Monday, January 23, 2012

Enhanced Leveling: Beginner to Level 10 (Cataclysm)

A lot has changed with leveling since I first stepped forth in Azeroth as a shaman. Talent trees have changed drastically, gone are the days of multiple spell ranks (running into a healer in the ICC 5 mans using a rank 1 healing spell without realizing it was always a great time), no more totem quests, and of course the whole process is much quicker than it was once upon a time. Without heirloom items and/or the guild leveling perk the process can still feel a bit slow, but the process is still leagues quicker than it used to be.

So what do you need to know while you're leveling up as an enhancement shaman? What talents should you use? What gear do you need to be on the look out for? What in the name of Elune is a totem? I shall try to answer these questions and more within this leveling series. I apologize in advance if I don't cover the levels you need help with right away, for I'm working on this guide as I level up my new shaman alt, Sazza (Nesingwary, Alliance - A big thank you to the guild FuBaR for adopting me!).

Rolling A Shaman:  Hurray, you've chosen to roll a shaman! It matters not which faction you choose, for you're already kick-ass for picking this class. Both factions have a few options as far as race is concerned, with each race having its own perks. If you're leveling a shaman just for kicks, it really doesn't matter which race you choose. If you're leveling a shaman with the intention of hardcore raiding at some point, chances are you're already aware of which racials are the best. At the end of the day which race you choose is completely up to you, but you should still be aware of the racials that you're gaining with the race of your choice, and use those special abilities to your advantage. Here's the list:

Draenei:Gift of the Naaru and Heroic Presence are the big ones. Gift is a nice heal over time spell (instant cast, super handy for us enhancement types) and Heroic Presence gives us a free 1% hit, which is incredibly handy to have no matter what level you're at.
Dwarf: Stoneform and Mace Specialization are two solid reasons to roll as a Dwarf. Stoneform will not only allow you to reduce your damage taken, but will remove certain damaging effects from you that you'd normally have to suffer/heal through. Having a free 3 expertise from using maces can also come in handy, so long as you can actually find maces to use. It's not uncommon for shamans to use fist weapons and axes, depending on the availability of weapons, so you may not always be able to use the Mace Specialization to your advantage.

Goblin: Goblins have a fairly large arsenal of useful racials, but the three that would be most handy for leveling (and potentially raiding) are Time is Money, Rocket Jump, and Rocket Barrage. Time is Money acts like a nice little haste buff, helping you to kill things quicker; use it in tight situations where you fear you may die (to kill the enemies quicker or to heal yourself faster) or on mobs with more health, such as elites and bosses. Rocket Jump is a great mobility tool, allowing you to get away from dangerous situations quickly, though if you have a priest or mage or plan on using a parachute anytime soon, best wait to use this ability since it will put those slowing effects on cooldown. Rocket Barrage is another spell for you to blast your foes with. Can be used as another ranged spell, no matter which direction you're facing!
Orc: Blood Fury, Axe Specialization, and Hardiness all make for one sexy green shaman. Use Blood Fury to kill things faster. Axe Specialization can come in handy to help you meet expertise caps at max level, though it has some restricted niches much like the Dwarven racial Mace Specialization, due to shamans not always getting to choose to use Axes. Hardiness doesn't have too many applicable uses in a Player vs Environment (PvE) setting, but can come in handy if you ever choose to PvP (Player vs Player).
Tauren: War Stomp is the only active ability for Tauren shaman, and can be quite useful in PvP scenarios since we do not have any sort of stun as enhancement, save for one that we get with our Spirit Wolves at higher levels.
Troll: Berserking is the main on-use talent for the trolls. This spell acts like a personal haste buff. While it's not necessarily the *best* buff currently for enhancement shaman, it can be handy when it comes to self heals and if you offspec as either restoration or elemental. Plus, trolls are just sexy as hell.

There are of course several other racials that come with each race that I have not listed here that can be quite handy to know about/have. If you wish to see those and to learn more about these races, please visit the links provided.

Stats: Agility/Stamina/Hit/Strength - At such a low level these stats will be hard to come by, unless you're lucky enough to have heirloom items. If you can get your hands on leather items/weapons with Agility on them, either through questing or from the Auction House for cheap, do it! A note about Strength items - items with Strength on them are not ideal, Agility is always better. However, there may be times where you run into items that have Agility and Strength, or even just Strength. As long as the item is a solid upgrade, Strength will be okay in a pinch. Do NOT ever roll need on a Strength item over a Strength user (warriors/paladins and later death knights) in instances though.

Gear: Leather/Mail - All shaman will begin with the same statless leather gear, a mace, and a shield. As we kill mobs and complete quests, we will gain more gear. Always choose leather gear when given the option between that and cloth (exception being a cloak, naturally), and when choosing weapons, stick to anything one-handed if possible (shield upgrades are great until level 10). In the rare event that you come across a green quality item, you want to grab an item that has Agility on it if possible. Leather will continue to be our gear type of choice until we're able to specialize in mail, which comes at level 40.

