Friday, 25 September 2009

Alts: A Love/Hate Story

After a string of hard-hitting, breaking-news posts regarding the changes that have been taking place recently I have decided to tone it down a little with a more casual discussion-y entry. I haven't heard from you guys in a while, and I know you are still reading (I have had recent spikes in readership numbers actually, so welcome to all you new readers!) so feel free to get back into posting comments and sending emails! It really helps me in shaping what to post and knowing what you guys are looking to read and discuss about.

Recently my guild has decided to allow members of the raiding core to start bringing along their alts to farm content such as the Ulduar 25 runs that we still integrate into our raiding schedule. It has been jumped on and a good portion of the raiders have signed up their alt to bring along for the WoW equivalent of Christmas where they can get a ton of free loot for not much effort. Sure, the guild has some conditions that say they will not gear fresh 80's from scratch (you have to have at least mostly epics from heroics and Naxx) but they are pretty forgiving from what I have seen so far.

I haven't signed up my alt, Tilc. I know I don't talk about him much; he is a Draenei Holy Pally that I started levelling for kicks back in The Burning Crusade because I was simply in awe of how good pally tanks were at the time. By the time I had levelled him Wrath was already in the swing of things and tanks were a lot easier to come by so I took to healing instead. I hardly ever play him, especially since my move to Bladestorm about 6 months back.

So I put it out to you guys. Do you agree with my guild allowing alts to come to farm raiding, or do you think it takes away from the raid schedule? Do you think I should sign up Tilc to join the farming frenzy, or stick to a one-character arrangement? What are your alt situations? Are you a lover or hater of them?

Also, I get it a lot and I am posting so everyone knows. I am more than willing to help people out with gearing situations or specific game questions (such as raiding things and alike). However, if the content is readily available and easy to find (i.e.: one wowwiki search away) then I am not going to spoon feed you answers. I will point you in the direction but you will have to take the initiative yourselves. There is a search function on the blog for a reason! Other than that, shoot me emails and I will try to get back asap.

Till next time,

-Puut (and Tilc?)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Upcoming Changes: More of the Same?

Firstly, I will state that out of fear of appearing ungrateful, I am happy that our spec is getting the significant planned changes to improve our situation. I feel my critique of the upcoming changes may come across as showing a lack of appreciation and at some point reading this you may feel that I need to smile, give my appreciation to Blizzard, murmur a prayer to the almighty buff Gods and move on with it. I only make this post because I am looking back at the big picture and I am not getting the same feelings of joy that I might if I were focusing solely on the PTR patch notes and the buffs at hand.

The upcoming changes are obviously in response to the large push of complaints about where we stand at the moment. I am not playing mind reader by stating this: all of GC's comments about the planned updates have been made on one of Strawberry's* threads. I will say, however, that the cause was certainly helped by the fact that now Warlock's have entered the fray over this Totem of Wrath vs. Demonic Pact argument. This spiked the popularity of the issue and, at least in my opinion, helped get the ball rolling on the elemental changes. I mean, Strawberry and numerous other great posters have been making valid, logical comments about the state of our spec for the last 4 months without response; I think it is unlikely Ghostcrawler simply 'saw the light' and decided to jump on the issue.

Another telling sign lies with a post put up on MMO Champ's site a while back. On September 7th, this post went up showing the world first Anub'arak 25-man Heroic kill by Paragon of EU Lightning's Blade (congratulations to them, by the way). They also posted the DPS meter for the Anub'arak kill and armory links to all the raid members involved (the meter is seen attached to this post, taken from MMO-Champion). The elemental shaman, Lazei, who was extremely well geared as all the raid participants were finished dead last on the meters with 5830DPS. The hunter was almost identical (5831DPS), but it was later revealed the hunter was the only one pulling ice down. Anyone who has done this fight knows that this is a chore that essentially renders that raid member preoccupied for a major percentage of the fight. The next closest, an Enhancement Shaman, was some 800DPS clear with 6637; and the next closest caster (Shadow Priest, who is also a hybrid class I might add) was sitting over 7300, a massive 1500DPS more than the elemental. The caster core was scattered throughout the 7-8k DPS region. Now of course, this is one example and cannot be evidence enough to prove claims about the entire spec. However, this difference is telling and not uncommon amongst top end raiding guilds. Elemental Shaman were the ones bringing up the rear on the DPS meters across the board in high-end cutting-edge content, and it was suddenly in the spotlight for every other class to see.

