Saturday, February 13, 2010

Totem Talk: Enhancement 201, spell selection

Rich Maloy is currently working on a distributed processing application called SimIt!@HOME which will calculate all possible enhancement shaman spell rotations for any possible situation given any gear combination. The application will also have an option to calculate all potential scenarios in which "sim it" is a half-a** answer but you should say it anyway.

If I told you the enhancement shaman basic spell rotation was: SR, FE, SW, MW5_LB, MT(0), LS(1), ES_SS, SS, FS, ES, LL, FN would you run away screaming?

What if I told you that was just for single target boss encounters and there's a different priority for boss fights that require changing targets, another priority for boss fights with heavy adds, and yet another priority for trash mobs. Scared yet?

It's OK. Please come back. This is what we Enhancers have bouncing around in our head. I'll make everything alright by breaking it down into a few easy-to-remember chunks. Because we all like chunks.
My 101 article could have been more appropriately named "How to play enhancement in raids or dungeons if you are recently level 80 or would like to make it your off spec," but that was a bit long so I cut it down to Enhancement 101. In said article, commenter Angus noted "...enhance shaman need a simulator, a supercomputer, and a math genius to figure out what they should be gearing for at any particular moment.." I had to laugh because it's true.

Thankfully we enhancers have math geniuses calculating the theorycrafting and supercomputer geniuses writing the code to the simulator to help us tweak our output at any level for any given situation. However, this article is not for theorycrafting and not about running simulations.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-EnhSim. Just this week I went through a detailed iterative sim on Stoney's gear to recalculate optimal gemming and then maximize my output with a new rotation. EnhSim is a seriously awesome tool -- and we'll get to it in a later post -- but using it is a process. In fact at progression/end-game levels of play it's practically required for optimization. But for the Totem Talk enhancement columnist to say "sim it" is just a huge cop-out, and doesn't exactly make for good reading.

Today's article isn't about the utmost optimal and ideal rotation, nor is it about how to get that for yourself. It's about simplifying a complex rotation. This is to help the new-to-80 (or thereabouts) enhancement shaman wrap their head around a basic core spell rotation.

My goal in this article is to (1) break down the complex rotation into easy-to-remember chunks, then (2) put it together into a usable rotation that will work in most boss scenarios, and (3) explain why we do the things we do.

A shocking macro

There is one macro above all others that will simplify your life as an enhancement shaman. Even for the most anti-macro enhancer out there this little one will save headaches and action bar space. It is:
#showtooltip
/castsequence reset=18/combat Flame Shock, Earth Shock, Earth Shock
There are a few variations on this macro but for the purpose of this article I'm sticking with the one above. Some players prefer to separate the shocks on to different buttons, others (including me) prefer a more complex but flexible macro, but of all the shocking macros. But this macro is the best place to start. Learn it and hug it and love it and squeeze it with all your heart and call it George. George the Shock Macro.

The reason this macro is so important is because Flame Shock lasts for 18 seconds. If FS is reapplied before the end then it's wasted DPS. This is like a pro-tip and a beginner tip rolled into one. Add George the Shock Macro to your macro book because we'll be using it right away.

Break it down

The best way to think about the enhancement spell selection is to break it down into two parts: rotation and situation. Once it's broken down into these two section you'll see the rotation actually isn't all that complex. But you should still [Feign Complexity](Rank 10) when talking to the filthy rogues in your guild. Don't let them think you've got it easy. I fully expect you to go on and on about how you can successfully track at 15 spell rotation and still beat him in DPS.

Rotation

There are 5 spells in the rotation section. Commit these to memory. They are not cycled through in a straight sequence; instead, they're used in a priority order. Go down the list until you find one that's available and hit it. Then start again at the top.

This is the simplified rotation:
  1. Lightning Bolt with 5 stacks of Maelstrom Weapon (MW5_LB)
  2. Stormstrike (SS)
  3. George the shock macro (FS, ES, ES)
  4. Lava Lash (LL)
  5. Fire Nova (FN)
After every cast start back at the top of the list and go down until you hit something off cooldown. It takes some getting used to so it's worth it to hit up a target dummy and work through the sequence a few times. After some practice you'll find a rhythm and spend less time staring at the action bar because you have a feel for what's coming up next.

Situation

Everything else in the enhancement arsenal is situational. The general rule of thumb is use them as soon as they become available or to be need refreshed.

