Sunday, December 9, 2012

How To Enhance: Combat Openers and the Cooldown Toolkit

Whatever it is you do, be it raiding, PvP, brawling, or soloing, knowing how and when to use your DPS burst capabilities - regardless of your class - can often mean the difference between a win and a corpse run.

Once upon a time, enhancement was known for its turtle-like damage. Slow, steady, always statically dependable. It didn't have that fancy thing called "burst" and often suffered on certain gimmick fights *coughspinecough* because of this. Those days are no more though. We shaman are now the kings and queens of mean burst, and how to get the most out of this bursting capability is what I'd like to talk about today.

First, let's cover which abilities actually give us our high burst.

Ascendance - Our big "lolol I WIN" button. This is pretty much our biggest source of burst these days, and the best part is that it can be used at range. Super handy for certain situations, like say for the air phase on Onyxia or the head on Mimiron.
Heroism/Bloodlust - Tasty, tasty haste! Generally this is considered a raid cooldown, but for soloing it can be either an "I WIN" button or can be saved as a panic button.
Stormlash Totem - Oh Stormlash Totem, allow me to sing you a song of my love! While this is a very potent raid cooldown, it is also a humungous personal cooldown, given how it weaves together with Windfury, our special attacks, and our auto attacks.
Fire Elemental Totem - Big Red is now a viable DPS cooldown for us! He slices, he dices! Oh He just burns all the things. He'll happily apply Searing Flames stacks for you, making your Lava Lash hit harder, plus he can do okayish AoE, provided he has something to actually hit (he's kind of completely useless on Lei Shi's Hide phase). This guy is a pretty nice bursty CD, so use him often! You can have him out even more often if you have him glyphed, but it's not recommended to do this unless you're a Troll. Even if you're a Troll, you only may want to do this if you're elemental, or maybe even a restoration shaman regardless of race. Maybe.
Feral Spirit - Our beloved pups, how silly you two are! These guys aren't the hardest hitting DPS cooldown in our arsenal, but they are one none the less. They give you some pretty potent passive healing, especially if they're glyphed, so definitely use these guys often.

Elemental Mastery - This isn't a talent that's typically taken by enhancement shaman, though certainly has some uses in certain situations. I recommend this talent for certain encounters where you need very focused burst, or for those solos that require you to kill the bad thing before your cooldowns run out and it kills you. Times up nicely with your wolves, and if you're an engineer like I am, your Synapse Springs, for those longer boss fights.
Synapse Springs - The glove enhancement for engineers, which may be applied in addition to our usual glove enchant. Synapse Springs are on a 1 minute cooldown, so I personally macro them to my wolves, which are on a 2 minute cooldown. So long as you use your springs as soon as they come off of cooldown, these two things should always line up nicely for you. They may not always be as ideal as a static stat boost, such as an enchanter's ring enchants, but they are awfully nice for kicking out extra burst.
Berserking - This be da Troll's racial, mon! It's a nice little haste buff that can be timed up very well with Ascendance. If you're a Troll, use this. Love this. Own this!
On Use Trinkets - Use trinkets are thus far not as prevalent in MoP through PvE content, though they still do exist. Most of the use trinkets will provide more of a boost as far as burst is concerned in general, and more than likely will be more powerful than your Synapse Springs (assuming you're an engineer). Keep in mind that trinkets and springs do trigger a 20 second cooldown when one or the other is used, so you will not be able to stack them. My advice is to tie in the stronger of the two options in with whatever DPS cooldown lines up the best with that trinket's on-use cooldown, then simply use the other once that 20 seconds of lockout time is up for the other item.

In addition to what is listed above, pre-potting is also a highly encouraged option (not always applicable, depending on the start of a fight). Being able to use two pots within a single encounter is an easy way to get the biggest bang out of your damage.

I'd also mention gear swapping here, but as of the last patch (5.1) Blizzard has officially broken the ability to swap a gear set and keep the buff it a given set provides. The biggest example being: it was a pretty nice DPS increase for both enhancement and elemental shaman to equip the tier 13 restoration 4 piece set, activate Spiritwalker's Grace for the haste bonus it gave (30%), and then to swap back to their normal gear just before a pull. Now when you switch back to your normal gear, you lose the Spiritwalker's Grace haste buff, making the gear swap completely pointless. You may now safely vendor your old restoration set, unless you want it for transmog, and remove your gear swap macros from your macro book.

Alright, now that you know the toolkit, let's put it into practice. Your opener, regardless if you're soloing or simply raiding with your buds, can often mean the difference between beating that enrage timer or going splat. It requires a certain finesse. You often want to put out the highest damage possible off the bat, but if you're in a raiding environment, you want to do so without pulling threat off of your tank(s) as well. You'll have to learn how many seconds you need to count before you can open up on a boss (less if you have a strong, geared tank and/or 2+ misdirects from rogues and hunters going out, more if you are missing these things) on your own; each group is a bit different and each gearing plateau is a beast of its own. Right, so a standard opener for raiding looks something like this:

- 5 seconds before pull: Use Spirit Walk, if you need a gap closer between yourself and a boss.
- 3 seconds before pull: Use potion
- 2 seconds before pull: Pop your Fire Elemental totem.
- 1 second before pull: Pop wolves (this would be your Synapse Springs + Feral Spirit macro, if you're an engineer)
- Give the tank a tick or two to hit the boss, doing his/her aggro thang.
- Unleash Elements as you close in on the boss.
- Flame Shock if you're not quite there yet.
- Stormstrike
- Ascendance + Heroism/Lust + Stormlash Totem (Hero/Lust assuming your raid wishes to have it at the beginning)
Stormblast (aka Super Stormstrike)
- Lava Lash (you should most certainly have 5 searing stacks up by now; if you don't, check the pulse of your fire elemental)
- Swing into your usual rotation of using SS/LL/UE on CD, weaving in your Flame Shock and Earth Shock in as normal, plus using Lightning Bolt (or Chain Lightning in cleave situations) with 4-5 Maelstrom Stacks up. Use Fire Nova only after you've used Lava Lash to cleave your Flame Shock to multiple targets, and only if you need to spellcleave.

If you're a Troll and/or if you're specced into Elemental Mastery for a given encounter, it may be best to stagger your haste CDs some, especially at higher gear levels, simply because you'll hit that ceiling where your haste is just, well, a waste! If you're not using Hero/Lust off the bat, you can burn these two cooldowns right off the get go, then simply continue to use them with their paired DPS cooldowns later on (wolves with EM, Berserking with Ascendance/Glyphed Fire Elemental Totem). If you ARE Heroing/Lusting off the bat, the use of these other haste CDs can get a little funky. Apply them to the best of your abilities and where they make the most sense for the given encounter. For soloing, especially those shortish fights that are to short for using your cooldowns a second time, but long enough to outlast Hero/Lust, simply pop your secondary haste abilities once Hero/Lust wears off.

Now, the above advice is by no means perfect, but I've been finding that it works very well for me. It puts out some pretty incredibly high opening numbers, while at the same time it *usually* keeps my threat under that of my tanks. If it doesn't, the panicked Wind Sear gets thrown out there, and on occasion I do find myself toggling off my auto attack in a mad hurry. For the most part though, the above has been serving me incredibly well with both raiding and soloing.

H'okay so, we've covered the opening. What about your burst later on in the encounter? Well, this completely depends on the encounter. On a standard Patchwerk like fight, which are quite rare these days, you'd simply use your cooldowns again as they came up. With many encounters, this theory still works fine, but on others you may find that you can't - or shouldn't - always use them all willy nilly. There will be times when you may want to hold off on popping a cooldown lest you get gimped by a boss mechanic, effectively wasting your cooldown (I find that Amber Shaper is great for this; I've learned to hold off on Ascendance especially if Reshape Life is about to go out since he just LOVES to cast it on me if I've just popped Ascendance). Timing is absolutely everything. Until I can get around to dissecting each encounter and get around to writing a guide for them all, I'm afraid you're all on your own with figuring out how you should pop your cooldowns on a given fight. I'm not terribly worried though, you're all smart cookies and are more than capable. I mean, you all chose to play enhancement after all!

As always, if you have any questions about the topic covered here, or any aspect of enhancement for that matter, please do not hesitate to drop a comment here or to contact me through either Twitter or my email (listed under 'Contact' on this blog). I'm always happy to answer questions. I promise I don't bite too hard!

Until next time, keep swinging!


  1. Hi Saz,
    I was wondering what your view is on using earth elemental totem (with PE talent) after your fire elemental fades away? And if you use it, how do you handle the taunt from the earth elemental, when removing it, removes the (forgot the name) searing flame (?) from your fire elemental? I don't know if the taunt even effects the bosses in tot or any other raid. Looking forward for your answer!

    1. Hello!

      On a standard fight (meaning, not something like Jin'rohk where you're waiting on pools) I'd personally drop Searing Totem as soon as my Fire Ele despawns and then I'll drop ol' Rocky. He does a good little bit of dps while he's out. Hell, I drop him even when I'm not specc'd into PE.

      Rocky's taunt will have no effect on current expansion raid bosses. He shouldn't taunt any boss in tier 14 or 15. He WILL taunt adds though, so if you leave the taunt on (which I often forget to turn off) he may go a bit crazy and end up dying early.

      I *think* the ability you're thinking of for your Fire Elemental is Fire Blast. It's in the same control slot as Rocky's taunt. It seems that those who use PE often (I don't for raiding yet, I don't have the right set up for a haste build) toggle that ability off, and macro Fire Blast into their other abilities. Check out this thread on the official shaman forums on how to do that:

      I hope this helps!