Open Letter from Elementals to Class Devs

Battle for Azeroth Items and Classes
Hello Class Developers,

This is a letter from the Elemental Shaman Mod & MVP team of the Earthshrine Discord Server regarding the current state of Elemental, and the present level of communication. As Battle for Azeroth has progressed through Alpha & Beta there have been a number of detailed forum posts from us that cover ongoing problems, and while there have been some fairly amazing responses on other specs/classes the responses for Shaman have been few & far between.

Currently there are very few of the Earthshrine Mods or MVPs for either spec that currently plan to “main” their Shaman for Battle for Azeroth, and even then they have backup options.

Echo of the Elements
There are two changes to other classes with reasons that can be applied to Echo of the Elements:

  • 7.2.5 saw a second charge added for Dire Beast: “This gives all Beast Mastery Hunters access to a Dire Beast with 2 charges playstyle that is more engaging and fun, allowing you to make decisions on when to use the buttons, instead of feeling like you should most often simply push them on cooldown.” Source: https://us.battle.net/forums/en/wow/topic/20754537150#1
  • The BfA Beta has changes to Affliction talents to allow Nightfall + Haunt or Drain Soul + Haunt builds “which a lot of players think is fun (and is fair feedback)”.


These can be applied to Echo of the Elements, either for why it should not be in the same talent row as Elemental Blast or justification for becoming a baseline passive.


  • Both Lava Burst and Elemental Blast are on fairly short cooldowns (8 & 12 seconds respectively). Taking Echo of the Elements in combination with Elemental Blast allows players to use both fluidly, and adds more rotational depth. Other additional rotation abilities have cooldowns of 30 seconds or more, and any other spells can be delayed until after Lava Burst is cast.
  • Echo of the Elements has high synergy with Master of the Elements, to the point where it seems quite unlikely that Master of the Elements will be taken without Echo of the Elements. This relates to the points made above, where the gain is not just from the additional Lava Burst casts but the ability to delay them to make use of the frost/nature damage bonus before generating another buff.
  • Lava Burst has a CD reset proc (Lava Surge) tied to it, making the ability a whack-a-mole button without any thought like Dire Beast was before the change.


Base Spell Interactions
Currently outside of Flame Shock/Lava Burst (generating Lava Surge charges & the auto crit behaviour) there are no direct spell interactions in the base toolkit (For further discussion of the auto-crit mechanic refer to the Target Switching section). Maelstrom generation & spending can be considered an indirect interaction between generators (CL/LB/LvB) and spenders (ES/EQ) but this is fairly weak due to the low payoff feeling from using spenders. This limits the rotational depth of the spec to a “hit X when off CD, Y when resource above cost, otherwise Z”.

There are talent options for increasing the rotational depth, but currently the majority of these options are tied up in L15/30 talents which reduces options for advanced players. This leaves Elemental in an “easy to learn, easy to master” situation which some players will not enjoy.

Area of Effect Damage
It takes longer to generate enough Maelstrom to cast Earthquake in BfA than it did in Legion. In BfA it takes roughly 5 seconds to generate enough maelstrom for a single Earthquake with 5 targets. However, with 2-4 targets it can take anywhere from 6.5 to 12.8 seconds to generate enough Maelstrom for a single Earthquake.

Combine this with the 6 second duration plus the fixed area of effect and it can result in lost damage when targets (or tanks) move around. This would be mitigated somewhat by a shorter buildup & higher cast frequency for Earthquake.

In addition to this, there are specific points that feel very poor right now in the generation of Maelstrom for AoE. When taking the Stormkeeper talent, if you use it at the start of a pull on 5 targets or more your first Chain Lightning will generate 65 Maelstrom. This puts you in the awkward spot of either casting the second Chain Lightning and wasting 30 Maelstrom, or making sure that you avoid using Stormkeeper unless you have at least 10 Maelstrom banked. No matter what choice you make in that situation, it's an awkward and frustrating one.
Movement
The removal of Gust of Wind (taken by 91% of PvE players https://www.worldofwargraphs.com/pve-stats/talents/shaman/elemental & 99% of PvP players https://www.worldofwargraphs.com/pvp-stats/talents/shaman/elemental ) means that Elemental is the only ranged spec aside from Shadow that has no burst movement ability. Elemental players will either move at normal run speed while using Earth Shock/Flame Shock/Frost Shock and Lava Surge procs, or in Ghost Wolf form while casting nothing as Ghost Wolf silences the player.

