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Shaman > WoWMar 17, 2016 3:00 pm CT

Totem Talk: Why would you choose Enhancement?

No, this is not why.

I considered going over the latest set of alpha changes for Enhancement for this week’s column, but I ultimately decided against it. Partly because I’ve been doing that for the past several columns, and partly because the two biggest talent changes that we’ll be seeing aren’t in at the time of this writing. Celestalon has told us what they’re going to be, but I’d rather analyze them when they’re actually, like, real. Especially since “moving talents around” doesn’t really tell us where they’ll end up.

So today I’m going to tackle an issue that can’t help but come up.

We know that Flurry has been removed from the most recent build, which is another longtime standby that’s gone as part of our ongoing renovation with the new expansion. It’s undeniable that Enhancement doesn’t have some of the tricks that we’ve long held onto, and in the process we’re currently down a bit of utility. So the question has naturally been posed about why anyone would bring Enhancement along on a raid, what makes the spec desirable, and what function it’s going to serve. Why would someone choose Enhancement?

The answer is “insufficient data.” The reasons for that answer involve Naxxramas, tuning, mode shifts, and tunnel vision.

How's tricks?

Let me make something really clear – we do not know what the endgame of Legion is going to look like yet. And that kind of screws with a lot of projections. We know that there will be raids, yes, and we know that Enhancement doesn’t have the mobility of Demon Hunters or Monks doing damage. The question is how many fights will demand that mobility. Which fights will ask you to be constantly moving? Which battles place a high priority on repositioning? How many fights will have raidwide damage that Enhancement needs to soak? Will Nature damage be particularly valuable?

We don’t know. We aren’t there yet. Right now, we’re still in the phase of testing where dungeons are slowly being put together and tested and the classes are still getting their abilities lined up. We don’t yet know what sort of fights will be better or worse for Enhancement because we don’t yet know what those fights will be. The best you can do is compare the current raiding lineup against the current Enhancement spec, where Enhancement is… let’s say “middle of the road.” Neither under-represented nor over-represented. Just sort of there, filling a particular niche and doing alright, partly thanks to fights in which Enhancement’s current specialties work out alright.

Will that be the same in Legion? There’s no way to know yet, and that’s not what the current testing is designed to figured out. Right now, testing is largely oriented around the questions of whether or not the spec works and whether or not it’s fun. There is time enough for tuning and fine rearrangement further on down the line, and the main focus of balancing DPS seems to be less about “make sure every spec is equally desirable” and more about “make sure every spec is fun to play and isn’t massively underpowered.”

Environment has a big impact on these things. Naxxramas, back in Wrath, was an unexpected boon for Paladins because so many Paladin abilities at the time worked specifically against Demons and Undead. The result was that Paladins were particularly desirable not because of independent utility, but because Paladins just happened to be precisely oriented to work in that environment. At that point, ironically, I was mostly raiding on Enhancement.

Right now, several Enhancement talents are almost entirely oriented around providing alternative playstyle options. We’re getting two more such talents in an upcoming build, and I’ll be sure to discuss those then. The goal seems to be to have these talents serve as neither straight DPS improvements or utility boosts; rather, they’re options so that you can tune the class to your personal preferences. And again, we don’t know how those choices are going to break down in the long run. There’s no way to know yet if the result will be that you need to have a specific talent for solid damage in an AOE situation; we don’t yet even know how important AoE situations are going to be, or whether or not the rules which have a major influence on Enhancement AOE damage will still apply.

I'll never stop missing totem forts, though.

If you play a lot of Enhancement, it’s also easy to focus more heavily on Enhancement’s changes than any other class changes – and I say this as someone who does that myself. I do not actually know what’s going on with Rogues aside from the fact that they live in sewers now, which means that I don’t have a solid basis of comparison. On alpha, I’ve been playing and enjoying a Demon Hunter a lot, and it’s a fun class with many neat toys and plenty of mobility. It also lacks the solidity of Enhancement’s resource generation and spending, and I feel like I have far fewer abilities to use on a regular rotation. A lot of comparative play about which class is actually the best at the top level will revolve around what’s really important at max level.

Not to mention that for most everyone, it’s not actually going to matter.

If you’re pushing hard on Mythic, then yes, it’s going to matter. You will want to have the optimal specs in your group for each conceivable attempt. But if you’re pushing hard on Mythic, the odds are good that you’re going to do so no matter what the state of Enhancement might be. If Enhancement is lagging behind, you’ll switch to something else if need be – and there is not any given class which has ever been represented at a solid 0% for raiding purposes. Some might be better or worse in an environment, but nothing is ever so bad that you can’t clear a raid with it in your group.

But if you’re clearing on Normal, it’s not going to be a do-or-die situation. If you’re more focused on small-group content and challenge modes, you’re dealing with an entirely different ballgame, made all the more different by the fact that we know the endgame challenges for dungeons are going to be variable. You won’t just have the mechanics to consider, but the specific added mechanics that Enhancement might be uniquely suited to deal with or uniquely crippled by.

Insufficient information is the bane of our existence right now. We do not know enough to project the endgame for the future; we know enough to declare how Enhancement currently plays in the alpha and what it might be capable of doing when everyone is level 110 and deeply invested in whatever endgame activities float your boat.

We’re going to lose some things. Some of those things might be utility oriented. Some of them might even be significant. But we’re also seeing a fraction of the picture in small snapshots, not the whole thing and certainly not the endpoint. So it behooves all of us to describe the picture that we’re actually seeing, not the one that we can guess about if we look far enough ahead. I miss having Ancestral Guidance for its utility, but I don’t find myself on the test realm in situations where I would need it, and the fun stuff that I’ve gotten in exchange sure takes the edge off.

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