Elemental Mastery – What, When and How?
Elemental Mastery is the thirty one point talent found in the elemental tree. It’s also the tree’s only DPS cooldown. With a hefty three minute by default cooldown, how we use Elemental Mastery can be quite critical. Today, we’re looking at precisely that; the most effective use of this significant elemental talent.
What Does Elemental Mastery Do?
In it’s current live form, it’s tool tip reads as follows:-
When activated, your next Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning or Lava Burst spell becomes an instant cast spell. In addition, you gain 15% spell haste for 15 sec. Elemental Mastery shares a cooldown with Nature’s Swiftness.
- Instant Cast
- Three Minute Cooldown
We can split this down into two distant effects. Firstly, is the instant cast component of Elemental Mastery. The second is the 15% increase in spell haste for the next fifteen seconds.
When considering the instant cast element, we have two options on “spending” this. Firstly, we can use it on our longest cast spell. Secondly, we can use it with Lava Burst’s guaranteed critical strike to enter a Clearcasting state via Elemental Focus.
If we look at the base cast times of our spells, we have the following:-
- Lightning Bolt – 2.5 Seconds Cast Time
- Chain Lightning – 2 Second Cast Time
- Lava Burst – 2 Second Cast Time
The above detail the untalented cast times of our offensive spells. When taking into account our Lightning Mastery talent, we can shave off 0.5 seconds from each cast time:-
- Lightning Bolt – 2 Second Cast Time
- Chain Lightning – 1.5 Second Cast Time
- Lava Burst – 1.5 Second Cast Time
Obviously these times do not account for individual haste but Lightning Bolt will remain the spell with the longest cast time.
The second choice is to utilise the instant cast component on our most potent offensive spell and the one that is guaranteed to trigger Clearcasting:-
- Lightning Bolt – Base Damage of 768
- Lava Burst – Base Damage of 1355
- Chain Lightning – Base Damage of 1042
In addition to it’s highest base damage, Lava Burst not only scales extremely well (it has an 82.14% spell coefficient with Shamanism and a 92.14% coefficient if you’re using the Glyph of Lava) but it is also a guaranteed critical strike if used correctly (that is to say, when Flame Shock is running on the target.) This guaranteed critical strike is what allows us to enter a Clearcasting state via Elemental Focus
Ensuring our longest casting spell is instant provides the greatest benefit to us in terms of DPS. If mana is an issue and you really need Clearcasting active (particularly if your haste is not yet sufficient to drop Chain Lightning from your rotation), then use Lava Burst.
The second effect is the fifteen percent increased spell haste for fifteen seconds. Haste is the third most important stat for us (I’m counting hit rating as the first) and as such, this in itself is a sizeable increase to our DPS. As we gear up however, haste effects have to be more carefully timed to ensure we gain the maximum potential we can from them.
How Haste Effects Our Spells
Haste has several “caps” that dictate it’s value or benefit to us. The first, and the one with which we’re concerned here, is the GCD (global cooldown) cap. This is the point whereby you have sufficient haste to reduce the global cooldown of a specific spell to one second. At this stage, the global cooldown can’t be reduced any further so additional haste will stop benefiting that spell.
This GCD cap varies between spells depending on how much haste is required to reduce their individual cast time to one second. Obviously, the longer the base cast time of a spell, the more haste will be required to reduce this to one second. Chain Lightning and Lava Burst, for example, need just 50% haste to reduce their 1.5 second cast times to 1 second. Lightning Bolt on the other hand requires 100% haste. For most people, it’s easier to quantify this with actual haste values as opposed to percentages. These are:-
- 3279 Unbuffed Haste
- 2785 Haste with Wrath of Air and Raid Buffs (for example, Moonkin Aura)
- 1994 Haste with Wrath of Air, Raid Buffs and Elemental Mastery
- 1386 Haste with Wrath of Air, Raid Buffs and Heroism or Bloodlust
778 Haste with Wrath of Air, Raid Buffs, Heroism or Bloodlust and Elemental Mastery
The last figure it particularly important. In a raid situation, were you to trigger both Elemental Mastery and Heroism simultaneously, you would only need 778 haste on your character panel to have hit the GCD cap for Lightning Bolt. If you have higher levels of haste than this, you would be wasting a portion of your cooldowns.
