This is basically our default air totem and as signature to the elemental shaman as our Totem of Wrath. This totem gives 5% spell haste to all party and raid members within it’s 30 yards range.
When To Use It
- All the time! Well, most of the time anyway. If there is another elemental shaman using Wrath of Air, switch to Windfury Totem instead.
- If you’re in a very melee heavy group, that doesn’t have haste from another source, you may want to drop Windfury Totem
Things to Note
- This is a raid wide totem.
This totem provides 16% melee haste to all party and raid members within it’s 30 yards range
When to Use It
- When another elemental shaman is using Wrath of Air Totem in the raid.
- When you are in a very heavy melee group that do not have an equivalent or superior buff. (A frost speced death knight provides the equivalent buff. An enhancement speced shaman can talent this totem to be superior to the elemental version)
Things to Note
- This is a raid wide totem
This totem’s will reflect one harmful spell targeted at the shaman or a nearby party member.
When To Use It
This totem will find it’s primary use in PvP situations. (Note:- This can include the Faction Champions encounter in Trial of the Crusader. However, I would personally only recommend it’s use if another elemental shaman is providing Wrath of Air totem)
Things to Note
- It will NOT reflect AoE spells
- Once it has reflected one spell, the totem will be destroyed.
- It has a relatively low duration compared to most of our totems (45 seconds)
- It has a 15 second cooldown
This is one of our resistance totems. It provides 130 nature resistance to all party and raid member’s within it’s range of 30 yards.
When To Use It
- When there is very high, raid wide nature damage that simply MUST be reduced.
When there is another elemental shaman in the raid providing Wrath of Air totem, melee haste is covered by an enhancement shaman or frost death knight and an encounter has some nature damage.
Things to Note
- This is a raid wide totem.
Using this totem has a high “cost” to a elemental shaman as Wrath of Air is simply that good. Therefore, unless the nature damage is such that the raid will wipe without the totem, avoid it’s use.
This section will cover our earth totems and the best use of them.
This totem is of no direct benefit to elemental shamans. It provides 155 strength and agility to all party and raid members in a 30 yard range.
When to Use It:-
1/ When there is no enhancement shaman in the party or raid using their own Strength of Earth Totem. (They can talent theirs to be superior).
2/ When there is no death knight in the party or raid using Horn of Winter
3/ When there is no other elemental shaman or restoration shaman dropping Strength of Earth
Things to Note:-
1/ While not of benefit to us, it does significantly buff melee DPS if there is no one else providing a similar or superior buff.
2/ This totem has a raid wide effect.
This totem increases armour to all party and raid members by 1150 within a 30 yard range
When To Use It:-
1/ When an enhancement shaman is dropping their superior version of our Strength of Earth totem.
2/ When another elemental or restoration shaman is dropping their equal version of our Strength of Earth totem.
3/ When no other enhancement shaman is dropping their superior version of Stoneskin Totem. (They can talent this totem to be more effective)
Things to Note:-
1/ This is a raid wide totem.
2/ It DOES stack with Devotion Aura
This is a powerful totem in our arsenal.
When To Use It:-
1/ In ANY fight that involves fear effects.
2/ In PvP scenarios. (Note:- This also means the totem is very useful for the Faction Champions encounter in Trial of the Crusader.)
Things to Note:-
1/ This totem is NOT raid wide. It will ONLY effect the shaman’s party. This is vital to note in raid encounters that involve a raid wide fear and distributing your shamans should be done carefully.
2/ This totem will not only remove fear effects, but also some charm and sleep effects
3/ This totem works with a pulse mechanism as with the Cleansing Totem. It will pulse every three seconds, attempting to remove fear, charm and sleep effects from the shaman and his or her party.
This totem will attempt to snare all targets within it’s radius (10 yards).
When To Use This Totem:-
1/ On any fight where add control through speed reduction is useful.
2/ In a PvP situation. (Note:- This can also include the Faction Champions encounter in Trial of the Crusader. If you have two shamans in one group, consider coordinating so one uses Tremor Totem and the other uses Earthbind Totem)
Things to Note:-
1/ This totem has a very small range (10 yards)
2/ This totem has a relatively small duration compared to most of our totems (45 seconds).
As with the Fire Elemental Totem, the cooldown of this elemental was recently reduced to 5 minutes.
When to Use This Totem:-
1/ This is primarily used in solo situations. There are very few situations where a tank will appreciate you popping a taunting elemental.
2/ It can be useful in PvP encounters.
For our restoration friends, they can generally follow the same guide to earth totems as elemental shamans.
This section looks on our water totems for primarily elemental but also restoration.
This totem restores mana to ourselves and our party or raid.