Heirloom Items: These items are not necessary, but they do help speed up the leveling process by a large margin. They require a high level or max capped (level 85) character to obtain on the same realm as the character you wish to send them to (as of patch 4.3). Here is a list of enhancement specific items; please visit the links given to learn how to obtain them.

Currently Purchasable
Helm: Tarnished Raging Berserker's Helm
Shoulders: Prized Beastmaster's Mantle (PvP) / Champion Herod's Shoulder (PvE)
Cloak: Inherited Cape of the Black Baron
Chest: Champion's Deathdealer Breastplate
Weapon(s): Venerable Mass of McGowan (preferably x2 if possible)
Trinket(s): Swift Hand of Justice (x2) - Not the best trinket choices of the lot, but are still rather handy to have.
Ring: Dread Pirate Ring

Items Not Yet in Game
Pants: Tarnished Leggings of Destruction
Ring: Ornate Band of Accuria

Note: All mail items will turn into leather items when you equip them onto your new shaman. They will turn back into mail items once your character has hit level 40 and has trained his or her ability to wear mail.

Spells: Every shaman, no matter which tree he or she wishes to specialize in, begins at the same place. We all start with a shield in hand and only one spell: Lightning Bolt. For the first several levels we get to play the elemental caster, until we learn Primal Strike. Even after we learn our first melee specific spell though, we continue to more or less play an elemental shaman until level 10. At some point during the race to level 10 we also pick up Earth Shock, our first totem Strength of Earth, Healing Wave, and Lightning Shield. Get very familiar with what each of these spells do, for most of these spells an enhancement shaman will use all the way up to their level cap. Spells gained at level 10 that I will talk about in the next guide: Flametongue Weapon and Searing Totem.

Tip: Read all of the tool tips for your spells. Knowing that Earth Shock can help reduce a mob's melee and ranged attack speed (which translates into less damage) on you is handy, as well as knowing which totem gives you which buff! 

Totems: Until level 10 we only have one totem, Strength of Earth. Up until this point I have not had much use for it since mobs die so quickly as it is. Since at level 10 I do not yet have Totemic Recall, using this totem could potentially be a hazard in an area with patrolling, hostile mobs, as they will attack it if they walk near it. Unless you pull more than one mob at once, or are having difficulty defeating a certain mob, don't bother with totems for now.

Rotation: Later on in your enhanced experience you will learn about our priority rotation system. For now, however, you have it quite easy. Your rotation at such a low level doesn't matter a great deal, so long as you're hitting mobs quicker and harder than they are hitting you. Spells help in this endeavor. As I've already stated, as a baby enhancement shaman you will feel more like a caster until about level 10 or so. So what does our "caster rotation" look like prior to level 10? Vaguely something like this (starting at range to help prevent some damage to yourself):

Lightning Bolt (x2), Earth Shock, (mobs are usually in range by this time) Primal Strike, Lightning Bolt, Earth Shock (should be dead by now)

You can use Earth Shock and Primal Strike on CD and choose to white swing at the mobs instead of filling the "down time" by spamming Lightning Bolt, but I found Lightning Bolt to kill things a bit quicker. Keep Lightning Shield up, for every time a mob hits you, they hurt themselves!

Tip: Pay attention to your racials (Berserking, Blood Fury, etc) and any perks you may get from the professions that you choose (trinkets, etc), and weave them into your "rotation."  Save any survivability cooldowns (Gift of the Naaru, Lifeblood, Stoneform etc) for when you feel you need them. Being aware of what tools you have will make leveling (and not dieing) much easier.

Talents: This isn't something you really need to worry about until you get our first specialty point at level 10. When you do finally hit level 10 in a bright flash of light and achievement, hit the letter N. See that nifty new thing that popped up that gives you the Elemental / Enhancement / Restoration trees? Click "Enhancement". Congrats! You are now officially on your way to be an enhancement shaman. With being enhancement you will gain the following abilities (scroll over each item listed to see the tool tip):

You will also gain the ability: Lava Lash. This spell is one of our core abilities at 85, so it's very important that you're aware of Lava Lash now. I will go over the usage of this ability more in the next guide.

Another great thing about hitting level 10 is getting your first talent point to spend! Where should you put it? Well, you only have three choices at first. I personally chose to put a point into Focused Strikes, since Primal Strike is fairly week at first, and the other two choices aren't overly strong. Improved Shields could be an okay choice, though Lightning Shield is easy to forget about at a low level, and the effectiveness of Elemental Weapons won't be as noticeable of a damage increase until later levels.

Glyphs: You don't need to worry about glyphs at this level. I will explain these little beasts when the time comes!

Professions: I will only cover this topic twice, now and at level cap (for raiding specifics). As always, professions are a matter of preference. Some professions are better than others for end game, some gathering professions offer better passive buffs for a shaman, learning any of them is a complete matter of choice. Most crafting professions don't matter much these days because of how quickly we level, but in the event that you try to keep your professions at level with your current level I shall mention the topic.

