The Art of Toteming
Being a connoisseur of alts, if you will, I’ve come to learn the intracies of a few different classes, and having decided on swapping mains in the expansion, I’ve started trying to get the hang of the intracacies of the Shaman. Specifically, totems: what, when where and why. The attack rotations can be easily discerned, but learning which totems to use, at specific points in a fight, in specific situations or locations, and why, is an art. This is extremely different than the science of blowing stuff up as a Mage, or the intuitiveness of the revamped Hunter/Pet system.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on the Shaman over the last few days. Not having had nearly as much play time on the class as I’ve had on some of the others is creating a pretty steep learning curve, especially in pvp. But the biggest problem has been my UI.
Shaman UI: Proverbial Clown Car
As anyone who’s played a Shaman could probably attest, there are a ton of things that need to be on your actions bars. Shamans, arguably, have one of the biggest problems of having more abilities than there is button space in the normal UI. Its basically like the ole Clown Car. And unlike Warriors, Rogues and Druids, Shamans don’t get any extra action bars because they don’t have any forms, stances or stealth ability. What this means is that in the regular UI, space is at a premium. This means you need one of a few solutions to solve the problem.
Macros are an easy way to alleviate this problem. I found a number of excellent Shaman macros over at Strength of Earth, a newer Enhancement blog. The problem with macros is they may require a shift in play style to something you’re not used to or not comfortable with. For instance, some of the macros are mouseover macros, something which I’ve avoided like the plague. I don’t like the mouseover style and so I probably won’t ever use that macro, but others I’m loving (the castsequence totem macros, for instance).
The second solution is to use a UI mod. Depending on how used to a certain set up you are, this could take a lot of relearning as well. For me, I’ve become pretty set in my ways as to my action bars. My food, water, trinkets mounts are on the same spot on all of my alts, bound to all of the same keys. My healing spells are generally in the same spots, across classes that have heals. My buffs are generally in the same place. So I have a system that I use, that I’m confortable with and changing the UI to something new can take a bit of getting used to.
Solution: Do Everythang
I’ve decided to go with a mix of both strategies. I’ve started writing a few macros for things that I know will be helpful and clear up space on my action bars. I’ve also activated Bartender 4 for my Shaman and over lunch, set up my action bars. Because of the number of totems, I’ve added in a seventh action bar to accommodate the extras. This, coupled with Xperl Unit Frames and Squeenix (mini map mod) have changed my UI to something I’m fairly comfortable with trying out. Both Xperl and Squeenix I’ve been using for a long time, so I’m not going to get into those, but the Bartender mod has allowed me to do what I never could with the regular UI. I’ve put every spell, ability, item and consumable that I generally use on a button on my bars. Here’s a quick look of what the set up looks like (with the Xperl Unit Frames open as well).
The way I set it up was to have 7 action bars stacked one on top of another. Starting from the bottom, I’ve got all of my offensive attacks or buffs that I use, bound to the 1 through = keys. There wasn’t too much change here from they way it was before, but these are the abilities that I need to attack stuff, so they are on the easiest buttons to hit. On the bar above that I’ve got all of my healing spells, resurrection, food and water and a guardian and battle elixir that I use (since I’m an alchemist, I generally have lots of these). These keys are mapped to the [Shift 1] through [Shift =] keys. Next row above that is my two most active trinkets, potions, healthstone, shield spells, weapon buff spells and totemic call. These get mapped to the [F1] through [F12] keys.
After that I have two entire bars dedicated to all of my totems. The first bar, [Ctrl 1] through [Ctrl =], has my pvp totem macro which is set up to cast oft-used pvp totems in sequence. Following that are all of my Earth Totems and then all of my Air Totems. The second bar, [Alt 1] through [Alt =] has my PvE totem macro which sequence the 4 totems I use most frequently, followed by all of my Fire Totems and all of my Water Totems. Now I realize some totems are extremely situational and who ever uses Sentry Totem (RP’ers?), but at least having them on a button will save me from having to open my spell book and search for them, since, you know, totems are so well organized in there.
Next up I have my shield swap macro, something else I got from SoE, followed by any of the other trinkets that I have in my bags for ease of swapping and use, any extra relic Totems and then some utility spells (Find Herbs, Water Walking, Water Breathing and Far Sight). These are all mapped to [Shift F1] through [Shift F12].
On the very top bar I have a number of abilities that I used to have bound to specific keys that I didn’t want to have to change, so they got lumped together. Ghost Wolf [y], Astral Recal [Home], Hearthstone [End], my favorite non-combat pet [J], a follow macro [Shift J], Flying Mount [Shift G] and my epic Riding Mount [G]. After that, I’ve got a number of extra elixirs that I don’t always use but that could come in handy. I think I left some of my swiftness potions in the bank, so I may have to swap those into there for something else. The pet bar (yes, Shamans can haz pets!) is on top of that, but its only active when my Spirit Wolves are out. Their abilities are mapped to [Ctrl F1] through [Ctrl F9].
Lastly, my chat window is in the very bottom left of the screen, with the combat log in the very bottom right. The bag bar and Interface bar don’t really have any logical place to fit into and since they’re weird sizes and what now, they just got thrown on top of the chat log. My party frames are to the left hand side of my screen with the raid frames below that. I’ve also placed my focus frame and focus’ target frame to the right of my action bars. And the Squeenix map is in the top right corner. Voila, c’est tous!
I Can Haz Moar Totems?
So the UI changes were critical to getting on with practicing which totems to be using and when. While I may catch some flak for this, I hadn’t used Grounding Totem at all while leveling, so it didn’t have a place on my action bars. And I’ve been doing a lot of pvp lately. It didn’t occur to me to use it since I hadn’t ever used it before. Until I started reading up on some strategies for pvp. D’oh!
So now I’ll be getting used to the new set up. I may go looking for more macros over the next few weeks to make things easier, but for now, this is what I’m going with. Its obviously going to change as I level to 80 and get extra abilities. Hex and Lava Burst (?) are going to likely get shoved into the spots where I have my elixirs at the moment. But at least I’ll have an extra ten levels to start getting used to the new set up before raiding and pvp’ing at level 80.
Eventually, I’d like to write a post talking about the different totems and their uses. Since 3.0.2 has changed some totems, gotten rid of others and consolidated a few more, the art of toteming has changed a bit. As it stands right now, I’m not sure I’ve got it down myself yet. But that’s what is great about this last week before Wrath. Since I need to familiarize myself with the class, I’ll be doing pvp until Wrath is downloaded on my computer. Once I feel more comfortable with it all, I’ll try to put out a part 2 to this here monstrositotem of a post for anyone who may be unfamiliar with this as I am. We’ll see.
And since we had our first frost yesterday, and first snow here today, DON’T EAT THE YELLOW SNOW. Unless your name rhymes with shyllus. SO SAY WE ALL.