The 5.0.4 patch will be hitting World of Warcraft's live servers this week, bringing with it an assortment of changes to enhancement's talents, glyphs, and abilities. If you haven't been paying close attention to how our spec has evolved over the course of the beta, then this should serve as an opportunity for you to "catch up." Although the focus of this article is going to be on the changes one can expect for their level 85 enhancement shamans, I will touch on a couple of our 85+ mechanics.
This is still something of a work in progress. If you have any questions or if you can think of anything significant that I have omitted from this article, please feel free to leave a comment.
New Spells and Abilities
Burning Wrath is trained at level 40. It empowered party and raid members within 100 yards of the shaman with a 10% bonus to their spellpower. The aura is always active while the shaman is alive and requires no maintenance.
Capacitor Totem is trained at level 63. It stuns all enemies within 8 yards of the totem for 5 seconds after charging up for 5 seconds (3 if glyphed: see glyphs section). Under most circumstances, Capacitor Totem will be more useful as a follow-up stun rather than as an initiator due to this charge-up time. For example, if you're keeping an add stunned for as long as possible and the leading stun lasts 5 seconds, drop your capacitor totem immediately upon the first stun's application, and it will trigger just as the initial stun is wearing off.
Stormlash Totem is trained at level 78. It empowers party and raid members' attacks to deal additional nature damage for 10 seconds on a 5 minute cooldown. The nature damage scales with enhancement's mastery, and accounts for a small yet non-trivial amount of our overall damage breakdown (perhaps ~1% of your dps per shaman in the raid). In a way, the value of your mastery rating will partially depend on how many shamans your raid leader decides to bring.
Grace of Air is trained at level 80. It empowers party and raid members within 100 yards of the shaman with 5 mastery (rating conversion changes based on the shaman's level). This translates to 893 mastery rating at level 85 and 3000 mastery rating at level 90. The aura is always active while the shaman is alive and requires no maintenance.
Ascendance is trained at level 87. It empowers the Shaman's attacks, causing his or her Stormstrikes and Auto-Attacks to deal nature damage and grants them a 30-yard range. This damage scales with our mastery. Our auto-attacks use the special-attack hit cap (7.5%) while this ability is active, and they cannot be glanced. Using this ability will reset Stormstrike's cooldown, so it's possible to get a couple of extra Stormstrikes off over the course of a fight if you use this ability just after Stormstrike. Lasts 15 seconds on a 3-minute cooldown.
Changes to Existing Spell and Ability Mechanics
Persistent Raid Buff Totems no longer exist. Their effects have either been rolled into our class/spec as persistent auras or removed from our repertoire entirely. Enhancement will provide the raid with 10% attack speed, 5 mastery (rating conversion depends on level) and 10% spell power (enhancement receives no personal benefit from this buff). In general, the totem system has moved to a model where a given totem can offer powerful utility under certain circumstances.
All Spells now critically hit for 200% of their normal damage baseline (up from 150%), improving the value of critical strike rating for our spec.
Flurry now increases our attack speed by 15% (down from 30%) on our next 5 swings (up from 3) after dealing a melee critical strike. New: Flurry will also provide us with 50% additional benefit from haste "granted by items" while active. There are a few things to take into consideration with these changes: (1) Flurry will no longer consume a single charge when synchronized mainhand and offhand weapon swings land, so the change from 3 to 5 charges is actually a roughly neutral change, and (2) haste "granted by items" seems to be Blizzard's fancy way of saying "haste rating," as the buff applies to all sources of haste rating, even if they don't come from gear (for example, the haste rating buff provided by Elemental Blast (level 90 talent) is also affected). It doesn't apply to haste percentage-based effects like Elemental Mastery (see talents), Ancestral Swiftness (see talents), or Bloodlust/Heroism. To keep a long story short, this is Blizzard's way of making haste rating on gear attractive to our spec without completely overhauling our mechanics.
Flame Shock's damage over time now lasts 24 seconds baseline (up from 16), meaning it no longer neatly lines up with Unleash Element's cooldown (15 seconds) unless you use the new [Glyph of Flame Shock] (see glyphs section for more details).