First up are the situations where spells need to be refreshed. When either of these spells run out they become highest priority on the next GCD. (PRO TIP: whenever I have a free GCD I refresh whichever one is closest to running out, that way I don't have to interrupt my rotation as often.)
  • Magma Totem (MT) – Keep this down at all times because when your rotation comes around to Fire Nova, if you don't have MT down you'll miss out on the FN blast. Plus the passive damage is FTW.
  • Lightning Shield (LS) – Gotta love the Static Shock! Nine charges goes by pretty fast, especially if you have 2pc T9. The passive damage isn't huge, but it's important enough to keep this up at all times.
Next we move on to the special situation spells.
  • Shamanistic Rage (SR) – Under normal circumstances this should be used at or below 30-40% mana. 45 seconds goes by fast (60 second CD less 15 second duration) so you'll notice it being up often. If you have 2pc T10 then SR should be the very first thing cast after auto attack and then hit as the highest priority every time it comes available. (PRO TIP: with 2pc T10 create a macro to sync trinkets with SR)
  • Feral Spirit (SW) – Wolves actively scale with your stats, meaning if you get trinket procs while they are active, their stats will increase with yours. However they should be out before Heroism/Bloodlust is cast to get the full benefit from the buff.
  • Fire Elemental (FE) – On a 10 minute CD this spell should be available for most boss attempts even after wipes. As a general rule it's not worth glyphing for FE. One important thing to note is that your FE does not scale once the totem is planted; this is the opposite of SW. If you are dropping FE in a fight then plan on getting some procs up first and then put the totem down.

Bonus point

If you want bonus points there's a special situation in the rotation called ES_SS. This means if Earth Shock and Stormstrike are both off cooldown at the same time AND if the Stormstrike debuff is still up on the boss then cast Earth Shock first. It's not essential to the basics, but it is a step in the right direction to maximizing output.

All together now

Putting it all together yields the crazy thing we saw at the beginning: SR, FE, SW, MW5_LB, MT, LS, ES_SS, SS, FS, ES, LL, FN. The spells in bold are the "rotation" spells, the others are all situation spells. I hope this helped you wrap your head around enhancement shaman spell selection. Until next time ...

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Around Azeroth: If you go down in the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise

Because today's the day the teddy bears had their picnic. Errai of on Argent Dawn sent in this picture along with an explanation: "Shame his clever disguise didn't help this poor hapless soul who found himself the main course at an impromptu Valentine's teddy bear picnic in the streets of Dalaran on Argent Dawn. Errai was one of many cuddly bears drawn to the festivities that evening as eating, drinking, bad bear jokes, and general merriment ensued. The fun concluded with a rockin' druid dance party and street parade of trees, moonkins, and bears – oh my!"

Do you have any unusual, beautiful or interesting World of Warcraft images that are just collecting dust in your screenshots folder? We'd love to see them on Around Azeroth! Sharing your screenshot is as simple as e-mailing aroundazeroth@wow.com with a copy of your shot and a brief explanation of the scene. You could be featured here next!

Remember to include your player name, server and/or guild if you want it mentioned. Please include the word "Azeroth" in your post so it does not get swept into the spam bin. We strongly prefer full screen shots without the UI showing -- use alt-Z to remove it. Please, no more battleground scoreboards, Val'kyr on mounts, or pictures of the Ninja Turtles in Dalaran. Older screenshots can be found here.

The Queue: Elephants

Welcome back to The Queue, WoW.com's daily Q&A column where the WoW.com team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Mike Sacco will be your host today.Re: the title -- unlike them, I do forget. To write The Queue.Wil asked..."Is Blizzard considering making emblems bind-to-account? For someone who's got multiple alts (and intends to level more), this would be a godsend. What would be the pros and cons of such a change?"Blizzard has said that they intend for emblems to be an endgame, character-specific reward. Heirlooms, purchasable with said emblems, are a secondary reward to help your alts get to the point of being able to get their own badges.Will this change for Cataclysm, though? Do we ever really know the answer to that?Guitarwolf asked..."Do you think that with the revamping of quest rewards and items around Cataclysm will bring gear with gem slots to pre-level 60 items? I know that JC requires Burning Crusade to train, but Blizz adding minimum level requirements to equippable gems would make use of all the cruddy BC gems, as well as give people a chance to learn how to gem earlier in the game."Blizzard has said that they made a mistake making leveling gear gemmable at all in BC, and you'll notice that they fixed it for Wrath. You end up with weird item level problems and gear that shouldn't be as good as it is (remember the blue armor that bears wore in BC because it had three red sockets in it). I don't anticipate that this particular design philosophy will change, but nothing's set in stone.Zalvi24 asked..."Question: do you think with the simplification of stats and reforging system that is gonna come with cataclysm that we're gonna see the return of the beloved/hated shockadins with a 31/0/45?"Yes and no. I think we'll be seeing builds that are a lot more "fun", like shockadins, but it's important to remember that talent trees are changing a lot in Cataclysm and the general structure of your trees might or might not be quite different depending on what you play. Ghostcrawler has said that the intention of the talent tree changes is to make talents more fun. I hope he's right.Grinton asked..."It seems all the good PvP gear needs either Arena participation or VoA drops. The other alternative is the daily BG quest for arena points but those are so measly. So for someone who loves PvP in BG but despises arenas, are there any other ways to get arena points? I know lower Ilevel stuff only need honour but the weapons need points. Do I have any alternatives other than arena or raiding?"In Wrath? Unfortunately, not at the moment. In Cataclysm, though, the new rated Battlegrounds will give arena points for victories. Yes, that's right! You'll be able to get the best PVP gear by doing the type of PVP that you like. What a crazy world.

