Sunday, October 23, 2011

The New Talent System: A Moonkin's View

I must admit that when I heard there was a new talent revamp I was extremely sceptical that it would be worth while or have a good impact on the game. In fact, when I was reading through the opening comments on WoW Insider and MMO Champion I jotted down "Cookie Cutter Builds: Blizzard's Exercise of Futility" as the original title of this post, because I truly believe that it is impossible for Blizzard to prevent the cookie cutter builds. That said, after hearing more of the details of the new plan, I am a little less critical. Here's my take on the new talents tier by tier.

Two quick notes: First all comments are based on the limited information we have and assume that the talents go live as we currently see them. That is of course not true, but we have nothing else to go on. Second, the wonderful images below were taken from the MMO Champion website. If for some reason you don't know about MMO Champion, please check them out. They are hands down the best WoW news site out there.

Tier One: Mobility Tier

  • Feline Swiftness - It's not sexy, but it's a solid buff. This will probably be the most common choice of the three options.

  • Displacer Beast - At first glance it looks to primarily be a PvP/Leveling talent. However, it might have a role in PvE if it can remove Boss DoTs.

  • Tireless Pursuit - This one seems out of place given the other abilities we traditionally have. For example the speed boost is cool, but we already have that utility with Dash, Stampeding Roar and possibly Darkflight. In fact, I would probably replace this one with Stampeding Roar.

  • Tier Summary - I'm not that impressed with this tier, but it is the level 15 tier so I'm not sure how much could be expected.
Tier Two: Healing Tier

  • Nature's Swiftness - Making Cyclone and Roots instant cast could have some PvE and PvP benefits for Moonkin, but I doubt they are huge. Could also act as an "Oh Sh*t" button when macroed with a healing spell.

  • Renewal - This is a pure "Oh Sh*t" button. Assuming it maths out better then Nature's Swiftness, this is the talent I would choose for raiding.

  • Cenarion Ward - Some resto's have been asking for a shield type ability for a long time, and this is it. It looks like cool ability to my inexperienced eyes, but I don't see any purpose for a moonkin to pick it up.

  • Tier Summary - I think this tier is pretty well done. Healers have a definite choice between a shield and a cooldown. Non-healers have a solid choice in Renewal, and Nature's Swiftness might be useful in some situations.
Tier Three: Crowd Control Tier

  • Faerie Swarm - It's a Faerie Fire that you don't have to stack and that has a slow effect. Sounds great for bears but I see no use for it as a moonkin.

  • Mass Entanglement - A poor man's Frost Nova for Druids. I see some potential with this talent especially when used with other talents and abilities, but the 2 sec cast time has me a little turned off on it.

  • Typhoon - What's interesting about this one is that the damage portion of the spell seems to have been removed. That's not a huge deal, since the Typhoon is currently used more for the knockback then it is for damage, but it's interesting none the less.

  • Tier Summary - Another pretty well done tier. I think Typhoon will be the most common choice for moonkin since a knockback is generally more helpful then a mass root, but I can think of several situations where I would want to have Mass Entanglement instead.
Tier Four: Cooldown Tier

  • Wild Charge - This is an interesting option, because the effect is tied to your form and not your spec. Basically, you're picking up 4 abilities with this choice rather then just one. In Moonkin form it's a Disengage that generates energy. The caster form example could also be used as a movement cooldown if needed.

  • Incarnation - The tool tip doesn't list a moonkin example, but judging from the examples listed it looks like Moonkin finally will have the option to have a real DPS cooldown.

  • Force of Nature - Will summon three trents that may or may not behave the way it currently does for us. My guess is that this will be the same basic spell we've always had from a moonkin perspective, but maybe they will be casters for us instead of melee.

  • Tier Summary - We don't really know a lot about these options from the information given, but they are definitely some interesting options. Wild Charge seems to be a utility choice, and we will only pick it up if it provides something we need for a particular encounter or maybe for PvP. The choice between Incarnation and Force of Nature is likely to be a math problem. One of them will end up being stronger and that is the one we will pick..
Tier Five: Bear Tier

  • Demoralizing Roar - Nice utility, but is extremely situation and shifts me to Bear form.

  • Ursol's Vortex - This one has some potential, but again seems very situational. I can see where it might be helpful in PvP, but for PvE I think it's fairly limited.