Searing Flames is now a buff that empowers the damage of your flametongue weapon procs rather than being a debuff that deals damage over time. It still stacks up to 5, but you will no longer be forced to lava lash the same target that your fire totem is attacking in order to receive the benefit. This will aid us in situations when we're forced to rapidly swap between targets.
Fire Elemental Totem now stacks Searing Flames with its attacks, turning it into a viable DPS cooldown for enhancement shamans. Its cooldown has also been lowered to 5 minutes (down from 10), so most of the complaints we had about this ability in Wrath of the Lich King won't be renewed with its return to our arsenal in Mists of Pandaria. The Fire Elemental will also update its stats with ours dynamically, so we no longer have to worry about lining up its summon under heavily-buffed periods of time. It is no longer on as strict of a leash as it was before (it will follow the shaman around away from its totem); however, it will disappear if the shaman moves far enough away from his or her totems to cause them to despawn (couple hundred yards). This ability now places a cooldown on Earth Elemental totem equal to its duration.
Feral Spirit now dynamically inherits our stats: 50% of attack power (up from 31%), 100% of our melee critical strike chance (up from 0%), 100% of our attack speed (up from 0%) and 100% of our bonus to fire, frost and nature damage (up from 0%). They no longer benefit from heroism/bloodlust on their own (they inherit the haste it gives to us), so you no longer have to worry about summoning your wolves just prior to casting the buff for your raid.
Searing Totem is significantly less powerful than before, both due to the loss of Searing Flames damage and due to a handful of nerfs applied to its base damage and spell power scaling in the beta. In effect, these changes have lessened the opportunity cost of using our Magma Totem. Magma Totem will now be worth using over Searing Totem when there are as few as 4 enemy targets active and within range.
Stoneclaw Totem no longer exists. The static damage absorption shield it provided to the shaman (while glyphed) has been replaced by Stone Bulwark Totem, which scales with the shaman's spell power or attack power (see talents section for more details).
Ancestral Swiftness no longer exists, at least not as we currently know it (its name is still being used for a low-value dps talent rather than a ghost wolf cast time reduction and passive movement speed increase). The cast time reduction on Ghost Wolf has been rolled into the base ability, but our spec's passive movement speed has been removed entirely. Consequently, [Enchant Boots - Assassin's Step] may prove to be more valuable for level 85 Enhancement shamans.
Cleanse Spirit now cleanses the target party or raid member of all dispellable curses upon use (old: 1 dispellable curse effect); however, the spell is now limited by an 8 second cooldown.
Spirit Walk is no longer tied to our Feral Spirit ability. It now exists as a sprint ability on its own cooldown, allowing us to use the sprint as needed without having to sacrifice Feral Spirit uptime.
Bash no longer exists. We have been given Capacitor Totem and Pulverize (Primal Earth Elemental) as compensation, allowing us to stun enemies without having to sacrifice Feral Spirit uptime.
Windfury Totem no longer exists. We now provide the raid with 10% attack speed via Unleashed Rage, which no longer provides the raid with bonus attack power or the shaman with bonus expertise.
Talents: Level 15
Nature's Guardian grants 25% of your total health whenever a damaging attack brings you below 30% HP. For example, if you have 100 HP and an attack brings you to 20 HP, your current health will rise to 50 HP and your maximum health will rise to 130 HP. This health is lost at the end of the effect, although the health loss cannot bring you below 1 HP (i.e. it can't kill you), and the effect cannot occur more than once every 30 seconds. This talent is primarily useful for surviving unanticipated damage. It can also be used as a passive alternative to the active mitigation cooldowns offered in this tier; however, unlike the other talents, this talent does not mitigate damage received. Taking this talent will place an extra burden on your healers.
Stone Bulwark Totem grants a "large" absorption shield immediately upon use that lasts for 10 seconds, scaling with your attack power or spell power. Every 5 seconds, the totem will attempt to apply a new, "small" absorption shield. The new shield will only be applied if the current shield has expired or if the new shield will apply more damage absorption. This talent is primarily useful for mitigating persistent raid damage (for example, Ultraxion's Twilight Instability). The front-loaded nature of the absorption effect is designed to encourage intelligent use of the ability (i.e. you'll probably want to use it when the "large" shield will be most useful, rather than dropping it aimlessly).
Astral Shift grants 40% damage mitigation for 6 seconds on a 2-minute cooldown. This talent is primarily useful for mitigating infrequent yet anticipated bursts of damage (for example, Ultraxion's Hour of Twilight).
Talents: Level 30
Frozen Power roots the target of your Frost Shock ability in ice for 5 seconds. Since Frost Shock is on a 6-second cooldown, this talent is very useful if you need to keep a single enemy target in place who is vulnerable to rooting effects (no T13 example(s)).
Earthgrab Totem replaces your Earthbind Totem. Enemies within its affected area will be rooted in place for 5 seconds, with subsequent pulses slowing their movement speed by 50%. Enemies can only be rooted once per Earthgrab Totem. This talent is useful for controlling the movement of a large number of enemies that are vulnerable to rooting effects (no T13 example(s)). It has a longer cooldown than Frost Shock, so it's less useful for rooting a single target.
Windwalk Totem grants raid members within 40 yards immunity to movement-impairing effects. This talent is useful on encounters that involve snaring effects (for example, Hagara's ice phase).
Talents: Level 45
Call of the Elements instantly finishes the cooldown of any totem with a cooldown of less than 3 minutes. The ability has a 3 minute cooldown. This talent may be situationally useful if you need to use certain totems more often than their cooldowns would otherwise allow (for example, Windwalk Totem on Hagara, depending on how long your ice phase lasts).
Totemic Restoration reduces the cooldown of your totems when they are replaced or destroyed proportional to the time lost, up to a maximum of 50% cooldown reduction (when the totem is destroyed instantly upon summon). This talent will be useful in many of the same situations as Call of the Elements, but it requires micromanagement to maximize its effect (manually canceling your totems after they've served their purpose). The cooldown reduction offered by this talent also applies to any totems you have active at the time of your character's death (e.g. it will help your DPS recover if you happen to die shortly after summoning your Fire Elemental).
Totemic Projection places your active totems at the targeted location. This ability has a 10 second cooldown, but it is off of the global cooldown. This allows you to macro it into any totem casts you might want to project (for example: /cast magma totem /cast totemic projection). This talent will primarily be useful for placing totems in locations that your character doesn't necessarily want to be in (for example, projecting your magma totem onto the seed spawn locations on phase 2 of heroic Ragnaros).
Talents: Level 60
Elemental Mastery grants 30% haste for 20 seconds on a 2-minute cooldown. It can be paired with every use of Feral Spirit to increase its value; however, since we don't learn Ascendance until level 87, this talent will clock in at around 500 dps worse than Echo of the Elements in T13 heroic best-in-slot gear, assuming a patchwerk fight that lasts between 6-9 minutes. That doesn't mean this talent is useless, as it will still have applications in encounters that value burst dps windows over patchwerk dps (for example, Spine of Deathwing) or on fights that end very quickly (leading to inflated uptime on the buff).
Ancestral Swiftness grants 5% haste passively, and also allows us to cast an additional spell every minute instantly. It's valued at about 1000 dps less than Echo of the Elements at level 85, assuming a patchwerk fight that lasts between 6-9 minutes, and its standing doesn't improve much at level 90. The talent doesn't appear to offer any unique utility, as the spells it can turn into instant-casts are already affected by Maelstrom Weapon. As a result, I don't recommend this talent for any enhancement shaman that is serious about optimizing his or her performance in a raid environment.
Echo of the Elements grants a chance to duplicate successful spell casts, with a 0.1 second hidden cooldown. For enhancement, it's a 30% chance per damaging or healing event to duplicate earth shock, flame shock (direct damage), unleash flame (not frost), lightning bolt, chain lightning, fire nova, healing surge or chain heal. Elemental Blast (level 90 talent) uses the same 6% chance per cast as Elemental and Restoration, because Enhancement will theoretically use just as many Elemental Blasts as those specs will, given the restriction of the spell's cooldown. In simulations, this talent is currently providing the best sustained DPS, although its lead over Elemental Mastery is small enough that you can swap between the two depending on encounter demands.
Talents: Level 75
Healing Tide Totem will heal up to 5 of the most injured party or raid members every 2 seconds for 10 seconds on a 3-minute cooldown. This talent provides strictly inferior burst HPS and sustained HPS in comparison to Ancestral Guidance for enhancement shamans, and there are few if any reasons to take this talent as a result.
Ancestral Guidance will copy 40% of your direct damage as healing to up to 3 nearby injured party or raid members. This talent offers superior burst HPS than Healing Tide Totem, and it does so on a 2-minute cooldown rather than a 3-minute cooldown. This is likely the best talent of the tier for enhancement shamans.
Conductivity will distribute 50% of the damage or 20% of the healing you do with Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, Earth shock, Stormstrike, or Healing Surge to targets standing within your Healing Rains. Unlike the other talents of this tier, this one has a rather significant opportunity cost attached (casting healing rains). This can either be done with full maelstrom charges (low mana cost, higher dps loss (less lightning bolts cast) or with low/no maelstrom charges (high mana cost, lower dps loss (roughly the same lightning bolt casts, but more auto-attacks clipped or reset). This talent will mostly be useful in situations when your raid needs extra sustained healing but doesn't want to sacrifice an entire dps slot for an additional healer.
(Note: the high mana cost, low dps sacrifice method may be counterproductive if you desire to increase sustained raid HPS by picking this talent, as casting Healing Rains with fewer maelstrom stacks will cause it to receive less benefit from the Healing Storm glyph)
Talents: Level 90
Unleashed Fury causes your Unleashed Elements casts to grant additional effects based on your weapon imbues. Unleash Wind will allow your auto-attacks to proc static shock for 8 seconds, Unleash Flame will cause your lightning bolts cast against the same target to deal 30% additional damage for 10 seconds, Unleash Frost will grant 50% additional movement speed for 4 seconds, and Unleash Earth causes you to take 40% reduced damage from the target for 5 seconds. In current simulations, this talent provides the best sustained DPS of the 3 by a slight margin in single-target, patchwerk situations, although the size of the gap increases when we get our tier 14 4p bonus.
Primal Elementalist causes our Fire and Earth Elementals to deal 50% additional damage and grants them new abilities. The Fire Elemental gains the ability to cast Immolate, and also gains the ability to channel an effect that increases your damage done by 5% and healing done by 10%. Under ordinary circumstances, this channel should not be used, as it prevents the fire elemental from dealing its own damage. It basically only exists to mask error, either on the player's part or on the AI's (e.g. summoning the totem when it can't attack). Similarly, the Earth Elemental gains an additional strike that hits its target for 150% of its weapon damage (stunning the target for 4 seconds) and a channel that reduces the damage you take by 20% and increases the healing you do by 10% while active. Since the Earth Elemental deals significantly less damage than the Fire Elemental, this channel may be worth using in some situations. This talent's single-target sustained dps contribution is roughly on par with Elemental Blast, but lags slightly behind Unleashed Fury (especially with the T14 4p bonus). It may still be worth using under certain circumstances where burst DPS is valued higher than sustained DPS or for encounters that require infrequent yet bursty AOE dps.
Elemental Blast deals a rather large amount of damage and provides a buff that grants 3500 haste, crit, or mastery rating for 8 seconds. The spell has a 12-second cooldown and a reduced proc rate for Enhancement's Echo of the Elements. This talent's single-target sustained dps contribution is roughly on par with Primal Elementalist, but lags slightly behind Unleashed Fury (especially with the T14 4p bonus). It may still be worth using under certain circumstances where you spend a significant amount of time outside of melee range or for encounters that require frequent AOE dps.
[Glyph of Capacitor Totem] reduces the charging time of your Capacitor Totem to 3 seconds (unglyphed: 5). This glyph will be useful if your leading stun (see new spells and abilities section) lasts 3 seconds, or if you just want to reduce the charge-up time in general.
[Glyph of Chain Lightning] reduces the initial damage of your Chain Lightning ability by 10%, but allows it to chain up to 5 targets (unglyphed: 3). This is a DPS increase in any situation that involves 4 or more enemy targets that have to be AOE'd and can be considered required given that condition.
[Glyph of Chaining] increases the jump distance of Chain Heal by 100%, but gives it a 6 second cooldown. Useful for spot healing the raid in spread situations, but at the cost of DPS (either auto-attacks or lightning bolts).
