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.
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.