Hello, my name is Reygahnci, and I have a problem.

Well, technically my name is neither Reygahnci nor do I have just one problem. I meant to write a few posts since the last one, but life has taken some unexpected turns in the last few months. I mentioned my engagement which is coming along well, but is requiring a lot of planning and taking up a lot of my time. Additionally, I'm in the middle of buying my first home and hoping to close escrow pretty soon, which will mean a multitude of packing and planning and calling ISPs and a-hundred-and-one small annoyances over the next month. On top of all that, I am still doing my gym-going after work now (I've lost 70 pounds since last November when I started) and so I get home tired and beat after about 10 hours away from the house.

So, here I am at home playing some casual game like L4D or reading a good book when Blizzard says "oh, done playing WoW, are you!?" and hits me in the face with their Blizzcon announcements.

  • No more traditional talent trees
  • Druids have four specialization options

There were, obviously, way more announcements than simply those two, but to be perfectly fair, those two were enough to actually peak my interests. I called up Guntir (who moved for a job as well as my various other business) and said "dood, they may have got me back for the next expansion..." My guess is that Feral will still be a second-class spec and I don't expect 2v2 to be around much longer, but I do think that the new specialization direction is one with the potential to be good for the game, particularly with regard to balance in PvP.

For those who live under a rock or simply no longer keep up with the day-to-day announcements, Blizz has publicly stated that talent trees are going away forever in the next expansion. Well, not exactly "going away" as much as "changing so dramatically that they might as well be going away entirely." At present, there are 7 tiers of talents in every tree, which each subsequent tier requiring 5 talents points minimum to progress to the next. At level 85, one will have 41 talent points to spend however they choose, but the majority of these talents are "mandatory and boring" in that they are of the flavor "increases your damage by 1/2/3/4/5%". If one's role is to deal damage, then this talent is one which must be taken to improve worth in one's role. In reality, the choices to be made are largely along the lines of "there are 3-4 talents per tier, you can take 1-2 of them". This makes it something like 14c8 for the main tree alone and more likely 18c8 when you consider the other two trees as choices as well... that's over 40,000 combinations from which to choose.

Now, here is the problem: when one really gets down to the nitty-gritty, those "choices" are more like what I mentioned before - most of the talents from which a player chooses are considered "mandatory and boring" and nothing is truly a choice. For a PvP Feral, the first tier is "take them all", the second tier is 2/2 Primal Fury and 2/2 Infected Wounds, tier 3 is 3/3 KotJ, Feral Charge, and 2/2 Stampede, tier 4 is "all of them", tier 5 is SI and 2/2 Endless Carnage, tier 6 is 3/3 Rend and Tear, and FINALLY the player gets to make a true choice. Two points are now a free choice to the player, and for a PvP Feral, it is between talents like Feral Aggression, Fury Swipes, Blood in the Water, etc. None of these are quote fun end-quote talents.

These types of "choices" are the bane of the talent system for the most part, and in Cataclysm Blizzard aimed at making talent trees more "fun" by reducing talent count and giving out fewer talents over all. This allowed Blizzard to condense the trees into more "fun" talents, but it still left filler that was necessary, which is why talents like Fury Swipes and Thick Hide still exist. Blizzard could not properly break down specializations into roles in Cataclysm, but not for lack of trying.

This is why I am excited for Mists of Pandaria (or MoP - an awesome acronym) - Blizzard has finally said "those boring talents are not truly choices". Blizz is right in this revelation! Choices should be fun and game-changing rather than "increases/decreases X by Y" regardless of the flavor (Fury Swipes, for instance, is just a confusingly worded "increases your damage by X% over long fights"; it is done in an interesting way, but not reactionarily or thoughtfully as it pertains to the player). So, Blizzard has gotten rid of the talents trees entirely and instead gives the player these types of interesting-but-boring mechanics at level increments, which is how they should be doled out anyway. Additionally, the "new" talent system is just a revamp of the old one, but in a much more interesting way.