  • Bear Hug - Again, it's interesting but very situational. I like that it does damage, but I don't like being taken out of the fight to use it. I also don't like being shifted to bear form.

  • Tier Summary - Of the six druid tiers previewed at Blizzcon this is my least favorite. There is just very little there for a moonkin to work with. All three abilities have their uses given the right situation, but my guess is that those situations will be fairly rare.
Tier Six: Shapeshifting Tier

  • Heart of the Wild - I get the concept. Create an ability that allows druids to be good at their other potential rolls, but it rubs me the wrong way. If I'm in a situation where I need to heal or tank we are likely screwed already, and this ability won't help. Additionally, as a moonkin, why would I ever want Agility and Expertise? If I'm going to DPS I'm going to do it as a Moonkin, not a cat.

  • Master Shapeshifter - Horrible! Just Horrible! So by shifting out of Moonkin Form to use a few cat or bear abilities I can get an average of a 20% buff for three spells. Minus what ever damage I would have done by staying in Moonkin form instead of shifting to Cat or Bear form. This wouldn't be so bad, if moonkin regularly had to switch into feral forms, but in my 5 years of playing this game I very rarely have had shift to use my melee abilities.

  • Disentanglement - Shapeshifting removes roots like it currently does but will also real you for 20% of your health. In short, it's a healing cooldown.

  • Tier Summary - I know I said that tier five was my least favorite tier, but tier six is making me seriously reconsider my words. Heart of the Wild and Master Shapeshifter are at best very situational and at worst completely useless. Disentanglement is good utility, but boring. For the top tier of the expansion I expect something better then this.
The Death of the Cookie Cutter?

Is this the death of Cookie Cutter builds? Will this, as Blizzard puts it, "give players interesting ways to customize their characters according to their preferred playstyle?"

In my opinion, it will not.

The problem Blizzard is up against is that there will almost always be a "best option," and players will always be able to identify that "best option" based upon the needs of the situation. In this post, I looked at all six tiers and in most of them I told you which would be the most common choice, and I could tell you the exceptions for most of those choices. The only time I can't is tier five, because all three choices are extremely situational and near useless from a moonkin perspective.

Final Thoughts:

Given my comments in the last section, I wouldn't be surprised if some of you though I hated this new system, but I don't. It won't eliminate the cookie cutter builds and some of the options are pretty bad. However, this new system has some advantages as well.

I really like the "theme" structure of the choices. I've always hated having to justify taking survivability talents over even the tiniest of DPS upgrades. DPS isn't the only raider quality that has value, but is the one that is focused on 99.99% of the time. I like having to make choices based upon something other then DPS.

The simplicity of the new system is also very nice. Having to make just six choices will make life a little easier and I'm glad that we won't have to go back to a trainer to change those choices.


Tsuki said...

I just hope they're not sticking with the 6th tier's theme. They'll most probably do something about MS and HotW, but having to spend your lv90 point on a PvP/survivability talent is pretty underwhelming, specially compared to locks and priests for example.

Jardal said...

I think you made a mistake in thinking that these talents are empowering current abilities. My thought process is that some abilities we take today are getting slotted in here as an option. For example: moonkin will likely lose treants and have the option of picking them back up here. Also, it's likely that disentanglement is the only way we'll be able to shift and remove roots.

Ohken said...

The cookie cutter argument only applies to the tiers that are pure dps talents. What the new talent system lets them do is move the cookie-cuttereness to just a few tiers, and to make the other tiers more interesting.

As a concrete ex ample, suppose they design 3 dps talents and 3 utility talents and tell you to pick two of them. In the current talent system, all moonkin are going to pick 2 of the 3 dps talents and math out which one is the best. In the new system, however, you only take 1 dps talent. You have to pick one of the utility talents, and utility is much less practical to math out.

From this point of view, it makes a lot of sense for them to make the last tier of talents not be a dps tier. They want the last tier to be interesting, not just something you automatically take once you hit the appropriate level.

MMO Melting Pot said...

Great post - I've featured it over at the MMO Melting Pot as part of our talent analysis roundup. (That's also trending on Reddit just now, so hopefully you'll pick up a few new readers!)

BTW, I wrote something up that might be handy to link to for this post - a text transcription of all the Druid talents. The screenies can be a bit hard to read, particularly if you're short-sighted (like me) - might be useful to offer an alternative.

