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Storm, Earth, and Fire: Elemental Shaman DPS guide
#1
I've played Restoration for most of my WoW career, but the dual spec system has allowed me to indulge in some lightning-and-lava throwing DPS fun. Here is a rough guide to help growing shamans master the art of elemental destruction.

A quick introduction to the Elemental Shaman

Elemental is the shaman's ranged caster spec. It uses nature and fire damage, and is best at single-target damage. It has decent AoE capabilities, and, like all shaman specs, has a lot of great utility abilities that can enhance a group. It requires careful use of totems and attention to cooldowns for maximum output.

The Elemental Shaman's spell arsenal is:

1. Flame Shock: A small direct nuke with a long DoT effect. It is our best instant damage cast, since it only costs a global cooldown. It is most useful, however, for its interaction with Lava Burst.

2. Lava Burst: A fast direct nuke, with an 8-second cooldown, and a very important synergy effect: If your Flame Shock DoT is on the target, Lava Burst always crits. Because so many of our talents depend on a crit to activate, Lava Burst is a dependable activator of these talents, and a guaranteed large damage cast. It will account for 30% or more of your DPS total, despite taking only 15% of your cast time.

3. Lightning Bolt: Our standard nuke. No cooldown, two-second talented cast time. About 50% of your damage output comes from Lightning Bolt. If you are ever at a loss for what to do next, cast Lightning Bolt. Note that it is not worth waiting for Lava Burst to come off cooldown if you're close: just go ahead and cast lightning again and catch Lava on the next cast.

4. Chain Lightning: A fast-cast nuke that hits up to three targets. It looks impressive, but it costs a lot of mana, and is nearly always not worth casting on single targets. See the section on AoE below for more details.

5. Fire Nova: An AoE that is centered on your Fire totem. It is short range, and costs a lot of mana, so it is only worthwhile when you can hit three or more targets with it. See the section on AoE below for more details.

The elemental DPS rotation is relatively straightforward, and is based on these priorities:

1. Flame Shock: Is Flame Shock on the target? If not, put it there.
2. Lava Burst: Is Lava Burst off cooldown? If so, cast it.
3. Lightning Bolt: At all other times, cast Lightning Bolt as fast as you can.

Elemental Mastery is a 3-minute cooldown ability that adds a little bit of extra DPS. You want to make sure you use it, especially on boss fights, as often as you can. Use it early, or save it for a crucial high-DPS burn phase. Current theory holds that it is best not to combine it with Bloodlust. See the Useful Macros section, below, for more on how to combine it with your normal rotation.

Thunderstorm is a 30-second cooldown ability that restores mana, does a medium AoE, and knocks back nearby enemies. It's a lot of fun for PvP, but it can be a problem in PvE: in many situations, blowing an enemy away from the melee group is very unhelpful. You can glyph to remove the knockback ability, which makes it a bit more useful. In practice, unless you really need the mana regen, you usually won't be using this as part of your normal rotation.

Also, Flametongue Weapon should always be on your weapon. With talents, it is a 274 spelldamage buff.

Spec and Glyphs

The standard elemental spec is 54/17/0.

You'll notice that it doesn't include the Tier 3 Reverberation talent, which decreases the cooldown on shocks. In practice, shocks are not a major piece of our DPS output, and making them faster has no benefit.

In a fully-buffed 25-man raid environment, elemental shamans rarely run low on mana, so you can pull a couple points from the Tier 1 Convection (which increases Lightning Bolt's efficiency) to put them somewhere else (such as Elemental Warding).

There are four useful glyphs for Elemental PvE:

[item]Glyph of Lightning Bolt[/item]: This is a must-have glyph. It increases the damage of our main spell.

[item]Glyph of Flame Shock[/item]: This allows Flame Shock's DoT to crit, which it quite useful. It is the same as the two-piece Tier 8 bonus, so if for some reason you have that, you do not need this one.

[item]Glyph of Totem of Wrath[/item]: This is an 84 spellpower bonus that is basically always on, since it lasts for 5 minutes after you cast Totem of Wrath. It's a fine buff and better than Glyph of Lava for most people.

[item]Glyph of Lava[/item]: This boosts Lava Burst. In very high gear situations, it is better than the Glyph of Totem Wrath. Most theorycrafters think that this glyph is the better one once you're over 4500 spellpower, or you have the 4-piece Tier 9 or Tier 10 bonus -- which is to say, way up there.

Gear

The importance of our stats is ranked like this:

1. Spellpower: Our most important stat. Get a lot, and gem for it.

2. Haste: Almost as good as spellpower. If using a yellow gem gives you a spellpower bonus, use a Reckless (spellpower and haste) to fill it.

3. Hit: Hit is the most important stat up to the hit cap, and useless after that point. For Horde shamans, the hit cap is 368. If you have a Shadow priest along who keeps Misery on the target, it is 289. You should have one set of gear for both of these caps, since you can never be sure whether you'll have a shadowy friend. Gemming for hit is fine if you need to do so to reach the cap.

