Sunday, 23 October 2011

New Druid Talent Trees in Mists of Pandaria (WoW 5.0)

Another Blizzcon has come and gone! I didn’t get to go in person but I watched the stream again this year. It was a lot of fun! The Q&As were pretty good as were the panels (I really enjoyed the art panel again this year), I even checked out some of the SC2 matches (hopefully I can learn something and try to get a bit better at it!). The Foo Fighters put on an awesome concert closing night! All in all a good time.
The next WoW expansion was announced, Mists of Pandaria, however I’m not going to go into that today as it would certainly take up an entire post! 
One thing that was definitely interesting was the new talent tree system! The new system sounds cool and potentially a lot more fun. One of the primary goals behind the revamp was to try to make talent trees more fun and customizable, which was the original intent behind the current format of them, however lead to the ‘cookie cutter’ builds which the devs aren’t too fond of. I’m sure even with the new system there’ll be setups that are more optimal for certain things, whether PVE, PVP, or certain encounters. It seems like  the abilities themselves will be a bit more fun though and a bit more mixed, so I think there will be some flexibility still there.
As is my understanding, the new talent trees will work as follows. You still select your specialisation (for Druids it would be Restoration, Balance, Feral (cat), and Feral (Guardian) - they officially split the bear and cat specs for 5.0). Choosing a specialisation will give you access to specific spells in addition to the core spells across all specs. They didn’t give too many examples of this sort of thing, but they did mention with the new cat and bear specs, a bear will not be able to use Shred or Rip, and a cat won’t be able to use Survival Instincts or Frenzied Regen. Based on this we can gather that certain abilities will only be available to certain specialisations. 
Talents, on the other hand, will be available to all specs. This is where you can customize now, and is potentially quite fun as it can give you access to abilities that before were only available to specific specs. You get a talent point every 15 levels, six in total, and you choose each tier from three options/abilities. If I remember right, you can’t do more than two in a row down one tree, so it encourages more mixing rather than just going straight down. 
It was suggested as well that changing talents will be easier to do than it is now and that you will be able to do so ‘out in the field’. If I’m understanding this correctly, you should be able to swap your talents while out in the world (out of combat, of course) without having to go back to your trainer, and it will be similar to the ease of swapping glyphs. It seems you still have to go back to your trainer if you want to do a full respec (to wipe your talents and specialisation if you were, say, changing from Feral to Balance). 
Enough preamble, let’s take a look at the proposed Druid talent tree! Keep in mind this may change a lot between now and 5.0 release. Thanks to MMO-Champion for the screenshots of the talents.

Tier 1: Feral Swiftness - Displacer Beast - Tireless Pursuit
This first set of talents is clearly about mobility. Displacer Beast is an interesting one, it’s kind of like a mix of Blink, Cloak of Shadows, and Vanish. The random direction aspect is a bit odd, and I wonder if that will stay in. It’s a pretty powerful ability, so the random direction may be to help downtune that a bit perhaps. My only concern would be, in a raiding context, the potential hazards of that - displacing into lava, a trap, a cleave, who knows! Tireless Pursuit sounds nice for escaping snares and roots, particularly with the speed boost to help you get farther away. Feline Swiftness is a nice straightforward speed boost, which I quite like.

Tier 2: Nature’s Swiftness - Renewal - Cenarion Ward
This tier is focussed more on healing abilities. Nature’s Swiftness is almost the same as its current implementation for Resto. In this version the spell cast is cost-free, which is nice. The most interesting change there though is popping NS makes the spell castable in any form. This could be a very nice talent for bears and cats, as using NS to battle rez someone would allow them to stay in form. This would be especially useful for bears as it can be so difficult to use a bear battle rez in PVE encounters. For cats and moonkin it will likely reduce the hit to their DPS from shifting forms to rez someone. 

Renewal is a straightforward talent, it’s exactly like the current Desperate Prayer for priests. 
Cenarion Ward is a bit odd. When I first glimpsed it I thought it was a shield of sorts, but that’s not what it is. Basically it seems a way of pre-HoTing - imagine placing this on the tank pre-pull, when he takes the first hit from the boss it will start healing as a 6 second HoT. Kind of underwhelming.

