Why Not to Level as a Caster

January 30, 2008 at 12:09 pm (Game Design, Shaman, Warcraft, World of Warcraft)

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.



  1. Pike said,

    I definitely agree it’s harder to level casters than non-casters, in general. But for some reason I rather enjoy the process anyway…

  2. Eberron said,

    Most of the Shaman advice I’ve read suggests Enhancement until at least level 30, which isn’t surprising.

    As for sub-par leather caster gear, this isn’t a new problem for long-time Druid players. I leveled feral for the same reason I level Enhancement: Low downtimes.

    Cloth is the only reliable source of caster gear for low levels.

    It’s not uncommon for me to have run in to dedicated Pally healers who’re wearing a mish-mash of cloth, leather and mail in an attempt to keep their gear as solid as possible.

    Other hybrid casters, like Elemental Shaman and Balance Druids, will likely end up with similar mish-mashes until the higher levels of the game.

  3. Scott said,

    I can’t really comment on elemental spec in the lower levels because I was a completely incompetent shaman player back then – I remember thinking it would be a good idea to take enhancement spec while using a 1h and shield (!). So Samehdi’s earlier career was a generally miserable experience for me (didn’t help that it was also in the old days when the enh tree was pathetic – iirc stormstrike cost much more mana), but I’m glad I stuck with it because once I respecced to elemental around 50 or so things got much better.

    My second shammie has done much better as of level 40 – but she is enhancement spec (using 2h this time – the windfury procs are awesome even if dual might produce overall more dps).

    Otherwise my only “caster” toon is my ice mage. He’s up to lvl 35 but I hardly ever play him anymore – it’s not that he’s ineffective rather he’s just kind of… boring. Dance around burning mana like crazy to kill some mobs, drink, repeat. Meh.

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