[Glyph of Cleansing Waters] heals your ally for 4% of your maximum health whenever you remove a Curse effect. Given the new dispel model (dispels remove all applicable debuffs, but have a cooldown), DPS may have to pitch in more often on these types of fights. Healing your dispel targets is a useful perk when the need arises.
[Glyph of Feral Spirit] increases the healing done by your feral spirits' Spirit Hunt by 40%. Useful for helping your healers out or for increasing your survivability in PvP (hint: glyph this, spec ancestral guidance and macro it into your feral spirits if you want to turn yourself into a self-healing god every 2 minutes in PvP).
[Glyph of Fire Elemental Totem] reduces the duration and cooldown of your Fire Elemental Totem by 40%. Although that sounds nice and fair at a casual glance, it actually results in an uptime reduction for about 75% of typical fight lengths (see Binkenstein's blog post on the subject for more details). Still, that doesn't mean it's a terrible glyph. It's still useful in situations that favor burst more often than once every 5 minutes, and it may even be a DPS increase for Troll enhancement shamans, as it allows them to more easily pair their Berserking racial with every fire elemental summon.
[Glyph of Fire Nova] increases the radius of Fire Nova's explosion by 5 yards (50%). This effectively increases the area covered by your fire nova's explosion to 225% of its original area, which is significant. This glyph is a dps increase in any AOE situation that has 2 or more monsters existing more than 10 yards apart. Since 10 yards is a very small distance in WoW, this glyph can be considered usually-required for AOE situations.
[Glyph of Flame Shock] reduces the damage of the spells initial hit by 25%, but extends the duration of the damage over time portion by 25%. Using this glyph will allow you to pair your flame shock with every other unleash elements use without clipping several ticks of the DoT or without letting the DoT expire for several seconds. The glyph is either a slight dps gain or a slight dps loss against a single target, depending on talent selection (elemental blast favors glyphed flame shock, echo+uf is roughly neutral, others favor unglyphed flame shock). The variance in either direction is no more than a couple hundred dps at the T14 heroic gear level, and it provides a decent increase in DPS on sustained AOE encounters, with the extra flame shock duration making it somewhat easier to manage multiple flame shocks. Overall verdict: usually required for AOE, but import your own character into a simulator to determine if it's beneficial for you during single-target encounters.
[Glyph of Frost Shock] increases the duration of your Frost Shock's snare to 10 seconds (unglyphed: 8). The glyph does not extend the duration of the root effect granted by Frozen Power, and its utility is extremely limited as a result. Since our shock cooldown is 6 seconds, you'll have to use Frost Shock on every shock cooldown, with or without the glyph, in order to keep a target permanently snared. Useful if you want your target to be snared slightly longer than normal off of a single cast, but not necessarily useful when you're keeping a target snared for an extended period of time.
[Glyph of Ghost Wolf] causes you to be less hindered by snares while in Ghost Wolf form. Useful on fights that expose you to snaring effects (for example, Hagara's ice phase).
[Glyph of Grounding Totem] increases the cooldown of your grounding totem to 1 minute (up from 25 sec), but allows it to reflect your enemy's spell rather than absorb it. A slight dps increase on encounters that involve ground-able/reflect-able spells (for example, Hagara's ice lances).
[Glyph of Healing Storm] increases the healing done by your spells used in combination with maelstrom weapon by 20% per stack consumed. The difference between your healing ability with and without this glyph is basically a night-and-day comparison. Useful whenever you're throwing out healing spells (note: if you use this glyph, you have to promise me that you're not going to complain on the official forums when the Healing Rains portion of this glyph is nerfed)
[Glyph of Healing Stream Totem] causes allies that are healed by your Healing Stream Totem to take 10% reduced fire, frost and nature damage for 6 seconds. Useful on any encounter that deals elemental raid damage, especially for enhancement, as we can fit healing stream casts in our open GCDs at zero/limited cost to our personal DPS.
[Glyph of Hex] reduces the cooldown of our Hex ability to 35 seconds (unglyphed: 45). Useful during encounters that require frequent crowd control.
[Glyph of Purge] causes our Purge ability to dispel 2 magical effects (unglyphed: 1). Useful on encounters where you need to dispel multiple buffs off of a target in rapid succession.
