Switching Mains in Shadowlands – Shaman Class Changes

Shamans have suffered through World of Warcraft’s seventh expansion Battle for Azeroth, with all three specializations experiencing hardships at one point or another. Blizzard developers have been criticized left and right for not understanding players’ grievances, but the Shadowlands alpha testing has revealed some pretty promising changes.


What’s a Shaman?

Shamans are spiritual casters, entrenched in the tribal lore of the different races that now inhabit Azeroth. They have an affinity with the spirits, and a command of the elements which they call upon to obliterate their enemies and heal the sick. Three specializations reflect the different aspects of Shamanism – Enhancement, Elemental, and Restoration.

Enhancement is a melee/spell-casting hybrid capable of assaulting enemies with a flurry of blows with their dual-wielded weapons, and also capable of supplementing their combat with offensive and defensive spells. Elemental shamans are ranged spellcasters, asking the elements to lend their aid as they toss magma, lightning bolts, and huge swathes of ice at anyone in their way. Restoration is a specialization which focuses on recovery, utilizing Neptulon’s gift of water to wash away those pesky stab wounds and life-threatening conditions.

200
Be healed!

Enhancement

What Looks Good?

  • Maelstrom is gone! Enhancement no longer has a builder/spender gameplay style which has proved so difficult for Blizzard to balance, and is instead onto streamlining your rotation with priority attacks and support.
  • Windfury Weapon and Flametongue Weapon are now enchantments for your weapons which allow for multiple auto-attack procs and additional fire damage respectively. No more finicky keys to press mid-fight!
  • The Maelstrom Weapon mechanic makes a welcome return, allowing players to gain a stack every time their weapon hits a target, with each stack reducing the cooldown of your next spell by 20%. At five stacks, your next cast is instant.
  • Vesper Totem is your covenant ability for the Kyrian. Once placed, you can cast 3 damaging spells to make the totem pulse arcane damage around it, and 3 healing spells in order to make it pulse healing to some allies. The totem can be moved within that 30 seconds, and both functions of the totem are not exclusive – you can use the healing and damaging function of the totem without it despawning.
  • The Overcharge talent has been reworked, and now gains the Shaman 5 stacks of Maelstrom Weapon instantly, and a further stack every second for 10 seconds.
  • Stormkeeper (of Elemental artifact fame) replaces Fury of Air in the tier 6 talent row, allowing your next 2 Lightning Bolt or Chain Lightning casts to be instant and deal 150% increased damage.

What Looks Alright?

  • Searing Totem is back as a mini-cooldown which fires little fire bolts at enemies.
  • The talent Searing Assault has been reworked. It now strikes the target with some fire damage from your offhand weapon, increases the speed at which your Searing Totem fires by 100%, and also makes your Flame Shocks tick quite a bit faster.
  • Hot Hand has also been reworked, and your auto-attacks with Flametongue Weapon active now have a 5% chance to reduce the cooldown of your Lava Lash ability by 75% and increase the damage it deals by 100% for 8 seconds.
  • Hailstorm no longer adds frost damage to your auto-attacks, and instead has your Stormstrike ability reset the cooldown on your shock spells.
  • Forceful Winds now causes your successive Windfury attacks within 15 seconds to deal an additional 50% damage (down from 80% on live), but with the ability to stack up to 5 times.

What Looks Concerning?

  • Right now, Windfury Totem is broken on the alpha test servers. That makes me sad, but should be addressed in a hotfix in the upcoming changes. It would usually give party members within 12 yards a 10% chance to have their auto-attacks swing an extra time.

What’s the Verdict?

Oh I’m excited about this one. Enhancement is gaining back its specialization identity as a support character which enhances other party members with totems. The hybrid battlemage fantasy is alive and strong with the return of Maelstrom Weapon and the glowy Windfury and Flametongue weapon enchantments. When caught in a bind, Enhancement Shamans should be able to add some off-healing into the mix with Chain Heal being baseline in Shadowlands, as well as solid looking single-target and area-of-effect damage potential from Stormkeeper-empowered lightning deluges.

thorthunder
What are you the god of again?

The only possible criticism I could have is that Blizzard don’t seem keen to bring back two-handed Enhancement, and I honestly can’t blame them. The overhaul is exactly what I wanted. Five stars out of five – the bulls-eye Blizzard should be aiming for.

★★★★


Elemental

What Looks Good?

