Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How would I fix us?

Image from WorldofWarcraft.comWhen Blizzard asked for class feedback, they asked posters to highlight class issues they felt need improvement, but did not want suggestions on how to fix these percieved deficiencies. I can certainly understand why they wouldn't want to clutter the thread with suggestions (especially as many forum posters have a rather short-sighted view of the game — "ZOMG, give us a 'Kill Warlock' instant spell! K Thx Bai!"), but that doesn't keep each of us from wondering "Just what would I do to 'fix' our class?"

I came up with my own list of shaman issues and have had ideas for improvements percolating through my brain since then. The biggest problem when coming up with solutions is to ensure that they're balanced, remain true to the class concept (much as some would argue Blizzard doesn't have one for shaman), and aren't simply going to generate more issues. Not an easy task and one that I've had a lot of fun mulling over the last few days.

Totems are clearly the biggest issue for shaman, but are also our most defining characteristic. I've seen all sorts of suggestions ranging from providing zone-wide buffs, to having their effect centered on the shaman, to having a chance to stun players and mobs when attacked. For the most part, I've found these suggestions to either be overpowered (can you imagine the forest of totems deep in the AV starting caves if they were zone-wide?) or completely abandoning the current system altogether. Although no solution is perfect, I have a couple thoughts for improvements that would help make the system less cumbersome while still maintaining balance for both PvE and PvP.

  • Totem UI: Some sort of basic UI tool is needed to avoid cluttering up our action bars. I think user-created mods will still be used for their additional features, but some sort of bar like the Druid's forms buttons would be very helpful for newer players.
  • Longer duration: One of the major complaints for PvE raiding is the frequency with which we have to recast totems, with the global cooldown forcing us to stop healing/DPSing for up to six seconds every two minutes to drop them. One easy solution is to increase the duration of the raid-buffing totems (Windfury, Wrath of Air, etc.) to 10 minutes. Although you'd still need to recast them for each new fight, they would last for the majority of boss fights and remove the amount of required downtime to keep these buffs up. I wouldn't change the duration of some of the more PvP or DPS-oriented totems (Earthbind, elementals, Magma/Searing totems, etc.), however, to prevent them from becoming overpowered in PvP.
  • Increased range: With the increased focus on mobility for PvE (and the obvious need for it in PvP), the 20 yard base range is no longer sufficient and Totemic Mastery has basically become a "must have" talent for all specs. The effect range needs to small enough to allow opponents to eliminate them in PvP, but something on the order of 40 yards wouldn't be unreasonable and would greatly improve their use in raids. I'd also eliminate the Totemic Mastery talent at the same time.
  • Increased health: "A level 1 can remove our buffs" is usually thrown around when discussing totems. A reasonable change would be to have totems' health scale with the shaman's. 5% of total health would seem to be just about right to me (giving them about 500 health for a PvP-geared player — easily taken down by a level 70 DPS class, while perhaps taking two hits from a healer or pet). In addition, the various totem-buffing talents (Call of Flame, Enhancing Totems, Imp. Weapon Totems, Restorative Totems) could have an added effect of increasing the health of their respective totems by some additional percentage.
  • Faster pulses: The five second pulses of Poison/Disease Cleansing and Tremor Totems feel like an eternity and sometimes even make them useless (although the increased range would help somewhat). Dropping the pulse frequency down to every two seconds would make them much more viable and their increased utility could be compensated by a corresponding reduction in the length of time before they're destroyed.
  • Reduced global cooldown: I don't think eliminating the global cooldown for totems would be balanced since the totems are fairly powerful (especially with the other buffs I'm proposing), but reducing the GCD for casting totems to 1 second would make dropping them a little less painful without giving us a bunch of instant-cast buffs.
  • Consider totems as 'physical': The majority of totems are considered Nature spells and therefore are particularly vulnerable to spell locks and silences. Having totems be considered physical actions (much like a hunter's Arcane Shot) would allow us to still have some utility when silenced, even if we're not able to cast the majority of our other healing/DPS spells.
  • A few other totem-specific changes that I would make are:

