Binkenstein’s Elemental 8.0 Redesign

My recent writing project has been to put together a base redesign for Elemental in Battle For Azeroth. I haven’t gone as far as having a detailed outline for talents, mostly because they’re secondary to getting the core mechanics sorted. I’ll post a copy of this to the WoW Alpha/Beta forums whenever they go up (assuming I have access, of course).

Theme

We’ve already seen one spec rename (Combat Rogues became Outlaw Rogues with more of a pirate feeling to it) so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Elemental gets a rename & updated theme. Part of this is because the name Elemental implies mastery over all of the elements, ie: air, earth, fire & water, but the spec itself is heavily air/fire with some token earth & water abilities thrown in for good measure. All three Shaman specs have element based abilities, so having a spec themed around using the elements feels a bit diluted. Even in the WoD Nagrand final quest cinematic Thrall used a lot of element based abilities, and he’s more of an Enhancement Shaman than Elemental (especially since Enhancement got Doomhammer as their artifact weapon in Legion).

To give Elemental a more cohesive theme renaming the spec will be necessary. For this design outline I’ll be using “Stormcaller” as the new spec name, with the focus being primarily on lightning and fire based abilities. If you remember back to the Warcraft 3 days one of the voice line for Shaman units was “Storm, earth and fire, heed my call”. Storm + earth gives lightning, fire is fire (obviously), and the stormcaller name itself is also part of this quote.

Base Rotation & Maelstrom Generation

The first core change I would make is changing the generation & spending of Maelstrom to have generation handled by lightning based abilities, with spending primarily being fire. This would mean Lava Burst becomes the spender ability while also removing the cooldown on Lava Burst. The end result would be as follows:

  • If the dot is missing or refreshable, cast Flame Shock
  • If over the cost threshold and not pooling or in danger of capping out, cast Lava Burst
  • Cast Lightning Bolt to generate more maelstrom

This is to remove that “problem” in the rotation where there’s a choice between two high damage spells (ie: Earth Shock and Lava Burst) and make it so that it is clear which spell should be used at any point. It does make the base rotation a bit simplistic with only three spells, but it’s a good starting point especially when considering possible additions via talents as gameplay choices.

Multi-target

For multi-target it would be a little different again

  • If over X Ms then cast spender on target (no more targeting reticule)
  • Cast Chain Lightning to generate more maelstrom

Possible multitarget spenders include:

  • Lightning Strike – instant cast AoE direct damage
  • Lava Rain – similar to Rain of Fire/Blizzard
  • Multipurpose Lava Burst splitting to hit targets hit by Chain Lighting

Removing Earthquake would make the rotation flow a little better, plus allow more of an up-front multitarget spender rather than requiring longer AoE phases to be worthwhile. The other possibility is to do away with maelstrom generation & spending and just focus on Chain Lightning damage. Having a slightly stronger CL with a 5 target cap but no proper AoE spell could give the spec a proper high cleave damage niche rather than the more sustained multi target niche it currently occupies. These could be set up as talent options.

Movement

The issue that Elemental has had with movement phases since Spiritwalker’s Grace was removed, along with removing the castable-while-moving part of Lighting Bolt, is that there are at least four spells that can be used while moving. Sometimes the correct answer is to not use some of these abilities too. The biggest spell is Lava Burst when you have a Lava Surge proc, making the spell instant, but it’s not possible to save this as it should be used immediately.

This leaves the three shock spells, and depending on how much maelstrom power you have it may be better to not cast some of them. Earth Shock will dump all the Ms you have & can’t be used without it, while Flame Shock may or may not be a gain to cast it depending on whether your last refresh used an Elemental Focus stack & how long it has left (note: dot refreshes are up to 130% of the new casts dot time, not the existing dot. This means refreshing a 20Ms dot at 39 seconds duration with a 0Ms Flame Shock cast with a base duration of 15 seconds will result in a 19.5 second dot, effectively wasting up to 19.5 seconds of dot time.

So if Flame Shock shouldn’t be used because it would end up wasting DoT/GCD time, and you have less than 10 Maelstrom available so Earth Shock can’t be used, it means your only options are redropping totems (if using Totem Mastery), shift into Ghost Wolf, do nothing or use Frost Shock. This is more complicated when compared to options that other specs have, like the Ice Lances or Scorches available for Frost & Fire Mages, requiring considering past actions, buffs and resources as well as how much time is to be spent moving.

