So today Blizzard have started giving us their preview of forthcoming changes to classes in Cataclysm and naturally they started with the best class there is: the Shaman. Click here for the full details.
I have to say I’m very excited about most of these changes, as they’re bringing a lot of cool and desireable abilities as well as doing some much-needed balancing acts. It’s enough to make me give Deathwing a big hug! Hurry up and blow up the world already my lava-dragon friend, my Shaman needs to be able to make Earthquakes! Thats right earthquakes; not to mention aoe rain, overloading lava bursts and the return of the mythical spirit link! Read on dear Shamans, we have much to discuss!
So, lets break it down and see whats going on with these proposed changes. Now of course, this is all conjecture on Blizz’s part at the moment, we’re not even in beta yet; but since they’ve been kind enough to give us their well-thought out plans its only fair for me to brutally dissect them.
1. New Spells
First up, the new spells:
Primal Strike: A new weapon-based attack that every Shaman will gain from level 3. Essentially this is to allow new Shamans more whacky goodness at low levels. Whilst this will eventually be replaced by Storm Strike at higher levels, but Blizzard’s stated aim is to improve the fun of levelling as Enhancement. Funnily enough me and Erc were discussing this the other day. I found levelling a Shaman in vanilla WoW extremely enjoyable, particularly once the then insanely powerful windfury kicked in. Erc by contrast said he found it quite boring, and I think this is because of the way they’ve redesigned the talent trees in the last few years – all the cool abilities are at the high end. Blizzard seems to have recognised this and are giving Shammies a low-level way to whack people over the head. Given Warriors will be gaining an instant-cast heroic strike at low levels, this may be a trend we see across all the classes.
Healing Wave: “Hey Wulfy, you’re crazy! We’ve already GOT a healing Wave!”. Well yes we do, but what Blizz are suggesting is that what we currently call Healing Wave will be come Greater Healing Wave, and they will add in another mid-level heal. See what they did there? Given the current state of Shaman healing this makes a lot of sense. Currently most resto shamans spam the lesser wave frequently, whilst only using Healing Wave as an emergency button, working in tandem with Nature’s Swiftness or Tidal Waves. It makes healing feel a bit disjointed. Sticking in a moderate heal for general use makes a lot more sense.
Unleash Weapon: Unleashed at level 81, this spell lets you gain a bonus effect from your current weapon buff. For example if you have Windfury you fling a spectral version if your weapon, if you have Earthliving you get a boost to your next heal. Proposed with a mere 15 second cooldown, this extremely nifty spell will doubtless work its way into the regular rotations of all Shamans. And, for you dual-wielding enhance folks, you’ll get the bonus from the enchants on *both* your weapons. Quite frankly, whats not to love? This makes every Shaman better at what they do, regardless of what it is they’re doing. That’s a big thumbs-up from me!
Healing Rain: Shamans have been complaining for a while that their niche as optimum AoE healer has been usurped by the new abilities of other healing classes. Healing Rain looks like its going to swing things back into our favour on that one. An AoE HoT spell, with no limit to the numbers of players affected as long as they’re in the rain? That’s absolutely brilliant! It’s like Death and Decay in reverse, click the ground your buddies are standing in and laugh as the health bars go up. This is the kind of ability I dream of as a raid healer. Mind you, it may annoy one guild-mate of mine, who mentioned he got a bit shocked at having “a bucket of water chucked over his head” whenever I hit him with Riptide. I guess he’ll just have to learn to love my healing shower!
Spiritwalker’s Grace: This self-buff allows you to cast even when moving and, maybe, even when attacking! Blizzard, I’m suspicious – are you really that nice? It has a 2 minute cooldown so its more for situational use, but still, you’re allowing us to do something no other caster can do: move and fling spells simultaneously. The possibilities for this are endless. Whatever spec you are, in PvE or PvP, this spell is going to be a godsend.
2. Changes to Abilities
Less Mana Regen will be available and Spirit will be the new regen stat: No complaints there really. To be honest I can’t remember what an empty mana bar looks like. I’ve self-rezzed in raids and not even had to throw down a Mana Tide. By taking away our epic mana regen, healing will become more tactical and hence more fun.
Totem of Wrath now will replace Flametongue Totem for all Shamans: Sounds good to me, bring it on! Oh, and don’t feel undervalued now Elemental Shammies, you’ll have a talent that lets all Fire totems provide +10% spell power, so you can drop fire damage totems and still pack a whallop of bonus damage. They’re also thinking of allowing Elementals to “drop Searing Totem at range”. I can only assume this talent will be called Caber Toss!
Plans to free up Enhancement global cooldowns: No specifics here, but this sounds like a pretty good idea. I recently stopped playing Enhance cos it felt clunky, waiting for lava lash and storm strike to become available, so speeding things up and making them more dynamic sounds like an all round good thing.
All Shamans will have Cleanse Spirit, but it will only remove curses: Erm… ok. This is where I get a little less enthusiastic. Making it a baselines ability is good, but it’s basically just been reduced to a much more basic spell. This is part of Blizz’s new design philosophy on dispels, which I do understand, but it stings a bit to be losing what I would consider a signature ability. Still, it’s not too big a deal and at least removing curses seems kind of Shamany… y’know Shamans being the antithesis of a Warlock and all. Resto Shamans will have a talent which allows them to remove magic as well, so it’s not so much fo a nerf, more of a weird flavour change.
