More Cookies, Less Cutter: MoP Talents

The Grumpy Elf is not convinced that MoP talents are less cookie-cutter. Neither is Nils. The Elder Game thinks fiddling with talents at all is a waste of time.

All miss the point, I believe.

Let me begin with a quote from Bashiok I posted a few months ago:

Diablo (1) did not have skill trees, it was a feature added to Diablo II, and then more or less copied by World of Warcraft. Some could say to World of Warcraft’s detriment as it’s been struggling with how to cope with a skill tree system, which has huge inherent issues with very little benefit, for years. Diablo III, like Diablo II, is an evolution of the series and game systems.

I agree with that characterization of talent trees, specifically that they have huge inherent issues with very little benefit. Talent trees, as the way they are set up in WoW currently, give the illusion of choice. There is a good Extra Credits video called Choice and Conflict which talks about this issue. Essentially, the “choice” being presented in WoW’s talent trees are really calculations, not actual choices.

If you look up the EJ builds for your spec, chances are you will actually see where the Blizzard designers tried to give you choice in Cataclysm’s revamp. Here is the EJ build for a PvE Retribution paladin:

If you’ll notice, you have 1 extra free point floating around (technically you have 3, but nevermind) – this means there is literally nothing else that will increase your DPS. Choice, amirite? Well… no. Your “choices” are:

  1. Guardian’s Favor = HoP’s cooldown reduced by 2 minutes, longer HoF.
  2. Selfless Healer = Stronger WoG’s for teammates.
  3. Acts of Sacrifice = Cleanse removes snares.
  4. Divinity = easier to heal you.
  5. Eternal Glory = sometimes a free WoG.
  6. Last Word = WoG more likely to crit on low-health targets.

You may not be familiar with Ret paladins, but hopefully that comes across as outrageously boring, because it is. But what about PvP? Here is Ret in PvP:

Know what changed? We got rid of Divine Storm (just AoE for trash), a talent that makes Crusader Strike scale with haste, and then just picked all the WoG-boosting talents and a faster HoJ cooldown. In other words, there is no differentiation there at all. There is technically another PvP build that sacrifices the faster HoJ cooldown for even more WoG healing, but that’s basically it. Ret’s Cataclysm choices are DPS vs HoJ vs WoG-boosting. Pick only one! Just like this new system, except only one choice instead of six.

For fun, I took the paladin tree and blacked out all the talents you either couldn’t get, or were identical whether you chose PvP or PvE. This is what it looks like:


Ret paladins are actually a terrible example to use in the Mists of Pandaria talent scheme, since Blizzard essentially took 9 talents from the Ret tree and are asking Rets to “rebuild” the spec with only half as much as they had before. Hopefully that will change before things go Live, but I’m used to the idea of paladins being nerfed into the ground and/or Ret getting screwed, so whatever.

Point is, the talent tree system has always been bad. There was nothing exciting about leveling up and putting a talent point in something that just increased your damage by 10%. Under this new system, you get the 10% damage talent automatically and then get to decide something that is actually meaningful. Nils used the following example under druids:

Level 45
Feral PvP: Faerie Swarm, for more damage, a ranged snare and against cloakers.
Non-Feral PvP: Typhoon, because it is instant and keeps players at range no matter what damage they take.
Feral PvE: Faerie Swarm, because the rest is completely useless.
Non-Feral PvE: Typhoon, because it is instant. But you won’t use it much.

He thinks the obvious choice for Feral PvP is Faerie Swarm. Are you kidding? One of the funnest things in WoW is popping out of stealth and Typhooning people off of ledges, which has traditionally be reserved solely for Balance druids. I would always choose Typhoon, because Typhoon is fun for me. That singular instance of interesting choice is worth the entire overhaul to me. Nevermind my ability to give Ardent Defender the finger and not be too punished for it. And being able to take Shadowfury as an Affliction warlock. Or getting Cauterize and Ice Barrier as an Arcane mage. Or… you get the idea. Some classes have more interesting choices than others, but hopefully these were just rough drafts.

Overall, as an ex-WoW player I am more excited for the expansion than I was three days ago, almost entirely based on these changes alone.

Posted on October 22, 2011, in WoW and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I agree with you; I don’t necessarily think the talent changes that they are proposing are the second coming of character depth but I do feel like we aren’t necessarily losing anything with the changes. My Holy paladin had all of 5 points I could reasonably spend on my own and maybe 3 places to spend them… >.> and really they did not change how I played much it was just a “Do I want to Avenging wrath 10 seconds sooner or have 10 more yards on judgment” while these new talents are play-style changing abilities.

    I have no doubt they will be heavily changed and balanced between now and release, but if they manage to keep some of this feel I do think it will make a difference. Many of them seemed powerful or flat out OP.


  2. Ok, so in BGs where you can blow people off edges you take typoon. In the others you take Fearie Fire. Was that a hard choice?

    I wrote a series of posts just a few weeks ago about choices.

    I think everything has been said there. Choices have to have consequences, otherwise they are meaningless. Blizzard repeated attempts to get around this is ridiculous. The reason you have a few choices left in the current talent trees is because it doesn’t matter where you spend your last points !

    The only change of note with the new talent trees is that you can change them on the fly. This makes them a mandatory part of the preparation before you do anything of importance (boss fights, arena games, rated BGs …)


  3. I find that the idea of talents/specs is very good, but it backfires the moment you have the internet and simulationcraft. Choosing talents should be about tradeoffs: you get something, you lose something else, in order to avoid all characters to be identical. More importantly, you get to reallocate them when the leveling is complete, which avoids the grind-land of fixed choices (which require you to re-level a character to reallocate).

    But with the success of the game and the proliferation of sites like EJ, the consequence is that you end up with an optimal configurations for every role + some insignificant variation. And since there are very few roles (three), and one role per spec (the only exception being feral druid), choosing a spec is equivalent to pressing a single button, the one which copies the spec from EJ to the game…

    I like the direction they are taking the talents, i.e. support and not “core” abilities, but I fear that they’ll end up with something which resembles the current system, i.e. 5-6 choices which make no difference at all. I only looked at the druid ones, and while I like some of them, I also find some other to be absolutely irrelevant.
    If they manage to provide at every “tier” a choice between three powerful but situational abilities, then things could interesting. Even better if depending on the fight, the choice is not immediately obvious but depends on which assignment you’re given.

    (BTW looking at my guiĺd’s forum, the reaction to the announcements for 5.0 has been a lot of excitement)


  4. With the vanilla talent trees you had the option to cherry pick your talents – that was a problem for balance but fun. To skill 30/0/21 as warlock made you feel smart. Because you were smart enough to “game the system” by not taking the crappy 31 point talent in your main tree.

    That’s the most important function of such a talent system. To make the player feel smart!

    With Cataclysm it was no longer possible to do that because your main tree forced you to spend 31 points. For most classes all “choices” were in the off-trees which felt silly and you never felt “smart” because you didn’t get the feeling to be “smarter than the system”.

    And even if the new system might have a perfect skill. It’s still better than the old system where you had to get most talents anyway to reach the next level.


  1. Pingback: Answering Nils’ Criticism « In An Age

%d bloggers like this: