NOTE: TAKEN FROM ENSIDIA.COM
I may use these abbreviations during the guide.
LB = Lightning Bolt
LvB = Lava Burst
SP = Spell Power
CL = Chain Lightning
MP5 = Mana Regen per 5 seconds.
INT = Intellect
STAM = Stamina
DPS = Damage Per Second
AoE = Area of Effect
ilvl = Item Level
DoT = Damage over Time
EM = Elemental Mastery
FN = Fire Nova
FS = Flame Shock
TS = Thunderstorm
ST = Searing Totem
spec = Talent Specification
When I first made my Shaman I had the intent of making it Elemental. I was much more focused on World PvP back then and with the spec at lvl 60 that had Nature's Swiftness you could also heal pretty well. Once Molten Core was released I was very much pulled into playing Resto and have played that as my Main PvE spec for coming on 5 years. Things have now changed signficantly for me and I find myself playing Elemental as my main spec (due to a number of factors) and I'm also enjoying it more. I think having played the same spec for such a long time it's quite nice to just be something else but still be playing Shaman.
Elemental Provides a lot of good raid buffs. Firstly you can give 280 Spell Power for your raid. While this buff may often be overwritten by Demonic Pact in 25 man raids, it offers an excellent buff for smaller raids and also is combined with the 3% crit debuff on all nearby targets. Your main raid buffs however are usually going to be Elemental Oath giving 5% Spell Crit and Wrath of Air Totem giving 5% Spell Haste. These 2 buffs cannot be done by any single other class and thus makes the Elemental Shaman a traditionally strong choice for a raid spot. While you can get the crit from a Druid, the range is quite low and that can mean that not everyone is buffed (Changing in next patch (Thanks khalts). It is possible for any other Shaman however to provide the 5% haste buff. All of this buffing aside, we can still do excellent Single Target and AoE damage. This is amplified in 3.3 in that in 25 man raids you will find yourself not needing to use Totem of Wrath (due to a Retribution/Protection Paladin and Demonology Warlock), resulting in using a damaging fire totem. This will boost your damage a lot compared to using your buffing totem.
Elemental is a fun spec to play but it is one of those things that's easy to play decently and hard to play perfectly due to the issues with Haste that arise. We will get into Haste a lot more later on in the guide but it does mean that there's a lot more to it than just spamming a static rotation endlessly. There is a huge amount of theorycrafting going around about Elemental. The aim of this guide is not to get heavily into mathematics but focus more on how you play and what to think about when you select gear upgrades and such
There are two viable talent specs that you can use. I'm only including the 2nd one because some people seem to like it, I really wouldn't use it however unless there is zero chance you are going to die and you really need extra mana.
This is the build you should be using most of the time. It has Elemental Warding which can save your life in a lot of situations and ease the job for your healers.
This Build will yield you more mana. If you play correctly though this extra mana should not be needed and survival will play a more important role in your spec. If you feel you really need the mana or for a specific fight, go with this one.
You can also switch out the points in Nova -> Convection if you think you will never AoE (unlikely).
There are several different stats that are key to playing an Elemental Shaman and so let's look at them individually and then how to collectively balance them.
This is the absolute most important stat. It's unlike the other stats because when you don't have enough it's by far your best stat but as soon as you have the desired amount to make your spells "unmissable" then it's completely useless.
A standard boss has a 17% chance to full resist your spells causing a "miss". So this is the amount we have to make up for.
The first 3% is done by your Talent Elemental Precision. You will always have this talent so now we are looking for 14% more.
When you raid in 25 man you should always have either a Shadow Priest for Misery or a Balance Druid for Improved Faerie Fire. These also provide an additional 3% to hit when up on a target. In 10 mans you may not have one of these debuffs, if that is the case you need to try and adjust your hit accordingly.
The last thing that affects hit is being a Draenei. Due to the racial here you will gain an additional 1% hit.
This means that as Horde you will need 11% hit or 289 rating. As Alliance you will need 10% hit or 263 rating[/COLOR]. This is the amount that shows on your character screen ingame under "Spell".
If you are doing a 10 man without one of the previous buffs you need to get 14% hit or 368 hit rating (13% and 342 rating as Alliance)
Do not be afraid to go a little over this value, it's a lot better to be over it than under. However you really dont want to be sitting at 350 hit in your 25 man raiding gear if you can help it. A similar theory applies to being a bit under, I've raided with 287 or so and the extreme rarity that you actually get a miss means it's not a huge issue. That being said you really don't want to raid with 250 hit or something like that because it will have a major impact on your damage.
