Tuesday, November 10, 2015

[WoW] Enhancement Preview: Not Sure if an Enhancement?

More class previews, go! Enhancement is up, and, well, while I was ecstatic over Holy Paladins, I'm not actually very happy about Enhancement at first blush. Let's dive right in.

Shared Shaman Changes

A few changes affect all Shaman, and they're pretty sweet quality of life changes, for the most part.
  • Totems of the same nature type can now be summoned together, allowing you to have Healing Stream Totem and Healing Tide Totem up at the same time. 
  • Elementals are no longer tied to totems, but are guardians that follow and assist you.
  • Totems’ maximum health will always equal a percentage of your maximum health.
  • Totems that need to be placed at a specific location will be directly placed using a targeting reticle.
Love that Elementals can't be totem stomped anymore, and the rest is just basically rolling in the totem tier of talents into totems baseline. Good moves here.

Old, New, and Changed Abilities
To give you an idea of the Enhancement Shaman in action, here’s a basic look at their core combat abilities:
  • Rockbiter
    10 yd range, Instant
    Assault your target with earthen power, dealing moderate Nature damage, and generating 15 Maelstrom.
  • Flametongue
    10 yd range, Instant, 12 sec cooldown
    Scorch your target with fiery power, dealing moderate Fire damage, and enhancing your weapons.
    Each of your weapon attacks cause up to minor additional Fire damage, based on weapon speed. Lasts 16 sec.
  • Windfury
    Each of your main-hand attacks has a 7% chance of triggering three extra attacks, dealing minor Physical damage.
  • Lava Lash
    30 Maelstrom, Melee Range, Instant
    Charge your off-hand weapon with lava and strike your target, dealing strong Fire damage.
  • Stormstrike
    60 Maelstrom, Melee Range, Instant, 16 sec cooldown
    Energize your weapons with lightning and deliver a massive blow to your target, dealing heavy Physical damage.
  • Maelstrom Weapon
    When you deal damage with a melee weapon, you generate 5 Maelstrom.
  • Stormfury
    Each of your attacks has a 2% chance to cause Stormfury, resetting the cooldown on Stormstrike, and causing your next Stormstrike to cost 50% less Maelstrom and to trigger no cooldown.
  • Mastery: Enhanced Elements
    Increases the chance for Stormfury and Windfury to trigger by 5% (with Mastery from typical gear), and increases all Fire and Nature damage done by 40% (with Mastery from typical gear).
Additionally, to provide a glimpse at how some talents may build upon this, here’s one example of an Enhancement-specific talent:
  • Sundering
    60 Maelstrom, Instant, 20 sec cooldown
    Shatter a line of earth before you, causing strong Physical damage and knocking enemies to the side.
Hold on for analysis, because a lot of the above makes little sense to discuss until we've covered Enhancement's new resource:


Enhancement and Elemental lost all of their standard resources (mana, LS charges, MW charges) in favour of Maelstrom, which best I can tell is basically just a blue Fury bar. For Enhancement, melee hits charge it (5 per melee hit, including Windfury procs), as do certain spells, like the new spammable Rockbiter ability (which is basically just a short range Maelstrom generating Earth Shock). You then spend that Maelstrom on melee finishers, like Stormstrike and Lava Lash.

Wait, what?
The identity of the Enhancement Shaman is cool, but we don’t feel that the mechanics do well to establish that. We want this spec to be more than a melee-range Elemental Shaman, while having a distinct “Battle Mage” feel. Enhancement’s niche focuses on dishing out devastating spells and punishing strikes at melee range to destroy their enemy. Rather than leaving you with a multitude of buttons, many of which are inconsequential, we’re emphasizing empowering your weapons and allies in the fray.
Instead of having melee abilities charge our resource for cool spells, we now use spells to charge our resource for cool melee abilities. I'm not sure why they didn't believe the current Enhancement didn't deliver on the "battle mage" aspect, but I'm not really convinced that turning our spec on its head fulfills it any better. Though, they did mention they were updating melee animations, so we'll see if they look super awesome.

Rotation and Interactions

So how does all this add up?

The basic rotation is basically going to be keep Flametongue up, Rockbiter spam to generate Maelstrom (alongside your auto-attacks/windfury procs), and then spend it on Stormstrike, or Lava Lash if you're close to capping and SS isn't off cooldown yet. Which is basically a Fury Warrior, except blue.

