Elemental Shaman PvP 4.2
So, to anyone that has ever searched for an elemental PvP guide, you know for a fact that they do not exist. This is not an end-all guide, but hopefully it is a band-aid.
This is a simple question & simple answer beginners guide. It does not go into detail. It does not present comps or underground strategies. If you know something it does not know, then you quite obviously do not need this guide. Some has-been from 4.1 is not relevant here. Your l33t personal preferences are not either. Aside from that, gander, suggest, and ask away.
The guide contains minimal abbreviations and all the pure lists have links to refresh your memory. For example, you want to cut straight to the chase and find out something about Lightning Bolt, simply ctrl+f. There is no "LB". The general order of categories is as follows...
Intellect = Resilience* > 4% spell hit > Haste = Mastery* > Crit
You do need a minimum of 195 spell penetration... which can and should be covered entirely by a "spell penetration cloak or neck". 410 hit rating is the amount required for a 4% cap. 308 hit rating if you are a draenei due to the racial.
Intellect vs Resilience will be covered in the gemming section as that's the only place it is relevant. Aside from that, the only real discussion is haste vs mastery. The verdict? Both are pretty good. There are detailed comps, but in short mastery is completely RNG burst while haste is stable and contributes to healing.
Red Socket: Brilliant Inferno Ruby (int) or Willful Ember Topaz (int/resil)
Yellow Socket: Mystic Ember Topaz (resil) or Willful Ember Topaz (int/resil)
Blue Socket: Veiled Demonseye (int/hit) or Purified Demonseye (int/spirit) (see Elemental Precision)
The above assumes to aim to hit socket bonuses. If you do not, then belligerently plug in whatever you want to stack. And yes, sockets are generally hit. At least yellow sockets for arena due to intellect and resilience being so close in value.
Intellect vs. Resilience
Intellect is not always king in PvP. One of the elemental shaman community's greatest gripes is the lack of a defensive cooldown. Quite simply put, we are a glass cannon. If you get trained as an elemental shaman, there is nothing between you and that axe except for your healer and your resilience. That is not to say we are completely defenseless, but we are decidedly lacking. Arenas are the more typical situation to gem resilience as your opponent's choice of targets is more limited than a rated battleground and you lack a good place to run. Either one you pick, intellect or resilience, the lesser will still be better than haste or mastery in terms of gemming for the yellow socket. Reason being is that if you valued haste or mastery over resilience, there's no reason not to be wearing PvE gear instead. In fact, wearing PvE gear would net you more of a gain than gemming away resilience due to the elevated item level of heroic pieces.
This is a rough cookie cutter. I will list all of the optional or less talents below. If a specific talent is not on said list, assume it is mandatory.
Acuity: This and Elemental Precision are brother and sister. 1% is 1% damage. However, Acuity has its pros and cons while Elemental Precision is rather stable and chill. Downside of Acuity is that it does nothing for Lava Burst. Upside is that we can boost our healing with it, but only ever so slightly. Pick your poison if the choice comes down between the two.
Convection: Yes, we can have mana problems in PvP. However, most of these problems can be solved by just not being a fool with your mana. If you truly feel you are having mana problems, spec it. Otherwise, I would refer you to lower in the guide where common mana sinks are listed and explained.
Reverberation: When push comes to shove, this is typically one of the higher end "optional" talents. However, it is still optional.
Elemental Precision: This talent receives a surprising amount of hate. Irony is that Acuity, which Elemental Precision is roughly equal to, is widely regarded as an acceptable talent. Most of this animosity stems from a tunnel vision of spirit text. Without any foolish prejudices, Elemental Precision is a perfectly acceptable 1/2 filler talent. It is also an acceptable 3/3 talent. However, if you choose to do the latter, you must take advantage of it.
