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Shaman Tank Guide - Serious Look at Shaman Tanking in World of Warcraft

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Hi, my name is Caperfin and welcome to my guide! For a long time there's been some negative stigma surrounding shaman tanking in original World of Warcraft, many players don't consider them tanks and not worth a second look. However, this stigma is typically fueled by misinformation or players refusing to go the extra mile to make it work. If you have more shaman tank questions, drop by the Twitch stream to chat.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Basics
  • Race
  • Profession
  • Shaman Tank Threat
  • Threat Diminishers
  • Totems
  • Talents
  • Rotations
  • Buffs
  • Debuffs
  • Gear + Enchants
  • Comparison
  • Raid Composition

Introduction
Can Shamans tank in original WoW? The short and to the point answer is, yes. You might be rubbing your eyes right now in disbelief of this answer. Perhaps concocting up an entire four page manifesto around how only warriors can and should tank. Although, I could go on a long rant about how there are many other classes that can tank, today, I will be focusing on our totemic friend, the shaman. 

My intent and statement with this guide is not to upset anyone or downplay different classes but to bring to light a rarely talked about topic of the game. Nothing about what will be detailed in this guide is orthodox, many distinctive elements can be tied to other hybrid classes looking to stray away from the path of normality.
 
Every possible subject that comes to mind will be dissected to answer any lingering questions you might have. In the likely situation a subject is not addressed or poorly please bring it to my attention. I expect the same amount of scrutiny from readers as I have put into writing this guide, so don't hold back. Before continuing, an important aspect needs to be brought to everyone's attention. For some players this will be old news, but for many others players this will be a much needed revelation. The topic of Viable and Optimal is a highly controversial topic as some people simply don't see the difference or mixed these words up and commonly interject their own misguided philosophy onto it. To put it simply, Optimal is the most efficient and foolproof solution to solve a problem that eliminates as many negative variables as possible and favors a more easy going route. Next, is Viable or commonly referred to as "possible", which is seen as the more challenging path can be bought on the Aubut feels like a greater personal feat.
 
With all of this in mind, where are shaman tanks placed? Shamans are classified under Viable and with each theorycrafter joining our ranks and contributing their work, perhaps shamans could “feasibly” one day dethrone those braggadocious paladin tanks/bear tanks and reach a theoretical semi-optimal spot. Many shaman tanks will agree their motivation or drive comes from the glory of accomplishing something the the rest of the server population dares not even try. If this sounds like you, I encourage you to continue reading on. To restate my point, you decide to go shaman tank if you want a challenge in an otherwise easy to clear raid. For example, Molten Core can be cleared without any contention. If it wasn't made obvious before, shield bearing is a sizable undertaking. When experienced players pick up a shaman tank and put in the effort, it shines tenfold. Nonetheless, your guild must also be experienced and prepared for a tempestuous task ahead.
 
You will often see experienced raiders from top guilds play as a restoration shaman in raid and build a tanking set while healing. Eventually, they will transition into shaman tanking due to its extra challenge in an otherwise easy to clear content patch, they usually make the switch after the initial rush to get world first on a boss or raid is claimed and the subsequent following content drought approaches. As I previously stated it is not for the faint of heart, if you are brand spanking new to World Of Warcraft consider leveling up a ranged class, for example: a mage to get an adequate grasp of the PVE raids.

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Basics
Can me put your fears to rest, shamans are fully capable of tanking 5mans, 10mans, off-tanking and even main-tanking a few raid bosses. Of course, as stated before, each form of tanking is heavily reliant on personal and guild experience. An important fact needs to be stated before moving on. A shaman's overall armor will never approach a warrior's armor mitigation. This results in a lower mitigation of physical damage. However, you compensate in other areas and provide some beneficial assets as well better threat output on single targets.On this notion, pending any major weird coding or other factors, shaman tanks can do about the same threat as a protection talented warrior. But there is a drawback, many spells are mana intensive, so be prepared to farm some mana regenerative items before a raid. We share the most similarity with feral druid tanks as we don’t have a major block activating ability and rely on a assortment of stats. The next downside is the nature immunity of certain mobs and its burden on threat but don't worry there are solutions which will be explained in the upcoming sections.