Nature’s Swiftness would probably be my pick in that set, especially for healing. CW doesn’t seem too great a healing ability. Renewal is a nice survivability talent, I’m not sure whether bears might prefer that or NS. NS would allow them to throw a Healing Touch or Regrowth on themself - Renewal would be a bigger heal but NS would let them cast BRs while tanking. 

Tier 3: Faerie Swarm - Mass Entanglement - Typhoon
Faerie Swarm is essentially an upgrade of Faerie Fire (which it appears we will still get, as this talent would replace FF if chosen). Pretty much just adds in a movement speed debuff. Mass Entanglement could be interesting for mass CC. Typhoon though I find the most fun out of the tree as it makes Typhoon available for all specs and usable in all forms.  As much as I dislike knockbacks (especially when I’m tanking), this seems like a fun thing to get. Admittedly I’m already planning on ways to annoy my tank friends by tree-phooning them while healing runs! It will be nice though for fights that require knockbacks for any druid to be able to pick it up instead of requiring they all go Moonkin.

Tier 4: Wild Charge - Incarnation - Force of Nature
Wild Charge gives a movement ability of some sort to each spec/form. Bear form is basically like current bear form, a charge which immobilizes the target and grants the bear 30% haste. Moonkin gets a sort of Disengage effect, allowing them to leap backward and gain Solar or Lunar energy. Caster form lets you fly to an ally’s position and the next healing spell cast costs no mana. 

Force of Nature seems like it could be fun - based on the tooltip, it seems you summon some treants to come help you deal damage or heal (and perhaps protect you while tanking?). I’ve always thought the idea of Resto summoning more treants to help them heal would be tremendously fun. I don’t think this talent will be feasible for Resto, though, which is sad. This is due to the last talent option:

Incarnation is both interesting and odd at the same time, and makes me wonder what their plans are for Resto. Essentially, Incarnation activates a sort of ‘super shapeshift form’. The two examples they gave were Feral, granting you use of abilities which normally require stealth, and Resto, granting the current Tree of Life cooldown abilities. This is what’s a bit odd. Based on the Wild Charge tooltip (non-shapeshifted Wild Charge giving a free healing spell), it seems as though they will continue to keep Resto as caster form rather than any return of Tree form. Basically Resto is required to take this talent, as the Tree of Life cooldown is such a significant cooldown for Resto. It certainly goes against the devs saying they want to provide more choice as, for Resto at least, there’s not much choice there. The other two talents do not seem anywhere near as valuable for healing as ToL (I’ve been working on a post that discusses all the valuable uses for the ToL cooldown). Gaining an extra Wild Growth target, being able to spread Lifebloom to multiple targets, and instant Regrowth casts are too important to bypass this talent. It’s an absolute must-have for Resto. 
Honestly I also find it a bit sad that, judging by the rest of the talent tree, a Resto druid may not get any tree form at all if, for whatever reason, they decide not to pick up that talent.

Tier 5: Demoralizing Roar - Ursol’s Vortex - Bear Hug
This is a new version of Demo Roar, as the current implementations of Demo Roar and Demo Shout will be gone in 5.0. Ursol’s Vortex seems fun, essentially an AE deathgrip. Bear Hug is mostly amusing for the name, should have some uses, likely more in PVP. 

Tier 6: Heart of the Wild - Master Shapeshifter - Disentanglement
The level 90 tier for the druid feels pretty lackluster. A lot of the other class level 90 talents were very interesting - Warriors could choose to get Bladestorm, Shockwave, or a new ability called Avatar. Rogues could pick up Shadowdance, Killing Spree, or Vendetta. Priests even had one called Void Shift that allows them to swap their health %age with a friendly target. Those all seem much more fun and interesting than the druid ones. 
The talents are focussed around shapeshifting and I suppose with emphasizing Hybrid roles. HotW cooldown would grant, for example, moonkins to generate Lunar or Solar power from healing spells, and would gain 50% of Intellect as Agility, etc. I suppose this may have use in PVP particularly for the druid really performing several roles (especially in, say, Arena, where they might have to off-heal, etc). I don’t see this being particularly useful in PVE though. It might be occasionally helpful perhaps in an emergency if, say, healers are down and a Boomkin needs to help heal some. It really doesn’t seem too exciting though.

