Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cata Build 12479: The New Talent Trees

When the Talent and Mastery overhaul was announced last week, most of the responses I read were quite positive despite the lack of details. Blizzard pushed out a new Cata build last night and we now have a first look at the new talent trees (link). Now that we have some details and the real discussions can start. Here are my thoughts.

This is a First Draft:

If you're like me you when straight to the MMO-Champion talent calculator and missed some of the blue posts from Blizzard. If so then you might have missed an important comment.
While this is a first pass on all of the talent trees, death knight, druid, paladin, warlock, Arcane mage, and Assassination rogue trees are not as far along as other specializations.(src)

Not only is this a first draft for everyone, but the druid trees are a little bit more behind the curve then other classes and specs. If you feel yourself getting mad and unable to provide feedback in a constructive manner, try and remember this. I actually look at it as an advantage. We get to make our comments at an earlier stage of development then some other classes have been able to.

Moonkin Form vs Starsurge:

Two things popped out at when I first looked at the talent tree no MMO-Champion. There was no Moonkin Form in the tree and Starsurge was both in the tree and stated to be our level 10 ability. This confused me quite a bit (so much so I sent an email Lissanna asking her if she had a chance to look at it in the beta). Then I saw this blue post from Ghostcrawler.
We are experimenting between Moonkin Form and Starsurge being the level 10 bonus (the other will be the first active ability in the talent tree).(src)

I'm not sure where I come down on this debate. Neither one is an obvious choice to me.

Moonkin Form
Pros: There is no ability that defines the Balance tree more then Moonkin Form. It is also a very passive ability that is unlikely to confuse new players. Therefore, it makes some sense to provide it at very early level.
Cons: There is something Iconic about Moonkin form, and on a gut level I feel like players should have to work for it. I also wonder if giving new druids 5% crit and possibly 5% haste at level 10 is to powerful.

Pros: As I said last week, the knockdown could be very helpful for new moonkin. Plus, it gets the player used to a piece of the Eclipse mechanic at an early level.
Cons: Giving a new player 3 nukes by level 20 seems like a bit much.

Since which ever ability is not chosen for the level 10 ability will be the first talented ability in the balance tree its not like players will have to wait a long time to get either of them. If I had to choose, I would probably give Starsurge to the level 10 balance druid, since it is a little more useful.

Talent Tree Changes:

Assuming MMO-Champion got the trees right, here is a list of talents that got deleted since the last Beta build.

Nature's Majesty, Imp Moonfire, Celestial Focus, Nature's Reach, Nature's Splendor, Brambles, Vengeance, Dreamstate, Moonkin Form, Imp Moonkin Form, Typhoon, Earth and Moon, and Master Shapeshifter.

Many of these I expected to get removed. For some, like Imp Moonfire, Dreamstate, and Nature's Splendor I am a little surprised that they got removed, but not hugely. It was very surprising not to see Moonkin form at first until I read the Ghostcrawler comment above. That leaves me 3 talents I am very surprised to see gone.

Imp Moonkin Form: Even if Moonkin form becomes our level 10 ability I would still expect a talent to improve upon it at a higher level. Is it being incorporated into the baseline Moonkin form? Will we still provide the 5% caster haste buff?

Typhoon: This wouldn't surprise me if there was any indication Typhoon was becoming our level 10 ability, but there is not. Judging from comments made in the past, Blizzard obviously likes the Spell. Therefore, this makes me wonder if it is going baseline like Insect Swarm or if it was omitted from the table on accident.

Brambles: I've never been a big fan of this talent, but I am shocked to see it gone. It is relatively worthless for PvE, but I was under the impression that it was helpful for PvP. Given Blizzard's push for choice this seems like a very odd talent to cut. My guess is that it was omitted accidentally, but you never know.

My General Impressions:

It's a good thing that this is only the first pass on the new 31 point talent trees, because it feels very hollow and unfinished. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to fill out our trees and make them substantial.

Tier 2 Sucks: Tier 1 of the balance tree is pretty good because it provides real choices in the form of Nature's Grace and Starlight Wrath. Tier 2 feels like a deserted wasteland. I assume Moonglow will be necessary because Mana will be more important in Cataclysm, but I still think Lunar Justice sucks for everyone but the guy that is leveling.

I think there is something missing from the tier. Blizzard said that they wanted the first few tiers to have 8 slots for talent points and tier 2 has only 6. I also think it is a little strange that both talents in the tier are mana talents. I fully expect another talent to be added to this tier. Either a new talent or maybe bring back an old one like Brambles.

The Tree Still Lacks Options: Here is the base talent build that I was able to create in minutes that I am sure would be the standard if these trees went live. It takes every talent of any significance to a PvE moonkin and still leaves to talent points to spend in either Genesis, Lunar Justice, Owlkin Frenzy, Natural Shapeshifter, or Improved Rejuvination.

