Gear itemisation for elemental shaman has been a bone of contention for a long time. Anyone who chose to level as elemental will have witnessed this from the earliest of levels. While the situation is improving gradually, it has taken a long time (and a lot of shaman wearing cloth or leather DPS items) for the developers to start taking more care over the itemisation of gear. Even now it’s not ideal.
The following is a guide to the stat priorities for an elemental shaman. It deals quite simply with our hit cap, the most influential stats for our personal DPS and what we should be avoiding.
Finally, it will offer advice on how to gem your elemental shaman and what enchants you should be using on your gear.
(As a side note, if you’re looking for advice on best in slot gear for your elemental shaman, check out this article.)
Like any other offensive caster, spell hit should always be our priority. For obvious reasons it isn’t a stat you want to stack like spell power; once over cap it is completely wasted. When under cap however, it can have a catastrophic effect on our DPS.
In Wrath of the Lich King, we have a 17% chance to miss. This equates to needing 17% hit on your character sheet (excluding talents, raid buffs and so on).
Fortunately, we can ease this slightly by dipping into the Elemental Precision talent. At rank three, this talent gives us an additional 3% chance to hit with all our schools of spells (that is to say, frost, fire and nature damage). There is no real reason for not taking this talent. Even assuming you don’t need the hit, the same talent provides a 30% threat reduction on our offensive spells also. Instantly, with a standard elemental spec we’re down to needing 14% spell hit.
Alliance shaman have an advantage in that their Draenei Aura (also known as Heroic Presence) provides an additional 1% innate hit chance, leaving 13% to be sought elsewhere.
The next aspect to consider is your raid setup and undoubtedly, twenty five man guilds have the advantage here since they are more likely to run with all or most available buffs. Having a shadow priest or a moonkin present in your raid will give you an additional 3% chance to hit. This leaves just 10% hit required for Alliance shaman or 11% for our Horde friends. (Sadly, for the ten man raiders, there is a smaller chance that you will raid with neither of these classes and thus not benefit from the reduced hit required).
Taking all of this into account, the hit ratings required are as follows (please note, I’m assuming that everyone raids with elemental precision since, as I said, aside from the hit rating it also offers threat reduction):-
Draenei with a shadow priest / moonkin buff = 10% Required = 263 Hit Rating (on character sheet)
Draenei without shadow priest / moonkin buff = 13% Required = 342 Hit Rating (on character sheet)
Non-Draenei with shadow priest / moonkin buff = 11% Required = 289 Hit Rating (on character sheet)
Non-Draenei without shadow priest / moonkin buff = 14% Required = 368 Hit Rating (on character sheet
Juggling your hit can be difficult. As a general rule, don’t worry about being slightly under or over cap. Being a few points under will result in so few resists that the impact on your actual DPS will be negligible. A few points over is naturally a waste but hitting the exact hit cap is difficult. If you’re vastly under hit cap, gem for it. Spell resists can drastically effect your DPS and while gemming for hit feels wasteful you will gain more DPS from a point of hit than you will a point of spell power when you’re well under cap. (Zap and Rawr will both confirm this naturally). Equally being considerably over cap is just wasteful too since you gain nothing at all from any points in hit once capped.
Spell power is our primary offensive stat and the one which we stack as high as possible. Simply put, this effects how hard our spells hit. Don’t ignore the hit cap in favour of this, there is zero point in having hard hitting nukes if they miss a large percentage of the time.
More often than not when it comes to gear, spell power is an indirect choice. That is to say, you’ll find it on all of your gear unlike haste and critical strike chance where you may find yourself choosing between the two.
Most of the time, you will be gemming and enchanting to improve this stat.
This is, for the most part, our second strongest offensive stat. When it comes to gemming, if an item has a strong socket bonus requiring yellow gems, choose the reckless ametrines (haste and spell power) to fulfil them.
The question of “how much is too much” frequently arises with regards to haste; particularly towards the end of the expansion. It takes relatively small amounts of haste to bring your Chain Lightning cast time down to the GCD point (that is to say, one second cast time.) However, haste continues to benefit us after this because it takes very high amounts of haste to effect our Lightning Bolt in the same way.
I’d urge you to read this article on the effects of haste on Chain Lightning.
Critical Strike Rating
This is our weakest offensive stat until we reach very high levels of haste, when some argue that critical strike rating starts to pull ahead. One of the main reasons for this stats relative weakness for elemental shaman is the guarenteed crit on one of our main nukes, regardless of our critical strike chance (Lava Burst will always crit assuming Flame Shock is present on the target).
That isn’t to say critical strike rating is useless to us. It accounts for a large percentage of our DPS. When it comes to gear choices, we’d prefer gear with spell power and haste than gear with spell power and critical strike rating. Equally, never gem for crit.