Hope you don't mind me butting in with that!

Graylo said...


No, I got that impression as well. That's why I said that the choice of FoN vs Incarnation will likely come down to a math problem. That said, just because one of these new talents is very similar to an existing talent or ability, that doesn't mean that the existing ability will go away. Does Faerie Swarm mean Faerie Fire will go away? I doubt it. Does Tireless Pursuit mean we lose Dash? Maybe.

I agree that we can't assume we keep all of our existing abilities like the ability to break snares with shapeshifting, but we can't assume that we lose all of them either.


I disagree. I think you and Blizzard are making a error by only thinking of this in terms of DPS. Damage is only one form of performance, and just because some of the options can't be measured in terms of damage doesn't mean that they can't be measured at all. Any experianced PvE moonkin could look at these options and tell you what the best option is for specific situation.

The problem that Blizzard is faces is that PvE is extremely structured and highly speciallized. The boss's abilities don't change, every player in the group is assigned a specific role, and we can plan for the encounter. As a result, it's not a question of which option do I like better. It's a question of which option is best for this particular fight.

Don't get me wrong. I like how they have "themed" the tiers (though I don't like all of the themes). I think it's a good idea to force players to choose some utility. I also think that this system will work very well for PvP since it's less structured and less speciallized. In PvP Nature's Swiftness vs Renewal is an acutal choice. Do I want quick CC and a quick heal on a teammate or do I want a larger self heal witha shorter cooldown for myself? That's a legitimate choice in PvP, but in PvE it's just a math problem.

Think of it this way, Ghostcrawler said that the goal was to have two Combat Rogues standing next to each other with different builds and not look at each other thinking the other one is an idiot. Well, If I'm standing in front of Ragnaros, and I look at a fellow moonkin with Mass entanglement instead of Typhoon, I'm going to think he's an idiot. PvE is too structured for there not to be a "best option."

GamingLifer said...

These talents are going to change for sure. I think it was a mistake to use a mix of existing talents and freshly made up ones for the purpose of giving an example of how the talent system will work.

I think once the actual talents are implemented and balanced, the "cookie cutter" or "must have" builds will be gone.


Daedalus said...

I think the new talent system as a whole is a good thing. Other classes already have some very interesting choices and abilities available to them. Druids just throw a massive monkey wrench into all that. The highly compartmentalized nature of our roles/abilities mean that any ability geared toward one role is likely to be useless for all others. The bear tier is a perfect example of this; why would a non-bear want *any* of those abilities? I hope they figure something out for us in this regard, because I really do think the new system has promise. Let's just hope we don't all get left out in the cold because of it.

Erdluf said...

Excellent post:

Don't overlook Faerie Swarm. There have been lots of situations where the ability to kite a non-boss has been important. We just haven't had good tools for it. No-cooldown, 50% snare for 15s can be very strong (would probably make it easy to solo Tank in TBP as balance).

Wild Charge may be a no-CD way to stay in one Eclipse. Might become important if Lunar-Shower becomes baked-in to Balance spec.

Demo Roar and Vortex are both caster interrupts on a 30s CD. Vortex has larger AoE (and pulls targets to those WM you placed). Roar gives a 4s disorient also (but puts you into bear form too).

Hug might be useful just after a Frenzied Regen cast, but that seems terribly situational for Raiding.

Disentanglement mandatory if any risk of being snared or rooted. Otherwise, HotW could give you a 60% strong Tranquility. MSS might be useful where bigger WM or Hurricane is important (short lived adds that must be killed quickly)

Drake/Convertible said...

Tier 15: PVP/cat specific talents. Displacer Beast is the only real PVE talent, however placing us in cat would cause a DPS decrease as we would have to move back to Boomkin form. Same could be said for Tireless Pursuit.

Tier 30: No real balance selection, renewal would have some usage when healers are focusing on other targets.

Tier 45: Typhoon would be out main selection. Would be better if it had a 360 degree spread which would help against rogues etc.

Tier 60: Choices here, either Wild Charge or Force of Nature. Concern with Wild Charge knocking us out of range resulting in a dps decrease. Be interesting what the treants will do per spec. Unsure of incarnations efects...berserk? Would be mandatory if this was the case and that goes against Blizzards goals. Shame FoN is on the same tier.