    • Earthbind Totem: Rather than pulsing, this totem should have effects similar to the Hunter's Frost Trap. I'd also add a talent in the Enhancement tree to add in an Entrapment-like effect as well. I'd keep the radius at 10 yards, but improve the Earth's Grasp talent to increase the radius by 25% per talent point.
    • Sentry Totem: Dump this totem's effects. Instead, have it increase the Stealth detection of party members in a 40 yard range.
    • Stoneskin Totem: Non-scaling effects are quickly marginalized, and this is one of the most glaring examples. A more reasonable effect would be to reduce melee damage by 5% to return the totem's viability for raiding.
    • Windwall Totem: Like Stoneskin, this totem should scale as a percentage to increase its viability.
  • Crowd Control/Anti-Crowd Control: A lot of shaman feel that some form of CC is necessary to make the class more viable for 5-man and PvP, but I find the lack of CC somewhat refreshing (and the insistence on crowd control a bit overblown in general). Instead, I would suggest a few enhancement-specific talents below as ways of reducing their susceptibility to CC (it's much less of an issue for restoration or elemental), which I'll mention in the next section. In addition, I would allow the Ghost Wolf spell to remove all movement-impairing effects, much like the druids' shifting abilities. Ghost Wolf would still be dispellable, however, so it wouldn't be quite as good as druids' forms. I would also reduce the casting time to 2 seconds (with talents making it instant).
  • Windfury: (talking about the shaman's weapon buff here, not the totem) Right now, the mechanics of WF make the speed of your off-hand when dual-wielding much more important than the actual DPS of that weapon, which doesn't make intuitive sense. There are three potential fixes that I can see:

    • Unlink the WF procs for each hand. In order to maintain the same level of benefit, increase the proc cooldown to 4.5 seconds.
    • Keep the WF cooldowns linked, but have WF do two attacks for each weapon. Again, the cooldown would have to be increased to compensate for the increased damage. This would probably create too large a burst capacity, however, so is probably the weakest option.
    • Make the WF proc for off-hands equal to its full damage rather than using the ½ off-hand penalty. This would once again make the OH's damage important rather than just the speed.
  • Elementals: I'm rather mixed on whether the cooldown for elementals should be reduced to allow their use in arenas. On the one hand, both mages and druids can use theirs and, at least with the mage's, they're pretty effective. On the other hand, reducing the cooldown would also require reducing their effectiveness to keep them balanced. That's not a big issue with the fire elemental, but the earth elemental's ability to be used as an emergency tank would be greatly reduced without as many health points. I think I'd generally be in favor of it, however, for consistency if nothing else. It'd be nice to have some control over the elementals via a pet bar, but I suspect that's some of the tradeoff for their increased power.
In general, I think the shaman talents are pretty good, but there's definitely a few issues with them, much like many other classes. Several talents are "must haves" while others are nearly worthless. In addition, the enhancement and elemental trees have very few talents desired by anyone not going deep into them, reducing the synergy that you ideally want in hybrid classes.

  • Earth's Grasp: I would move this talent to the Enhancement tree, increase the radius bonus to Earth Bind by 25% per talent point, and add in a 5% chance of Entrapment per talent point (keeping it as a 2-point talent).
  • Elemental Devastation: Although this talent is vaguely useful to enhancement shaman, it's so deep into the tree with so few other talents before it that are useful for enhancement that it's a waste here. I'd drop this down to Tier 2 in place of Earth's Grasp to improve the synergy.
  • Unrelenting Storm: I would drop this talent down a Tier to make it available to restoration-primary shaman, once again improving synergy.
  • Tier 1: Both talents are wastes. Approximately 500 mana for 5 talent points is a joke and most shaman either dual-wield or are casters (who can't block while casting). Ditch them both and instead take a page from the paladin's Holy tree: A 2% increase in Strength and a 2% increase in Intellect. Suddenly you have useful talents, and at least one that elemental and restoration shaman want.
  • Guardian Totems: I already suggested making these two totems reduce damage by a percentage rather than a fixed number. This talent could then improve that percentage.
  • Ghost Wolf: The full talent should make the spell instant cast.
  • Toughness: Shaman aren't built to tank, so this talent is rarely worthwhile (especially considering Anticipation is more effective). I would instead create a talent to increase run speed by 3% and increase the chance to resist movement-impairing effects by 5%.
  • Dual-wield: I'd eliminate the talent and make it trainable at level 40. Yes, it means healers and casters can put enchants on both weapons (much like hunters have done), but because most healing and casting weapons are two-handed or main-hand only, it wouldn't outweigh the benefit of using a shield. Instead, I would include an Intercept-like ability that allows enhancement shaman to close quickly.
  • Shamanistic rage: This effect should be undispellable. Alternately, I would add in the ability to use this spell to immediately remove all debuffs that cause loss of control of your character (and to be able to be cast while feared, etc.).
  • Totemic Mastery: Drop it and increase the base range of totems across the board. In its place, I would add in a new spell: either a heal over time or an instant spell (or an instant HoT), which would significantly improve shaman's ability to heal in PvP and manage burst damage without using a 3m cooldown ability.
  • Earth Shield: Its vulnerability to purges, especially considering how expensive it is, makes this talent much less effective then it should be. An inate dispell resistance would help, but Blizzard seems leery of such things since it could then be used to 'protect' other buffs. Simply reducing the mana cost is probably the easiest answer so that even though it's still as vulnerable, it's not painful to reapply aside from using a global cooldown.


Scurlion said...

I really enjoy your blog. The gear rankings have been very helpful.
I also find the range of the totem buffs very limiting. I would like to see something like where when a character runs through your totem's effect radius, they then get "painted" with the buff and it stays with them for some limited duration.
I would also like to see the totems available to buff the entire raid and not just your party.

Draezele said...

I suspect that Blizzard's reluctance to keep totems and other classes' buffs from being raid-wide is the effect it would have in the larger battlegrounds (especially AV) and because it encourages raid groups to take multiples of certain characters ("why should we bring a second moonkin, we already have one to give their buff?"). If they were to make them raid-wide, they'de probably reduce their benefit - which would be a wash for raiding, but a disadvantage for 5-man instances.

Although if they made totems raid-wide, the thought of a 25-man raid of only shaman, all dropping Healing Stream has a lot of amusement value.... :)

Dajay said...

Nie article and thanks Draezele to have giving me something to post about today. Don't hesitate to give me your opinion about mines.


andrew said...

I love your blog its awesome i myself played an enhance shaman up till 58 then i switched to resto mainly for earth sheild to me the resto tree is the only shaman tree worth spending your points in because it has the nicest bottom talents not to say the other trees arent bad but they definitely could use some work especially elemental totem of wrath is just a waste to me i mean you get down the tree and all they reward you with is a totem that increases spell hit and crit by 3% definitely not worth it and on the enhance tree you have shamanisitc rage its nice but it wasnt no where as nice as i thought it would have been which leaves me with resto tree mana tide is so useful its liek a watered down evocation who dosent love that and earth sheild is just amazing makes healing so much easier and even just solo questing to my suprise i solo real well for being a healing spec well im done giving my opinion lol but i do hope blizz does fix the shaman class we have been on the back burner for some time

WyldKard said...

Good post on fixes that ought be made. I added some of my own comments on my own blog, if you're interested (particularly re: totem mobility).

Anonymous said...

Hahaha, DW at 40...
I'd always dreamed of having two Maelstrom's Fury's on my elemental shaman.

Tinitim said...

I think a good solution on the mobile totems would be to have a spell, similar to the recall totems spell, that just teleports all of your current totems to where you are standing.

Also, for the time to drop totems, it would be nice to see something like a shared GCD for the totem types, so that you could drop one of each type of totem in 1 GCD. Additionally, I'd like to see the duration increased a bit. Maybe 3 or 4 minutes.

gerunna said...


I read your linked blog post and thought you might be interested in the addon Totemus, which is indeed the shammy equivalent of Venantes and includes a totem timer. It can be found on Curse pretty easily, and it has done wonders to clean up my hotbars.

Ashuna said...

I would suggest the following.

With regards to Earthshield. Make it so that a dispell doesn't remove all charges, only some. For example, if it removed 2 charges per cast, or even 3 it could still be removed but would be a conscious decision on the dispeller on what to do. As it is now, they just hit a button and move on..

I will say that I agree on the first tier enhancement talents. They are an utter joke.

The suggestion on shamanistic rage being undispellable and removing effects is genious in my opinion.

The only other thing that bothers me is that (I'm currently in 10 man raids) our totems don't effect both groups. We are often compared to paladins, however they don't pay a penalty in this regard.

Ashuna -

Binkenstein said...

I think there's two abilities we need desperately.

1) Totem Refresh - refreshes current totem durations.
2) Totem Relocate - calls totem to the caster

That would be enough of a change to last me until 3.0

Everquest Accounts said...

I think this is a very nice posting on the probable steps that ought to be taken. This would also help me to try my hands on an enhanced shaman.