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Race
Races play a big part as we are grasping for any amount of extra efficiency possible. Unfortunately, shamans aren't on the Alliance side, therefore, we are being relegated to spend our fighting days with the Horde. As for race, choose wisely as once the decision is made there is no going back. Some players might want to choose a certain race to assure the clearing of a specific boss or raid.

  • Tauren
    Nature Resistance        War Stomp        Endurance         Cultivation
    What does this mean?: Considered the most suited race for surviving long fights and ideally clearing ZG/AQ, which will be the first raids where difficulties will arise. The 5% hp is great and is inherently based on absolute hp, so it will scale with the amount of hp obtained from gear and world buffs. In regards to War Stomp, be cautious you cannot dodge, block, or parry while casting the spell. However, its overall usefulness outweigh this slight inconvenience. The 15 skill increase to Herbalism is also nothing to scoff at while leveling.
  • Troll
    Throwing Specialization Bow Specialization           Beast Slaying           Regeneration           Berserking
    What does this mean?: The race focusing on dealing threat instead of anything else. Generally, threat is not an issue, if you glaringly foresee having threat issfessions. The goal is to gather a large sues, than I unquestionably advocate for troll above all other races. Their "Regeneration" racial is insignificant even with a lot of spirit. Troll will especially deal a lot of threat on "Beast" bosses, ex: Magmadar in MC, Whirlaxis and Gahz'ranka in ZG, etc...
  • Orc
    Axe Specialization             Blood Fury             Hardiness            Command
    What does this mean?: Orc sadly fall short in survival & threat aspects. Akin to the troll, orc's focal point is threat. However, they're seen as a more riskier race option considering the -50% to healing from Blood Fury, which is a negative to non-attentive healers. In all honesty, in our strict testing, they surpass other races for dealing threat on short fights but it made the majority of healers very nervous. On the bright side, they proved more effective in the off-tank position. In conclusion, they plunge too deep into the situational category to be justified.

Professions
While leveling, select Herbalism & Alchemy. Herbalism provides reagents for Alchemy and a source of gold for our eventual endgame professions. The goal is to gather a large supply of gold and a bank full of potions the raid might need, for example the potion, Flask of the titans.
 
After drop Herbalism and go for the late game profession, Engineering. In order to get a few tools, such as: Gnomish battle chickenGoblin Sapper Charge among many other beneficial gadgets.
 

Finally, for secondary professions, I urge grabbing all of them as they all provide valuable assets. In terms of fishing, you can farm those elusive Stonescale Eels that are highly contested after for Flask of the Titans. First aid grants bandages for healing that don't require any mana to use. Lastly, cooking has Dragonbreath Chili a sheer delight as it not only scales with spell damage but also with the trinket: Arcanite Dragonling and its fire increasing debuff: Flame Buffet. The debuff also scales with Goblin Sapper charge. All these items nicely combine into a decent boost in threat. Also, Dragonbreath Chili does stack with another single food buff.

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Shaman Tank Threat
Because a plethora of questions surrounding aggro/threat are bound to come out of confusion. I'd like to first reference Kenco's words about how gaining aggro on a mob and overall threat functions in World of Warcraft.

Now, let's examine shaman threat. They're on another tier when it comes to outputting threat, but demand a lot of dedication comparably to the more laxed tanks out there. With proper optimization, their threat is nearly equal to a pure protection warrior and in some situations just shy of a druid tank. Of course, the shorter a fight, the better, since a shaman can freely throw mana around without going out of mana as fast. Resulting in more dependable damage being dished out and correlates into predictable threat. Let's see how to get creatures more mad at you than unusual.