When To Use It:-
1/ When there is no paladin providing Blessing of Wisdom. (Paladin’s can talent their blessing to be superior to our mana spring)
2/ When there is no restoration shaman using Mana Spring Totem. (Restoration shamans’ can talent their totem to be superior to ours)
Things to Note:-
1/ If you are grouped with just one other paladin, encourage him to use Blessing of Kings instead and drop Mana Spring Totem
2/ This totem only has 30 yards range so even if you have another elemental shaman in a raid it may still be worth using Mana Spring to ensure the entire raid is covered with this form of mana regeneration – particularly in fights where your raid is considerable spread out. (This naturally only applies if no paladin is blessing wisdom. If they are, it is better to switch to healing stream totem)
3/ This totem has a raid wide effect
This is probably the totem you will find yourself using the most as elemental purely due to the overlap between the buffs we can provide through water totems and the buffs other classes can bring to a raid or a party.
When To Use This Totem:-
1/ If there is a paladin in the raid or party using Blessing of Wisdom. If you are in a group with just one paladin, ask him to use Blessing of Kings instead and switch to Mana Spring Totem.
2/ If there is another elemental shaman in the party already using Mana Spring Totem. (Do note what I mentioned above however, if you have more than one elemental shaman using Mana Stream totem, it may still be worth using it in situations where your raid are spread considerably as the range is only 30 yards)
This totem is amazing and often under appreciated
When to Use It:-
1/ In any fight that requires poisons and diseases which need cleansing.
2/ In PvP situations. (Note, this can also include the Faction Champions encounter in Trial of the Crusader)
Things to Note:-
1/ It has a 30 yard range
2/ This totem is NOT raid wide. It will only effect members of your own party. Therefore in a raid situation where cleansing totem is being used, split up your shamans and remember to all use it.
3/ This totem works similarly to Tremor Totem in that is has a pulse effect. That is to say, every three seconds it will attempt to remove one poison and disease effect from yourself and your party members.
Again, for the benefit of those of us who also dabble into the restoration side of shamanistic play. For the most part, the water totems are the same as for elemental. Restoration shamans can talent for superior Healing Stream and Mana Spring totems. Equally, some choose to even glyph their Healing Stream totem for an additional boost. (This will be covered in a later section on glyphs). Healing stream can indeed, do a respectable amount of party healing, particularly in a heroic group situation.
In addition to the totems mentioned above, restoration shamans also have:-
This is a talented totem in the restoration tree and most resto shamans will take it without question. It restores 6% of total mana every 3 seconds to all party members within a 30 yard radius
When to Use It:-
1/ This can often depend upon the individual encounter. Many shamans will use it as soon as they have lost enough mana to justify it (i.e. enough so that the mana regained from this totem will not be wasted on a full mana bar)
Things to Note:-
1/ This totem is NOT raid wide. It will ONLY affect members of your own party. Due to this, ensure you are placing your restoration shaman either with other healers or with casters that suffer from mana issues.
2/ This totem now stacks with other mana tide effects. This means if you have two restoration shamans in one group, dropping your totems at the same time won’t result in one totem being “wasted” (assuming you need that much mana restored of course)
3/ This totem is on a 5 minute cooldown.
4/ It’s range isn’t huge so don’t use this just before you have to move a great deal and remember to recast your default water totem once the Mana Tide has expired.
Our fire totems can basically be divided into two distinct categories. Those that buff and those that hurt! Patch 3.2 brought a number of changes for the elemental shamans. One of these being the introduction of Fire Nova.
The tooltip of this spell states:-
“Causes the shaman’s active fire totem to emit a wave of flames…”
And that is precisely what it does. This causes your fire totem to pulse a 10 yard range, fire based AoE.
When To Use It:-
Those most effective use for this skill is in combination with magma totem. When used on large packs of mobs, the combined damage between your magma totem’s AoE and Fire Nova is devastating.
Things to Note:-
- On single targets, the DPS is just not worth it. It will do less damage than any of our other spells.
This was our much coveted raid buff totem until more recently when demonology warlocks became more common place (partly due to buffs to their own spec making it more viable personal DPS and partly due to the scaling of their Demonic Pact talent which offers much more spell power to the raid as higher levels of gear are obtained)
This totem increase raid wide spell damage by 280.
It increases the critical strike chance of all attacks by 3% and against all enemies.
Things to note
This will NOT stack with Flametongue totem (our restoration friends’ most commonly use fire buffing totem)
This will NOT stack with a warlock’s Demonic Pact.
This totem has a 40 yard radius. If you’re the shaman providing this to the raid, it’s vital to ensure people are within range of it.
