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With the Mists of Pandaria beta in full swing and so many items changing on a constant basis it oftentimes gets to be information overload for us WoW-heads. A good example of this came to me the other day when I was checking through the forums for information on the various classes and came across a post by Ghostcrawler regarding the shaman class.

Shamans are a favourite class of mine, but one that sees limited play due to there being many of them in my guild, therefore I stick to my Paladin or Druid most of the time. With so much of my time focused on those two classes, I had missed a whole lot that was going on with the Shaman in the MOP beta. Ghostcrawler’s posts helped remind me about just how much is going on and I thought it would be a good time to review the shaman changes.

Listed here are just a few of the many changes that are coming to the Shaman class. There are more than listed here, but these are the significant ones in my opinion. In addition to the listed changes at the end I have posted some clips from Ghostcrawler commenting on the communities response to these and other changes.

Totems are no longer for buffs in Mists of Pandaria

Probably the biggest change is the removal of Totems as a buffing tool. In general now all buffs from the shaman class are done with aura type effects, and totems are for utility type effects.

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This is how our new buffs appear.

What this means is that based on your spec you are granted several different auras that are up all the time and provide benefit to everyone in range. So far these are as follows:

  • Elemental Oath – 5% Spell haste
  • Grace of Air – Grants a boost to Mastery
  • Burning Wrath – 10% Spell Power
  • Unleashed Rage – 10% melee and ranged attack speed

If you are Elemental you have Elemental Oath, Grace of Air, and Burning Wrath. If you are Enhancement you have Grace of Air, Burning Wrath, and Unleashed Rage. If you are Restoration you have Grace of Air and Burning Wrath.

All of the other former totem based abilities are still totems. This means things like Magma Totem, Grounding Totem, Tremor Totem, and all the others still exist. It is all of the buff based ones that have disappeared to become auras.

This is an awesome change for shaman as it puts their buffs on even ground with other classes by not having to recast them every time they move. It also means that their buffs don’t disappear instantly when enemies attack the totems. Sure the totem abilities can still be killed off, but the buffs are more permanent.

New Abilities gained by all Shaman

The most important new ability that has been added is the one you gain at level 87 called Ascendance. This is a new ability on a 3 minute cooldown that transforms you into an elemental ascendant form based on your spec for 15 seconds.

  • Elemental Shaman become a Flame Ascendant having no cooldown for Lava Burst and Chain Lightning becomes a Lava Beam. Lava beam is essentially a fire based chain lightning that hits five targets but does not reduce damage per bounce.
  • Enhancement Shaman become an Air Ascendant that make your auto and stormstrike attacks deal nature damage and have a 30 yard range. This means that you can hit from a fair way away while ignoring armour, which will be great in both PVE and PVP. In PVE shaman will be able to back away during boss AOE phases and still do damage, and in PVP you will be able to burst players as they are trying to flee.
  • Restoration Shaman become a Water Ascendant and all of their healing is duplicated and distributed to allies that are in range. This can be a huge boost for healers when you need to recover the group from AOE damage or during a burst of incoming damage. Think of throwing 100k heals and then having a free 100k of healing split between everyone else in range. This could make shaman healers in great demand for raids and even in 5 player instances and PVP situations. Imagine this triggered in arenas in 2v2 or 3v3 and essentially healing everyone up to full very quickly.

In addition to the really great Ascendant ability, Shamans also gain two new totems as follows:

  • Capacitor Totem – An air totem on a 45 second cooldown that once planted explodes after 5 seconds stunning all nearby enemies for 5 seconds. Gained at level 63.
  • Stormlash Totem – An air totem on a 5 minute cooldown that grants all nearby allies the power of lightning. All their spells and attacks will also deal nature damage in the form of lightning attacks for the 10 seconds that the totem lasts. Gained at level 78.

Also gained is an awesome new ability called Totemic Projection which shamans will gain at level 45. This new ability allows you to move your placed totems up to 40 yards away. This could have significant impact in several situations and be very useful. You can use it to launch things like your elemental totems forward to a new position, move your capacitor totem in just as it is going to explode making a stun happen where you need it (very nice in PVP situations), move an earthbind totem to your enemies, or move a tremor totem in range of those that need it even though you are at range.

Shaman Glyphs

There are some very cool and interesting glyphs coming for Shaman in Mists of Pandaria. There have been some complaints that many of the glyphs have extreme downsides to them, but Blizzard has been working away on them and many have changed significantly already.

