Friday, August 31, 2007

Totem Talk: Shamans are awesome

Another week, another Totem Talk, a column by and for shamans and those that love us. Well, okay, you don't have to love us to read it, but why wouldn't you? Look how cuddly we are! We even provide Bloodlust or Heroism for your 5 mans and raids. Don't you want to adopt one of us and take us home right now? No? What do you mean, no? Matthew Rossi is disappointed that you haven't already made a shaman plushie and cuddled it upon finishing this paragraph.

Okay, so my introductory column for Totem Talk went about like I expected, with most folks disagreeing with the idea that shamans need help. This isn't a new problem, of course, and it's not likely to go away for a while. Most players have enshrined the concept of shamans as OP and either deliberately or unknowingly exaggerate certain abilities (as an example, complaining that Grounding Totem, an ability which has a 15 second cast cooldown and which dies in one hit, is eating half of their frostbolts. How is that mathematically possible? Frostbolt has a max casting time of three seconds. You can cast five of them in the time it takes to cast one Grounding. It's just not possible for it to be eating half of your frostbolts, even assuming a one on one mage vs. shaman battle) but this happens to everyone. When I play my warrior, I see people complaining about 6k executes, and I'm sure every single class in the game has a similar ability or two that everyone complains about far more than it is actually capable of.

But this week there will be no complaining. No, this week we're going to celebrate shamans and what they're capable of and try and sell a really interesting and fun class to everyone in WoW. So read on for tales of high adventure! Or at least tales of stuff that would be good to have along on an adventure, anyway.
First up, let's take about Bloodlust. Ah, it's a shame we only get it at level 70. The alliance version is called Heroism, but it's essentially the same ability: it increases melee, ranged and spell casting speed by 30% for 40 seconds for the entire party. I think you can see the attraction right up front. It's really a smashingly good ability and the ten minute cooldown, while long, means you'll probably be able to use it on a couple of bosses in a 5 man. I pop Bloodlust at the 50% mark on every single boss in Kara and one of the hunters I run with (Hi, Vice!) says that it makes him fire like a machine gun. The duration in particular is very sweet, as a 40 second burst of increased speed has a significant effect. It's a well balanced, powerful and most importantly cool addition to the shaman arsenal. Sick and tired of that smirk on Murmur's skull-shark face? Pop this badboy off and watch him drop.

Next, let's talk about a few totems. There are some significant buffs in the totem kit bag that you may or may not know about. Shamans have totems for cleansing disease and poison, totems for regenerating mana and health, totems for buffing spell damage and adding strength and agility to a party, and of course there's the infamous Windfury totems that has positive and negative effects for melee. On the one hand, it's a great totem with a really powerful effect (20% chance of the effect of an extra attack with an additional 445 AP at level 70), but it also cleanses other enhancements off of everyone's main hand weapon, so if your rogue is trying for Wounding and Mind-Numbing poison on a boss, you may prefer to drop Grace of Air instead. Either are fine choices for the right situation... how can you say anything bad about an extra 77 agility? Of course, as a healbot I primarily drop my Wrath of Air totem in groups to get an additional 101 to my healing, plus the casters don't seem to mind it either. But I don't mind dropping another totem if asked - I generally use Windfury on the Maiden, in-between dropping Groundings every time the cooldown's up to keep from eating her nasty fire damage.

There are a lot more totems to talk about, but I don't want to swamp the post with just totems as if that's all we shamans can bring to the party. We're also walking soulstones! Okay, it's not quite that good, but Reincarnation can save a group in a couple of ways. For starters it can be used in the same manner as a soulstone, to res after a wipe, but a far more amusing use of the ability is to pop after death but while the fighting's still going on. Granted, you don't pop with full health or mana, but if you time it right and get the right totems down you can regenerate enough mana to throw heals off or resume ranged DPS, possibly turning the tide of a tight battle. I've even done both, using reincarnate to get up during a fight, dying again, and using my soulstone to get up after the fight to res and loot. Having a warlock and a shaman in your run means it's extremely hard to kill you off.

Let's not forget the healing spells... even an enhancement shaman can throw a few of these around to help with tough fights, especially my favorite heal, Chain Heal. Oh, how I love chain heal. Back when I was enhancement I would often use chain heal, self-targeted, to heal myself and 2 other melee in the middle of cleaves or AoE, since a meleeing shaman has various other ways to regenerate mana and can afford to throw a few heals around. And as a main healer it's an invaluable tool. I personally love a nice downranked chain heal to help keep the melee on their feet when fighting annoying bosses who love to cleave... just fire a few ch's into the main tank and watch the rogue's health stay up without you having to do much at all. It's a very mana efficient spell if you manage to heal three with it (it's also good for keeping up hunter pets and warlock minions for the same reason) and seems to benefit the most from sensible downranking, in my opinion.

Time to discuss an ability that enhancement brings to the party, the ever popular Unleashed Rage. If you don't love unleashed rage then you're obviously not melee. A 10% boost to everyone's AP for 10 seconds when the shammy crits? With the right buffs this could well be up for half a fight, and that means solid gains in DPS. You have to be within 20 yards of the shaman to get the benefit, admittedly, but that's usually not a problem when you're all crowding under someone's giant legs doing the old slice and dice anyway. For casters, there's the elemental talent Totem of Wrath, which adds to crit and spell hit and uses up a fire totem (which, to be honest, is often not used in an instance as most fire totems are like Searing Totem or Magma Totem, likely to break CC) but most elemental shammies I know tell me it's not that great. Still, combined with Wrath of Air it seems like it would have a nice synergy.
This is just a sample of what's good about shamans. I encourage you to run out and group with one immediately! And if you happen to be a shaman and you think I left out your favorite ability, please comment, we want to present as much positivity about our class as we can today.

Note - I edited my reference to the warrior ability Execute, as I could not find a way to make it clearer than I did, and it was making people focus more on it than on shamans. Comment #7 in this post spells out what I meant as well as I am able to do so, and it is out of the scope of the post.

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