This totem is raid wide
When To Use It
This totem will probably be your most commonly used fire totem. While it can be tempting to use a DPS totem to increase your personal DPS, the loss of the spell power increase provided by totem of wrath along with the critical strike debuff will reduce your raid DPS far more that it will increase your singular output. Never the less, there are times when the buffs are covered by other classes and you will find yourself free to use your DPS totems. These are as as follows
If the spell power buff is provided by a Demonology Warlock. Due to the scaling of their talent, the warlock would need 2800 spell power or higher to equal or surpass the bonus offered by totem of wrath.
- If the critical strike debuff is covered by a Retribution Paladin or an Assassination Rogue.
- If you have another Elemental Shaman in the raid using totem of wrath
It is more likely that both of these aspects are covered by other classes in a twenty five man raid. For those of us focussing on ten man raiding, the chances are high that you will be dropping totem of wrath the majority of your raiding time.
This totem falls into the second category; totems that hurt, otherwise known as our DPS totems. Shamans receive this totem at level ten as their first fire totem.
Things to Note
- This totem has a relatively short range in comparison with our other totems
This totem can not be controlled. A number of factors influence what this totem will attack. The shaman’s own choice is not one such factor
This totem benefits from the shaman’s own stats at the time it is placed. Our spell power, critical strike rating, hit rating and any damage buffs upon us at the time of casting. This includes additional spell power or critical strike rating gained from trinkets. Haste does not effect this totem in any way
As mentioned above, you have no control over what this totem hits. This can be problematic on some encounters.
This totem is immune to almost all AoE. Do be aware that there are occasions where mobs will one shot your totem.
It has a relatively small range compared to many of our totems and requires that it is placed within twenty yards of the mobs.
This totem has a sixty second duration
When To Use This Totem
If the spell power buff from totem of wrath is already supplied by:-
- A Demonology Warlock with a minimum of 2800 spell power
- An Elemental Shaman using totem of wrath
If the critical strike rating buff from totem of wrath is being supplied by:-
- A Retribution Paladin
- An Assassination Rogue
In addition to this you should consider the following:-
That you can safely get close enough to your target to place this totem. This won’t always be the case and never risk your own survivability for the sake of dropping a totem
When you are up against single target mobs or a boss (with many targets, magma totem will provide higher DPS but with a much shorter duration)
Why To Use This Totem
This totem benefits from your own stats (excluding your haste rating), so on a well geared shaman, it can add around 500 DPS. When other classes are providing all the buffs supplied by totem of wrath, there is no need to forgo the extra DPS that searing totem can bring. It isn’t always safe to stroll into melee range of AoE pulls. In these instances, use a searing totem instead of a magma totem.
How To Use This Totem
You’re going to need to refresh this totem every minute so always plan ahead in a fight and predict the optimal time for refreshing your totem. If you’re using the major Glyph of Totem of Wrath then you also need to maintain the buff from this on yourself. On fights where there is a movement portion, consider dropping your totem of wrath when you move away from the boss to refresh your buff. When you move back in, replace your searing totem.
An excellent example of this would be on the Lord Marrowgar fight. When the entire raid move to the outskirts of the room during his Bone Storm phase, place your totem of wrath and refresh the buff from the glyph. When you move back in to continue DPS, replace your searing totem.
Another such example of smart totem management is on the Sindragosa encounter. During her ground phases, Sindragosa casts Icy Grip, drawing the entire range directly to her. Dropping your searing totem at this point ensures the totem is well within range without the need for you to lose DPS time by moving to position it.
Finally, as mentioned, he gains all the stats of the caster at the time of dropping. In the Blood Queen Lanathel encounter, be sure to drop this totem just after you gain the Essence of the Blood Queen buff. The totem benefits from this just as the caster does and the DPS increase is sizeable.
Again, this is a damage totem and is, simply put, the AoE version of our searing totem.
Things to Note
- Magma totem has just a eight yard range. This obviously dictates you need to be in the melee range of mobs for this totem to be effective
It will hit all targets within it’s range. As such, this totem can provide some very high AoE damage, particularly when used in combination with our fire nova ability.
Unlike our searing totem or fire elemental totem, this totem has a fixed position and simply hits all targets within it’s eight yard radius. This makes the targets of this totem very predictable unlike our other fire DPS totems.
This totem is vulnerable to being one shot by newly agro’d mobs dragged within range of it. As it requires melee range to be effective, there is always the chance of something killing it.
It has an eight yard range around the totem.
This totem has a twenty second duration.
When To Use This Totem
Obviously, this totem is of use when we don’t need to drop totem of wrath. This means we have:-
- A Demonology Warlock with a minimum of 2800 spell power in the raid
- Another Elemental Shaman using totem of wrath
- An Assassination Rogue or a Retribution Paladin providing the critical strike increase
This totem has a higher DPS output, even on a single target, than our searing totem does. However, due to it’s considerably shorter duration, this DPS increase is soon lost when you consider the number of times you have to replace the totem versus searing. (Consider also the amount of time you lose by running around placing this totem within range of your target).