  • Earth Shock is first as it deal a high amount of threat because of its 2x damage threat modifier. The downside is nature damage is burdened on three fronts: no warlock curses bolster it, a spell coefficient of 40.71% of the caster's spell damage and some raid content is somewhat resistant to nature. Lastly, downranking our spells is crucial in tanking to be cost-effective. Anything resembling an elemental (noticeable in MC) will have a high resistance to nature damage. All the Dragons of Nightmare are also immune to nature damage or tend to have the same high resistance to nature as to fire. The same applies for some creatures in: AQ, ZG and Naxx. Basically, if an environment has a disease or poison theme, expect nature damage to be hampered. Here's a chart to better explain the notion. Don't fret, items exist to counter this damage dampening downside, ex: Eye of Moam & the debuff from Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker helps with Earth Shock's damage by reducing the target's nature resistance.
  • Frost Shock is used against nature immune targets. Frost Shock or referred as "FS" doesn't consume a debuff slot on a boss impervious to movement impairing effects (most bosses). There are additional ways to circumvent the lack of threat done against nature immune targets, which will be peppered throughout the upcoming topics.
  • Rockbiter Weapon at rank7, is 72 threat per second on hit. With 2.6 speed weapon, each hit is: 2.6 * 72 = ~172 threat. Weapon speed won't matter, but haste does. Haste effects are wanted to counter nature defiant mobs & low percent chance to hit. Once at an auto attack DPS of ~140, Rockbiter isn't optimal, instead use Windfury Weapon. Players use fast daggers because of its higher chance to trigger the effect.
  • Lightning Shield or known as "LS" imposes conditions to be cost effective. Firstly, LS is on the GCD and shouldn't be casted over other spells, such as: Earth Shock so weigh your mana and threat. Secondly, downranking LS is vital to conserve our resources and maintain productivity. Each charge of LS scales with 33% of total spell damage but can't crit.
  • Oil of Immolation might not seem like much but floats around fourth on the list. It will interrupt your swing timer but not trigger a GCD. It's undeniably good before a boss pull or versus many mobs. Can be bought off the Auction House.
  • Lightning Bolt or Chain Lightning (depending on number of mobs) will be the first spells dealing threat on the target. Downranking isn't as harsh or compulsory since these spells are only casted upon engaging a boss.
  • Goblin Sapper Charge and similar bombs are great to deal more threat and a definite must against multiple mobs. The majority of bombs are made through Engineering with the exception of the last two in the list below:
       - Goblin Sapper Charge (It shares a 1 minute GCD w/other bombs)
     
    d threat from teammates is a  - Dark Iron Bomb will require you to stand still and a 1 second cast.
       - Crystal Charge this can be stacked up to 20 & used when moving.
       - Note: Not a bomb but Clutch of Foresight (shares CD with bombs) is an arcane spell, great versus fire resistant mobs.
  • Major Rejuvenation Potion & similar potions are global and .5x of the amount replenished. Health and mana effects will not cause threat if at maximum capacity. Players on coherent battles will use a heal pot after Goblin Sapper Charge to deal a lot of threat. In order of threat, there is:
       - Major Rejuvenation Potion is the highest threat but can be costly.
       - Major Healthstone is next on the list and given to us by a warlock.
       - Major Mana Potion is buyable on AH. (Shares CD with the above)
       - Demonic Rune / Dark Rune (Shares a CD with the below item)
       - Night Dragon's Breath easy to acquire, so place them in the bank.
  • Thorns is the highest damaging reflective effect. Typically, these type of buffs are great against many mobs but still have relevancy in single target scenarios. You can only have one reflective buff on you at a time with the exception: Gift of Arthas (debuff causes threat). The second highest damaging reflective effect is: Fire Shield.

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Threat Diminishers
We’ll be and threat from teammates is a daunting obstacle to tackle. Luckily, there are ways for classes to reduce their threat. Firstly, ranged classes are favored because any aggro they mistakenly get is likely from a 30-40yrd range, so it's easier to supervise. Also classes standing out of the 30-40yrd range will not draw aggro until they exceed the threat level of the mob's current target by 30% as opposed to 10% for melee classes. Here are a few examples of threat reducers or resets, in no particular order:

Classear, except the weapon & drink mana. Placs:

Items:

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Totems
We’ll be asking our shamanistic brothers from the restoration side to land a hand with totem utility, so be kind and compliment each others advantages in the group. keep in mind, there can only be one type of totem per shaman so having another shaman is welcomed. Also, fire totems can crit & scale with spell damage. Each totem below is in order of importance per category.

Earth

Fire

Air

Water

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Talents
Naturally, if you're only doing dungeons the road ahead is much easier and there's more freedom to move talent points. However, raid tanking follows strict guidelines to be effective. The last two talent setups assume you're in a serious guild who confidently clear raids.