This outlines my first concern: the developers didn't recognize a problem with our DPS until other classes were thrown into the mix: the Warlocks being bought in to our ToW argument, and the top end guilds posting their DPS meters. Even GC's quote about how they don't believe our ability was as low as many ele's seemed to believe (you can read it in this previous posting) shows that he (still?) doesn't grasp how far behind we actually are.

My second (and less wordy) concern is with the actual changes. The thing that pleasantly surprised me, at least about the Flame Shock and Glyph changes, was that it was dynamic. It was different and innovative. It showed some thought. Not much mind you, as all they were doing was freeing up the existing Glyph of Flame Shock which up until now was considered an absolute must; but at least it was something better than the Lightning Overload chance increase or the Shamanism percentage hikes.

The issue I have is this: they didn't make the changes we were asking for. I am not saying 'they didn't give me absolutely everything I wanted, so therefore I am not satisfied'. The changes they made were not the ones that the community was suggesting. A viable AoE? More practical fire totems (like the better ranged, assist-targeting Searing Totem concept)? The Totem of Wrath buff given as an aura to all fire totems? None of these were put into affect. The developers didn't work with the community, but instead buffed us with what they assumed we needed and threw it to us expecting complete satisfaction. This worries me because at the end of the day it shows we are still not getting heard. We are making enough noise to prick up their ears, with the help of some outside factors. But they are not actively working with the community in making changes. This makes me question the longevity of the cooperation and if the understanding is there, or if it is just another quick-and-slick buff bonanza that will keep us all happy and quiet for a few more patches.

In summary, the changes are a good thing. It is good that Blizzard recognized that we need a change to become more competitive. However, at this point it feels like just another band-aid to me. Although more elaborate and thought-out, it is still just a short term fix rather than the repair we actually need. Maybe I will be proved wrong; there will almost definitely be more changes in the ToW vs. DP saga that is still going on. Maybe they will listen to the suggestions and add the "aura" ability to all our fire totems so we are not stuck planting Wrath every fight. That would indicate to me they are recognizing the work being done by the community and acting in conjunction with rather in spite of it. At the moment I still have my concerns; but hell, I am going to enjoy being the buff recipients for once. God knows it doesn't come around as often as anyone would like.


* If you do not know, Strawberry is a poster on the official forums who has done an extremely large amount of work trying to get ele's problems under the nose of GC and the development team and is one of the best at fighting for our cause. I pay particular interest to Strawberry's postings.

I also apologize on the delays with this posting, with the stream of changes I kept being forced to rewrite and change the structure.

Saturday, 19 September 2009


Today is Pirates Day! Go get your achievement down at the scenic Booty Bay! It is for today only, so you'd better hurry...

Friday, 18 September 2009

Totem of Wrath Under the Dev's Hammer

I keep wanting to do an opinionated post regarding the changes going on, but before I get the chance more news comes out. The latest batch, regarding ToW vs. Demonic Pact (both by Ghostcrawler, by the way):

September 15th:
"Strawberry makes great posts, as usual.

We want to solve the discrepancy between ToW and DP before Cataclysm.

Demonology needs to be brought because it does competitive dps, not because it has an awesome buff. Or even better, you should want the Demo lock because the player playing it is someone you want to play with. Nobody should get brought because they have an awesome buff but are otherwise a liability. You should be able to get most of the buffs and debuffs you really need in a number of different raid configurations, and ideally even taking two players of the exact same spec won't feel like a mistake. The game should be in defeating the boss, not assembling the group."

Then, the next day on the same thread:

September 16th:
"I said ToW vs. DP is a problem that we want to fix...

...We don't think Elemental (or Shadow for that matter) are as low as a lot of players of those respective specs seem to believe, but both received small buffs. While it wasn't necessarily our intention, both of those tweaks happen to be relatively tricky to theorycraft out, so the jury is still out on what kind of buff they will provide or if they will be considered "enough." Some posters then tried to justify Demos's low dps because of their great buffs, but that isn't the way we actually want the game to work.

