Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Art of the Cooldown - How to Solo Elites as an Enhancement Shaman

As an enhancement shaman you have many things to perfect in order to perform well in a raiding environment: execute your priority rotation correctly, know the mechanics of a fight, interrupt if needed, hero/lust on time assuming you don't have a mage popping Time Warp, and pray that the spec gets a buff so our potential damage output can somewhat rival that of other DPS classes. In a PvP environment...wait, enhancers can PvP? I kid, I kid. In PvP we do our best to slow people down, turn people into toads, and Windfury crit people's faces into oblivion, assuming we can catch them. What about in the soloing PvE environment though? That my friends is what I'd like to dig into today.

Earlier I logged onto my shaman in order to get her disappointment of the day out of the way, aka Ahune. While I was waiting for my 25+ minute queue to pop I received a whisper from a fellow enhancer. I've spoken with him a few times about our spec since he's a bit of a noob about it (we were all in his shoes at one point; how I wish I had asked someone questions back then!). How he stumbled upon me on our server is beyond me, but it's always fun to help him out. Anyways, today he messaged me and asked "Can you solo the TANK in Tol Barad?" "You mean the shark? Yeah." He then proceeds to ask me what sort of gear I was running with, and I told him my iLevel and stated that it really isn't much, and I've been soloing Tank just fine in less as enhancement (he's much harder for me to solo on my feral kitty...I blame lack of being able to self heal and retaining the ability to DPS efficiently at the same time). So I broke it down for him what I do to solo Tank, which is how I also solo Trouble, and more or less how I soloed Chillmaw back in the days of Wrath.

Even as a severe lagger I'm able to pull of quite a few nifty soloing stunts as enhancement. My biggest secret? Knowing my cooldowns. What separates a great player from the pack of good players out there is the knowledge of which buttons to hit when. This isn't to say that I'm any sort of master shaman, because quite frankly I'm not. I am however functional and quite able to solo elites all by my lonesome. What little nuggets of know-how I have I would like to pass on to you, dear reader. How I do things may not be the way to do them, but they get the job done. And getting the job done is what matters, right? Right.

Let's talk spec: I run with the more or less standard PvE enhancement spec. There's no gimmicks here, no talents into Toughness, fairly cut and dry. As far as my glyphs go, they are what they are because those are what I feel benefit me the most often. You could in theory pop in Glyph of Stoneclaw Totem for soloing elites, but I don't personally use Stoneclaw in PvE. If you prefer to be a bit more defensive than offensive, replace Glyph of Ghost Wolf with Glyph of Stoneclaw Totem. I personally don't suggest using Stoneclaw, but to each their own.

Totems: I prefer to use the method of "kill things before they kill me" so I do not use Stoneclaw unless I'm PvPing as restoration. Strength of Earth, Healing Stream, Searing, Windfury, profit. The fire elemental is no longer all that great in burst situations, unless you're in an AoE bind and decide to plow through them instead of cc'ing your way out, and your rock dude no longer does so well with his taunts against bosses/elites, so don't bother with your elementals. Play to the totemic strength of the spec.

Weapon imbues: Windfury Main/Flametongue Off

Rotation: My priority on this one may be a bit funky to you. Go with what you're most comfortable with always, but this is how I do things.
- Range pull using Unleash Elements
- Flame Shock
- Drop totems
- Pop Synapse Springs (I'm an engineer, I use what I can to my advantage) and Spirit Wolves
- Hit Twin Howl (On your pet bar, your wolves will taunt and tank for a bit)
- By this point the elite is in range, Heroism/Bloodlust and then Stormstrike
- Once Searing Flames are at 5, Lava Lash (Usually by the time the elite gets to me he already has 2 SF on him, no point in wasting a LL cd for 2 stacks)
- Earth Shock

At this point you probably have 5 Maelstorm procs up. You have two choices: use Lightning Bolt as usual, or save the procs for a Greater Healing Wave. You may ask why. Simple answer? Elites friggen hurt, and enhance doesn't stack haste. If you burn your Maelstorm procs on Lightning Bolts when you need a quick heal, you may find yourself SoL and looking at the dirt. Now, the reason I give this choice is because while your wolves are up, they will heal you. Even if they're not the ones tanking, generally their healing kick back to you will be enough to keep you alive more or less without you healing yourself. If your wolves are out and tanking, Lightning Bolt. If they're not tanking, play it by ear. If they're about to run out on the timer or die, sit on the procs until you need a heal.

- Continue with your regularly scheduled rotation. Metaphorical or real, balls to the walls folks. Do your damage.

Once your wolves die you need to go into defensive mode pronto. Use Shamanistic Rage. Any racial benefits that you have, use them. Draenei's Gift of the Naaru is great for extra healing, if you're a Dwarf Stoneform is pro for reducing even more damage, a Troll's Berserking can help things die a bit faster, a Goblins Rocket Barrage = moar damage, Blood Fury if you're an Orc for last minute burst, and Tauren...I'm not sure if War Stomp works on elites, but if it does, towards the end of the fight may be a good time to use it. All Maelstorm procs should be used for Greater Healing Waves (sadly our healing is pretty weak, but we're dust without them). I personally don't tend to carry health potions on me, but if you feel you need one, use it.

Professions: If you have any profession advantages, use them. I'm an engineer/alchemist, so I use my Synapse Springs and always have my Flask of Enhancement topped off. If you pick flowers, Lifeblood is another nice little heal towards the end. Whatever you have in your arsenal, no matter what it is, use it!

Gear: Honestly, if you're doing things right you should be able to solo the Cataclysm elites just fine with a mix of iLevel 333 gear and above. If you've gemmed and enchanted properly, you're not half specced into the restoration tree, and you pop your available cool downs at the right times, soloing the group quest elites of Tol Barad *should* be a semi hectic walk in the park that only gets easier with the more gear you obtain. As I told the enhance fellow from my realm, I don't run with gear that's all that great (I haven't raided at all this expansion and I've been super lazy about getting all the new tier through heroics) and I still manage just fine. Typically if I'm soloing Tank or Trouble in Tol Barad I end up getting help towards the end anyways, unless I'm doing dailies at 4am, so generally you shouldn't fret too much if you can't down them by your lonesome. If you wait a few minutes, someone will more than likely come along to kill the bugger as well, regardless of faction (it doesn't matter who tags the elite mobs, if you help kill it you get credit).

Bottom line for ANYONE soloing anything: Research your class/spec. Figure out the best spec/gemming scheme/enchants for your play style. Find out which priority rotation feels right and does the most numbers for you. Learn the available cooldowns for your class/spec/race/profession. I'm not saying that you must theorycraft until you're blue in the face and do nothing but research your spec for the next five months, but take 30 minutes to track down the proper information and cross reference it by looking at both the top shamans and the other shamans around you. Tinker. Go spend some time on a training dummy whacking away until you get things exactly how you want them. Spending an hour or two after each major patch change (we get one of those what, once every seven months? with a few minor adjustments here and there) to readjust to the new feel of your damage output. Go run a few dungeons to help push yourself to perform on a higher level. Hop into a random battle ground to help you learn how to manage your cooldowns. Also, learn to never turn your back on a big dude with a hammer or an angry animal with large teeth! Your buns will never live to tell the tale.

World of Warcraft is an immersive game; any character you play seriously is a sort of extension of yourself. Put a little polish time into him/her, and you'll be killing those elites in no time!

Step 1: Learn Character
Step 2: Accept Daily Quest
Step 3: ...
Step 4: PROFIT (Quite literally!)

Now go forth my little readers, go forth and immerse yourselves. Go forth and melt some faces!

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