier 4:
Is where we run into a talent that likely will only fall to healers: Healing Tide Totem is not an ability we can expect to pick up with regularity. Ancestral Guidance is probably going to be preferred depending on the output simply because we're a spec that attacks very rapidly between our melee white damage and cooldowns. Depends on what the comparative output of the two actually turns out to be. Healing someone for 45K on a 120K Lava Lash crit isn't exactly negligible though - specially when it splashes onto a Tank and prevents a wipe.

However, on any fight where there's significant Magic Damage? Fortifying Waters turns us into a spec that brings a 10% magic reduction cooldown with 0 mana costs to the Raid and can be renewed as fast as we proc Maels: freeing up healers to use GCD's and mana to heal. That has its worth too.

Tier 5:
Elemental Mastery? Admittedly mneh. If it did spell and melee haste it might be worth talking about but the problem with it and Natures Swiftness is that all our spells are already instant so all we're really getting is a free mael cast out of it (not that there aren't situations where having the ability to instant cast will be unwelcome either way but most of them are those where we'd be losing the DPS value from the haste because they require movement which frequently takes us out of melee range), but at least NS does spell and melee haste on a one minute cooldown: the value of that haste we can debate when we start to see stat values in 5.0.

Otherwise, yes, the output tier is kinda boring and likely locks us into Booming Echos affecting about 40-50% of our output by duplicating spells.

Tier 6:
Elemental Harmony is the clear PvE winner here even after they removed Fire Totems from the ability for obvious balance reasons: quenching the burning dreams of those looking to deploy Searing for Lava Lash while keeping Fire Elemental and Magma up for AoE. Being able to deploy your Stone Bulwark and/or your Earthgrab and/or Tremor at the same time or your Repulsion and Windwalk will come in handy in situations.

Totemic Restoration is, admittedly, the talent I can't make a PvE argument for largely because it's very rare for totems to get destroyed in Dungeon/Raid PvE save by random pats you should be avoiding.

Totemic Projection is a talent we've been demanding for years and, now that we can have it, most of the quality of life improvements that have been/are going to be made makes it feel unneeded. With buff totems going behind the barn to be shot it suddenly seems pointless to have at first glance but you need to consider two things: it lets you "throw" your totems some place so you don't need to go there and then for the potential savings in mana from not having to recreate totems since there appears to be no need to spend mana to make the move.

So, think about being able to drop Earthgrab at your feet, "projecting it" - and everything else - to where it's needed, then refreshing Searing where you are so you can maintain DPS and root/snare at the same time. That has value to DPS because those three GCD's are likely still less of a dps loss than the time it would take you to run back and forth. If you want to make an argument against that, limit it to the idea that it should work more like trap launching which under the new system would be a real QoL improvement and eliminate one of those GCD's.

All that said there are obvious PvE uses for our talents. To argue otherwise is to indicate a lack of any real insight into how the fights work and how Blizzard works to constrain DPS by adding things like Adds and Movement Impairments/Requirements to prevent us from just hacking and slashing away Patchwork style. These are the kinds of limitation in thought that's affecting pretty much all the discussion on the new trees.

Now, getting back to that second point: that there's no clear DPS Talent. Well, yeah, our Tier 5 tree is kinda mneh for Enhancement. Instead of just saying that though, start thinking about what might be a good cooldown for not just Enhancement but also one/two of the other specs as well because the Talent Trees need to flex in that way under this system.

I'd suggest an Elemental is required but it runs into the reality that several other Classes already have "Spawn Guardian Critter of Awesome". So, we need to think of something more unique, interesting, and that has the ability to flex across the specs. Preferably, we need 2-3 of these things that might have their time and place along the lines of Warriors choosing between Bladestorm (for AoE dps), Shockwave (for some AoE dps but largely Stuns), and Avatar (for single target DPS). Building that into a Class that Heals, Ranged DPS's, and Melee DPS's is a bit tricker than that Warrior example because we all have different wants and needs but it's the kind of thinking that really needs to be applied here.

No hurry, we're not in Alpha yet: there's time to ponder.

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