Saying Goodbye to the Battlegrounds and Leveling a PvP ALT

So – one of my ALT-er-ego’s is a Tauren Shaman. He started life as a 10-19 battlegrounds twink on Thorium Brotherhood (US) way, way back when that server first launched. Back then, his name was “Remember” and he was my first attempt at leveling – or PvPing with a shaman.

Well, a lot of time went by and for much of it, Remember was played little. I managed to get him up to “Grunt” rank in the old PvP ranking system before it was shelved (the equivalent of a Corporal for you Alliance folk) and he had decent gear for a level 19 battleground brat. I enjoyed PvPing with Remember – but was burnt out from getting my main into the officer ranks. As a result, Remember spent more time cooling his heels than tossing out heals.

Ultimately, Remember became one of my support alts – a well geared bank that could gather herbs and brew speed potions for my other characters. In time I finally decided that my other toons had more to benefit from Remember’s alchemy skill growing than I did by having (yet another) semi-twinked level 19 in my stable. So – with a resigned sigh, Remember headed back out to the barrens – hit level 20 in about an hour – and promptly got shelved for several months.

Now – over a year later – enter a new server – and a forced name change.

Remember is now Skychaser on Moon Guard. I rerolled over there a while back and hooked up with a guild full of alting battlegrounds geeks like myself. Having a good time with this new crew, I decided to bring my old potion maker over from Thorium Brotherhood in order to shill pots for my current toons and guildies alike. Eventually – out of a desire to learn more about the Shaman class and to try something new, I leveled Skychaser/Remember to 29 and camped battlegrounds again until I snagged my usual belt, boots and baubles from Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch. I enjoyed pvping with the shaman at 29 – but the road had been hard. Worse, in PvE, I always felt that soloing with the big white Tauren had proven tedious and awkward. Skychaser ended up dead a lot and I spent a lot of time reading forums and trying to understand why this once formidable class was so hard for me to wrap my head around.

Finding few answers other than the angst over on the official Shaman forums about how massively the class had been nerfed – I finally turned to instances and grouping. Now – by nature – I’m a solo player. I love instances and love raiding – but rarely have time or patience to endure the endless waiting for pug groups to form, or the disastrous outcomes that most pugs seem to enable. The new guild had good people in it though and I managed to hook Sky’ up to various low level runs through several instances. What I learned while doing this, was that while I felt like four-thumbed failure in solo-PvE and PvP, I felt like a small gawd in group play.

Running Skychaser through instances was a revelation in rediscovering the strength of hybrid classes in group play. He could tank, he could dps, he could heal and cleanse. Groups that were having problems with an instance immediately seem to find a greater deal of success with the shaman in tow. His totems provided low cost healing and mana – gave supportive buffs or purged negative spell effects. When things went pear-shaped his ability to rez or (better yet) self-rez after a wipe extended his value in groups from “spare war-stomp with h33ls” to “invaluable multi-function tool.”

Intrigued with the class – I broke out of the 20-29 bracket and discovered Windfury. While still suffering from a past nerf, quintessential Shaman melee trait was the fuel I needed to propel Skychaser through the long and still somewhat awkward climb through the 30’s. Sky’ was still having to work for his levels – but the additional melee prowess was noticeable and appreciated. Somewhere after level 35 though – and finally being able to advance his capped alchemy skill – Sky’ stalled and his progress lagged. Quests in the 30’s seemed to be harder to find – the task of leveling easier – but still arduous for the enhancement Shammy. I started to wonder if he was doomed to be a cast-off potion maker forever.

Then 2.3 hit.

With higher experience for kills and quests as well as easier leveling, post 2.3 Azeroth is likely to become the saving grace of stalled alts everywhere. In an afternoon of questing in STV, Skychaser saw level 36 come and go in a blink. Later in the same week, questing in Desolace and a run through Scarlet Monestary’s Library and Armory wings brought 37 and 38 in rapid succession. A few odd clean up quests and a daily battleground quest or two and suddenly 39 was attained. Shocked with how fast the last 4 levels had come I took time at 39 to dive back into Arathi Basin. Again – Skychaser proved a revelation in the battlegrounds. A well geared 39 – the vigor and force of his windfury crits – the speed of his improved ghost wolf – and the versatility of his heals, totems, and purge ability put Sky at the top of charts in game after game. In one long evening of back to back play – he collected over 50 tokens and became the focus fire target of every alliance group that he crossed paths with.