All classes should have buffs. All damage specs should do competitive dps, with the exception that the four pure classes should do slightly higher dps. Different versions of the same buff should not feel wildly different with regard to talent expenditure, personal dps loss, up time, duration or scaling. We will continue to work to improve all of those issues. However, in almost all cases, individual skill, gear and group coordination will have a larger effect on your performance than anything we can do to buff your class.

P.S. I feel the need to reinforce that "should not feel wildly different" does not mean "identical." We generally don't like things between classes that are identical."

From the looks of things, ToW has finally caught the attention of GC and the rest of the Development Team. More changes are coming, and this patch looks to be the biggest for Elementals in quite a while...



Saturday, 12 September 2009

Buffs on the Horizon...

If you have been following the latest PTR patch notes (they are posted on MMO Champion) you will have no doubt noticed that there has been major action on the shaman front. Unlike with 3.2, we have been in the spotlight so far and the outlook is mighty good...

Firstly, here are the announced changes released so far for Elemental Shaman:
  • Flame Shock now deals 834 fire damage over 18 sec at max rank (up from 556 fire damage over 12 sec). Lower ranks increased accordingly.
  • Lava Burst no longer consumes Flame Shock.
  • Glyph of Flame Shock: The periodic damage dealt by your Flame Shock can now be critical strikes (Old - Increases the duration of your Flame Shock ability by 6 sec and it is not consumed by casting Lava Burst).
  • Shamanism: Your Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning spells gain an additional 3/6/9/12/15% and your Lava Burst gains an additional 4/8/12/16/20% of your bonus damage effects.

The two changes essentially revolve around the removal of Glyph of Flame Shock, an elemental staple, and the implement of the tier 8 2-set bonus as the 'new' version of the forementioned. The less notable change, only release a couple of days ago, was the addition of an extra 5% to the Spell Power bonus to Lightning spells from Shamanism. These changes are all going to result in a boost to DPS which first and foremost is the most important thing and what you should all be getting excited about.

The additional GCDs that are going to be freed up with not having to refresh our Flame Shocks as often will be small, but valuable. Every 36 seconds we will have an additional GCD up our sleeve and when paired with the 2-set tier 9 (which increases the duration of FS by 9 seconds)we will have an eternity before having to refresh; a massive 27 seconds. Less refreshing = more time doing other stuff, primarily more DPS.

The other key change will be the freeing of what was previously a must-have glyph. Especially at the moment where the majority of regular raiding elementals will be using the 2-set t8; this will make it completely obsolete. Depending on when this patch is made live this will be less of a factor as more of us move to tier 9; but expect to see a lot of people being in this situation of having a redundant glyph. If this is the case, the logical move is to switch to the Glyph of Lava. The majority of us will move to Lightning, Lava and Totem of Wrath Glyphs when this patch is put into effect. This change is convenient as it will prevent the trade off between ToW and Lava that most of us were forecasting when the t9 4-set is obtained.

The final change is far less interesting and looks to be another bit of juice they are providing to us with the additional 5% to our Lightning spells. Unlike before, this now encompasses Chain Lightning which will help out in AoE and trash a bit. Not nearly as dynamic as the other changes, but who is going to complain? A buff is a buff and when we were faced with such a dismal outlook after 3.2, anything seems pretty good at this point.

Actual release date for the patch is still unknown, but it is reportedly confirmed as NOT tomorrow. My estimate is it will be at least 3 weeks, but at the moment it is up in the air and your guess is as good as mine. One thing is for sure though: Expect to be pulling some pretty DPS numbers in the near future, my friends.


Friday, 4 September 2009

Gemming Guide

My first resource that I have posted in a while. This was originally intended to be posted some time ago but I figured I should wait until the release of 3.2, and consequently epic gems, so I wouldn't have to rewrite it to cover the new content.

