New Beta Build Brings Shaman Changes Across the Board (In Addition to Stealth Changes)
A patch released to the beta yesterday delivered both a new launcher and more class changes all around. After the lack of shaman changes in the last build, all three specs have received some tweaking.
In addition to the detailed changes, there appear to have been some stealth changes that have been pushed out without mention. These didn’t occur yesterday (yes, I’m slow on the news, my apologies), but they are quite significant.
The official elemental changes are as follows:-
- Hex now lasts 1 minute, up from 30 seconds.
- Searing Totem now prefer to target enemies that are afflicted by your Flame Shock or Stormstrike effects.
- Reverberation is now a Tier 2 talent. Down from Tier 3.
- Improved Fire Nova is now a Tier 3 talent. Up from Tier 2.
- Elemental Warding now reduces magical damage instead of all damage.
- Ancestral Knowledge is now named Acuity and increases your critical strike chance with all spells and attacks by 1/2/3%.
- Convection now reduces the mana cost of your damaging offensive spells.
In addition to the above official changes, it’s also worth mentioning that Lava Burst is no longer affected by the cast time reduction of Eye of the Storm. On live, Lightning Mastery reduces the cast time of all three of our offensive spells. It’s tooltip (for maximum rank) reads:- Reduces the cast time of your Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning and Lava Burst spells by 0.5 seconds
Lightning Mastery was removed when the thirty one point talent trees were released. Eye of the Storm was made a primary skill as opposed to a talent and had the cast time reduction component from Lightning Mastery incorporated into it. Without the cast time reduction, Lava Burst’s effective cast time has risen from 1.5 seconds to 2 seconds. In addition, it has seen a small increase in it’s base damage.
Update:- I’ve finally patched the new launcher and this change no longer seems to be on the beta build. Eye of the Storm lists Lava Burst in it’s tooltip and it’s cast time reduction appears to be applying.
The enhancement changes are as follows:-
- Heroism’s “Exhausted” debuff now also affects Time Warp (Mage)
- Static Shock now procs from Primal Strike, Stormstrike, or Lava Lash (as opposed to all melee attacks and abilities). Chance to proc increased from 2/4/6% to 15/30/45%.
- Totemic Reach – New Talent – Increases the radius of your totems’ effects by 15/30%.
The restoration changes read as follows:-
- Totemic Focus is now a two ranks talent, down from three ranks. Now also increases the duration of your totems by 20/40%.
- Cleansing Waters – New Talent – When your Cleanse Spirit successfully removes a harmful effect, you also heal the target for [ 1093 to 1164 ]/[ 2187 to 2330 ].
Thoughts on the Changes
As always, you can see the current talent trees via the calculator at MMO Champion. For your convenience, here is the direct link to the shaman tree.
Ancestral Knowledge has been removed and replaced with Acuity. Ancestral Knowledge provided a 10% increase in intellect. In Cataclysm, intellect effects spell power, critical strike chance, mana pool size and potentially, mana regeneration depending on whether or not you choose to take Unrelenting Storm. Acuity increases our critical strike rating. It’s worth noting here that the patch notes state it provides a 1%, 2% and 3% increase while the talent calculator is showing a 5%, 10% and 15% increase. MMO Champion have stated that they’re aware of some tooltips in the talent calculator showing incorrectly and the values of the post are correct.
Critical strike chance awards us with a few possibilities. The most obvious is the chance that our spell hit deals more damage than normal. For an elemental shaman, a critical strike also triggers our Elemental Focus talent, allowing us to enter a Clearcasting state. The Clearcasting state alone reduces the mana cost of our next two spells by 40%. Finally, when Clearcasting is active, we deal 10% more spell damage due to the Elemental Oath talent.
In addition to the above, our critical strike rating influences the stats of our Searing Totem or Magma Totem at the time of placement. (Note though that this doesn’t apply to our Fire Elemental Totem.)
This all sounds great and indeed it is but there’s a downside to the stat. Critical strike rating always has an RNG factor. It doesn’t provide the static DPS increase that haste or spell power do. A higher critical strike rating increases the statistical chance to receive a crit from an offensive spell but it’s still a chance.
The second problem for an elemental shaman in regards to critical strike rating is Lava Burst. Assuming Lava Burst is cast when Flame Shock is ticking on a target, it’s a guaranteed critical strike anyway, regardless of our personal stats. Having our critical strike rating not influence one of our primary nukes detracts somewhat from it’s value to us.
