Shamans have always been considered a traditionally weak solo class.
In fact, I’m sure if I had leveled a Hunter or a Warlock before my Shaman, I would never have had the patience to level the class. With the pet classes, you can pull two or three mobs three levels above you and dispatch all of them with little effort. Usually, the only limitations are mana and aggro management.
But with a Shaman, there’s no such luck. Particularly in the early levels, if you pull too many mobs, you’re dead. Stoneclaw and underpowered self-heals simply don’t cut it, which was probably part of the motivation behind Reincarnation.
It’s a problem that extended into the late levels — at level 70, I remember having to bug a guildie to help me go back to Hellfire Peninsula to kill a level 61 elite, so I could get Bladefist’s Breadth. (As a fresh 70, but a 70 nonetheless.)
All that has changed in WotLK. Although probably not the best barometer of soloing power, the Mighty Magnataur/Reclusive Runemaster/Wanton Warlord quest line ranges from two suggested players to three as it progresses, and in total requires you to kill five elites.
The first two elites (there is a third, non-elite named mob in the first stage) are easy enough: They have some special abilities and one even summons a trio of minions, but they don’t hit very hard. Most classes could probably dispatch them solo with varying amounts of effort.
The next phase of the quest takes the difficulty up a notch, which is when I found myself really appreciating my Spirit Wolves as I fought a magnataur runemaster in front of his mountainside cave in eastern Dragonblight. This is a fight where the small heals from the wolves really make a difference, chipping in between Maelstrom proc heals to keep the battle going. Twin Howl is especially useful — if you combine it with the odd Wind Shock, you can really pour on the DPS for a few seconds without having to worry about getting hit. Less aggro means more hits, which in turn means more Maelstrom procs and more insta-Lightning Bolts, taking advantage of Stormstrike’s nature buff damage along with Earth Shock.
The final phase of the questline pits you against Grom’Thar, a magnataur who hits especially hard. Short of going into instances and trying to down groups of elites, this is about as good a test of soloing ability as exists in the first four or five levels of WotLK. The wowhead comments confirm what I already know — the usual suspects, like Prot Paladins and Warlocks, were able to solo the quest at level 75 or so, but others were having trouble without bringing friends along. Here again, the wolves are huge — with Twin Howl and Wind Shock to distract the Magnataur for a bit and soak up a few of his heavy blows, I was able to do quite a bit of damage before he turned around and started clobbering me. Another Wind Shock and a Maelstrom insta-heal (or two) kept me up as the fight progressed.
With a shield on — and my Earth Elemental ready in case the wolves died (they didn’t) — I relied on big Windfuries and spell damage to whittle away at the elite’s HP until finally he dropped to the ground. Questline finished.
What a difference the wolves make!