The Basic Elemental Rotation
One thing to keep in mind with regards to elemental DPS is that your rotation will alter depending upon your gear. This is primarily related to the levels of haste that your character has but in addition, what tier items you are wearing (or rather, what set bonus you are boasting) will effect your rotation. (For example, the newly revamped tier 10 bonus will cause the duration of your flame shock to be extended through the use of lava burst)
At the most basic level we have four spells to consider:-
This is our instant cast fire based shock spell. It has a relatively small initial hit with an 18 seconds (by default) damage over time duration. Due to the fact the spell is instant cast, it has a very high damage per cast time. All this aside, our main reason for using this spell (and indeed, opening our rotations with this shock), is due to it’s interaction with lava burst.
Flame shock is affected by our personal levels of haste. Although the number of ticks per cast remains the same, the speed at which these ticks occur depends on your haste at the moment of casting. That is to say, the higher your haste, the faster the ticks. This results in the need to refresh flame shock quite often, although the tier ten elemental set bonus is designed to prevent this by allowing our lava burst hits to extend the duration of our flame shock. It will always extend the flame shock’s duration by the number of ticks that will occur in a five second period.
Due to the above, it is possible to exploit haste based cooldowns in such a way as to “double haste” your flame shock. This works by timing your haste effects to over lap each other slightly and, during that time of very high haste, refreshing your flame shock. The most commonly used example of this is with heroism and elemental mastery. With a few seconds remaining of heroism, elemental mastery is cast. Flame shock is then refreshed during this window of high haste.
Generally, you should aim to avoid clipping your flame shocks as much as possible (although this isn’t always possible). That said, on a fight where you know there is a movement portion to the encounter, it can be worth refreshing your flame shock before you move back into a “stand and nuke” scenario again. Flame shock does share a cool down with our other shock spells and this can be worth remembering, particularly on fights where you may be required to slow.
This our fast cast, hard hitting nuke. It has the benefit of being a guarenteed crit if flame shock is present on our target at the time it hits. This spell has an 8 second cool down (by default). This spell should be the second thing you cast in your rotation. From then on, this spell is your highest priority nuke assuming flame shock is present on your target and thus, guarenteeing it’s crit.
This is our “filler spell”. That is to say, when everything else is on cool down, this is what you’re going to be spamming. Needless to say, this nuke has no cool down.
This is the spell that tends to cause the most confusion. When do I use it? Where do I “fit” it in?
At lower gear levels, the answer is quite simple; don’t bother unless there are multiple targets in a pull. This is purely because of it’s heavy mana cost and at poorer levels of gear, you may find you’re running out of mana very quickly if you’re regularly using chain lightning in your rotation.
Equally at the higher gear levels (or rather, at the higher haste levels) and once your chain lightning cast time is under 1 second (the GCD cap), again, it becomes less worthwhile and lightning bolt spam will probably net a higher DPS (assuming there is a single target naturally.) When your mana can sustain incorporating chain lightning however, and when your haste isn’t such that your cast time will be under the GCD cap, it is worth using.
In terms of it’s priority in the rotation, there are two options. The first is to cast it every cooldown while maintaining lava burst’s strict priority. This is the highest DPS option but also the most mana intensive. The second option is to only cast it while our clearcasting state is up. As lava burst triggers this you need to cast chain lightning as the second spell afterlava burst to ensure the mana reduction is applied. Why the second spell? You need to account for the travelling time of lava burst. If you cast chain lightning straight after, lava burst would not have had chance to actually hit and thus trigger clearcasting.
Unless you are really stacking haste, your chain lightning probably won’t dip below the GCD with the exception of when using haste cooldowns (pots, elemental mastery, hyperspeed accelerators, heroism / bloodlust and so on).
To read my more in-depth analysis of chain lightning and it’s utilisation, check out this article.
Note:- There’s also a theory that if the remaining health % of the boss is lower than your % of mana remaining, you should always be using chain lightning off of cool down. This is the current rule that Simcraft follows.
The issue with chain lightning is one of the reasons that to declare a fixed elemental DPS rotation is quite difficult. My personal recommendation is that at lower levels of gear (when your mana pool is less likely to be able to support the heavy cost of chain lightning), don’t use it unless you have multiple targets. Once your gear is sufficient to incorporate it into your rotation, do so regardless of the number of targets but consider dropping it during heroism or when you blow haste based cooldowns (again, unless there are multiple targets present).
This is the newest member of our DPS arsenal and is mentioned in the fire totems section. This spell basically causes our active fire totem to do a wave of AoE damage. On single target encounters and most boss fights, this is not worth using. The damage it will cause to one target is pretty negligible. When you start having multiple targets present, it’s damage can be quite huge, particularly if you can combine it with your magma totem. For speeding up trash clearings, this is very useful and when coupled with magma totem’s AoE damage and our chain lightning, the damage we can do on large pulls is pretty respectable.
The Basic Rotation
It’s better to think of the elemental rotation as more of a priority system. Lava burst is the highest priority spell in our arsenal and as such has the highest priority. That said, lava burst should only be cast when flame shock is on the target to ensure it is a guaranteed critical strike. The result being that lava burst is normally the second spell you cast when opening on a boss. It should then be cast as soon as it is off cooldown.
Our priority after lava burst can either be a woven combination of chain lightning and lightning bolt or pure lightning bolt spam. The primary advantage of chain lightning is it’s shorter cast time. This can be particularly useful when lava burst is due off it’s cooldown but without enough time to cast a lightning bolt.
A key point worth mentioning is to always ensure that you’re casting. While lava burst always has priority in our rotation, waiting for it to come off cooldown rather than delay it’s cast slightly is never beneficial.
In summary, my opening rotation on a boss looks like this:-
- Flame shock
- Lava burst (every cooldown)
- Chain lightning (every cooldown except during high haste periods)
- Lightning Bolt
How to DPS When Moving
I touched on this a little above in regards to flame shock. The fact is that nearly all encounters in WoW these days require a lot of movement. The stand and nuke fights (for example, Patchwerk in Naxxramas) are becoming few and far between). High movement fights aren’t great for elemental shamans. Depending on the extent of the movement involved, we can end up repositioning totems also. So, here’s at least an idea of what to do when you have to move:-
1/ Use other shocks. It’s quite easy, infact, to forget that we have any shock spells aside from flame shock. If your flame shock has a long duration left, consider hitting your target with a frost shock. (Be aware, frost shock has a higher threat generation than our flame shock so ensure that threat is no problem before you consider using this).
2/ If the encounter is lengthy and you know that you will need to re-drop your totems, consider doing this. It will save you a global cool down later in the fight when you’re perhaps in a position to be nuke spamming again.
3/ Refresh your water shield stacks.
4/ Consider using thunderstorm to top your mana off.
5/ When you know the end of a movement phase is coming to a close, refresh your flame shock since it will allow you to get straight back into your nuking rotation faster once in position.
Throughout movement phases (and depending on their type), keep in mind that lava burst and lightning bolt are quite fast casting spells. If you can use them, do so.