Sunday, July 31, 2011

Shaman 5.0 - Things to Change

Just imagine there was a Belf Paladin being engulfed by this Lava Burst.
What wondrous colors there would be!  The sound it makes when it 
into something (like a Belf!) is fantastic too! This makes Lava Burst great.

One can imagine that some bells and whistles of WoW 5.0 are hitting the drawing board, if not already into full-scale development. Actually, that may not really be the case. Patch 4.3 is lurking out there somewhere just beyond the horizon and I'm betting the devs are picking at class balance like an itchy scab. Either way, it's again time to look at what needs to change.

A caveat to this shaman discussion:  I, still, have never played enhancement. I do have a goblin in her mid-40s I think out there somwehere who hits things with hammers and daggers and knows what to do with a "maelstrom weapon." But that surely does not count for a decent end-game discussion. So, I won't even try and pretend that I know what I'm talking about with that specc.

Fix Earthquake or get rid of it.
This is a broken concept for a spell-- broken by changing developer attitudes about what constitutes "fun."  Can you believe that this thing has only been around since the beginning of Cataclysm? And yet, as an effect, it makes so much sense for a shaman to be wielding it. How did it get broken so badly?

Initially, it was a simple, channeled AoE spell, not unlike a mage's Blizzard. You picked a spot on the floor, you cast the spell, you stood there waving your arms in the air for a bit while the ground pitched, heaved, sometimes threw mobs onto the ground and hurt them.  The original graphic for this was undeniably a bunch of shaking earth, but it did look a little hokey.

However, Patch 4.1 came along and developers decided to try out their new AoE concept on Elemental Shamans first: that AoE would be more fun if you have to manage four or five different spells all with different cooldowns to do effective AoE damage.  Earthquake's damage was gutted. It ceased to be a channelled spell and became a fire and forget. And you do need to forget it because it was give a 10 second CD.

And that 10 second CD, I think was the real killer.  Tanks themselves often lead mobs out of the haze of an earthquake... because they can't see, I think. But the point is that if anybody moves a relatively small distance outside of the earthquake, the shaman and her earth elementals shaking things up are out of luck.  Since it's doing fairly poor damage anyway, and shamans now have four other spells we can muck around with if we're trying to hurt a crowd, earthquake is falling off the action bar.

In most regards, Earthquake is the victim of the developers thinking too much. I appreciate that they are trying hard to put a full range of spells into play for each class but they have limited this spell so badly that it no longer fits into any practical use. Give it less CD. Give it more range. Definitely give it more damage. Or give it the heave-ho and come up with something else brillant to put in the last slot of the elemental tree.

Our Fire Elementals are stupid gits and our Earth Elementals can't protect anything.
The two elemental totems need some work. The Fire Elementals are becoming more and more important sources of viable dps for elemental shaman, and yet they are so dumb and tethered to an immovable totem drop spot that they are about as likely to bob around doing nothing during a fight as they are to hit the target you need them on.   This is easily fixed: Give us a pet control bar so we can at least tell the damn thing, "No, you blundering idiot! Hit that one!"

The Earth Elemental, on the other hand, needs a new purpose for being or else a major overhaul of epic proportions. They are just not strong enough. Back in the days of The Burning Crusade, if the worst happened and a tank fell, I could pop out this totem and count on my earth elemental to a) taunt the boss away from the dps clothy he was most likely trying to kill,  and b) take a few hits from the boss while I reorganized to heal him and keep him going a bit longer. If the DPS didn't spazz out and start running (and let us pause and wonder where they may have thought they could run to) then it was possible to still kill a boss.

Yeah, those were the days. And then I remember my first Lich King dungeon. It was Utgaarde Keep. We didn't know what we were doing and the tank died.  "Haha!" I said. "I have a solution for that!" and I whipped out my Earth Elemental totem in the path of a charging blood prince. And it came into being, shuddered and flew to pieces and the boss basically ran through him without stopping on his way to Clothy the warlock who died next. If I had bothered to check the combat logs, I would have surely seen a swiftly-delivered killing-blow to my elemental. But the point is that the elemental didn't even slow the boss down.

In the days ahead, the rock elemental failed to make a significant impact on a variety of other elite world mobs and continued to act like tissue paper in the face of dungeon bosses. And probably about a week later, I took him off my bar. We check in with each other every few months since then, especially after he gets buffed. But it remains that the Rock Ele can't tank a damn thing and does signicifantly less dps than a fire elemental. We have no need for each other in the field any longer. I figure he's more comfortable sitting deep in the earth holding up the world.

Do something about that, Blizzard.

The Spirit Link Totem is ... problematic
I've heard nothing but good things about how the big resto raid CD works in raid. But it just doesn't work in most settings.

The concept of this totem is pretty cool and all but it's slightly difficult conceptually. It takes a lot of explaining to get everybody "on board."

  • Any player who isn't "on board" when the Spirit Link is in use is going to die.
  • Any movement taking a character outside the paltry 10 yard range is going to die.
With these barriers of operation in place, a shaman would be a fool to try and rely on the Spirit Link Totem in any sort of PuG situation. Even guild runs that are moderately casual end up with people dying because they aren't really paying attention to this particular strategy for survival, even if I have described how I'm going to use this totem to save their bacon at exactly the right moment of the fight.

As cool as the animation effect of the spirit link is, I think Blizzard might want to consider the original animation they tried back in Lich King beta for this spell that had pretty rings of light actually joining players together at the hip.  It would visually reinforce the point that your healer wants everybody linked and if you leave the link, you'll regret that.

And the Spirit Link Totem needs more range. There's always going to be that stupid hunter who won't stack properly because he says he has to stand beyond minimum range to keep deepsing, the tank who thinks you can just heal him through... whatever.  These are the basic problems of uncooperative players, but I'm just getting sick of having to accomodate them sometimes.

The Damage Buff to Shamanism won't last.
This past week, Blizzard hotfixed elemental dps by pumping up the damage buff to Shamanism to 32% (yah, the tooltip up there still says 20%. This is the nature of a hotfix).  That's probably not going to last. It is fun to see the bounce in deeps numbers this week, but the "flat-percentage buff to damage" is a somewhat inelegant solution to terminally low numbers. The developers will likely look for a more subtle solution to this in the long run.

But, a few things don't need to change. Mobile Lightning Bolts rock and using the glyph is almost as good a solution as baselining the ability.
Losing the 4% damage afforded by using a Glyph of Lightning Bolt has been easily, soOOoo easily made up for by being able to use a Glyph of Unleashed Lightning to increase the amount of time spent casting.

There's a good trick you can do if you know how to mouse move and not keyboard turn: You start your cast facing the mob you want to fry with your lightning, then you turn away and run somewhere, like... away from the fire, and just as the cast time is almost finished, you jump and mouse turn at the same time back at the mob, release the lightning, start a new cast and then turn back in the direction you want to run. Fun Fun Fun!

On the downside, it can be a real bummer to have to stop moving in order to fire off a Lava Burst. But it's still a wondrous spell!

No comments:

Post a Comment