We won't have empty GCDs anymore, because empty GCDs should be filled with Rockbiter to generate more Maelstrom. This is going to make using totems or other buffs/situational abilities an even bigger trade-off than they are today. We no longer have room for utility, we're taking a DPS loss (doubly-so if we're spending Maelstrom on off-healing, but that's no different than Maelstrom Weapon today).

Talents may provide extra finishers for you to spend Maelstrom on (ie: Sundering), but unless you're generating enough Maelstrom, you won't get to use those finishers very often. I've run the numbers, you end up getting something like ~18ish - 20ish Maelstrom every Rockbiter GCD at 2.5s swing timers, but that number will get tweaked so I won't fixate on it too much, but the gist is that the more Maelstrom we generate, the more finishers we can perform.

Secondary Stats

This is going to make Haste even more important than it was previously, as more Haste means more swings, and more swings means more Maelstrom. It also means more Windfury procs per minute, and if Rockbiter is a spell GCD rather than a melee GCD, it also means shorter GCDs. Haste will become king.

Mastery also increases Maelstrom generation, but only with respect to Windfury procs, so it won't be quite as powerful. Mind you, Mastery still increases nature and fire damage, and also increases Stormfury procs, so Mastery is still a decent DPS boost, but doing more will probably beat doing less but harder.

Critical strike and versatility will still probably be ignorable, largely.

The Stormfury Wrinkle

Stormfury states, "Each of your attacks has a 2% chance to cause Stormfury (increased by Mastery), resetting the cooldown on Stormstrike, and causing your next Stormstrike to cost 50% less Maelstrom and to trigger no cooldown."

Resetting the Stormstrike cooldown is neat. You'll pretty much always have at least 30 Maelstrom banked, and being able to replace a Lava Lash in your rotation with a Stormstrike will be a great way to introduce variety in the rotation. However, what concerns me is that said 30-Maelstrom Stormstrike won't trigger the cooldown.

That means to make the most of your Stormfury procs, you'll want 90 Maelstrom banked at all times in case you get a proc. 30 for the first half-price Stormstrike, and 60 for the second full-price but still off cooldown Stormstrike. Depending on the maximum Maelstrom, this could be really awkward (especially if it's 100, because I bet money it'll be 100). Going over 100 means you lose that Maelstrom generated, but you'll feel like you're behind or punished or unable to take advantage of the Stormfury proc if you're scrambling to collect that 60 extra Maelstrom when you weren't prepared for it because you expected a 16s cooldown on Stormstrike and Stormfury procced at the 5s mark.

I'd actually vote to remove the "and to trigger no cooldown" portion because that's going to feel really awkward. Procs should make you excited, not anxious.

Doubling Down on the "Melee" Part

Another thing I noticed is that all of our ranged spells are down to 10 yards. Enhancement traditionally felt mobile and great because we could opt to spell-sling at a distance for a short period. Other melee classes were stuck, but we could keep a decent 30% of our DPS going for a few seconds at range with Lightning Bolt, Flame and Frost Shock (and Searing Totem).

We lost most of that. 10 yards isn't very far, and while I suppose Blizzard doesn't like the overlap with Elemental, it helped differentiate us from other melee classes. We lose some versatility with this new model. It focuses on the melee part of "melee battle mage", at the expense of the "mage" part. Which is a similar complaint that I have with turning our spec on its head to use spells to fuel melee, rather than melee to fuel spells.

We still will have Lightning Bolt, but since it's not in the core part of our rotation, is it spammable? Cooldown? Cast time? Relative damage? Many questions here, but ultimately we lost a bunch of tools.

On-Demand Burst? Worse.

With the changes, Enhancement burst damage gets reduced. We lose our initial burst that we're capable of today. With Stormstrike, and to a lesser extent, Lava Lash as our primary damage outputs, today we can use them up front, allowing us to take out small things with ease and jump into our rotation immediately. Tomorrow, we'd need to build 60 Maelstrom to use our first Stormstrike. That's a minimum of 3 GCDs before we can make our major attack.

This can possibly be mitigated by allowing us a talent to use for an on-demand Maelstrom gain (like a 2 minute cooldown or something), but still, it's bad enough that our current AoE rotation needs a 3 GCD wind-up, our single-target rotation also requiring that is super not fun.