With the advent of Cataclysm, mana regen was changed from five seconds with no casting to a simple in/out of combat. This may seem like a brick wall to the spirit advantage, but you do occasionally find yourself out of combat in PvP. The regen aside, as soon as you are able to convert spirit to hit, spirit becomes better than crit on that simple basis. All the areas, and the only areas, where this comes into play are your belt, ring, shield, relic, blue sockets and spellthread (leg enchant). If you take 3/3 Elemental Precision and do not use those items, you are simply wasting points.
Feedback: Pre-4.2 this is the lowest of the low talents. With 4.2 it is one of the top "optional" talents. It is one of the few talents that is completely subjective to how you do play and not how you want to play. Ask yourself if you plan to stay alive long enough to see Elemental Mastery refreshed. Ask yourself if you can cast enough Lightning Bolts to make it worthwhile. In the end, this is truly up to you.
Earthquake: Earthquake has no place in PvP under any conceivable circumstance. That is cardinal and final.
Totemic Reach: Snagging your opponents with Earthbind Totem from three yards further than normal is nifty, but that's about all Totemic Reach has going for it. There is no worthwhile reason to take this when compared to other talents.
Ancestral Resolve: If it were a simple 5% damage reduction, it would be glorious. Alas, it is not. You cannot cast while you are stunned, CC'd, or school locked, and your instant casts are not casts. Ancestral Resolve simply falls short more often than not.
Spark of Life: Do you enjoy living? This talent is technically optional, but strongly recommended. It is a massive amount of defensive bang for your buck. An area we are rather lacking in.
Glyph of Lava Burst: Damn near mandatory.
Glyph of Unleashed Lightning: Damn near mandatory.
Glyph of Flame Shock: It extends the duration of your Flame Shock. Saves you cooldowns. 'Nuff said.
Glyph of Lightning Bolt: Pre-4.2 this talent was absolutely trash. However, when combo'd with Glyph of Unleashed Lightning, it can actually churn out a substantial amount of damage over time.
Glyph of Stoneclaw Totem: 16,572 absorb shield. Less than a quarter the cost of a Healing Surge. Instant. Can be cast while silenced. Can be macro'd with other totems. If there is a way this glyph is not mandatory it is beyond me.
Glyph of Thunder: 10sec off your Thunderstorm, one of your few defensive spells, is worth more than you might guess. It is one of the higher valued major glyphs.
Glyph of Hex: Subjective. In arenas is is more or less required, but it can sometimes become less impressive in rated battlegrounds where you aren't exactly using it on cooldown.
Glyph of Elemental Mastery: On the lower rung of things. Most times this is taken, it is taken over Glyph of Hex for certain rated battleground instances. Reason it's not often taken is because you're using Elemental Mastery first and foremost as an offensive cooldown, not a defensive. You typically don't use Elemental Mastery when you're likely to be stunned or interrupted. You use it when you have a clear shot and time enough to make good use. So, more often than not it's just an "oh, 20% reduction, that's nice" rather than life saving. The times it's useful is when you fully expect to take heaps of damage, but must deal as much of your own as you can. For example storming the flag room and attempting to burn down the carrier.
Lightning Shield: Do not take this glyph ever. With 4.2 elemental received a brand new PvP four-set bonus that both prevents stacks from falling off and instead gains you stacks from damage. The glyph is now redundant and therefore a waste.
Since Maelstrom Crystals are now the second to cheapest enchanting material, there are no "budget" options listed.