On large AoE pulls however, this totem is godly. When used with fire nova, chain lightning and even thunderstorm, our AoE capabilities are strong.
Why To Use This Totem
Quite simply, it will maximise our damage output on large AoE pulls. In terms of actual numbers, it does around 650-700 DPS per target.
How To Use This Totem
With it’s small range, this totem requires you wade into the thick of the action. Initially try and wait for the tank to have control over the AoE pull and to have positioned them. Run in and place down the totem on the edge of the AoE pull. If you have your thunderstorm skill off cool down, this is an excellent time to use it also (as you’re already in melee range). If you do intend to use thunderstorm in this way however, please remember to glyph it. Your tanks will not be impressed with their nicely gathered AoE mobs suddenly being rocketed in all directions. Once the totem is placed, move back to range and remember to use your fire nova skill every time it is off cool down for maximum AoE damage.
If you find that the mobs are moving around a lot and constantly leaving the range of your magma totem, then replace it with a searing totem. You will lose more DPS trying to replace your magma totem in the pack of mobs continuously than you will from reverting to a single target totem. (Remember also, fire nova will still work from your searing totem anyway, ensuring you still have a decent portion of AoE damage).
This totem summons forth a large fire elemental to DPS with you. In patch 3.2, our elementals had their cooldown reduced to 10 minutes. (You can glyph this to reduce it to 5 minutes. The value of this will be discussed in the glyphs section rather than here).
Things to Note
This totem will last for two minutes, after this time he will simply vanish and you must remember to place down another fire totem.
- He does approximately 1.5k DPS to a single target in that two minutes.
If there are multiple targets, the DPS will be higher. He has a fire shield pulsing approximately every three seconds and a fire nova cast around every seven seconds hitting all targets within his range.
- His standard melee attack is fire based and thus unaffected by any melee damage reducing debuffs
- Recalling your totems will, obviously, kill your fire elemental totem so be aware of this on movement fights
You can not control what he chooses to hit. Unlike other summoned pets, we do not gain a pet control bar for our totems. This can result in additional pulls when the elemental wanders off to attacks other packs of mobs. In other words, ensure it is safe to use him before doing so.
Naturally, he is immune to all fire based damage in addition to boasting a 75% passive reduction to AoE damage. He does not benefit from any group based healing effects.
The fire elemental totem still summons an actual totem. The elemental’s range is fourty yards from this point.
He lasts for two minutes
When to Use Him
Again before using our DPS totems, we must ensure that the buffs gained from totem of wrath are being provided by other members of the raid. (Always remember while your personal DPS gain may seem high, the loss of raid wide buffs usually out weighs this.
- If there is a Demonology Warlock with a minimum of 2800 spell power in the raid
- If there is another Elemental Shaman using totem of wrath
- If there is an Assassination Rogue or Retribution Paladin providing the increased critical strike
He is our best single target DPS totem by far. Due to his duration, try and use him on portions of a fight where the boss is reasonably static. Alternatively, if there is a phase requiring high DPS (that cool downs are specifically saved for), then consider using him then.
An example of this could be phase three of Anub’arak in Trial of the (Grand) Crusader. At this phase, the boss has stopped submerging and it becomes a DPS race to kill him. Equally, Sindragosa phase three is also an effective time to use the fire elemental. She is permanently grounded and many of your DPS will be preoccupied with damaging ice tombs.
Why To Use This Totem
He will normally produce between 1.5k and 2k DPS for his duration. Due to his two minute duration, we lose less personal DPS in time spent replacing our other fire totems.
How to Use This Totem
If you’re using the major Glyph of Totem of Wrath then you will still want to maintain this buff on yourself. As such, ensure you have at least two minutes remaining on this buff before dropping your fire elemental totem. Due to his length cool down, it’s generally better to pop this totem as soon as possible unless you are specifically saving him for a burst phase in the fight. If you’re raiding with multiple Elemental Shamans, consider rotating when you use these to ensure you always have the totem of wrath buff as well as having both shamans personal DPS increased via the use of their fire elemental totem.
Restoration Fire Totems
Finally, for those of you who (like me) have a restoration offspec, here is a brief look at the fire totems for this spec.
This totem gives you, your party or raid a 144 spell damage increase
When to Use This Totem
This is pretty much your default fire totem as restoration, primarily because your other choices are quite limited. In a group situation (where you have an Elemental Shaman or a Demonology Warlock), you could arguably use a Searing Totem. However, much of this depends whether or not you are comfortable moving into range for this and whether or not your are stressed for healing.
