Friday, 13 November 2015

Legion class preview

The shaman class preview blog went up yesterday. The changes are few and largely quality of life related, and based on a lot of the comments, people seemed to be hoping for something more. I normally think shaman reaction is justified, and while there were some truths remarked, I felt the reaction was a bit overblown, almost self fulfilling. Not to worry, here are some thoughts.

Maelstrom power

Maelstrom power is replacing both mana and lightning shield charges. This delineates our rotation more into generators and spenders - with the spenders revealed so far as earth shock (single target, as per current), earthquake (aoe) and healing surge. As I suggested the other day, I think this is partly aimed at limiting offhealing.

We'll be able to cast healing surge with 0 maelstrom, to enable out of combat regen, but it would have to be less effective than it is currently, otherwise there is no point in making it consume maelstrom. This won't really matter in PvE, our healing is already incidental, but the concerns remain for PvP. Healing will now actively decrease damage output (ie consuming maelstrom) in addition to passively reducing it by consuming cast time otherwise spent dpsing. Fine in isolation, terrible when compared to the passive healing you see from other classes.

Shock cooldowns

Shocks limited by maelstrom has allowed the removal of the shared cooldown, finally. Earth shock requires at least 10 maelstrom and consumes all maelstrom (assuming a maximum of 100) so cannot be spammed, but flame shock doesn't require maelstrom, but uses some if available to extend its duration. So it can be spammed, and supposedly will function as our movement dps. No mention of frost shock. I sincerely hope fulmination and its lightning bolt effect remain, because the shocks are dull by themselves. The description suggests the damage is just being loaded into Earth shock :(


  • Searing totem (and magma totem?) are being removed
  • Totems have more health, are no longer type limited, and can be placed without needing a talented cooldown.
  • Elementals are not bound to totems.
These are all positive changes that people have been wanting for a long time. However, it is still dependent on us having useful totems to use. The only totems that regularly get used in PvE right now are being removed, and in their place we are getting Maelstrom totem, a 15 second ability on a 30 second cooldown. It generates maelstrom as well as doing damage, so it's not quite as bland as searing, but it's double the maintenance. And current estimations suggest maelstrom will not be hard to come by, so we can't yet tell what place it will have.

We need more, better totems for these changes to be meaningful. The best part of these changes is probably the freeing up of talent spots, hopefully we get some great replacements.


Not much changing here before talents, lava burst still has its flame shock dependency, and earthquake (maelstrom spender) effectively depends on chain lightning - no word on whether enhanced earthquake is remaining. If it isn't, then earthquake should become instant cast baseline, which will have the side effect of making it far more useful in PvP.

Expectation is that unleash flame will be removed, as it probably should have in the WoD purge.


Blizzard believe elemental has a strong identity: "Through the body of the shaman flows bolts of lightning, as if from storm, and bursts of fire, as if from molten earth". Lightning and lava, that's what we're about. The theme is there, and it is hard to argue that our abilities don't reflect that. A lot of the complaints I've read seem to conflate spec identity with implementation - not liking the spells we have, or the rotation that results in, is a different issue. We also get elemental overload back as multistrike is removed, which should help reaffirm our identity - but I hope molten earth remains in some form, possibly as a talent. It does look cool and complements earthquake well.

If there is an area we are lacking, that is in the frost school - only reflected in frost shock and partially in elemental blast, both barely used as elemental. If frost should be part of our identity, we need abilities to better reflect that. If not, frost shock should be replaced with something thematically relevant. Water is reserved for restorative powers, but no reason frost couldn't reflect water used offensively. The problem here is frost mages - we barely differentiate from fire mages with 'lava' based abilities, but frost mages seem to have everything icy wrapped up. There's a dozen things they could do to incorporate frost and spice up our rotation, but I don't see it happening due to frost mages, and I think that's a real pity.

Perhaps the removal of frostfire bolt presents an opportunity... imagine a water totem cooldown that changes spells like lightning bolt and/or lava burst into frosty variants, that have synergy with the spells they replace. In fact, it'd be fun to explore the idea of one totem for each school, effectively giving us short lived 'stances' with higher attunements to each element. If I get time one day...

Enhancement in my eyes has had the bigger problem with identity, which Blizzard have attempted to clarify; they are not 'enhancing' others in battle (as they did prior to WotLK), but fighting with weapons/attacks enhanced with the power of the elements. I don't know enough about enhance, but if this new multi-spec feature eventuates, I'd love to try it again.

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