Last night, with my 30-39 battlegrounds aspirations complete, I left Arathi Basin and headed off to Duskwallow Marsh. Starting two bars into 39 – I muddled my way around from quest giver to quest giver in the refreshed zone. I took my time to discover these new adventures and to farm herbs. Before I realized it, I had cleared out the first half of my quests in the zone and rather unexpectedy watched Skychaser disappear in a flourish of golden light as he dinged 40.

Holy cats that was fast.

A quick trip back to Thunderbluff allowed Sky’ to train. Packing stormstrike now – and an amazing chain-heal ability, the one time potions alt is now quickly becoming a favored main. I still have a lot of work to do with this toon, after all, there is a mount to buy, rep to gain and 30 more levels to discover. But I’m excited about leveling him, confident I can get him to outlands, and eager to see the world through his eyes while in the game.

I can safely that the leveling changes of 2.3 are going to provide a new lease on life for stalled alts. For all the raiding guilds trying to replace lost healers and tanks by slowly leveling alts on the side – they now have hope of actually bringing some of these toons into play in reasonable time. It’s going to be easier to move from bracket to bracket in the PvP arena – perhaps creating a bit more life in some of the less played battlegrounds. All in all – I have to rate the leveling change in 2.3 as my mvp – (most valuable patch.) Time for many gamers is sparse and the ability to fill what hours we *do* have with achievable and entertaining goals is by far the best bang for the buck I can hope for.

Shaman Nerfed – World LOL’s

With 2.3 on the horizon and most of the WoW playing population eagerly waiting for the new content and various fixes that come along with each patch, there remain a group of stalwart players that are once again dreading it. Of course – I’m referring to the venerable Shaman.

At one time, the Shaman class was an unmistakable hurricane force in world PvP. Feared by all, this versatile hybrid could burst melee like a warrior, kite like a hunter, and nuke and heal in ways that made druids prowl away in shame. They were *monsters* a horde only superclass and long did the alliance dramakin sing to the devs begging for them to be nerfed.

nerf this shaman!

Somewhere around WoW 2.0 – that wish was granted. Worse, like a spurned ex-girlfriend the devs seemed to find new and entertaining ways to include at least one or two new nerfs in each successive patch. Still stinging from a botched (read ignored) review several patches ago and a string of setbacks that whittled away the classes best tools, Shaman seem to truly have a bitch worth scratching. Today, the Shaman is the least played class in the game and the few remaining stalwarts are hugging their totems and raising a QQ that would make a ret-pally blush.

Tenebreon from the Maelstrom server summed things up pretty well in the official class forums:

This started as a reply to Wylde’s thoughtful, mature post about his take on the state of shamans. He touched briefly and gently on one point, the destruction of enhancement PvP that took place in the transition from old world to new world. The original post is HERE:

My reply follows:

I’m not going to be as nice. You touched on one point that I really want to ram down Blizzard’s throat, so here goes.

To start, yes, I’m posting on my warlock. Yes, he is my new main, at least as far as PvP is concerned. My shaman is a Legionnaire with over 60 days /played, had a TUF before getting it was trivialized, and was, for a very long time, the most enjoyable class I’d ever played.

The implementation of TBC and patch 2.0 destroyed a unique, highly enjoyable, viable play style: enhancement PvP. This is unique in the history of WoW, with the possible exception of the demise of the reckoning bomb, “HIT ME IN THE JIMMIES! AGAIN! AGAIN!” paladin. (And even in that case, the spec remained viable, just changed in play style.)

Many- and by many, I mean tens of thousands- of us rolled shamans expressly because we enjoyed this play style. In fact, I would venture to say that the majority of PvP-minded shamans came to the class with this in mind. Most of the most recognizable names in the history of the class arose from this play style and spec. (Quick word association game: I say “Pre-2.0 PvP shaman video,” you say: _____. If you didn’t say “Unbreakable,” try again.)

To shamelessly quote myself, enhancement shamans were, in the eyes of the alliance, the over-powered boogiemen of the battlegrounds, fearsome killing machines that shot lightning from our eyes and fireballs from our arses. And we loved it.

Okay, so that last bit was from Braveheart. But you get the picture. However, come 2.0, that was gone with nary a goodbye.

Why doesn’t it work anymore? There are a lot of reasons:

1) Enhancement PvP was a burst-based spec, through and through. Snare a clothie, pop the bubble, run in, and flatten them. Lather, rinse, repeat; with WF, SS, and ES, it was *typical* for us to be able to kill cloth in one to two swings.

~nostalgic grin~ There was this one time with a shadow priest in AB… Sorry, I digress.

Our burst, though, did not scale with player HP totals. You can’t WTFPwn even a shieldless mage in blues now. Add in resilience and the staggering life totals from arena gear and the situation gets even worse. A single player *cannot* burst down another player unless there is a substantial gear or spec difference; this is the reason for defensive abilities like CloS, TBW, Blazing Speed / Dragon’s Breath, etc on classes that never needed them previously.

Enhancement shamans never received that defense mechanism, never received any mechanism to deal with being kited or CCed, and by consequence fell far behind the curve.

2) Other classes received talents and abilities to deal with their weaknesses in PvP, while enhancement did not. I touched on this above, but it’s a significant problem. Shamans received no form of CC (even weak CC a la repentance), no way to close the gap, and no way to cope with being focus fired. Given that our targets could weather our burst without issue, even in the chaos of BG PvP, this is a crippling problem.

3) Finally, the nature of “real” PvP changed drastically. As a class / spec with limited closing mechanisms, no CC, and very limited survivability, we extraordinarily dependent on being able to get the first shot in on an unaware or distracted target and swing the fight in our favor from the outset.

That simply doesn’t work in the arena. A decent team will know where you are, and also know that if you are so much as slowed, your contribution to the match will be quite effectively and suddenly ended. This makes for a rather nasty combination with the proliferation of defensive and escape mechanisms granted other classes in 2.0; there is no class in the game at this point that cannot render an enhancement shaman ineffectual, bar only (perhaps) a holy priest.

Maybe these things sound familiar. They’ve all been QQed about before, at great length and many times since TBC beta began. Hundreds if not thousands of posts have been made asking for solutions to one or more of these problems.

“Please give shamans CC, we’re the only class without!”
“Please give shamans anti-CC, we’re getting murdered out here!”
“Please give shamans a way to deal with getting focus fired, we’re so squishy!”

I’m sure all three of these topics are represented within the first three pages of both the US and EU forums, so I won’t belabor the point here.

So what?

I’ll just return to my original point:

Blizzard destroyed a unique play style in their treatment of enhancement shamans in 2.0 and TBC. Thousands of players were effected by this set of decisions, and, for many, it was enough to drive them from the class or from the game entirely. Those who remained in the game had, in some cases, *hundreds* of hours of time devoted to their characters invalidated, all without a by-your-leave.

I, for one, am still pissed. Does 2.3 contain buffs to enhancement shamans? Yes. Do those buffs address any of the crippling problems outlined above and make it such that the class spec is once again usable for what so many of us rolled it for? NO. Enhancement PvP is still dead. The closest proxy?

Ret paladin. How’s that for delicious irony?

/rant off

Edit: No, I’m not requesting or recommending a return to the days of 1-2 shotting people; several repliers have gotten that impression. The point is that now that we can no longer do that, we need talents and abilities that will allow us to actually survive a sustained DPS fight. Other burst classes received exactly that sort of buff; enhancement did not.

So what do you think? The official class forums are filled with angry Shaman claiming that unless the class is fixed – and fixed soon – they will either abandon their toons or abandon the game altogether. With no real visible relief in sight are Shaman justified in abandoning the class? Are they in the same boats Druids used to be? So gimped into their hybrid role that they can’t do anything effectively? Has the class truly not kept up with the rest of the game – or are Shaman simply pining for their bygone glory days?

Only time will tell – but with nothing positive being reported from the test realm and with a fairly hard date for 2.3 burned into the collective consciousness of the playing public – patch day may be another dark day indeed for one of WoW’s most recognizable and revered classes.