Things To Note
- This totem does NOT stack with an Elemental Shaman’s Totem of Wrath
- This totem does NOT stack with a Warlock’s Demonic Pact
- This totem has a 30 yard range (this is smaller than Totem of Wrath which boasts a 40 yard range)
- This totem has a raid wide affect (assuming they are in range of course. See above)
When you think of shamans most people will think of their unique, core abilities; the totems. These are pretty much a class defining concept and understanding them is vital to playing a shaman correctly.
In patch 3.2.0, shaman play was revolutionised with the introduction of the totem bar into the default UI. This allowed shamans to drop all four totems (that is to say, one from each element), in ONE global cooldown. Prior to this, totems for each element had to be dropped individually and aside from feeling a clumsy mechanic, the cost to our DPS was immense. Additionally, while shamans have arguable always been the DPS class that have feared movement fights the most, before the appearance of the totem bar, repositioning totems was catastrophic to our damage.
(Image courtesy of http://www.worldofraids.com)
Shaman totems have been the cause of much discussion again recently, particularly centred around Totem of Wrath. As raiders are reaching higher levels of gear, demonology warlocks have been providing a much higher amount of spell damage to a raid through their Demonic Pact talent (which gives 10% of their total spell damage to all). Furthermore, recent changes have meant that demo locks no longer sacrifice a huge amount of personal damage to bring this buff to a raid. The community seems torn on whether this is a good thing or not. The presence of a demo lock means we’re able to use our fire DPS totems. However, for some shamans there seems to be almost a whimsical feeling of loss that they are no longer providing a much needed raid buff and a worry that they may no longer get their guaranteed raid spot. (This has perhaps been exasperated recently due to the fact that elemental DPS has been a little on the low side. This is now being addressed with an upcoming patch).
I never cease to be amused about the number of players who seem unhappy with the entire concept of totems. (Indeed, there was a recent call on the official forums for them to be removed all together and our buffs to be added as more conventional spells). Totems are a core aspect of the shaman class. They brings a huge amount of diversity to a raid if you know how to use them correctly. Take a good look at the different totems we have and you will soon realise the arsenal of skills we gain through them.
Learning to manage them correctly comes with time and practice. It can be overwhelming to a new shaman to be faced with so many totems and the job of remembering which to use where. Furthermore, you need to ensure that they are in range of the majority of the raid at all times. This can mean re-positioning them during a fight. Always try and think ahead during an encounter. If you know you have to move at a specific time, consider whether this would be a good point to reposition your totems (and reset their timers if they will not last the full duration of an encounter of course).
This guide will, hopefully, explain to newer elemental shamans which totems they should be dropping when, what the totems do and which effect the whole raid rather than being limited to just their own party. For the sake of ensuring the post doesn’t become too long, I’m going to break it up into sections focused around one element each.
This term seems to strike terror into some WoW players. As with most things, not understand them results in a wariness. They can, however, be enormously useful for many class/spec/role combinations in a raiding atmosphere. Primarily, they’re a very useful tool for a healer.
The Advantages of Macros
There are a great deal of factors that contribute to a good healer. An understanding of their class is paramount naturally. Knowing their spells and which are the best to cast in any given situation is vital.
Another element to consider is that of speed. A slow healer is never a good healer. Failing to react to incoming damage fast enough will result in wipes. While a certain amount of reaction time is down to the individual, there are also ways in which to ensure you are responding as fast as you’re capable. One of these is to ensure you’re using a good UI. Good raid frames correctly configured to show debuffs and other players incoming heals goes a long way. In addition to this, you can reduce the time it takes for you to select your target and heal him or her through the use of macros.
What Exactly Are They?
Simply put, they allow you to select a target without physically clicking on it. They tell the game to treat your target as whatever your mouse cursor is currently hovering over (hence the name)
Aren’t There Addons That Do That For Me…?
Yes, there are. Addons such as Clique, for example, will setup mouse over macros for you. However, why use an addon for something that is perfectly simple to create yourself? In addition, Clique limits you to binding your spells to your mouse buttons (something I strongly discourage unless you have a mouse with a lot of buttons). To gain more hot keys than the number of buttons on your mouse requires that you use combinations, such as shift + right click, or alt + left click. Any hot key that requires you to press two buttons will slow you down in comparison to pressing one! Slowing you down defeats the entire object of the exercise.
The combination of macros and good raid frames (I thoroughly recommend grid to optimise your healing), will improve your effectiveness as a healer. Their use isn’t limited to healing. Imagine a fight where you have to dispell very quickly – Yogg springs to mind. Being able to scroll over that person in your frame and instantly hit the hotkey, without targeting, speeds up the whole process. Multiply this over how many times you need to dispell and suddenly the whole operation becomes much faster (not to mention with good frames you won’t be scrolling much between targets either!)
