Three days remain until The Patch. Three point zero point two. Armageddon.
Melodramatics aside, The Patch will have sweeping ramifications on raiding. As one of the few guilds left on my server that still raids and as the shaman class officer, I've been working hard at determining totem responsibilities for The Patch. I've found myself wishing for a shaman version of Pally Power. I am not skilled enough with computers to write a fancy add-on of my own, but perhaps someone will read this blog and see the need!
Why would such a tool be necessary for shaman, though? What changes are coming in The Patch that affect totem distribution?
There are two notable changes. Firstly, totems with a 2-minute timer will be increased to 5 minutes. Secondly, totems will no long affect just a shaman's party. They will be raid-wide. The first change will have shaman everywhere leaping for joy. The second major change, that of totems affecting the entire raid instead of just the shaman's party, will produce mixed reactions, and it is responsible for my sudden obsession with organizing totems.
Causing totems to affect the entire raid instead of just the shaman's party is a mixed blessing, depending on your point of view. One of the oft-stated goals of the upcoming expansion is to reduce a raid's reliance on certain classes. Developers want to give players the ability to compose raids with a wide variety of classes, instead of stacking certain classes within a raid (i.e. resto shaman for M'uru). This is great news, but for a shaman who is accustomed to always having a raid spot by nature of their specialized buffs and unique abilities (Totem of Wrath, Bloodlust/Heroism, Windfury Totem, Chain Heal), it is disconcerting.
For example, my raid usually contains four to five shaman. One enhancement shaman in the melee dps group for Windfury Totem, one elemental shaman in the caster dps group for Totem of Wrath, and two to three restoration shaman for their chain heals and to distribute totem buffs to other groups. In making totems raid-wide, there are more shaman than totems. Granted, it is a very minor concern and is certainly a positive for the vast majority of raiding guilds.
Concerns over my "guaranteed" raid spot aside, let me return to the topic of totem distribution within a raid. Each shaman can buff the raid with four totems at once. There are, I would argue, seven totems that are necessary to have out at all times: Totem of Wrath (elemental shaman only), Flametongue Totem, Stoneskin Totem, Strength of Earth Totem, Wrath of Air Totem, Windfury Totem, and Mana Spring Totem. Important situational totems are Tremor Totem, Poison/Disease Cleansing Totem, Frost/Fire/Nature Resistance Totems, Earthbind Totem, Mana Tide Totem (restoration shaman only), and Healing Stream Totem.
It takes two shaman to provide the raid with every necessary totem, with one water totem spot left over for Healing Stream Totem. And only one of those shaman must be an elemental shaman. The other shaman could, hypothetically, be any spec at all.
It's not that easy, however. Certain specs have talents that improve certain totems. For example, it is preferable to have an enhancement shaman provide Windfury Totem, Strength of Earth Totem, Stoneskin Totem, and Flametongue Totem. You must have an elemental shaman to use Totem of Wrath, and restoration shaman are best for providing Mana Spring Totem, Healing Stream Totem, and Mana Tide Totem.
Concerns such as those are why I wish shaman had an add-on like Pally Power. I could sit down right before each raid, plug in which shaman I wanted to take care of which set of totems, and that would be it! Such simplicity. Instead, I will be busy inspecting each of my shaman to see what talents points they have, taking into consideration their T6 set bonuses (elemental shaman in 2-pieces of T6 need to have four totems down at all times), trying to make sure each shaman has some responsibility for providing totems to the raid, and typing it all out in the shaman channel (and hoping they are paying attention!).
One additional challenge in managing these buffs is range. Totems have a limited range. They only affect raid or party members within 20-30 yards of the totem (depending on talents). This means that shaman will have to learn to become aware of their position within the raid and in relation to other shaman, particularly if they are dropping the same totems.
The best example of this important consideration is for providing totem buffs in a raid setting such as the Illidari Council, where the raid is spread across a vast area. The shaman stationed on the dias will need to provide different buffs for his/her melee than the shaman following the paladin around, or the shaman on the other side of the room near the mage. It complicates fights such as Kalecgos because raid members will never have access to all their necessary totem buffs at once. It makes me wish that add-ons like Big Brother had a totem monitor so I could keep track of totem buffs.
Many, many things to consider and juggle. I am still doing some testing and research, but I hope to have a post soon regarding totems and how I plan on dealing with some of these issues within my own raid. And if any readers have suggestions, please comment!