Master Shapeshifter essentially gives you a stacking buff whenever you shapeshift which increases your melee or spell damage. Again, I don’t really see this being particularly useful, particularly in a PVE context. I can’t see many cats or boomkins shifting forms to throw out a random Moonfire/Rake/whatever.

Disentanglement seems a bit useful mostly for the heal. Removing roots is always nice but doesn’t seem particularly amazing (and is a bit disappointing that, not only will all specs have to talent that ability, it’s our level 90 ability). 

Overall though the 90 talents seem lackluster and, while perhaps trying to be ‘druid-y’ and ‘hybrid’, don’t really seem exciting or that useful.
There was also mention of a new druid healing spell that is basically a Resto version of Wild Mushrooms, where the Mushrooms heal instead of deal damage. Not too sure how I feel about that. I can see occasions where it might be useful, but it’s not particularly exciting, and will likely be pretty situational. Also assuming you have to plant the three mushrooms like Boomkins do, that’s another three globals spent not healing. It’s fine to plant pre-pull on a fight, but it’s just like the current Lifebloom 3stack tank-swapping issues at the moment. Three globals just to set up some healing, which obviously prevents you from doing any healing in those three globals. It seems like it will be clunky and inelegant and ultimately not too fun to use.

I’ll close with a sample talent tree which, in the above implementation of the talent tree, I would likely use for Resto. The talent tree is from Wowhead's sample MoP Talent Calculator.

Feline Swiftness for the general speed boost, which is always useful (and will likely allow a straight stat enchant to boots rather than requiring one with a speed increase). Nature’s Swiftness for the free instant spells, which I feel wins out for Resto - I’ve found NS to be way too valuable for me to really want to drop it, and Cenarion Ward seems lackluster as a simple HoT activated on damage as opposed to a normal HoT. Renewal would be nice for survivability, but I feel NS wins out for the Resto toolset.
Typhoon is mostly for the fun of grabbing it and useful for any additional fights which require knockbacks. Incarnation, as I mentioned above, is a must-have for Resto. Ursol’s Vortex I mostly grabbed for the fun of an AE deathgrip, though I don’t really see much use for any of those three talents for Resto in PVE. Lastly I grabbed Disentanglement, as the others don’t seem particularly useful for Resto (though also the tooltips shared by Blizz don’t describe much of the Resto benefits). Shapeshifting to get out of roots is useful and the heal when shapeshifting is nice for survivability.
Anyhow, I’ll wrap up there for now. Obviously this will likely undergo several changes before 5.0, hopefully it will be a lot more refined and improved by then. I look forward to playing with all of these in the Beta though! What are your impressions of the new talents? 


Delris said...

For my kitty (at least in battlegrounds) he 'relentless pursuit' and 'incarnation' talents look pretty sweet. Bust out of cc and vanish from combat? Hell yes!
I'm with you on the level 90 talents - nothing to get excited about.

Jonathan said...

"I don’t think this talent will be feasible for Resto, though, which is sad."

When considering these, one must account for the statements about resetting them out in the world ala glyphs as a possibility.

Imagine you're in a new MoP raid and this first boss is a movement heavy, position based fight with high tank damage, but minimal AoE burst. Suddenly, Wild Charge is potentially more useful than ToL for that fight. Next up, a boss with a steady periodic AoE ability that makes spreading LB a necessity, you just change up real quickly.

While yes, on a fight mechanic perspective, ToL is a practical necessity, but you have to assume Blizzard is aware of this and is planning on balancing the fights accordingly to make both viable in given situations. If they don't come up with something, they'll likely just scrap it and make ToL a resto ability and alter the talent to maybe just make it more potent or something along those lines.

Feral Tree said...


Very true, I have to say the ability to change talents easily like glyphs is an excellent idea. It gives such easier flexibility for situations like different mechanics fight to fight, etc. Definitely looking forward to that aspect of the new talent system!

mary li said...

Thanks to is useful for druids in wow.