[Glyph of Shamanistic Rage] causes our Shamanistic Rage ability to cleanse us of all dispellable Magic effects. Useful during encounters that stress your healers' ability to dispel.
[Glyph of Spirit Walk] reduces the cooldown of your Spirit Walk ability to 1 minute, 30 seconds (unglyphed: 2 minutes). A slight DPS increase on encounters involving lots of movement.
[Glyph of Spiritwalker's Grace] increases the duration of our Spiritwalker's Grace ability to 20 seconds (unglyphed: 15). Useful for encounters that require you to move in chunks that last greater than 15 seconds (see: almost never).
[Glyph of Telluric Currents] causes our Lightning Bolt to restore 10% of our base mana when it strikes an enemy. Enhancement's mana is virtually limitless, but this glyph may still have utility under certain circumstances (examples: in the brief period of time after reincarnating and mana feels a little tight, or perhaps when spec'd into Conductivity and opting for the higher-DPS-yet-more-mana-intensive method of dropping Healing Rains with as few maelstrom stacks as possible).
[Glyph of Totemic Recall] causes your Totemic Recall ability to return the full mana cost of any recalled totems. Not useful.
[Glyph of Totemic Vigor] increases the health of your totems by 5% of your maximum health. Useful in PvP, or for encounters with raid damage that Blizzard forgets to prevent from targetting totems.
[Glyph of Unleashed Lightning] allows you to cast Lightning Bolt while moving, but increases its casting time by 5%. The penalty associated with this glyph (5% longer lightning bolt casts) is basically an after-thought for enhancement, as the great majority of the lightning bolts we cast are done with 5 stacks of maelstrom weapon (i.e. instantly). As a result, this glyph is a DPS increase on any fight that forces the shaman to move away from its target more often than once per 2 minutes (the cooldown of Spiritwalker's Grace).
[Glyph of Wind Shear] increases the school lockout duration of our Wind Shear ability by 1 second, but increases its cooldown by 3 seconds. This glyph basically gives us the same lockout/cooldown ratio as other melee classes (4 to 15), and will be situationally useful depending on the interrupt requirements of a given encounter.
[Glyph of Lava Lash] prevents our Lava Lash ability from spreading Flame Shock. Useful on encounters that spawn creatures that you might not want to DPS (for example, adds that are crowd controlled). This is a minor glyph, so it doesn't compete with any of our other utility glyphs for a slot.
Not much has changed for our DPS priority queue. Lightning Bolt is significantly stronger than it used to be with its 200% spell crits, especially when paired with the Echo of the Elements talent (30% chance to fire a second lightning bolt upon the first striking the target). Lightning Bolt has moved above Stormstrike and Lava Lash in our priority, and we have access to a couple of additional cooldowns, both naturally (fire elemental, stormlash totem) and based on talent selection (elemental mastery). Other than that, the spec should play similarly to what you've grown accustomed to on live.
Stat Weights and Gear Selection
For level 85, the general rules you can follow for stat weights are:
1. Agility >/= Expertise & Hit (to dodge & special caps, respectively) > crit, haste, & mastery > Hit (to auto-attack cap)
2. mastery > crit
You're going to shoot for 7.5% melee hit and 7.5% expertise on your character sheet, which translates to 768 rating for each. If you have a 1% hit or expertise racial, then the requirement falls to 666 rating for the appropriate stat. It may not be possible to get all the way down to the hit cap in T13 heroic gear, so you're just going to have to shrug it off and accept the fact that your auto-attacks will be missing slightly less often.
Haste > mastery > crit, mastery > haste > crit, and mastery > crit > haste are all valid possibilities based on your shaman's individual assortment of gear. You're going to need to become familiar with a simulation program in order to reforge your gear as close to optimally as possible. Fortunately, this seems to stabilize somewhat at level 90, with haste & mastery taking a small lead over crit rating. Still, you're going to need to use a simulator to determine if haste or mastery is best for your shaman.
As far as gear is concerned, the best-in-slot list has 2-3 major changes (depending on which list you're looking at):
1. [Sporebeard Gauntlets] takes the lead over [Spiritwalker's Grips]
2. [Starcatcher Compass] takes the lead over [Vial of Shadows]
3. The relic item slot has been removed.