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Shaman - Warlords of Draenor Alpha Patch Notes Analysis

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Icy Veins asks the experts' opinions on their favorite class changes!

The Warlords of Draenor Alpha patch notes have been out just over a week now, but millions of players have already voiced strong opinions of the direction Blizzard is headed with the game in this coming expansion. Some class changes have received overwhelmingly positive feedback, while others have left many a player scratching their head. A few changes have even caused a substantial outcry of rage!


We've invited a handful of our class MVPs to share their opinions on the changes made to their respective top class. For this patch notes analysis topic, we have requested feedback from our resident experts on the projected changes being made to the Shaman class. Tickle, Purge and Sonie have all been kind enough to share their thoughts on the upcoming Shaman changes!

Tickle is the manager of Sentry Totem, an up and coming World of Warcraft community news and advice site. Purge is one of the best Enhancement Shamans and a prominent theorycrafter. Sonie raids in Method and is one of the best Restoration Shamans.
 

Blizzard Icon Shaman WoD Alpha Changes

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Ability Pruning

  • Ancestral Awakening has been removed.
  • Feral Spirit no longer has the Spirit Bite ability.
  • Flametongue Weapon is no longer available to Restoration Shaman, and only causes damage on weapon swings for Enhancement Shaman.
  • Frostbrand Weapon has been removed.
  • Greater Healing Wave has been renamed to Healing Wave.
  • Healing Wave has been removed.
  • Lava Burst now replaces Primal Strike for Elemental and Restoration Shaman.
  • Magma Totem is now available only to Enhancement Shaman.
  • Rockbiter Weapon has been removed.
  • Static Shock has been removed.
    • Stormstrike and Stormblast now deal 30% more damage when Lightning Shield is active.
  • Searing Flames has been removed.
    • Flametongue Weapon damage has been increased by 40%, and Lava Lash damage has been increased to 280% weapon damage (up from 140%) to compensate.
  • Water Shield is now available only to Restoration Shaman and replaces Lightning Shield.

Crowd Control and Diminishing Returns

  • Ancestral Swiftness can no longer turn Hex into an instant-cast spell.
  • Earthgrab Totem now shares Diminishing Returns with all other root effects.
  • Maelstrom Weapon can no longer reduce the cast time of Hex.
  • Bug Fix: Glyph of Shamanistic Rage should no longer cause Shamanistic Rage to incorrectly dispel Unstable Affliction or Vampiric Touch that has been modified by the PvP 4-piece set bonus.

Hit and Expertise Removal

  • Elemental Precision has been removed.
  • Spiritual Insight no longer increases the chance to hit with Lightning Bolt, Lava Burst, Hex, or Flame Shock.

Retuning Healing Spells


See the full patch notes for complete details of these changes.

Active Mana Regeneration

  • Telluric Currents is now a passive ability for Restoration Shaman and causes Lightning Bolt to restore 1.25% of the Shaman's maximum mana each time it is cast instead of costing mana.
  • Glyph of Telluric Currents has been removed.

Buffs and Debuffs

  • Earth Shock no longer applies the Weakened Blows effect.
  • Elemental Oath now provides a 5% increase to melee, ranged, and spell Haste to all Party and Raid members (previously they only increased spell Haste).
  • Unleashed Rage now provides a 5% increase to melee, ranged, and spell Haste to all Party and Raid members (instead of a 10% increase to only melee and ranged attack speed).

Raid Utility Balance

  • Ancestral Guidance now causes 20% of damage or healing to be copied as healing to nearby injured allies (down from 40% of damage or 60% of healing).
  • Healing Tide Totem is now available only to Restoration Shaman.
  • Stormlash Totem has been removed.

Resurrection Mana Costs

  • Druid: Revive, Monk: Resuscitate, Paladin: Redemption, and Shaman: Ancestral Spirit now cost 4% of base mana (down from between 10% and 50%).

Class Changes


Shaman has received a variety of changes, most of which are specialization-specific.

For Elemental and Enhancement, we had a few problems to solve. Enhancement suffers from having their damage split among so many damage sources that none of it feels impressive. We changed the damage of several abilities to try to reorganize their damage into fewer, more impactful abilities, while keeping the net total the same. For a long time Elemental Shaman were one of the specs most impacted by movement, at a time where other casters were increasingly able to cast while moving.

