Totem Talk: Enhancement and patch 6.2
Sometimes, you open up a set of patch notes and you see that there are a whole lot of changes that just beg for your attention. The new patch is going to rewrite everything you know about how to play the game. And other times, it’s patch 6.2 and you don’t play a Rogue or a Monk.
At the moment there isn’t a really big set of changes for Shaman in general with patch 6.2, and even less for Enhancement specifically. About the only new thing that we really have to look forward to are those Tier 18 set bonuses, which are honestly pretty freaking great, I’m not going to lie. The two-piece one especially, because it ties into something I specifically critiqued in a previous installment: the way that Enhancement in particular feels a bit like forever rolling the dice and praying for rain. So much of your spec is dependent on randomness, and suddenly here’s a set bonus that makes your actions take away some of that randomness.
Seriously, this is the sort of thing that would make for a great talent option as something Enhancement players would want instead of the current level 45 mess. And it works nice with Echo of the Elements, and you all know how much I like Echo.
The four-piece bonus isn’t as awesome, chiefly because I know that it’s not going to move your spellcast into the past through some advanced temporal sorcery wherein the game casts Lightning Bolt before you even tried to. But it does allow you to “bank” a little bit, which is nice for the already jittery rotation; as much as you try not to clip parts of your rotation off, sometimes the stars will align and you’ll wind up with more Maelstrom charges than ability to fire them. This makes that feel at least a wee bit less stressful. Not as lovely as that two-piece, though.
As for the datamined Legendary ring, well, that’s just the temporary design and it’s not sticking around. The bouncy nature of it seems very appropriate for shaman, and would work pretty well as a roundabout way for us to get access to buffs again, but I think the random nature of it sort of colored it in the eyes of developers. Crit and versatility are unfortunately low on our list of desired stats, but I suppose every Agility class has different feelings on that.
Last but not least, the class trinket is another item that both smooths out some of the randomness inherent in the spec (not as much as that two-piece bonus, but still), and it looks fun to have around. Making Windfury feel more burst-like again is a good thing, especially as it’s an element of the class that hasn’t really been in full display since pre-Burning Crusade; as soon as we were dual-wielding, our Windfury procs weren’t going to be the meaty explosions of a two-hander striking like a hurricane. I’m happy to see a touch of that flavor seeping back in.
We’ve also got a new glyph in the works, which makes me happy; most of the game’s shapechange-replacing glyphs usually make me smile, so this is a good change. I’d like it more if Ascendance did a bit more, but hey, no big deal.
Those are all the mechanical elements that will impact Enhancement, but there are still interesting things afoot for Enhancement players, and one of the ones that appeals to me quite a bit is the idea of the pointlessly time-locked but still fun concept of Timewalking dungeons. Chiefly because we get to keep our current tricks, it’s just our numbers that scale down. And our current tricks would have been really useful in times past.
For those of you who weren’t around for the days of Burning Crusade heroics, crowd control was a big deal in most of those. Wrath of the Lich King heroics didn’t care at all about crowd control, just a lot of AoE damage. And being romps. Seriously, you’d go in and faceroll your way through everything giggling all the while, it was hilarious. I miss those days.
The point is, though, that doing TBC heroics on Enhancement was a bit of a kick in the shins, because at that time we had no crowd control to speak of. It was only with the launch of Wrath that we got access to Hex, which was a perfect way for a shaman to offer that vital CC ability… for dungeons that no longer cared about it. I was kind of disappointed by that at the time, and also kind of disappointed that Enhancement was most certainly not a whirling dynamo of AoE damage back then. We could do it, sure, but we weren’t great at it.
Flash forward to now, when we have crowd control and the ability to go out of our mind with AoE pretty much any time we want to. There is a dream, and in my dream, we travel back in time and live like royalty. Or everything will be tuned to account for our new abilities and we’ll still be forced to desperately fight with people over incremental upgrades in lieu of better options; it wouldn’t be the first time.
Mythic dungeons are also going to be a thing, but again, we have very little idea about what that will entail beyond the reality that it’s a new dungeon difficulty and it’ll be harder than the current state of Heroics. The item levels dropped are appreciable, but until we get an idea about reliability or even what’s contained therein, it’s all so much idle guesswork. I’m a bit less enthusiastic about these for Enhancement simply because they don’t have the inherent glory of going back to older content and getting to use our new tricks to do the stuff that would have been super-valuable several patches ago.
We can’t forget Hellfire Citadel, either… but again, since it’s not currently in main testing, not much can be said about the role of Enhancement therein beyond the fact that we’ll be hacking at stuff and setting it on fire. As we do.
Overall, though, it’s a pretty light patch in terms of our direct changes. We’re largely doing what we’ve been doing since the start of the expansion, and while the new zone and associated dailies will give us plenty of fun things to do along the way it’s going to be business as usual for Enhancement. Unless, of course, we’ve got some major balance elements waiting in the wings to be released after the current changes have been tested for a bit.
It’s probably a good thing, too. Enhancement has felt like it’s in an in-between state for most of the expansion, as I’ve noted elsewhere — it still bears a lot of hallmarks of older designs despite the supposed reduction in bloat, but at the same time a lot of the fun weirdness of the class has been cooked out. We’re left neither coming nor going, one hoof in the new design and one hoof waiting outside.
Blizzard has shown over the years that it doesn’t like to make huge changes to classes mid-expansion; the big differences and alterations are made when the new expansion rolls around. Sure, we might not see huge and sweeping changes, but I think most Shaman players are ready for a bit of a paradigm shift here. So let’s get through Hellfire Citadel, let’s kill Archimonde again, and then let’s get to wherever we’re going next. Maybe, if we’re very lucky, we’ll get to go there with totems in tow.
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