Open Letter from Elementals

Battle for Azeroth Items and Classes
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Hello

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/
As far as elemental goes, i really want to see "fun" highlighted. I want interactions, and moments of power, and feeling like my decisions mean something.

Legion had those moments of power. Stormkeeper turned you, very briefly, into a god of lightning and thunder. Its BFA version might as well read "reduce the number of chain lightnings needed to cast an earthquake by one", because, as mentioned, it offers very awkward maelstrom decisions.

Proposal - Return Stormkeeper to a level of power acceptable for a level 100 talent.

The BFA iteration of elemental has no real interactions, very few decisions, and almost no ways to express skill with the spec. Our resource generation is wonky, and the two spells that interact with it both lack punch.

Earth Shock is no longer something you pour a little more maelstrom into to increase its power, it's something you cast at 60 maelstrom because that's what you do. It doesn't feel good to cast, it simply is. Earthquake is no longer elemental's premiere crowd control and damage tool in AoE situations. its prohibitive cost ensures that by the time you cast it the pack has already been long dead, and its dot length means you're unlikely to get the full effect.

Proposal - Return Earth Shock to Legion's slider-bar cost. Make it feel like we have control over it.

Proposal - Put most of Earthquake's damage up front, and increase the knockdown potential of that first burst (or guarantee it?). Return the cost to 50 maelstrom or reduce it to 60 maelstrom.

Certain talents feel very bad to take, even if numerically they might be strong (subject to tuning changes?). Exposed Elements offers a very minor damage bonus to the next Lightning Bolt cast after an Earthshock. Earthen Rage might as well be an Azerite trait for how underwhelming it is. I like it when talents change my playstyle, or create interesting interactions that are powerful in some situations but might be poor in other.

Proposal - Exposed Elements should force the next spell cast on the target to Overload. While being a single-spell damage loss, the extra resource gain will speed up the elemental rotation if taken. If combined with a modular Earth Shock, this could be interesting.

Proposal - Earthen Rage should be full stop replaced with Path of Flame. This could lessen Shaman's target swapping woes as well as open up creativity for later raid's Azerite traits.

Proposal - Swap Exposed Elements and Earthen Rage//Path of Flame in the talent tree. This allows for easier rebalancing, and creates room for interesting talents to come into the 15 row once Echo of Elements is made baseline.

Speaking of interesting talents - Lightning Rod was my favorite Legion talent by far. it allowed you to create a !@#$%^- Tesla Coil on a primary target, and working with it and around it on certain fights (Lady Hatecoil, Dresaron) could greatly increase an elemental shaman's usefulness.

Proposal - Bring back Lightning Rod! I would accept a watered down baseline version, much like Trick Shot is to BFA Marksman hunters. With the High Voltage talent, we could have the capacity to funnel lightning through a target until its bones evaporate. Think of multiple overloads and the feeling that could create. You know that's super neat.

I'll speak very little about Shaman's terrible defensive state. I see no reason why Reincarnation can't reset on raid boss pulls, and allow for shamans to actually make use of their unique ability. Adding a defensive to Primal Earth Elemental was a start, although it feels a little bad that utilizing that talent precludes us from casting both Fire and Earth elementals at the same time, and also pigeon-holes shamans into that talent "choice" for high level M+.

Please, Blizzard, make Shaman FUN to play, and give us the ability to express mastery over our characters. Five chain lightnings into one Earthquake isn't engaging, skillful, or expressive. Consult the warlock and hunter designers.
I really don't understand why the Lava Burst change was reverted. Elemental is now completely crippled on add fights just like it was on WoD. I shudder what would happen on another fight like Mythic Archimonde with lots of low HP high-priority adds that Elemental can't effectively DPS. Either Lava Burst needs to always crit of the CD on Flame Shock needs to be removed.

Honestly Elemental's design just feels really unfair. There's no strengths to counteract all it's weaknesses. Its not like Legion Demo, another spec that had terrible mobility but very strong DPS when it could turret. Ele was just mediocore damage (or worse) despite having weak mobility. And the spec doesn't bring any unique or stackable utility either. Everything Elemental can do another spec does just as well without having all the setbacks Elemental has. And what little Ele did bring (mostly burst AoE) as been nerfed into the ground. BFA Stormkeeper is a shadow of itself without the damage multiplier and Earthquake's CC was nerfed into the ground due to lower Maelstrom generation and Earthquake's cost.

But above all the lack of communication has really been the most frustrating part. Even with all the changes Ele has gotten there's been ZERO dev posts about it. No one has any idea what Blizzard is trying to do with the spec. Exact same thing happened in early Legion. Elemental players were even promised a post but never got one ( https://us.battle.net/forums/en/wow/topic/20749717575?page=30#post-587 ). This is the third expansion in a row this has happened and it's just ridiculous at this point.
Totally support the feedback but I want to add that elemental looks totally visually outdated.

They really need to revisit the shock spells, lightning bolt/CL and elemental blast visuals.

I’m really sad we lost lightning rod because its visual was one of the most impressive and honestly when earthshick had that visual with fulmination it looked great.

Consider grabbing enhancement’s crash lightning visual and applying it to earth shock at high maelstrom.
Chain Lightning doesn't need to be changed. They already tried and it looked awful.
Good luck. I'd love my shaman to be playable as dps, but neither one feels good to play. Frankly sick of it....
07/07/2018 01:35 PMPosted by Bloodmallet
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.


