Totem Talk: The fantasy of Elemental and Restoration Shaman
There has been a lot of talk since the first announcement of Legion about preserving or re-defining the fantasy of the classes and specs. Class Halls will help to sell the fantasy of the classes, with various champions gathering in a location specific like a club house. For Shaman that means we will be heading to a cave that sits near the Maelstrom with all of our shamanistic friends.
But to me, the question remains: just what is the class fantasy for Elemental and Restoration Shaman? What defines Shaman as a class? What defines the Elemental and Restoration Shaman specializations? What is our actual class fantasy?
A spellcaster who harnesses the destructive forces of nature and the elements.
According to Blizzard’s description of Elemental Shaman, our current standing seems to be on par with the Elemental Shaman of long ago. Fierce protectors of their people, Elemental Shaman call upon the wrath of the elements to rain destruction upon their enemies. I think we fit that bill pretty well right now. The classic Lightning Bolt is the quintessential offensive Shaman spell, while Lava Burst lets us hurl magma at our enemies. Earthquake allows us to turn the very ground our enemies stand on against them, and we can call upon wind, earth, fire, and water to shock our opponents into oblivion.
From the purest interpretation of the elemental role, I think we’re hitting that mark pretty well. The spec seems to be living up to the expectations of the fantasy in that regards. We are the ranged warrior elite of shamanistic society, dealing with the volatile and often hostile elements to inflict damage. Short of riding lightning into battle or summoning massive storms like Drek’Thar, I think that majority of our fantasy is realized.
A healer who calls upon ancestral spirits and the cleansing power of water to mend allies’ wounds.
To take the above description at face value, we meet the expectations of the fantasy fairly well. Chain Heal, Healing Rain, Riptide, Healing Stream Totem, Healing Tide Totem and Healing Surge all have the hallmarks of the element of water imbued into them. (And Chain Heal, too, if you use the Glyph.) Our healing spells and abilities definitely showcase our connection to the healing water through both name and spell effects.
The one place we lack, however, is in the ancestor department. Besides a few spells having the name “ancestral” in the title, like Ancestral Guidance or Ancestral Swiftness, we have a distinct lack of spiritual spell effects. We once had abilities focused around ties to our ancestors — and even a set bonus that let us dip into the spirit world to draw forth an ally — but for the most part those spells have gone away. This is a missed opportunity in my opinion, and something that I feel is an integral part of the fantasy of a healing Shaman.
I don’t know what the plan is going forward, but I would like for there to be some TLC given to this portion of the Shaman fantasy. Maybe it’s time that Spiritwalker’s Grace had a better animation than a spinning circle under our feet. Perhaps there could be a ghostly after-image as our ancestors propel us forward, or maybe a new spell, ability, or artifact ability that summons forth ancestors of various shamanistic races to heal alongside us. I would like to see more in regards to us calling upon our ancestors for aid — especially since it is something that is so important to Shaman characters in stories throughout the books, the game, and the short stories.
Shaman as a class
Taken from the official World of Warcraft website:
Shaman are spiritual guides and practitioners, not of the divine, but of the very elements. Unlike some other mystics, shaman commune with forces that are not strictly benevolent. The elements are chaotic, and left to their own devices, they rage against one another in unending primal fury. It is the call of the shaman to bring balance to this chaos. Acting as moderators among earth, fire, water, and air, shaman summon totems that focus the elements to support the shaman’s allies or punish those who threaten them.
The part that sticks out the most to me is the “summons totems that focus the elements.” Totems have long been the defining feature of our class, not only as a symbol of office but as a tool and focus for various spells and effects. Some may remember this, but for those of you newer to the class there used to be a set of quests specifically for obtaining an elemental focus that you used as a spell reagent for each elemental totem. The class quest series was pretty cool and gave you a lot of insight into how Shaman interact with spirits and gain their favor.
In classic World of Warcraft and The Burning Crusade we had a plethora of totems available that provided various spell effects — everything from clearing poisons and diseases to mana regeneration. Totems were a constant part of daily Shaman life regardless of specialization. Then it was determined we had too many totems and juggling them was overly complicated. Totems were paired down considerably, and even with awesome additions such as Healing Tide Totem and Spirit Link Totem, totems are now relegated to a very minor part of our shamanistic existence.
That is something I would very much like to see addressed in the Legion expansion, especially with such a focus being put back on the fantasy of the class. I feel like such an iconic part of our class is just, well, missing. I could be a little bit biased, but I just feel like this could be a fantastic opportunity to introduce new spells or abilities and maybe find a happy medium between forgettable and over-powered. Totems are part of our identity as Shaman, and as a result for me that makes them part of the fantasy of the class that I think we’re missing out on. (That said I still light candles for Sentry Totem and hold moonlight vigils.)
So what does the fantasy of Shaman mean to you? Do you think Elemental and Restoration Shaman meet the expectations? Looking forward to Legion, do you think there is anything that would help fill in the fantasy of the shaman.?
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