Cleansing Totem will be removed from the game: Er, okay I guess. Cleansing Totem is a favourite of mine, cos its just so effective at what it does. Given the new philosophy of having us actually think about our dispels, I guess I can understand the need for this change. After all, its not like they’re going away our other cleansing abilities!
Shamans will no longer be able to remove poison or disease: Say WHAT? No, Blizzard! Bad bad Blizzard! I knew there was going to be a catch in here somewhere! Well ok, its not *that* much of a disaster, but seriously? Removing disease and poison is one of our early abilities, and defining abilities at that. It’s always made sense to me, it feels right as a Shaman to have control over illness and poison. After all isn’t that part of our role as a spiritual healer amongst our people? I don’t like this at all. Oh, and guess who’s going to still have the ability to cure poison and disease? The Paladins. Man, I hate those blonde buggers….
Hopefully the new talents will cheer me up…
3. New Talents
Earthquake: Absolute ultimate pure win! This is exactly what Elemental Shamans have needed for a long time. A targeted and persistent AoE which, presumably, shakes the ground and rips it apart, hurtling your enemies down through the cracks into the fiery pits of hell! Well… ok maybe not, but cmon – Earthquake. Doesn’t that sound like a spell which you should be casting? Plus targeted means it’ll be a clickable AoE rather than a lame radiating out from the Shaman affair. On the whole, sounds like a high-tree talent.
Spirit Link: More good news, assuming they can get it to work. Those of you with good memories, or at least who have been communicating with the spirits of their ancestors, will remember Spirit Link was a proposed ability for Shamans in Wrath of the Lich King. This ability was supposed to allow you to link two players together, so that any damage one of them experienced would be shared between the two and thus increase their survivability. This was a cool idea, and one exhibited by some annoying Broken NPCs in Zangarmarsh who were tricky to kill as a result. However, Blizzard struggled with the functionality and we ended up getting Riptide instead. Now they’re saying they want to reintroduce this cool concept “in some form”. What exactly that will mean is anyone’s guess. Here’s hoping the mechano-hamsters that power the great Blizzard machine can get it to work right this time!
Unnamed Hitty Talent: Elemental will have a deep talent that allows Spirit to boost their Hit rating. This will be necessary, as the new mana regen stat for Shamans is spirit, and all gear is being standardised. Therefore having this talent will mean that an Elemental Shaman can wear the same caster mail.
Focused Strikes: This will be a replacement for the existing Enhancement talent, Enhancing Totems, which will improve the damage of the new spell Primal Strike and Stormstrike. Seems like a sensible talent to have, making hitty Shamans more hitty. Not sure why it has to take away Enhancing Totems, but maybe ET will be made obsolete by the new Talent Mastery changes.
4. Talent Mastery
The new Talent Mastery system means that all those annoying must-have talents like “+5% dmg” will be gone and instead will be passively integrated into your talent choices. How does this look for Shamans?
Well first, most talents that currently grant passive bonuses will be removed or reworked. That means Mental Quickness, Improved Windfury Totem, Mental Dexterity, Call of Thunder, Tidal Mastery, Purification, Nature’s Blessing, and others.
Secondly we’ll start seeing obvious bonuses to our talent tree choices. Those speccing into Elemental will see bonuses to spell dmg and crit; enhance will get melee dmg and haste boosts; resto will get improved healing and mana regen.
Third, if you spec deep enough into one specific tree, you will gain a special bonus.
Elemental – Elemental Overload: Your direct-damage spells have a chance to proc a less powerful ‘bonus” version of the spell. Essentially this is Lightning Overload, but can apply to other spells like Lava Burst. This seems like an awesome boost for Elemental Shammies. I remember having the Lightning Capacitor back in TBC and I always observed my extra lightning bolts with absolute glee. Seeing extra fireballs and lightning bolts spamming around is going to be fun!
Enhance – Nature Damage: This will provide a passive bonus to the Nature damage dealt by the Enhancement shaman. Whilst this would provide a nice damage boost, it seems a little underwhelming compared to Elemental Overload. Hopefully Blizzard will find a way to make this a little more exciting.
Resto – Deep Healing: Your direct heals will do more healing when the target’s health is lower. Quite frankly, can you ask for a better ability as a healer? If a tank is about to die and, oh look – your heals just got more powerful! Your heals will be better tailored to the needs of your patient and that is extremely awesome.
5. The Most Amazing Change of All!
Now I know all of the changes I’ve been text-critting at you above may have your head in a whirl. Shamans are becoming more powerful all over the place. “Where’s the catch?” you ask, “What terrible price will have to pay to get these new god-like abilities?”. Well I’m sorry to inform you that there is a catch, and its one which may shock and surprise you to your very shamanistic core:
Sentry Totems will be destroyed.
I know, I know. Is the price really worth it? I mean, can they really expect us to give up our beloved Sentry Totem for ANY price at all?
Dark times await us in the Cataclysm my friends. Times when we wont accidentally switch our point of view to a random totem in a boss fight and have us scrabbling around to click off the ‘buff’. Times when people will have one less thing not to bind to a hotkey. Times when taking a raid-kill screenshot will be slightly harder. But we will have no choice but to bear this burden, grit our teeth and soldier on, knowing in our hearts that we have truly lost the best of us.
Thank you for reading.