Elemental gameplay basics have remained roughly similar for several expansions, but haven't been fully adapted to the mobility pruning that occured. Being able to cast Lightning Bolt while moving lead to problems, and removing it was a good change. Since then Elemental lost Spiritwalker's Grace, which was the main tool for dealing with circumstances preventing you from casting for a moderate amount of time. Now, Elemental is about to lose Gust of Wind, which was already one of the less powerful blink-type abilities in the game, as well as the variety of legendaries that helped with overcoming mobility issues, notably the elemental-specific Boots & Shoulders. Elemental gameplay has always been described as "being a turret", and while this is somewhat of an exaggeration, it is still justified. So, we end up with a "turret-like" caster with bottom of the barrel mobility, and some of the worst utility of any spec in raids. The only positive change in BfA in that regard has been Frost Shock having its maelstrom cost removed and doing slightly more damage baseline, making it actually usable when you're walking around and can't do anything else, but not only is it still a severe dps loss compared to Lightning Bolt, most other ranged specs also have similar "backup" abilities they can spam for low damage while moving.

Spell Ranges
A number of spells like Wind Shear, Hex and Tremor Totem have a 30 yard range, and Earthquake has a 35 yard range, vs the maximum 40 yard range for damage spells. Increasing these to 40 would maintain consistency across abilities without the need to inch closer in order to use them.

Raid Utility
Functional Shaman raid utility is very low compared to other classes, especially with many of the tools we exclusively had early on in Alpha being added back to other specs in Beta. Tremor Totem is a super niche ability with historically few encounters having a fear mechanic, and so far in testing the ones that do have this mechanic are immune to Tremor Totem.

To expand a little bit on Tremor Totem, while its effect seems to be strong historically Fear, Charm, or Sleep effects aren’t used very often in PvE encounters. This is probably because losing control over your character and dying due to otherwise easily dodgeable AoE is not fun. If such mechanics are in play they usually aren’t intended to be mitigated, and as such are not dispellable by this totem. This can already be seen in Alpha/Beta where some Uldir fights had mechanics that could be broken by Tremor Totem but were either flagged immune or changed in school shortly thereafter to prevent that. This totem offers flavor but little to no utility for PvE.

Target Switching
Elemental has had a weakness with priority target switches in the past, primarily late Warlords where it was a specific issue on Archimonde in Hellfire Citadel. This is because the majority of Lava Burst damage comes from its auto-crit mechanic, to the point where it’s better (in terms of overall DPS) to delay casting Lava Burst until Flame Shock is up rather than gamble on getting a “natural” crit. This was worked around in Legion by removing the Flame Shock cooldown, but the combination of returning this in Battle for Azeroth & removing then reinstating the Flame Shock requirement for Lava Burst auto crits is taking this back to square one again.

It’s also not possible/practical to “bank” resources in anticipation of a priority target switch or burn phase. Lava Burst needs to be used immediately to avoid wasting cooldown recharge time or surge procs, and while Earth Shock fixed maelstrom cost does give the player some leeway it is also a DPS loss to generate maelstrom with a full bar.

Spells
Earth Shock
The Earth Shock animation is easily lost among other spell animations, meaning players with their camera behind their character and/or zoomed out will often miss the visual indicator that the cast completed.

Fire Elemental
Fire Elemental is our base DPS cooldown. Currently it is not affected by Elemental Fury so any crits it generates are 200% rather than 250% damage, nor is it affected by Mastery: Overload in any way. Combine this with the "fire and forget" nature of the ability, and you come to the conclusion Elemental has a somewhat underwhelming damage cooldown that does not interact with the rest of the toolkit.
Talents
The talent rows generally have themes, but there are places where some talents in a row have an impact on one area while another does not.

