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If you've ever played a magic spell caster in a game in which monsters tend to run up and start hitting you, then expect more of the same when leveling an Elemental Shaman. Elemental Shaman's are pure spell casters, and even though at low levels you get to smack something in melee range with the help of Primal Strike, that gleeful moment doesn't happen so often as you get into higher levels and bigger spells. The idea is, instead, to kill things before they get to you.
The easiest way to make sure enemies die before locking blades with your Lightening Shield is to be well informed of the abilities, talents, glyphs, and totems that make you the best Elemental Shaman you can be.
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Totems to Use and When to Use Them
Totems are an integral part of the Shaman class, and the Elemental spec is no exception. For Earth Totems the selection is limited. None of them offer an overwhelmingly greater advantage to the casting Shaman than the other. The earliest one you get, Strength of Earth, can be marginally useful for an Elemental Shaman that is finding themselves often in melee combat with encroaching enemies. However, you can also deal with that situation by using another Earth totem - Earthbind - to slow the enemy, allowing you to move away and cast spells. In normal questing it usually isn't necessary to use an Earth Totem, but in groups Strength of Earth offers great advantages to your melee range party members.
Fire Totems are always advantageous to the Elemental Shaman. When fighting single enemies or boss monsters you can summon a Searing Totem (level 10) that deals periodic fire damage to one nearby enemy. When fighting a group, a well placed Magma Totem (level 36) can hit multiple targets - and, you can use Fire Nova to deal extra AoE damage around it. With Flametongue Totem you can buff your and your group's spell power, increasing spell damage and healing. All of these totems have great situational use.
For the most part the Water Totems, Mana Spring and Healing Stream, can be used interchangeably. If you find yourself in the rare situation of having two Paladins in your group (therefore providing both the Might and Kings blessings) then don't use Mana Spring at all.
For Air Totems, Wrath of Air provides the greatest buff for Elemental Shamans and other spell casters, giving 5% increased spell haste. Windfury can be used if you're feeling sympathetic towards some melee class players that you happen to be grouped with.
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Elemental Spells and Abilities
When questing or grinding alone it is usually best to use a single-target DPS rotation to kill enemies quickly, before they can reach you and interrupt your casts. My favorite chain of spells for fast kills is: Stand at maximum range and cast two Lightening Bolts, followed by Flame Shock, Lava Burst, Primal Strike, Earth Shock. Depending on what you're hitting and how hard you're hitting it the last two spells may not even be necessary. If enemies are in a concentrated area you can drop totems, but if you're on the move it really isn't worth the mana it costs. Thunderstorm is a great ability that offers solutions to both of the Elemental Shaman's main problems - melee range and mana. When an enemy closes into melee range you can use Thunderstorm to deal damage and knock them back 20 yards. At the same time Thunderstorm also restores mana to you, so it's a great spell to have on cooldown pretty much all of the time.
In groups enemies are going to stay alive a lot longer, and you'll have a tank there to take the heat off of you. In these situations your spell rotation changes significantly. Lightening Bolt is your most mana-efficient spell, and if you have the Rolling Thunder and Fulmination talents is a quick way to gain Lightening Shield charges. However Lava Burst still deals significant damage. On single monsters open with Flame Shock and Lava Burst, then cast Lightening Bolt until you reach max Lightening Shield Charges, then dump them all with Earth Shock. Prior to level 49 you'll just keep casting Lightening Bolt. Remember to refresh Flame Shock when necessary and use Lava Burst whenever it comes off of cooldown.
When fighting groups of enemies in dungeons your spell usage changes yet again. Prior to Earthquake which is is available after level 69, Elemental Shaman's don't have great AoE ability. However, if you use your abilities correctly you'll be able to mostly keep up. One way to deal a lot of AoE damage is to drop Magma Totem in the middle of the monsters and use Fire Nova whenever it is available. While waiting you can cast Chain Lightening between other single target spells. This method works but can use a lot of mana, so be careful. Once you learn Earthquake you won't need to worry about AoE again, so hang in there.
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Talents and Glyphs
Elemental has some really excellent talents that help Shamans be competitive spell casters. When leveling up you need to balance damage with utility. Be on the lookout for talents that have a realistic chance of helping you survive when you get into tough situations. While most specs will work out, this Elemental Talent Spec is one that I like to use.
Every class gets access to glyphs in stages of leveling. At level 25 you can equip one Prime Glyph, one Major Glyph, and one Minor Glyph. You get these again at level 50, and 75. Here are some glyphs I find particularly useful on a leveling Elemental Shaman:
Lava Burst (Prime) - No other reason than it increases damage dealt by this spell.
Lightening Bolt (Prime) - No other reason than it increases damage dealt by this spell.
Lightening Shield (Major) - Helps to ensure your Lightening Shield never drops off.
Thunder (Major) - Reduces the cooldown of Thunderstorm so you get hit less and restore more mana.
Stoneclaw Totem (Major) - A clutch Stoneclaw Totem which also shields you can save your life in many scenarios.
Water Walking (Minor) - Faster travel.
Renewed Life (Minor) - Convenience and extra bag space.
Astral Recall (Minor) - More frequent Hearthing.