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Every Elemental Shaman should know about the random elements in the spec’s gameplay. Lava Surge is probably our most iconic random proc that is part of the core rotation. Have you ever wondered why your DPS swings around from pull to pull but couldn’t quite figure out why? Rejoice and read further.

World of Warcraft gameplay caters to random elements not controlled by players. Critical Strike can be thought of as an element of RNG as criticals have a random chance to hit for double the normal damage. Elemental Shamans have the privilege to crit for 2.5 times the normal damage instead of “only” double. That multiplier is further increased when playing a dwarf or tauren. Their extra 2% crit dmg results in Elemental Shamans hitting for 2.56 times the normal dmg. Patch 7.2 will add a trait to our artifact weapon which will allow us to increase the strength of our critical strikes even further. We can increase our critical strikes to 270% (277% for dwarfs and taurens) before relics. And if you think “that’s huge”, don’t worry it’s not. Read on.

Critical strikes are generally not controllable. On each cast success the game rolls and depending on the result your ability crits or not. There are a few mechanics in game that ensure critical strikes. Elemental shamans use Lava Burst which will always hit critically when cast at a target which has Flame Shock. This makes Lava Burst our short cooldown single target hard hitting spell which generates more resources than our basic Lightning Bolt. But what does such a multiplier mean for our overall damage?

Well, I assume Blizzard devs have a goal for class balancing which can be roughly summarized as “Everyone should be a valid choice but some are able to shine in certain fights”. So having a rather huge damage multiplier forces one of two possible approaches to balance Elemental Shaman. Either you make special events where procs line up rare enough so they wouldn’t screw with dmg overall too much, or you reduce the basic dmg of spells to compensate for those rewarding moments. As Elemental Shamans have critical strikes and overloads added to ~50% of their toolkit, there are even more events to have a look at. In addition we can reach ~30% crit if we wanted to. So critical strikes aren’t exactly rare. Which means that the only thing left to balance is to reduce the base dmg of spells.

But let’s have a look at our spells and see what’s possible with our RNG and were these possibilities reside. For this purpose I’ll review our basic toolkit and supporting talents if the talents add uncontrollable damage. For all random events I’ll assume the best possible outcome. So 100% crit chance etc. Therefore for example Path of Flame will not be included but Lightning Rod will. The summaries provided after each paragraph add all applying multipliers up. Most of all written multipliers apply to each new line.

Flame Shock

This spell is pretty easy to understand. It deals damage on application and leaves a dot at our target. The dot part lasts longer if up to 20 Maelstrom is consumed on cast. The initial damage and each dot tick (and the final partial tick) can crit. Outside of T20 bonuses there is no special effect affecting Flame Shock in any random way. And even T20_2 is not a proc but a fixed event while Fire Elemental is active. T20_4 can be considered a proc because it only happens when Flame Shock crits. BUT there are two arguments against counting that on its own. First, during Fire Elemental uptime Flame Shock will always crit and secondly, T20_4 emphasizes only the value of critical strikes. So when having a look at the random elements of this ability, it’s enough to see the dmg increase from critical strikes. Especially because a much better example will provided later on.

No procs: base damage
add T20_2 (x1.75): 1.75 times the base damage
add Critical strikes (x2.5): 4.375 (4.725) times the base damage

Earth Shock

A single target hitting resource spending hard (?) hitting ability as well as our primary resource spender. There are no other random damage increasing procs. Even though the legendary shoulders and boots provide extra procs, their procs are rather weak and demand additional globals to apply them. These globals cost us at least Lightning Bolt casts therefore we trade Lightning Bolt for something else. A direct damage proc would be a lot stronger. Well, it would be one average LB stronger.

No procs: base damage
add Critical strikes (x2.5): 2.5 (2.7) times the base damage

Lightning Bolt

Our basic filler spell which generates resources. Can crit and can overload. The Power of the Maelstrom proc adds a free overload to the next three LB casts therefore enabling double overloads on Lightning Bolt. The talent Lightning Rod increases LB dmg further and depends on proc application of the debuff. Because Lightning Bolt is used on single target I assume only one application of LR. Stormkeeper increases our dmg by 200% which doesn’t happen often and is controllable but to show the damage range of the spell it’s necessary to include it.

No procs: base damage
add Overload (+0.84): 1.84 times the base damage
add Power of the Maelstrome (+0.84): 2.68 times the base damage
add one Lightning Rod (x1.4): 3.752 times the base damage
add Critical strike (x2.5): 9.38 (10.1304) times the base damage
add Stormkeeper (x3): 28.14 (30.3912) times the base damage

28.14 (30.3912) times the base damage…isn’t that a lot? Well…no. Let’s continue.