Spell Power is always going to be your core stat. It's never really going to be a bad mistake to get more Spell Power, it's always a very strong stat. The reality is that Spell Power is almost an automatic stat and not often a choice. All the gear you are going to be getting is going to have Spell Power on it and there isn't the same decision factor as say Haste vs Crit. The only decision may be to get take a Spell Power reduction vs a Haste or Crit upgrade but usually this is a pretty easy decision due to ilvl information.
The strength of Spell Power increases the more Haste you have also. This means that at low levels of Haste, Haste is extremely good because you want to boost it up. However once you get a very high level of Haste its value is somewhat diminished and so Spell Power goes a long way out in front in terms of being the best stat for you.
-Haste and Crit
I'm sure that some Elemental Shaman theorycrafter could write a 5000 word essay on how Haste effects an Elemental Shaman. The first thing to say is that it is pretty much always better than Crit except at gear levels beyond the scope of this guide (somewhere around 1250 haste). I could sit here and go on about all the different reasons and how at 1000 Haste the value of Crit and Haste is different from at 500 Haste but it really isn't important. All you need to know is that if you have a choice to make between Haste and Crit you always choose Haste and only at extreme levels of Haste is there a chance that this could change. Haste will however affect how you rotate your spells, use your cooldowns and consider upgrades quite a lot though and that will be covered in a later section.
-MP5 and Intellect
While you can go out of mana playing Elemental, getting mp5 on your gear is not the solution. You will gain all the mana you need from the natural Intellect on your gear. This comes from both the talent Unrelenting Storm and from Replenishment. You will also get a lot of regen from Mana Shield and of course Thunderstorm but you don't want to use the latter unless you absolutely have to since it's a dps loss. In AoE situations however you want to use Thunderstorm as much as possible!.
-Balancing and Prioritising your stats:
Spell Power is king and it will always be this way regardless of your other stats. You will want to get your Haste up as quickly as possible though and especially at low levels of gear not pay too much attention to Crit. There are significant jumps in DPS around 500 Haste and 1000 Haste. So pretty much throughout the gearing process you want to look for Haste over Crit and constantly increase your Spell Power. This will go for your Gems and Enchants also which will be explained in a seperate section. All in all it's not overly complex what items and stats to choose, it's more about how the Haste changes your play that is the issue.
Last but not least never forget Stamina. You cannot DPS if you are face down dead on the floor.
Your meta gem should be Chaotic Skyflare Diamond (3% increased Critical Damage and 21+ Crit Rating). It is by far the best meta gem.
To Activate your Meta Gem you want to use 2 Glowing Dreadstones, 12 SP / 15 STAM. You should use them where you can get the best socket bonus such as +7 Spell Power or +9 Spell Power
Your Red Sockets should be Runed Cardinal Rubies, 23 SP as should your Blue Sockets that are not used for Meta Gem requirements
Your Yellow Sockets will usually be Reckless Ametrines 12 SP / 10 Haste. If you need extra hit it's in these sockets you should Gem the extra hit. Use either Veiled Ametrines or Rigid King's Amber. If the socket bonus for any Yellow socket is useless for DPS (like say +4 Int) then consider 23 Spell Power especially if you already have a lot of Haste.
On an item with one Yellow and one Blue socket, you probably want to use 2x 23 SP gems if you don't want the socket bonus for meta gem requirements
If you are lucky enough to be a Jewelcrafter or Blacksmith I would suggest using your custom gems for extra Spell Power gems! (Runed)
At very low levels of gear you will probably want to Gem for extra Haste to get you towards the 500 Haste point for a significant bump in your Damage
For my enchants it's fairly straight forward. If you go to my armory you can see them there.
Notable choices are that I choose 10 stats over 8MP5 on chest because I think that Stamina is a worthy stat to have and you should always give it appropriate weight. On boots I recommend always using Tuskar's Vitality or Nitro Boots if you are Engineering. Survival is just soo important and Nitro Boots will really aid you in positioning faster for DPS. With your head and shoulder enchants you should always be using the Spell Power / Crit option. Almost all your enchants are just going to be choosing the Spell Power option, don't get the Spirit pant enchant, get Stamina. You do not want to bother with Black Magic, 63 Spell Power is better on Weapon. The problem with Black Magic is that if it procs during Bloodlust or while using other Haste cooldowns it's probably going to be wasted. Other than that it's just generally always choosing the best Spell Power enchant!
