WAWK: Shaman Artifact Edition

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Shaman seem to have gotten through the Legion pruning alright, in regards to their Elemental and Restoration specs. Enhancement is another story, where both their single target and AoE seem to have completely changed, despite still having iconic abilities such as Stormstrike and Lava Lash. Their main loss, in an ironic way because of Blizzard’s push for class fantasy, is their loss of the wealth of totems that they could place down in combat. Veteran shaman will always vividly remember their class quests to get their four elemental totems, unlocking branches of buff management to their parties that would slowly be pruned over the years to the point where they no longer have the ability to drop all four totems around them like shaman of old. Now they just throw them around the place and hope they don’t give a fellow raider concussion!

For their artifacts, they certainly get the bigger straw lorewise with links to titans, naga and one of the most famous (and oldest known in the franchise) weapons players can hold: the Doomhammer. I’m totally not biased because of the server I play on. Restoration shaman get to explore the beautiful Vashj’ir once again – though some may groan at that – while Enhancement follow the caverns of Deepholm. Elemental return to Pandaria once more to pay a visit to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms (unfortunately not fixed by the sha spillage) and go to the Temple of the White Tiger in Kun-Lai.

Introductory Quests

Some whispering winds tells you that the four winds have been sent to find you, and tells you to follow them to Thrall in Dalaran. Meeting with him, he tells you that the elders of the Earthen Ring have called an emergency council near the Maelstrom, and asks that you join him there. Head to Stormcaller Mylra at Krasus’s Landing, and she’ll take you to the Maelstrom.

After a short cutscene, you arrive at the Storm’s Eye Overlook where Nobundo will greet you and tell you that what’s left of the shaman of the Earthen Ring are in need of inspiration from the best shaman in the world: you!

Casting Lightning Bolt on the Maelstrom Pillar, Flame Shock on the Damp Campfire and healing Iain Firebeard’s gryphon, Screech, will do the job, but as soon as you do the Legion ambushed the small camp! Defeat the infernals, and Tribemother Torra will offer you her spear to take down the felbat Falthus, then you’ll jump onto the Maelstrom Pillar to boop Geth’xun off the edge into the Maelstrom. Thrall however manages to lose Doomhammer into the abyss too, and claims that his relationship with the elements has changed since his time on Draenor. As a result, he promotes you to being the leader of the Earthen Ring! He then suggests for you to take up a quest for a weapon to use against the Legion – either chasing after Doomhammer, or speaking with Rehgar or Erunak to follow their guidance.

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Elemental – The Fist of Ra-den

The gladiator Rehgar knows of a weapon that can be used to harness the power of the storms. After the Pandaren Campaign, the weapons of the storm god Ra-den were discovered beneath the Throne of Thunder, where he lost them in his eternal fight against the Black Empire. It is said that the power of the artifact comes from the Highfather Aman’Thul himself, the leader of the titan Pantheon. The White Tiger Xuen now cares for them, and will only give them to one who is worthy of them – Rehgar will help you prove your worth.

Travel with him to Pandaria, to the base of the Temple of the White Tiger to meet with Xuen. He tells you to go to the Guo Lai Halls in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms and collect the edicts of stone, fire and storm, and cleansing the area of mogu spirits. When you go to collect each of the edicts, Xuen tells you a little more about the history of the artifact, about how Highkeeper Ra reigned over southern Kalimdor, and how the titan Aman’Thul bestowed upon him the power of storms and lightning within Ra’s clenched fist.

With the titan-forged sorceress Helya, Highkeeper Ra created four elemental realms to imprison the elemental lords, and embedded the key to these realms into his shield, “The Highkeeper’s Ward.” Ra walked among the elemental planes, as both their jailor and master. Later, he warred against the Black Empire, and Ra created his own army of stone to combat against them, called the mogu. Years later, they proved to be his undoing however as when they became corrupted by the curse of flesh the Highkeeper was overthrown by Lei Shen.

Xuen finishes his tale by telling you that the Thunder King could not wield the armaments of the Highkeeper as he did not have the mastery over the elements themselves. The White Tiger tells you to return to his temple for your next trial, and Rehgar is confident in yours and his ability to overcome the challenges and beat your rivals.

Your first trial is against Sigurd the Giantslayer, who is a slow and deliberate fighter who’s fairly easy to avoid his attacks. For your second trial, a test of teamwork is at stake, so you team up with Rehgar to fight against Li Li and Chen Stormstout – focus on Li Li first, interrupt her heals and just avoid Chen’s wandering keg to make the trial yours. For the final trial, of which none has ever passed apparently. Claim the Fist of Ra-den once you enter the temple of the white tiger itself, and you’ll be rooted to the ground for several seconds, until the Legion conveniently arrive to try and take the artifact from you.

Free your allies, and taking down Lord Kra’vos becomes a walk in the park. Once you take him down, Xuen congratulates you on your new weapons and tells you to go forth with his blessing and defend Azeroth, while Rehgar creates a portal to return you to your class hall.

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Enhancement – Doomhammer

Definitely the most famous of the three weapons in the Shamans’ arsenal, the Doomhammer is probably the most famous weapon of any classes’ options. Originally starting as a warrior’s weapon for Orgrim Doomhammer way back in Warcraft: Orcs and Humans and has been one of the more prominent weapons since then. In Lord of the Clans, the events before Warcraft III, Doomhammer passed the Doomhammer onto Thrall and he managed to unlock its elemental capabilities, and it has been seen as a Shaman weapon ever since. We have to go into Deepholm to retrieve Doomhammer, though we have to watch out for the demon we sent down with it.

Go with Mylra to help Thrall bring Doomhammer topside. She’ll take you down on her gryphon, and Thrall claims that the weapon could be anywhere, so suggests to split up – Thrall will go to the shaman at the Temple of Earth, Mylra will head over to the Earthen at Stonehearth, and you’re tasked with going to Therazane the Stonemother herself to see if she knows where Doomhammer fell.

When you fly into the Throne, it appears that the Stonemother is in a meeting with her crystal rock giants. She says that she hasn’t seen Doomhammer, but knows where to start, but first you must help her by killing a large number of troggs until one of them talks to tell you where the artifact fell. She also asks that you free her stone drakes and reassemble Opalescent Guardians to carry the broodmother’s eggs to safety.

Finishing those three tasks, and Therazane claims that she knows where the Doomhammer is, and says that the stone dragons are able to help us in recovering it. The leader of the stone troggs is called Borlock, and the stone dragon broodmother offers to take you to him as her dragons have a score to settle with the troggs. When you kill him, he cries out that the weapon fell into the Crumbling Depths, though says that the Legion has it by now.

Return to the Throne, and you find that Thrall and Mylra have also returned, with no news. You tell them where it is, and the three of you take Therazane’s portal to retrieve it back from Geth’xun as quickly as possible. Fel blood splatters the floor, and heading down the cavern you’re met with a few waves of imps. Thrall eventually catches up, and goes on a small monologue as how the Doomhammer no longer powered the elements through it, and how it had been that way since he slayed Garrosh in Nagrand.

Fighting through some more fel corrupted shale spiders and gyreworms, Thrall continues his monologue about Doomhammer, about how it’s a symbol of hope and power. Eventually you get into the cave where Doomhammer is laying, and it appears that Geth’xun is also there to take the weapon for his masters. Mylra goes to distract the demon while you break down the earthen barriers protecting the artifact, though just as you claim it the demon strikes down Mylra. Finish off Geth’xun with your new weapon, and revive Mylra so she can take you back to the surface. Thrall carries on his melancholy, and tells you to return to the Maelstrom while he goes his own way to do some thinking. When you return, Nobundo helps you with creating your class order hall at the Heart of Azeroth, at the Maelstrom.

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Restoration – Sharas’dal, Scepter of Tides

Another weapon from a famous user, Sharas’dal was the weapon of Queen Azshara 10,000 years ago before she was transformed into a naga. It is said that whoever wielded the weapon would have control over the sea and the waters of life as it swirled with the waters from the Well of Eternity. However, during the War of the Ancients, the artifact was lost when Azshara and her followers were swallowed by the sea. Erunak has long sought after the location of the scepter, and one of his shaman was close to finding it when she disappeared.

Speaking with Erunak, he will tell you that Wavespeaker Adelee had tracked the Scepter of Tides to the Ruins of Vashj’ir, but she hasn’t been heard from since. Erunak asks that you join him in finding the lost shaman and to go get the artifact. He puts you into a bubble and you travel there with him, before he gives you the “Sea Legs” buff to allow you to breathe underwater – so it’s safe even if you haven’t done the Vashj’ir entry quests! Having no access to any water mounts such as the seahorse or turtles will suck though…

Erunak asks that you find three clues to the whereabouts of the Wavespeaker in the ruins. The first clue you find is in front of a chained sea giant, Adelee’s staff, and it is attuned to the Abyssal Maw. The second clue is of a wavestone, of which she told Erunak that it could cloak one’s movements from Neptulon, allowing users such as the naga to slip into his domain undetected. You also find her journal, to bring back to Erunak for him to read it over.

It would appear that she went into the Abyssal Maw, but Erunak thinks that the trail was too easy to track and that we may be walking into a trap. However, he doesn’t care for this theory as he believes that your caliber will overcome any trials the naga may face you with.

When you enter the Throne of the Tides, you find two naga torturing a sea giant. Heal him up and defeat the naga to get him to join your side. Continue through the icy wall and fight through a few packs of makrura and naga until you find and arrive at Wavespeaker Adelee. She claims that the entire realm is a trap and that you should turn back, though Erunak quells her fears, again in his confidence in you.

After you defeat the naga hulk Kra’liss, you can take Erunak’s bubble to the second floor and you are confronted by waves of water trying to push you away. Simply walk around them and your group will follow, with Grash acting as a breakwater should you fail. Get to the end, and Lady Zithreen awaits you in the final room. Defeat her, and Sharas’dal is yours to take. Return to the Maelstrom, and Nobundo will help create your class order hall.

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Active Mitigation into Active Regeneration

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So these details have been out a little while now, meaning this article is largely going to be about my views on the matter now they’ve been out for some time, and what could happen in the future as a result from this, instead of a general news post with my initial reactions to the changes.

What I’m talking about is the changes healers are seeing to their mana regeneration going into 6.0 and beyond. Please note that at the time of writing this article, Warlords of Draenor is in its alpha stages, with changes happening left, right and center, so chances are details in this article are likely to change. It didn’t take long for Blizzard to re-implement Innervate for example, unless it was their plan all along to completely scrap it and rebuild it from new with a new spell ID.

The full details of the changes to healers’ mana regeneration can be found here, but I’ll list a brief overview below:

  • Druid: Innervate has been redesigned to have no cooldown, have a two second cast, and every 4 seconds for 8 seconds will restore 2.5% of their max mana. Innervate will cancel if any healing spells are cast during this time.
  • Monk: Crackling Jade Lightning will have no mana cost in Stance of the Wise Serpent (baring in mind Mistweavers can now choose between Serpent and Crane stances), and once channeled for the full 4 seconds will restore 2% of their max mana.
  • Paladin: Divine Plea has been redesigned to have no cooldown, but now consumes 3 Holy Power to restore 7% of max mana.
  • Discipline Priest: Penance now restores 1.1% of max mana every time it hits, but no longer triggers Atonement.
  • Holy Priest: Red Chakra (Chastise) will cause Smite and Holy Fire to restore 0.75% of max mana instead of costing mana.
  • Shaman: Telluric Currents is now (finally) passive for Resto Shamans. Casting Lightning Bolt will restore 1.25% of max mana instead of costing mana.

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So it looks like Blizz have taken a look at Mistweaver Monks and Power Word: Solace, and decided that they like that particular model of regenerating your mana in a more active role, as opposed to a button you just pressed every couple of minutes to greatly regen your mana like the Innervate or Divine Plea we’re used to in Mists. Just like how Blood Shield for Blood DKs was kind of a testing ground for what all tanks eventually received in Mists through active mitigation, it seems that all healers now get this active mana regeneration model as a result of the success with Priests and Monks.

I have to say, I’m most intrigued by the Druid and Paladin ones. The Druid one less so, but they both have something a little more unique than “deal damage to regen mana” – something that builds upon the Monk’s mechanic for Mana Tea. We’ve had Telluric Currents for years, just slapping the same thing onto both three more specs doesn’t make it any more interesting. What about something like “Every 3 Renews you cast makes your next healing spell cost no mana” or bring in the return of mp5 through saying something like “Not casting a healing spell for 5 seconds will increase your spirit by X%”. Monks could make use of their secondary resource, chi, to instantly restore something like 0.5% of max mana – baring in mind that spending chi gives them stacks for their tea too, it could be a good way to actively dump throughput to gain a ton of mana back.

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I think the active mitigation model has worked extremely well in Mists, even going as far to say that out of them all, ironically the Death Knights are the tanks that seems to be the weakest and most dependent on lucky streaks from dodge and parry in order to stay alive. But what’s worked out the best is that because of all the different resources tanks have to increase their survivability – healers on the other hand largely just have mana to work with. Monks and Paladins have their combo points, sure, and I’m not trying to push for all healers to get some kind of combo point mechanic to spend as that’ll just feel shoved in for complexity’s sake. But simply dealing damage to regen mana just seems like boring design.

I do want to make a point on the new Innervate too: It essentially means the Druid isn’t healing for 6-10 seconds, taking the cast time into account. I don’t know if haste will have an impact for partial mana ticks at all, but it does involve a bit of communication with the raid to only expect heals to tick out for the next few seconds – if we’re going into Mythic raiding with 4-5 healers, that means for 6-10secs at a time raids are going to have to make up 20-25% healing while an Innervate is going out. With triage healing being the focus of the expansion, with Blizzard planning to reduce the huge damage output and expecting raids to spend most of their time at sub-100%, it’s going to take a lot of intuition of the encounter for Druids to time their Innervates correctly without being tempted to throw a Wild Growth out or sweep a few extra Rejuv’s out. What Blizzard are telling Druids to do with Innervate in its current form is to essentially do nothing while they regen mana, as casting will negate the regeneration from Innervate anyway.

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So yeah, I’m complaining about using damage to regen, and I’m complaining about one of the few mechanics that doesn’t involve using damage to regen mana. I sound like the average forum user… The proof is in the pudding, Blizzard made active mitigation work extremely well for tanks – it certainly breaks up the main problem I have with tanks: long periods of nothing to do, maybe taunt every so often, but then suddenly all the weight of an encounter is on your shoulders, and you could be the cause of a wipe. It’s up to the tank to be able to cope with the sudden switch in responsibility, so for those that tend to lose focus from boredom, this active mitigation model certainly makes much more interactive gameplay.

It makes me think about the future though – if this active mana regeneration model works out well for healers, could it be something we see for DPS? Perhaps removing some DPS cooldowns to combo some abilities together to grant more damage. As much as people hate it, Rune of Power from Mages could be a good template to start from, or Steady Focus on Marksmanship Hunters.