Blizzcon Analysis: New Talent Tree System

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away … or two years ago at Blizzcon, Blizzard announced Talents 1.5.  Talents 1.5 had two particular focuses: to remove bloating from the trees so that all the talents were exciting and to improve player choice so that players could choose the fun stuff.  It was meant to be accompanied by ‘Path of the Titans’ – a kind of talent addon where you chose a tree according to your role no matter what class you were and got more talents.  Somewhere between announcement and the final product, Path of the Titans was removed.  As for its goals, Talents 1.5 took a step in the right direction, but it would be generous to say it achieved its goals.  It did remove some, but not all, of the bloating.  And it did enable some choice, but limited choice in other ways.

So now Blizzard have decided to go with revolution instead of evolution.

Your talent trees are gone.  A lot of your talents will now be base spells you are giving for picking your tree.  For example, Holy seems likely to get Chakras just for picking Holy.  The same for Spirit of Redemption.  Other spells, such as Circle of Healing, will be given to all specs.

These are replaced by Talents 2.0.  Each CLASS (not spec, class) has one tree of six tiers.  Each tier has 3 options.  You can pick one.  No backfilling.  You will be able to change your talents as easily as you change your Glyphs (i.e. out of combat for a small fee as often as you like).  Does this remove bloating?  Does this improve player choice?  Lets take a look at Priests.

Tier 1 (accessed at level 15, otherwise known as the cc tier)

Void Tendrils
Instant cast, 30 sec cd, 4800 mana
Summons Shadowy tendrils out of the ground, rooting all targets within 10 yards for 20 seconds.  Killing the tendril will cancel the effect.

Instant cast, 1 min cd, 4800 mana
Summons a Psyfiend that stands in place.  The Psyfiend casts a Psychic Scream on a nearby enemy within 40 yards every 2 seconds lasting for 10 seconds, preferring anything attacking the Priest or her friends.

Psychic Scream
Instant cast, 30 sec cd, 4800 mana
The caster lets out a psychic scream, causing enemies within 8 yards to flee for 8 seconds.  Damage caused may interrupt the effect.

Now those are some interesting options.  All three sound nice.  All three sound like they would have a use.  In competitive PvP I think you would choose based on your comp.  In PvE you would choose depending on what you were doing.  I could see all three being useful.  And all three sound cool.

Tier 2 (accessed at level 30, otherwise known as the movement speed tier)

Body and Soul
When you cast PW: Shield or Leap of Faith, you increase the target’s movement speed by 60% for 4 seconds.

Path of the Devout
Increases your movement speed while Levitating by 25%

Any time you fade, you remove all movement impairing effects from yourself and your movement speed will be unhindered for 3 seconds.

Now Body and Soul is currently a Holy talent and Phantasm a Shadow talent.  Personally I see this one breaking down a little more simply.  PvE would take Body and Soul most of the time no matter what their spec.  The little speed boost is fabulous for getting out of trouble.  Its going to be amazing as Disc.  In PvP you would take Phantasm.  But for running around doing quests/grinding archaeology I see myself slapping on the Path of the Devout.  I suspect it might also have a situational use in PvE too.  I don’t see PvE players of any spec running with anything other than Body and Soul as default.  But I’m okay with that as I LOVE Body and Soul.

Tier 3 (accessed at level 45, the ‘BOOM’ tier)

From Darkness, Comes Light
Surge of Light (Caster form)
You have a 6% chance when you Smite, Heal, Flash Heal, Binding Heal or Greater Heal to cause your next Flash Heal to be instant cast and have no mana cost.

Surge of Darkness (Shadowform)
You have a 6% chance when you deal damage with Mind Flay to cause your next Mind Blast to be instant cast and have no Shadow Orb cost.

Divine Star
Instant, 30 sec cd, 20 yard range
Fires a Divine Star in front of you, travelling 20 yards doing damage to all enemies and healing all friendly targets in its path. After reaching its destination, it will return to you also dealing damage and healing all targets in its path.

Archangel (Caster form)
Consumes your Evangelism, increasing your healing done by 5% for each Evangelism consumed.  30 sec cd.

Dark Archangel (Shadowform)
Consumes your Shadow Orbs, increasing the damage done by your Mind Flay, Mind Spike, Mind Blast and Shadow Word: Death by 5% for each Shadow Orb consumed.  90 sec cd.

The first thing is that this tier implies both healing specs will get Evangelism.  Two of these are old talents recycled.  From Darkness, Comes Light sounds pretty awesome.  As does Archangel.  I suspect you will swap between these in PvE depending on whether you want general additional damage/healing or focused damage/healing.  Divine Star sounds odd (but cool).  I suspect it will be good in PvP because you can cast it and move on to other things.  It may also have situational uses in PvE.  I am not sure which I will run with as a default.  I will need to try them.

Tier 4 (accessed at level 60, the ‘oh, s*** tier)

Desperate Prayer
Instant, 2 min cd
Instantly heals the caster for 30% of their total health.

Angelic Bulwark
Increases the effectiveness of your own shield effects on yourself by 30%.

Final Prayer
Any time a damaging attack brings you below 30% health, you gain an absorption shield equal to 20% of your total health lasting for 20 sec.  This effect cannot occur more than once every 90 sec.

Another tier where all three talents are useful.  Like Tier 1, I think it will depend very much on situation and personal preference which you choose.  Along with tier 1 this goes some way to making Holy more viable in PvP.

Tier 5 (accessible at 75, the odd tier)

Twist of Fate
Increases damage and healing done to targets at or below 25% health.

Power Infusion
Instant cast, 2 min cd, 40 yard range, 5120 mana
Infuses the target with power, increasing spell casting speed by 20% and reducing the mana cost of all spells by 20% Lasts 15 seconds.

When you heal with Binding Heal or Flash Heal, the cast time of your next Greater Heal or Prayer of Healing spell is reduced by 20% and mana cost reduced by 10%.  Stacks up to 2 times.  Lasts 10 seconds.

Mind Melt (Shadowform)
When you deal damage with Mind Spike, the cast time of your next Minda Blast is reduced by 50% lasting 6 seconds.  Mind Melt can stack up to two times.

So lets look at this one. Twist of Fate looks boring and like a bloat talent at first glance, but actually it isn’t.  Its useful for tank healers.  And its an execute for shadow priests.  As shadow, you only have two options as Serendipity is terrible – I have yet to find a situation where I want to use Mind Spike regularly other than quest farming.  Which you choose as Shadow depends on if you really need to focus your dps at specific times or want a boost overall.  Its an interesting tier as a healer.  I will be taking Serendipity at first, as mana is likely to be an issue.  But I can see myself changing per encounter.  Do I need to burst heal for a short time?  Is my healing not that hard but the dps need a boost?  Is this a mana intensive fight or a throughput fight?

Tier 6 (accessible at 90, the save the cheerleader tier)

Vow of Unity
Instant, 3 min cod, 40 yard range
You create a Vow of Unity with the friendly target.  Whenever you heal the target through spells and effects, you are also healed equal to 20% of the amount.  In addition, when the target is attacked, 50% of the damage is redirected to you over 6 seconds.  If your target is victim to an attack greater than 30% of their total health, the Vow of Unity effect ends.

Void Shift
Instant, 3 min cd, 40 yard range
You swap health percentage with the currently friendly target.  After this effect ends, you are instantly healed for 25% of your total health.

Vampiric Dominance
When you deal damage or healing, 15% of the amount is healed to up to 3 low health nearby allies.

I will be taking Vampiric Dominance and hoping, against all hope, that they do not design any encounters that require me to change that.  Both of the other spells are useful, I agree.  I am just hoping they are not part of a plan to have lots more rotating cooldowns to save the tank type encounters.  If they are, I’ll be changing class again.  Thats what made me change to my paladin last time.  Both of the other spells are interesting, in that you really need to plan for them.  Its just that cooldown rotations make me cry.  I also feel like these are pretty rubbish for level 90 end of tier talents.  Ohh look some more cooldowns and background healing.  Not excited.  And I imagine Shadow is even less excited.

Overall, it looks good.  I think 2.0 is likely to eliminate bloat and increase player choice in some ways.  It does allow you to tailor when and how you get your boosts and what exactly is boosted.  Unlike Glyphs, I can see myself swapping these around for different fights and the very fact that you can do that eliminates ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ builds.  Instead players will have to figure out what works best for them and when.  There will probably be some discussion about optimal choices in a fight, but based on the priest trees there will be no overall ‘best’ build unless Blizzard screw up and something is out of balance.

If the priest trees are representative, Blizzard have interpreted hybridization as utility.  Most talents that enhance healing or dps seem to work differently for healers or dps, so I don’t expect to see Shadow priests doing a bit of healing in high damage phases.  This system is not going to produce a true hybrid class in that sense.  Whilst I think some people would like to be able to become a true hybrid, I can see why Blizzard haven’t gone that route (balance issues, PvP issues, not forcing people who want to dps to heal, etc.).  In fact, the addition of a fourth spec to druids removes the last true hybrid option in the game.  However, Shadow priests will be able to access things like Void Shift and Vow of Unity, or provide Vampiric Dominance.  This seems to suggest at instants of strong hybridization, or sustained periods of weak hybridization, which is very much what has happened in Cataclysm (paladin utility for example was nerfed following Wrath and this is in line with that philosophy).  My one worry is that with this support for hybridization we might see things like fights requiring a cooldown rotation return, since more players will have access to these kinds of abilities.  Lets hope not (or I will need to find a class with no such cooldowns)!!!

I don’t think this system is without flaw.  In the priest trees its notable that at least two tiers contain nothing that would naturally fall within the current Shadow role and the availability of those might cause balance issues in PvP.  Tier 5 has a lot of cool stuff in it and will be the one tier I am sorry I can’t backfill, whereas I don’t really want anything from Tier 6.  Vow of Unity and Void Shift seem confusing and far too similar and I hope there are some changes there.  But overall I am optimistic.


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