Tier 75: All 3 are mainly unsuitable for Boomkin. In no way do we want Ursols Verdict, apart from maybe a pvp situation where we wanted to pull a enemy into a hunter trap or pull mobs away from a healer etc. All other talents place us in bear form.

Tier 90: Interesting talents, both Heart of the Wild and Master Shapeshifter indicate Blizzard want us to regularly move into to different forms in order to increase our dps. Wether boomkins are going to be content with this is another matter. Also, Blizzard has indicated they want to simplify the classes, this tier adds significant complexity to a Boomkin rotation. This will become a very complex class to master again.

Overall combining additional complexity to the eclipse mechanic could make this a difficult class to play. Levelling in Boomkin will also be made more difficult via lower level feral focus. This class unfortunately become a bit of a mish mash due to the 4 specs. Most other specs seem to have a certain flow to them where Druids don’t.

We need a finishing move, or something to make non-eclipsed spells less detrimental in situations. Example: If a target is below x%, spells cast by the druid are calculated at a Eclipsed state on that target only.

There seems to be a required symmetry between Tier 75 and Master Shapeshifter and Heart of the Wild with cooldowns. You need Bear Hug to make the Feral version of MSS and HotW useful.

Alternatively Bear Hug should be able to be done in Moonkin form, perhaps applying another dot and re-porting you character to your original spot, allowing you to use Heart of the Wild to heal and still maintain some of the DPS lost while you are healing. Casting HotW would increase the dot strength so not increase the dps overall if you dont use HotW.

Move Treants to Tier 75 and move Demoralizing Roar to Tier 60.

Orrak said...

I've been sitting here trying to come up with a single elegant talent that's attractive to all 4 specs and has the same wow factor of -say- the warlock t6.

All I've come up with is a deeper appreciation of how the druid class really confounds this system. Beyond being the only class with 4 specs, were also the only class that does not share a single ability between any of it's trees.

Honestly what I think they need to do is split our talent trees. One tree for balance/resto and another for cat/bear. They don't need to be mutually exclusive. The first tier, for example, would work well for both. But I really don't see any other way for them to create compelling choices without weighing it down with massively complicated, and convoluted abilities.

Also on an unrelated side note, I'm not a huge fan of how virtually every single talent is an activated ability. Most of the other trees have a mix of actives and interesting passives (eg.hunter t1). I'm hard pressed for key bindings as it is.

Drake/Convertible said...

Orrak I agree. The Feral Bear/Cat tree needs to be seperated from the Boomkin/Resto in order to give meaningful choices. Most of the selctions have a feral component and arent ueful for Boomkin and Resto.

Its seems like Blizzard wants us to convert to Bear, naw on the enemy and then change back to LAser Chicken.

Graylo said...


I think you make a very good point about Faerie Swarm. I hadn't thought to use it as a kiting tool, but your other thoughts I'm having a little trouble with.

Wild Charge may be able to keep you in Eclipse, but I would assume at the very least it's on the GCD and in which case your wasting valuable casting time. Though it may be a good way to get you to the beginning of an eclipse during down time.

If the best thing about HotW is that it buffs Tranq then it has reall problems, and I personally hate the idea of having to do gimicky things like kitty DPS to buff my AoE.

The good news is that these are far from final and in at least a few cases, what we see in a few months won't look anything like what we see now.

Ian Darke said...

I like the philosophy of the new system. Some of the druid choices felt awkward compared to some of the other classes. I'm cautiously optimistic that they'll address the sore spots you identified.

I'm interested to see what the different versions of the treants will be and what our "empowered" ability will be.

I like the survivability options.

I assumed that we were losing our current sprint and would need to pick it up in Tier 1.

MadMerco said...

Judging by the talents we have been presented I believe we may be finding ourselves shifting more often than we do now. Back in vanilla I remember times when I would have to heal, Dps and tank in a single encounter if needed. With the current state of talents and specs we'd just be delaying a wipe instead of saving a raid if we tried that. Druids are about changing shapes and I welcome that. I'm more interested in seeing what our core abilities turn out to be and what new ones we receive at this point. Talents 2.0 generally seem to be neat toys to play with instead of role defining abilities. I do imagine though that what we have seen is pretty far off from what we will see once MoP launches.

lissanna said...

