Home > Alts, Elemental, Expansions, Shaman, Wrath of The Lich King (WoTLK) > Shaman 101: Leveling, Elemental Style! (Outdated as of 4.0)

Shaman 101: Leveling, Elemental Style! (Outdated as of 4.0)

EDIT: This guide, as of 4.0, is no longer applicable. I cannot guarantee that I will update this guide, for I do not plan to level a shaman from scratch to acquire an accurate point of view for what a leveling shaman will encounter (such as whether or not mana problems will exist). For now, I will leave this post as-is for historical purposes.

You may be thinking “But Kaz, you’re 80 already…what’s the point?” Well, not everyone that reads this blog has and/or plays a level 80 shaman; some may be aspiring level 80 shaman that are working their way through the ever-so fun process of leveling, such as Amber @ I Like Bubbles, whose post here gave me the idea to write up something of this sort. Her post, coupled with observations I’ve made playing alts over the years, show that not everything posted at EJ or other sites is the be-all-end-all to how you gear/spec/glyph your toon.

Leveling is a different monster to tackle than raids, pvp, and so on. When I leveled Kaz, I did so as enhance, because elemental (at the time) was a gimmicky spec. I tried leveling as elemental many years ago on my original shaman, and the key issue I constantly ran into was mana, or lack thereof. Back then, water shield did not exist (lolwut?! It’s true!), and during Kaz’s day, you got water shield starting at level 62. Nowadays you get Water Shield starting at level 20…man, kids these days have it made. 😛

The following is simply my views on how I would roll if I were to level a shaman again; I may overlook changes to some spells and such since (as mentioned) a lot has changed since I last leveled a shaman.


At 80, our stat priority is hit (until cap) > spell power > haste > crit, with mp5 being more or less trash and spirit being totally trash.

“But Kaz, there’s like no crit on low level gear, nor any haste…and most of the SP is on gear with spirit…”

True enough. From 1-39, shaman can only wear cloth and leather, so in most cases you will probably find yourself wearing a lot of cloth to get spell power. Low level leatherworking has been fine tuned some to where it offers some low level caster leather now, though (whereas used to it was all either rogue/hunter-based or loaded with spirit for druids).

Then there’s heirloom gear; if you have access to it, load up on it. I would recommend the mail chest and shoulders first, mainly due to the xp bonus they provide. Yes, they have mp5 instead of crit/haste, but mp5 at low level isn’t a terrible thing. You’ll be running around killing a LOT of mobs to level, so not running OOM is a major plus. You can also toss in the caster/healing mace and a pair of the spell power trinkets for maximum heirloom facerolling. If you have the caster cloth/leather items, you could get away with those; the main stat those provide that trump everything is the xp bonus. Another alternative would be the caster staff, if you happen to have that; it carries a healthy amount of crit with it, but you will be without a shield, which leaves shaman very vulnerable at low levels.

TL;DR: The gear you want will have stam, int, and spell power on it. Crit, hit and haste are all rare at this point, but if you can get those stats, go for them. Also, caster heirlooms are the shizzle, even if they happen to have lolspirit.


There’s not a whole lot of wiggle room for elemental speccing. Reverberation and Elemental Devastation can be ignored, the latter being more for high level enhance builds. If mana is a major struggle, opt for Convection; otherwise, I would put the points in Elemental Warding and Call of Flame, even though the latter isn’t too useful at low levels.

Step-by-step guide as to how I would spec, starting with the Elemental tree (this is with pve/leveling in mind):

  1. Concussion 5/5
  2. Elemental Warding 3/3
  3. Call of Flame 2/3
  4. Elemental Focus
  5. Elemental Fury 5/5
  6. Eye of The Storm 3/3
  7. Call of Flame 3/3
  8. Call of Thunder
  9. Elemental Reach 2/2
  10. Unrelenting Storm 2/3
  11. Lightning Mastery 5/5
  12. Elemental Precision 3/3
  13. Unrelenting Storm 3/3
  14. Elemental Mastery
  15. Elemental Oath 2/2
  16. Lightning Overload 3/3
  17. Totem of Wrath
  18. Booming Echoes 2/2
  19. Storm Earth and Fire 2/3
  20. Shamanism 5/5
  21. Thunderstorm
  22. Storm Earth and Fire 3/3
  23. Ancestral Knowledge 5/5 (Enhance tree)
  24. Thundering Strikes 5/5 (Enhance tree)
  25. Shamanistic Focus (Enhance tree)
  26. Lava Flows 3/3
  27. Elemental Weapons 3/3 (Enhance tree)
  28. Improved Fire Nova 2/2