One of the most common problems with Elemental Shamans is choosing your gear. The itemisation is notoriously awful for them and far too often a Cloth item could be the Best in Slot item. Sites that tell you to go for these Cloth items are probably right but with many casters competing for the same items it's unrealistic, especially when it comes to Heroic Mode level items. The first thing you want to do is sort out your Hit Rating. It can be very annoying to get the correct amount of hit and changing one item often means changing another or changing a lot of gems. Once you have that resolved you are just going to be going for as much Spell Power and Haste as you can. The reality is that with the way the gear is itemised, items will have either Hit/Crit, Hit/Haste or Haste/Crit. This means that you are going to be picking up a lot of crit anyway on your non Hit items so you won't have too many difficult choices to make.
I think many people in guides are going to write a list of the absolute perfect set of gear to get but again with playing an Elemental Shaman you just need to adapt according to what gear you have available and using the stat advice above.
Always take advantage of set bonuses, all of the set bonuses available are definitely worth getting. There are no items that are going to boost you sufficiently in order to negate the bonus of these sets. They should therefore be your primary goal with your gear. With t10 there's some debate over the 4 part bonus but without access to premium cloth items, the set is certainly going to be the best.
If your gear is really lacking in Haste, use your Gems to compensate, they provide a huge stat bonus and allow you to specialise a where needed.
Picking gear with no Stamina at all is unwise. You need to stay alive and a "glass cannon" damage dealer is not the way to go at all.
The Relic from Triumph Badges called Totem of Electrifying Wind is a significant upgrade over all lower level relics and you should prioritise getting it. The Frost Relic called Bizuri's Totem of Shattered Ice is less of an upgrade than when you get Electrifying Wind but it's still a solid improvement. Based on the current 4 part tier 10 bonus you probably want to be going for this after 2 parts of tier 10 or the belt.
Trinkets deserve a small extra section because they are usually gimmicky items where the effects are less obviously good or bad. For example on most gear parts you just choose the stats you want, but on trinkets there are procs and such that are much harder to evaluate. The first thing I will say that as an Elemental Shaman without Reign of the Dead (at time of writing) you will struggle on damage. It's an extremely important item for us until you can get to some of the super high end new stuff. There are some great trinkets in ICC, some of which are attainable but Reign of the Dead will always be an extremely strong choice for us and certainly better than any other trinkets you will see at the 245->258 ilvl gear
Try to avoid Haste Procs if you already have a high level of gear, much the same as Black Magic on weapon. Appart from that it's fairly similar to how you approach your gear, look for a lot of Spell Power if you can
Almost all the time you will be using Flask of the Frost Wyrm and 46 Spell Power food such as Firecracker Salmon or a Fish Feast. There will however be occasions where you want to use a Flask of Stoneblood, for example on Immortal runs your entire raid should be using them.
I use Thunderstorm (not having this is extremely annoying for tanks), Renewed Life (to avoid carrying ankhs), and Water Shield (because it's pro!).
Lightning Bolt -> Lightning Bolt is going to produce the highest proportion of your damage and as such this is a glyph you must have.
Lava -> This one boosts your Lava Burst a lot. You want to use this one with Tier 9 gear because the set bonus focuses on Lava Burst damage.
Totem of Wrath -> This is the choice instead of Lava for all other levels of gear. Once you have Tier 10 and high haste levels this is better than Lava (until you have a monstrous level of spell power 4300 or so depending on haste). It's also better than Lava if you have a gear level lower than Tier 9, however with heroics and such it's highly likely you will have minimum tier 9 gear. If you are using a damaging fire totem, you need to remember to maintain this buff on yourself (5 min duration).
Flame Shock -> This glyph is not a huge damage upgrade and it resulted from the old Tier 8 Ulduar set bonus. It is however your best option at this point. If for some reason you are using 2 part tier 8 then use the Totem of Wrath / Lava glyph instead.
Fire Nova -> This one is only for fights where you will be able to AoE static mobs for a large amount of time. It's situational and if you do decide to use it you should replace the Flame Shock glyph.
There really are not a lot of choices for glyphs, as with most classes/specs!
To sum up, most of the time you will use: Lightning Bolt, Totem of Wrath, Flame Shock. For AoE you replace the shock glyph with Fire Nova and if you have 4 part tier 9 you should replace the Totem of Wrath with Lava.
