Update: This post was about spells for The Burning Crusade. In 3.0/3.2 much of this is now wrong, for instance we have a Lava Burst spell.
In Wrath it all boils down to a priority system. You need the Glyph of Flameshock, otherwise you will need to recast FS too much. Then you do:
- Flame Shock
- Lava Burst (LvB)
- Some Lightning Bolts
Then when LvB is back up, recast. When FS falls off, recast FS. Rinse, repeat, profit. You need FS on the target before casting LvB, otherwise you do not get the guaranteed crit.
For burst mode I guess you can do Chain Lightning instead of LB, and maybe drop some Earth Shocks (so long as you can recast Flame Shock when it drops off the target).
Old post for TBC (for interest)
The following is in the context of the Elemental talent spec for TBC. I thought I'd share what little I've picked up about spell rotations as Elemental. If anyone has more info to share please do! On with it...
For maximum mana efficiency, the "rotation" is very simple. Lighting Bolt followed by Lighting Bolt, repeat. In a raid usually I am standing too far away to put a Flame Shock onto a boss, plus it does damage is low compared to lightning bolt.
For long fights or phases where low damage is needed (for example Prince phase 1), I use lighting bolt spam and it takes a very long time for me to run low on mana. It's just not very much fun.
Maximum DPS Attack
When I need to put out some big DPS, I use 3 Lighting Bolts followed by a Chain Lightning. Lightning bolt rank 12 does 563 to 643 damage, chain lighting rank 734 to 838 damage for the first hit plus extra damage if it hits more targets. So chain lightning does more damage even on a single target and is faster to cast than lightning bolt. However the mana cost is more than twice that of lightning bolt. Thus this rotation uses more mana.
Chain lightning has a 6 second cooldown so I can theoretically cast 3 2-second-cast lightning bolts before another chain lightning, but with a bit of lag the time for the 3 bolts is usually more like 7 seconds. However, I don't think it is worth doing 2 bolts then waiting for chain lightning to be up; that 1-2 seconds of not casting will cost you in damage.
Suffice to say this rotation not be used when crowd controlled mobs are nearby! This rotation is also good on trash when an off tank is tanking a mob nearby; you can damage the MT and OTs targets, getting some extra damage "for free" as it were. Plus you can drink between trash pulls, which I usually need to if I've been spamming the chain lightning a lot. On a boss fight a short fight, high mana regeneration or lots of mana potions are needed to keep this rotation up.
This rotation is a lot more interesting than lightning bolt spam, because it *is* a rotation, plus throwing lighting bolts onto several enemies is cool, Star Wars Emperor-stylee.
High Mobility Fights
Shocks, given their high mana cost, do little damage compared to the equivalent number of lighting bolts you can cast with the same mana, and have range issues, so they are generally not worth using. However, in fights where I am running around like a lunatic, I find popping a Shock onto the boss to be beneficial. For example, on the Shade of Aran fight, I will throw in a Flame Shock when running away from a Blizzard.
Burst Damage Mode
One of the most fun moments is when some burst damage is called for! It is the time to pull all the stops out and own those Demon Chains. I tend to activate Elemental Mastery then cast a chain lightning, because it does more single-target damage than a bolt, so the guaranteed crit will hit harder. I'll then hit the target with a shock, usually Earth Shock because it does slightly more damage than Frost Shock.
Elemental Mastery does not trigger the Global Cooldown so you could write a macro to do the elemental mastery and chain lightning with one button press. If you have time, a trinket which increases spell damage would be good to use before popping elemental mastery, for example just before a Curator evocate.
Then it's time to wait for the shock and chain lightning cooldowns to finish, while spamming Lightning Bolts.
Using Elemental Mastery
As I mentioned, Elemental Mastery gives a guaranteed crit, so ideally I use it before casting chain lightning in a spell rotation, most especially if I am going hit multiple targets. However when there are crowd controlled targets about, chain lightning is a no-no (unless I am feeling quite brave or reckless).
How about shocks? Usually I'm standing at the back, out of range of a shock. However, if chain lightning cannot be used and I am in range, is a shock a better idea?
Elemental Mastery and Shocks vs Lightning Bolt
An Earth Shock (658–692 damage) or Frost Shock (640–676 damage) does more damage than Lighting Bolt (563-643 at Rank 12). However the Lighting Overload talent gives a 20% chance for a half-damage bolt when casting lightning bolt. According to Wowhead the free bolt is not guaranteed a crit. So...
Half lighting bolt damage is = 281 - 321 damage.
Lightning Overload will give approximately 1 fifth of that on average which is 56 - 64 damage (this may be quite far off but my understanding of statistics is highly rudimentary).
Making total of a lightning bolt crit on average of (1126 - 1286) + (56 - 64) = 1182 - 1350 damage.
Versus a simple earth shock crit of 1136 - 1384 damage.
Here I am assuming the effects of any +spell damage gear will apply equally to earth shock as it does to lightning bolt. So I'd stick with the earth shock if in range, purely due to the simplistic nature of the thing. That and earth shock costs more mana than lightning bolt so you "save" more mana. Additionally the cast time of earth shock is the GCD of 1.5 secs versus the 2.0 secs cast time of lightning bolt, so earth shock is faster too.
All that stuff about range and whatnot is good for instances, but how about when its Shaman versus Mob in the great outdoors? For a single mob I usually get to maximum range, then pull with lighting bolt, repeat until the mob is in melee range, then flame shock and stab it with a flametongue-imbued weapon till it be dead, refreshing flame shock when needed. I read that the fire damage done by flametongue increases with your +damage, an elemental shaman generally has a lot of +damage, so that's why I use flametongue rather than windfury.
Usually I spec Eye of the Storm for soloing, so when the Focused Casting effect procs, I can cast lightning bolt in melee without interruption which is a nice mana-efficient way to damage the mob.
Kiting is also an option; I've tried this where I put an earthbind totem between me and the mob, then pull with lightning bolt, frost shock when the mob gets in range, turn and run away to range, then repeat. This is quite effective, unfortunately frost shock costs a lot of mana and I use lots of lightning bolts so mana usage for this tactic is quite... horrendous.
For multiple mobs pulling with a chain lightning and trying to burn the primary mob down with shocks and lightning bolts, then healing myself while stabbing the second one to death works ok. Even better with an elemental mastery + chain lightning pull. Alternatively pull the first with a lightning bolt, drop a stoneclaw totem and use the brief respite it affords to kill the first mob before you get hit by the second one.
That's my look at Elemental Shaman spell rotations, overall the class has a fairly boring mana-efficient spell "rotation" but things get more interesting when high DPS or burst damage is called for. If anyone has more info to share please do.