If you follow through with that 28 step program, you’ll end up with the spec I currently use for raiding, so not only is it effective as you level (at least I believe it would be, heh), you’ll end up with a spec viable for your first heroics and raids. 🙂

One question that some may ask: Why put off Lava Flows and Improved Fire Nova for so long? Lava Flows is largely useless for pve/leveling because it primarily effects Lava Burst, which you won’t obtain until level 75. If you go through these steps in this order, though, you will get the last point in Lava Flows at…you guessed it, level 75. I may do some crazy things, but there’s generally some method to my madness. 🙂


End game glyphs for elemental can be used, but to be quite honest, those glyphs are not that great for leveling shaman. Why? Simple; they scale based on gear. The better the gear you have, the better the glyphs are. The specific glyphs I’m referring to are Lightning Bolt (4% more damage from LBs), Lava (10% more of your spell power on Lava Bursts), and Flame Shock (FS dot ticks can crit based off your spell crit).

For players new to playing shaman, the first major glyph I would recommend is Stoneclaw Totem. The totem itself can save your bacon if you manage to pull adds somehow, and if you happen to blast one and it decides to run to and punch you in the face, you’ll have a shield up on yourself. Priestly types can think of it as our bastardized version of Power Word: Shield. It isn’t as good as PW:S, but it could very well keep you from making a corpse run.

Second major I would use for leveling: Flametongue Weapon. 2% more crit on spells? Yes, please. Lowbie shaman don’t have the OPness that is Lava Burst, so crit is of more value to them. More crits = stuff dying faster, which means faster leveling, and so on. Veteran players may want to opt for this glyph first, then pick up Stoneclaw later.

At level 45, the glyph for Totem of Wrath becomes available. By now, one should be fairly comfy with playing as elemental, so you could opt to drop Stoneclaw in favor of ToW. It’s actually a viable glyph even at 80; at low/early gear levels, it can be of more benefit than Glyph of Lava.

Minor glyphs…being the cheapskate that I am, I use the glyphs that take away the need for reagents for water walking, water breathing, and reincarnation. No more “Oh noes I ran out of ankhs”! Another option is the glyph of water shield, which gives your water shield an additional charge. I’ll leave the choice of these up to the individual. They are called “minor” glyphs for a reason…they aren’t a huge impact.

TL;DR: Stoneclaw and Flametongue Weapon early on; opt for ToW at level 45 instead of Stoneclaw unless you’re still getting yourself into trouble/dying a lot. 😛


Shaman can be a daunting class to learn to play because it’s as if we have 4786191367 different spells at our disposal. Fortunately, they are gradually introduced over time, but there’s still a lot to learn.

  • Lightning Bolt: Fairly straight-forward, being it’s our main nuke, and as a lowbie shaman, it’s pretty much the only spell you’ll be casting for a while. Sounds boring, I know…but until you’ve leveled a paladin, you don’t know the definition of boring leveling, heh. Try to start at max range as much as possible to hit a target with as many LBs as possible before it gets to you (if it does)
  • Earth Shock: So the mob got to you, eh? Well, ES is one option you have. Instant cast, and lowers enemy melee attack speed. It’s on a cooldown, so you can spam it all up in something’s grill, but it may be that last bit of burst damage you need to kill something before it starts whacking you upside the head.
  • Stoneclaw Totem: Another option if something gets on you. This works better for adds, ie mobs that wander/path near you and start to attack. It’ll taunt them off you, and if they punch it, it’s highly likely to stun them. Combine this with the glyph I previously mentioned and it makes a good “Oh shi–” button early on.
  • Frost Shock: Smack ’em in the face with this and proceed to kite around the mob. This shock does solid damage for an insta-cast spell, and the talent Booming Echoes improves it’s damage greatly while reducing the cooldown.
  • Earthbind Totem: Useful for kiting single as well as multiple mobs, as well as slowing would-be runners down. The talent Storm Earth and Fire addes a root effect to this totem, effectively making it our bastardized version of Frost Nova.
  • Wind Shear: Our spell cast interrupt. No damage, but it’s off the global cooldown, so you can pop something with this then immediately start casting something else.
  • Flame Shock: This does way more damage (factoring in the DOT effect) that the other shocks, but most things will die before it fully ticks down. However, once you learn Lava Burst, you go from LB spam to Flame Shock > Lava Burst > collect loot, heh. Ok, you may have to follow the LvB with a LB or 2 at low gear levels, but the point still stands. 😛
  • Lava Burst
  • You won’t get this toy for a loooong time (level 75), but it’s definitely something to look forward to. Massive amounts of controllable burst damage…weee!

