The Shaman class

June 13, 2007 at 1:39 pm (Game Design, Shaman, Warcraft)

Having played alliance for most of my time in World of Warcraft, I was really looking forward to trying out a Shaman in Buring Crusade. When I was first leveling up (spring of ’05), they were the bane of my existence. Huge damage from ranged, critical strikes all over the place, and just when I was getting close to finishing one off, they’d heal and I’d be back where I started. I did notice that these times had become less frequent, but then at 60, the overall ganking had gone down quite a bit.

Thus, it was with great enthusiasm, that I started a Shaman

I tried to recruit some friends to level with me as a Shaman, and I ended up with a paladin partner. We got to 15 solo and then quested together up to 23. Blessing of Wisdom became my favorite buff of all time. We had a great time too, but I noticed that the armor I was acquiring wasn’t helping my offensive capabilities much. I always thought of Shaman as an offensive class so that was a bit disconcerting. I ended up just throwing out Lightning Bolts, usually 1-2 per fight before the pali finished it off, and healing when the pali agroed more than he could handle solo. I rarely dropped totems because every fight was in a different location.

At 25 my partner’s schedule changed, and we could no longer play together. What a difference. Leather armor means I take lots of damage each fight, and I lose tons of mana. Just two lightning bolts, a shock, and a lightning shield each fight and I’ve lost 1/3 of my mana and close to 40% of my hp fighting one mob of equal level. If I get an add at any time during a fight, I basically have to run, but that usually isn’t possible because it takes longer to get out of range than it does for 2 mobs to kill me (thank you daze!)

Here’s my list of solo/leveling shaman issues:

  • HEALING: I had been healing between fights to try to keep up my DPS, but obviously that wasn’t working. A friend suggested I start to heal myself whenever my HP got below 80%. Unfortunately, with a single mob on me a flash heal only put me at 85% with a flash heal and 75% with a healing wave due to interruptions. With the flash heal I wasn’t even able to get a hit in before the mob again had me below 80%. Having 2 mobs on had the same result if the stoneclaw totem was able to agro the mob, but was much, much worse if I had accidentally done any damage to the add.

Note that of the 4 healing classes, 2 can bubble heal, and 2 have instant cast heals. I’m not saying Shaman need a bubble or an instant cast heal, but it does point out that healers need the ability to heal while under attack.

Quick fix? Have stoneclaw do an actual AoE taunt instead of a gain X threat This still leaves PvP vulnerable, but I’m ok with that. The 2 seconds it takes for the mobs to kill it are 2 sec they’re not interrupting my healing wave.
Better fix: Give all shaman the ability to thunder stomp (a la Tauren’s War Stomp), a 2 second stun with a 5 minute cooldown. It fits with control of the elements lore-wise, and at least gives a chance to get a heal started before the interruptions resume.

  • TOTEMS: As totems seemed to be the defining class ability I was really unimpressed with them. They are a buff that can be removed by any mob, a spell that any hit will cancel. With these vulnerabilities, I expected some good benefits while solo, and great ones in a group. There are really 4 components to totems: ability, mana, radius, and duration, and these seem very out of balance for what is useful.

For example (and continuing my healing issues), Healing Stream Totem heals for a total of 360 over 120 seconds for 65 mana vs Druid’s rejuvenation at this level which heals 180 damage over 12 seconds for 105 mana.

HST uses 2/3 the mana, 2x the effect solo (upto 10x the effect in a group), 10x the duration (whether in group or not), can be canceled by any enemy, and has no effect for anyone more than 20 yards away from where it was cast. Overall we can see how the 2 spells are balanced against each other, and I would have to say that overall they are in balance. Here the problem is duration. Who the heck needs a 2 minute heal? It makes this totem rubbish. The only place this balance actually occurs is in a boss encounter during a raid.

If this could be balanced to a 30s heal or even a 60s heal it may actually be worth dropping. Something like 65 mana, for totem that heals 10 damage every 2 seconds on up to 3 party members targets. This does less total healing for a single target, but in a shorter amount of time. In a 5 man group it loses nothing by the 3 target limit, because most likely 2 people are out of range, but this limit keeps it from being overpowered in a raid situation where 5 people could be in range.

Quick fix? Add 75% effect, half duration, limit to 3 party members, Shaman + 2 random in range, (or chosen via the same method as hunter’s misdirection as group forms). I also realize this would cause OOM even faster, I think that’s ok. I’d rather be given the choice of ‘should I drop this totem and lose the mana or not?’ than be left with ‘why bother, it won’t make any difference.’

Better fix: There needs to be a major review of totems in terms of their usefulness in all aspects of the game not just balanced for raiding.

  • MANA/THREAT: You may say Huh? Obviously, I have no experience raiding as a shaman, but my mana/downtime solution might help. Shaman burn through mana like nothing. I’m ok with that except that it leads to a lot of un-fun downtime. Here’s my solution: Chug
  1. A level 1 shaman spell (each rank coincides with ability to use the next level of vendor drink.)
  2. One minute cooldown
  3. Reagent: Refreshing Spring Water
  4. Channeled
  5. Restores 100 mana over 10 seconds
  6. Can be used in combat and does not remove from combat
  7. Does not produce any threat

Basically its like a bandage, only for mana. It gives 2/3 the total mana you would gain for about 1/2 the downtime. For solo you spend less down time, for raiders it regens your mana during fights. Threat will be lower just because on average 1/6 of the time the shaman are not casting. Have a chain of crits? Don’t just stop casting… Drink!



  1. Ty said,

    This seems like it was written about someone who only brought a shaman to level 20. At 70 I rarely ever oom as an elemental raid shaman, and my fellow raiders in the other 2 specs are the same way. Shaman mana usage is fine, there is plenty of mp5 on our t4/t5~ gear and with clearclasting I can pump out 10,000 damage with barely taking a hit on my mana pool (~10,000 mana).

    If I may make a suggestion regarding levelling a shaman: level as enhancement. The gear is more readily available in the form of “hunter gear”, there is no need to keep mobs ranged, and the kills aren’t taxing on your mana. Use windfury on your weapon and only use totems when needed (elite mobs, packs of enemies, etc.) Killing one naga of your level barely constitutes the need of 4 totems, but if you have to kill 8 of them you might as well make use of your totems.

  2. Znodis said,

    I think I was 26 at the time of this post. I went over to wowhead to look up gear, and was stunned by the incredible lack of leather casting gear. There’s absolutely none. I hadn’t wanted to level a melee class, I like the back row better, so yes that’s a great part of my post.

    I did a respec when they nerfed “elemental focus” from a 100% cast to a 60%. I just couldn’t justify it. I put 11 in enhancement for more survivability. I went with the mana upgrade, ghost wolf (for getaways) and imp lightning shields. Since I was already 10 deep I figured I’d grab the 2H axes/maces. I also grabbed a Burning War Axe ( ) from the AH cheap.

    That made a huge difference.

    The points above still hold though. Imagine if it cost druids 50% of their mana to shift forms; they’d never do it. They’d be missing the defining characteristic of the class. That’s how I feel about totems.

    Outside a group, they are worthless. I’d really like if they scaled with the number of people that were being affected by them. So a totem could say “Restores 100 health per tick” and if 5 party members were in range they’d each get 20. One went out of range, they’d each get 25. If solo, the shaman would get it all.

    I’ll post more about his later, but holy cow is windfury amazing. My new plan is to do the suicide build with at least 18/31/0 and find a place for the remaining points.

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