Trials of a Shaman

originally posted on 1-20-17

As I said in an earlier post about Altaholism, Shaman is really the one class on WoW I had yet to dip my feet into. It wasn’t that it didn’t appeal to me, it had more to do with my early experiences of trying one out years ago. I used to run with a now ex friend of mine, the guy who got me playing WoW in the first place. I was getting bored with my Rogue and wanted to try something new. He suggested a Shaman (probably because he wanted to run with a pocket healer to help him when he needed it) and I tried it out.

If you played circa WOTLK, you remember the Shaman class was a little more complex. Sure it was the same Enhancement is melee, Elemental is a caster, and Restoration is a healer situation, but the totems system was significantly different, not to mention the old talent trees, and as a still fairly fresh WoW player coming off of only having ever played a Rogue, I had trouble wrapping my head around it. In fact, being more experienced now, I realize I wasn’t even playing my Rogue right. I wasn’t considering rotations, I was more or less just trying to tank n spank in combat spec. In fact, I firmly believe playing caster classes has really helped me to understand certain things like rotations, priorities, and positioning, better than a melee class ever could (or did). Anyway, my early trials of the Shaman got to level 20, and at that point I stopped to focus back on my rogue (and of course there was falling in love with the Frost Death Knight).

So now as a much more experienced WoW player with a significantly deeper understanding of the game, on the recommendation of a friend I decided it was time to give the Shaman another shot. It wasn’t that I was bored with the Druid, Hunter, or Priest (my three at 110), or even that I had lost interest in my Mage – it was more the recent revelation that I greatly favor classes that can play multiple roles (healing/damage). Given this, its only natural (and inevitable) that at some point I’d try a Shaman.

My original thought was that I was coming off a Balance/Resto Druid, and a Shaman offers the same versatility, but on a different scale. I could be melee, beating down my enemies with the power of the elements, or stand back and heal my party with soothing rains. I started down the Enhancement path and noticed that at first I had a bit of trouble with it. It had been quite a while since I had played a melee character and was constantly getting myself in trouble. Surviving yes, but in many cases just barely.

I looked up some guides and combed the forums and it seemed like I just needed to tighten up my rotation and understand my ability priorities better. But as I got the Doomhammer artifact and continued onto level 102, I still felt the same about it. Yes it hit hard, and yes it had awesome looking effects (in many ways reminded me of why I liked Frost DK), but something about it just felt…off to me. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the playstyle at all, because I did, I just felt it didn’t feel right TO ME.

I decided to grab the Elemental artifact weapon and see how I felt about that. I read through Icy Veins (not an end all be all for information, but a good jumping off point), stumbled across stormearthandlava.com, and watched a few YouTube videos about the rotation, builds, and ability priorities (and yes I did the same level of research for Enhancement, plus the guy who recommended I try a Shaman is an experienced Enhancement player). Keep in mind I don’t have much AP for any of the Artifacts (of course I was getting all three), but the second I parked in front of a dummy, threw down my four totems (from Totem Mastery talent), started with an Elemental Blast into a Flame Shock to a Lava Burst, followed by Stormkeeper into two instant Lightning Bolts and then a free instant Lava Burst due to Lava Surge Proc then fired off my last instant Lightning Bolt into Earth Shock to spend Maelstrom and prevent capping, I immediately felt something click. Maybe it was because I had just come off leveling a Druid, Priest, and Mage, or maybe, just maybe, I have found my niche with caster classes.

I think it’s because occasionally with melee specs (Rogue being somewhat of an exception with the plethora of utility abilities) once you’ve gotten off your rotation, you’re potentially left with a window (granted a very small window) of auto attacking. With a lot of specs being proc heavy/reliant, at some points this small window can feel extremely emphasized.

With casters for whatever reason I don’t feel that. Sure there’s mechanics and resources and procs to watch out for, but they just feel more involved to me. It’s possible that because I spent so much time playing melee characters during my early stages that up close left a bad taste in my mouth, or maybe it’s that I prefer the flashy effects that come with casting classes  (Priests included), but whatever the case, I believe I’ve found what works for me with the Druid and Shaman.

When you’re talking Elemental Shaman there’s three different specs that are viable. They all revolve around the level 100 talents: Asendence, Lightning Rod, or Icefury. Asendence didn’t interest me at all, so I decided to try Lightning Rod, and Icefury. Icefury apparently is best for Single Target damage, and offers a little more mobility due to its primary abilties (four Frost Shocks buffed by Icefury which has a 30 second CD) being instant cast. Lightning Rod revolves around the “Lightning Rod” debuff proccing on a target and then hitting them with…Lightning Bolts.

Where it gets tricky is that Lightning Rod benefits significantly from Stormkeeper, which has a 1 minute CD, so where Lightning Rod gets overlooked a little is that a good portion of the specs dps (especially single target) is all about timely bursts, even more emphasized by Stormkeeper’s 1min CD as opposed to 30 seconds for Icefury’s. Where Lightning Rod really shines is its ability to deal with AOE/trash/adds. On two or more targets -> Drop totems-> Flame Shocks on targets into Chain Lightning until Lightning Rod procs then Stormkeeper into more Chain Lightning with an Earthquake when its available or you’re Maelstrom capped, and a Liquid Magma Totem in the middle if you’ve got that and not only is shit dead fast, but you’ll be surprised at your dps numbers. This of course is much more effective in dungeons/raids with a tank, but can be used in regular open world questing, just be prepared to heal/pot when necessary, especially at lower ilevels with very little AP. I haven’t touched the Asendence build, but I like a challenge and I think I’ve found my groove for now so I’m sticking with the Lightning Rod build.

Fights with tons of movement is where you see a dip in not just your dps, but productivity in general. I think all casting classes have this issue. Sure almost all of them have instant cast abilities, cast abilties that become instant from procs, or talents that allow you to channel/cast on the move (for example a Discipline Priest can by default Penance when moving/jumping, Ice Floes for Frost mages, etc), but these will not always be accessible just from the way different mechanics work. Legion dungeons (and most likely raids but I’m not there yet)seems to strongly favor melee classes.

I was running Eye of Azshara Normal last night and it was my first dungeon trying out my new spec, first dungeon actually as my Shaman, and first dungeon trying a new keybinds/Weak Auras setup. Of course I warned my PUG of all this so they were prepared I was not at 100% of where I could be. Plus I only had 2 points in the Elemental artifact. The entire dungeon went surprisingly smoothly (helps that I know it fairly well now) and I was fluctuating between 2nd/3rd in terms of dps (Warlock Parjesh I clocked first by a surprisingly large margin because it’s a fairly stationary fight with adds), but it was that damn Serpentix fight that screwed me up.

I was getting constantly targeted by Poison spit mid cast, and had to move around a lot to avoid it. Add on top of that that our party didn’t really click during the first go, didn’t clear out trash mobs beforehand, and got way too spread apart and frantic during the second phase (I gave our Disc healer some serious props for obvious reasons) and we wiped. We didn’t discuss it, but we collectively understood what went wrong and seriously got it together the second time around, but the point is that in a movement heavy fight, certain casting specs are handcuffed. It’s a pain, but it’s something you have to understand and deal with as a caster.

All that being said, I’ve enjoyed the Shaman so far on a level I didn’t know I would, and fell into an understanding of the rotation fairly quickly, so again I think I’ve found my niche with the Druid/Shaman combo. I’ll continue on and see where my level of enjoyment goes with it. I’ll eventually dive into the Restoration Shaman spec because I do love me some healing, and it a large enough playstyle going from damaging to healing to keep my attention and commitment, the Priest and Druid proved that to me.

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