Wednesday, October 15, 2008

3.02 First Impressions: Shaman

Yesterday was full of excitement, and not just on the WoW front: Apple announced the latest round of upgrades to their Macbook and Macbook Pro lines, with great news for gamers. The new integrated graphics chip (even on the cheaper models) are reportedly 5x faster than last gen's, which should mean dramatically better WoW performance on these affordable machines. And the Pro model actually has both the integrated graphics chip (for better battery life) and a full-fledged GPU for powerhouse graphics performance. Hott!

Anyhoo... what's this blog about again? Oh yeah... Shamantics.

After playing World of Patchcraft for half the night, I finally got into 3.02. Here's a quick rundown on first impressions:

New Login Screen and Intro Music
Honorable mention because it's refreshing to be greeted by something new. As usual, Blizz hit a home run with the new graphics and music - you really get the feeling something is coming, and you better grab a coat. Brr.

Sharper/Brighter Graphics
The game world seemed somehow clearer and more colorful than before. Certain colors and textures really popped, am not sure if this was a result of some graphics modeling updates or the installer changing my settings, but whatev. Thumbs up.

New Talents
Of course all our talent points have been refunded, so the first thing I did was go visit the Shaman trainer in the Exodar (I like the zen of that city) and buy up all the ranks of new spells like Wind Shock (a replacement for spell-interrupting rank 1 Earth Shock, but also reduces threat!). I immediately abandoned my initial plans of going partway into Elemental and went full 61-point Enhancement - there's just so many goodies in there:

Lava Lash
I'm not sure that the mathletes have fully vetted this talent yet, but I took it just for my own unscientific testing. This is the first of a few significant Enhancement changes, as it clearly favors WF/FT rather than WF/WF. I spent the rest of the night using this new combo, and I have to say it was refreshing to have another insta-attack available rather than the prior scenario: SS, Flame Shock, wait for it.... wait for it... wait... ok now Earth Shock! I'll keep experimenting with this, but it seems like a good thing.

Maelstrom Weapon
I had misunderestimated (sic, lol) the power of this talent when reading about it earlier. After a few seconds of beating stuff up, you find yourself able to insta-cast several key spells. In real-world (of Warcraft) use, this seems to be made of win. This gives you ability to weave-in Lightning Bolt/Chain Lightning (and later Lava Burst) into the DPS rotation, or to throw an insta-heal on yourself or those around you, without gimping your DPS for more than a GCD. Awesomesauce.

Feral Spirit
I feel like a nerf is incoming on this talent... cuz it's crazy good. The wolves act in tandem, and have a pet bar - and therefore can be directed at specific targets or set completely loose. They seem to do a fair amount of DPS while (at the same time!) healing you. Lolwut?! They even seem to have that pouncy-looking attack that Cat Durids have now. OP!!1

Shamanistic Rage
I didn't notice this, but I think they buffed the crap outta this one. I'm now able to get all my mana back in about ~6 seconds. It's like Innervate on steroids (kids: don't use steroids, they make your nuts shrink).

So between Feral Spirit and Shamanistic Rage, we now have two nice emergency buttons for getting health or mana back quickly. Sweet.

Strength of Earth now buffs Str and Agi, which is all-win. Windfury is now a physical haste totem, and to my suprise, was showing the buff as active in addition to my weapon imbues. Since my totem mod was broken, I quickly re-worked my castsequence totem and was off-and-running:

/castsequence reset=9 Strength of Earth Totem, Windfury Totem, Mana Spring Totem, Searing Totem

On paper (err, interweb) this addition seemed totally superflous and geared towards the quest-completing OCD types. Which it is. But it's also more fun than I imagined. Anytime a player gets an achievement it's broadcast to /guildchat, so from a community perspective, it's also a win as it encourages communication ("grats!" or "how did you do that?") and cooperation ("anyone for SFK?") within the guild. Now, how do I sneak my blue-tailed-butt into Orgrimmar for RFC?

Without changing any gear or enchants/gems, my attack power went up by roughly 7% - likely due to AP-from-Int changes and the hunter gear I was already wearing. Crit went down 1%, but that can easily be made up for... for example, there's a glyph that adds 1% crit for your Strength of Earth totem, not a bad buff for the 10g I paid for it.

The Net Effect
After quick run-throughs of SFK and SM (with a visit to the Grand Canyon, fka: Dalaran), I went off to Sunwell Isle to try all this stuff against level-appropriate mobs. Again, no math yet, but it certainly felt like things were going down faster than before. Windfury seemed to be proc'ing less with it only on the mainhand, but it didn't seem to affect the speed at which mobs were dropping. Having Lava Lash and insta-bolts in the DPS rotation was a lot of fun, and the insta-heals came in handy a time or two. And the Feral Spirits: awesome. Set them on mob 1 while you work on mob 2, and by the time you're done, the wolves have just about taken down mob 1 and have been healing you the whole time. Overall, combat seemed more dynamic, less waiting for cooldowns (which is exactly what Blizz was intending, I believe).

So all things considered, I'm really stoked about the new abilities and am looking forward to trying them in a raid scenario. :) Next task is finding the optimal DPS rotation!

No comments: