Monday, December 7, 2015

Breaking Down the New Enhancement

Warlords of Draenor saw a pretty massive cull of abilities from several specs, boiling things down to the basics. To a large extent, many specs benefited from this (I'm particularly happy with how Frost Mages play in Warlords - but let's not get into that here) while others maybe got too simple (I was not happy about Arms - but again, let's not get into that.) Enhancement, however, essentially just got passed over. Sure, they lost some class-wide things like that one wind totem that buffed the raid's DPS that I can't remember the name of, and a bunch of utility spells like heals that they moved into Resto-only, but the complex gameplay remained, sort of to my surprise.

Now, I don't blame anyone who likes complex rotations. I love Warlords and Mists' version of Demonology. But Enhancement has, for a while, been all about basically Flame Shock for a while - your AoE is tied to it, and while it's just a simple maintenance thing in single-target situations, I don't know if they've captured the "Battlemage" nature of the spec that drew me to it in the first place.

Also, for those of you who are worried about the spec getting too simple, it's also important to remember that all the artifact weapons, including the Doomhammer, will have activated abilities as part of their "talent trees," so there will be at least one additional ability there.

What did, however, was Maelstrom Weapon (which actually didn't get added until Wrath. In BC, you basically just did shocks and Stormstrike... and put each totem down individually.)

Enhancement is getting rebuilt nearly from the ground up in Legion, so let's talk about the basics of how it's going to work. As a caveat, we're still technically in Alpha (though it's an Alpha that looks a lot like a Beta at this point. Tell you what, once I get an invite, we'll call it a Beta!) and so you should remember that all of this is subject to change.

The first thing, and the thing that really gives the spec structure, is that both DPS shaman specs will now use a resource called Maelstrom (I imagine it'll be a light blue bar) instead of Mana. Some abilities will generate Maelstrom while others spend it. And Enhancement will also generate it through auto-attacks, making it a little like a Warrior's Rage.

So let's look at generators first. You'll notice that a lot of the old Weapon Imbues are back as active abilities rather than buffs.

Rockbiter is a short-range (10 yard) spell attack that does nature damage and generates 10 Maelstrom, with no cooldown. Essentially, this will be the attack you use when everything else is down either because of a cooldown or a lack of Maelstrom.

Maelstrom Weapon is a passive that causes your melee attacks to generate 5 Maelstrom, which actually means that there will be a pretty steady stream of it coming in as long as you're meleeing. That actually seems to make Rockbiter's 10 maelstrom a little underwhelming, but this is absolutely the sort of thing they will iterate on in testing.

Flametongue does not generate Maelstrom, but is a similar ten-yard spell. It does a bit of fire damage to the target and then enhances your melee attacks with fire damage. It has a 12-second cooldown and a 16-second duration, so I suspect that you'll simply want to keep this up at all times, and you have a 4-second grace period to do so before it falls off.

The Maelstrom spenders should look pretty familiar.

Lava Lash is your primary Maelstrom spender, a melee attack that costs 30 Maelstrom and does fire damage. There's no cooldown, so basically the more Maelstrom you generate, the more Lava Lashes you'll be able to pump out.

Stormstrike has a 16-second cooldown, and costs 60 Maelstrom, but does what I expect will be massive damage, hitting with both weapons for physical damage.

Stormstrike is also affected by Stormfury, a proc off your autoattacks that resets the cooldown on Stormstrike, cuts the cost in half, and causes it not to trigger a cooldown. It's not exactly a free Stormstrike, but it means that if you have 90 Maelstrom pooled (or enough to get back up to 60 during the global cooldown after your first one,) you'll be able to deal some pretty nasty damage there.

Crash Lightning appears to be your main AoE tool. It costs 20 Maelstrom and is on a 5-second cooldown. Not only does it hit all targets in front of you for nature damage, but it also causes Stormstrike and Lava Lash to do an additional 75% damage to all enemies near the target.

Frostbrand is probably not going to be a major PvE ability, costing 20 Maelstrom to do some frost damage and slow the target.

Stormlash (Stormlash Totem! That was the name!) is an interesting passive. When you enhance your weapons (I believe with either Flametongue or Crash Lightning, unless I'm missing other such effects) you'll cause two allies or yourself (not sure if that would allow one ally and yourself) to do additional nature damage with spells and attacks.

Windfury remains mostly the same, but potentially more exciting with the new Maelstrom Weapon.

Feral Spirit now buffs you in addition to summoning the wolves. You'll get 50% Haste as well as 5 Maelstrom per second for 30 seconds. The way the numbers are written here is a little confusing, so you might only get the haste buff while the wolves are out, which is only 15 seconds.

Mastery now not only buffs elemental damage, but also increases the proc chance on Stormfury and Windfury (though it looks like by a small amount.)

So ultimately, here's how I see the priority breaking down:

1. Maintain Flametongue
2. Stormstrike on Stormfury procs.
3. Stormstrike
4. Lava Lash if you're about to cap Maelstrom
5. Lava Lash
6. Rockbiter

And then for multi-targets, you weave Crash Lightning in there, possibly as your top priority. Mind you, I'm not a theorycrafter, so even if this weren't at an early testing phase, don't take this as gospel.

There are also a bunch of talents that potentially add more abilities to your rotation, including some new weapon enhancements, or just cool unusual spell effects, like summoning a tornado over an area.

While there are a lot of spells in this rotation, it's interesting that they're clearly emphasizing your melee attacks as your hard-hitting, resource-consuming abilities. In fact, while it'll be sad to not be tossing instant-cast lightning bolts, it may adhere more closely to the actual name of the spec, given how much you'll benefit from enhancing your attacks. We'll have to see what the visual for Crash Lightning is like - but given how cool the new melee animations for Demon Hunters, Warriors, and Paladins look so far, I have high hopes.

I do think that you'll be able to reasonably fit your major abilities on your action bars now. One thing I really wonder about is whether Crash Lightning will be something to use on cooldown for AoE situations or if it's more important to simply maintain the buff and let LL and SS do the work.

We will be losing the crazy feedback loop of Flameshock resetting Lava Lash's cooldown and Lava Lash spreading Flameshock to other targets, and thus making Fire Nova exponentially more powerful, but as cool as it was, this version of the spec is potentially a more active and reactive.

Obviously, I won't know until I try it out, but at least in theory I'm excited about these changes.

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