Although it will be at least another six months before we find ourselves knee-deep in Pandas and cross-faction conflict, and toe-to-toe with another set of as-yet unknown antagonists, information about Mists of Pandaria is slowly making its way into the online community. And the first major chunk of information, released at Blizzcon, is something that I’ve been looking forward to weighing in on ever since I’ve gotten back from my California vacation. As I mentioned in my Blizzcon Afterthoughts post, I walked away from the intro to MoP much more reassured about the direction of the shaman class than I had expected to be. And although some of my Elemental and Enhancement friends who attended were less than enthused with the new Talent trees, I was delighted to see some much-needed additions for Resto.
So, while these Talents are definitely not set in stone and will likely go through multiple iterations before they’re released on live servers, I wanted to throw my Resto hat in the ring and go into a little more detail about what has me so excited for 5.0. (The MoP talent trees can be found here)
Tier 15 – Crowd Control
Summary of Options:
- Frozen Power – Your Frost Shock now also roots the target in ice for 5 sec.
- Earthgrab Totem – Summons an Earthgrab Totem with 5 health at the feet of the caster for 45 sec. The totem pulses every second, rooting all enemies within 8 yards for 5 sec. Recently rooted enemies will instead have their movement speed reduced by 50%.
- Repulsion Totem – Summons an Air totem with 5 health at the feet of the cast for 15 sec that repels enemies.
Also known as the tier where we all get the cool Elemental shaman talents, Tier 15 brings with it two types of stuns and one knockback. In terms of positioning within the leveling experience, I think these crowd control talents are well timed, and their utility and usefulness will, I’m sure be much appreciated by shamans starting on their way to 90. As a resto, I’m going to be happy to bring some of the utility that was offered by Elemental Shaman, although my primary concern is how much use we’ll be getting out of these talents in a PVE environment. Knock-backs were helpful on HM Rag and Cho’gall, but are they used so frequently that we need an entire talent tier devoted to it? Secondly, and this is a minor nit-pick in comparison, I question why anyone would ever take a single-target active-cast root over a multi-target passive root.
Final verdict: Good placement in the Talent tree, but some overlap in applicability of talents. Unsure of the PVE application.
Suggestions: If we’re talking about crowd control, why is hex notably absent? What if hex turned an enemy into an ally, who fought for you (weakly) until the hex expired or was dispelled?
Tier 30 – Survival
Summary of Options:
- Nature’s Guardian – Whenever a damaging attack brings you below 30% health, your maximum health is increased by 15% for 10 sec and your threat level towards the attacker is reduced. 30 second cooldown.
- Stone Bulwark Totem – Summons an Earth totem with 5 health at the feet of the caster for 30 sec that grants the caster a shield absorbing 2649 damage, and refreshes that shield every 5 sec. 1 minute cooldown.
- Astral Shift – Seek haven by shifting partially into the elemental planes, reducing damage taken by 50% but also all damage and healing dealt by 50% for 6 sec. 2 minute cooldown.
I actually winced when I saw Nature’s Guardian on the big screen at Blizzcon—I have avoided the it like the plague since Resto Shaman threat was fixed mid-BC. So to see this talent (with threat reduction, omfg) back on the plate for 5.0 was enough to work me into a feeding frenzy. (Yes, I realize this was a preview and they, like other professionals working against the clock, probably threw it into the presentation at 11pm the night before …) Thankfully the Vixsin-rage is quelled by the other two talents in the tree—a pulsing version of Glyph of Stoneclaw, which presumably scales in power with level and spellpower, and a slightly weaker version of Shadow Priests’ Dispersion, sans mana regen. To say that I’m excited about these survivability CDs is an understatement—I can think of a number of times in the past tiers where I would have happily killed for a personal survival CD (Nef, Throne, Al’Akir, Cho’gall, Sinestra, Beth, Domo, Rag, etc.) And even though Astral Shift comes with a healing penalty, I am cheering for heartiness it reintroduces into the shaman toolbox, because I remember the time when we were the beefy, I’m-gonna-tank-these-mobs-I-pulled-through-insane-healing-aggro healing class, and it was the clothies who everyone worried about.
Final verdict: Solid solutions to shamans’ survivability issues
Suggestions: Get rid of Nature’s Guardian once and for all, I’m begging you. Or change it to something useful like a personal passive +healing taken for sub-30%.
Tier 45 – Mobility/Mechanics
Summary of Options:
- Improved Ghost Wolf – While in Ghost Wolf form, you ignore the effects of snares.
- Windwalk Totem – Summons an Air totem with 5 health at the feet of the caster for 6 sec. granting raid members within 30 yards immunity to movement impairing effects. 1 minute cooldown.