Ready Check: The long bleak winter of spontaneous raiding

Ready Check is a column focusing on successful raiding for the serious raider. Hardcore or casual, Vault of Archavon or Icecrown Citadel, everyone can get in on the action and down some bosses. You might have heard that the east coast recently got slammed by an epic blizzard. Sure, sure, you folks out in Minnesota or Wisconsin are used to getting 50 inches of snow in the middle of summer. Heck, August only means your snowfall dwindles to a mere two or three inches. But out here on the right coast, from about Baltimore down to Florida, "snow" is something that we mostly see inside globes and Northrend.The last few weeks, however, have been so thick with the white stuff that many, many, many players are trapped in their homes. And they turn to a very natural, time-killing past time: World of Warcraft. The real issue with this snowy dynamic is that it led to a lot of people looking to spontaneously raid. In the middle of a Wednesday isn't when folks usually schedule their Icecrown Citadel raid. But this small legion of snow-stranded folks often already had pre-planned raids scheduled for the evenings. They were forced to look back at available content and try and figure out "What can we do as a group, without impeding already-set plans for our normal raid?"While I bring this subject up because I was one of the many trapped indoors by the Snowpocalypse, you will probably find dozens of reasons you need to come up with a spontaneous raid or two. Heck, maybe you just find yourself with a Friday night free. Take a look behind the jump and let's talk about what to do if you find yourself snowed in but wanting to raid.While farming, questing, and chain-gunning Dungeon Finder Heroics are popular ways of killing time, remember that what we're focused on is how to use that time on behalf of an entire raid. So, without further adieu, what can you raid without interrupting ICC?Trial of the CrusaderLet's be brutally, brutally honest here. Do you really have every single item that your raid could use out of Trial of the Crusader? There's not even so much as a side-grade in there, maybe from the big-bug Anub'arak? While you're probably not going to score a lot of huge gear improvements by running Trial of the Crusader, it does have the most likely chance of dropping something you can kind-of-use. Drops are fickle things, and even with Emblems of Frost rounding out a lot of gear in Icecrown, getting a handy side-grade from a drop will still save you some trouble.Vault of ArchavonMost guilds that I know don't plan Vault raids. It's usually a PUG thing. Even Toravon isn't all that hard if your group is rocking enough DPS, so Vault of Archavon is usually a pretty fair raid to do with PUGs.But if you are looking for "something to do" because you're trapped inside, I would pick up Vault of Archavon as your first option. It doesn't take long, so it's not going to kill a whole lot of time, but the random rewards make it pretty worth it.I always meant to . . .My guild calls these "Old World Club." We have a half dozen or so players who only started their World of Warcraft experience in the last twelve months. They never got to experience the awesome moments in some of WoW's earliest raids. The idea is that you gather together a couple dozen of your level 80s, and you go back to the old world raids. Did you ever get the chance to kill C'thun? Maybe now's the time to do that. 25 level 80s are more than capable of clearing even AQ40. (Well, they'll be capable if you pay attention to dance steps -- you should still read the guides and strategies, so that you have an idea of what you're doing.)The down side of revisiting this old content is that it can be a little depressing. When you realize that death knights and hunters are pillaging these old world raids for gold and bragging rights, it's a little bit of downer. Some of us spent hours or days or weeks in those places. We struggled to eek out just enough damage to down those old, epic bosses.But, then again, if the raids weren't worth it for the fun at the time, maybe we shouldn't have been doing them in the first place.Bootstrapping alts and new folks"Bootstrap" raids are those raids whose entire purpose is to quickly and efficiently bring level 80 characters up from just-dinged to ready-to-raid. There's a number of different ways to achieve that bootstrapping. My favorite tends to be to tell a fresh level 80 to "get thee unto a Dungeon Finder."But if you find yourself trapped with a handful of other usual raid members, you have a unique opportunity to power someone up to your group's current tier of progression. Power-run those alts (or newbies), and see how quickly they jump up to your level.Even though it might technically be faster to cycle Dungeon Finder groups, the issue is that you're also trying to include a half-dozen to two-dozen other people in this effort. I'd like to think that gearing up a newb gives this effort a nice "community" feel.Sell some titles and mountsYou can still score The Undying title from Naxxramas. Unless you're bootstrapping someone, you probably don't have a lot of reason to be going back to Kel'Thuzad's stomping ground. But the problem you're facing isn't one of "is it worth it," but rather "how can I make it worth it?"There's plenty of people who have never seen Naxxramas. I know, it seems shocking, but it's true. For every player who's seen Naxxramas, I bet there's one who's never quite been able to get a group. Offer those folks to not only take them into the instance, but also all the way through it. And then sweeten the pot with the instance's applicable title. This experience will easily be worth a few thousand gold.The same theory applies to Ulduar's mounts, of course. However, I suspect that many of your guild members probably want the mount for themselves. I've actually not personally been on one of these kinds of runs before, though, so I'm not sure how it'd work out with someone who's a complete novice running hard modes. I'm actually considering trying one out on my home server of Shadow Council to see how those folks do it.SummaryThese are, of course, just a few different ideas. The problem, of course, is that an experienced, progressed raid will be able to quickly blow through the available content within a few days. If you find yourself snowed in for longer, then you probably will need even more help.Good hunting out there!