Vaneras just announced a huge list of changes being made to the shaman class on the official forums, and holy crap. There are a lot of really interesting and really cool changes and additions being made. As always, here is my analysis and commentary on the changes.
Primal Strike (available at level 3): Primal Strike is a new weapon-based attack that every shaman will learn very early in the game. Our goal with this ability is to make leveling as Enhancement rather than as Elemental more viable, since many key Enhancement talents become available at fairly high levels.
It’s the intention of Primal Strike to let shaman play as an Enhancement at low levels. Currently when leveling in this spec, you end up just using Lightning Bolt a lot so you feel like an Elemental shaman instead. At a higher level, Primal Strike gets replaced by Storm Strike. They share a cooldown so Enhancement just won’t ever use Primal Strike after that, in the same way that Prot warriors don’t use Sunder Armor once they have Devastate or Feral druids don’t use Claw once they get Mangle.
I hadn’t really noticed, but if you’re leveling as Enhancement, there’s not much for you to do besides shock and auto-attack until lvl 40, when you get Stormstrike. It would be nice to know what Primal Strike actually does (probably just a slightly different version of Stormstrike), but we’ll find out eventually.
Healing Wave (level 4): While the shaman already has an ability called Healing Wave, we’re adding another spell to the class’s direct-healing arsenal and giving it a familiar name. The current Healing Wave will be renamed Greater Healing Wave, and the intent is for the “new” Healing Wave to be the shaman’s go-to heal. Lesser Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave will be used on a more situational basis.
Ok…interesting. I guess this is Blizzard’s answer to the problem that downranking spells used to solve. This will give us a way to cast a medium-sized, mana-efficient spell instead of a quick, expensive spell (LHW) or a huge, expensive (though worth it) spell (GHW). And from what else I’ve been seeing, it looks like other healer classes will be getting similar medium-range heals.
Unleash Weapon (level 81): Unleashes the power of your weapon enchants for additional effects (see below). A dual-wielding Enhancement shaman will activate the effects of both of their weapon enchants. Instant cast. 30-yard range. 15-second cooldown. Undispellable.
Here are a few examples of effects we’re considering for this ability:
- Windfury Weapon – Hurls a spectral version of your weapon at a target, dealing 50% weapon damage and increasing the shaman’s Haste for the next five swings.
- Flametongue Weapon – Deals instant Fire damage and buffs the shaman’s next Fire attack by 20%.
- Earthliving Weapon – Heals the target slightly and buffs the shaman’s next healing spell by 20%.
Looks like this will make spell rotations much more interesting, even if it is basically just a version of Paladin Judgments. Overall, a pretty cool addition, especially for Enhancement.
Healing Rain (level 83): An area-effect heal-over-time (HoT) spell that calls down rain in a selected area, healing all players within it. There is no limit to the number of players who can potentially be affected; however, there are diminishing returns when healing a large number of targets, much like the diminishing returns associated with AoE damage spells. This should give Restoration shaman another healing tool that improves their group-healing and heal-over-time capabilities. 2-second cast time. 30-yard range. 10-second duration. 10-second cooldown.
Spiritwalker’s Grace (level 85): When this self-targeted buff is active, your spells are no longer interrupted by movement and possibly even by your own attacks. This will give shaman of all three specs another way to heal or do damage when it’s necessary to move in both PvE and PvP. Instant cast. 10-second duration. 2-minute cooldown.
Whoa, really? That’s huge. Being able to gun and run from time to time (or heal and run away, which would be very useful for me) is going to be a major asset for us shamans. This’ll be a big help for fighting meleers in PvP, and for boss battles that require a lot of moving around.
Restoration shaman and other healing classes will need to pay attention to mana more than they’ve had to during Wrath of the Lich King. Spirit will be the Restoration shaman’s primary mana-regeneration stat.
This is something we’ve known about for a while, of course. Personally, I think Blizz has let mana regen become too powerful in WotLK, to the point that you don’t really have to worry about it anymore. I purposely avoid any MP5 gear, and I’ve gotten rid of mana-regen talents, because they’re just not useful anymore. I should be ending boss fights with most of my mana gone, not at 50% or so like I do now.
We’re making changes to which classes and specs are able to dispel magic, diseases, curses, and poison, largely for PvP purposes. Shaman will have Cleanse Spirit as a baseline ability, but it will only remove curses. Restoration shaman will have a talent that will improve Cleanse Spirit so that it also removes magic. Shaman will no longer be able to remove poison.
Cleansing Totem will be removed from the game, as we want dispels to be a decision for players, not something done mindlessly. To that end, all dispels will cost slightly more mana, and you will waste the spell if you cast it when there is nothing to remove. (Currently, the dispel is only cast when there is something to remove, which encourages spamming “just in case.”) We will balance PvE dispelling with this new model in mind.
Oh crap. I don’t like this at all. I feel like Cleansing Totem is the one thing that keeps me from being a guaranteed kill for rogues and death knights right now. Removing my ability to remove ANY poisons or diseases is going to be very bad. Spiritwalker’s Grace will help a little bit, but as soon as a rogue or DK gets in my face, I’ll still be extremely likely to die. And I can only Thunderstorm once every 45 seconds.