I have been waxing a bit here; let me just speak frankly. When one looks at a talent tree like Feral, they see a HUGE assortment of talents, but ultimately there are a handful of 2-3-point talents from which to choose and one or two really neat 1-point talents that will be buttons to press in the game. These talents are the interesting ones; players do not remember talent trees by name as much as by the defining ability of said talent tree: Feral is known for Berserk; Assassination is known for Mutilate; Discipline is known for Penance; etc. These are the types of things that define the class but also end up being "boring". Again, these are not choices; there are no Ferals out there who simply do not take Berserk, nor are there PvP Ferals who do not take Feral Charge.

Outlined in the last paragraph is the biggest problem facing Blizzard for MoP - at what point do you label an ability a "choice" over a staple of the class? For instance, Mangle used to be one of those staples in the talent tree, then it was made into a baseline ability when one specialized as Feral and got it for free at level 10. Presumably, Feral will be getting Berserk "for free" having specialized in Feral at level 30 (or whenever). Okay, so all those "boring-but-mandatory" buttons will likely be "spec-free", but what about the non-mandatory but interesting talents which currently change up rotations and what-not? Where does Blizzard draw the line? Will Feral(Cat) be given Blood in the Water at level 50, or is Blood in the Water going to get axed? What about Primal Madness? How about Nurturing Instinct?

Obviously, this question will be answered before too long, but it does make one sit back and say "okay, so I get all this stuff for free now... where does choice come in again?"

Okay, the new talent trees are where choice is made. Six tiers of options as opposed to six tiers of mandatory boring background noise. Here they are in detail at a tier-by-tier layout of choices (or alternatively, here is a link to the screens) -