  • "The Basic"- 14/37/0
    [Image: 19490.png]
    The new player starter pack in 5mans. Pick if unsure of an upcoming boss fight or are still learning about dungeon shaman tanking.
  • "The AoE" - 23/28/0
    [Image: rq3.png]
    For tanking many targets at a time in raids. It mainly uses Chain Lightning alongside Eye of the Storm for threat. Against +3 mobs, see: AoE Tanking.
  • "The Advanced"- 21/30/0
    [Image: 19490.png]
    For Raid Tanking. The highest threat setup & for mobs resilient or immune to nature damage. Good gear and a solid knowledge of tanking is needed.

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Rotation
First, on the list is a simple dungeon tank rotation and we’ll be presuming the boss fight is simple.

  • Pre-pull: Cast Lightning Shield and assure all possible buffs are present and max duration. Next, place the appropriate totems. Lastly, if it hasn't been done get the addon: KTM Threat, it displays the threat of members. A scenario can turn ugly quick, so watch KTM often. At any moment, you need to be sure of the fitting Earth Shock rank to use.
  • Pulling: Cast Lightning Bolt/Chain Lightning and Earth Shock. If all goes smoothly, Earth Shock again and turn the boss away from the group. If the boss suddenly targets someone or drops aggro, use rank7 Earth shock to aggro them. For future threat problems, see: Threat.

Second is a complex rotation mainly for raid tanking, it has great results but requires good gear, buff, etc... Naturally, if you aren't able to perform every single action below don't get discouraged, its mostly to showcase the maximum potential possible.

  • Pre-pull: Cast Rank7 Lightning Shield. Place Stoneclaw Totem in front of you & back up 25-30yrds. (It will later halt the boss for 0.5 seconds or the boss hits it) Place Mana Spring Totem. Activate Oil of immolation.
  • Situational: If mana allows it, cast a suitable rank of Lightning Shield. If mana is foreseeably a problem, use Oil of immolation often. If mana is foreseeably an issue but threat isn't also cast R1 Frost Shock.
  • Note: Versus nature immune bosses, to pull: use Magic Candle (equip spell damage weapon). After, follow the healing-threat tactic above & cast Lesser Healing Wave as much as possible until the boss is at melee range than Frost Shock. If more threat is needed: Flame Shock instead. MUST need Flame Buffet (don't bother otherwise) & similar debuffs.

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Buffs
Prioritize obtaining Defensive buffs before acquiring Threat related buffs. Agility for example has the added byproduct of helping with defensive and threat measures. Generally, off-tanks or known as "OT", take less damage, therefore, it's not fully needed to aim for Defensive buffs. Also, some buffs are unobtainable due to certain patch restrictions or unable to stack with others. There is a max of 32 buffs: Talents, Set bonuses & Equip effects don't count. But Gear enchants count with exceptions: (Crusader enchant and enchants from the profession enchanting don't count.) Resistance enchants however need to be reconfirmed as they make it seem now like those should count. Let's move on and explore relevant buffs to our tanking duties. The following buffs are classified into sub-groups to better highlight their usefulness and showcase different options.

Threat Increasing Buffs

Defensive-Buffs

Resistance Buffs

Mind Control Buffs
It is possible for an Alliance priest to use  Mind Control or someone with engineering to use the head slot item  Gnomish Mind Control Cap versus players on the Horde. For that duration the mind controlled Horde character is now considered an Alliance player. This allows the character to receive buffs from paladins. In the many guild raids I’ve taken part, we'd have 2-3 players on their paladins and priests stationed near the raid entrance for mind control buffing. It's also possible for a priest of any faction to Mind Control certain mobs, which can dish out buffs to all raid members.

Mind Control Buffs from mobs

Special Event Buffs:
On an ending note for buffs, we can also get buffs from special events. An example, is The Midsummer Fire Festival an event celebrating the hottest season of the year. It lasts about two weeks (mid-late June to early July). The next ones are Love is in the Air, Lunar Festival, Wickerman Festival and Scourge Invasion. The following buffs are separated by their event.

  • Scourge Invasion
  • Soul Revival: +10% to all damage caused for 30 minutes.

