Shaman: Design Issues and Reflections


#1

I’m Arthanos/SoiBoi, and I have played shaman to max level every beta it has been available. I leveled a fresh character 1-30 as shaman mostly solo, have engaged in quite a bit of world PvP and battlegrounds, and have completed several dungeons including up to shard level 10 with shaman during the betas. I believe I have played shaman more than anyone else at this point.

The core of shaman is great, however there are a few big issues with its design. I was surprised to find that shaman appears to have the highest potential dps (using dps meter of dummy dps and performance in shard dungeons). This potential isn’t realized however until the level 30 talent which makes the first orb from each totem a guaranteed critical, mixed with the talent which instantly recharges the lightning orb if it crits and the insane critical strike rating you can get when wearing appropriate gear and a level 30 aged crit potion. This potential is very much a “best case scenario” however, as shamans are disproportionately affected by fights with mobile opponents or which require frequent player movement. Additionally, because the generation of a new orb does not occur until the previous strikes a target, shaman’s dps increases the closer they are to a boss and as such, is noticeably reduced when a shaman is required to fight at range. Overall, I think that this design results in these major issues:

  • Large disparity between fights: In a perfect situation shaman may have the highest potential, however their output is far more affected by fight mechanics and strategy than other classes. In fights like Sewer and Broken Hall boss 1 shaman dps is competitive, however in fights like boss 2 of those same dungeons, shaman dps is less than half of what it was, falling far behind other dps classes. Similarly, shaman can deal pretty well with melee enemies while soloing, but has a significantly harder time with the floating enemies which frequently retreat.
  • Lack of things to do at lower levels or mechanics heavy fights: Shaman is sort of like playing a ranger which can only fire its special arrows. Talents at 20 and 30 add chaining lightning orbs and constant totem management, however, before gaining these talents and in fights where they cannot be as well utilized, there is a lot of down time.
  • Change in playstyle at 30: Shaman sustained damage is pretty bad before the aforementioned level 20 and 30 talents (and without crit potions). The talent which makes the first orb per totem automatically crit both greatly increases damage and introduces totem management. It would be much better to offer this talent at an earlier level so that players can get used to it earlier (and have a more interactive rotation).
  • Lack of utility: With only 7 possible totems, shamans really don’t have many options for customizing their play, especially since 3 of these totems are basically required to do any sort of meaningful dps (fire, lightning, lava). This leaves only one slot to play with, but I nearly always used the stun totem since (1) stuns are very important in reborn (2) it does good dps with the damage and first orb crit talents. Sacrificing ¼ of your damaging abilities to take hex (or shield when it works) feels very bad. Additionally, shaman is at odds with its own utility, since lightning orbs and lava/frost totems cleave to other enemies and break hex/polymorph. The AoE portion of these really shouldn’t be able to break this.

Suggestions:

An additional mechanic: Something which can be used during the down time between orbs and totem management, which can help reduce the disparity between ideal and non-ideal fights. I imagine this could be something which could more reliably hit while at range or moving around. Rough idea - calling forth lightning/earthquakes (point at enemy, hold grip, then pull down to call down a lightning strike/shake to cause tremors).
Alternatively, this could be a defensive ability which when timed properly could be used to avoid certain mechanics and maintain optimal positioning. Rough idea - Astral Shift which makes the shaman immune to damage for a couple seconds.

Utility totem slot: Add a fifth totem slot located on the chest (like warrior’s horn) which is used only for non-dps totems like hex and shield. Add some more utility totems, perhaps with effects similar to some of the bard’s instruments. This way shamans can bring utility without sacrificing ~25% of their dps, and differentiate themselves by what utility they bring to each situation. Rough ideas – Utility totems which boost move speed around them, root enemies for a few seconds, increase defense of nearby allies, etc.

Other issues/bugs:

The teleport to totems talent is difficult to aim as the totem hitbox is very small. Because the teleport is bound to grip you cannot take an orb in the hand used to teleport, which makes me sad.

Totems should not “iron man” like the orbs do, as when I just want to re-drop totems they sometimes shoot away.

The orbs on totems (before they are picked up) still block belt totems from falling to the ground.

Totems are still occasionally failing to respawn on the belt after being deployed, which is very frustrating. This is happening much less often than previously, about once every other dungeon.

Shaman tiles appear to be mostly the one which looks like “n”, I had a hard time making tilesets and getting them to proc. (video of runesight potion during normal rotation)

Conflict of interest: I do not intend to play shaman after Reborn launch, so I am not looking to make “my” class the strongest, I want the class to be enjoyable and viable.


#2

Thanks for the feedback! That’s all very helpful, especially regarding the high level play and the Shaman talents. We’ll definitely take all of that into consideration on the next balance pass.

Regarding the tiles, the “tile triggers” basically aren’t in yet for the new classes, but that will be in before launch so it will definitely be possible to create tilesets for them.

I do like the idea of adding some utility without sacrificing DPS.