I think there is a contradiction in Blizzard's stated goals and their intended design of the new talent trees. The theme that Blizzard has been repeating since Blizzcon is choice, choice, and more choice, yet I am seeing none of it. In fact, Blizzard seems to be designing things to prevent choice. Take this comment that Ghostcrawler made last week:
Earlier levels have about 8 points on them (typically a 2, 2, 3) and deeper levels have about 5 points on them (typically a 1, 2, 3).(src)

If you need to spend 5 more talent points to advance to the next tier, how do you have any choice if you only have 5 slots for talent points in the current tier?

Yes, you could put the points in lower tiers, but it's not like those tiers are dramatically better.

Take tier's 4 and 5 for example. Euphoria, Force of Nature, and Lunar Guidance are all core talents, but I consider Solar Beam, Gale Winds, and Owlkin Frenzy to be very optional. Gale Winds has some obvious advantages in PvE but AoE isn't important for a majority of the fights. Solar Beam will also have some uses in PvE to silence adds, but that is a fairly rare need, and we all know how useless Owlkin Frenzy is in a PvE setting.

However, we are forced to put a point in Solar Beam or Gale Winds to advance up the tree to tier 5. Then we have to spend two points between Solar Beam, Owlkin Frenzy, or Gale Winds to advance to tier 6.

I am failing to see where I am making choices. At this point it feels like all Blizzard is doing a lot of hand waving. They say we are changing everything from Eclipse to talent trees, but all the changes appear to be purely cosmetic to me so far. I don't see anything that changes my choices or the way a moonkin will be played.

I realize we are still fairly early in the process, but at this point I've had enough sizzle. I'm ready for the steak.


Villainus said...

The only talent not taken in the balance tree is the leveling talent, Lunar Justice. Having to take 36/39 (16/17 talents) Balance points is NOT an example of choices. They have stated that each tree should have roughly 20 talents. Hopefully there are at least 3 new talents that will be emerging in future builds to flesh out the tree.
One gripe... Why do you continue to insist that reduced spell damage is "sure to be standard" in a spec? You included 5/5 in the talent in the previous beta build as well.
There isn't a single dps spec that intentionally takes a reduced spell damage talent as part of their current raiding build. If you want to footnote 'standard' to mean 'we need to be weaker but more sturdy for initial raiding content', that's one thing. But don't try to pass it off as standard. That's just really poor advice to moonkins that might not know better.
In only the most extreme of cases, such as LK heroic progression, do raid leaders ask their members to take these pvp talent selections for a limited time to help with a first kill.

Jay said...

I don't see why giving %-based stats a low level would somehow be overpowered.

The reason Moonkin Form is a bad choice for the iconic level 10 spell is because it doesn't actually do anything and can't in any reasonable sense be called "active."

lissanna said...

I want starsurge at level 10 to make balance leveling more fun, with moonkin in the place of starsurge on the talent trees.

Graylo said...


"Why do you continue to insist that reduced spell damage is "sure to be standard" in a spec?"

I think you are selling the talent way short by calling it a PvP talent. In fact, I'm not a big PvPer, but it is probably more helpful in PvE then it is in PvP.

I realize that not everyone will consider it standard, but I and most high progression moonkin I've talked to consider damage reduction to be very important. The reason is simple. If you're dead you can't DPS.

Concider these points.

1. Almost all damage a ranged player takes in a raid is spell damage. Therefore you are reducing your total damage taken by almost 6% to 10%. This can easily save your life when multiple things hit you quickly.

In PvP on the other hand a lot of the damage you will take will likely come from melee which is unaffected by the talent.

2. Mana is going to be an issue in Cata for healers. The less damage you take, the fewer heals you need, the less mana you cause healers to spend. I realize that this may not seem important to some people, but what is good for the team is good for you.

If it was a choice between Perseverance and Awesome DPS talent #1 then I would probably choose the DPS talent, but I guarentee that won't be the case. When Cata goes live I bet you will see most of the recommended builds will recommend Perseverance as a standard talent in a raiding build.


I don't think giving percent based stats at a low level to be overpowered, but giving to many of them could be. At this point we don't know what happened to Imp MF or the 5% Haste it provides. If it was included in the standard Moonkin Form I think giving both 5% crit and 5% haste at level 10 might be a little to much too soon.

Pewpewkitty said...

The problem with the damage reduction talent is that it costs 1 talent point for 2% reduced spell damage. In a tree where talent points are far scarcer I would like to think that there are places that talents can be far better spent. As a raid healer primarily I would much rather have DPS spend points to increase their DPS by 2% thus making the fight shorter and my mana strain less.

Graylo said...