Smoothing the Damage Curve
Rather than leaving you with a multitude of buttons, many of which are inconsequential.
Right now Stormstrike does about 3x - 5x as much damage as Frost Shock, and Lava Lash just a little bit less than that. We're basically biding our time until we can hit SS or LL on live right now, which feels kinda awful because waiting. So I agree with Blizzard that building towards is better than waiting for off-cooldown.

In the new Enhancement, Stormstrike is a 16s cooldown, and takes twice as much Maelstrom as Lava Lash does (which is spammable). That means that Stormstrike will have to do equal to or more damage than 2 Lava Lashes less a Rockbiter to make it worthwhile to cast.

Say Rockbiter does 50 damage, with a 1.5s spell GCD. Lava Lash needs to do at least 34 damage to compete with it, or more than 50 damage to compete with it at enough Haste to bring the GCD down to 1s, but then why not just spam Rockbiter because it's just as good, so let's say Lava Lash does 60 damage (both are affected by Mastery, so let's ignore that for a second).

So then we know that Stormstrike needs to do at least 70 damage (60 + 60 - 50) to be better than Lava Lash. Except Stormstrike isn't affected by Mastery, so it has to basically be better than Lava Lash with stacked Mastery or you just drop it from your rotation. If "average" Mastery for +Fire damage is 40%, the Stormstrike needs to do at least 84 damage per shot. So basically, Stormstrike needs to hit at least 68% harder than Rockbiter, at a bare minimum.

That's still much better than the current which is Stormstrike hitting 200% - 400% harder than our filler today, so the damage curve should be a fair bit smoother than it is right now on live. So we lose our on-demand burst, but should be more consistent damage-wise from fight to fight.

I'm not actually sure that's better. It's a thing. I have no idea if I feel that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Final Thoughts

I don't like it. We're missing a lot of information, such as what precisely AoE will look like--though as per the tweet below, we have an idea, though how much Maelstrom it costs to set up the AoE combo makes me think we're still going to need 4+ GCDs to set up AoE-- we don't know what talents exist to fill out the complexity in our rotation, and final numbers such as Maelstrom generation will get tweaked.

But we lose a lot of what I personally liked about Enhancement: the ability to play ranged caster for short periods of time, lots of utility with occasional room in our rotation to use it instead of a crappy filler ability, casting awesome spells (hit, hit, parry, dodge, hit, boom lightning bolt to the face!) which we lose in favour of casting crappy spells to fuel awesome melee (rockbite, rockbite, rockbite, boom Stormstrike!), and our Maelstrom Weapon resource got turned into a Rage bar, with a builder, a big spender with a cooldown, and a small spender if we're capping rage...er, maelstrom. Because if I wanted to play a warrior, I'd go play a warrior. Hint, I've never had a warrior make it past level 30.

We also lose our complexity, big time. I main Enhancement because it's one of the few complicated rotations left. Depending on talents, we'll see if they fix that back up, but I'm not looking forward to a boring DPS rotation again. I'd probably just go back to healing full time, or play a different game. I don't begrudge other classes or specs for having easier or simpler rotations, but at least I had an option. I might not have one any longer after this.

The Stormfury strangeness is pretty minor. A small tweak to it will fix it right up, so not really that concerned there. I also won't miss Searing Totem/Magma Totem.

I'll wait for the talents and further ability clarifications, but unlike Holy Paladins, I'm really apprehensive about Enhancement's overhaul. We've been basically the same for 4 expansions (Wrath, Cata, Mists, Warlords), so I guess we're overdue for a re-envisioning, but I don't think I'm on board here.
#WorldOfWarcraft, #Shaman, #Legion


  1. What do you think of Eliot's analysis?

    1. Oh, never mind. I see you already replied!

    2. Eliot and I have had some pretty fundamental disagreements with Enhancement since he took over the column. Some of them are purely subjective/philosophical, so *shrug* there.

      Once in a while he throws a column that I viscerally disagree with mathematically/mechanically.

      This column is both of the above. But yeah, I replied on the article :)

    3. Have you ever posted in the blizz class forums (or whatever they are) that take constructive feedback from well-spoken players?)

    4. I haven't recently, but I probably should. I feel like it would get lost in the deluge though. I've pinged Celestalaon on Twitter with a link, and I know Blizz will likely read the BW column at least.