  • Maelstrom is gone!
  • The Fulmination mechanic returns, allowing your Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, and their relevant overloads to have a 50% chance to add a stack of Fulmination. Earth Shock and Elemental Blast will consume these stacks to deal extra damage per stack.
  • Each Chain Lightning cast which hits more than a single target will reduce the cast time of Earthquake by 20% with Seismic Thunder, stacking up to 5 times. This gives Elemental its own form of Maelstrom Weapon for a very important AoE spell.
  • Echoing Shock is a new talent replacing Call of Thunder on the second tier talent row, shocking the target for elemental damage and causing your next damage or healing spell to be cast a second later for free.

What Looks Alright?

  • Your Fire Elemental will now give your Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning a 100% chance to generate a stack of Fulmination for its duration.
  • Aftershock has been reworked to reflect the loss of Maelstrom, and now gives Earth Shock and Elemental Blast a 25% chance not consume any stacks of Fulmination, and also gives Earthquake a 25% chance not to consume Seismic Thunder.

What Looks Concerning?

  • Nuthin’ negative to report.

What’s the Verdict?

Elemental has had a renaissance in the latter patches of Battle for Azeroth, and has been a consistently good class for both single and multiple targets, resting in that nice spot that lets them cleave with Chain Lightning to gain more Maelstrom to dump on Earth Shocks. The removal of Maelstrom will be interesting, but the Fulmination mechanic and the interactivity it has with the Fire Elemental, as well as with talents, means there’s a lot of potential for big on-demand burst.

ThreadbareSoftBettong-size_restricted
Elemental Shamans in patch 9.0, colorised.

Personally, I think the changes bring a great quality of life to Elemental, having their spells interact with each other nicely but without over-complicating the matter. Should remain solid in Shadowlands. Four stars out of five.

★★


Restoration

What Looks Good?

  • Mana Tide Totem is back on the menu, granting 100% increased mana regeneration for 8 seconds to any party or raid members within 15 yards.
  • Water Shield returns, giving some passive mana regeneration and a 2% chunk of it if you are hit by an attack. Also looks cool.
  • The main healing spells like Healing Wave, Healing Surge, Chain Heal, Healing Rain, and Riptide are getting a throughput buff, meaning they will heal for a bit more at the cost of a bit more mana.
  • Ascendance now erupts with a huge chunk of healing distributed to all allies within 20 yards when cast, meaning you no longer feel like you lose a global cooldown when you enter your ascended bonus-healing form.
  • Vesper Totem is your covenant ability for the Kyrian. Once placed, you can cast 3 damaging spells to make the totem pulse arcane damage around it, and 3 healing spells in order to make it pulse healing to some allies. The totem can be moved within that 30 seconds, and both functions of the totem are not exclusive – you can use the healing and damaging function of the totem without it despawning.
  • Earth Shield is going baseline for Restoration Shamans, and in its place in the second talent row is a new talent called Surge of Earth, consuming up to 3 charges of your Earth Shield to heal up to 6 party/raid members near the Earth Shield target.

What Looks Alright?

  • Not a lot has changed with the specialization itself, mainly just some extra baseline abilities and fine-tuning of already-implemented talents and abilities.

What Looks Concerning?

  • Nuthin’ negative to report.

what’s the verdict?

Restoration looks to be keeping its identity as a catch-all healer – if you’ve got a problem, there’s a good chance that a Restoration Shaman has an answer for it. Restoration has been pretty great at raid healing for quite a while now, and Mana Tide Totem will be a welcome sight for any raid healers in the group. Beyond that, I don’t see anything stand-out for Restoration going into Mythic+ unless a specific covenant ability gives them something worthwhile.

spray-face
There you go, now get back in the fight!

Pretty similar to the Battle for Azeroth iteration so far, with some nice bonuses to keep things fresh. Four stars out of five.

★★★


Conclusion

Enhancement takes the cake with the most changes, all of them looking interesting and hearkening back to a time when homogenization wasn’t at the pinnacle of class design in World of Warcraft. I think that’s great, and I hope the mass un-pruning of classes yields similar results for other specializations.

Elemental and Restoration also look good, but it’s harder to be as excited since (apart from the removal of Maelstrom) they look rather similar to the way they look on live. That said, they look fun and retain that same toolkit which makes the Shaman class so versatile.

Author: graemefinch

Teacher, avid Warcrafter, gifted Dungeons and Dragons character creator. Passionate about all things high fantasy and RPG.

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