Saturday, June 1, 2013

Pandaria Totem Post!

Whether you love them or hate them, totems are an intricate part of the shaman toolkit. Once upon a time they were simple buff sticks, usually tossed onto the ground and promptly forgotten about. In Mists of Pandaria that mindset has been changed greatly. Our raid buffs have since been moved from our totems over to passive auras: Grace of Air and Burning Wrath being granted by all shaman, while Elemental Oath is only granted by Elemental shaman and Unleashed Rage is granted only by Enhancement shaman.

All of the following questions and comments are commonly stated by those who are either just returning or really can't wrap their minds around the new system. I'll admit, when the new system was first introduced I thought it was clumsy and inefficient as well. I flailed around, took forever to memorize which totems did what; it was awful. However, once I acquainted myself with how the system actually worked, I fell in love. Let's go over some commonly asked questions.

Can I drop all four totems at once?
No. All totems, with the exception of Searing Totem, are now considered cooldowns. Each totem requires a GCD (global cooldown) to cast, making it impossible to drop more than one of a particular school at a time. You may have 4 different totems out at once (one of each school), but it will take you 4 GCDs to do so.

What happened to my totem bar?!
Due to how the new system works, the totem bar in the UI was no longer necessary. While it was a space saver, it's function simply no longer worked.

If you're looking for something with a similar feel, TotemTimers can provide that for you. I love this addon not for its potential space-saving capabilities though - I keep all necessary totems on my bars at all times - but for its tracking of both totem duration and remaining cooldown timers.

Can I set up a macro that will allow me to drop more than one totem at a time?
No. Again, every totem in our arsenal has its own GCD, which makes it impossible to drop more than one at a time. You could in theory use alt modifying macros to help save bar space, but you'll need an efficient way to track your totem cooldowns.

So what are totems good for now? 
Plenty of things! Many of our totems have very niche uses now, but several can save your skin if used right. You just need to know how to apply what when.

How do I use totems? 
Very carefully and one at a time. Sarcasm aside, we'll get into the individual uses of each totem momentarily.

This new system is awful!
Not a question, but let's tackle it anyways! The new system is certainly not a style that fits everyone. It's by no means perfect, but it's really not as awful as you may initially think. It's not as condensed as the old system, and to combat that you'll need to get a bit creative with your UI. A terrible inconvenience, I know.

How am I supposed to deal with all of these totems?
Personally I use Bartender. Due to this addon I'm able to keep all of my totems on my bars where they're easily accessible. I arrange things with how they make sense to me, have Searing Totem keybound (you may easily set character-specific keybinds through Bartender), and then track things through TotemTimers so I don't always need to glance down at my buttons to gauge how much longer it'll be until a certain totem is off of cooldown. You'll simply need to play with your own UI until you've found space for everything, which can be a bit tricky if you prefer to run with the standard UI.

Alternatively, you can pull out the totem drop boxes from your spell book, though trying to access a specific totem in a pinch can be rather clumsy.

We could honestly go on all day with totem Q&A. Instead of doing that though, let's dig into the details on which totems we have and how to use them most effectively.

Fire Elemental Totem
Duration: 1 minute, reduced if Glyph of Fire Elemental is used, reduced with Assurance of Consequence
Cooldown: 5 minutes, 3 minutes via Glyph of Fire Elemental
Purpose: For Elemental and Enhancement, this is a major DPS cooldown totem. Big Red will grant Searing Flames for Enhancement, which makes this guy actually viable for us to use as a DPS cooldown.

If you choose the Primal Elementalist talent, your standard Fire Elemental will become a better, more potent version of itself. For Elemental and Enhancement shaman, this means that Big Red will hit harder and will gain a control bar. He will also gain an ability called Empower. If the shaman chooses to use Empower, Big Red will focus on the shaman and increase the own shaman's damage by 5% and healing by 10%. Empower isn't something that should be used by Enhancement or Elemental shamans as it would be a DPS loss to do so, though the increase to healing is rather potent for Restoration shaman, especially when paired with Healing Tide Totem or Ascendance.

Advanced Play: Macros

/cast Fire Elemental Totem
/cast Empower

This macro will take two clicks to properly use, as both casting FET and Empower takes an individual GCD. However, this makes it much easier for Restoration shaman to activate Empower without having to go to the pet's toolbar.

/cast (choose a spell to put here)
/cast [pet:primal fire elemental] Fire Blast

When an Enhancement or Elemental shaman chooses the Primal Elementalist talent, their elementals gain additional, controllable abilities. Since using Super Rocky is considered to be a DPS increase, you'll want to turn off his taunt for all non-soloing situations so that he's not taunting off of the tanks (generally not supposed to happen with at-level bosses, but he will taunt all little adds and get himself killed). Super Rocky's taunt is called Angered Earth, which is located in the same spot as Big Red's Fire Blast. If you toggle Angered Earth off, you also toggle Fire Blast off.

Since Fire Blast is a large part of Big Red's damage, you'll want to macro this ability into a few of your own abilities so that you're not clicking Fire Blast on your pet's bar. Fire Blast is available every 6 seconds. Elemental Shaman may just tie Fire Blast in with their Lightning Bolt and/or Lava Burst, while Enhancement may want to tie this spell into their shocks, Stormstrike, and Lava Lash just to ensure they're using Fire Blast as often as possible.

Patch 5.4 Edit: Neither version of the Earth Elemental should taunt off of someone who has a tank specialization activated. Micro-managing our Earth Elementals *should* be a thing of the past now and there should no longer be a need to macro your Fire Elemental's Fire Blast into your other abilities.

Magma Totem
Duration: 1 minute
Cooldown: None
Purpose: Used in AoE situations where there's 5 or more mobs. Biggest downside about this totem for Enhancement is the fact that Magma Totem does not grant Searing Flames. Great for large trash packs or in large, well grouped add situations on boss fights where your Fire Elemental isn't available.

Searing Totem
Duration: 1 minute
Cooldown: None
Purpose: Main, single target DPS totem. Used whenever Fire Elemental Totem isn't available for Enhancement and Elemental. May also be used by Restoration shaman who can spare the mana to drop it and would like to help deal some minor damage. Grants Searing Flames for Enhancement, which is critical for their damage output.

Advanced Play: Macros
/cast [nopet:Primal Fire Elemental] Searing Totem

If you use the above macro, you should in theory never again accidentally drop a Searing Totem while Big Red is out. Keep in mind, this macro will only work if you're specced into Primal Elementalist.

Earthbind Totem
Duration: 20 seconds
Cooldown: 30 seconds
Purpose: Slows enemies within 10 yards by 50%.

Earthgrab Totem (Talent, replaces Earthbind)
Duration: 20 seconds
Cooldown: 30 seconds
Purpose: Will first attempt to roost an enemy within 10 yards. If the root is successful, it'll hold the enemy for 5 seconds. Once the root is broken, it will slow the enemies by 50%.

Earth Elemental Totem
Duration: 1 minute
Cooldown: 5 minutes, reduced with Assurance of Consequence
Purpose: For soloing, Rocky can be used as an emergency tank in most situations. In at-level raiding situations, he may me used as a DPS cooldown. While no where near as powerful as the Fire Elemental Totem, Earth Elemental Totem is still an increase in damage to use. He will taunt bosses in 5 man dungeons, so beware of using him in those situations.

If you choose the Primal Elementalist talent, your standard Earth Elemental will become a better, more potent version of itself. For Elemental and Enhancement shaman, this means that Rocky will hit harder and will gain a control bar. He will also gain an ability called Reinforce. If the shaman chooses to use Reinforce, Rocky will focus on the shaman and reduce the shaman's damage taken by 20% and increasing their healing output by 10%. Reinforce isn't something that should be used by Enhancement or Elemental shamans for the duration of the totem, as it would be a DPS loss to do so. You could however temporarily use Reinforce to reduce damage taken; simply use a cancelaura macro (listed below) to allow Rocky to continue on swinging at things. The increase to healing though is rather potent for Restoration shaman, especially when paired with Healing Tide Totem or Ascendance.

The Primal Earth Elemental has a taunt that you need to be aware of called Angered Earth. This is an ability that you may toggle off so that Rocky won't taunt, making him viable to use as a damage cooldown in PvE situations. However, if you toggle off Angered Earth for Rocky, this will also toggle off Big Red's (Primal Fire Elemental) ability Fire Blast. See the Fire Elemental Section for more on this.

Patch 5.4 Edit: Neither version of the Earth Elemental should taunt off of someone who has a tank specialization activated. Micro-managing our Earth Elementals *should* be a thing of the past now. Just be aware of any suspicious taunting behaviors in dungeons to be on the safe side.

Advanced Play: Macros

/cast Earth Elemental Totem
/cast Reinforce

This macro will take two clicks to properly use, as both casting EET and Reinforce takes an indvidual GCD. However, this makes it much easier for Restoration shaman to activate Reinforce without having to go to the pet's toolbar.

/cancelaura Reinforce

For you DPS types who don't need Reinforce to be channeled on you constantly, this macro will be your friend. You cannot toggle Reinforce off through the pet bar, so without this macro you'd have to click off the buff. Clicking off a buff can often be risky business, especially with procs doing their proccing thing, so play it safe with a cancel aura macro!

Stone Bulwark Totem (Talent)
Duration: 30 seconds
Cooldown: 1 minute
Purpose: Places a nice shield on the casting shaman that will absorb a certain amount of damage. Will refresh itself every 5 seconds until the duration of the totem ends. Great for situations with lower, but consistent damage.

Tremor Totem
Duration: 6 seconds
Cooldown: 1 minute
Purpose: This totem will break fear, charm, or sleep effects from all party members within 30 yards. May be used if dispels are not available, or in lieu of in the rare event that mass cleanse of fear/charm/sleep is needed.

Capacitor Totem
Duration: 6 seconds
Cooldown: 45 seconds
Purpose: Stuns all enemies (assuming they can be affected by stuns) within 8 yards of the totem for 5 seconds. 5 second detonation time, unless Glyph of Capacitor Totem is used, which brings the detonate time down to 3 seconds.

Grounding Totem
Duration: 15 seconds
Cooldown: 25 seconds
Purpose: It will absorb 1 harmful spell that was meant for a nearby party member, and be destroyed in the process. If Glyph of Grounding Totem is used, it will instead reflect the spell back at the caster and will still be destroyed in the process. Using the glyph for this totem will extend its cooldown by 35 seconds.

Stormlash Totem
Duration: 10 seconds
Cooldown: 5 minutes
Purpose: Causes the offensive attacks and spells of the raid to deal additional nature damage; a rather large raid-wide damage cooldown. Multiple Stormlash Totems do NOT stack, so if you have more than one shaman within a raid you'll need to work out a drop rotation to prevent overlapping.

Spirit Link Totem (Resto Only)
Duration: 6 seconds
Cooldown: 3 minutes
Purpose: Redistributes health of all party members with in the totem so that all players end up with the same health percentage. Also reduces damage taken by party members within the totem's radius by 10%.

Windwalk Totem (Talent)
Duration: 6 seconds
Cooldown: 1 minute
Purpose: Grants immunity to movement-impairing effects. Can remove all roots and snares. Has some niche uses in PvE.

Healing Stream Totem
Duration: 15 seconds
Cooldown: 30 seconds
Purpose: Creates passive, single target smart healing. Will always try to heal the player within range who has the lowest health. Should prefer player targets over pet targets. This totem should be used liberally when there's damage taken by all three specializations, though Restoration shaman especially should be using this totem as often as possible.

If Glyph of Health Stream Totem is used, the person who receives a heal from that shaman's HST will receive a 10% reduction in Fire, Frost, and Nature damage for 6 seconds. Can be useful in some situations.

Patch 5.4 edit: If you choose the talent Rushing Streams, your Healing Stream Totem will heal two targets (instead of just one) per pulse and will do an increased 15% healing done per tick. This talent is great for more static healing, while many raiding/soloing DPS shaman may still prefer Ancestral Guidance for stronger burst healing.

Mana Tide Totem (Resto Only)
Duration: 16 seconds
Cooldown: 3 minutes
Purpose: Returns mana to both the shaman and nearby party/raid members. The return is based on the casting shaman's own amount of spirit, multiplied by 200% (excluding short-duration spirit boosts, such as trinkets).

Healing Tide Totem
Duration: 11 seconds
Cooldown: 3 minutes
Purpose: A rather potent AoE healing cooldown, especially for Restoration shaman. This was a talent prior to patch 5.4, but is now baseline for all shaman. Rejoice! More raid healing utility for all specializations.

There are several things that can change up our totem's behaviors. We already touched upon how Reinforce and Empower can help increase the healing throughput of Healing Tide Totem (it'll increase ALL healing throughput, but since we're talking about totems here...), but it's important to remember that Empower/Reinforce will also increase the healing done by Healing Stream Totem.

Of course several totems have glyphs that may change their behavior, which have already been noted. Likewise we have a tier of talents that slightly changes how we can interact with our talents.

Tier 3 (Level 45) Talents
Call of the Elements
Cooldown: 3 minutes
Purpose: It resets all totems that have a base cooldown of 3 minutes or less. Meaning, even if you glyph Fire Elemental Totem to get the 3 minute duration version of that totem, FET's cooldown will NOT be affected by this talent. This talent is great for back to back use on any utility totem in tight situations though.

Totems that fall under the 3 minute or less category are:  Capacitor Totem, Earthbind Totem /Earthgrab Totem, Grounding Totem, Healing Stream Totem, Stone Bulwark Totem, Tremor Totem, and Windwalk Totem.

Overall this one is my preference for general use as Enhancement. I like having the option of being able to provide a little more healing or having some extra general utility right on hand if I've already used said totem (back to back Stone Bulwarks anyone?). Probably forgotten about more often than it should be, but it's still nice to have in a pinch.

Totemic Persistence
Cooldown: None (Passive)
Purpose: This talent will allow you to summon a second totem of the same type. For example, if you have your Earth Elemental out and suddenly need a Tremor Totem, you may use your Tremor Totem without causing your Earth Elemental to despawn. If you're Restoration and have Healing Tide Totem out, you may use Mana Tide Totem simultaneously without issue. Likewise with the Air Totems. This talent will not allow you to have more than one fire totem out at the same time, however.

Totemic Persistence has become a personal favorite of mine, especially with soloing and in the rare event when I'm filling a healing role.

Totemic Projection
Cooldown: 10 seconds
Purpose: Moves your totems from one place to another place. Click the spell once, you gain a little targeting circle. Click the spell again, your totems will magically move to the spot you chose.

This one is often a must-have for a lot of Restoration shaman, especially on high movement fights where the tank/melee region may need a Spirit Link Totem, but you can't run into melee to drop it. Also very handy for Elemental shaman who wish to get a magma totem into melee range without having to run into melee themselves. Great for high movement fights in general, especially ones in rather large areas. Haven't found too many uses for it as Enhancement though, save for Capacitor Totem placements.

As you can see, this tier of talents is heavily based on both situation and personal playstyle. These talents often end up being very niche and are often overlooked, but they do have their uses and seem to have better general usage in tier 15 than they did in tier 14. Have yet to find a fight to use this talent effectively for tier 16 as Enhancement; the other two talents seem to be preferable for now. Still can be rather useful on some fights as Restoration or possibly even Elemental though.

There are many addons that may help aid you in the totem juggle. As previously suggested, something like Bartender or Dominos may help aid you in the quest to find room for each and every totem.

For communication, addons such as TellMeWhen and WeakAuras may be programmed to alert you as to when someone has placed a Stormlash Totem and when said totem ends, imperative information since you don't want to overlap Stormlash and waste it.

Alternatively, RSA will put an alert in raid chat (or elsewhere, if you tell it to) stating that you have placed a Stormlash Totem and will again state when said totem has faded. Also works for other raid wide cooldowns, such as Spirit Link, Healing Tide, Mana Tide, etc. This text alert can be handy for many players, and may be redirected into alternative chat channels if a raid finds them to be too distracting.

I hope that this post has helped to sort a few of you out. As always, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask. Remember, if you miss the cozy glow of having all four totems down at once, Glyph of Totemic Encirclement is there for you!


  1. Great guide! Thanks for the macros gonna make my shaman life a lot easier!

    1. Thanks, I'm glad you liked it! Enjoy the macros ^_^

  2. Amazing article. Job very well done.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Shasazzi you are a shawoman among shapeople who are shamans! Hope all is going good for you.

    stay froosty

    1. Hey silly Roo! Things are good, still trying to defrost up here in the north. Hope all is well with you!

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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