Level 30

  • Aftershock
    The immediate resource refund isn’t responsive and more often than not creates confusion during play. "Didn’t I cast Earth Shock just now? Did I lag? Is the ability broken?" are somewhat common questions for new players in Earthshrine, and having no noticeable Earth Shock animation does not help. Taking advantage of the refund to its fullest requires fast reflexes and an eye on your Maelstrom bar, as nothing else tells you whether or not it actually happened.
  • Master of the Elements
    This is the only talent in that row that doesn’t offer any AoE component. We don't cast Lava Burst during AoE as it’s a DPS loss and Master of the Elements doesn’t change that (as it buffs only one Chain Lightning, which is a drop in the ocean). Aftershock and Totem Mastery, on the other hand, provide strong AoE impact. Adding Earthquake to this (which would make the spell more like the Tier 21 2-piece bonus it appears to be based on) would make it more useful at 3 targets, but for pure AoE (at 4 or more targets) it still provides no impact.


Level 60

  • Storm Elemental
    Does not have a direct AoE component. Lava Beam is not affected by its passive.


Level 75

  • Wind Rush Totem
    Does not have an effect range indicator when placed, making it difficult to be certain that you're running through it at times.


Level 90

  • Icefury
    Offers no AoE value. Earthen Rage continues during AoE. Primal Elementalist adds an AoE ability to the Elementals. (Storm Elemental gets a HUGE AoE ability from this)


This letter was created by

  • Binkenstein https://twitter.com/binkenstein
  • Bloodmallet(EU) https://twitter.com/bloodmallet
  • Gistwiki https://twitter.com/Gistwiki
  • Slanderman https://twitter.com/slanderman27


Many more helped, but aren't listed here. We sincerely hope it can help to improve the future or Elemental Shamans.

Parallel posts of this open letter can be found in the official forums (US/EU), Storm, Earth, and Lava, and Binkenstein's blog.
US: https://us.battle.net/forums/en/wow/topic/20765836493#1
EU: https://eu.battle.net/forums/en/wow/topic/17620541928#1
SE&L: https://www.stormearthandlava.com/open-letter-from-the-earthshrine-elemental-mods-mvps-to-the-class-devs/
Binkenstein: https://binkenstein.wordpress.com/2018/07/08/an-open-letter-from-the-earthshrine-elemental-mods-mvps-to-the-class-devs/
A bit offtopic:

I didnt read all because i have no idea about shaman specs.

But on beta wpvp -as a rogue- i dont attack them cause they look really miserable and i feel bad for them. (No irony, really)

I dont know what they need but it is certain they do need something to change.

Wrote this just for a bump, fyi.
I truly appreciate everyone’s efforts and commitment from both bloodmallet and the mod/mvp on the post and i do really hope that we do get some/any attention on their intent.

But i'm so sceptical we will get any attention regarding this at all, due to the limited time before release.

I've poured around 500 days played on my shaman so i'll be sticking through this storm in bfa hopefully positive things will happen as it will be hard for me to rerolling to something else just cause class balance is lacking due to time restraints.
/sign to all of this! And thanks to the SE&L team for the great work and your engagement.

Since the beginning of BC, when I started my WoW career, I have been playing Shaman because I love the class philosophy. But: I never played elemental, not because I didn't want to play a range class, but because I didn't enjoy the spec. Something was always missing.

This finally changed at the start of Legion. Elemental was finally fun! you had everything a class should have in WoW - Movement to plan the next steps in the fight or to get out of precarious situations. A rotation consisting of more than 2 keys and the important rng element that causes the same keys not to be pressed continuously in the same order. Different builds for AoE, singletarget or movement heavy situations.

I never had as much fun in any addon with any class as with the ele in Legion. And now a lot of it is taken away again and I am forced to think about something else to play in the next addon.

I really hope that the next few weeks will be used again to change this!
I've thought for a long time now that they should change the interaction between Flame Shock and Lava Burst.

I like how there is one, but as you've mentioned this auto crit just makes things a pain. I think they should remove this aspect entirely so even if flame shock is on a target it can just hit normally. It means they could tune non crits way up and when you actually get a crit it can feel like actual damage. Tuning a spell around its crit damage never works well.