First, I wouldn't take the talent calculator provided by MMO-Champion at face value. Many of the Tooltips are clearly incorrect. Perseverance went up to a 10% reduction in the last build. I wouldn't be surprised that the current version will as well once they get all the bugs out.

Second, I would probably take a 2% DPS increase over a 2% damage redution as well, but as I told Villainus, that is unlikely to be an option. Don't under estimate the value of personal damage reduction. Nobody is as good or lucky as they think they are, and it will save your butt multiple times.

Jay said...

My point was more that, by virtue of being %-based, it's not in any way particularly strong to give it at low levels. It's no stronger (relatively) there than at high levels. Basically I don't understand your point here at all.

I wouldn't worry about the tuning of talents like Perseverance just get. A lot of things have to be rebalanced for the new 31-point talent scheme.

Graylo said...


I understand your point completely. Percent based buffs scale completely with a players relative power. Giving a level 10 a 5% crit buff isn't all that different then giving it to a level 30, 50, or 80.

My point is that you can't give players everything at once, and if moonkin form came with both the 5% to crit and 5% haste then it may be a little to much to soon for a level 10. There should be a progression, otherwise why not give everything to the level 10 and let him just upgrade himself with gear?

Weetree said...

Humm, I think I am in favour of the level 10 talent being Moonkin form. You are going to have to spend the next 60 levels as a Moonkin so the sooner you self identify as one the better. In addition, as I understad the blue posts, just because you get a talent does not mean you get it's full effect. Talents (like spells) may also level up. I can certainly see Moonkin form start as a +1 haste, then at say level 14 get +1 crit etc etc building to full effect at level 70 what ever.

Now down to my grip.......AGAIN no real way to preserve damage on the move....AT ALL! Everything points to a shift to a PvP mentality at Blizzard. All fights are movement intensive, deep choices on talent trees are going away, talent trees are "simplified" for the convience of the casual players, gear welfare runs rampant still.... I could go on and on.

Moonkins need to have less reliance on a swinging eclipse and more I can let loose my full spell power anytime over the next 15 seconds al a an Arcane mage and the Missle Barage Proc.

Even at 50% crit and over 1000 haste I still waste more than half my spell power because of movement.

Until we can fire on the move like Mages, Hunters, DK's, Warriors, Paladins, Rogues and to a smaller degree Locks (via their Pets) Moonkins are a dying class.

Anonymous said...

I notice Natures Grace is tagged as [TBR] = To be removed..?


lissanna said...

TBR is "to be redesigned".

Faelar said...

The reason I view the spell damage reduction as something I can pass on is barkskin. I have always been able to use it on the fly to reduce damage during times of stress. For PvE that was always enough for me.

I would imagine we are losing some of our crit and haste buffs as they are going to try and force mastery on us. I am curious to see the direction they are taking us.

Faelar said...

And I am envious of you Lissanna. I am dying to get into beta. I really want to test everything and give them a lot of input on balance. I have no interest in the zone designs or the new races or any of that junk. The more data we can give them and the more ideas we can give them for balance druids the better.

Angelya said...

Moonkin form at level 10... I'm not sure if I'm okay with that either :-/ But then again, as long as they don't make it a cooldown based "trinket" like tree form, I don't mind where they put it.

Thanks for your analysis, Graylo. I'm not in the Beta so I'll continue to watch yours and Lissanna's take on things, as well as your commenters.

Lespaul said...

I'm curious as to what use you think Fungal Growth might have as a PvE talent. Perhaps a replacement for Typhoons daze effect?

Is what I would perceive to be the standard given this nasty looking tree. A point from OkF could happily be moved to Genesis, after all they are more or less equal talents overall.

Murmurs said...

Is it cynical to say that it feels like Blizzard has no clue what they really want to do with any talent tree right now? I mean, seriously, they're just in a complete state of mess right now, with junk all over the place that they swear up and down they're going to change....but when? How many things are they pushing aside just to get this one thing right?

I understand talents are import and all that, but there's so much more that still needs to be done and we're still sitting at square one. Not only that, but they haven't actually done half the things they've said they're going to do and, really, they seem to apply their logic randomly.

Frost still has Ice Shards which is nothing but plus % crit -- they said all of those talents were going, oh, wait, no, they changed their minds a bit later and just said that most of them were going, then all of them were going again. In fact, there's still quite a number of talents in multiple trees that do nothing but increase crit or damage by a flat %.

There are still range increasing talents, there's still talents to increase base line buffs, and half the trees are going to be a balancing nightmare due to the gross inequality of DPS talents, or lack there of, in them.