Debuffs

There can be a total of 16 debuffs on a boss. Having as many debuffs on a raid boss is crucial. All debuffs on the list below benefit us in either Threat or Defensive aspects and assumed to be at their maximum rank and talent improvement. The following debuffs are placed into sub-groups to better highlight their utility and showcase different options.

  • Curse of the Elements: -75 resistance to Fire & Frost and increase Fire...
  • Winter's Chill: To increase Frost Shock's damage (niche scenario).
  • Stormstrike: Next 2 sources of Nature damage dealt are increased by 20%.
  • Gift of Arthas: If a target strikes you, they have a 30% chance...
  • Nightfall: Spell damage taken by target increased by 15% for 5 sec.

Gear
If unsure of guild or group performance, carry several focused gear sets: Stamina set, Dodge set & Armor set to cater to any possible encounter. Certain pieces of gear from PvP through Honor Ranking remains the best forever but demands a large amount of Honor grinding.

Enchants
Similar to gear, enchants must be tailored against the specific boss you will be facing. Allies can also help us, by enchanting their own cloak with Formula: Enchant Cloak - Subtlety.


Tank Comparison
To showcase our max potential a full BiS geared and buffed shaman will be the closest in stats to approach a Druid tank. Let's look at the stats to see the differences. As a guideline, the Example Druid Tank below is BiS/buffed and able to clear most bosses with no issue. A shaman like other tanks tailors his gear versus the boss they're facing. Obviously, the Example Druid Tank can reach higher numbers and has a plethora of defensive spells, but the goal is to showcase the class with the closest similarity to a shaman in stats across the board that gets the job done in high-end raids.
[Image: 19470.png]
Druids have the luxury of having multiple categories covered and a broader safety net on top of having access to join Alliance for the added advantage of paladins spells, while shaman tanks are required to significantly maximize a specific category for a certain boss.done in high-end raids.
Now, let's explores the threat generated by other classes to showcase where shaman tanks stand. Remember, threat depends on gear, boss, etc... But in general, the current standing of tanks that can do the most threat are:

  1. Feral Druid/Warrior.
  2. Paladin/Enh Shaman.
  3. Dem warlock.
  4. Priest tanks

AoE Tanking
Although I slightly talked about it in "Talents". Let me go into more detail here.

  • Against 3 targets and/or dungeons, AoE tanking is about Chain Lightning proccing with Eye of the Storm as the main conduit to deal damage and preserve threat on 3 targets. Because it isn't possible to dodge, block, parry while casting, this method is suggested versus mobs dealing little to moderate damage. Against heavy hitting targets it's advisable to grab the weapon Hand of Edward the Odd and wait for its procs to cast. If you don't foresee a random mob being aggroed by someone, cast R1 Frost Shock to save mana and increase the proc chance of Elemental Devastation and Elemental Focus. This is all done while auto attacking a different target after every 4-5 melee hit. Items such as Skull Flame Shield, Force Reactive Disk, Oil of Immolation are beneficial.
  • With a coordinated raid group, it's possible to heal designated players as they "stand in fire" in between boss melee swings. Another way for players to intentionally receive damage is for designated warlocks to use Life Tap alongside items, such as Demonic Rune or Goblin Sapper Charge. Equipping a weapon with bolstering healing attributes such as: Hammer of the Twisting Nether before healing a member wield yield more threat.

Raid Composition
Raid composition differs with each boss but is seen as a skill that evolves over time and reflects the playstyle of a guild or raid. The following composition is an example with minor exceptions differing from the norm. By no means is it perfect since compositions change along side: patches, gear, experience, etc... With the raid leader's permission offer your advice on an ideal comp catering to your needs without overstepping.
[Image: 19493.jpg]

