Totem Talk: Skills we’re waving farewell to as Enhancement in Legion
If you log in to play your Enhancement Shaman today, you have dead abilities on your bar. It’s not your fault; those abilities are still there in the live game. But they’re going away when Legion rolls around, and that’s an interesting thing to consider when you think about what the spec will look like once we’re actually playing the expansion.
Removing abilities, on some levels, is as much a part of crafting a given spec as adding new abilities. Sure, those new abilities are important and they give the spec definition (and our lack of new abilities for an extended period of time did not do us any favors), but the removal of existing ones likewise indicates what is no longer important. It makes it clear what the designers would rather not have as a part of the playstyle.
So let’s look at some of our prominent losses that we know of once the expansion launches. Sure, there’s always a chance for some of these to be added back in later on… but I’m not placing bets on it.
Flame Shock and Frost Shock: The former is much more important than the latter, but both of our shocks are going bye-bye, which means losing some of the most iconic original Shaman abilities out of our lineup. The reasons for this are entirely logical, based chiefly around the fact that Flame Shock was a spell that we didn’t lose in previous ability purges. Thus the devs focused on abilities that had synergy with Flame Shock instead of abilities that felt like defining forces for Enhancement. Flame Shock’s position existed because we needed something for Lava Lash to interact with, in other words, and with that gone we can lose it.
By contrast, Frost Shock mostly served to fill out our rotation when we would otherwise have downtime. Its loss isn’t felt as keenly. Still, the idea of having shocks has been an iconic part of the Shaman identity and of Enhancement as a spec for a very long while; you can’t help but feel a pang of nostalgia. It’s tempered somewhat by the fact that most of what we’re getting in exchange is new melee strikes with similar functionality, so at the end of the game it’s a lateral move, not a negative one.
Searing Totem: Arguably, this ability is just as iconic as the above abilities, and yet it doesn’t have any of the sting. Searing Totem was never a cool and defining part of the spec: it was just a thing you plopped down because there were no finer options for your Fire Totem and it added DPS. Heck, that’s why it’s going away in the first place — the designers looked at the ability, determined no one ever cared that much about it, and decided it’s gone.
Oddly, Enhancement’s design has tried to make Searing Totem important several times, but it’s never really worked. Eventually, you just stop trying.
Unleash Elements: Poor, poor Unleash Elements. I feel really bad for this ability, because it was a really cool idea when it was first implemented. When we lost our weapon spells, it ceased to have much relevance. It hung on for a while as having some functionality, but it never really had any kind of major spike or hook. It was always just sort of there, this ability that had just enough functionality to be worth keeping but not enough to ever feel like it was there for a reason.
It was a cool idea and a neat attempt at doing something new with weapon imbuement spells, but it also stuck around after that original purpose was entirely gone. I’m not going to miss it, but part of me does miss the fact that it was a really neat idea that never had much chance to shine. Other than, you know, the one expansion.
Fire Nova: The importance of Enhancement as an AOE spec over the course of this expansion can’t be underestimated, but as I’ve said elsewhere, it always felt less like what we were meant to do and more like something that we stumbled into by degrees. Here we are now, then, with Fire Nova going away along with Flame Shock. Sure, one implies the other pretty thoroughly, but it’s indisputable that we’re taking a big hit to AOE numbers with the loss of our spreading DOT and its associated AOE.
Again, though, it’s not something I’m going to miss all that much. Fire Nova never felt like it had the pure power that you’d expect from a central AOE spell; it just sort of happened and then it got ignored. So it’s a small loss.
Enhanced Weapons and Mental Quickness: Both of these abilities were meant to gently massage the existing way that Shaman resources worked into still functioning whilst in melee range. They’re unnecessary now; we have Maelstrom as a resource, and we have a better way of replicating the lost essence of our lost weapon imbuements. The replacement of the former with Windfury gets all of the functional impact.
Grace of Air: I really shouldn’t care much about this one, but I do. And I know why, even as I know that it’s largely a silly sentiment. Grace of Air was the last little trace of the sort of group-enhancing stuff that Enhancement was once capable of; I may recognize that we’re never getting back to the days of building little totem forts as we run around the battlefield, but I’m still able to miss it. Grace of Air wasn’t a holdover from those days, and it didn’t play like those totem forts, but it did still have the feel of enhancing the group just by being there.
Removing it doesn’t really affect balance or the overall gameplay, and it makes life a wee bit easier when you don’t have to factor its benefits into your status when you’re just standing around solo. Still, though, I’m going to miss it. In a way, it reminded me of something I really liked.
Earth Elemental and Fire Elemental: I’ve said in the past that I don’t really like having Enhancement as an ersatz pet spec, and I’m not altogether on board with the fact that Feral Spirits hasn’t gone anywhere. (Yes, I know, it was an iconic ability for Thrall back in Warcraft 3, but that’s another discussion.) Still, these two spells actually had a pretty significant impact on what could be done while out in the world. Losing the elementals doesn’t have a huge impact on our capabilities in groups, but it does make things while solo a bit more dicey, and it still feels significant.
It’s letting go of caster-style spells like this, I feel, that drives some of the discontent about how our spec is no longer as much of a “battle mage” as it used to be. Even though most of our skills in Legion will be better focused on the Enhancement fantasy, having these caster abilities removed feels like a palpable loss.
Most of the abilities that we’re losing aren’t that big in the grand scheme of things, but they do paint a picture of how Enhancement is supposed to work as we move forward. I’m still happy with the direction and the renewed amount of development attention, but there are some losses that are felt. Understandable, sure, but a loss you understand is still a loss.
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