Well, the Shaman Q&A session is over and the developer's preliminary responses are in. With this, I felt it was time for a bit of a rant.
Firstly, you can find the full spread of Ghostcrawler's response here. It is quite the wall o' text, so beware.
I have seen numerous posts already springing up in response to the thread and the developer's conclusions. The most accurate summary I have seen is a comparison of GC's response to that of a politician: saying a lot without saying much at all. Seems GC can verbally build a wall of roundabout discussion whilst slyly dodging actual questions.
So what was actually said. What, regarding elemental shaman, is in the pipeline and will be changing soon? What are we so patiently holding our collective breaths for?
The answer: Not much.
I would not say this if I didn't feel it true because of my love for our other specced brethren; but I personally feel we got the least out of the Q&A session out of all three specs. Now, admittedly one spec has to get the least but the least in this case seems to be next to nothing. The only real thing I was hearing that will benefit us that is seemingly pretty concrete is connecting all 4 totems to a single GCD. Which, in all honestly, is long overdue and has been discussed many, many times on the forums already. The only other thing that spiked my ears up a little was the sliver of discussion regarding elemental AoE damage, where GC was quoted as saying: "...while we have given Elemental strong AoE in the form of the Magma Totem, some players feel like this comes at too high a cost to their buffs and mobility, so this is something we’ll look at". Again, something that has been consistently discussed on the forums for a long time. May we finally see the introduction of forked lightning? Or is this just a way to roll out the carpet on the chain lightning modification that was being discussed a while ago, where it has less single target damage but hits an additional target and loses less potency with its jumps? Time will tell.
There was a couple of comments that got my blood boiling a little. It is commonplace to see comments thrown around regarding the developer's lack of understanding of our class/spec and I avoid making these claims to as greater extent as possible, but sometimes they really test my patience on such topics.
Firstly, GC and all the developers have beating this dead horse in regard to "hybridization" for as long as I can remember and this session was no exception. GC mentions of elementals that they can "easily throw out heals if a group needs a little extra help"; seemingly in response to our lacking DPS numbers. As a higher-end raiding shaman I know that if it comes to the point where you are asking the elemental shaman to 'throw out heals' the raid is in pretty big trouble and more than likely wiping anyways, making us nothing more than the bubblegum used to plug holes on a sinking ship. And with dual-spec now available it makes the need for such hybrids obsolete. Using this ability as a defence of where our spec is at the moment seems like a pretty hollow excuse to me.
"...However, we didn’t want say shamans to no longer be attractive for raiding so we brought up their damage a lot. It might still not be as high as rogues or warlocks, but it’s close, and if you have the right gear and really know how to play, you can even beat those classes on some bosses". I think here we see blissful ignorance of the issue by the devs. Yes, there is fights where I can trump a rogue and warlock (Yogg and General, for examples). However, I think the problem is not with having those 'one off' fights. The greater issue is that on a stand and blam, tank and spank fight we do not keep the pace. Sure, in favourable conditions we are competitive but should we really need that kind of crutch to be able to keep up? My complaint has been for a long time that comparable players of comparable gear and comparable experience in the same raid should be doing similar numbers but this is simply not the case. When a dps warrior/feral druid/ret pally opens up on a tank and spank fight they will considerably beat us; and I use those classes as examples because they are other hybrid classes who supposedly should be on the same par as us (sitting slightly below the pure DPS classes).
My final point is in regards to elemental shaman scaling. There seemed to be nothing but silence offered on this issue, which is surprising due to the amount of posts regarding it. The statement of "After the recent Lightning Overload change, we think Elemental can do competitive ranged damage" is the only thing we could get out of him, which anyone who has been playing this class for a while knows that the whole change to overload was just another quick fix in the ever growing chain of quick fixes (*cough* Shamanism *cough*). Unless this constant buff-then-ignore system is the long term strategy (which creates a whole different issue altogether) then we need to see some kind of scaling introduced. Its not like it is something that has just been sprung on them; this issue has been existent since the end of Burning Crusade and the Moonkins are undergoing changes with it at this very moment. Are we really that invisible of a spec?
If all goes well we will see the buffing to base HP, single GCD for totems and additional PvP viability that was discussed. As for everything else? I go back to holding my breath. At least I got a little fresh air to hold onto.
(PS: Fingers crossed for those of you who roll resto, the news was far more promising for you guys.)