This is a core passive stat that affects both our natural mana regeneration and our critical strike rating. Again, this isn’t a stat you actively seek out, it is on our gear by default. Also, thanks to our Unrelenting Storm talent (regenerate mana equal to 12% of your intellect every 5 seconds, even while casting), it gives slightly more mana regeneration. Never gem for it. Admittedly we use it on shield enchants but that is more a case of something being better than nothing.
Due to the poor itemisation that I’ve mentioned before, you may find yourself with items boasting mp5 anyway. It’s not a stat elemental shaman should be needing. With the Unrelenting Storm talent mentioned above, the passive regeneration from Water Shield and the ability to use Thunderstorm if needed, you shouldn’t be running out of mana. (As a side note, always try and time Thunderstorm with a period when you have to move during a fight. Otherwise you’re using a global cooldown on a zero DPS spell; assuming you’re not AoEing of course)
Stamina is, again, a stat you will just collect passively on gear. This is in no way a bad thing as a dead shaman is not doing a great deal of DPS. Due to the requirements of our meta gem (Chaotic Skyflare Diamond), you will find yourself needing two blue gems in your gear. In this case, use Glowing Dreadstones (spell power and stamina).
A common mistake of new shaman players surrounds the confusion with spirit. Shaman do not benefit from spirit at all. Again, due to very poor itemisation (and the fact some shaman equip cloth items), some shaman may end up with a small amount of spirit.
In Cataclysm, this all changes and elemental shaman will find spirit on their armour. However we will also have a spirit to hit conversion talent to stop this being a wasted stat.
Gems and Enchants
This section assumes our stat priorities to be as follows:-
- Spell Hit
- Spell Power
- Critical Strike Rating
Meta Gems and Gemming Choices
Without doubt, your meta choice should be Chaotic Skyflare Diamond (21% critical strike rating and 3% increased critical damage)
This meta requires two blue gems for it’s activation. The natural choice here are Glowing Dreadstones (+12 spell power, +15 stamina). Obviously if you have blue sockets in your items, place these there. If you don’t put them wherever you have the least valuable socket bonus (i.e. one you don’t mind losing so much). Again, when considering the value of a socket bonus, take into account your stat priorities above.
Red sockets should be gemed with Runed Cardinal Rubies (+23 spell power).
Yellow sockets are the ideal place to gem for hit if you’re under the cap. The gems you want here are Rigid King’s Amber (+20 hit rating). If you don’t need hit, I’d generally recommend using orange Reckless Ametrines (+12 spell power, +10 haste). If the socket bonus from gemming a yellow is worthless to you (such as +int or MP5), then consider using a Runed Cardinal Ruby instead, particularly as you creep to higher levels of haste.
Don’t use pure haste gems. While haste is undoubtedly attractive to us, it’s still a weaker stat than spell power. Leave the haste gemming to our restoration friends.
Again when considering your enchants, always keep your stat priorities at the forefront of your considerations. What follows is a walk through of my enchanting preferences.
Head – Arcanum of Burning Mysteries – +30 spell power, +20 critical strike rating
(Note:- You need Kirin Tor reputation at revered or higher to buy this)
Shoulders – Greater Inscription of the Storm – +24 spell power, +15 critical strike rating
(Note:- You need Sons of Hodir rep at exalted to buy this. However it is now account bound so having the reputation on any character is sufficient)
(Note:- For scribes, Master’s Inscription of the Storm is superior – +70 spell power, +15 critical strike rating)
Cloak – Greater Speed – +12 haste rating
(Note:- For tailors, Lightweave Embroidery is superior – chance to increase spell power by 295 for 15 seconds)
(Note:- For engineers, Springy Arachnoweave is superior – +27 spell power)
Chest – Powerful Stats – +10 to all stats
Bracers – Superior Spellpower – +30 spell power
(Note:- For leather workers, Fur Lining – Spell Power is superior – + 76 spell power)
Hands – Enchant Gloves – Exceptional Spellpower – +28 spell power
(Note:- For engineers, Hyperspeed Accelerators are superior – Increase your haste rating by 340 for 12 seconds)
Waist – Eternal Belt Buckle – +1 gem socket
(Note:- For engineers, you should also be using a Frag Belt)
Legs – Sapphire Spellthread – +50 spell power, +30 stamina
Feet – Tuskarr’s Vitality – +15 stamina, +8% run speed
(Note:- For engineers, Nitro Boosts are superior – Allow greatly increase run speed for 5 seconds)
Shield – Enchant Shield – Greater Intellect – +25 intellect
Finger – Enchant Ring Greater Spell Power – +23 spell power
(Note:- Enchanter only)
One Handed Weapons – Enchant Weapon – Mighty Spellpower – +63 spell power
Note:- Black Magic may seem appealing on paper but the unpredictability of when it procs makes it quite poor in comparison to the static spell power increase of Mighty Spellpower For a more in depth comparison between the two enchants, check out Charles’ amazing modelling of Black Magic’s performance.
Staves – Enchant Staff – Greater Spellpower – +81 spell power