The Main Swap
May 19, 2016 20 Comments
Aka “Why Bink is going to raid on a Mage in Legion rather than his Elemental Shaman”
Part One: Damage Meters
For as long as I can remember Elemental output has been somewhat behind the curve pretty much all the time, unless you look at specific AoE or Cleave boss fights like Hellfire Assault or Iskar. The times where I do well comparatively to everyone else I keep wondering that had I been on a different class that is “more popular” would I have performed significantly better?
It’s also worth pointing out that shaving a third off the cooldown time for Ascendance so it would stack up with the Legendary Ring use (happened shortly after 6.2 went out on July 20th) didn’t do much to change the overall output that much as reviewing WarcraftLogs stats doesn’t show a major jump in DPS values around that date. Given that Ascendance is the “major” cooldown for Elemental in Warlords, you’d think that this change would have more of an impact.
I’ve had a few conversations with Guild Masters over recent years about main swapping for the good of the guild. This is mostly because I’ve felt that for me to perform similarly to others in the raid team requires me doing better than them because Elemental doesn’t seem to be as good as pretty much any other ranged DPS spec.
Part Two: Utility
aka “Things Which Counter Raid Mechanics or Guarantee Me A Raid Spot”
One of those “for the good of the guild” things I mentioned was the fact that Elemental doesn’t really have much in the way of useful raid stuff anymore (and doesn’t seem to in Legion, but we’ll get to that later). In Siege of Orgrimmar we’d have myself and a Shadow Priest stack our Damage -> Healing cooldowns to help out in a few boss fights but these abilities were understandably nerfed. There isn’t an Elemental version of Ice Block, Deterrence or Demonic Gateway to help avoid or negate raid mechanics, so being an Elemental in a raid is one less chance to avoid dealing with a specific mechanic.
Part Three: Legion Design
For the most part the design changes in Legion are good. However, the initial approach to having the Artifact Weapon (The Fist of Ra-Den) has caused some flow-on issues, most notably the fact that it’s focusing a lot on Nature damage rather than overall damage that you’d see from other casters. The core issue here is Elemental has a primarily cooldown based rotation vs the build & spend models for Balance or Shadow, which means that the more powerful the “filler” spells get the weaker the cooldown abilities become by comparison. This is the key problem with talents like Ascendance or Echo of the Elements as their values are driven by the Lightning Bolt vs Lava Burst differential. Most other classes have cooldowns that increase damage, resource generation, an attribute or a combination of these.
There are also a few carry-overs from existing Warlords design problems, like including Maelstrom generation on Lava Burst. This one is a matter of opinion, but I found the Mists of Pandaria resource generation model a bit easier to manage, ie: I didn’t need to worry about not spending resources if I was about to cast Lava Burst. In Warlords this means that with the Tier 18 2pc bonus (Earth Shock has a chance to refund consumed resources) you can be hitting Earth Shock multiple times while Lava Burst is off cooldown, which just feels wrong given that the core “rule” of the rotation is to hit Lava Burst whenever you can.
Part Four: Talent Structure and Swapping
The talent tree for Elemental feels a bit weird. There are certain “role” functions for Levels 15, 45 and 60, but when looking at 30, 75, 90 and 100 there are big variations in functions.
Looking at L30 we have a solo movement ability, a stationary raid movement aura and a weak-ish damage to healing cooldown. Leaving aside the fact that Windrush Totem will be required by some raid teams to deal with certain movement mechanics, it seems weird to have a healing ability as a choice against two movement options or to have two group cooldowns vs a self cooldown.
Similarly the 75, 90 and 100 rows have cooldown, movement & area of effect options. The choices here seem to be more a jigsaw puzzle of working out which ones you want most and then avoiding the things that don’t work well in conjunction with them. For example, Magnitude leans towards Earthquake use with Flame Shock multidotting whereas Lightning Rod works better with Chain Lightning “spam”, so you’d only want to take one of the two.
Level 100 itself is basically the “Choose Your Own Cooldown” option, but even with the Crit % = Damage Bonus to Lava Burst change for Ascendance they all seem to be a bit underwhelming compared to other cooldown options, nevermind the stat priority swings that result if you go from Ascendance to Icefury.
The structure of the talent rows seems to lend towards frequent swapping depending on fight requirements, which is why the recent announcement regarding requiring “safe spaces” to change talents. This will both require players to select a primary talent build to deal with most encounters and the pre-pull “Can someone drop a safe-zone-thingie?” requests as people change talents based on strategies, etc
Part Five: Artifacts
There are a couple of big differences between the Elemental artifact and the artifacts for other ranged specs.
- Most specs have damage reduction & additional self healing traits. Elemental has an auto-heal when going under 35% HP (the closest comparison is Balance with a 5% per rank chance to trigger when damaged) and an increase to Healing Surge healing. This means that Elemental players will require more healing for the same amount of incoming damage or need to take time to self heal.
- The artifact use abilities for most other specs are “Use to do something now”. Elemental’s Stormkeeper generates 3 charges of a damage buff for Lightning Bolt, which seems less impactful both visually and damage wise. There’s also a very real chance that the buff will expire before the last charge is used.
- The art for the Fist of Ra-Den is great, but as it’s a fist weapon for a caster there’s been some shoe-horned methods to get it to display more often (it rotates 90 degrees in some cases, or looks weird during Ascendance). Making the main artifact the shield could have been more thematic while also making something that displays all the time.
This has been coming for a while, but don’t worry I’ll still be playing Elemental, writing guides & doing mathy things, but it’ll be an active alt rather than my raiding main. I just don’t feel that the spec will overcome the things that I consider to be important issues. Posts have been made about these things in the past, but as we’re coming up on 3 months to Launch it’s most likely too late to change anything.