Specializations at level 10 are now implemented in the game. When you reach level 10, before you can put your first talent point in any tree, you first have to select which tree you are going to specialize in. Behind that choice are the all-new, lean and mean 31-point talent trees. When you pick your specialization, you are locked into your chosen tree until 31 points have been spent in your talent tree. After that, the other two trees become available to you to spend your remaining talent points. Don't think you can cheat the system and hit respec and shuffle points as you want; I tried this last night on the PTR, and you reset the specialization choice as well when you respec, starting you right back at zero.
The new system is not without its benefits, though. By choosing a tree, you gain access to mastery specializations, as well as having some talents now become baseline abilities. The masteries replace some of the baked-in talents that we have been used to taking and instead gives them to us just for choosing to specialize in that tree.
Let's take a look after the break and see what has changed.
Well, quite a few things have been removed from the talent trees, and much of everything else has been moved around.
Earth Shield has been removed as a talent; subsequently, Improved Earth Shield has also been removed. Instead of choosing restoration as your specialization at level 10, you gain access to this spell. The spell itself already comes with nine charges built into it, making it right on par with where we left it. Gaining access to it at level 10 is a big deal as it will make leveling easier as restoration, and since it was a talent every restoration shaman took, it just made sense to make it a base spell.
Healing Focus is also missing in action from the talent trees. Instead it has been moved to one of the masteries and will increase as you stack the mastery stat.
Purification has also been moved from being a stand-alone talent; it has joined Healing Focus as a mastery. Really it merely renames the mastery they already had in place that formerly increased healing based on the amount of points spent in the restoration tree before moving it to a flat percentage.
Improved Reincarnation is just flat-out gone. That makes a certain amount of sense, as I don't know too many people who actually utilized that talent. I mean after all, we're shaman -- we should never plan on dying!
Tidal Mastery has been removed as well. This removes 5% crit from our healing, and it does not give it back in any shape or form.
Tidal Force is also gone. While this was a 3-minute cooldown, it was one of the abilities we have had that was used in a regular rotation. It really is nowhere to be found. When I logged in, I checked the trainers, but it really is gone. This was sort of a shotgun for resto shaman, and I can tell you already I miss it when healing in instances.
Focused Mind did not make the cut and has been removed. Not terribly shocked at this one; it was not something you saw regularly taken, even in PvP.
Healing Way has gone the way of the dodo bird here, taken into extinction, nowhere to be found. I expected this to get cut, honestly. With all the other passive bonuses built into the tree, this would have been a bit of overkill. Also take into consideration the fact that a lot of end-game raiding resto shaman will usually be carrying enough haste to push Healing Wave close to a one-second cast time, and it this talent that becomes dangerous to balancing heals in Cataclysm. It also falls in line with the design focus Blizzard has for healing by making it a bit harder. Empowered Healing is also removed, likely for the same reasons Healing Way was taken away.
Quite a bit of trimming there, don't you think?
What has changed?
Well, just because things stayed in the tree does not mean they were left unaltered. Let us take a look at what made the cut but what has changed.
Spark of Life is a new first-tier talent in the restoration tree. It comes with three ranks and at maximum investment gives us the following:
I'll be honest; this one has me scratching my head just a little bit. The designers did say they wanted to get rid of talents that give percentages, but here is one that does just that. It gives all of our healing a boost, but at the same time, it increases the healing we receive. At this time it does affect Earth Shield, Healing Stream Totem and all of our other heals. I found it very useful while questing and even in the first instances. It helped keep me up a little bit by buffing my passive healing and made it a little easier to focus on the group by taking a little stress off healing myself. I can also see this talent being useful for heal-tanking, which I still endeavor to make an Olympic sport.Spark of Life
Increases your healing done by 6% and your healing received by 15%
Improved Water Shield now only carries two ranks. The effect remains the same with max ranks, though, so not much change there. I am intrigued to see that Greater Healing Wave is not included on list of triggers for Improved Water Shield. This could be a tooltip error, and I will have to investigate this further.
Tidal Focus is now a tier 1 talent as well and has an increased effect with fewer talent points needing to be spent. It is changing from 5/5 talent points needed for maximum effect to 3/3. It has also gained a 1% improvement, netting us a total of 6% mana reduction in the cost of our healing spells over the 5% we originally received. Not a big change yet, but 1% could wind up counting for quite a bit in the end game.