In Warlords of Draenor, we're pulling back on the ability for many casters to deal damage while moving, and that includes Elemental. They will still have some ability to deal damage while moving, through Shocks, Unleash Weapon, and instant Lava Bursts. For Chain Lightning, we wanted to reduce the impact of Haste soft capping, and so changed Shamanism to increase damage instead of reduce cast time. Additionally, we simplified Wind Shear by removing its impact on threat, which no longer matters.
  • Ascendance for the Enhancement specialization now changes the Shaman's auto attacks and Stormstrike to deal Wind-based physical damage that bypasses armor.
  • Searing Totem's Searing Bolt damage has been increased by 65%.
  • Earth Elemental deals 90% less Auto Attack damage.
  • Earthquake damage has been increased by 36%.
  • Echo of the Elements has been redesigned. The Shaman's spells and abilities have a chance to trigger Echo of the Elements, causing their next short-cooldown spell or ability to not trigger a cooldown.
    • Elemental: It may be used on Earth Shock, Flame Shock, Frost Shock, Earthquake, or Lava Burst.
    • Enhancement: It may be used on Earth Shock, Flame Shock, Frost Shock, Fire Nova, Lava Lash, or Stormstrike.
    • Restoration: It may be used on Healing Rain, Purify Spirit, or Riptide.
  • Feral Spirits' damage has been increased by 100%.
  • Frost Shock's damage has been reduced by 50%.
  • Lightning Bolt is no longer castable while moving by default. Effects like Spiritwalker’s Grace can still make the spell castable while moving.
  • Primal Earth Elemental's Pulverize ability no longer deals damage.
  • Shamanism no longer reduces the cast time of Chain Lightning, but instead now increases the damage of Chain Lightning by 100% (up from 70%).
  • Unleash Flame no longer deals direct damage, but now increases the damage of the Shaman’s next Fire spell by 40% (up from 30%).
  • Unleash Frost no longer deals direct damage, but now always snares the target by 70% (rather than only when the target is already snared by a Frost spell).
  • Unleash Wind no longer deals direct damage, but now increases attack speed by 60% (up from 50%).
  • Using Unleashed Fury with Windfury Weapon imbue active now increases Multistrike chance by 10%.
  • Wind Shear no longer affects threat.
  • Windfury Weapon no longer has a 3-second internal cooldown.
Restoration Shaman had the most passive and smart healing of any healer, and so received some reductions in that area, along with buffs elsewhere to keep them competitive. One particular change is to Mana Tide Totem, which we made less effective for other players, but still just as effective for the Shaman. We like that Shaman could help other healers out on mana, but it was just too strong, significantly impacting how those other healers gear themselves.
  • Chain Heal now heals each chain target for 15% less than the previous target.
  • Conductivity is no longer triggered by damaging spells for Restoration Shaman, or by healing spells for non-Restoration Shaman.
  • Multiple Earth Shields can now be applied to the same target.
  • Earthliving Weapon now increases healing done by 5% (instead of increasing healing Spell Power by a flat amount).
  • Healing Stream Totem’s mana cost has been reduced to 10% of base mana (down from 23.5%), and its healing has been reduced by 50%.
  • Mana Tide Totem now increases the Spirit of allies by 50% (down from 200% of the Shaman's Spirit). It remains unchanged (200%) for the Shaman activating the totem, and still ignores temporary Spirit buffs.
  • Unleash Life no longer increases the healing from Healing Rain.
  • Glyph of Chaining no longer causes Chain Heal to have a 2-second cooldown.
  • Glyph of Totemic Recall now only increases the mana returned from recalling your totems by 25% (down from 75%).
We also made a couple quality of life improvements to Shaman Shield spells.
  • Lightning Shield now persists through death.
  • Water Shield now persists through death.

1. What is your overall impression of Blizzard's changes to the Shaman class?


Tickle (Elemental): So far, I think we're on the right track. There are some things that will need more work, and I'm a bit concerned about movement, but it's still early. It will be interesting to see how some of the changes work out after the numbers pass happens.

