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This article is a guide on shaman builds. As a hybrid class, shamans can adapt to a wide variety of tasks. The three talent trees each result in a rather different game experience.
Talent trees By purpose
It's the designers stated intent that the Enhancement tree is the leveling spec for Shamans. It combines little to no down time and high damage output. The important spells and abilities are Windfury Weapon, dual-wielding, Stormstrike, and Lava Lash. The drawback of this spec is that it's melee and thus takes a solid amount of damage from most mob types. At higher levels, Maelstrom Weapon allows regular instant heals, which helps to remedy this problem greatly.
As the ranged DPS tree, Elemental can also be used for leveling. It's much safer since mobs are usually seriously hurt (or even dead), before they are in melee range. However, it uses a lot of mana and thus leads to higher downtime. Another rare, but serious problem is that, due to most of Elemental damage being nature damage some creatures immune to nature damage force the player to fall back on their fire, ice and melee damage. There are few spells that deal this kind of damage, so these creatures are best avoided.
For the purpose of solo play, Restoration is a rather poor choice. The tree offers next to no enhancements to damage output and therefore killing mobs takes a very long time. It grants high survivability though, meaning a Resto Shaman will almost never fall in combat against normal mobs, especially if Earth Shield is taken later in the game. Restoration is a nice spec when leveling in a group environment with many instances. This method has become viable with the introduction of the Dungeon Finder.
Healing was the traditional role for Shamans in all groups or raids. Over the years, the other specs have become viable too, but Restoration is still a very well liked specialization for raiding Shamans. Since 3.0.1, healing Shamans even got an interesting spell rotation (since 2.0 it had been mostly Chain Heal spam). At least one Earth Shield is still wanted by every raid leader. Shamans are good point (tank) healers and decent AoE (raid) healers.
An elemental shaman is a ranged damage dealer who contributes a strong raid-wide buff of 3% crit for all other damage dealers (including melee). This buff alone may be worth bringing an elemental shaman. If no Moonkin druid is in the raid, elemental provides a similar buff (Elemental Oath, exclusive with Moonkin Aura) for another 5% crit. The drawback is that an elemental shaman has only some limited AoE abilities which cannot compete with Mages, Warlocks or Druids in that department.
Enhancement Shamans are melee damage dealers with high burst capabilities and very good point damage output, but again (simliar to elemental) only mediocre AoE capabilities. Additionally they provide AP to the whole raid (Unleashed Rage) and their totems are a little more effective than those of other shamans due to Enhancing Totems.
This tree has great potential to throw off both melee and caster opponents. Elemental Warding fends off up to 6% damage from all sources. Astral Shift further reduces damage if placed under one of the conditions. Thunderstorm is an amazing way to fend off melee attackers for enough time to throw in a quick heal. Finally Eye of the Storm (Talent) helps when trying to get a cast in when there are multiple attackers. These damage-reducing talents along with the high damage output allow for a well-rounded PvP Shaman.
This tree can be very fun to mess with people, especially when they are caught off guard. The key talents are Toughness which reduces both movement-impairing effects and a good amount of damage, Static Shock for 9 charges of Lightning Shield, and Maelstrom Weapon which makes one spell instant after a certain number of melee hits. Jumping an enemy by surprise with both Feral Spirits, Bloodlust (Heroism for Alliance players), and both instant-strike attacks can make enemies feel helpless and intimidated.
Restoration shamans are not the easiest build to play in PvP. Players need to put some effort into understanding and familiarizing themselves with the various abilities. The low damage output makes restoration shamans rather easy prey for enemy damage dealers. Nature's Swiftness is a highly useful spell when a fast, big and uninterruptable heal is needed. Also, Nature's Guardian is more useful than it seems at the first glance.
PVE Talent builds
Elemental PvE DPS (33/3/0)
Elemental (31/5/0 with 5 spare points to be used as you see fit)
This is your basic PvE leveling and raiding build for Elemental Shaman. There are 5 points available to move around as you see fit. It is nice to have the extra passive speed-boost and instant Ghost Wolf from Ancestral Swiftness, and the extra range from Totemic Reach can extend the life of a totem drop, and couples nicely with Elemental Reach.
Focus on haste, then spellpower, then crit (up to 20%+). Glyphs: Lightning Bolt, Flame Shock, and Totem of Wrath. The Lava glyph is probably not worth it. Totem of Wrath is around 80 SP, which benefits all spells, while the Lava glyph only benefits the eight-second cooldown; that's about 300 dps per lava burst and 80sp benefits your lava burst + all the lightning bolts between the cooldown ( which is > 300dps total ( atleast 500dps depending on gear )).
Rotation is simple on bosses: Flame Shock -> Elemental Mastery -> Lava Burst -> Lightning Bolt / Chain Lightning (Never cast chain lightning if the cast time gets below 1 second or you will hit the GCD!) Then repeat from Lava Burst onward, Renew Flame Shock whenever necessary and make sure to cast Earth Shock for big damage when your Lightning Shield hits 9 stacks.
Addons such as Shock and Awe or TellMeWhen, which notify you of spell availability, can be very helpful with keeping track.
On AoE the rotation is no longer Flame Shock - > Chain Lightning - > Fire Nova - > Lava Burst - > Chain Lightning - > Lightning Bolt - > Chain Lightning - > Fire Nova. We have a viable AoE spell now that's calle Earthquake and it's pretty sweet. The spell effect is pretty cool, and the damage is solid. We can now compete with other caster classes in AoE damage.
On single trash the rotation is Flame Shock - > Lava Burst - > Chain Lightning (That's because CL is a faster cast than lightning bolt and doesn't cost much mana after a crit.) If the target isn't dead after that, spam Lava Burst when it's available, else Lightning Bolt. Remember to reapply Flame Shock when its effect wears off, although not simply when it's available. No point overlapping, as LvB does more damage.
Soloing and Leveling (10/31/0)
This build focuses on being a solid leveling spec. With this build you rarely stop for mana or healing and it focuses on a rotation of stormstrike, lava lash and your choice of shock spells. Glyph of Lightning Shield is a must for this build as soon as possible, making soloing much simpler and nicer (infinite charges of shield along with your Static Shock). Crits are key to this build with Flurry (shaman talent) and Elemental Devastation. The points put into Ancestral Swiftness or Frozen Power can be transfered to Improved Shields for extra lightning shield damage (or if you prefer Windfury Weapon to Frostbrand Weapon) points can also be moved into Totemic Reach if you want to be able to plop down your totems and fight all the mobs around you more easily. Totems to use for this build while leveling would be Strength of Earth Totem, Flametongue Totem until Searing Flames.
|Purpose||Raid and single-target heals|
With the talent and stat revamp in Cataclysm, we Shaman no longer have unlimited mana-pools. It's time to become more active and smarter about who we heal and how much healing we do. There is no longer an option for extreme over-healing or simply spamming chain-heal. In fact, Chain Heal is no longer the go-to heal in emergencies or for general healing in raids. It is all about biding your time, recovering mana whenever possible, and throwing big targeted heals on the raid-members who are in the most danger. We also need to recover mana actively rather than waiting for MP5/Spirit regen to save us. We have talents that help us recover mana when casting damaging spells. Throw lightning bolts when not casting heals to recover mana, a perfect time for this is immediately after casting Healing Rain.
PvP Talent Builds
Pre-WotLK (3.0.2) patch
For older builds, see Shaman builds: Pre-WotLK