I feel like this is the hardest hitting portion of the letter. Thankful for the Earthshrine mods and everything they do, and I hope they don't feel forced off of the class as raiders to stay competitive.
very well written but u wont get a reply from any devs from this that will do anything . its like a dog !@#$ting on the carpet they know they %^-* and u just pointed the !@#$ out to tell . all thye will do is look the other way its the way of wow devs the past 2 xpacs full on alll their fault and they will complain they r in a time cruch for release is so close . im all for delaying launch time oct if it makes the game playable and classes will be fun to play . but we alll know they rushed this and dont really give 2 %^-*s about the final product . ion will just keep playing his words games and tell eveyone things will be fixed by tuning or in 8.1
The removal of variable Maelstrom costs is overall great; it was always a false choice and there was no actual control of it. WoW's interface doesn't really allow for that kind of design to work well so it should stay out.

But what was left is as barebones as I can imagine.

Elemental shaman feel much worse in 8.0 than they do in 7.3.5. There's some definite pros (Unlimited Power and Master of the Elements are examples), but the mechanics are overall lacking polish and interesting ideas.

07/07/2018 04:40 PMPosted by Chairmanjeff
Chain Lightning doesn't need to be changed. They already tried and it looked awful.

Yes it does. It's ugly compared to the new lightning spells. Just because they didn't totally nail it last time doesn't mean it should stay ugly.
Thanks for the quality feedback.
I would send this feedback to Ion via twitter to get his attention.
Possible Talent Reworks:

Exposed Elements
Version 1: Expose Elements - Using Earth Shock provides a stacking buff that increases the damage and critical strike chance of Earth Shock by X% and Y%. Stack resets when Earth Shock Crits.

Version 2: Expose Elements - Using Earth Shock provides a stacking debuff on the target causing subsequent Earth Shocks to deal increased damage and have increased critical strike chance. When Earth Shock crits, stacks are reset.

With the above change, I would move Expose Elements to T60, Revert High Voltage nerf and move it to T90 then drop Earthen Rage to T15.

Aftershock
Earth Shock and Earthquake have a 25% chance to repeat themselves.

Like OP mentioned, one may not realize they got a refund and may think their spell didn't go off. This version of Aftershock still accomplishes the same goal as original version, but makes it easier to notice.

Stormkeeper
Same concept, only suggest would be to allow it to increase the Maelstrom Generated from Stormkept Lightning Bolts or Chain Lightnings by 50%

Fix's the maelstrom issue that OP brought up with not enough to cast EQ yet using a second one will over cap.
Thank you Bloodmallet and the rest of the mod/mvp team for the post.

@Devs please take the time to respond to us. I, along with many others, are now having to seriously consider switching mains (and the only thing i have ever played is ele shaman) to be competitive.

Regards
Russell
Signed and seconded.
Possible Talent Reworks:
Aftershock
Earth Shock and Earthquake have a 25% chance to repeat themselves.

Or, more simply, "Earth Shock and Earthquake can now overload."?
please for the love of god can we at least get some communication from the devs on this
07/07/2018 08:11 PMPosted by Crispyz
Thank you Bloodmallet and the rest of the mod/mvp team for the post.

@Devs please take the time to respond to us. I, along with many others, are now having to seriously consider switching mains (and the only thing i have ever played is ele shaman) to be competitive.

Regards
Russell
They did respond. Did you think they were kidding when they said wait for 8.1?
I still think the playerbase is exaggerating flaws they percieve with a fully functional class, without understanding that every class is designed to have flaws baked into them.

If any one class could respond perfectly to any and every situation, they would end up using the same exact skeleton due to our collective balance standards, and all feel bland and too similar to play.

As somebody who’s mained Shaman since patch 1.4, I’m sincerely considering maining Ele in BFA for the first time since 60 cap.

BFA elemental feels powerful. Yes, if you misplace an EQ you’re going to lose some damage — but by design. The lesson is this:

Don’t misplace EQ. *Shrug*

Stormkeeper combo play makes Ele shaman really interesting, exciting, and engaging. The high risk, high reward play-style is something I find highly appealing.

A bit like Windfury back in the day — where there’s these golden opportunities that naturally occur; except this time, the player can respond to them, rising to the challenge the opportunity represents, and compound that benefit when they execute their rotation well.

At the end of the day, Elemental is a simple spec, which is maybe what some people are trying to express; but because the mechanics are simple, a good player shines out the clearer by using them in complex ways.

Meanwhile, poor players similarly stick out because they can’t manipulate those mechanics well enough to make them work to their advantage.

There’s a very high skill-cap with the current itteration of Ele shaman for those with the whit to see it, and I hope it doesn’t change much prior to launch.

My only constructive criticism is that there’s some talent choices that don’t feel entirely competitive with the alternatives offered on their respective rows — this is frequently because they’re too situational to be universally useful.

That said, there’s several well-rounded builds that are possible when you consider the synergy between some of the various options that make for a more compelling gameplay experience than has been offered to ele shamans for quite some time.

I have proposed wide, sweeping changes to Shamans and many other classes elsewhere, but I respect that the developers have their own thoughts on the matter at hand, and it’s more than likely they have valid justifications for the opinions they hold.

At any rate, I am very pleased with Ele, relative to where it’s been in the past, and I am grateful for the development time and considerable other thankless efforts that brought us to the space we now inhabit.

To sum, it feels unique, hard-hitting and powerful, yet tricksy. It’s a fitting mechanical aesthetic for the Shaman class.

And I find that admirable.
For what it’s worth, I’ve been playing with Warmode enabled ever since it was implemented, and I’ve never once felt at a loss in 1v1 situations.

In group situations, you have a tendancy to get focused quite a bit because you’re inherently a threatening target due to your high burst potential.

But the PvP talents have equipped shamans with enough utility and tools to manage their threatening presence within acceptable boundaries.

That is to say, without overstepping the conventions of character capability like some other classes I might mention, in reference to a code of social standards built upon the conventions of gameplay since the birth of WoW.

And in reference to playerbase expectations in general.

If there’s one change I would make, it would be to replace Earth Elemental with Stoneshield totem. ^_^

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