Totem Talk: Analyzing Legion’s changes to Elemental and Restoration Shaman
With all of the news from the most recent BlizzCon, there wasn’t nearly enough time to give every class enough discussion time. We were promised, however, a class preview for each class and each spec in the week that followed. Shaman got their day in the sun, and as a tweet from Lead Narrative Designer Dave Kosak promised, Shaman got a lot of love.
Today, we’re going to be taking a look at what has been presented for both Elemental and Restoration in the class preview, as well as the shared changes that affect all Shaman specializations in equal measure. I will preface this by mentioning that these are just the previews and are meant to show the design direction of the classes — nothing is written in stone. Things have the chance to be changed as time goes on and based on player feedback, so if you have strong feelings about anything that has been presented, I encourage you to give the developers at Blizzard Entertainment constructive feedback.
Totems Totems Totems
One of the mechanics that defines our class has always been the existence of Totems. They are central to our identity as Shaman, and always have been. I asked, before BlizzCon 2015, for totems to get some love. Turns out they did, and I think almost everyone will be pleased with the proposed changes.
Totems of the same elemental school can now be summoned together without having to take a talent like Totemic Persistence. This means you could have, for example, Healing Stream Totem as well as Healing Tide Totem at the same time. Elementals are no longer tied to the totem, and instead will follow you almost as a pet. Lastly, totems are no longer dropped at the Shaman’s feet with only limited health. Instead, when you go to cast a totem, you will get a targeting reticle for where you want to place the totem. This eliminates the need to take something like Totemic Projection.
This is a large quality of life improvement for the entirety of the Totem mechanic, and what I like the most here is that totemic projection is just baked in to all Totems. I also enjoy the fact that you can drop multiple totems from the same elemental school as a baseline ability. The changes really open up the possibility of more Totem utility and I can only hope that as legion comes closer, we start to maybe see some more Totems added.
Elemental goes to the Maelstrom
Right off the bat, Elemental has a huge change coming before anything else. Gone are the days of spending mana, and now is the time where Elemental Shaman will channel the power of the Maelstrom. Elemental Shaman will build Maelstrom through Lightning Bolt, Lava Burst, and Chain Lightning, and spend it on abilities like Shocks and Earthquake. We get a build up and spend mechanic not unlike a Warrior’s Fury, which I think is a good thing. I can’t remember the last time I cared about mana as an Elemental Shaman, so this is a nice change.
Shocks no longer have a cooldown. This change is due once again to Maelstrom — your shocks will have a cost associated with them that will require balancing resource consumption. The cool thing is that this will let us DPS on the move without use of a cooldown, which is something we’ve been severely lacking for the entirety of the Warlords of Draenor expansion. Elemental Overload is back as our new Mastery, letting us have a chance to duplicate our spells for extra damage. I’m okay with this change as it’s something that fits well with where we want to be as a damage dealer and thematically with the class.
Last new item was a preview of a new totem, Maelstrom Totem. This new totem is instant cast, has a 30 second cooldown, and will attack nearby enemies within 30 yards for some nature damage over 15 seconds. While it’s busy doing so, it will also generate 5 Maelstrom resource for us with each attack. I think it’s a nice little flavor totem to add to the repertoire, and serves a definite function while feeding into the growth of the identity of Shaman life.
The preview for Elemental has me quite excited about where we may be going in Legion, and it has addressed some of the issues I’ve had with our spec for the last few months at least. Expanding out ability to damage while on the move as well as giving us a new mechanic and resource to play with. Whether or not Maelstrom will be exactly what we’ve been looking for to add depth to the role, only time and trial will tell.
Restoration in Legion
Thematically our spell kit fits well as a Shaman healer. I’ve said as much many times over, and it seems as though the developer team also shares this thought. But this is the point where I diverge from my opinion. Where it’s been extremely exciting to see all of the new changes for Elemental, both the new totem and the new resource, Restoration was left largely untouched. The class overview stated that there was going to be more of a emphasis on targeted healing and slightly less on Chain Heal spamming. This shouldn’t really be a surprise, as it seems to be a statement we’ve been hearing every expansion since Wrath of the Lich King.
Tidal Waves get a little bit of a buff, giving 40% haste up from 20%, and increases the critical chance of the next Healing Surge by 40% up from 30%. Interestingly, our mastery Deep Healing looks like it is receiving a hard cap at 60% maximum bonus healing, which is a large change. We don’t know yet if our healing numbers for our spells will be adjusted to compensate for that, or how that’s going to shake out.
We also got a preview of a new talent, Wellspring. It’s a 30 yard cone-shaped heal with a 1.5 second cast time and a 12 second cooldown. While we don’t know the exact numbers, the healing is referred to as “a strong amount.” Basically, if you remember Holy Paladins spamming that weird cone of light, that seems to be what this is. The talent is interesting in so much as it’s a directed heal we have to aim, and it adds the first real new healing spell we’ve seen in a long time.
While I love the direction I’m seeing with Elemental here, I’m not overly impressed with Restoration. Yes, it’s true that the elemental Totem changes benefit Restoration the most, but otherwise it’s more of the same. My particular let down is our Mastery. We have a perfect opportunity to take a good hard look at Shaman healing and maybe make some more interesting changes.
Personally, while I will not debate the effectiveness of Deep Healing, I will say that it’s boring. It’s also an ability that either reduces in effectiveness as your team gears up or learns mechanics, or encourages encounters to be designed with large amounts of unavoidable damage, which is something that Blizzard developers have stated numerous times they wish to move away from.
Yes, I know that it lets you field fewer healers and is fantastic for progression, but I can’t help but feel like there’s an opportunity to make something more interesting. In Lord of the Rings Online, there was a class called the Rune Keeper. The class started with small heals, but as you cast more healing spells you unlocked access to more heals, stronger heals. It was dynamic and rewarded vigilance and the elimination of down time.
I’m not saying that the idea is something that needs to be copied wholesale, but what if we did gain something like a cumulative buff to our healing spells? As we progressed through an encounter it would ramp up, rather than just healing for more when people are lower on health. I’d just like to see something a little more engaging and continues to be useful for all Restoration Shaman in all situations throughout the life of an expansion, not just when you want to run healer light or when you’re pushing progression.
Still, we have many months before this is set in stone, and things can and will change. I’m curious as to your thoughts on what we’ve seen so far. Do you like where the specializations are going? What would you like to see get added? What would you change if you could?
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