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Talent Tree Revolution

August 27, 2012

I solemnly swear never to be a sheep … not even a mechanical one.

Today’s post is a collaboration between myself and the Boyfriend, generally known to blog readers as The Pink Kitty or Shintakie.


Tomorrow, Patch 5.0.4 will go live and with it the brand new talent system for Mists of Pandaria.  The goal of this talent system, as we’ve been told by Blizzard’s designers, is to remove the notion of “cookie cutter” specs once and for all.  Whether or not they’ve succeeded remains a matter of debate … but should it?

It’s no secret which side of this argument we’re on.  The notion of assessing a player based upon whether she knows enough to Google a correct talent spec is ridiculous, and I couldn’t be happier that these arbitrary “talent tests” will be behind us.  Yet the desire to min/max isn’t going anywhere, and the theorycrafters will continue to figure out which talents will give us the slightest edge over the others.  There’s nothing wrong with that, of course – figuring out how to make your character the best she can be is a lot of fun.

But you know what else is a lot of fun?  Actually getting to play with the new talents.

The new talents can’t possibly be perfectly balanced and it’s unrealistic to expect that they can be.  The best we can hope for, and what Blizzard has largely achieved, is that the benefits gained from any of the 3 talents in each tier are very close to equal.  Yes, there are a few choices that aren’t optimal in many situations.  Yes, there are a few tiers for a few specs that have a “required” talent.  But for the majority of classes and the majority of talents, we are actually free to choose.

I’ll let that sink in for a second.

The new talent trees give us a chance to choose our abilities based on something other than what we HAVE to take in order to do our jobs effectively (which, obviously, isn’t truly a choice anyway).  I realize this is a pretty huge shift in the way that we think, so you may be wondering how else you would make up your mind about which talents to take.

For me, it’s all about playstyle.  When I’m healing, I want to be completely in control of all my abilities and cooldowns.  That means that I’ll be taking talents like Incarnation so I can decide exactly when I want that extra burst of healing from Tree of Life, rather than something like Soul of the Forest or Force of Nature, which are more about passive healing bonuses.

On my DPS characters?  You’d better believe I’ll take every single passive ability I can find.  DPSing stresses me out – that’s why I don’t do it very often.  I need to spend all my time making sure I get my rotation right and don’t get myself or someone else killed in the process, so the thought of having even more buttons to press doesn’t sound like fun to me, no matter how shiny and fun those buttons look.

Some of my talent choices will be based upon who my characters are.  The warlock talent, Grimoire of Supremacy, is extremely cool.  It changes your usual demons into an improved version, complete with a new model to advertise their new hotness.  But my gnome warlock wants her felhunter Nheefun to be her felhunter Nheefun, not some crazy laser-beam eye monster!  The gap between the benefit of choosing Grimoire of Supremacy and any other talent in that tier would have to be pretty huge for me to be willing to change the appearance of the demons my warlock has had since she was created.

Where my talent choices are all about playstyle and character personality, Shintakie’s are primarily based upon what talents look like fun to use.  Though Forest of Nature (the druid talent that allows you to summon treants to help you) isn’t the most practical choice, he loves the idea of a druid cat or bear calling up a few punching trees to come to his aid.  While Incarnation seems like a strong talent for Feral and Guardian specs, he doesn’t like the way that the talent changes the appearance of his druid – much like my warlock’s reasons for skipping Grimoire of Supremacy.

On his mage, Shintakie loves the idea of Ice Floes because it gives him control over which two spells he wants to cast on the move rather than Scorch, which is fun – but old news.  He’s happy to finally have a chance to get rid of Presence of Mind, which may technically provide the highest DPS increase for the majority of fights, but at the expense of being a pretty boring talent.  Cauterize is another talent he can’t wait to pass over.  He despises the way that he has no control over when it procs (and, as a healer, I pretty much despise this too), and he’s thrilled to be able to choose Greater Invisibility as an on-demand damage reduction CD.  Though Cauterize is better in many ways (it’s passive, meaning there’s no need to account for player error, and the cooldown is shorter) he still much prefers the added control despite these benefits.  For his level 75 talent, he’s planning to skip the clear DPS winner of Frost Bomb for Nether Tempest.  Why?  “Because it’s so damn pretty.  Nether Tempest could do 1 DPS and I’d still take it.”

So tomorrow, when you log in and find your talents reset, we have a challenge to issue you:

If you have questions about how talents work, by all means check out your favorite websites for your class and get some additional information.  But if you disagree with the guide writer, if you’d like to experiment with a different build that better suits you, or if you just want to make your own talent tree based upon which talents look like fun … go for it!  Now is the perfect time to try something new.

Since this new system was introduced, people have been fighting about whether the talent choices we’ve been given are “meaningful,” or if we will merely fall back into our old habits of Googling up a spec and doing exactly as we’re told.  I’d argue that these new choices are as meaningful as we are willing to allow them to be.  If no one wants to take a talent simply because they could do >1% more damage by taking another, even if the first talent appeals to them much more, then, yes, the new system is a failure.

But what if, for once, we realize that for the vast majority of the WoW playerbase (those who are not pushing for heroic world firsts), the miniscule damage or healing difference between one talent in another is not worth sacrificing our sense of fun and personality?  What if we can just allow ourselves to get used to the idea that this system isn’t about proving we’re better players, but instead about having a chance to create the exact character we want to play?

Let yourself try something fun for a change.  WoW is a game, after all – which is not to say that many of us don’t take it seriously, but a reminder that it’s something we take seriously because we enjoy it so much.

We’d love to hear about your experiences with the new talent system!  What choices are you making based on fun, playstyle, personality, or any other factors?  Are you willing to experiment with new builds moreso than you were with the previous system?  What are your favorite new talents for your class?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2012 9:31 am

    You have given me a lot of things to think about. What I found fun about the old talent trees was what you’re talking about – I did research other’s, but then had fun changing it around as something wouldn’t be working, reading each benefit, and considering the trade-offs, oh, and one more thing – actually talking to friends in-game and asking, “How did you do that?!” and the resulting fun conversations about this and that. But perhaps this “less is more” scenario will be wonderful, too, in its own way. I just see a whole lot of floundering in my near future. (But perhaps that’s just me!)

    • August 27, 2012 9:47 am

      For me, your comment is an interesting example of just how different reactions to a change can be. 🙂 I am actually significantly less stressed and less worried about my choices for this new set of talents than I was pre-Wrath or pre-Cata. I really had that sense of needing to do all the research right before the patch launched to be sure I was up to date on the latest math and opinions. This time around, it’s just not such a big deal to me. I’ve read blog posts from other druids about how they’ll spend their talent points, and I know what I’m likely to do – but there no sense of “BUT WHAT IF I DO IT WRONG?!” Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like a giant, talent-tree-sized weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

  2. August 27, 2012 11:27 am

    I think my best anecdote for the new talent trees is this. I’ve been fooling around with my warlock in the beta, enjoying the silliness inherent in the Glyph of Felguard, loving the new demonology spec stuff (demo for life!), and generally just having fun. But some part of my brain can’t let go of the idea of doing as much DPS as possible even on a character who’s not my raiding main.

    So I’ve been going back and forth on twitter with Poneria, as she keeps up with warlock theorycrafting much more closely than I do (she raids on her ‘lock, she writes WoW Insider’s warlock column, she pretty much HAS to) about my dilemma: Grimoire of Supremacy makes me happy because it has the Wrathguard, but Grimoire of Service (for double felguards) maps out to highest DPS for warlocks (possibly due to ongoing dual-wielding-pet bugs, but I digress).

    I mentioned it to her late last week, and she said the one thing I’d been forgetting all along. “The difference is ~1k dps. If you don’t give a f*ck, take Service. :D”

    I don’t NEED to be cookie cutter anymore. My warlock isn’t doing progression. He’ll probably, at best, do heroics and maybe alt raids. I can roll around with a wrathguard dual-wielding a kendo sword and a shovel, and by jiminy that’s EXACTLY what I’m going to do.

    • August 28, 2012 7:41 am

      Hear, hear!! 😀 I wish I could favstar comments!

      Honestly, even for progression raiding, I intend to choose what I want. It is so rare that we wipe on a fight and another 1% of damage would have made the difference. When it does happen, it’s usually due to some mistake we made earlier in the fight that’s left us with a few dead DPS.

      I can’t wait to see your crazy Wrathguard, and I hope you enjoy the heck out of patch day!

  3. September 4, 2012 10:20 pm

    Well- think it’s going to be okay:


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