Friday, August 14, 2009

Get a job, Shaman!

A recent article on the lost art of crowd control got me thinking about all the cool tools a Shaman is equipped with, and the specialized jobs we can perform using these tools.

Sure, it's easy enough to faceroll Lightning Bolts or Chain Heals, but any player worth their salt not only performs their primary role well, but is always ready to bring something extra to an encounter.

Crowd Control
For years Shaman have bemoaned the lack of a crowd control ability, and the arrival of Hex at level 80 happened right as we entered the age of "AoE everything in sight." Still, there are definitely situations where we need to get our froggy-style on.

In heroic trash pulls, Hex can be used to temporarily incapacitate a mob as the tank rushes in to establish threat. Certainly the frog will break due to AoE, but the first few seconds of a pull are usually the most critical, where he/she can take a ton of damage all at once. Disabling even one mob for a second or two can mean the difference between a controlled pull and a wipe.

Still, not all trash is AoE fodder - in Ulduar, some pulls still benefit greatly from CC, and I would expect to see this trend continue as we start knocking on Arthas' door in Icecrown Citadel. While Hex cannot be chain-cast like Polymorph (boo cooldown), it can at least be used to tie-up a second-target while the first gets burned-down.

This is where I channel Big Red Kitty, who frequently championed the skill of kiting: a job which involves aggro'ing a mob and having it purposely run towards you while you keep it at distance. Frost Shock with it's threat component and Earthbind Totem is a perfect combo for this job, something I've used many times in Naxx's Gluth encounter.

Elemental Shaman also gain a very useful tool with a specially-talented Earthbind totem, which applies a Druid-style root to those within range. In the Eye of Eternity, it becomes very easy to root a Power Spark exactly where it needs to drop using this root (and has the benefit of being instant-cast, as opposed to a Druid's 1.5 second root).

In Ulduar on the way to the Crazy Cat Lady, there are pairs of big nasty mobs which also send sparks back and forth, which need to be destroyed before reaching the other. A rooting Earthbind is perfect for this job.

Wind Shear recently got a redesign, and it no longer shares a global cooldown with either Flame or Earth Shock. This was both a buff and a nerf, since we lost one of our two interrupts. Still, having Wind Shear on it's own cooldown means it's easier for a DPS shaman to maintain their rotation while still interrupting. This skill can and should be used almost everywhere: against healers in trash packs, whirlwinding Runeshapers, Kel'Thuzad's frost bolts, chain-lightning Dwarves in Ulduar, etc.

Other Jobs
Shaman also make great debuffers thanks to Purge, provide AoE Fear Wards with Tremor Totem, supply raid-wide steroids with Bloodlust/Heroism, can save the day with backup heals, and even provide an emergency tank while the Druid battle-rez's your tank.

We have a lot of great tricks up our sleeves, so don't be a faceroller, do your job! :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Patch 3.2 Impressions

A week ago, patch 3.2 finally hit the live realms after much anticipation. This latest update brought a slew of class tweaks, emblem changes, a new dungeon/raid instance and new battleground. Here are my impressions, gathered during the past week.

Four totems at once
Aside from some very nice buffs to Resto Shaman (facerolling Chain Heal is back!), the largest change to the Shaman class was the addition of a totem bar in the default UI, along with an ability to drop a set of totems from a single spell. This is a fairly significant (and welcome) change, it's every bit as awesome as I had hoped.

Most raiding Shaman by now have used mods or /castsequence macro to drop a "default" set of totems, but until 3.2, dropping all four cost us essentially four global cooldowns. Hence, there were a lot of occassions where only certain totems were deployed... and while I used to do my best to keep all four down, there were definitely situations where it just wasn't practical. Now, there's no excuse to drop all totems, and it's been awesome for heroic speed runs and boss fights where repositioning becomes necessary.