For my leveling project on Sazza I chose to go with Herbalism and Skinning. I am starting on a server where I have no high level alts to fund her, so I figured with double gathering professions I would be able to sell off my wares and be able to buy whatever I needed. I also picked up fishing and cooking for in the event that I feel the need for some more gold making flexibility. If your shaman is well funded though and the choice that you make doesn't really matter to you financially, here is a list what is available. When choosing a profession based on the stat perks it gives, remember that Agility > all, Critical Strike is okay, and Haste isn't terribly great but can be useful while leveling to get those self healing spells out quicker.

Alchemy - Make healing and + stat potions. Gives you the ability to craft trinkets at higher levels, including a 359 epic trinket at level 85. Best paired with Herbalism for leveling if you do not already have an herbalist or a large sum of gold.
Blacksmithing - Craft weapons, some mail gear (may or may not be useful for shaman, depending on the levels and stats involved), and yourself two extra gem sockets (wrist and gloves) at higher levels. Best paired with Mining for leveling if you do not have a miner already or a large sum of gold.
Enchanting - Allows you to put extra stats onto your gear. At higher levels will also allow you to add extra stats to your rings. Best paired with any other crafting profession, as long as you have a gatherer to feed the other crafting profession. I find tailoring to be the easiest to pair with Enchanting.
Engineering - A fun and weird profession (one of my personal favorites). Allows you to make situational items (such as bombs and pets), trinkets, and often helms. Allows you to craft an epic 359 helm at level 85. Best paired with mining for leveling if you do not already have a miner or a large sum of gold.
Inscription - Allows you to craft your own glyphs and will gives you shoulder enchant options at higher levels. Sadly learning most glyphs is heavily reliant on an RNG (random number generator) research system. Can potentially make a good sum of gold for those of you savvy with the Auction House. Best paired with Herbalism if you do not already have an herbalist or a large sum of gold.
Jewelcrafting - With this profession you will be able to make some trinkets, along with gaining the ability to cut your own gems. At higher level this profession will allow you to cut higher quality, jewelcrafter only gems. A pretty decent way to make gold, especially if you have a miner. Best paired with mining for leveling if you do not already have a miner, or a large sum of gold.
Leatherworking - You can craft your own gear as you level with this profession. Very handy to have, has a great bracer enchant for you to use at higher levels, plus super cheap leg enchants. Best when paired with Skinning if you do not have another skinner, unless you have a lot of gold to purchase materials with.
Tailoring - This profession allows you to make clothes for classes such as priests and warlocks. Also allows you to make leg enchants for caster-types (restoration, elemental), but in general is not a very useful profession for enhancement shaman. This is a self sufficient profession, provided you collect a lot of cloth or have a large sum of gold to buy cloth from the Auction House with.

Herbalism - Enables you to find and "pick" various plants. Great for gathering materials for Inscription and Alchemy and provides you with Lifeblood, an ability that gives you a heal over time spell and a small haste buff (useful for some situations).
Mining - Provides you with the ability to find and mine nodes. Used for gathering materials for Blacksmithing, Engineering, and Jewelcrafting, thus can be profitable. Gives the passive bonus of Toughness, which isn't necessarily the best passive boost for an enhancement shaman as it doesn't give any increase to our damage output.
Skinning - Allows you to skin most beasts. The skins collected can in turn be used for making gear in Leatherworking and in some other situations used in Engineering, Blacksmithing, ect. Gives the passive stat boost of Critical Strike through Master of Anantomy.

Note: All gathering profession perks scale with your skill level.

Archeology -  You can spend all of your free time digging for long lost artifacts! Digging will give you XP, a chance at rare items (blues, mostly useless but fun items), and a chance at epics (mounts, trinkets, gear, etc). Common and grey quality items can be sold for either small or large amounts of gold, depending on the item. Great time sink, but not terribly great at providing gold or easy epics thanks to the RNG element to this profession.
Cooking - Want to make your own buff food, or a quick bit of gold at max level? Now you can! Grab a cooking fire, some ingredients, and a skillet and get cooking!
First Aid - Allows you to make bandages, which can be used to heal yourself or an ally (is channeled, which can be interrupted by any damage). Not really all that necessary for us shamans, since we're quite capable of healing ourselves and others to a reasonable extent.
Fishing - Grab a pole and catch some fish. Most fish can be cooked into buff foods.

Whew, that's a lot to take in, isn't it? Things get a bit more simplistic once you've chosen your race and (if any) your professions and you familiarize yourself with what tools that they give you. Once you handle that, it's just a matter of remembering which spells do what and making sure that you don't wear spirit based cloth items. Blizzard has done a fairly good job at introducing new shaman to their massive tool kit, but I do realize that it's still a lot to take in and I'll do my best to break everything down as I come to it in depth. Try not to stress out about all this information, most of it will (or should) come naturally to you. Relax and have some fun bonking mobs over the head while electrocuting them!

If you have any questions about this article or enhancement in general, please feel free to either comment here, toss me a message on Twitter, drop a comment on Facebook, or email me.

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