Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Talent and Mastery Overhaul

When ever I talk about Beta information I try to always remind people that it is just Beta info, and that a lot can change between the post and when the expansion goes live. Change is inevitable and there were big changes anounced to day regarding Talents, Masteries, and how people will receive and spend talent points.

In short:
When players reach level 10, they are presented with basic information on the three specializations within their class and are asked to choose one. Then they spend their talent point. The other trees darken and are unavailable until 31 points are spent in the chosen tree. The character is awarded an active ability, and one or more passive bonuses unique to the tree they've chosen. As they gain levels, they'll alternate between receiving a talent point and gaining new skills. They'll have a 31-point tree to work down, with each talent being more integral and exciting than they have been in the past. Once they spend their 31'st point in the final talent (at level 70), the other trees open up and become available to allocate points into from then on. As characters move into the level 78+ areas in Cataclysm, they'll begin seeing items with a new stat, Mastery. Once they learn the Mastery skill from their class trainer they'll receive bonuses from the stat based on the tree they've specialized in.
I you can read the entire post from Zarhym here. I also suggest you check out this thread in which Ghostcrawler has been very active.

My First Reaction: Very Positive

If you've gone back and read some of my early blog posts you will know that I am Moonkin by default rather then choice. To this day, all druids start the leveling process as Balance, because your DPS choices for the first 10 levels is to cast spells or whack mobs with a stick, literally. So, when I got to level 10 and was faced with the choice of how to spend that first talent point, the choice was obvious to me.

The Resto talents seem dumb because it's the healing tree. I know there are people who level as resto, but most of them are either masochists or level as a part of a group. Plus none of the early talents seemed all that useful

Feral seemed even dumber. All of the feral talents only benefit you if you are in Bear or Cat form, and you don't even get Bear form until you complete a quest chain or cat form until you reach level 20. Put that on top of the fact that I just spend 10 levels using spells, choosing feral would have been like choosing a whole new toon. I won't even go into how freaken frustrating it has been to level as feral from 10 to 20.

The obvious choice when I hit level 10 was Balance. At the time I didn't know about the negative stigma that was attached to the spec, but I'd just spend the last 10 levels using spells and here is a talent that makes my spells cast faster. From then on my choice was to go for the better DPS talent, or go for the crappy early feral and resto talents. Obviously I choose Balance (most of the time), and the rest is history.

My Point: When I got to level 10 I didn't have a real choice, because feral and resto weren't real options. My hope is that this change provides that option at level 10 when the choice really matters, and hopefully ferals will get cat form at level 10 instead of level 20. That is why I like this change.

My Critique:

While I am a fan of this change, it is not scoring a 10 with me just yet. One of the themes of Cataclysm has been to provide players with more "meaningful" choices in their talent trees, and that is he heading under which they are promoting this change. How you spend that first talent point is a big choice, but I don't see how this change makes the 40 choices after that first one more interesting. Hamlet (the writer of the EJ Moonkin guide), said it best on the Moonkin Repository:
They're selling this as an opportunity to make spec choices more personal/interesting (which is always such a talking point). That benefit is illusory though--there aren't going to be magically more interesting talent choices, unless they design interesting talents (which they could have done under either system). The only effect for top-level players is a bit of cleanup, which is always nice.
Has Hamlet said, this is all an illusion. It doesn't matter how many talent points you have, if the talents don't change then the choices don't change. It's not like Brambles or Owlkin Frenzy will become more interesting because Vengeance is now a passive ability. Unless, Blizzard provides some new talent choices soon, I stand by the post I made a month ago and say that Moonkin will still lack "meaningful" choices even under the new system.

Moonkin Speculation:

Not that this really matters to most of us as level 80 Moonkin, but one of my first thoughts after reading this announcement was what would this mean for those level 10 balance druids out there.

I'll admit that my first thought was that Balance Druids would get Moonkin form at level 10, because that is the signature ability of the balance tree. However I quickly realized that it is probably a bad choice. It would be a little to much, to soon, in my opinion.

Then I looked at the talent tree to see what other signature abilities might be good for a level 10. Force of Nature and Starfall pop out as possibilities, but I think they are very unlikely choices. I don't see a good reason for giving a level 10 a long cooldown, and the lack of control we have over Starfall could make a new players life very difficult. Solar Beam also seems unlikely, because an interrupt would have very limited utility for a level 10.

That left me with two choices: Typhoon and Starsurge.

Pros: I think an instant cast spell that provides a knockback and a daze would be great for a level 10 player. With the 20 second cooldown it isn't over powered but should be available for most pulls.
Cons: As a conal AoE spell, it could easily hit unintended targets. This could be particularly troubling for new players.

Pros: It is a high damage ability with a knockdown. It will also play an important part in Eclipse so it may be a good choice to get players used to the spell early.
Cons: Its a nuke. The level 10 will already have Wrath and will get Starfire a level 20. If I wanted to confuse a new player, I would give him 3 nukes by the time he hits level 20.

At this point I don't have a good guess as to what is the likely choice.

