Tracking Shaman Crowd Control Abilities

If there’s one thing that is certain about the Cataclysm expansion, it’s that Shamans are going to be featured front and center.  If there are two things that are certain, it’s that crowd control in instances is going to come back in a big way.  With that in mind, now is a good time to make sure that when someone asks you to hex the square and bind the triangle, while also interrupting the kill target, you can do it and do it well.  A big part of this job is tracking the remaining time on your CC, so you can focus on healing or DPS while still keeping your assigned target(s) out of the fight.

The last time CC was really required in most instances was in The Burning Crusade.  I didn’t start playing WoW until well into that expansion, and by the time I reached level 80, I was just learning how to run heroic dungeons and raids.  Shamans were not known for their crowd control abilities.  We had no spells like Polymorph or Sap that could lock down a mob completely.  The best we could do was kite using Frostshock and/or Earthbind.  While kiting is a valuable skill, it pretty much ties you up and doesn’t leave you with time to do anything else.  CC that would allow us to focus on our main job of healing or DPS was sorely lacking.

With Wrath of the Lich King, we were given the Hex spell, just in time for CC to disappear from most dungeons.  Similar to Polymorph, Hex was situationally useful (and was great in PvP), but it still wasn’t as effective as it could have been.  The cooldown on Hex was longer than its duration, which meant that you could not re-cast Hex during the fight to keep a mob locked down.  It was alright for an initial pull or emergency CC, but beyond that, you would have rather had a Mage in the group.

Thankfully, we are going into Cataclysm with two bona fide CC abilities at our disposal.  Hex now turns your PvE target into a frog for a full minute, and only has a 45 second cooldown.  This means you have a 15 second window where you can recast Hex and keep the mob locked down.  Bind Elemental is similar, and will occupy an elemental opponent.  It has no cooldown, so it can be recast instantly to CC a mob repeatedly, although you can only bind one elemental at a time.  By using both Hex and Bind Elemental, you can take out two mobs on some pulls, and keep them tied up as long as necessary.  Compared to our BC lack of crowd control, that is amazing.

Once you have hexed and bound your hapless adversaries, you will be free to focus on healing or DPSing, and you’ll want some way to watch the timer on your CC, so you know when to switch back and re-apply your spell.  One tried and true method of doing so is to put your CC target on focus (so you can monitor the debuff timer on the namplate or using an addon), and then use a focus target macro cast your CC when necessary.  Something like:

/cast [@focus] Hex

Lots of people use macros like this.  It allows you to re-cast your CC without switching targets, which is very useful.

However, I personally have gotten very used to keeping my tank as a focus target, which has a lot of benefits.  I then use a macro like:

/assist focus

I bind this macro to my F key, so whenever I need to get my tank’s target, I just hit F.  When I am playing as DPS, this allows me to easily make sure I am focus firing the correct target 90% of the time, because if the tank is targeting it, I probably want to be killing it.  It also lets me help out with the interrupts or purges that might be needed on the kill target.  When you need to CC mobs, getting the initial crowd control cast is actually the easy part.  The trickier part is making sure you don’t go breaking that CC by hitting the wrong target, and using a focus macro is a really great way to do so.  With this approach, if you break CC you can just blame the tank for targeting the wrong mob.

So, how am I going to put the tank on focus, have the kill target as my target, and still watch the timers on Hex and Bind Elemental, neither of which I have on target or focus?  Enter Tidy Plates, one of my favorite addons.  By using the Neon Theme (included with the default Tidy Plates addon), I am able to track debuffs right on the mob’s nameplate, even if I don’t have the mob targeted.  Here’s how it looks in action with one mob hexed, one bound, and neither targeted:

Click for Full Size Version

Now my focus and target slots are free to use for my tank and kill target, respectively, and I can still easily monitor the remaining time on my CC abilities.  When I need to re-apply, I simply click on the nameplate, hit my keybind (for me, Shift+1 for Hex, CTRL+1 for Bind Elemental), then hit F to get back to the kill target.  While this doesn’t allow the seamless application of simply CCing my focus target, it gives me more flexibility.  It’s a great way to track CC on more than one target, which is pretty hard to do when you can only focus one mob.  And, if I need to change my CC target on the fly, there’s no need to mess with changing my focus.

Ultimately, you can handle tracking your CC abilities a variety of ways, and this is just an option that I think will work well for me.  I hope you find it useful, and if you have other ideas on how we can improve our crowd control skills, I’d love to hear about them!