Totem Talk: Enhancement Shaman changes in the latest alpha build
I admit without shame that there’s a certain degree of terror every time I see Enhancement Shaman highlighted for major changes. It’s silly, really: there’s no reason to be, but still I worry that we’re going to lose everything distinctive and fun that’s been added to the spec for Legion. When I saw that a bunch of stuff had been changed for the spec in the most recent build, I had an instinctive bit of terror.
Ultimately, I shouldn’t have worried. The changes in the most recent alpha build are pretty universally great for Enhancement, centered around moving around talents that didn’t make much sense, removing the stuff no one would want, and improving the parts of the spec that are already pretty great. So let’s talk about what’s been added, what we’ve lost, and speculate a bit about how this is going to change the spec in the longer term.
On a related note, a lot of the big changes focus around talents, which means that I’m going to be referencing my initial look at Enhancement talents in the alpha — so check it out if you haven’t already.
Spiritual Affinity: I’m honestly a bit surprised that this got removed, but I can understand it. As it stood, Spiritual Affinity was kind of the clear winner in its talent tier, but it also wasn’t terribly exciting, turning Feral Spirits into something you were even happier to spam relentlessly. Combine that with its somewhat lacking interplay with a level 100 talent that always looked a bit questionable as a whole, and Spiritual Affinity just didn’t make itself look very appealing. So it’s gone.
Feral Kin: Yeah, this one was just plain bad. In my initial writeup a noted that it didn’t have particularly good synergy with Spiritual Affinity and didn’t have nearly the punch that a big talent should, especially when you consider that it turned an ability that’s considered very iconic for the spec and ties into several Artifact abilities into something you just can’t use as often. Playing with making this ability bigger or smaller seems like it was always doomed to failure; ultimately just dropping it seems like the right move.
Stonefist Strike: I spent a lot of time in my younger days playing a Paladin at launch, and part of me wondered why Shaman never got an ability as straightforward as the Paladin stun-hammer. Stonefist Strike felt like the answer to that question… years later and with no actual purpose to its presence. I could see it having some niche to fulfill in PVP, and I wouldn’t say I disliked the ability, but it really felt like a belated bit of punctuation, and now we have a system for PVP abilities. Losing it feels rather neutral, like something we would have lost by now anyway if it had been baseline ages ago.
Empowered Stormlash: You will probably recall that one of my points of contention with Enhancement is the fact that we’re not doing as much enhancing these days, but this talent puts paid to that complaint quite thoroughly. If you want to spec into more enhancement for your party, this is one of two ways to do so in the same tier, and it’s a nicely passive one — just keep doing what you’re already doing, but expect to see bigger numbers. Calculating how much it will do in terms of practical DPS improvements is a bit fuzzier than I might like, but I’m sure some enterprising soul will figure out the math before too much longer.
Hailstorm: This one is… interesting. It’s competing for space with Empowered Stormlash, but it has a very different feel to it. Rather than being all about enhancing your party in new ways, Hailstorm seems poised to give another useful Maelstrom spender with a positive effect. It’s not something that Enhancement particularly needs, but I can see it filling a worthwhile role in PVP-centered builds or in builds that really work hard to find new angles of weapon enhancement. That’s where it really shines, as a counterpoint to Empowered Stormlash. Do you make Stormlash trigger more often or make it a bigger trigger when it happens?
Stormbringer: I saved this new talent for last because I love it. In a very simple way, Stormbringer changes the fundamental build-spend mechanism of Enhancement and allows you to actually recall the existing model of the spec, using Lightning Bolts as a a big spender for Maelstrom rather than as a pulling tool. Tier 5 is now substantially different, allowing you to play around with three different effects, two of which substantially alter how your rotations work and the third of which gives you a tool for situations you didn’t otherwise have. It’s very clever and I like it a lot.
Ascendance: This is actually a loss on overall uptime from its previous incarnation — it lasts half as long and the cooldown is (almost) half as long. Still, it’s something you can use a bit more frequently now, and the effect that Haste will have upon its utility is worth considering. Based upon its new contemporaries at tier 7, it’s getting into competitive territory, which it certainly wasn’t in its original incarnation.
Lightning Shield: Hooray, the old days wherein Lightning Shield was desirable for Enhancement are back! This pairs nicely with Stormbringer, I feel; it’s like selecting “old” versions of characters in certain Street Fighter titles, a throwback closer to Enhancement as it stood in Wrath if that floats your boat. I’m not as excited about this one as Stormbringer because there’s no real interesting interplay with your rotation, but I’m glad the option exists.
Windsong: Well, huh. This one has certainly gotten powered down, hasn’t it? I freely admit that the initial version may have been on the overpowered side, but cutting its uptime and power significantly make the ability seem rather superfluous now.
Fists of Stone: This one certainly got powered up, didn’t it? I would argue that the previous version of Windsong was nearly a must-take, but a case could be made for Fists of Stone before. Now it’s a big Maelstrom generator that enhances your output significantly on an exceedingly short cooldown. I don’t expect this version to actually make it live; it’s just too good all around. Enjoy it while it lasts, though!
Crashing Storm: It’s a neat spin on an AOE talent, and I like the fact that damage fields are a bit of a Shaman thing, but it feels a bit lackluster as a tier 7 talent. Then again, considering the complete non-cost currently associated with changing talents, perhaps that’s by design. Certainly it’s a more interesting talent than the initial version with the same name.
Fury of Air: Another take on the same basic idea here, and it’s going to be interesting to see how it works out. I like making some of that Enhancement AOE ability still present but locked behind talent walls; that being said, this one feels now like a more specific utility, especially when butted up against the other talents of its tier.
Overall, though, all of the changes feel like a net positive. There are a handful of talents that feel as if they’ve had some sort of downgrade, but by and large this seems to have removed the uninteresting bits and added a striking number of “throwback” talents for those who want them. It’s obvious that more balance needs to be done and we’re not finished yet, but the foundation the spec is built upon looks more solid every day.
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