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It's a New Game, You're a New Shaman
The game has changed. Since the 4.0.1 patch every single class has undergone a complete overhaul in their abilities, talents, and glyphs. If you have a Shaman in progress, you've probably noticed that some abilities have disappeared from your spellbook while others have taken their place. Your talents have been reset, and the talent pane offers no solace as it now has, not only a different look, but a totally different function. How is a fledgling Shaman supposed to survive in the new World of Warcraft? This is a good place to start.
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Understanding the Talent and Glyph Panes
Once your Shaman reaches level ten, as before, the talent pane activates and you get to start specializing based on how you want to play the game. While choosing which tree to start your Shamanic Journeying down has always been an important decision, it is even more-so now. In the past, you could put 2 points into one tree, then decide to put 10 in another, and 5 in the last. While that isn't exactly the wisest thing to do, it was a possibility. Now, once you select a tree you are bound to it for the next 31 point allocations. However, if you decide that you made a mistake you can still pay your class trainer to reset your talent points and specialization, so don't fret young Shaman. You'll get through it.
As for glyphs, that isn't something you even have to - or get to - worry about until level 25. Once you hit 25 you'll get access to three glyph slots, which is substantially different than in the past. Here is how the different slots break down:
Prime Glyphs: Prime Glyphs affect specific abilities by increasing their effectiveness.
Major Glyphs: Major Glyphs affect specific abilities by increasing their utility.
Minor Glyphs: Minor Glyphs affect specific abilities by offering cosmetic changes or convenience.
You get your first set of three Glyph slots at 25, the second at 50, and the final set at level 75.
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Specialization And You
Now that you understand how talent trees work, lets dive into how to make your specialization selection. By now you've probably noticed that in place of the normal display of three talent trees, you first have to select a specialization from a pane that also lists a few abilities and gives descriptions of the class.
Although it is not amply apparent, you get all of the abilities listed with the specialization immediately upon choosing it - at level 10. I'll break these down for you.
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Elemental Talent Specialization
Thunderstorm - An instant-cast Shaman-centric Area of Effect spell that deals damage to enemies within 10 yards of the Shaman, and knocks them back 20 yards. Additionally, it also immediately restores 8% of the Shaman's Mana.
Elemental Fury - This ability increases the damage bonus of critical strikes with Searing Totem, Magma Totem, Fire, Frost, and Nature-based spells by 100%. In an Elemental Shaman's world, that is pretty much every damage-dealing ability.
Shamanism - Lightening Bolt, Chain Lightening, and Lava Burst receive 20% additional bonus from Spell Power and their casting time is reduced by a half-second.
Elemental Shamans are ranged casters much like Mages, Warlocks, Balance Druids, and Shadow Priests. As such they stand at a distance from combat and cast spells into the fray. Most of these spells have a cast time greater than instant - typically two seconds or more. This means that if an enemy gets into close combat with the Shaman they are limited, as their spells will be interrupted by the enemy's attacks. Even though the Thunderstorm ability can help out in a pinch, it has a long cooldown and won't be available every time you need it. Elemental is a powerful talent tree and very useful in group situations where someone is able to hold the enemies allowing the Shaman to cast spells freely. However, if you plan to solo level most of the time you may be frustrated with this talent specialization.
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Enhancement Talent Specialization
Lava Lash - An instant-cast melee attack that deals 200% of your offhand weapon's damage, which is increased by 40% if your offhand is enchanted with Flame Tongue, a Shaman-only weapon enhancement.
Mental Quickness - Increases your spell power as a function of attack power, with your spell power equaling 50% of your attack power. Since attack power is based upon the Enhancement Shaman's primary stat, Agility, this keeps their spells and melee attacks on equal footing. Mental Quickness also reduces the mana cost of the Shaman's instant-cast spells, which are mostly all the Enhancement spec uses, by 75%.
Dual-Wield - Allows the Shaman to equip one-handed and off-hand weapons in their offhand, allows the Shaman to parry frontal melee attacks, and increases their chance to hit by 6%.
Primal Wisdom - The Shaman's melee attacks have a 40% chance to restore 5% of the Shaman's base wisdom, which almost guarantees they will not run out of mana.
Enhancement Shamans spend the vast majority of their time at melee range with their enemies, using powerful weapon attacks combined with spells to deal damage. Enhancement Shamans mainly use instant-cast spells and abilities, and are very similar to the other melee DPS classes with the exception that they still use mana. However, the Primal Wisdom ability restores so much mana that as long as the Enhancement Shaman isn't trying to cast long spells or heal, they will never run out. Enhancement Shamans are well suited to groups as well as solo-play. In solo leveling they are able to dispatch enemies in melee range and can still heal themselves if the situation calls for it.
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Restoration Talent Specialization
Earth Shield - Protects the target (self or group member) with an elemental shield, only one of which can be active on the target at any time. This shield reduces the casting time lost due to damaging effects by 30%, and heals the target when they are hit. It has nine charges.
Purification - Makes the Shaman's healing spells 10% more effective, and reduces the casting time of Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave by a half-second.
Meditation - Allows 50% of the Shaman's out-of-combat mana regeneration, from Spirit, to continue while in combat.
Restoration Shamans are masters of healing. Their Earth Shield can be used to protect anyone in their party, including themselves when the situation calls for it. As you spec into the tree you will find talents that also protect the Shaman from damage and death in other ways. While a healing spec isn't usually the recommended spec for solo play, it is very possible for a Restoration Shaman to level alone due to these talents and abilities, though each enemy kill will typically take longer than it does for their DPS counterparts. Where a Restoration Shaman shines brightest is in group play where they are responsible for keeping everyone else alive. A healer is a treasured and necessary member of every party.
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Leveling Up Your Shaman
Nearly every time your Shaman levels up you are rewarded with either a new ability or a talent point. The levels at which you receive each ability is completely different than before, since ability ranks have been removed from the game. If you have a Shaman in progress you might find that abilities you had prior to the patch are gone, and new ones have replaced them. All in all the abilities stay mostly level appropriate, with abilities important to your class being granted early on, and utility saved for later.
At level 10 you are able to select a talent specialization for your Shaman and receive your first talent point. After that you will only receive talent points at every odd-numbered level, and abilities at most even-numbered levels. At level 40 you can choose to have a dual talent specialization. You purchase this ability from your trainer for 100 gold (down from 1000), which allows you to have a completely separate set of talents, glyphs, and action bars that you can swap between. It is wise for any Shaman to take the Restoration tree as their secondary spec if their primary is Enhancement or Elemental, or vice versa, since this will give them a greater chance of being useful in group settings.