Ancestral Awakening has undergone just a little bit of a change here. First of all, we can pick it up much sooner than before. This is a good thing, especially early in a restoration shaman's career as a healer. Now while the effect stays the same, the wording on the talent has changed. Instead of specifying Lesser Healing Wave, Healing Wave and Riptide, it now says "when you critically heal with a single-target direct heal." While this seems like a minor thing, it may become important later on. It seems that this is a distinction that is being made more and more in the beta, so one has to wonder what they may have planned for it and spells like it.
Restorative Totems has also been tweaked just a bit. The effect is the same, but instead of being a three-point choice, it now only requires two talent points to receive the full effect.
Tidal Waves gets a facelift as well. Currently on the live servers, at maximum rank it has the following effect:
Compare that to what it is on the current beta build:Tidal Waves Rank 5
When you cast Chain Heal or Riptide, you have a 100% chance to lower the cast time of your Healing Wave spell by 30% and increase the critical effect chance of the Lesser Healing Wave spell by 25%, until two such spells have been cast. In addition, your Healing Wave gains an additional 20% of your bonus healing effects and your Lesser Healing Wave gains an additional 10% of your bonus healing effects.
So we have a smaller investment of talent points, coming in at only three, to gain max rank and a slight tweak to the talent's performance. HW and GHW both gain the 30% reduction in cast time, but the critical effect it grants LHW is less than half of what it was before. If you also notice, there is no longer an additional bonus to the healing effects of the spells when this talent is triggered. This can wind up being a huge deal, as the decrease in critical and the loss of bonus healing will start to add up.Tidal Waves Rank 3
When you cast Chain heal or Riptide, you gain the Tidal Waves effect, which reduces your cast time of your Healing Wave and Greater Healing Wave spells by 30% and increases the critical effect chance of your Lesser Healing Wave spell by 12%. 2 charges.
Nature's Blessing has also transformed a bit. On the live server, it increases healing done by 15% of your intellect. In the current beta build, it increases the effectiveness of your direct heals on Earth Shield targets by 15%. Pretty big change and helps make up for some of the lost spellpower boost, at least when tank healing or single-target healing, as long as they have Earth Shield. This is similar to how Glyph of Lesser Healing Wave affects LHW on Earth Shield targets.
There are also some non-restoration tree changes to look forward too as well.
Elemental Weapons is now a tier 1 talent in the enhancement tree and only requires two talent points to achieve the full effect. This can be easily picked up if desired after spending your 31 points in restoration to unlock the other talent trees.
Ancestral Knowledge was actually buffed. In the prior build, it was only offering and additional 9% maximum mana at maximum rank. In this build it has been upped to 15%. This still only requires a maximum investment of three talent points and remains a tier 1 talent.
Ancestral Swiftness has also been tweaked a little bit. Not only does it increase your basic run speed by 15% but it makes Ghost Wolf instant-cast. It also has been reduced from a three-point talent to a two-point talent. This may be a good pickup for some extra mobility, as now it is usable indoors. I can think of a few fights where I wish I could have popped this for a little extra speed. It also replaces the need for boot enchants that increase movement speed, which have become standard requirements for most end-game raiding, and may open up the slot to more beneficial foot enchants in the future. It will be a judgment call on this one for everyone, though.
Concerns with crit
In the end, the changes aren't terribly surprising, but the lack of crit is a bit concerning. A lot of our abilities rely on crit to proc, and the current shaman models relies heavily on our passive crit to trigger Improved Water Shield and to help keep mana regeneration up. I plan on testing this to see exactly how these changes affect mana consumption and healer longevity, but at a glance, it seems like it is going to be a bit tougher to keep the mana flowing. It will also depend on how helpful Meditation is in recovering that lost mana regeneration. The level cap has been raised to 83, so we're one step closer to that elusive level cap of 85, which is where I think the vast majority of these changes will see a shaking out, so to speak. There is still no word on Spirit Link, but I will keep hoping it shows up at some point.
Keep in mind this is still a beta, and all of this information is subject to change. As always, we will keep you up to date with all the breaking news and changes here at WoW.com. What do you think of the new updated talent tree?