Purge (Enhancement): Based on the information that's been made available to us so far, enhancement's core gameplay has been almost entirely untouched, so if you already like the spec (as I do), you won' find too much to complain about in the recently released patch notes. We'll have fewer damage sources littering our damage meters, but the ones we retain should feel much more impactful, and the relationship between skill and performance should be a bit better in the expansion than it is on live.

Sonie (Restoration): That Resto Shamans are OP. We are in a very strong state as we speak, but I feel like the changes to smartheals would be enough to bring us on par with the rest. But we will see once the raidtesting starts I suppose.

2. Which changes do you think are the best and why?


Tickle (Elemental): Changing Echo is great, though we'll see how the new version works out. Having that extra RNG component that was very similar to a mechanic we already had - our mastery - was neither interesting nor satisfying, in my opinion. The new version will still be RNG, of course, and while I think it's intent is to add an extra decision - do I use this proc on another Flame Shock? Earth Shock? Or just keep spamming Lava Burst? - I think in reality it's not really going to be much of a decision in most cases. But again, part of that's going to depend on the numbers pass.

I'm also actually happy about removing Lightning Bolt on the move, though not necessarily because of how it affects us, but how it will affect raid composition and fight styles overall. Binkenstein wrote up a good post on it over at Sentry Totem.

For PVP and utility purposes, it's also great that Frost Shock is being removed from the shared shock cooldown. But that has its consequences, as well.

I'm pretty excited about Lava Burst proccing Rolling Thunder, and Lightning Shield stacking to 9. Again, depending on the numbers pass, that could mean using Earth Shock with decent fulmination stacks a bit more often, which I think is a bit more satisfying than sitting on it for a while waiting for stacks, only to have to Flame Shock - and again, I think this is where the intent behind the Echo change comes in, but we'll see how it actually works out.

Finally, I'm thrilled that Earth Elemental is being nerfed to the ground, as that's one less thing we'll have to worry about.

Purge (Enhancement): The best change we're seeing is probably the improved maelstrom weapon leveling perk. Maelstrom Weapon has been our quasi-resource since Wrath of the Lich King, but it hasn't had as much of an impact on our overall damage in this expansion as it has historically, with lightning bolt frequently only clocking in at around ~5-8% of our overall damage, depending upon talent selection and also upon how aggressively you decide to hardcast. The leveling perk should help to make lightning bolt feel meaningful again, and it will also bring back one of our spec's previously important skill checks - managing maelstrom stacks and spending them efficiently.

Sonie (Restoration): Even though it's a big nerf, I actually like the change to Chain Heal. I feel like it was dumbed down too much when it didn't scale down on each bounce. So you basically ended up just Chain Healing from the tank and then let it bounce to the most injured players with or without Glyph of Chaining depending on fight.

My favourite change is however Mana Tide. In MoP we were forced to take more spirit than we personally needed just to buff other healers mana regen. Spirit should be personal and you should just take as much as you personally need, in my opinion.

 

3. Which changes do you think are the worst and why?


Tickle (Elemental): We have a few double edged swords to look at. Frost Shock, as I said, has its consequences. Taking it off the shared shock CD is great for utility, and it also gives us one more instant to use during movement. Celestalon mentioned that they are planning to reduce its damage to the point where it won't be used during a stationary rotation, so it should end up doing less damage than lightning bolt, but again, that will depend on the numbers pass. Unfortunately, that also means one more button to keep on our bars, despite the plan to reduce button bloat.

I'm also concerned about Earthquake. One of our new Perks will increase the damage done by Earthquake based on the number of targets Chain Lightning hits. It's not clear yet how much this will stack, but I'm sure there will be a limit. While it certainly seems like an interesting change, unless we're looking at a boss fight with multiple adds that will stay up a while, Earthquake still doesn't work well. Even if, say, you can cast CL once and hit 5 targets to buff the next EQ by 100%, you're still looking at a long cast time for fairly weak damage unless those adds will stay alive the whole duration, and even then, you're probably better off just continuing to spam Chain Lightning. I think we'll still see it as a precast-only option. It just feels a bit forced right now, so again, it will be interesting to see what happens with the numbers pass, and how much that buff is limited. For all we know, it could be unlimited, and we could end up spamming CL for 30 seconds and then dropping one whopper of an EQ, though I kind of doubt that. =)

