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Talent Shake Up

With Cataclysm beta now well under way and the NDA lifted, the information continues to flow. While somewhat overshadowed by the saga surrounding the real ID system, the big announcement of last week was regarding a talent system revamp. I had initially planned to make this post in the light of those announcements but took the decision to wait for the changes to be patched onto the beta servers. Last night saw a new beta build released and the new talent changes are now live on those servers.

We’re all familiar with Blizzard’s decision to remove all the talents that added passive bonuses. They stated that all those necessary but boring talents providing, for example, spell power increases would be removed. They’ve now decided to take this one step further and trim the talent trees more, reverting them to thirty one point trees. While it may feel like a reduction in choice, they argue that they’re making the choices more meaningful to players.

(Image courtesy of MMO Champion)

Further to this has come their desire to bring a true class and spec feeling to a new player. In the present system, your early talent choices don’t feel very significant. Blizzard have stated a desire to fix this and want new players to feel like an elemental or enhancement shaman from the very beginning, rather than after they have spent 40 points in their selected tree.

The choices begin at level ten where you choose your specialization (your talent spec). This will provide the passive stats that are associated with your tree. Examples given included a passive 20% increase to all fire spells for a mage player choosing the fire specialization or the ability to dual wield for a shaman player choosing enhancement. In addition, players will gain an iconic spell or ability previously located quite deep within the talent trees. For elemental shaman players, this will be thunderstorm. For our restoration friends, it’s earth shield.

(Image courtesy of wow.com)

In the above screenshot, you can see the three specialization choices available to the warriors (fury, arms or protection). Directly beneath are the iconic skills that you’ll receive as soon as you select your tree and below those are the passive gains.

After choosing your specialization, the other trees will grey out and you will be unable to spend any points in them until after you have placed thirty one points in your specialized tree.

In accordance with the reduction in the number of talents available, players will now receive a talent point every second level instead of every level after ten. The plan is to alternate these with new trainer skills. The result being that you’ll receive something new at every level gained but these will alternate between a new talent point and a new trainer based skill.

The New Talent Trees

As I mentioned at the start, the new beta build went live last night and this included the new, drastically reduced talent trees. Thanks to MMO Champion you can find the new shaman trees here.

What follows is a description of the talents per tier.

Tier One

From left to right:-

Elemental Devastation

Convection

Concussion

My initial thoughts about the tier one talents is a slight confusion as to how the inclusion of concussion and convection adhere to their desire to cut the talents providing passive bonuses.

Tier Two

Improved Fire Nova

Elemental Warding

Elemental Precision

Call of Flame

Again on this tier I’m somewhat surprised to see the inclusion of call of flame and elemental warding (though the latter I’m pleased about as I’ve always liked this talent.) Elemental precision is, as previously stated, being morphed into our spirit to hit conversion talent allowing us to share gear with our restoration counterparts.

Tier Three

Reverberation

Elemental Focus

Elemental Reach

Tier Four

Unrelenting Storm

Elemental Oath

Lava Flows

Tier Five

Storm, Earth and Fire

Elemental Mastery

Totemic Wrath

Totemic wrath, one of our new talents for Cataclysm (and by far the one I’m most excited about) makes it’s appearance here.

Tier Six

Shamanism

Lava Surge

Lava surge makes it’s appearance quite deep in the tree. I’m still liking the concept of this talent as I really enjoy anything that makes for more intuitive play

Tier Seven

Earthquake

There’s no great shock to see earthquake making it’s appearance as our thirty one point talent.

Restoration

Restoration is both my personal offspec and a tree I have a lot of love for. As such, I’m going to be detailing their tree changes here also.

Tier One

Ancestral Resolve

Tidal Focus

Spark of Life

Tier Two

Improved Water Shield

Totemic Focus

Focused Insight

Tier Three

Ancestral Awakening

Nature’s Swiftness

Ancestral Healing

Tier Four

Improved Chain Heal

Restorative Totems

Blessing of the Eternals

Nature’s Guardian

Tier Five

Improved Cleanse Spirit

Mana Tide Totem

Nature’s Blessing

Tier Six

Tidal Waves

Telluric Currents

Tier Seven

Riptide

My Personal Thoughts

Firstly, I’m wholly in favour of the specialization choices at level ten and the addition of the iconic spell immediately. World of Warcraft needs to keep appealing to new players as well as offering incentives for the older players to keep playing. When you make your class and specialization choices, you should feel that they make an impact immediately. Under the present system, when you hit level 10 very little changes. From the elemental tree you can choose from a talent that gives your ranged offensive spells a 1% damage increase or one which reduces the mana cost of the spells. From enhancement there is a choice from two “buff the buff” type talents increasing the effectiveness of the strength of earth and flametongue totems (in the form of enhancing totems) or stoneclaw and earthbind totems (in the form of earth’s grasp) or an increase in intellect talent. Restoration get to choose from a small reduction in the casting time of healing wave or a reduction in the mana cost of our totems. Nothing at this point feels like you just chose to become an enhancement, elemental or restoration shaman.

Thunderstorm is very iconic of the elemental shaman as much so as the ability for the enhancement player to dual wield and the restoration player to have his or her earth shield. These abilities feel much more defining and allow a very early player to feel that they’re already involved with their specialization.

The lack of gear itemised towards elemental always rears it’s ugly head in discussions about levelling. Indeed it was mentioned at the shaman round table event over the weekend. I don’t see this as a hindrance to the actual levelling process. It’s not idea but if you end up levelling in cloth with spirit, it’s not going to terribly inhibit your progress. I do, however, think it impacts upon the experience and the feeling of being an elemental shaman.

I was quite shocked to see the presence still of a few of the talents with passive boosts, particularly given Blizzard’s enthusiasm for removing these. It is, however, still early days in regards to the beta and all the talent trees could still see extensive changes.

Touching on restoration slightly, where is spirit link? Initially introduced in wrath of the lich king beta but removed it was then mentioned again for cataclysm but still hasn’t made an appearance in the actual beta trees.

I’m going to be updating the cataclysm compendium to ensure it’s up to date with these new changes though it will take quite a lot of editing so expect that to take a day before it’s accurate for this build.

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Categories: Cataclysm
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  1. July 18, 2010 at 5:32 pm

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