Changing this to have a clear spell to be used while moving will be beneficial, as this will allow players to concentrate more on mechanics rather than juggling multiple possibilities. My suggestion would be to re-tool Earth Shock for this function, having a fixed damage amount with no Maelstrom cost. Flame Shock would remain as a dot, and Frost Shock would still be a lower damage snare.

This could be further expanded upon via talent options, with movement related effects like the current Gust of Wind talent. Two possibilities would be replacing Earth Shock with a “Static Shock” which increases its damage based on movement (ideal for stutter stepping) while another could allow Earth Shock to be cast while in Ghost Wolf form.

Cooldowns

Elemental is a bit unique in that the “base” cooldown is a pet rather than a self buff, which means it deals the same damage irrespective of whether you’re playing the absolute best you can or just auto-attacking to stay in combat. Ascendance was also a base cooldown prior to Legion, but was relegated to a L100 talent choice instead.

Ascendance itself is an interesting subject. In Warlords of Draenor the cooldown was reduced from 3 minutes to 2 minutes to allow players to sync every use up with the raid wide legendary ring effect as an attempt to improve Elemental damage for Hellfire Citadel. It didn’t really make much of an impact unfortunately. Once it was moved to a L100 talent in Legion the extra damage bonus from crit % effect for Lava Burst was added to improve the value of crit rating, which is slightly ironic as this effect has long been asked for as a baseline mechanic for the spell.

I think that one of the glaring issues with these cooldowns is that neither feels truly powerful. With cooldown abilities for other specs/classes the effect is usually a damage increase while not changing the base rotation, while Ascendance is a “spam this spell for 15 seconds” ability. Ascendance gains its value based on the difference between the normal rotation & the boosted damage of Lava Burst, so if Lightning Bolt damage is increased then the gain of Ascendance is reduced. This is one of the areas where changing one ability has an impact on another, especially since the same spell (ID: 188196) is used for both Elemental as the “filler” and for Enhancement but only in conjunction with the Overcharge talent.

Spell Changes

Lava Burst

One big thing I would do would be to make Lava Burst scale with critical strike chance, similar to Chaos Bolt for Destruction Warlocks, or how the spell currently works when Ascendance is up. This would require reducing and/or removing the critical damage bonus passive Elemental Fury, but this would help with PvP balancing as the PvP crit damage reduction effect would be the same as with other classes. However, it would remove some of the “big number” excitement when crits happen, which could also be drowned out by more regular Overload procs.

Overload

Overload would stay, but be reversed to have a 100% proc chance that deals X% of the original casts damage (before crits) and not generate maelstrom to ensure that the ability to “cast more spells” is firmly a function of haste and not mastery. This would resolve the upper limits on mastery allowing it to scale over 100%. It could be possible to have a lower proc chance if the “deck of cards” proc mechanic was used to reduce variation.

The other “problem” with Overload being chance based is that there can be some extreme variance within short windows. Over longer timeframes the proc rate will roughly equal the mastery percentage, but when looking at short duration buffs like Ascendance a good/bad run can skew your damage output. The overall variation is small (+/- 3%) but this can impact on small burst windows or the feeling of how well you’re playing based on DPS meters.

There is also a lower level “feeling” component to this. Back in Warlords of Draenor Elemental had a 20% base multistrike chance plus a 5% bonus to multistrike rating, as this was effectively a “universal overload” stat but still needed to be a key component of Elemental spell visuals. Previously/currently this is handled by that base 8 points of mastery that every spec gets which is why there was a base 20% chance. In a recent patch Overload was reduced from 2.25% chance per “point” to 1.875% in order to avoid hitting the hard cap, which means that the proc visuals will be less frequent for players during levelling or early expansion content. Having a fixed chance would maintain this feeling through all content.

Overload would still affect the same spells: Lava Burst, Lightning Bolt, Chain Lighting as well as talented abilities like Elemental Blast & Icefury.

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About binkenstein
I'm a geek, living in Christchurch, New Zealand.

One Response to Binkenstein’s Elemental 8.0 Redesign

  1. Blizzard. Take note.

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