How To Make Them
There are a few different macros out there, ranging from the very simple to the more complex. Let’s start with the most basic:-
The above macro is as simple as they come. Pressing it will physically select the target your cursor is currently hovering over and cast Riptide.
Onto the slightly more complex and the macros I specifically use when healing.
/cast [target=mouseover] Riptide
This macro works slightly differently. It will cast Riptide on the target your mouse cursor is currently hovering over without physically selecting them. So, for example, I have a main tank selected. I notice a caster taking damage in the raid, mouse over him on grid and hit my macro. Riptide is cast on this person and my target still remains the main tank.
More complex still…
/cast [target=mouseover,help] Riptide; [help] Riptide; Riptide
The above macro should do the following:-
1) If I have a mouse over target (i.e. my mouse cursor is hovering over a player), it will cast Riptide on them
2) If I have no mouse over target (i.e. my mouse cursor is just hovering in mid air) but I have a physical target, it will cast Riptide on the physical target.
3) If I have neither mouse over target nor physical target, it will cast Riptide on me.
Slaving a Trinket to a Macro
It you wish to “attach” a trinket effect to a specific spell and ensure that it is always used off cooldown (remember this isn’t always ideal, there are times when you will require your trinket effects at specific points in a fight), you can do this too through a macro.
/cast Chain Heal
/use Living Ice Crystals
The above macro will cast Chain Heal on my mouse over target. If my Living Crystals are off cooldown, it will activate those also. Remember to add the last line of text, it is this which removes the very annoying red text spam at the top of your screen telling you that an item “isn’t ready yet!”
Without a doubt, Wrath of the Lich King has been an interesting expansion for World of Warcraft. Before it’s release, the appearance of Blizzard’s new buzz phrase became apparent “bring the player, not the class”. They decided to homogenize many classes, distributing previously unique raid buffs among others. This was met with a mixed response from the players. It made raid configurations much easier to deal with but many disliked that their class suddenly felt less unique. In addition to these changes came the vision of bringing raid content to more players. Blizzard wanted everyone to see the end game in some capacity. From their point of view, it made sense. Their are claims that a mere 1% of the player base saw Sunwell Plateaux in it’s original, pre-nerfed state. M’uru became known as the “guild killer” after many respectable guilds struggled to keep up the motivation while learning this unforgiving encounter. Blizzard stated there would not be another Sunwell and that they simply could not justify pooling such a large amount of resources into an instance that so few people enjoyed.
So, we come to the release of Wrath. From a raiding context, it was not a great release. Naxxramas was pitifully easy. Malygos was not much better. The Obsidian Sanctum, however, introduced a new concept to WoW raiding; hard modes. For the first time we had one instance, but different difficulties encased within and it seemed to work. Defeating Sartharian with his three guardian drakes alive kept many guilds occupied for some time. This new expansion brought about another change to our raiding content. While we had experienced ten man raiding before; we had Karazhan and Zul’Aman during The Burning Crusade, we hadn’t been offered it on quite such a scale. Suddenly Blizzard were conveying that all their raid content would have two different modes and thus was born the twenty five man instances and their ten man counter parts. There were multiple ways to view this change. Firstly, it allowed guilds to practice the strategies of a fight on a smaller scale before taking it to their main twenty five man raids. Secondly, it gave additional ways for people to gear up. Thirdly, it gave some of the faster clearing guilds more raid opportunities and many began doing ten man raids on off nights or after their main raids ended. Lastly and perhaps the least recognised, it gave smaller guilds the possibility of their own distinct progression path. Suddenly, rather than needing twenty five people to raid, you needed ten; a huge difference for a small group of friends. Furthermore, the “fluff” rewards from completing achievement sets were given to ten man raids too. Those smaller guilds could earn their own drakes.
Let us fast forward to September 2009. It was at this time that a progress tracking site announced what a small pocket of the raiding community had been waiting and hoping for. Guildox announced their intention to start tracking the progress of “ten man strict guilds”. To clarify, for the guilds that genuinely were ten man guilds, their efforts were to be recognised more officially with a ranking system to mirror that of the larger, more traditional guilds. At this point I wish to stress on behalf of the ten man strict guilds out there, how greatful we all are to guildox for this change. Finally we could have the thrill of racing for the EU first kills as well. Finally, we could get a taste of competition.
Guildox ranking system has brought with it problems however. To qualify for this ladder, you have to forgo twenty five man raiding completely. This in itself, is quite obvious. Ten man content can be (and often is) steam rolled by people in twenty five man gear. This restriction has more wide spread implications however. Firstly, where many guilds will have “social” members (people who maybe once raided and can no longer do so or the friends or family of full time raiders perhaps), ten man guilds are limited in this option. We can not afford to have people participate in twenty five man raids. If a member kills a boss in a twenty five man raid considered “current content” (for reference, at the time of writing this covers Icecrown, Trial of the Grand Crusader and will soon extend to the new Vault of Archevon boss), we get a flag. Collect too many of these and you are removed from the strict ten man ladder. Incidentally, removing the offending player from your roster will not remove the flag. It doesn’t end there however. We also have to be mindful of new recruits. Their kills travel with them. As an example, if we were to recruit a new member who has previously raided twenty five mans, his kills count against our record. This limits our potential recruitment base enormously. We primarily need either people who are coming from a ten man environment already or people who have not been at the forefront of PvE raiding for a while. Finally, for those of us who enjoy the achievement system in WoW, we can’t even join pugs to gain a few extra points. We’re totally limited on the achievements available to us if we wish to remain part of a ranked guild.
In addition to our shiny new rankings, Blizzard also began to notice strict ten man raiders in a fashion. New achievements appeared with Ulduar with the prerequisite that the players of a raid had to use gear of an appropriate level. “Herald of the Titans” was the first, albeit twenty five man guilds still had an advantage in being able to use the higher level gear sets from Ulduar. Trial of the Grand Crusader, on the other hand, brought with it “A Tribute to Dedicated Insanity”, the final hurdle in the ToGC achievements; clearing the instance with no deaths and in only ten man gear.
I was recently contacted by an officer in another ten man strict guild alerting me to a thread started on the official forums asking Blizzard for more recognition of ten man raiding as a viable progression route in WoW. There were many suggestions on how to encourage this but here I’ll focus on mine.
Firstly, lets look at the achievement system. Loathed by some, revered by others, it was another new addition in Wrath. Some people go to great lengths to try and receive as many achievement points as is possible. Most of the achievements are exactly duplicated between ten and twenty five man encounters so why not allow players to merely earn one set? By allowing twenty five man guilds to steam roll the ten man content, the value of most ten man raiding achievements is lowered. If you out gear your content, of course obtaining achievements will be easier and there is no way to distinguish whether someone used relevant level gear or merely waited for the encounter to become trivial. Naturally, achievements like dedicated insanity go some way to combating this. However, with our current ranking system, ten man players forgo the opportunity to gain many achievement points. Changing the achievement system would not prevent larger guilds from still doing the ten man content. They can still farm it for additional emblems. They can still utilise it to gear up new members and rerollers alike. They can still clear it on off nights as something to do but they would no longer diminish the value of the achievements earned by the genuine ten man guilds; the ones who combat this content with the correct level of gear.
Secondly, the loot tables need some addressing. As it stands now for my shaman, the best trinkets available to her are Muradin’s Spyglass (and Icecrown drop) and Eye of the Brood Mother. The latter is from ten man Ulduar. Admittedly, it was an amazing trinket and one sought by many raiders but it’s also from an instance released close to one year ago. Trial of the Crusader and Trial of the Grand Crusader brought with it some amazing trinkets on it’s twenty five man version. The Reign of the Unliving and Reign of the Dead are both incredible and they remain best in slot for casters at present. By comparison, in the ten man version of the instance, casters got the Talisman of Volatile Power a diabolical trinket that frankly, no one wants.
The “fluff” rewards are also questionable. The “Alone in the Darkness” achievement is still considered difficult and relatively few ten man strict guilds have completed this. For the few that complete this, they can look forward to the Vanquished Clutches of Yogg Saron; a trinket calls forth a Yogg style tentacle. For the twenty five man guilds? Mimiron’s Head; a very rare and very unique looking mount. I know which I would choose.
The trend continues in Trial of the Grand Crusader where a Tribute to Insanity on ten man will net you a Swift Alliance Steed. On twenty five man however, you earn a feat of strength and the entire raid receive Black Warhorse. We achieved our first insanity run back in November so, obviously, we’re still collecting mounts for our raiders….
(Image courtesy of Balance guild on Grim Batol (EU) – Visit them at http://balance-guild.eu/)
After all of this, you may ponder why then I chose ten man raiding. Most twenty five man guilds are plagued with a singular problem in regards to the skill level of their roster. You don’t have to be a genius to know that recruiting is hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re Ensidia or a guild that will never realistically see hard modes until you out gear them dramatically; recruiting is hard.
Many guilds form with that one holy grail of goals. “We want world firsts!” Some, of course, are just plain unrealistic and formed by people who lack the experience, skill and dedication for that. A percentage aren’t though. They have genuinely skilled and committed players at their core. Most guilds, however, have a group of players that are just down right poor.