- Tranquil Mind Totem – Summons an Air totem with 5 health at the feet of the caster for 6 sec granting raid members within 30 yards immunity to spellcast interruption and silence effects. 1 minute cooldown.
Although this tier can be loosely summarized as the tier of mechanic-enhancing effects, I struggle to see the applicability of any of these talents to PVE. In terms of raid encounters with snares, the last that I can recall are the frost patches on Anub’Arak (ToGC) and the last raid boss with a silence was further back still … back in 10-man ZA on Nalorak (although, arguably, a number of bosses do incorporate spellcasting interrupts in melee—Al’Akir and Rag are good examples). From a larger perspective, these benefits seem too specialized to apply in a PVE environment, since the buffs would need to be brought by more than one class in order to discourage raid stacking.
Given the purported transition of GW to a baseline instant-cast (IIRC from Blizzcon panel discussions), I do find these PVP-centric options a little disappointing because they don’t do much to address the issues the mobility and mechanics issues that shaman, Restos in particular, have in PVE. The integration of Unleashed Lighting was a major boon for Elemental Shaman in 4.2, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I had hoped for something similar for Restos, either by way of talent or a glyph. And, interestingly enough, for a tier so intent on enhancing mobility and performance, Spiritwalker’s Grace is notably absent.
Final verdict: Despite the veritable laundry list of mobility problems that shaman have in PVE, this tier falls a bit flat in addressing any quality-of-life issue of note. I also fail to see the value that this affords a leveling shaman.
Suggestions: I’d love to see something with a decided PVE benefit, like a talent that gives Spiritwalker’s no CD, but reduces the healing and damage you do while its active by 50%.
Tier 60 – Healing
Summary of Options:
- Healing Tide Totem – Summons a Water totem with 5 health at the feet of the caster for 10 sec. healing the 5 most injured raid members within 40 yards for 1060 healing every 2 sec. 3 minute cooldown.
- Ancestral Guidance – When you deal direct damage or healing for next 10 seconds, 40% of that amount is copied as healing to a nearby injured ally. 3 minute cooldown.
- Fortfying Waters – Allies standing within your healing rain receive a 10% reduction to incoming magic damage.
While druids are busy bemoaning the curse of Blizzard actually believing that they should contribute outside of their primary function (a topic for another day) I was glad to see some cross-functionality make its way into Tier 60. For as long as I can recall, the great dps shaman that I’ve encountered have always been ones that are ready with a Healing Rain or a Chain Heal to keep a group steady. I think of the Healing Rains I saw go down on HM Rag progression, the benefits of HST in Anub’Arak, or the CH’s that our Elemental tossed out during Sarth 3D, and I know that those little extra bits were a huge help each and every time. And so having a somewhat healing-focused tier makes sense to me for the class.
In regards to the talents themselves, I don’t think I need to even mention how delighted I was to see Tranquility Totem pop up (I can has for 4.3?!) Assuming that it scales and applies in the same way as Tranq and Divine Hymn, this will be an absolute boon. The unfortunate thing is that as amazing as Tranquility Totem is, by comparison, the other talents in this tier seem like throw-aways. Ancestral Guidance becomes the choice for shaman who refuse to play the utility role, or alternately, proves a poor way for a Resto to heal a spread out raid. And Fortifying Waters, while valuable, I think runs the same risk as talents like Inspiration—arguably beneficial but not something you’d take when presented with the option of higher healing or dps.
Final verdict: Great ideas, but not much balance between the choices.
Suggestions: Restos need a reason to choose something over Tranq Totem and DPS Shaman need to be rewarded for contributing some healing, so what about a talent that makes HST raid-wide, but at a lower pulse value. Or a talent that grants an additional amount of haste after I toss out a Healing Surge?
Tier 75 – Output Boosts
Summary of Options:
- Elemental Mastery – When activated, your nextLightning Bolt, Chain Lightning or Lava Burst spell becomes an instant cast spell. In addition, your Fire, Frost, and Nature damage is increased by 15% and you gain 20% spell haste for 15 sec. 3 minute cooldown.
- Nature’s Swiftness – Your next spell is instant cast. Passively increases spell and melee haste by 5%.
- Echo of the Elements – When you cast a damage or healing spell, you have a chance to gain Echo of the Elements, duplicating that spell’s effect.
Of all of the tiers of the shaman talents, I think perhaps this is the most exciting to me because of the difficult choice it presents. In other words, I didn’t look at this tier and immediately have a gut feeling that one talent would be the “PVE standard”.