  • In (Group 1): A fellow tank in your party can equip The Lion Horn of Stormwind, granted the trinket slot isn't needed for anything else.
  • A bear can replace a prot warrior in the tank party, if the raid is comfortable enough with the idea and could probarbly use an emergency Innervate or Rebirth Also, only bring the bare minimum of tanks. This will open a spot for either: a lock with Blood Pact, or a hunter with Trueshot Aura.
  • Rogues are favored over fury warrior, they Feint, Sprint, Evasion and Vanish to manage their threat/aggro.
  • Feral cat druids can offer similar utilities as a bear and can Cower and Dash to manage their threat/aggro.
  • Discipline priest with experience and ease of mind may occasionally throw a Power Infusion on a shaman tank during the pull phase.
  • In (Group 6): The shaman is elemental since healing is not an issue and we are relying mostly on Tranquil Air Totem. In the situation, you are taking too much damage this spot can be replaced by a restoration shaman.
  • In (Group 7): A mage could be replaced by a shadow weaving healing priest.
  • In (Group 8): Mages gravitate to Fire Specialization after AQ but keeping a single mage as Frost with the talent Winter's Chill is advisable.
  • A rogue can be replaced by a melee hunter on Nightfall duty.
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Thanks for Reading!
If you have any questions regarding shaman tanking, feel free to drop by the Twitch stream to chat.
Edited by CaperfinWoW
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Oh I didn't see this before, it's pretty amazing. I've done a few dungeons when we had a friends tank as Shaman and it went pretty smoothly. Remains to see how we'll do at higher levels 😛

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Very well written guide!  I knew that shamans were able to tank 5mans but had no idea they could tank raid bosses (although I have seen 1 video of a sham off tanking an add in Naxx).  Very well detailed and I'll be using this for sure as I level up my alt shaman, thank you!

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On 9/10/2019 at 10:57 AM, Valhalen said:

If I recall correctly, Balance Druids could tank in TBC too, right?

Every class in TBC can tank, it's somewhat silly how easy it gets with how much is implemented in TBC.

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Guide is currently being updated. If you guys know anything about how the following functions/behaviours, please let me know:

if Invulnerable Mail effect can be clicked off.

The threat generated by Rockbiter at max rank (not as easy as it sounds).

if Oil of Immolation reset the swing timer.

Apparently Dragon Breath Chili will stacks with food buffs, if you eat Chili after?

Debuff priority of Wail of the Banshee.

The behaviour behind Flask of Petrification. Been told it's like BoP, but can it be clicked off?

The threat caused by the buff: Eye of the storm, Elemental Focus, Elemental devastation.

The threat caused by the buff Headmaster's Charge, Crusader enchant.

The threat caused by Crystal Spire and if it resets swing timer.

 

Edited by CaperfinWoW

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I've always loved the early level tanking shaman could do very easily and am always surprised they never pursued locking in some buffs to make enh and optimal tank in future expansions and just made it dps. The breakdowns in this guide are amazing thank you so much for all the info

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Hey all, OP here.

I am slowly updating everything in the guide. I am still testing out a few things, so if you have some insight on the following please let me know.


if Invulnerable Mail effect can be clicked off.
Apparently Dragon Breath Chili will stacks with food buffs, if you eat Chili after?
Debuff priority of Wail of the Banshee and how much threat the debuffs deals?
The behaviour behind Flask of Petrification. Is like BoP, but can it be clicked off?
The threat caused by the buff: Eye of the storm, Elemental Focus, Lightning Shield, Flurry and Berserking.
The threat caused by the buff Headmaster's Charge, Oil of Immolation and Mark of the Chosen.
The threat caused by Crystal Ward and Crystal Spire and if it resets swing timer and if spamming it continues to generate threat?
Behaviour of Gnomish Cloaking Device (can you drop combat in-between boss combat pulse, if timed properly?)
 

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OP here!

Guide has been updated and cross-referenced with Classic WoW.

- Spells, buffs, debuff, etc... are now linking to their own database page.

- Scaling, stacking properties and numbers are adjusted to reflect Classic.

 

P.S. If there's something I missed or anything else, please let me know 🙂

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      Deathwing, Medivh, Stitches, Kel'Thuzad, Kael'thas. Deathwing, Medivh, Garrosh, The Butcher, Kel'Thuzad. Deathwing, Medivh, ETC, Fenix, Kel'Thuzad. Deathwing, Medivh, Johanna, Cassia, Fenix. Deathwing, Medivh, Johanna, Tassadar, Raynor.
    • By positiv2
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      This thread is for comments about our Dalaran Heist Shaman Guide.
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      This thread is for comments about the Dog's Mecha'thun Shaman deck.
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      This thread is for comments about our Control Shaman deck.
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