4. Crit: Crit is a weak stat for us, since Lava Burst is guaranteed to crit every time and we have a very high base crit rating with all our talents anyway. If you can choose, choose haste over crit.

5. Intellect: Provides a marginal amount of crit and mana regen. 166 points of Intellect is worth a 1% chance to crit. Don't gem for it, but it's better than nothing: it is the only enchant for our shields, for example.

6. Stamina: Dead shamans do no DPS (unless they have Reincarnation on cooldown!) If you need to fill a purple slot, use a spellpower and stamina gem.

Be careful not to trust gear ranking sites too blindly! They usually score Hit very highly, which is correct, until you reach the cap. Once you are hit-capped, the value of more hit is zero.

Gems:

* Gem for Spellpower (red) whenever possible.
* The best meta gem is the [item]Chaotic Skyflare Diamond[/item].
* Fill yellow slots with [item]Reckless Ametrine[/item].
* It is better to use a [item]Glowing Dreadstone[/item] than a [item]Nightmare Tear[/item] to activate a blue socket in nearly all cases since the spellpower benefit from the dreadstone is better than the +10 from the Tear.

Don't forget to put an [item]Eternal Belt Buckle[/item] on your waist item.

Enchants:

Enchants should allocated according to the stat ranking. Hit if you need it, then spellpower, then haste, then crit, then intellect (shield), then all stats (chest). Icewalker, on your boots, gives both hit and crit and can help you reach the cap.

Totem Slot:

This used to be a pretty complicated question, but for now, the simple answer is: Get a [item]Totem of Electrifying Wind[/item]. It's incredibly good and costs only 25 Emblems of Triumph.

On trash fights, [item]Totem of Hex[/item] is slightly better for blasting through groups of mobs. It's an easy 25 Emblems of Valor purchase.

Consumables

You should use a [item]Flask of the Frost Wyrm[/item] if at all possible, an a [item]Spellpower Elixir[/item] if not.

A [item]Fish Feast[/item] is the best food, if you can get it. Use [item]Firecracker Salmon[/item] if you can't.

A [item]Potion of Speed[/item] (best) or [item]Potion of Wild Magic[/item] (also good) can be used once per fight for a substantial DPS boost.

Totems

Totems are the iconic ability of our class, and using them carefully can provide a really big DPS boost. Here's what you'll usually want to drop:

Fire:

Totem of Wrath: It provides a spellpower buff and a crit debuff. The spellpower buff is similar to, and does not stack, with a Demonology warlock's Demonic Pact. The crit debuff is equivalent to, and does not stack with, a Rogue's Master Poisoner or a Paladin's Heart of the Crusader. In general, because ToW is always up and affects all targets in range, it is superior to both these for fights with multiple mobs.

If you have a Demonology Warlock and MP Rogue or HoC Paladin in the raid, or another elemental shaman, you can drop Searing Totem for a little extra DPS.

Note that ToW does not stack with Flametongue totem. Casting Flametongue is wasted in this situation.

Air:

Wrath of Air Totem: This is a unique spell haste buff. You will want to drop it in nearly every situation.

The only other option would be Windfury Totem, which provides a melee haste buff. Drop Windfury only if you don't have a DK with Improved Icy Talons or if your group is very melee-damage heavy.

Earth:

Strength of Earth Totem: This helps the raid with with a strength and agility buff. It is the same as the DK Horn of Winter, and should be dropped if there's no DK around to do it.

Stoneskin Totem: If there is a DK, use this. It provides an armor buff to the entire raid, and does stack with Devotion Aura.

And of course in some fights you'll want to use Tremor Totem or Earthbind Totem to handle fears or adds.

Water:

Mana Spring Totem: Should be used only if there isn't a paladin around to cast Blessing of Wisdom.

Healing Stream Totem: This totem stacks with all other shamans casting it to heal your group, so if you have Blessing of Wisdom already, or another shaman is handling Mana Spring, do it.

Cleansing Totem is useful on some poison- and disease-heavy fights. Help out the healers, they'll love you for it.

The Elementals:

Earth Elemental is not generally useful. It can be used to slow down a wipe and that's about it.

Your Fire Elemental can be helpful in high-DPS burn phases. Be careful that you're not hurting the raid more than you help, if casting the Fire Elemental means that you remove the spellpower and crit buff of Totem of Wrath.


About AoE

Shamans do not have an AoE spell that is as powerful and versatile as Blizzard or Rain of Fire. Our ability to perform AoE is based on two spells:

Chain Lightning is worth casting on any pull with two or more targets. It does good damage and has a chance to proc [spell]Lightning Overload[/spell].