It’s critical to also consider item’s with haste effect procs. The best in slot relic for an elemental shaman is Bizuri’s Totem of Shattered Ice. It’s tool tip reads:-
- The periodic damage from your Flame Shock spell grants 44 haste rating for 30 seconds. Stacks upto 5 times
Even during periods of high movement there is little excuse for not having a Flame Shock running on a boss. As such, this is a quite static 220 haste increase to most elemental players.
For the majority of the time, the haste levels required to hit the GCD cap for Lightning Bolt are unobtainable (remember that would be 2785 haste with your own Wrath of Air and Moonkin Aura.) When you start considering haste based cooldowns and effects however, it becomes clear that triggering them simultaneously can soon reach less beneficial levels of haste.
The conclusion? To avoid wasting a portion of your haste effects, don’t use them simultaneously as this can result in you hitting the normally unobtainable GCD cap for your Lightning Bolt. (Incidentally, this isn’t limited to Elemental Mastery and Heroism. It also applies to the troll racial and to engineers with Hyperspeed Accelerators on their gloves.)
When to Use Elemental Mastery
Based on the above, using Elemental Mastery and Heroism separately is the ideal option. This proves the most problematic on encounters were you pop Heroism immediately. You are torn between wanting Elemental Mastery on cooldown as fast as possible (so it can both be used again as fast as possible and so that you benefit from the two set tier ten bonus – more on this shortly) and not wanting to waste portions of your haste gains due to hitting the GCD cap for Lightning Bolt.
On such encounters there is a third option, stacking your haste buffs for a few seconds to apply a double hasted Flame Shock.
As of patch 3.3.3, Flame Shock was changed to allow it to benefit from haste. Haste effects how fast our Flame Shock ticks occur but not how many occur. That is to say, with higher haste Flame Shock will tick faster and thus have a shorter duration. Flame Shock is not limited by a global cooldown. Due to this, Flame Shock continues to gain benefit from haste when other spells have reached their GCD caps. The obvious downside to this is the need to refresh the shock more frequently (though rest assured the DPS gained from the hasted ticks far outweigh the necessity to refresh more often.)
The elemental tier ten four set bonus goes a distance to combating the problem. The effect reads:-
- Your Lava Burst causes your Flame Shock effect on the target to deal at least two additional periodic damage ticks before expiring
This tool tip was, in my opinion, never particularly clear. Thanks to the theory crafting over at Elitist Jerks however, the exact mechanic behind this effect soon became clear. The effect always adds the closest number of additional ticks that can fit in a six second duration. Therefore, the more haste you have, the more ticks can occur in that 6 second interval and the more DPS you gain. Due to this not only does Flame Shock itself continue to benefit from haste but the tier ten four set bonus also scales very nicely with it.
On encounters where Heroism is triggered immediately, I will use Elemental Mastery with a few seconds remaining on Heroism’s duration. This elevates my personal haste to much higher levels than I would normally want. During this brief window, I’ll reapply Flame Shock. This is known as double hasting your Flame Shock.
While doing this does provide a DPS increase, it certainly isn’t huge. As such, you’d never want to deliberately save your Elemental Mastery for this reason. However on those few fights where Heroism is used at the start, this tactic can allow you to receive a DPS gain from the Flame Shock whilst also putting Elemental Mastery on cooldown a few seconds earlier than you would if waiting for Heroism’s duration to expire. Using Elemental Mastery as much as possible will greatly outweigh the DPS gained from double hasting your Flame Shock.
Personally, I use the Power Auras addon to numerically display exactly how many seconds are remaining on Heroism. I’ll generally pop Elemental Mastery at around four seconds remaining and then refresh the Flame Shock. Triggering Elemental Mastery with several seconds remaining on your Heroism reduces the effectiveness of the your cooldown as any additional spells you cast during this window of opportunity will be GCD capped. It can take a little practice to get entirely comfortable with the timing for this but it does allow for a small DPS increase.
There are exceptions to most rules and there are some encounters with a specific “burn” phase where saving Elemental Mastery might be beneficial.