The Strange Quote:

In the original announcement Zarhym said:
The Mastery bonus that was unique to each tree will now be derived from the Mastery stat, found on high-level items, and Mastery will be a passive skill learned from class trainers around level 75.
To me, this sounds like moonkin will train Eclipse at level 75 because Eclipse is our third Mastery. I don't have a problem with that. Currently moonkin can't get until level 50. Considering moonkin can't train Starfire until level 20 and since Eclipse is of limited use to leveling as a timed buff, it seemed natural to me to make players wait for it.

Then we get this quote from Ghostcrawler:
We'll probably give them the "balance bar" for picking Balance at level 10, then at level 78 you get the ability to affect the bonus damage from the bar by increasing your mastery stat.
Now I'm confused, and only have a list of questions.

What will moonkin be training at 75 then?
Will Starfire be the "signature" ability that Balance druids get at level 10?
If so, does that mean other druids won't have access to Starfire?
If not, what is the point of Eclipse at level 10 if you don't have Starfire until level 20?
What is the point of having Eclipse at level 10 as a timed buff when a good portion of the buff will be lost due to finding new targets?

It will be interesting to see how this looks when we get more details.


GamingLifer said...

This change rules. I don't think it's going to be the drastic change that the naysayers are suggesting. You're getting "mandatory" talents free, and Blizz is losing the 5 points per talent. I bet you won't notice any difference.

The only thing I don't like is that you can't chose from multiple trees until level 70. Some classes will suffer during leveling from this. But leveling sucks anyway. So who gives a fuck about that? Haha!

Stop said...

I think what you'll be training at 75 is the same as everyone else - the passive skill, Mastery. In this case, the sliding bar itself is only part of the Eclipse mastery bonus.

I imagine that at 75, you'll gain the passive skill that lets you increase the amount of damage from Eclipses, which is what the Mastery stat will increase. I suspect Ghostcrawler picked out 78 because that's when Mastery starts appearing on gear.

I don't think it would be a big loss for the other specs to lose Starfire; if GC wants to provide the Eclipse Bar at 10, then providing Starfire as the active button at 10 also makes sense. It would really affect, say, Restos who do some soloing using Balance spells - but that's inefficient anyway; these days, if you're leveling Resto, you're dungeon-leveling.

ieatkittens said...

I'm eager for these changes. But my one concern is how it will affect leveling (the whole can't dip into 2 trees until 70 thing). I will be starting new druids in Cata, and likely wanting to level them as feral. But, I hope the new changes will still allow us to do SOMETHING other than our chosen tree. For instance, even tho I lvl feral, I want to be able to heal groups occasionally, or partners that I lvl with. Does anyone think this could change somehow?

Amradorn said...

I leveled 1-60 solo as resto in vanilla WoW.

Was the most painful experience I have ever had other than when I got divorced.

Tsuki said...

I love the changes but like you, I don't see a right signature move for boomies at lv10, nothing seems useful or appropriate.

I feel it'll be the form itself, hopefully with some "primal strike-like" frills tied to it to make it more useful at lower levels. And I can only hope GC was kidding about Eclipse, even though it'd be nice to give it earlier so players would get used to it, it's still a bad choice for leveling.

Unless it gets charges instead of a timed buff... but we know that's not happening :P

Duskstorm said...


"It's not like Brambles or Owlkin Frenzy will become more interesting because Vengeance is now a passive ability."

Well, exactly what makes Owlkin Frenzy uninteresting? I'd argue it isn't the talent itself, but the encounters Blizzard designs.

Even if non physical damage could proc Owlkin Frenzy, the fact of the matter is that Blizzard designs encounters around a rigid structure of tank, heals and dps, and according to their philosophy, dps should not take damage.

There's little reason not to choose talents in direct descending order of how much they buff our damage output.

Blizzard has tried to give us choices before.. remember when threat reduction required speccing into resto? Also, remember when we needed mana regen talents in order to not OOM? These are not problems Blizzard solved by "interesting" talents; they just forced us to give up a bit of passive DPS for other passive bonuses.

In my opinion, they need to give us choices like this...

Let's say I'm in a 10 man group that doesn't have strong enough DPS to handle the adds or meet the enrage timer with a 3 healer setup. With only 2 healers, we are unable to cope with the raid damage. So, I sink a few talent points that add passive raid healing on every tick of insect swarm. This costs me about 20% of my DPS in the talents I had to move around to make room for it, and another 10% of my DPS in having to add insect swarm into my rotation. But doing so enables our group to cope with the raid healing even with just two dedicated healers.

Another choice would be spending a few points into a 30 second cooldown that causes our next wrath to interrupt the target. Maybe this one comes at the expense of a buff to our AOE damage.

My point is that the choices have to come from decisions we make in order to solve encounters, rather than the fuzzy feeling we get when we spend talent points to personalize our characters' abilities.

Okrane S. said...

The main thing that concerns me about this change is how they are going to handle the mandatory talents from the secondary tree.

Here's a list:

- Omen of Clarity for Moonkin and Feral PVE and PVP
- Insect Swarm for PvP resto druids
- Improved Counterspell for PVP frost mages
- Icy veins for Arcane Mages
- Preparation for PVP Assasination Rogues
- Soul Link for PvP Warlocks
- Aimed Shot for non-MM hunters


Le_Chimp said...