For starters, I appreciate the duality offered in Elementary Mastery (assuming it will be revised to boost healing spells as well) and Nature’s Swiftness (assuming that it will equate to a constant passive haste buff), because the talents ask the shaman to assess what will be more beneficial on any given fight. In encounters with consistent damage, BQL for example, the burst would likely be of lesser benefit. But on fights like Magmaw or, my favorite, HM Rag, the burst on a longer CD would be of much greater value. Making the decision even harder is the third potential talent in the tier, which based on its description, seems intended to function like Tarecgosa’s Wrath—copying any healing or damage spell with no reduction in effect. Unfortunately, I feel like this talent aligns much better with the shorter cast times and attacks of Elemental and Enhance, versus the 2+ second casts of a Resto Shaman. (Longer casts = less duplicated spells). The second problem with this talent is that while there generally is no bad time to proc additional dps, the same cannot be said for healing. The sad fact is that unless the proc chance on this talent is different for Resto, it is likely the “additional” effect will have a significant amount of overhealing and be less preferable than the other two options.
Final verdict: These are much-needed throughput boosts, but I think that Echo of the Elements is a much stronger DPS talent than it is for Resto because of its random nature.
Suggestions: I feel like this would be a good place to put a talent that benefits Resto’s main problem of healing a spread raid, but I can’t think of any solution that would also compliment Enh and Elemental. A multi-spec talent, like Paladins’ Sanctified Wrath, would be a good fill-in.
Tier 90 – Totems
Summary of Options:
- Elemental Harmony – You may summon multiple totems of the same element simultaneously.
- Totemic Restoration – If a totem is replaced or destroyed before its duration expires naturally, its cooldown is reduced in proportion to the lost duration.
- Totemic Projection – Relocates your active totemsto the specified location. 10 sec cooldown.
Given my excitement about the other tiers and their additions to the shaman arsenal, Tier 90 almost feels like a letdown to me. Filling the place of the old 51-point talents, and more recently, the 31-point talents, this final tier should be something amazing, something that thanks me for grinding my arse off for 90 friggin levels to get there. And while I do think that all of these Totem-centric talents are much-needed tools, I don’t see them as class-defining abilities. Blizzard has already clarified that Multi-totem won’t allow dps to have multiple fire totems down, which heavily reduces the benefit of Elemental Harmony for Enhance and Elemental. And while it would be nice to not overwrite my Healing Stream when I drop Mana Tide (assuming I still have MT and HST come 5.0) a “nice” benefit isn’t really something I want at Tier 90. Likewise, while Totem Launcher makes me cheer, I feel like this is a first-tier talent at best because the only totem that I would ever want to launch would be Spirit Link.
Final verdict: Even with the removal of buff totems, I think it’s clear that Blizzard wants our totems to be our utility. But this lackluster final tier really doesn’t resonate with me because the benefits really aren’t game-changing.
Suggestions: I think a better solution would be to swap this tier with Tier 45’s theme, and really reward Shaman for sticking with the grind by resolving our mobility issues.
As a first pass at talents, I think the Blizzcon 5.0 preview was a good starting point for further discussion about those abilities that should define a class, and about the value of choice within a game where there where players place such a high value on being “optimal” or very close to it. I also think it’s important to remember that the goals with the new talent system are multi-faceted and fairly complex:
- Discourage cookie-cutter specs by enabling choice
- Align with the leveling process (ie: don’t buff something that players don’t have yet and give them occasion to “feel more awesome” every 15 levels)
- Provide valuable choices in each talent for each spec (ie: talents should not be clearly “Elemental only” or “Resto only”)
- Provide valuable choices for both PVE and PVP
Interestingly enough, the one I walked away most concerned about was #2, because with the removal of the “one point every level” and then the “one point every two levels” systems, players are no longer getting the continual reinforcement that they did when they started. And while that may not be a big deal to players going through their 5th or 12th reroll, for new players to the game, I could understand if they felt like 15 levels in between talents was too much time. This, of course, could be offset by the transition of many of the current talent-tree abilities to being class-specific spells/abilities, but even then I wonder if the leveling experience will somehow seem less rewarding to new WoW converts. Because at the end of the day, your choice of class doesn’t boil down to the logical numerical split of talent tiers into a number that’s a factor of 90—it comes down to how awesome the class makes you feel.
In regards to the other goals of the new talent system, I look forward to seeing just what Blizzard can deliver. I think shaman did a great job, in the feedback threads, of identifying some of the pervasive class issues, and like I mentioned in my Blizzcon post, I do feel like Blizzard hear those concerns and agreed with (some of) them. Now it’s up to them to do what they do best. Because after an expansion of feeling consistently undervalued and constantly aware of my shortcomings, I for one am looking forward to feeling like an awesome friggin shaman once again.