Just out of curiosity is the reason you aren’t going to play Shaman post-launch because you just like your other class better, or like is it just that the current state (with these issues) makes it not worth it, or? Just wondering :slight_smile:


#3

I chose to play shaman during the betas mainly because I wanted to play a class I knew I wasn’t going to play post-release so I didn’t feel like I was doing the same thing over again. I’m too attached to runemage and all the time I’ve put into spells to main another dps. I basically asked myself “what is the last new class I will level post release”. Paladin seemed strong for tanking and pvp, bard seemed strong after the rework, and scoundrel seemed strong and fun for pvp, so that left shaman and its perceived issues.

Edit: Despite this, I think shaman is pretty damn fun.


#4

Haha okay, well thanks for the feedback all the same :slight_smile:


#5

I’ve also been playing Shaman every beta I can (with a brief stint as a scoundrel on it’s beta until I figured out I didn’t like it better). I’ve made it to 30 using my carried over character and have done some lv1 shards. I do plan on using Shaman in Reborn, and all this is coming from the standpoint of someone who used to run only Musky and Warrior

For me, I don’t think mobile opponents are that much worse for shaman than other dps. It is worse, but not excessively so. All dps have to move a lot more now and aside from Runemage (which is almost always the exception), attacks are going to miss and everyone has to reposition a bit.

For shaman, I think the biggest issue is with player mindset. It’s really easy to to feel like you’ve “set up shop” and need to stay near your totems. I believe shaman can be played as a highly mobile class, you just have to be willing to leave your totems and set them back out. The All In talent helps you get in this mindset since you want to always be setting down your totems as soon as it’s available and I agree completely that this should be an earlier talent.

Speaking of talents, it doesn’t really seem like there is any benefit to mixing the two “trees” or much use in picking the right side at all.

  • Totemic Mastery only helps if you miss or are a bad player, so as long as you hit more often than you miss All In will do more damage overall, so you might as well take All In.
  • Longevity directly conflicts with All In, so you should take reach
  • Since you have All In, Strikes Twice is always better then Totemic call for damage so take it
  • If you want to maximize you dps, you have to take Fire Consumes since Blazing Speed doesn’t have any sort of dps increase
  • Stun orb is pretty much only used for interrupts since it’s the only one Shaman has. And since you’ll be saving it for that moment you might as well get Stunning for the DPS buff, especially since you’ll get a Crit on the first orb anyway with All In. Stay Put is really only useful if you are doing solo leveling but I wasn’t even using stun while I leveled and used Frost which worked out pretty well.

Personally, I really don’t want anything else to do as a shaman. Managing totems, throwing orbs, watching for the lava totem to go away, watching for projectiles/aoes and making sure I’m positioned well to attack and not be in other’s way is a fair bit for me and feels pretty good and fun. I feel like any more I’d haev to do would start diminishing the fun factor. This could also be since I come from being a Warrior/Musky so I don’t have a always do something for DPS mindset (honestly that’s probably why I like the shaman so much).

For the totems, I do feel like the frost totem is outclassed by lava, especially for endgame. It’s not a very effective slow debuff and if you have a tank then the enemies will already be on them. Plus Lava does like 4.5 times more damage. I didn’t even use Hex this beta but while it’s cool, it doesn’t seem very useful unless you are running from mobs (which you’re probably running because you took hex instead of more DPS). I’m interested in seeing Shield work and I can see it being worthwhile for some fights over Stun if there isn’t an interrupt on a boss.

Are the actual Shaman masks that you have to put on going to be implemented on release? That’s probably the biggest thing I feel shaman is missing right now. I would like to be able to put away my totems sometimes and it’s a shame that there aren’t different models of masks to wear.

Finally the Shaman super just feels a bit lackluster. I use it, see a corrupted warg run up and then just do the normal attack animation for a bit before it goes away. When I read about it being a spirit wolf, I was expecting more of something ghostly and translucent (like the new portal door) and it would charge through enemies to damage them so you could watch it run around the battlefield. I imagine that’s hard to implement but that’s where my thought was.


#6

I spent quite some time on each boss in shard dungeons refining my strategies and measuring performance using the armory dps meter (and comparing that performance to other classes). I wouldn’t say I was playing perfectly, but I wasn’t just trying to sit in one place. My feedback on the large dps disparity is based on actual data from this. Fights which require occasional dodging are fine, its fights which require you to move frequently, hit a moving boss, and fight from range that see a huge decrease (eg. sewer boss 2). Shamans have the most difficult projectiles to hit with at long range, and are the most punished by missing since they have fewer, larger attacks and a missed orb is on cooldown much longer than a hit since it has to wait for the orb to time out (In addition to the dps loss shamans experience at range due to longer time between orbs).

Agreed, the super is fire and forget. I would like to see a super with some interaction. I think a super which makes totems regenerate orbs instantly for a small amount of time would be fun, go full machine gun shaman.


#7

Fair enough, it could just be my lack of higher shard experience. I think I’ve also accepted that long range doesn’t work well and try to stay as close as possible to the bosses. I guess there’s some mechanic to sewer boss 2 on higher shards I don’t know about that makes you fight at longer range?

And I forgot what I wanted to mention about the orb cooldown. I think it would be better if the orb refresh timer started once you take the orb off the totem instead of when it hits an enemy. Once a new orb spawns, I think it’s reasonable that if you are holding one or one is still in the air that it despawns like when the totem despawns.