Tier 1:
  • Feline Swiftness - Passive - Increases your movement speed by 10% and by an additional 20% while in Cat Form.
  • Displacer Beast - Instant 3min CD - Teleports the Druid up to 20 yards in a random direction, purging all periodic damage effects and providing stealth for 10 seconds. Attacking or using an ability cancels this effect. Using this ability activates Cat Form.
  • Tireless Pursuit - Instant 3min CD - Removes all roots and snares, and increases movement speed by 70% while in Cat Form for 15 seconds. Does not break Prowling. Using this ability activates Cat Form.
Tier 2:
  • Nature's Swiftness - Instant 3min CD - When activated, your next Cyclone, Entangling Roots, Healing Touch, Hibernate, Nourish, Rebirth or Regrowth becomes instant, free, and castable in all forms. The healing and duration of the spell is increased 50%.
  • Renewal - Instant 2min CD - Instantly heals the Druid for 30% of maximum health. Usable in all shapeshifted forms.
  • Cenarion Ward - 7680 mana, instant 30s CD - Protects a friendly target, causing any damage taken to heal the target for 2600 every 2 seconds for 6 seconds. Gaining the healing effect consumes the Cenarion Ward. Lasts 30 seconds.
Tier 3:
  • Faerie Swarm - Instant - Decreases the target's armor by 12% for 5 menutes and reduces the target's movement speed by 50% for 15 seconds. While affected, the target cannot stealth of turn invisible. Deals 49 damage when cast from Bear Form. Useable in all forms, but incurs a 6 second cooldown while in Bear Form or Cat Form. This talent replaces Faerie Fire.
  • Mass Entanglement - 4480 Mana, 30y range, 2sec cast, 1min CD - Roots all enemies within 12 yards of the destination for 8 seconds. Damage caused may interrupt the effect. Cannot be cast while in Bear Form or Cat Form.
  • Typhoon - 5120 Mana, instance 20s CD - Summons a violent Typhoon that strikes targets in front of the caster within 30 yards, knocking them back and dazing them for 6 seconds. Useable in all forms.
Tier 4:
  • Wild Charge - No official CD listed, probably instant 3min CD - Grants a movement ability that varies by shapeshift form.
    Caster Form: Fly to an ally's position and your next healing spell costs no mana.
    Bear Form: Charge to an enemy, immobilizing them and granting you 30% haste.
    Moonkin Form: Bound backward and gain 20 Lunar or Solar Energy, whichever is more beneficial to you.
    Cat Form: None listed [maybe FCC is baseline for Feral spec now?]
  • Incarnation - Instant 3min CD - Activates a superior shapeshifting form appropriate to your specialization for 30 seconds.
    Feral: King of the Jungle - Improved Cat Form that allows the use of all abilities which normally require stealth, and allows use of Prowl while in combat.
    Restoration: Tree of Life - Tree of Life Form that increases armor by 120% and enhances Lifebloom, Wild Growth, Regrowth, Entangling Roots, and Wrath spellcasts.
  • Force of Nature - Instant 3min CD - Summons 3 treants to assist in the Druid's current combat role. Treant capabilities vary by specialization. Useable in all shapeshift forms.
Tier 5:
  • Demoralizing Roar - Instant 30s CD - The Druid roars, disorienting all enemies within 10 yards for 4 seconds. Using this ability activates Bear Form.
  • Ursol's Vortex - Instant 30s CD - Conjure a vortex of wind that pulls all enemies within 15 yards toward your own location. Useable in all shapeshift forms.
  • Bear Hug - Instant 1m CD - Melee attack that stuns the target and deals 10% of the Druid's health in damage every 1 second for 3 seconds. Effect canceled if the Druid moves away, attacks, or takes any other action. Using this ability activates Bear Form.
Tier 6:
  • Heart of the Wild - Instant 6min CD - Dramatically improves the Druid's ability to serve combat roles outside of normal specialization for 45 seconds.
    Balance: Healing spells generate Lunar or Solar Energy and benefit from Lunar and Solar Eclipse. In addition, grants 50% of Intellect as Agility, 100% of hit rating as expertise rating, and increases armor by 95% while in Bear Form.
    Feral: Grants 50% of Agility as Intellect, increases hit rating by 100%, and increases armor by 95% while in Bear Form. In addition, regenerates 2% of maxmum mana every 5 seconds.
  • Master Shapeshifter - Passive - Improves the Druid's effectiveness at briefly switching between forms. Your melee abilities increase your spell damage by 10% and your non-instance spellscasts increase your attack power by 10%. Both effects stack up to 3 times and last 15 seconds. Each ability used which benefits from one of these effects consumes one application of that effect.
  • Disentanglement - Passive - Shapeshifting now removes roots. In addition, shifting into a form heals the Druid for 20% of maximum health. This heal cannot be received more often than once every 30 seconds.

Okay, let us take a moment to breath, reread, soak it all in... that is a lot of new stuff. The first thing to note is that under this new system, one does not have "points" to spend, per se. Instead, a player will have to truly make a choice at each tier (which is every 15 levels) between the three talents at that tier. So, for the first tier regardless of which specialization the Druid has chosen, he will have to choose between Feral Swiftness, Displacer Beast, and Tireless Pursuit. The second thing to note is that each tier has a "flavor" as to how the talents are divided. Notice, the first tier is a "mobility" flavor as each one of the options has to do with some form of mobility. Similarly, the fifth tier seems to be a CC tier as every talent choice is some form of control. The third, and last, thing to note is that no tier is some top-tier amazingness; no tier has that one ability that every player of Feral spec (or any other spec, for that matter) will say "that is the OBVIOUS choice!" as in the case of Berserk... while Berserk is the only "choice" to be made at the 31-tier currently, there are still 3 choices at every tier in the new talent system.

Okay, now that we got all that out of the way, how awesome are these talents? I admit that I was unimpressed at first, but after talking with Guntir about some of them I became really excited. This is where the "God Damn It Blizz" comes from: they are going to get me back in the next expansion. These talents are so small-scale that balance changes can be made without too much ado, and no more min-maxing through player selection of mandatory talents (Blood of the North anyone? That talent has had its percentage changed 100 times because it was the balancing point around which all abilities scaled for DKs).

This post has been pretty significantly long so far, so I will hold off describing what I expect my Feral setup will be, but for now color me excited!