Totem of Wrath now will replace Flametongue Totem for all shaman, and dropping this totem will buff the group’s spell power by 4%. Elemental shaman will have a talent that lets all Fire totems provide +10% spell power, allowing them to drop Searing, Magma, or Fire Elemental Totems without losing their spell-damage buff. The 4% and 10% buffs will be exclusive with each other and with the warlock’s Demonic Pact, so you can’t benefit from all of them at once. We’re also considering letting Elemental drop Searing Totem at range.
Finally. This is a huge boost for us Elementals. It’s always been a tradeoff between buffing the group with ToW and doing more damage with totems, and now we’ll be able to do both at once. I’m sure it also means that we’re losing the crit debuff it provides, but that’s not unexpected.
Searing Totem is still pretty weak, but I can definitely see myself keeping it dropped at all times, just to get a little extra DPS when a Magma totem isn’t feasible (or when the Fire Elemental is on cooldown). And being able to drop it at range would be a big help. I just hope they increase its duration and damage.
We want to free up Enhancement global cooldowns to make the spec more dynamic to play. We’re considering, for example, increasing the cooldown of Lava Lash so shaman have time to work other interesting abilities into their rotation.
Ok, sure. If they’re increasing the cooldown on LL, I’m sure they’re also increasing its damage, because I doubt that they want to weaken the spell.
Elemental Reach will be simplified so shaman have a more consistent spell range.
Sounds fine. This probably means that Flame Shock’s sniper-like range will be reduced a bit, but whatever.
We plan to add Earthquake as a deep Elemental talent for targeted and persistent AoE.
Hell yes. I’ve been hoping to get Earthquake for a long time now (it was a Far-Seer spell in WC3). However, AoE isn’t really a problem for us anymore, thanks to how powerful Magma Totem and Fire Nova are. It would need to have a good secondary effect (like a knockdown or something). Still, it’d be nice to be able to do AoE without having to step into the fray to drop the totem (besides what’s already offered by Chain Lightning).
Spirit Link will likely be worked back into deep Restoration in some form. The idea is that you will be able to link targets together so they share damage. When we had previously tried to implement Spirit Link, it was hard to balance and a little confusing. However, we really liked the concept — and so did players — so we are trying to bring it back.
Hell yes. Another classic WC3 ability. I was really disappointed when they removed it during the WotLK beta, but it sounds like they’re really going to be able to do it this time.
Elemental will have a deep talent that allows Spirit (which will appear on the gear they share with Restoration shaman) to boost their Hit rating.
Yea, we’ve known about this one for a while too. A good change, but I wonder if we’re going to wind up with as much Spirit on gear as we have MP5 on gear now, and what’ll happen once we reach the Hit cap. I guess that’s where Reforging becomes useful. Also, how the hell are Elemental and Enhancement going to regen mana?
Enhancing Totems will be replaced with Focused Strikes, which will improve the damage of the new spell Primal Strike and Stormstrike.
Ok, sure. I’m not sure where the buff from ET is going. It’s probably just being eliminated, so that Shamans and Death Knights can provide the same quality of buff (from Horn of Winter) no matter what. Sounds like Blizz is trying to get rid of most instances where different buffs of different qualities clash.
With the Mastery system, we’re also considering removing a number of talents that grant passive bonuses, such as Mental Quickness, Improved Windfury Totem, Mental Dexterity, Call of Thunder, Tidal Mastery, Purification, Nature’s Blessing, and others, to allow players more freedom to choose more interesting talents.
Sounds good. Those talents are boring, and Blizz wants to make talents more interesting. However, they’re going to have to add a lot of replacements, otherwise players will be able to get all the talents they want without having to put much thought into their choices.
The Mastery System
Read up on the Mastery system here.
Elemental Overload: Your direct-damage spells have a chance to proc a less powerful “bonus” version of the spell. This will work much like the current Lightning Overload talent, but would also apply to Lava Burst.
Nature Damage: This will provide a passive bonus to the Nature damage dealt by the Enhancement shaman.
Meditation: The amount of mana you regenerate in combat as a function of your Spirit.
Deep Healing: Your direct heals will do more healing when the target’s health is lower. This will scale to damage (e.g. someone at 29% health would receive more healing than someone at 30%) rather than have arbitrary break points.
Not much to say here, except that I really like the Mastery system, and I really like Deep Healing. Also, Lightning Overload will provide a boost to Elemental Overload instead of what it does now.
Vaneras also answered some interesting questions here. Of particular note:
The Cataclysm is a time of great upheaval. Deathwing’s return to Azeroth tore a hole in the fabric of the universe that tragically resulted in the ultimate and irrevocable destruction of all Sentry Totems. Level designers are contemplating a shrine for the Sentry Totem near that of Uther the Lightbringer. We know shaman players will greet this news with grief, but as with all class changes we’ll have to get into beta before anything is final.
What? We still have Sentry Totem?