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November 5, 2007
World of Warcraft Focus – Shaman

By Mark Arsenault

One of the most interesting classes in World of Warcraft is the Shaman. They can melee DPS like a rogue, heal like a priest, or nuke like a mage. As with any of the classes in WoW, in order to maximize the effectiveness of your class in any particular role requires heavy talent point spending in the appropriate tree. This is doubly true for shamans, who can do three very different jobs exceptionally well with a deep build in each tree. Here are three of the many templates favored by players of this versatile class:

Pure Healing Build
Melee DPS Build
Elemental Focus Build

I have personally tried all of these builds extensively, with varied success. A pure healing build requires a LOT of + healing gear (i.e. more than 1000 with Wrath of Air Totem) in order to be successful in any kind of raid situation. Sure, you'll be able to heal well, but to even hope to be compared on the charts to a well geared priest, paladin or druid, Shamans have to work extra hard. The other healing classes have spells and tricks of the trade that help them do their job in raid situations more efficiently than Shamans. Until you get enough + healing gear to allow you to downrank your main heals, you will constantly have mana problems in longer boss fights.

Now the melee DPS build is another story entirely, and is extremely viable in raid situations when played properly. By properly, I mean not generating SO much threat so quickly that you are killed at the start of the fight. There is a Shaman in our guild who would regularly die in the first couple seconds of most boss fights due to his ridiculous burst DPS. Blizzard has acknowledged threat generation by melee Shamans is more than it should be, and promises to address the issue in a future patch. Until that glorious day, the unfortunately solution is to start off slower in big fights, or group with healers and drop a Tranquil Air Totem to reduce threat by 20%. The burst DPS of a melee Shaman is roughly on par with what a Fire/Arcane mage can put out, and dual wielding a few 80+ DPS weapons helps (or a big 'ole 2 Hander for those that prefer massive Windfury crits).

Elemental Shamans are essentially mages with mail armor that can heal themselves. Sure it might SOUND overpowered but … ok it is overpowered. They have excellent survivability compared to a mage, and while they may not be able to deal as much burst DPS, they can easily top out on the damage meters for long boss fights. The Unrelenting Storm talent coupled with some other decent mana per 5 gear, as well as Mana Spring / Mana Tide totems, help counter the mana problems others casters run into in protracted boss encounters. If you want to PvP with this build, you will need to consider dropping quite a few points out of the Elemental tree, and redistributing into the Restoration tree. You will then have the options available for uninterruptible heals, more points to crit with lightning, and perhaps even Nature's Swiftness. These will greatly increase survivability, at the cost of some DPS - it comes down to individual play style and whether or not you hang around regularly with healers who could watch your back as you lay down the law.

There are several cool things available to the Shaman class, regardless of build, that are very useful in everyday PvE, PvP and raiding situations. Aside from the obvious usefulness of the stat enhancing totems, there are a few other Shaman treats that bring a lot to the dinner table. Heroism, which is on a 10 minute timer, increases melee, ranged, and spell casting speed by 30% for all party members. The best aspect of this particular class skill is that it is reset with every arena match, making the first 40 seconds while the skill is active VERY handy. The Earth Elemental and Fire Elemental totems, which are on a 15 minute timer, are unfortunately excluded from arena matches. The area effect taunt of the Earth, and massive area effect damage from the Fire provide the Shaman and their friends many fun ways to use and abuse these totems to their collective advantage in other situations.

In closing, if you are not sure what you want to be when you grow up, I would strongly suggest rolling up a shaman. While leveling, be sure to collect a variety of gear that would be helpful to the three basic talent builds. Respec often, and try out the wide variety of play styles available to this class. By the time you reach 70 and are all grown up, you'll have had the opportunity to decide which build suits you best. Then you'll be able to focus on one particular type of gear, and get comfortable inside of it.

About the Author
Mark is a self-professed WoW junkie, having leveled practically every class to the cap on both Horde and Alliance. While some would argue this makes him an expert on class development, talent builds, and the intricacies of group balance, the god's honest truth is that he just can't decide which class he likes best. One day, he hopes to bring his message of peace and love to the world, but until then he will slay mercilessly into the wee hours of the night, praying the powers that be don't pull his cable in a vain attempt to silence him.


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