Lava Burst

This is our short cooldown, active, higher damage spell which generates resources. Lava Burst always crits and has several procs associated with it. For this comparison the trait Elementalist is left out. Quantifying Fire Elemental is pain. Especially considering that a lot of these procs don’t yield any additional damage up until enough CD reduction occurs to allow an additional use during the fight and then each further proc will increase the duration of that additional FE use. Power of the Maelstrom can be triggered by Lava Burst. Power of the Maelstrom doesn’t add damage immediately so I’ll leave that out too. Volcanic inferno instead can be added instantly. Due to the 100% crit mechanic the base damage of LvB is the damage of a crit, not of a non-crit LvB.

No procs: base damage
add Overload (+0.84): 1.84 times the base damage
add Volcanic Inferno crits: ~2.84 times the base damage

Only ~2.84 times the base damage… pretty meh in comparison to Lightning Bolt. But now we can go to our champions and where can we find them? In our aoe corner. Our previous(?) niche.


Our AOE resource spender which might become useful during single target, depending on shoulder procs and possibly secondaries come 7.2. Earthquake is pretty boring in comparison to our two previously presented spells. At least until 7.2 hits. Seismic Storm will changes that by a lot.

No procs: base damage
add Seismic Storm on each hit (+700×6 in relation to base damage): 15 times the base damage
add Critical strike: 37.5 (40.5) times the base damage

Increasing the damage by 37.5 fold packs quite the punch. Well the chance for all ticks to trigger Seismic Storm and for all of these damage ticks to crit is extremely slim, but having this range without any preparation is stunning by itself. I left out the shoulders proc because that would simply double that number again and would need preparation.

Chain Lightning

Our only true aoe builder spell and the last one to be presented here. But it’s also the most important. If you’ve seen significant dps swings, it’s most likely caused by this ability. But let’s start simple like Lightning Bolt.
Chain Lightning can crit and can overload per target. Chain Lightning can also Static Overload which is a proc that adds overloads on all hit enemies. Chain Lightning generates resources per target hit. The talent Lightning Rod increases Chain Lightning dmg further and depends on proc application of the debuff. Because Chain Lightning is used on more than one target and we’re in a “stars align” situation, I assume two applications of Lightning Rod. Stormkeeper increases our dmg by 200% which doesn’t happen often and is controllable but to show the damage range of the spell it’s necessary to include it. Especially when considering add spawns during encounters which you generally want to burn down quickly. The difference between empowered and unempowered CL decides overall DPS.

No procs (5 targets): base damage
add Overloads/Static Overload (+0.84×5): 5.2 times the base damage
add Lightning Rod (x1.8): 9.36 times the base damage
add Critical strike (x2.5): 23.4 (25.272) times the base damage
add Stormkeeper (x3): 70.2 (75.816) times the base damage


Remember those 28 times stronger Lightning Bolt? Doesn’t look as strong anymore, right?

EDIT: I corrected the wrongly added Static Overload. Chain Lightning has on cast success a 10% chance to trigger overloads on all targets. If that doesn’t trigger, each enemy hit has a 1/3 mastery chance to trigger an overload. I’m sorry about confusing that.

What we can learn

As we can see there are some extreme ranges and multipliers when playing Elemental Shaman. I know the shown cases are extremely rare as they assume everything crits and procs and that nearly never happens. But as it is with chances, it can happen. Likewise none of these procs can occur. Therefore we have some huge swings in our damage. We can control the strength of potential procs of Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning somewhat through Stormkeeper but whether these casts destroy mobs or just hit for normal amounts is up to chance.
Another interesting thing to notice is that our builders are our RNG heavy abilities. Maybe Blizzard made them this way because they are readily available while the others aren’t? I can only guess why they deemed it fine for our spenders/finishers to not include this kind of randomness outside of the normal crit. Which makes non-crit hits ‘meh’.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m just noting. I do not want more RNG like Seismic Storm. In my opinion Elemental Shamans need mechanics that allow us to better control these RNG elements by lowering the amount of non-procs in relation to procs. Creating these insane ‘stars align’ possibilities and huge uncontrollable damage swings hurts the gameplay in my opinion.
Last but not least I want to notice that two different main thoughts drive our mechanics and therfore our class fantasy, which both kind of contradict. First our increased critical strike damage lets us think we want to crit, to see huge numbers popping up, enjoying that moment of power. But second our mastery adds so many damage events to our gameplay, that we’re always shooting something. That’s nice to see on one side but prevents realizing or rather noticing those huge numbers from the first point. Which results in almost always only noticing the low numbers of our rngsus. Therefore creating a feeling of underwhelming performance. The nearly non existent animation for Earth Shock (there is one, try it on different target dummies, you might find it) doesn’t help with this feeling of powerlessness either. That’s why many enjoy Elemental Blast. Its animation is worthy of a spender even though it isn’t one. Even when it doesn’t crit, it feels rewarding to cast it. The only rewarding moment during our basic gameplay is when Chain Lightning procs static overload and we become Sith-Lords. But that’s totally out of our control.

Thanks for reading and stay healthy.