And then there's Unleash Elements. I'm not sure that removing damage from it completely is a good idea, particularly because of the movement issue. We'll be resorting to shocks and lava surge procs for movement, but Flame Shock isn't something you necessarily want to be casting haphazardly, Earth Shock depends on charges (and it's always a pity to cast it with low charges), and lava surge procs depend on rng. Removing UE as another option just feels a bit off. Sure, it's there, and if you have nothing else to cast, it will be worth it to hit it so that you can buff that next surge. It's also a slight nerf to Unleashed Fury, and we already know that EB and PE aren't great on the move. But again, it's still early.

Purge (Enhancement): The only Warlords of Draenor change that I've seen so far and would classify as a negative is probably the removal of casting lightning bolt while moving, since the stated reasoning behind that change was Blizzard's effort to making casters less mobile, and that logic doesn't translate very well to enhancement, which is a melee spec.

Sonie (Restoration): I wouldn't say I disagree with nerfs to Shamans, I definitely feel like we, together with disc Priests needs to be brought on par with the rest. But my main concern is that there are so many nerfs which very likely could bring us back to the "Firelands state". They said we would get compensated for the nerfs to smartheals, but so far I've only seen nerfs.
 

4. How would you alter any of the existing changes?


Tickle (Elemental): I wouldn't remove the damage from Unleash Elements, but then I'd remove the damage from Frost Shock. If Frost Shock has a damage component, it will very clearly become part of our movement rotation, and Enhance will likely end up using it to fill gaps in their standard rotation unless it's nerfed into the ground - at which point, it might as well not do any damage. It's just adding a button to our bars at it's already on our bars. Granted, Frost Shock has a short cooldown, so when it comes to moving for long periods, we'd be looking at one fewer GCD without it than with it, but if you're already moving for Spiritwalker's Grace, anyway.

I'd also be more interested in the CL buffing EQ perk if, instead of buffing it 20% per hit, it instead buffed it say, 10%, and then also reduced the cast time by a certain amount, say, 20%. Or something similar, depending on how much it stacks, whether that's actually additive or multiplicative, etc.

And then, again, with Echo - as I said I'm glad it's being reworked, but I'm not sure we're there yet. When it comes down to it, I don't think the new version is going to add as much choice as the designers would think, and we may see EM or AS pulling back ahead.

Purge (Enhancement): I'd like to see the lightning bolt on-the-move nerf be made specific to elemental and restoration, and I'd even like to see it taken one step further by allowing enhancement (and every melee spec, really) to cast all of their offensive spells while on the move.

Sonie (Restoration): Too early to say, haven't even gotten to try the changes out yet.
 

5. What changes would you like to see in WOD?


Tickle (Elemental): It's been stated time and again that crit will be more valuable for elemental, but I have yet to actually see that happen except in a few very minor ways, but there are other changes that may also actually decrease its value. Obviously this is again one of those areas that will depend on the numbers pass, and it's possible that based on that tuning crit is already looking better, but from what I can see right now, we're actually looking at a much stronger haste value, since CL is going back to a 2 second cast, removing the current "soft cap" from that, and with Echo changing and no longer further inflating mastery's value. Unfortunately, while there are several ways crit could be made stronger, they all come at a cost.

Purge (Enhancement): I'm hoping to see some attention paid to our level 45 and level 75 tiers of talents, since they've never felt like meaningful decisions over the course of the current expansion, and I'd also like to see earth shock become a bit more powerful relative to flame shock (though that's a tuning issue, and Blizzard is focused on mechanical changes at the moment). Other than that, enhancement shamans seem to be shaping up pretty well in the new expansion from a mechanical standpoint.

Sonie (Restoration): Zero absorbs and less smartheals. Please Blizzard, bring back the fun that once was healing. I'm looking forward to see if they live up to what they said, that we will go back to triage healing. That would make me a very satisfied and happy healer.

Patch Notes Last Updated - 23 April 2014
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