Head: Arcanum of Vicious Intellect (+60 int/+35 resil)
Shoulder: Greater Inscription of Vicious Intellect (+50 int/+25 resil)
Back: Greater Intellect (+50 int)
Chest: Mighty Resilience (+40 resil)
Wrists: Mighty Intellect (+50 int)
Hands: Greater Mastery (+65 mastery) or Haste (+50 haste) (for truly haste heavy build)
Legs: Powerful Enchanted Spellthread (+95 int/+80 stam) or Powerful Ghostly Spellthread (+95 int/+55 spirit) (Elemental Precision)
Feet: Haste (+50 haste) or Mastery (+50 mastery) or Lavawalker (+35 mastery/run speed) (if no Ancestral Swiftness)
Weapon: Power Torrent (+500 int for 12sec w/ 45sec ICD)
Off-Hand: Superior Intellect (+40 int)
We do not have an infinite mana pool, but we also do not have a mana pool that evaporates if you shine a dim light on it. You can survive performing your standard DPS rotation with Shocks cast on cooldown for a very long time. To be more clear, the most mana abusive rotation you can possibly perform. That rotation is notably without Thunderstorm. Mix Thunderstorm into the bunch, and it's fairly safe to say that you can DPS without ever going out of mana. So, with that in light, you run out of mana by doing things unrelated to your standard DPS rotation with Shocks on cooldown.
Chain Lightning, while it may be cool to look like Sith lord, is not effective. As far as mana goes, you cannot use it on cooldown in PvE or you will empty your mana pool. So, it goes to stand that you can most certainly not use it on cooldown in PvP. On top of that, its damage isn't even that magnificent. Part of the reason it gets cast is because of the Wrath of the Lich King hey-day of infinite mana pools where you could chase a Lava Burst with a Chain Lightning for instantaneous burst and drain your opponent's whole health bar. Time has past. It is no longer Wrath. Chain Lightning is neither godly nor cost effective. Unless there are three clumped, it should likely not be cast.
Healing, unlike Chain Lightning, is something of a necessity. But that does not mean you have to heal just willy-nilly. One of the largest ways to negate this mana drain is to understand that Healing Surge is not your only heal. Greater Healing Wave is far more cost effective and heals the same amount as Healing Surge per second. Learn when to use one and not the other. Longer cast time is greater vulnerability for an interrupt, but there are ways to cast it and times to cast it.
Simply because you can cast four totems all at once does not mean you should. Far from it. Stoneskin, Strength of the Earth, and Wrath of Air are all mana hogs. On top of that, they all get replaced within seconds of casting by other, more utility, earth and air totems. They are a waste of mana. Instead of conveniently dropping Stoneskin/Searing Totem/Healing Stream Totem/Grounding Totem when all you needed was the Grounding Totem, simply... don't. It's an unequivocal waste. That doesn't mean don't do combo drops, but do it smart. On the topic of totems and mana, Fire Elemental Totem is a waste. It sucks nearly four times the amount of mana as Searing Totem would, and it's just as easily stomped by your opponent. It's both a waste of mana and of time.
"Totems should be able to be dropped while silenced, but I can't drop mine!"
Totems are not locked out when you are school-locked/silenced, but the "Call of the X" abilities are indeed considered normal spells and are thus locked out. Make sure you have separate keybinds for both a solo-drop of a key totem such as Earthbind Totem and a combo for when you can do so normally.
"Can/Should I use PvE gear to PvP?"
Just like the answer for the reverse is typically no, the answer for this is "typically no". Since resilience loses value the higher it gets past the hump, PvE gear will eventually be worn in 4.3. Right now we're still safe. The only PvE items that I am willing to condone wearing in 4.2 are a weapon of an elevated item level, the legendary staff Wrath of Tarecgosa, or Variable Pulse Lightning Capacitor. And only if you truly value damage output that much.
Any question involving Lightning Shield or Fulmination probably references using the Glyph of Lightning Shield or if Fulmination is worth it at all. The elemental PvP four-set both prevents stacks from falling off and gains you charges instead. So, the default and final answer to each would be to not use Glyph of Lightning Shield and to always take the Fulmination talent.
"Can I do a 2/2 set bonus?"
No. That was changed with the release of 4.2. You must pick up the same-set four-set bonus now as the 2/2 set bonuses do not stack.
"Can/Should I use other weapon imbues besides Flametongue weapon?"
No. You never want be close enough to hit your opponent with Frostbrand Weapon or be not casting long enough to, and if you heal enough to make Earthliving Weapon worthwhile, you should just be a healer.