An example of an interesting new glyph is the Glyph of Chaining, which modifies out chain heal pretty significantly. It allows the chain jumps to go up to twice as far which is awesome, but adds a 4 second cooldown to it. This may seem like a huge liability, but it only really means 1 or 2 casts in-between chain heals. In some situations this will not be acceptable, but in others, where the group is spread out enough that they wouldn’t normally be hit by the chain heal it could be very worth the cooldown.

A glyph that doesn’t have a downside is the new Glyph of Spiritwalker’s Grace which extends the length of the ability by 5 seconds. If you find yourself using Spirit walkers grace often then this is a pretty good glyph as it gives you more time while moving.

Shaman Community Feedback

As mentioned above, one of the main complaints by players in the beta so far has been regarding shaman glyphs. The complaint is that they have too much of a penalty, to which Ghostcrawler responded with:

"Resto shaman glyphs have too much of a penalty."

This is a fair concern. We don't want glyphs to be no-brainers. Often this means giving a powerful bonus a penalty that offsets that bonus, hopefully in interesting ways. "Increases duration and cooldown," is a common one. Glyph of Lightning Bolt would be a no-brainer without some kind of offset. However, because there are only 3 glyph slots, choosing a glyph for a more situational spell can itself be a sufficient cost. We've taken a look at the Resto glyphs recently to make sure they feel more equitable.

Another is a comment about players questioning the use of single target and AOE abilities in a mixed fashion on single and AOE fights. This is likely due to Blizzards comments in the recent past that they wanted to split abilities more than they are now, so that players have hopefully dramatically different rotations in single target and multi target fights. Players are confused since after hearing that they wonder why they have to use some of their multi target abilities in single target fights and vise-versa to do competitive DPS. Ghostcrawler had this to say:

"Thou shalt not use AE abilities on a single-target fight."

I'm going to address this because it's of potential interest to more than just shaman (and frankly, issues with broad appeal are the ones I prefer to address). I think the "law" here has gotten oversold a bit, and maybe that's my fault.

There are two essential problems here we wanted to fix. One is that it's fun when you hit different buttons on AE fights. That just keeps combat more interesting. The second, more balance-related issue, is that when say warriors used Whirlwind so much on single-target fights and multi-target fights, then warrior damage just skyrocketed whenever there was an opportunity to AE. Meanwhile the mage just had to channel Blizzard or something. The game is in a very different place these days and every spec has some variety in how they AE. Frost DKs use Howling Blast and Protection warriors use Thunder Clap even on single targets.

It's fine for Lava Lash / Flame Shock to get used for both single target and AE. There are some situations where breaking CC or hitting the wrong target is a really bad idea. In those situations, you can try to move out of the way or just not Lava Lash (or not use Flame Shock). The risk of hitting the wrong target has always existed in WoW and it's one of those points of skill differentiation between average players and experts. We don't want a world where there is never any risk of breaking CC or hitting the wrong target. That's dull. In those very rare situations (say Spine of Deathwing) where maximum DPS and hitting the right target are both extremely critical, you can use the glyph.

Lastly, many players are concerned that the shaman class has not gotten as many changes as many other classes. These players wonder if it is another case of the shaman class getting the short end of the stick. Ghostcrawler responded with this:

"Why so few shaman changes?"

I know players eagerly tear into the latest beta changes like opening birthday presents. What goodies did the designers leave for us today? And to be fair, it's really rewarding for designers to make a change that they know players will get excited about. There is a lot of positive reinforcement there.

But remember, change is not the goal. Fun is the goal. It is not our intention to introduce crazy new things every beta build. We are overwhelmingly focused on the end result. All of the developers are well accustomed with the phenomenon where we make changes early in an expansion and those classes get excited, but then what was shiny and new starts to be less shiny and new as time goes on and they see other classes get changes. If you are like most players, newness wears off quickly -- that's not what is going to keep you playing two months after Mists ships. It's more likely to be a very slippery, very subjective "I am having fun playing my character" sentiment that can keep you engaged.

If there are things you still don't find fun about your class (whatever class it is) please feel free to keep bringing them up. But don't evaluate beta notes as some kind of thermometer about how much we love or hate your class. We love them all. :)

You can find the full thread regarding shaman feedback here: [Shaman] General Class Feedback. You can also find all of Ghostcrawlers comments here and here.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Byron 1
Byron has been playing and writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years. He also plays pretty much ever other Blizzard game, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, while still finding time to jump into Diablo III with his son.