I haven’t played my Shaman much since tons of gankers started showing up in Duskwallow, but Pike’s post about leveling alts got me thinking about my experiences with him again. When I first started, my plan was to go straight down the elemental tree. Everyone leveled enhancement, and I like to choose the road less traveled. It was really frustrating. I had to compromise stamina for int, weapon DPS for a shield, and I still ended up doing most of my damage by meleeing. The compromises meant survivability was really bad. Having and add or even just a chain pull, meant death.
At level 25 I gave up.
The next patch (2.2?) showed some signs of improvement though, and I gave it another shot. Didn’t help me near enough to make it fun. I switched over to enhancement rather than throw in the towel since during the downtime, I had managed to pick up a Burning War Axe for cheap on the AH. I struggled up to level 28, and replaced my Smite’s Mighty Hammer. Suddenly, I was a killing machine. Add in Windfury 2 levels later, and suddenly I was enjoying myself.
But that got me thinking. The trees are more or less balanced at 70, why would one build be so much more superior to another? Answer: gear. By buying a single piece of equipment, I increased my white DPS by 8. Of course that doesn’t include the huge impact 8DPS make on windfury. That’s with melee, but what kind of increase could I see at those same levels as a caster? At level 20, the best I could find was +10 spell damage Medicine Staff, and at 30, it’s around +20. Those are both for single schools of magic by the way, so better be lucky on the AH to see them. The 10 extra spell damage actually translates into +8.5 damage because of spell coefficients. With a 2.5s cast time, that’s +3.4 DPS if I constantly spam Lightning Bolt, and never get interrupted. Keep in mind, that’s the best you can do… and those conditions are obviously unreasonable.
The majority of caster gear focuses on int, spirit, and stamina, and I had a hard time finding any of those stats in leather. The extra crit from int is nice, but it’s unreliable and without a decent amount of damage to increase, it’s more for saving downtime or long fights. This goes doubly for spirit and stamina. The glass cannon becomes a plexiglass slingshot, while the tank becomes a juggernaut of death.
So in summary, if you have a choice, you’ll find it much easier to level a physical DPS class than a magic based one. It’s easier to boost physical DPS which in turn makes kills and exp gains faster.
Now, I don’t like pointing a problem without a solution. My thoughts are that 50% of listed DPS should go towards spell damage. At low levels, a 20 DPS weapon automatically granting 10 spell damage is not overpowered. The best weapons in the game only have around 130DPS and 65 spell damage still isn’t unreasonable. A little caster love would go a long way.