On live, elemental shaman derive crit from a number of sources in a raid environment. One such source is the enhancement Thundering Strikes talent that is included in most cookie cutter elemental builds. This provides a 5% increase at max rank and is a talent we’re losing in Cataclysm. Call of Thunder, also removed for Cataclysm, increases the critical strike rating of our lightning spells by 5% (again at it’s maximum rank.) It’s possible therefore, that the introduction of Acuity is to make up for some of the talents being removed.
Searing Totem now prefer to target enemies that are afflicted by your Flame Shock or Stormstrike effects.
The AI of offensive totems has been criticized for a long time and it’s undoubtedly frustrating to drop a Searing Totem next to a boss and then watch it hit a completely different target. While this change is welcomed it doesn’t address the range issues of Searing Totem (and the movement problems this can cause elemental shaman) nor is there mention of a fix to the bugs encountered where the totem just sits and does nothing. Hopefully there will be more changes to the Searing Totem mechanic in the future.
Reverberation is now a Tier 2 talent. Down from Tier 3.
This change puts Reverberation in reach for enhancement shaman, particularly if they choose to take the newly added Acuity talent (and note that the increased critical strike from Acuity affects attacks as well as ranged spells.)
Improved Fire Nova is now a Tier 3 talent. Up from Tier 2.
This is purely a positioning switch to allow Reverberation to reside higher up the elemental tree.
Elemental Warding now reduces magical damage instead of all damage.
This is slight modification to Elemental Warding from it’s live incarnation where it simply reduces damage across the board by 6%. It’s slightly sad to see this change made (though in a raid situation if you’re taking melee damage, Elemental Warding probably isn’t going to save you.) I suspect that with the inclusion of Ancestral Resolve in the tier one restoration tree, there was the potential for elemental shaman to have too many damage reducing talents. Spark of Life’s place also on the first tier of restoration could give the further option of a increasing healing spells on us and while it wouldn’t be a talent you’d take in a “general” elemental build, you could stack all the damage reduction talents for specific encounters (for example, having an elemental “caster tank” a boss as Spark of Life is very reminiscent of a Warlock’s Demon Armour.)
Hex now lasts 1 minute. Up from 30 seconds
This is a hefty increase on Hex and while it’s use through PvE in Wrath has been quite none existent (Kel’Thuzad springs to mind as an exception) that may change in Cataclysm. Wrath saw the days of crowd controlling trash as a distant memory and AoEing became king. There has been a great deal of talk of this changing for Cataclysm and Hex may indeed become more vital. (Anyone who raided in Sunwell will remember the importance of using crowd control on that trash at least.)
Convection now Reduces the mana cost of your damaging offensive spells.
On live, Convection reads as follows:-
- Reduces the mana cost of your shock, Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, Lava Burst and Wind Shear spells by 2%
This change basically removes the mana cost reduction of Wind Shear; our interrupting spell.
Heroism’s “Exhausted” debuff now also affects Time Warp (Mage)
This is a highly predictable amendment to address any players questioning whether these two buffs could be used back to back.
Totemic Reach *New* – Increases the radius of your totems’ effects by 15/30%.
Shaman have been asking for a talent to increase the radius of our totems and Blizzard have delivered. Does this talent also increase the range of Searing totem? The inclusion of this talent gives us more interesting choices to make regarding our build. It is possible to take both Totemic Reach and our beloved Ancestral Swiftness (see this build as an example.) However, that does mean sacrificing points elsewhere. I’ve mentioned before that I personally see little compelling reason to take Elemental Reach unless the range of our Searing Totem is increased to match it. (If I have to either stand closer to a boss to keep placing Searing Totem, I see little benefit from having my spells out range this.) If this talent allows a greater distance on Searing Totem however, Elemental Reach becomes more interesting yet the build shown above doesn’t allow for both it and Elemental Warding for example. Taking both Ancestral Swiftness and Totemic Reach would also prevent us dipping into the restoration tree for Ancestral Resolve.
I think with the more interesting talents available to us, we’re going to see more situational specing in Cataclysm. You can focus on the damage reducing talents for new fights or encounters where there is a huge amount of raid damage going around. We could, potentially, take a great many of these and step into the role of “caster tank” if we took all the survival talents (click here for an example.)