Since we get three different spells to deploy a set of totems, I've built these three default sets:
Interrupts FTW
Another seemingly small update was the redesign of Earth and Wind Shock, however I feel that it's a pretty huge buff - especially for Elemental Shaman on interrupt duty. Wind Shear replaces the former Shock, and no longer shares the same cooldown timer with other Shocks - meaning the Elemental rotation can now be kept relatively intact, without sacrificing a Flame Shock cooldown. This is huge. /cheer

Heroics are back, baby!
Another very welcome change was the consolidation of the Emblem system to Conquests (Tier 8 level) and Triumphs (Tier 9 level). As a result, heroic speed-farming and random guild runs are back with a vengeance. Once again, casual and hardcore players are getting to play together, and this is undeniably a good thing for guild dynamics.

Thus far I've been able to buy T8.5 helm and chest, although I was dissapointed to find an overall DPS loss with the two-piece bonus (extensive target dummy testing with raid-boss rotation), so for the moment I'm staying with four-piece Tier 7.5. Next up I'll be bolstering my Resto set, also with the T8.5 helm and likely the belt for hybrid use between both specs.

"ToC" rant
So we've got this new colosium up in northern Icecrown, containing a 5-man normal and heroic dungeon, a 10 man normal and heroic raid, and a 25 man normal and heroic raid. The only problem? They ALL have the same initials... so "LFG ToC" could mean any one of six group types! Hopefully some standard will settle out like "ToC5" or "Roic ToC10," but for now, be sure to ask questions before joining a "ToC" group. :)

Trial of the Champion
Despite having to joust in the beginning of this encounter, the new 5-man dungeon is actually quite fun, and yields nice Naxx-level rewards in normal mode (read: new 80s can farm this all day long!) and excellent Ulduar-level rewards in heroic mode. Thus far I've been lucky enough to upgrade my main hand and get this haste trinket, which put me closer to the "sweet spot" in the Elemental rotation (neatly allowing x5 Lightning Bolts in-between Lava Bursts).

Trial of the Crusader
The new raid instance was something many of our raiders were interested in trying out, so we gave it our best effort a few days ago, and managed to best the encounter with only three wipes. :) /cheer

There wasn't a lot of information out there yet, but thankfully Tankspot came through with an excellent video so we could get some research in beforehand. Here are some notes on the Northrend Beasts encounter:

Gormok the Impaler (Magnataur)
Since we had an abundance of ranged DPS, we chose to keep the melee on the boss the whole time, with all ranged assigned to take down the Snowbolds as they appeared on player's backs. Seemed to be fairly healing-intensive with DoTs stacking on the tanks, but we have some very skilled healers who were able to handle the load. :) Also having dual Pally tanks with Hand of Protection to clear the DoTs was a huge help. Other than that, stay out of the fire and have ranged stay at max range FTW.

Acidmaw & Dreadscale (Jormungar Worms)
This was undeniably the trickiest of the three beast sets. There are two worms, one applying a slowing/paralyzing poison, and the other an AoE fire debuff which removes the other worm's paralyzing poison. At first we tried to have people calling out in Vent so folks could run to each other, but due to the significant movement (poison clouds ala Grobbulus) and the confusion it brings, we found it easier to designate the center circle as a rendevous point. Whenever someone got slowed, they made their way to the center ring and the fire-debuffed person would just meet them there. We chose to burn-down Acidmaw first and heal through Dreadmaw's enrage, but after a few more tries, the simultaneous kill achievement should definitely be do-able.

Icehowl (Yeti)
After we got the two worms strategy down, the Yeti proved to be relatively easy. Simply note who the boss is targeting for his charge, and run out of the way (and be sure not to cross his path even if you're not targeted). Use Bloodlust/Heroism while he's stunned against a wall, keep your healers spread out so they don't all get frozen at the same time, and it's a fairly simple tank/spank.

It's worth noting the quality of the gear drops here, even in normal mode - item level 232! This alone makes it a worthwile destination for even the most casual guilds.

So tonight we venture back into Ulduar, somewhat better geared and with a raid lockout extension option - hopefully we'll be poking sharp objects at Yogg-Saron before too long. :)