For that last bit that confused you I think it's moonkins will get the eclipse ui bar from lvls 10 - 74 but it wont move. just to let them get used to it being on the screen and they plan there ui around it also probably a programming limitation.

Nate said...

When I read these changes, I assumed that moonkin form would be the "signature" ability of the balance tree that you get at level 10. I'm honestly surprised you feel differently, I thought it seemed like "of course it's moonkin form."

What else could it be? In the article you just write it off as "too much" (whatever that means). Could you clarify? To my way of thinking, there's nothing else even in the running.

Duskstorm said...

The will not give us Moonkin Form at level 10 unless they also give us starfire as well. Otherwise we'd shift into a form that only has moonfire and wrath.

Anonymous said...

GC specificially said that moonkin is not one of the active abilities for specs, so that's out.

I don't think Typhoon is terribly usefull for leveling either, as is Solar Beam, so that pretty much only leaves us with either Starsurge, something that is baseline in the current beta build(like SF or IS), or a completely new spell.

I find it highly unlikely that they will just display the eclipse bar with no actual effect... that would be both stupid and confusing, especially for new players.
Remember that they are mixing up the levels for new spells as well. We might just get Starfire on level 10, just like cat form is now.(Bear was moved to 15)

Anonymous said...

Weird... i seem to be unable to put in a name. Oh well.

Androk said...

Eclipse its self is not the third mastery, merely how eclipse is to work like Stop said. and i think they should just move the Training part of mastery to 78 if thats when its going to start showing up on gear, just so they're not throwing 75 and 78 at us in diff statements.

Anonymous said...

Eclipse whether timed or charged based will have issues. I think both are rather pointless and should be scrapped.

The farther along the bar in one way you are should simply up the damage that will push it the other way. Simply let mastery affect the amount of extra damage. Doesn't need to have a charge or fancy proc when you cap.

Will make the gameplay of deciding what to cast more dynamic. Based on what is happening or going to be happening soon with regard to the fight. Especially if DoTs can push the bar a little on cast but not tick.

Lespaul said...

It sounds like up til lvl 75 you will just increase the damage of Wrath by casting SF and vice versa giving you a standard (for instance) 10 SF x 20 Wrath rotation. At 75 when you get eclipse you would actually proc the talent as we currently know it (40% damage to Wrath, 40% crit to SF) when you hit the end of the rotation thus extending its duration, ie. 10 SF, eclipse proc, 5 SF, 20 Wrath, eclipse proc, 10 wrath...

Gambo said...

If what GC is saying is true, then i guess that they'll have to give also starfire at lvl 10, otherwise it makes no sense.
without starfire, wrath will push the bar towards lunar, thus lowering the solar dmg, with no spell to push it back.

The thing i dont get is:
if mastery will be learned at lvl 75 like Zarhym said, so what is this "Ability" to effect the eclips bar in lvl 78 like Ghostcrawler said?
because i had the impression it will be mastery that will effect that....

Lespaul said...

@ Gambo

I've just reread the threads and it sounds like this, (my previous comment was wrong so please ignore):
You will be able to train mastery at lvl 75 which will be a tree bonus, which by the sounds of it, for Balance, could be eclipse. The slide bar will be about from lvl 10 onwards so that you can get used to it, but the actual eclipse proc won't happen until you train mastery. From lvl 78 onwards (the point at which I assume you will be able to access Cataclysm areas: you could go to Outlands @ 58 and Northrend @ 68) gear you pick up can have a 'mastery bonus' on it which will increase the magnitude of eclipse. ie. make it stronger. My guess is that we will get Treants at lvl 10 as GC already stated that we won't be getting Moonkin form that early. Treants are part of what makes Balance Balance, and could scale with lvl so as to not be totally op.

Tilly said...

This morning you'll notice all the sparkly new trees we got from the beta push. Looking through all the other classes that I know and play, I was excited trying to make choices between talent a and talent b, what sort of ramifications taking this or that might have, and how it will affect my play.

Both restoration and balance are absolutely straightforward with 2-3 talent points to throw into less desirable talents.

On one hand, I don't need to worry about making the wrong decisions, but on the other hand, I'm not actually making any decisions at all. I'm sure they are subject to change (and Nature's Grace is still being worked on.)

My first reaction was "yay new stuff!" Then I looked at other classes and thought, "Wow, this is really interesting!" Came back to my druid specs and wondered, "Wait, what choices am I supposed to be making here...?" In fact, I really like 36/0/5 a lot - every point in balance minus Lunar Justice. It isn't difficult at all. You can toss a few points here and there... but it is a strong spec and way too easy.

Tilgare said...

And actually, now that I've looked at the feral tree (which I normally wouldn't care, but I have dabbled on occasion in the feral tree so I thought I'd take a look), the cat and bear talents (which are nearly the same spec now) are really a no-brainer. Bears CAN choose to spec 2 points into Imp SS and 6% spell damage reduction. Cats even seem to have 2 points left over to toss into any of the remaining useless talents. Not many hard choices here either.