That leaves for way more interesting interactions... maybe Path of Flame? Or maybe it's Just Lave Surge means the next Lava Burst will be instant and auto crit which wouldn't have to be used on the Flame Shock target which could help with target switching

I also think they should change our mastery. I love Elemental Overload it's awesome, but maybe that should be a baked in passive with a flat 50% chance or something. Not sure what the mastery could be changed to though... Maybe increase fire damage? Hardly exciting, but what mastery is? Haha.
Thank you very much for this post. I love my Ele but won't play it in BfA unfortunately. I'm afraid we won't see any Eles in BfA and no one will take Eles with them in Mythic+ and Raids. Can't understand why Blizz destroys this class?
Thank you for this well written post,
and reaching out (again) for help from Blizzard.

Albeit being to late for immediate results I hope Blizzard has realised that the public perception of Shaman as a class is bad (see https://clips.twitch.tv/ColdObliqueButterflyAllenHuhu for reference).

"We lost many and got none" might be the main complaint over the current alpha/beta.
Pointing towards issues and discussing them is needed.
I was planning to main Shaman in BfA, but after playing it in beta and seen what they have done to it, it was more broken than my holy paladin ... I have never been this cold about a new expansion.
I just want to say I approve of this and hope a dev sees it.
In before Shaman is deleted from the game and Shaman players are automatically turned into Monks.
I played some 2v2 as Ele yesterday and it's not as bad as I thought. Our damage needs some tweaks but it's not as bad. I don't think we need Gust of Wind an it's our least problem. Ele for many years was the tankiest caster who can't kite as much as mage but it changed in Legion. I liked few unique things you could do with GoW like jumping on platforms but I think it doesn't fit shaman playstyle. Shaman should be more about utilizing his best selfheals and being tanky and he does in BfA. That's from PvP player's point of view of course. Imo it's not that we are so bad it's that some specs are overtuned right now: Assa Rogues, Rets, Destro Locks some mage specs and bugged Boomkins. If they will be nerfed and we buffed slightly ele will shine I can promis.

In PvE there is bigger problem and I understand PvE player's frustration as our dps is laughable and it doesn't really scale with gear. I don't know what Blizzard should do to help you guys but in PvP it's not as bad as I firstly thought.
Thanks for the great feedback, both now and previously. Even if changes have to wait until 8.1, I hope Blizzard will reply and at least explain whether or not they broadly agree with the criticisms and outcry of the shaman community, and perhaps also where they envision the spec going in 8.1.

Throughout Legion elemental has been my main alt, and I've found it to be the most entertaining spec in the game to play, especially in Antorus with the T21 set bonus and Icefury. It's one of the few specs that allows for both very simple builder/spender talent builds, and also quite complex playstyle with many abilities and a lot of fast-paced decision-making with the right talents and legendaries (of the top of my head, the 'Frostquake' build with the legendary boots and shoulders includes 8 rotational abilities in ST which I think surpasses any other spec atm).

If there's one major fault with the spec in Legion it is the large amount of RNG present in the spec, though this is partly because of the 'gamble' legendaries that have been BiS for quite a while. It is therefore a disappointment to see the introduction of more RNG talents, like the reworked Aftershock (especially as the Legion version actually gives us an interesting change to rotation).

Given that the Legion version of elemental supports quite simple playstyles (there are builds where your only rotational abilities in single-target are Lightning Bolt, Lava Burst, Flame Shock, and Earth Shock), I hope the Maelstrom management that gave the spec a lot of complexity is returned in 8.1.
Another great feedback for shaman team ,good job guys.I know this will have to wait till 8.1 atleast ,but i hope FS/LvB interaction to be reverted before BFA launch.
Keep the good work and lets hope someone hear us .
Even just a few of these changes would go a long way in polishing this spec. The team at SEL have consistently given structured and constructive feedback for years now.

Blizzard, there's so much potential with this spec. The Legion iteration was the best in years, you can easily recycle old utility spells from Vanilla-Cata to make us more attractive, and Bloodmallet and co. have given a ton of easy-to-implement suggestions. No wheel needs to be reinvented here.
I truly appreciate all of the work the Earthshrine MVP's towards ele shaman as well as the boys at SE&L, I've played it throughout legion and loved it, but seeing it in beta just saddens me.

I really do hope some of the class devs see this and act upon it, make ele great again
The Enhancement community is also with you guys! Make shaman great again!
I thought everything was fine, until I hit 115 and Soul of the Farseer stopped working :(

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