Blizzard has just released a small taste of what Cataclysm has in store for shamans. I’d like to share some initial thoughts on what they’ve posted.
New Shaman Abilities
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.
I leveled as Elemental, so I don’t really know what the Enhancement leveling experience is like. Making leveling smoother is a very good thing though.
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.
I like the idea of having more spells to manage and actually being required to think. Hopefully they will figure out how to balance mana costs and cast times so that we actually will want to use all three spells.
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%.
This is a very interesting idea. I am excited to see how theory crafters suggest this gets worked into the rotations. This reminds me a tiny bit of how having Riptide on a target boosts Chain Heal. We will really have to think about when to cast it and which spell to cast next.
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.
Hooray! AOE heals are awesome, and Chain Heal just doesn’t cut it sometimes. My only concern is the “selected area” bit. I assume this means you have to click somewhere on the ground to cast it? This could be fun and require more situation awareness for healers, but it could also be a pain-in-the-ass.
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.
Also an awesome idea. Shamans really sufffer as elemental and resto in heavy-movement fights. This might require some balancing – is 10 seconds every 2 minutes enough to compensate for loss of DPS or healing output? I’m not complaining though – this ability has a kick-ass name and will be very helpful.
Changes to Abilities and Mechanics
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The first three bullets are old news. I like the fire totem changes — it never made much sense to me as an Elemental shaman to put down a buff totem instead of a DPS one. Also… throwing Searing Totem? Yes please!!
New Talents and Talent Changes
- Elemental Reach will be simplified so shaman have a more consistent spell range.
- We plan to add Earthquake as a deep Elemental talent for targeted and persistent AoE.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ancestral Knowledge will boost mana pool size, not Intellect.
- Enhancing Totems will be replaced with Focused Strikes, which will improve the damage of the new spell Primal Strike and Stormstrike.
- 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.
Some of this we already know but there were two things I’m excited about: Earthquake and Spirit Link. Elemental shamans are in need of another AOE ability, so Earthquake is fantastic. Spirit Link is something I know was in the Wrath Beta, but I never got to play around with it. Its a very intriguing concept that would add a lot of strategy to healing, and add another very unique element to the class. I really, really hope they are successful this time around.
- Spell damage
- Spell Crit
- Elemental Overload
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.
The Mastery bonuses seem reasonable enough, although in the current state of the spec, crit isn’t very awesome. Elemental Overload is neat – I love when Lightning Overload procs, it makes me feel so bad-ass.
- Melee damage
- Melee Haste
- Nature Damage
Nature Damage: This will provide a passive bonus to the Nature damage dealt by the Enhancement shaman.
Yeah, I know nothing about Enhancement. I think I’ll try to level with it in Cataclysm just to get an idea of how it works.
- Deep Healing
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.
This seems like a nice bonus, but its hard to tell at this point.
I am feeling cautiously optimistic (a part of me is still bracing for the impact of the nerf bat that normally hides around the corner). Blizzard seems to be focused on making rotations more interesting, and shoring up the weaknesses of the shaman class. I’m especially looking forward to the healing changes. I’m glad they dropped the dispel news on us early, otherwise it might have overshadowed the good ideas Blizzard has laid out here. Obviously they still have a lot of work left to do, but things are looking great so far.