I understand they want for choice in utility or whatever they are attempting, but I mean, come on. Half of the talents are so damn useless it's like they threw in the talent just to have a talent there; not only that, but some specs spend more than half their talent points on talents that literally do nothing for their DPS, I mean nothing. I'm all for utility, but I'm a bloody DPS, I want to spec for DPS, I want to deal damage. If I wanted stupid healing tricks, or increased healing on myself, or extra dodge/parry, then I'd do something else.

I'm waiting to be impressed by these changes.

Faelar said...

I wager they still have a TON of work yet to do on these talent trees for all the classes.

I mean it seems like they just decided on a whim to change the huge bloated trees down to these smaller ones. Now they have to rush it in the couple months they have in beta before this stuff gets ready to go on live servers before the expansion comes out.

lissanna said...

Yes, there is a lot of work to be done, but it's still really quite terrifying for them to make changes this big to the talent trees this late in the development process along with all the other things they didn't have working right in the first place. The poor Blizzard staff is going to have a lot of sleepless nights...

Fantasma said...

I, like Murmurs, am waiting to be impressed. So far they're not even close to impressing anyone. I understand that the tree is still in a very early form, but I don't want my "interesting choices" to come down to which of these remaining talents sucks the least.

Aabrahm said...

"I understand that the tree is still in a very early form, but I don't want my "interesting choices" to come down to which of these remaining talents sucks the least."

^this. I can't stress it enough. We already had to do that most of Wotlk. Brambles, Owlkin Frenzy (i had such hopes for that one).

As far as the Moonkin form at 10, I can't think of a more iconic spell for some one leveling as balance. It could also be said as previously mentioned to scale with level or in rank.
Have you seen any of the troll forms and/or is there a moonkin form yet for them?

Faelar said...

Yeah I still think they just made these changes on a whim after some meeting. Why would you go to the trouble of making changes to the talent trees and making them bloated to all of a sudden decide that you want a 31 deep talent tree. Why not decide that from the get go so they had a ton of time to get it right. This feels rushed. I just hope it does not suck.

Artofficial said...

If a new player can't figure out 3 moves that pretty sad. I enjoy not knowing exactly what to do when I start a new game, but eventually I learn.

However having mail equivalent armor at level 10 would definitely help boomkin leveling in terms of damage taken.

Duskstorm said...


"I'm all for utility, but I'm a bloody DPS, I want to spec for DPS, I want to deal damage. If I wanted stupid healing tricks, or increased healing on myself, or extra dodge/parry, then I'd do something else."

So, what you're saying is.. you don't really want to make any meaningful choices. You just want to do damage.

It sounds like the best system for you would be to not have a talent system now.

That's kind of what we have now; you either look up the "correct" talent spec and choose that, or you're viewed as a "newb." There is no choice today, merely the chore of having to go look up an elitist jerk thread every time our class gets a tweak.

Neyuna said...

As far as the range talents, GC said today: "Pure classes just have their spells always go to maximum range. We have to keep some checks and balances in place for healing classes to make sure the dps spec beats the healing spec when actually doing dps. Hit, big crits and range are some of the mechanics that let Elemental \ Balance \ Shadow trump the Restos and the healing priests."

I can understand and accept that logic, but I really hope they later builds have some big changes in their for us. I understand your frustration about the talents that have nothing to do with dps. I'm gonna assume you're talking about the rogue combat tree. :P I was trying to make a build myself and I needed to get to the good stuff down in the tree and yet my choices were imp gouge, imp sprint or extra armor. None of those are that interesting either, beyond leveling or pvp I suppose.

The "hurry up and wait" continues. I wish I had a beta key to keep me occupied. :P

Seleria said...

Being like any normal person, I first checked my main's talent tree choices. Then, baffled at the lack of choice and a little annoyed at being pigeon-holed, I decided to go wandering to see if my alts' trees looked any better.

NONE of them do. There are very few choices. It's mostly "fill up your tree & then dump into the first tier of whichever tree looks better."

I was a little excited for the trees when they were first announced--skeptical but optimistic. This is just... gross.

Anonymous said...

I love your site. You write great stuff for druids. But please, learn the difference between "then" and "than". You use them backwards.

"Then" is used to sequence things in time... "I ate the cookie, then I drank the milk".

"Than" is used to compare things.... "I like chocolate cookies more than I like peanut butter ones."

You write a really popular site. It's got great content. Just my anal retentive $.02 to help step up the grammar game, too.

jason said...

Is it just me or, under the current setup, natures switftness is currently completely inaccessible to balance druids... And yet "requires moonkin form"... Thats GOTTA be a typo or something...

Bromidrosis said...

Wanted to drop you a quick thanks. Just back into raiding after being casual after Sunwell and was good to see you still around, as I was still stuck in SF spam mode. I remember reading you back in the day on how to gear for Kara when you could count Moonkins on a server with one hand. We've come a long way baby....keep up the great work.