The first thing to say about this is that I can't really give you a specific rotation and say that's exactly how it will be because it's entirely based on how much haste you have. At very high levels of Haste the way you play will be different from at very low levels of Haste. It's more like that there's a list of priorities to follow and from then on you have to use some of your own judgement. There are 3 rules that always apply.
First put up Flame Shock and make sure it's always ticking on your main target. Try not to clip the duration if at all possible. What this means is you want to refresh it just after the last tick has done damage and not before. If you have a target with low HP like a scarab on Anub'arak, it's probably a waste to put Flame Shock on it.
Lava Burst on cooldown. This is always the first spell you cast after shock and then on cooldown from that point onwards ( Best damage spell)
Lightning Bolt is your filler. When you don't have something else to do you use Lightning Bolt. ( At 500ish haste+) read below why.
These are the absolute basics. It only starts to get interesting when you factor in Chain Lightning and your various cooldowns. It's very important that however you are rotating your spells, if you are using CL or not that you get your Lava Burst in just as the cooldown comes off. I often try to use CL or LB to bring my cast to an end just as it comes up so as to never be sitting for a second with LvB off cooldown.
-Chain Lightning and Fire Nova
If you don't have any Haste or if your Chain Lightning is over a 1 second cast time then it's more Damage Per Cast Time than Lightning Bolt. What this means is that every second of time you spend casting Chain Lightning will yield more damage than every second of Lightning Bolt. Even though it does less damage per hit the low cast time makes it higher DPS. Once you have soo much Haste that your Chain Lightning starts dipping below 1 second (the GCD cap) then it loses some of its edge in this regard and spamming Lightning Bolt becomes stronger. This is mainly the case when you have extreme levels of natural Haste and/or are using Haste cooldowns.
If there are multiple targets you then you always want to use Chain Lightning on cooldown. Once again you still want to try and not screw up your Lava Burst rotation though!
Another issue with CL is the high mana cost. I've seen people say that you should only cast it when you have a Clearcasting proc. Personally I've not had many mana issues and I have never spec'd into mana cost reduction. I have however always had a high level of gear and therefore a lot of Intellect. If you want to use your CL like this when you are having mana issues it's probably a good idea. There's also the theory that if your % mana left is higher than the % of the boss' health remaining then you should use CL on cooldown. This is the rule that I believe Simcraft uses at the moment (more on Simcraft later). Whatever you decide to do, based on the Haste rules above CL will often give you a damage boost, running oom is going to crush your damage though so be very aware of this.
So onto Fire Nova! You should get the talent, there's really nothing that's worth taking over it in your general spec. The Glyph though is another matter and you should only take if if you have a nice stationary AoE fight like Anub'arak. Personally I havn't even bothered Glyphing it for this fight because I find that if you have to spam CL and Fire Nova even with good gear you start running into mana problems. Therefore this is something I would be doing if we really needed the AoE damage but if AoE is plentiful anyway you can focus more on your single target damage. In these AoE situations though where you have 4-5 targets you should prioritise Fire Nova above all your other spells because it will do a LOT of damage per cast!
A little note about Fire Elemental initially here. Fire Elemental is an extremely strong spell for us now with the reduced cooldown. On progress and farm you are going to be using it all the time and your damage will skyrocket as a result of using it. The shorter the fight, the more of an impact it has. If you have it up off cooldown and you have a Demonology Warlock (or an Elemental Shaman with ToW) then use this spell asap and you will notice big damage improvements. Keep in mind that it lasts 2 minutes and adjust your usage around that.
The Haste cooldowns that you have you need to be very careful about using them together. At my gear level you will go below the GCD cap when you use Elemental Mastery with Bloodlust and this really isn't ideal. You want to try and use these cooldowns seperately and while they are up if your CL is below one second (It's usually when your lightning bolt is around 1.25) then you only spam Lightning Bolt. With 2 parts of t10 (easily available through daily/weekly quests) then you want to try and get your first Elemental Mastery off ASAP. This can prove problematic if your raid wants to use Bloodlust right at the start of a fight but there's just nothing much you can do about that.
Other Haste cooldowns that can have an Impact here are Berserking, Hyperspeed Accelerators, Scale of Fates. I'm finding it hard to explain the way in which you should use your cooldowns so I think the best way for me to explain is just to run through a standard tank and spank fight like Saurfang and how I use them. Timing is important and you want to use your cooldowns so you can attain the maximum amount of Spell Power with the shortest cast time on Lightning Bolt.
About to engage boss -> Drop Totems and be ready with Fire Elemental. -> Drop Fire Elemental 1 second before the boss goes live -> Put up Shock and use Elemental Mastery and Hyperspeed Accelerator (Hope for Ring Proc) -> First Lava Burst -> As soon as EM is out then pop Berserking -> Throughout this time be constantly spamming Lightning Bolt / LvB rotation and be refreshing Shock when needed -> Berserking expires, this is the perfect time to get Bloodlust. If you get it at another time you will just have to adapt -> Use your Wild Magic Potion and any other Spell Power cooldowns during the bloodlust. Also use Hyperspeed Accelerators if your cast time is still over 1 second (Hope for Ring Proc). -> When the Bloodlust ends most of your cooldowns will now be down, the next up will be Elemental Mastery. -> Monitor the Internal Cooldown of any trinkets or procs you have (Spell Power ones) so that you can attempt to time them with Elemental Mastery and Hyperspeed Accelerators. -> If your Fire Elemental expires put down Searing Totem -> From this point on you are just using your cooldowns as they come available and trying to time things as best you can. Only Lightning Bolt with Haste cooldowns, otherwise using CL where it doesn't interfere with your Lava Burst rotation.
This is a pretty exhaustive example but I hope it helps you understand how important monitoring your cooldowns is. As recommended at the end of the guide you should use a good Addon to monitor all cooldowns.
-Character Control and General Tips
Keybind your skills. Using the mouse to click skills will slow you down and misdirect your attention from what is actually going on with the fight. This is a very important aspect of the game.
Do not backpeddle (this means using your back key to move). We all occasionally take a couple of steps to adjust but doing it consistently (unless tanking to keep front to mob for avoidance) is going to mean you move a lot slower than you should be.
Do not keyboard turn, always use the mouse to turn your character and camera, it is significantly faster and more accurate.
How you position yourself in the room is very important. This will be one of the biggest limiting factors on your DPS and how good a player you are. The best players always cast more bolts than others simply because they position themselves well. Think about the fight and where it's best to stand so you can always have range and do the maximum possible damage.
Be raid aware. 99% of bad players are bad because they do not think about what is going on around them, they die to damage they should not be taking and/or don't take notice of what their fellow players are doing. Tunnel visioning the DPS meter or your cooldowns is a very easy thing to fall into and is a very bad habit.
Never die with healthstone and potion unused. These are two lifesaving heals and you shouldn't die without them being on cooldown/consumed.
Always keep the boss or an important add in your Focus target with a nice cast bar in a place you will notice it so you can see when they are casting their abilities.
Always keep Water Shield up. Whenever you get a free global cooldown try to refresh it, even if it's still on 3 stacks. Get into the habit of this because sometimes you will just not have time to refresh it and u need to take the opportunity when it's there.
Generally refresh Shock, use Thunderstorm, refresh Searing Totem etc. while you are on the move if you can. Think about how the fight is timed and where you have an opportunity to do such things where you otherwise might be doing nothing.
I'm hoping to try and add to this section as more things pop into my mind. It's quite difficult to just sit down and remember absolutely everything that's important at once!
How you setup your UI is always going to be personal preference. My UI is available on the forums and you can check it out here. It's updated usually at major patches so it's highly recommeded that after installing it you update the addons to the latest versions. Here's a list of addons that I generally find useful.
TotemTimers: I use this to monitor Totems and Shields. There may be better addons out there for this but I use this one.
Quartz: The standard castbar is pretty limited, this is the best one I have come across.
MiksScrollingBattleText: I believe there are many other options to this but I use this, the default one has far too few options.
oRA: Raid Addon for Main Tank targets and monitoring a few other useful bits of info, far from essential though
Forte Xorcist: I used to use this to see timers on spells and cooldowns. The most important Addon for an Elemental Shaman.
Raid Frames: Usually this should be Grid or Sraidframes.
BigWigs: People favour various boss mods. As a guild we use this one and it is great for allowing you to monitor all the boss abilities and effects on a fight.
There is no one right way to do a lot of things in this game. This guide should explain you the mechanics of the basics and what you should be aiming for. I will try to add more things as I think of them and any suggestions are welcomed. Ideally if you can take any sort of extensive discussion to the forums where I will discuss the guide in more detail. I will also add that I've never been a good theorycrafter and there may well be mistakes in this guide that don't agree with the correct Mathematics. If so point them out on the fourms
(DONT FORGET TO REDROP TOTEMS)
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