No, Moonkin get rather boned by the current set of druid talents. You can tell that they are not complete yet, and there will be a lot of changes. The level 90 tier won't go live as is because we'll all default to disentanglement due to the other two talents sucking so bad. I also expect the druid talents to read like a novel due to how many things they will have to add to each one to make them worthwhile.

Lespaul said...

The new system leaves me totally unenamoured. It feels like the current glyphing system where already we only have 4 out of 9 slots that really do anything useful/necessary. Blizz tried to improve this in Cata so that we could change glyphs in and out for specific encounters but failed to give us any choices to interchange, and it feels like they're trying to do the same with talents...

Moonhugger said...

I've been reading your posts for over a year now, and I generally find you to be the leading authority when it comes to moonkin dps. (I'm sure you feel the “but” coming). However I think you’re getting the wrong idea from these talents. Most of these are not design to help you in your particular spec, everything you’re going to need to be a moonkin is going to be fed to you, this is just flavor/sprinkles/frosting. The spirit of these talents is to bring out the druid in you, not the balance or feral druid, but the "Druid", in the hybrid sense. Now you don't have to shift to cat form to use an ability; now the ability will switch you into the form instead (2 GCD turning into 1). You are going to have to learn to utilize your abilities as a druid (and all aspects of druidism in the game). I realize it may seem strange, but that's because a true hybrid is just a foreign concept from WoW that it's like seeing a giant panda flying in the air... oh wait. (Sorry for the rant and any misspellings of grammatical incorrectness).

Tj said...

I want "Shroom Forest" - Places and detonates all your shrooms in one GCD 30s/1m CD!

Berdache said...

So we gain 6 natty abilities but in the mean time lose 3 (FoN, Typhoon, disintanglement) so end up 3 up on the deal. Do the other classes get similarly screwed?

(restos lose two?)

Anonymous said...

I think you're underestimating ursol vortex. Think of situations like Knock, Knock, Knock, where you needed to group up the adds and aoe them down away from the raid. This kind of ability could allow a moonkin to assist in the "getting everything clumped up" department for someone else to root everything in place. The talent says nothing about taunting everything, so it is essentially a reverse thunderstorm. Think of every situation where there is an add chasing someone and you needed to slow it by any means possible, this is another way to do that.

Dan said...

Totally agree with Moonhugger.

Also in my opinion if there is an ability that is a out and out "dps increase" "must have ability" then Blizzard has failed in its goal.

Sure some will be better than others but hopefully not by much and there will be oppertunities to switch to different talents for specific encounters.

I real hope is that druids, mages, spriests may all be to fill a role as add kiter (for example) but using a new talent without affecting overall dps by to much ('Too much' being the key point)

For me the next expansion is looking very promising if they can achieve all that they set out to do.

Anonymous said...

Wondering if the dps between all the clases remain the same it would seem druids would get more utility as they have fewer dps talents or will the hybrid tax return since we have more utility

Anonymous said...

I haven't played for a wee while, but early on in WotLK there was a point in time where a PvP resto could go half feral/half resto (for a laugh). It meant you were nigh on unkillable (except for DK's of course) due to massive health/survivability and mana regen from melee.

Anyways - that style of gameplay was really enjoyable, constantly switching forms and being an actual druid. Alternating heals with bear for stuns/charge or to absorb damage and cat to stun and run. It will always be there in some way for PvP but it's almost non-existant for PvE of course.

So going back to Teir5... imagine if they could build in actual talents that assisted with raiding, based around shifting. Something like if you melee once you get a 20% damage bonus to your next 3 spells. Sure it won't help everytime - but a good moonkin would do it while transition or dodging fire with someone in range. Or if you HoT someone, your next nature spell is an insta-crit?

Anyways - as you say, talent choices that focus on something such as Bear that is currently not useful to a Moonkinl are bad. The opportunity here is for them to recognize that the benefit from shifting needs to be in the main raiding form and significant.

Moonwhisper said...

For me it is to early to say - I like the changes or not - it depends so much how they define our basic spells and abilities. What troubles me however is: It seems we loose "exclusivity" of our signature ability: FoN which is now available to all druids (...can be casted in all shapeshift forms). Which I really liked and is part of my moonkin identity. On the other side, it seems blizzard tries to obliterate between druid specs, encourage shapeshifting and usage of more than one form. I fear the price is: less total dps and the return of the discussion: hybrids vs. pure dps damage.