  • Flametongue Weapon: Weapon imbue of choice, for it increases your spell power (and crit if glyphed). Keep this buff on your weapon at all times; not hard to do since it now last 30 mins (back in my day, it was 5 mins and didn’t increase spell power…lol). This stacks with weapon enchants. The fire damage effect scales with spell power, but it’s nothing that’ll make a real melee class break a sweat. However, you can finish something off in a pinch (ie if you go OOM) by smacking it with your weapon.
  • Chain Lighting: Love thy CL, for it rapes groups of 2-3 mobs. Not so good on single targets, unless you’re trying to burst something down. Quicker cast time than LB combined with the spell hitting the target instantly when the cast completes makes it very handy for blowing something up quickly. As a target gets near you, start casting CL, then as it goes off, hit the target with a shock; most of the time, both spells land at roughly the same time.
  • Flametongue Totem: This will hold you over until you get Totem of Wrath. Once you have ToW, this spell is useless.
  • Wrath of Air totem: Despite the name similarity, it’s not to be confused with Totem of Wrath. This one provides 5% spell haste, which is yummy! However, you won’t get it until level 64.
  • Grounding Totem: Only air totem worth using until you get WoA, and it’s a situational totem It can eat multiple spells if they are all cast at roughly the same time, so grounding + wind shear will make for effective defense against caster mobs.
  • Ghost Wolf: Our beloved Ghost Wolf spell doesn’t see as much action as it did in times past, mainly due to getting mounts by level 20. That, plus with the spec provided, you don’t get the insta-cast GW, thus limiting it’s use even further.
  • Thunderstorm: Handy for restoring some mana, but the knockback makes this one of the more useful and fun tools in an elemental shaman’s disposal. I laugh like a madman whenever I punt enemy players away from the flag in the center of EoTS, or off the cliff at the Hangar in IoC or at the Lumber Mill in AB. Works wonders for tower defense in AV, too. It’s still useful for leveling as another tool to get a melee mob away from you.
  • Elemental Mastery: Handy cooldown for assisting with blowing up of tough targets. First spell you cast after activating it is insta-cast; after, you get 15% spell haste for 15 seconds.
  • Stoneskin Totem: Earth totem of choice when grouped, unless there is no enhance shaman or DK present. Armor from Stoneskin stacks with paladin’s Devotion Aura; make your tanks happy.
  • Strength of Earth totem: Use this in groups unless there is a 65+ DK or an enhance shaman present.
  • Purge: You may not have many opportunities to use this at low level, but later on as more enemies use buffs to help them combat you, you can turn the tables on them by ripping said buffs right off.
  • Cleansing Totem: Priests will love you for this. Very powerful totem in that it cleanses an entire party or raid group of any poison/disease stack every 3 seconds (if you have 5x deadly poison, it removes 1 to bring it to 4…doesn’t wipe out all 5 stacks, durr).
  • Tremor Totem: AoE fear/sleep/charm break every 3 seconds. It has niche uses in pve, but is mostly for pvp.
  • Fire Nova: Being the failboat that I am, I forgot to include Fire Nova in this list. Very powerful AoE ability, especially used in conjunction with Magma Totem. You can fire this from any fire totem, though.
  • Magma Totem: Also left this one off…durr. This is our best source of AoE damage; drop Magma, then also use Fire Nova for lots of AoE goodness. There are downsides, though: You have to practically be in melee range to drop this totem to where it will hit enemies, and if used with Fire Nova, it will deplete your mana pool in a hurry. If you want to burn down a lot of mobs at once, though, this is the way to go.

Yeesh…that took a while. It takes time to get the hang of having all these different spells, but you have to simply play in all sorts of different scenarios and most all of the core abilities will become obvious and second nature. It just takes time.

I can provide more information if need be, but geez…I left quite a brain dump here already. 😛 I’m certain I’ve left out some finer points that could use clarification, or just flat out forgot stuff, heh.

  1. January 22, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Nice run down. I’m currently leveling an orc shaman with both piece of heirloom armor. I may go respec tonight. 🙂

    Thanks for this guide.

  2. Movster
    July 21, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Hi Kazgrel, glad I found your blog as I have been looking for some info on elemental leveling for some time now. I see this topic is 6 months old so was wondering if anything has changed with regards to patch 3.3.5?

    Best regards,

    • July 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm

      Going from memory, I don’t believe much has changed, but I need to comb over this article and double check all that. I recall that I left out Fire Nova in that spell list…doh!

  3. Movster
    July 21, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Hey thank you for the quick reply, started my first elemental shaman earlier today and have added your blog to my favourite bookmarks.

    Thanks again,

  1. January 23, 2010 at 4:54 pm
  2. February 16, 2010 at 4:31 am
  3. April 1, 2010 at 11:37 am
  4. July 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm

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