Totem Talk: A peek at datamined Enhancement talents
Hooray, people are playing the Legion alpha! That’s great! Unfortunately, it doesn’t include the option to play as an Enhancement Shaman at the moment, which means that I can’t tell you what it’s like to play one. I wouldn’t be able to do so even if people could play Enhancement, because I’m not in the alpha, but that’s almost a secondary concern at this point.
Fortunately for those of us not currently in the testing process such as it is and people who enjoy writing columns about this sort of thing, we do have early portraits of abilities and Enhancement talents thanks to the eager datamining going on over at Wowhead. So fire up the Legion talent calculator for Enhancement with me and let’s take a look at what we’ve currently got, at least according to the mining. What we’ll actually have in the long term is another discussion, but I think we can have that discussion when we’re actually Stormstriking our way across the Broken Isles in beta.
Abilities for the spec
As with anything, there’s some stuff here that appears to be non-final or non-absolute. Stuff with no descriptions, for example, and abilities that make no sense (Bloodlust and Heroism at different levels). It does give us some idea of what we’ve got, though, and what’s there is… thin. Quite thin.
Healing Surge and Lightning Bolt both have an interesting setup in that both are apparently more powerful based on Maelstrom spent, which keeps some of that big-punch feel for Lightning Bolt without actually having it as a central part of our rotation. Our survivability seems to have taken a hard hit with only Healing Surge on tap as a baseline; no Earth Elemental tanking, healing totems, or even healing from Feral Spirit. There’s also no sign of Flame Shock at the moment, which seems…understandable but odd, given its central place in our current rotation — and its glyph, which enhances survivability further, also seems to be missing. Crash Lightning is also what we’ve got in terms of baseline AoE stuff at the moment, a significant departure from our current toolkit.
Overall, it’s a solid core with lots of room for expansion and improvement via talents, but it does strike me as a bit thin right now. I’m hoping for more elaboration once we get more finalized stuff in subsequent builds — this feels like the fundamentals without everything else.
Tier 1 Talents: Enhancing!
And here’s where any worries about survivability go away, because dang these are cool. This is the stuff that I’ve long wanted to see from Enhancement, and there’s a real sense of flexibility and uniqueness to these options.
Spiritual Resonance seems like a good pick both for bland utility and to use for fueling big punches like Lightning Bolt more often; by contrast, the other two picks are both damage cooldowns in different forms. Fists of Stone is an interesting cooldown in that it’s a voluntary slowdown across the board, but might be super useful if you already have a mess of Haste and can get more from the reduction in speed. Windsong, by contrast, is a really cool button added to the rotation that seems like a boost to resource generation and overall damage, like what Unleash Elements once was.
Tier 2 Talents: Gap closing
Feral Lunge seems kind of odd to me. It makes perfect thematic sense, and it’s a really useful way to give Enhancement a charge-like effect without ever outright offering them Charge, but it’s also just kind of odd that you have to shift into Ghost Wolf. I suppose it makes sense for making the puppy form more useful, but it feels oddly druidic.
Meanwhile, Gust of Wind is super keen as a way to close gaps and presumably use other movement tricks, while Wind Rush Totem is going to be crazy on movement-heavy fights. It’s a group buff that feels uniquely suited to what Enhancement does and a useful tool for closing (or creating) gaps. A good, solid tier with utility for all three options.
Tier 3 Talents: Control
There’s not much to be said here, since all of these are pretty useful in their own right. I like Voodoo Totem as a conceptual addition — it’s a sort of mass crowd control that doesn’t feel overpowered or unstoppable. This is the sort of neat stuff that talents can do, and I hope it makes it through testing in its current form.
Tier 4 Talents: Theme what?
This is the one tier of talents with seemingly no thematic link; Landslide, Ancestral Swiftness, and Lightning Shield are all doing totally different things. Lightning Shield seems like an obvious AoE addition, while Ancestral Swiftness and Landslide are both straight workhorse talents. Interestingly, they seem to provide a potential counterpoint to the tier 1 talents; Ancestral Swiftness and Fists of Stone allow you to get more net benefits from the cooldown. Or you can stack them together to focus more thoroughly on either bigger, slower hits vs. faster attacks.
Tier 5 Talents: Charges (and Sundering)
Sundering still sounds cool, but it still lacks an obvious utility for Enhancement and definitely has the potential to make tanks very angry in PVE. In PVP, of course, its applications are obvious. It’s a cool talent, but it doesn’t really fit with the other two talents allowing you to use your punches a bit more frequently.
I’m not comfortable theorycrafting just yet about what the optimal picks will be, but Tempest currently doesn’t look quite as appealing as Spiritual Affinity, since it’s very much focused upon luck rather than a straight enhancement to a major cooldown’s uptime. Doubling the time you can have your spirits out seems like a pretty definite advantage. Then again, perhaps the question is more about your pick down at Tier 7, since reducing the cooldown here nudges you toward an enhancement there.
So perhaps it’s less cut-and-dry than I think at a glance, but I suppose your feelings on randomness will weigh in heavily.
Tier 6 Talents: AoE-ish
Two out of the three talents here are very much AoE-centric talents. It also seems like they’re a bit lopsided at the moment; Crashing Storm offers a small improvement to Crash Lightning, while Fury of Air gives a legitimately useful AoE spell to the spec as a whole. I know which one I’d pick. It might be that Crashing Storm gets a bit of an edge insofar as it’s less draining of resources, but knowing that would require playing with both talents. Meanwhile, Stonefist Strike is a straight damage ability with a stun component, sort of like a belated Paladin ability port. Very nice if you want a hard stun, but I don’t imagine it’ll make a compelling talent choice most of the time.
Tier 7 Talents: Damage enhancements
So… this one needs some work, I think.
Ascendance as a cooldown makes sense, although I question whether it’s worth it for the 1 minute duration. Feral Kin is pretty solid as a concept, but how it ties into Spiritual Affinity makes a big difference. Do you wind up with 1 minute off of the cooldown still (thus giving you 2.5 minutes of uptime per 20 minutes vs. Ascendance’s 2 minutes), or will it ultimately be changed to cut cooldowns more significantly? If it’s the former, which is currently the way that it’s worded, it’s still not that great. If it’s the latter, I could see it being worthwhile if the new pet is particularly useful.
And then you have Earthen Spike, which is 30s uptime every minute. One Ascendance is up for a minute every 10 minutes, while Earthen Spike’s damage debuff to the target can be up half of the time. I’m going to guess that Ascendance is not actually going to offer 500% more damage to make itself more attractive. Numbers need some tweaking, in other words.
We still don’t have a total picture of what Enhancement will look like. We have a pretty clear picture as a whole, though, and the question of “well, aren’t we just now Fury Warriors” seems to be answered chiefly with “only if you want to be.” If you want a straight charge, no totems, minimum pet use, and just a different flavor skinning, you can have it with these Enhancement talents. But there’s plenty of room for other playstyles here, and that appeals to me.
I’m curious to see what the full suite will look like as testing proceeds. This is a good start, though. It’s not perfect, but nothing is, and boy do the foundations look exciting. And if you’re worried you won’t have enough buttons to hit… yeah, don’t worry, those talents make sure you’ll have plenty of cooldowns to juggle for output.
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