Elemental Mastery and Two Part Tier Ten Bonus
The two piece tier ten bonus directly works to reduce that hefty cooldown on Elemental Mastery. It’s tool tip reads:-
- Your Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning spells reduce the remaining cooldown of your Elemental Mastery talent by two seconds
While this sounds good on paper it is, sadly, a little situational. On encounters with a great deal of movement the benefit of this bonus plummets. Simply put, the more we move the less we cast. In addition, due to the priority system of the elemental rotation, Lava Burst remains our priority. It is our “filler” spells that suffer the most from movement fights and sadly, it’s these spells that work to reduce the cooldown of our Elemental Mastery.
How exactly does this two set bonus work? Every Lightning Bolt or Chain Lightning spell we cast takes two seconds off the three minute (180 seconds) cooldown of Elemental Mastery.
The two set bonus is worth around 100 to 150 DPS at it’s best but as stated at the beginning, it suffers terribly on high movement fights.
Combining Additional Cooldowns and Effects
While it’s obvious that you should avoid stacking multiple haste effects, periods of high haste are the perfect time to trigger spell power based cooldowns. At it’s most basic level, haste makes us cast faster. When it comes to potion choice, the Potion of Wild Magic offers both a critical strike increase and a spell power increase. It reads as follows:-
- Use: Increases critical rating by 200 (9.06% @ L70) and spell power by 200 for 15 seconds
- One minute cooldown
The best way to increase the effectiveness of this potion is to use it during periods of high haste. This means we’ll be casting more of this buffed offensive spells than we would without haste effects.
For this reason, during encounters where you are triggering Heroism from the start, pre-potting with a Wild Magic Potion will offer you the best DPS increase. (Note that it’s vital that you pre-pot to ensure you trigger the cooldown for potions and allow yourself to use a Potion of Speed later in the fight.)
Elemental Mastery and Chain Lightning
Elemental Mastery’s haste increase can cause problems with the GCD cap of some spells. Chain Lightning, for example, only requires 50% haste to be GCD capped. The general rule of thumb I follow for Chain Lightning use (which you can read about in depth here) is that if Chain Lightning’s cast time is shorter than 1 second, I drop it from my rotation. Obviously this means that during Heroism, I’m primarily spamming Lightning Bolt.
Elemental Mastery doesn’t have the the same potency of haste increase offered by Heroism but depending on your personal level of haste, you may find the need to drop Chain Lightning from your rotation while the Elemental Mastery buff is up. In my case, Chain Lightning’s cast time slips to just under 1 second during the increased haste of Elemental Mastery. As such, I only incorporate Chain Lightning into my single target rotation when I have zero haste effects ticking.
Elemental Mastery in Cataclysm
Elemental Mastery has recently received a quite significant boost in a recent beta build. There, it currently reads as follows:-
When activated, your next Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning or Lava Burst spell becomes an instant cast spell. In addition, your Fire, Frost, and Nature damage is increased by 15% and you gain 20% spell haste for 15 sec.
- Instant Cast
- Three Minute Cooldown
This results in a 5% increase to the spell haste it rewards (20% up from 15%) in addition to a 15% increase in damage to our fire, frost and nature spells.
In addition, the introduction of the new talent, Feedback, will replace the eventual loss of our tier 10 set bonus. Feedback reads as follows:-
- Your Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning spells reduce the remaining cooldown on your Elemental Mastery talent by 1 sec.
- Three Ranks Available
At it’s maximum rank, that offers a three second reduction off our Elemental Mastery cooldown (a one second increase from the tier ten two set bonus.)
The general rules for the use of Elemental Mastery are as follows:-
- Trigger it as early in a fight as you can. This is to both have it’s cooldown running as fast as possible but also to allow any Lightning Bolts or Chain Lightning spells you cast to work at reducing that cooldown further. (Assuming you are using two piece tier ten.)
- Avoid using it during Heroism or Bloodlust at over 778 personal haste – you’ll waste part of their effects due to the GCD cap of Lightning Bolt
- If you use Heroism at the start of an encounter, considering double hasting your Flame Shock for an additional DPS increase
- Equally if you are using Heroism at the start of the fight, pre-pot with a Wild Magic Potion to take advantage of the high haste
Never save Elemental Mastery specifically for periods of Heroism to double haste your Flame Shocks. The loss of DPS from delaying it’s use will greatly outweigh the increased DPS from the hasted Flame Shock