Magma Totem is a fire-and-forget DoT totem that does good damage, but has a point-blank range. That means that you have to sacrifice valuable DPS time to run forward, drop it, and (maybe) run back out. Once it's dropped, though, you can open up with your normal Chain Lightning rotation, and hit [spell]Fire Nova[/spell] when it's up. You also sacrifice the Totem of Wrath buff on the raid, which means that it is often not worth it.

Advanced Tricks

Our casting rotation is pretty simple. So what can we do to squeeze a little more out of our character?

1. Cast Queuing

Because of how the WoW program talks to the servers, there is a small window of time - about 0.3 seconds - where you can start casting a spell before the previous cast is finished. Don't wait until your spell goes off to start casting the next one; just hammer away at your target.

2. Use Movement Strategically

For many boss fights, you'll need to move at some point. When you're moving, you obviously can't be casting Lava Burst or Lightning Bolt. Use one of these instant abilities, and run during the global cooldown:

a. Refresh Flame Shock
b. Redrop totems
c. If Flame Shock isn't likely to expire, and you have more than six seconds before it's likely to expire, hit Frost Shock (if threat isn't a problem) or Earth Shock (if it is)
d. If shocks are on cooldown, and mobs are near your Fire totem, hit Fire Nova
e. Hit Thunderstorm to get a bit of mana back, or refresh Water Shield

3. When to hit Bloodlust, and what to do during it

Bloodlust is our best buff: it provides a 40% boost to haste for every member of the raid for 40 seconds. In many raid situations, the raid leader will want to save Bloodlust for a special time -- often at the beginning of the fight, or during a frenzy phase. Obviously you want to save it for a time when the raid will be able to hit the boss for 40 seconds, which often means timing it carefully with stuns and immunity phases. Do NOT move, cast Water Shield, or refresh totems during Bloodlust if you can help it: you should be casting your rotation as fast as you can.

For a fight opener, it's best to delay a couple seconds before hitting it. Many classes need several seconds to apply debuffs to a boss before their damage reaches its peak, and the tanks frequently need a couple seconds to get solid aggro on the boss.

To spike your own DPS during Bloodlust, consider carrying a stack of [item]Potion of Speed[/item] or other consumable DPS potions.

In general, combining Elemental Mastery with Bloodlust is not recommended. I'm not 100% sure of the theorycrafting but I think the models indicate that a lower level of haste, over more time, generates better total damage.

4. Useful Macros

We are not a heavily cooldown-dependent class, but there are some macros that can help you use you maximize your ability use.

If you have an on-use trinket (or two), and find that you forget to use it, consider creating a trinket-cast macro, which simply fires the trinket whenever it is up. It's not as optimal as saving it for a high-DPS burn phase, but it's better than never using it. For example, replace your Lightning Bolt spell with a macro like this:

Quote:/use 13
/use 14
/cast Lightning Bolt

13 is the first trinket slot, 14 is the second. Remove one of them if you need to.

If you have trouble remembering to hit Elemental Mastery, you can add a "/cast Elemental Mastery" to that macro as well, to ensure that you are firing it whenever it is up.

5. Interrupts, Dispels, and Hex

Like all shamans, you bring the [spell]Wind Shear[/spell], [spell]Purge[/spell], and [spell]Hex[/spell] spells. These can all be critically important during a boss fight. In particular, because Wind Shear only triggers a global cooldown, you can use it quite spontaneously to interrupt a cast, potentially preventing tens of thousands of points of damage on the raid.

Practice weaving Wind Shear and Purge into your damage rotation, so that you can stop enemy casters or remove their buffs without slowing down your offensive casting, and use Hex when needed to control Humanoid adds. Good fights for this are: Jaraxxus in ToC, whose Nether Power must be purged and Fel Fireball must be interrupted; the PvP fight in ToC, which features many purgable HoTs, interruptible heals, and Hex-able targets, and Lady Deathwhisper in ICC, who has an interruptible Frostbolt.

As an advanced topic, look into Focus targeting (the wowwiki is a fine place to start). Using Focus, you can cast on another target while continuing to keep your primary target selected. This allows you to (for example) keep interrupting and purging Jaraxxus while putting DPS on a Maiden or Infernal. I keep a Purge (Focus), Hex (Focus), and Wind Shear (Focus) key bound to shift-modified hot keys for this purpose.

Recommended Reading

* Planet of the Hats is a great resource. Fun, easy to read, updated frequently. I paraphrased much of his work to write this guide. He has a spreadsheet that can be used to compare different gear to calculate theoretical DPS.
* The Elitist Jerks shaman class forum is where all the theorycrafters hang out. If you like your speculation fresh from the source, this is it.
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#2
I don't play a shaman *yet*, but when I do, I will certainly look to this guide.

Very helpful, thank you Oryx. Smile
[Image: AWOeJWn.png]
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#3
Good stuff. Oh how I love Chain Lightning + Lightning Overload
[Image: IST_Noodle2_sm.jpg]
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