A good place to start I feel is to give a layman's overview of gemming and jewelcrafting in general. Jewelcrafting was the new profession added with The Burning Crusade expansion (similar to Inscription in Wrath); a new profession that was widely considered the single best profession at the time. Not much has changed in fact: after numerous nerfs (including in 3.2) it is still extremely valuable for the bonuses it gives as well as the fact that it can be extremely lucrative in regards to making money off of it. Gems can be of 3 pure color types (Red, Blue and Yellow) and 3 hybrid color types (Purple, Green and Orange). The pure types offer benefits to a single stat, whereas the hybrids offer lesser benefits from the two color classes they draw from (eg: Orange, a mix of Yellow and Red, will provide a combination of the benefits from both a Red and a Yellow gem). Gems are installed in 'sockets' in gear, which also have a color designation of either Red, Blue and Yellow. Most sockets provide a 'socket bonus', a benefit you will receive for matching the gem and socket colors. For example, inserting a Blue gem in the commonly used [Wyrmrest Necklace of Power] would benefit you with the +5 Spell Power socket bonus, which a Red or Yellow gem would not provide.

I get asked about gemming quite a bit, which is surprising for me. Gemming is a relatively simple process for casters in general and we are no exception. Stacking our most valuable stat, Spell Power, is what the whole gemming process comes down to. For this, the [Runed Cardinal Ruby] is optimal; a Red, purely Spell Power based gem. Most of your gear should be studded with these if you are a serious raiding elemental shaman.

The other key consideration is our Meta socket. These sockets are located in head pieces. All tiers sets now have Meta sockets in their head slots as well as most epic quality level 80 head pieces. For us, the best Meta gem is the [Chaotic Skyflare Diamond] (there is no epic quality meta gems as yet, even going back to TBC-era). People have questioned this, as the [Ember Skyflare Diamond]'s +25 Spell Power would subscribe more to our theory of SP stacking. However, the bonus to Critical Strike damage is far, far more beneficial than the +2% Intellect as we should never be mana-starved and in need of the additional intellect. Additionally, the crit damage is a huge factor as we should be critting upwards of 35% of the time in a raid situation. 3% Increase to 35% (or, in most cases, more) of our damage simply trumps the benefits offered by the Spell Power over the Critical Strike Rating.

The issue with this conclusion is that the Chaotic Skyflare requires 2 Blue gems to 'activate' (i.e.: to provide its benefits). This doesn't support our stacking the Red SP gems, so we unfortunately have to go against our policy and add a couple of Blues in the most optimal fashion we can. The Blue gem you choose to use is fairly open. Luckily, the hybrid color gems that feature Blue traits (i.e.: Green and Purple) also work to activate the Meta so we can at least get some Spell Power benefit from these less optimal gems. The general consensus is to go with SP/Stamina combination gems, [Glowing Dreadstone] would be the best option here. However, I have seen good elementals elect for SP/Spell Penetration ([Mysterious Dreadstone]) or SP/mp5 ([Royal Dreadstone]) also. Basically, as long as it is has Spell Power it is reasonable and we accept that there will be little to no benefit gained from the gem's other stat.

A factor I see many shaman failing to recognize is the placement of the Blue gems. Most accept that these B-grade gems have to be there so they slap them in the first two places they see. If you search for a place where it can be used to also activate a socket bonus (either by itself or teamed with one of our Red gems) it gives at least slightly more benefit then it would otherwise. For example, my two Blue Gems are in my t8.5 [Conqueror's Worldbreaker Headpiece] and my [Lightning Grounded Boots]. This way, I integrate the gems in and can still activate their two socket bonuses giving an additional +16 Spell Power. Being aware of small opportunities such as this do add up in the long run and help you get the absolute most out of your DPS ability. Keep your eyes open for things like this in all facets of your gear orchestration; do not completely ignore socket bonuses.

I hope this has made the topic of gemming a little easier for you all to wrap your head around. Best of luck, and happy hunting.


Tuesday, 1 September 2009


Just a quick reminder: a lot of you have been posting very specific questions on the comments section in posts. If it is general enough I will answer it there, or let some of the experienced readers handle it. However, for more detailed questions I ask that you send them directly to me via email (puutnitdown[at] This allows me to deal with your question more specifically to your personal situation and not have to try and give a broad answer to make it applicable to everyone.

I should note this includes "Can you take a look at my gear/spec/enchants..." questions. I get quite a few of these and I have absolutely no problem taking a look over your armory page, but you need to email because I don't think it is best to critique your character over public-viewable comments.

More posts on the way soon including a guide to gemming, a public discussion post and later down the track a gear guide for the new raids and an analysis of the tier-9 sets.

Creative Commons License
Puut'n It Down: The Elemental Shaman Blog by Puut is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.