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WoWOct 1, 2015 7:00 pm CT

Totem Talk: A love letter to Echo of the Elements

World of Warcraft Shaman artwork

Echo of the Elements is a really simple, kind of silly, and rather lackluster talent. It doesn’t do anything particularly spectacular or explode in big numbers, and it’s not really another cooldown like its two contemporaries on its tier of talents. It’s quite possible that the math says that it’s a net DPS loss; I’ve seen it argued that it’s a net gain on multi-target situations but otherwise not as good as Ancestral Swiftness, and I’d believe it.

But it’s still a talent that I particularly like, and while I’m generally less than impressed by Enhancement talent selections this one still appeals to me somewhat. So rather than kvetching or speculating about Legion (which we’ll all be inevitably doing for the next several months because of course we will), I want to take a look at a solid workhorse talent, discuss how it works, and why it fills some particularly interesting bits of design that Enhancement otherwise doesn’t have access to.

What is EotE?

I’m going to assume for the purposes of this that you couldn’t just mouseover and see the description up above. Maybe you’re on mobile! That’s fine.

Echo of the Elements is a Tier 4 Enhancement talent that received a redesign back with patch 6.1. It makes a very small but appreciable change — Stormstrike, Lava Lash, and Fire Nova now store two charges rather than just one. Any effects which would automatically reset the cooldown of these abilities refill a single charge; in practical terms, this means that Flame Shock will sometimes grant you a refill of your Lava Lash. That’s it.

Sound doesn't exactl echo out here, but the thought is worthwhile.

All right, but what does it do?

Functionally, EotE changes the way you manage your Enhancement mainstays and how you open off a fight. Your goal becomes very simple with EotE – you want to never, under any circumstances, have two charges up on your most important abilities except for right when the fight begins. At all other times, you want to be using your abilities as soon as they come up. This doesn’t inherently sound like it’s all that different from what you’re normally doing with Enhancement — after all, you always want to be using Lava Lash and Stormstrike when they’re off cooldown, right?

But the fact of the matter is that the Enhancement toolkit involves hitting a lot of buttons very quickly to assemble a proper damage rotation. You have a whole lot of priorities to juggle, and the reality is that you might not be able to hit Stormstrike exactly when it comes off of cooldown because there are more important things to do. In the middle of the fight, this has a big impact. It doesn’t mean that you should be building up two charges of Stormstrike and firing them off back-to-back; it means that you can actually manage your other priorities without “wasting” time. That extra time between Stormstrikes is added to the cooldown of the next Stormstrike charge, so you’re still recharging even as you have to slightly delay hitting that button.

It also allows you to build up some effects in short order. Is your Flame Shock nearly about to wear off? Chain two Lava Lashes for a full stack of Elemental Fusion before you re-apply it. Double-up on Fire Nova bursts during short phases of burning down little adds.  At its core, it smooths out an intensely jittery rotation and makes missed strikes less punishing for your overall DPS, but the little tricks and the ability to open off a fight with a flurry of Lava Lashes and Stormstrikes is certainly an advantage.

Hear we go.

What do I give up for it?

The other Tier 4 talents, obviously. Ancestral Swiftness is a flat Haste increase and sort of Maelstrom Weapon in a can when you use it, and it generally has a slight edge on single-target fights. Elemental Mastery, meanwhile, allows you to get a nice big cooldown button. Neither one of them smooths out your rotation, but both of them improve your Haste in some way, which you will remember is sort of a big deal for Enhancement. There’s a case to be made for EotE not quite living up to the other two.

The biggest reason I tend to prefer EotE is simply that rotation-smoothing effect, which is kind of a big deal. Enhancement has so much wackiness going on that the trade, aside from practical implications, means no longer needing machine-like perfection in your rotation before the whole things flies apart at the seams. Plus, the charges are a nice way of conveying that “hit stuff more than once” effect without the usual furor of Haste, something that ties into my Multistrike rantings a couple of weeks hence.

Still, I’m not going to lie — this is far on the “functional” side of talents, which is a failing I see in most of the Enhancement talents and is particularly pronounced with this one. There’s no big show-stopping effect associated with this particular trick, just dull functionality. There’s no satisfying kaboom or sense of expert timing, especially since the main selling point of the talent is that it covers up for errors or problems in timing.

These guys had a point. Slow your roll a bit.

Should this be a baseline ability?

I would honestly not be sad if storing up two charges for these abilities was baseline and EotE just added a second charge in; that’d still have some utility to it, since you could build up to a full stack of Elemental Fusion without “wasting” cooldowns, but in all likelihood the talent would need a bit of a rework. However, it’s a rework I’d be happy to see happen, and I think it’s important to consider the effect this talent has on the overall rotation of Enhancement whilst we’re deep in the spec changes that will come with Legion. As long as we’re juggling a number of different cooldowns and an alarmingly rapid pace of things exploding on the screen, stuff that allows us to control that onslaught is going to be valuable.

EotE might be something of a bland workhorse of a talent, but its bland workhorse nature does go along with the fact that there are plenty of buttons for Enhancement to hit as it is. More than anything, we want to have some degree of balance and some amount of control over the priorities we’re maintaining. It especially plays nice with our leveling perks. I’m not very fond of the perks we’ve gotten, but having Flame Shock randomly recharge Lava Lash feels much more straightforward when you’re not desperately trying to fit it into all of the other stuff going on around you. You want to empty it quickly, yes, but you can actually have a second or two to do so before everything collapses around your ears.

But for now, it’s not a baseline, it’s a talent. And it’s a good talent, the sort of talent that makes playing Enhancement feel smoother and more straightforward. I’m more than happy to have that option, and if you’ve ever found yourself wanting to play Enhancement while being overwhelmed by what’s going on, you might want to give EotE a shot. It won’t change the swift nature of the spec or the number of buttons you need to hit, but it’ll make things slightly more straightforward.

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