Remember the days of Black Temple and Teron Gorefiend? How many of you remember begging to an invisible WoW God that “that” person doesn’t get constructs first? Later on in the fight, it wasn’t quite so bad if a poor player got them, providing the one before was competent. However if “that” player was first with the debuff, you knew it would be a wipe. Mount Hyjal saw players needing to click an item in their inventories to save them from the falling damage when Archimonde blasted them skywards. Fast forward to Sunwell and we had Felmyst with beams that required the player they focussed on to “kite” them away. The twins had the conflag ability that needed the targeted player to hop out of the raid and run a short distance so as not to blow everyone up.
The list is endless and most guilds would wipe over and over on these bosses, long after they had originally been learned purely because they all carry a number of sub-par players in their roster. What course of action do you take as a guild leader? You can remove your poorer players but this runs the risk of not being able to fill all your raid spots. Not raiding at all can then cost you the really skilled players you want to hold onto. You can keep recruiting, hope you find better and gradually bench the under performers. In my experience this is a never ending circle (and yes, I have been there) of “we know he’s not very good, but we can’t find better.. when we do, he’s out!”
The Advantages of Ten Man Raiding
This brings me to ten man raiding. There is a huge difference between the roster required to support a ten man guild than a twenty five man and it’s not just a numbers game. Ten people are easier to coordinate. It’s easier to accommodate the individual, real life commitments of ten people than of twenty five. What does this mean? In my opinion you can maintain higher standards.
A second aspect to consider is the social atmosphere of a guild. Most raiders will spend a vast amount of time with their fellow guild mates. For those at the cutting edge of content, they probably spend more time with them than their more tangible friends and family. Most people in a twenty five man guild can not claim, hand on heart, that they are friends with everyone in the guild. In all honesty, they might not even know everyone in their guild. A small twenty five man raiding guild probably holds around thirty two active members to ensure full raids every day. This number then scales upwards to some having hundreds, particularly when you included the social members. (Incidentally, “social” rank frequently makes me giggle when many of these members are people who stopped raiding years ago but still feel they have a claim to guild membership. The active members carry a guild forward and often these “social” members are anything but social! They are normally remembered by one or two very old members while everyone else wonders who on earth they are and why they are still guilded. Rant over and normal transmission resuming). In a ten man guild, you will know everyone you raid with. Most of these guilds seem to have around twelve to fifteen active raiders. You may end up knowing them more than you ever wanted 😉 It is easy to feel like you’re drowning in some larger guilds. You’re one of many representatives of your class. Some guilds have to rotate players a lot. A feeling of “not making a difference” can develop where you get a sense that if you left, it wouldn’t be a huge deal. Not so in ten man raiding. With these smaller guilds you genuinely are a person and not just a class.
A third aspect which doesn’t apply to myself but is worth mentioning is the technical requirements of raiding. For some people, twenty five man raiding is unrealistic (or maybe even impossible) on their PCs. A large portion of the WoW player base are younger people and a lot are students. For the people who suffer FPS too low to perform in twenty five man raids, you have a significantly higher chance of being able to do so in ten mans.
Finally comes the loot. Obviously, ten man loot is a scaled down version of it’s twenty five man counterparts. This is relative though, our encounters are scaled down versions of their counterparts too. Due to itemisation not always being great, some ten man heroic items have been best in slot in the past. We earn emblems slower than the larger guilds certainly, but we share our loot with nine other people in the raid. Depending on our rosters, you are likely to be the only class-spec combination in your entire guild. Naturally in the case of many items, multiple classes will want them but never the less, we have to wait less time. In addition, we can build offspec sets much faster (we often get the variety of playing those offspecs more also).
There we have it. What began as a random thought for the evening turned into a rather epic post encompassing the pros and cons of ten man raiding. While there is no doubt that it wouldn’t suit everyone, for some people it is perfect. I also hope this makes others realise that we’re not the “scrub raiders” of the PvE scene. We’re not all guilds that fail at building twenty five man rosters. Some of us are genuinely passionate about this raiding route. While the encounters and achievements may seem easier to many eyes, done with the appropriate level of gear, they are not. At present, there is a healthy amount of ten man strict raiding guilds appearing and racing for the EU first kills in Icecrown. I wish the best to all our competition and sincerely hope that Cataclysm brings more recognition to ten man raiding as a viable PvE progression path. Finally, to Blizzard, you wanted to open up raiding content to more people. Ten man raids are the perfect way to facilitate this, if only you would give them a little more support and recognition as opposed to letting the larger guilds stomp all over our accomplishments with their higher level gear.