Last week, we talked about the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator and the class and spec abilities it reveals. This week, we'll be discussing the new talents and their general design philosophy.
One of the design changes for Mists that I've found compelling is the removal of "idiot talents." These are the talents that you simply have to take. A protection warrior without Bastion of Defense isn't really a prot warrior; at the very least, he or she is a bad prot warrior. Now, while I applaud the intent of the talent changes, that doesn't mean I love each and every one of them. However, since it's still patch 4.3 and we won't see these talents in game until patch 5.0 at the earliest, it's hardly time to panic (or applaud, for that matter).
These talents are divided into six tiers, one at each 15 levels from 15 to 90. Three talents are available at each tier, meaning that you can take any one of each three per tier for a grand total of six talents at level 90. Unlike current talent specializations, none of these talents are restricted to a role; an arms or fury warrior can take Shockwave, for instance, or a protection warrior could take Bladestorm.
Oh, come on. Tell me you've never wanted to pop Bladestorm while tanking.
Tiers for talents
Rather than limit talent choices by specialization, the new talent choices are based on specific options. For example, the first talent tier at level 15 is all based around Charge, which is becoming the fundamental travel ability of all three warrior specs in Mists. This approach, giving talents that are more universally broad in their application, has pros and cons. One of the things I find compelling about this approach is its ability to tailor talent choices to one's own playstyle.
The three talent choices here, Juggernaut (a 12-second Charge instead of a 20-second cooldown), Double Time (allowing you to charge twice before the cooldown) and Warbringer (Charge now roots the target for 5 seconds) are all designed to make Charge function the way you want it to. I can imagine a use for any of these talents for whatever role you happen to be playing.
The next tier, the survival talent tier, illustrates one of the cons to the current design in that some of these talent tiers are at this moment not as compelling as I'd like. Having Enraged Regeneration as a talent instead of a class ability is fine, but compared to Second Wind (which combines modern Second Wind with modern Blood Craze) and especially the version of Impending Victory, they're all self-heal abilities ... which is kind of bland. (I'm also trying to decide if I would rather have a 30% heal over 10 seconds or a 10% instant heal every 30 seconds, and I'm leaning towards the latter.) Granted, a self-heal is the easiest thing to justify, but a temporary immunity or even a variation of current abilities like Die by the Sword might have been good here, or a magic resistance ability for variety.
The level 45 tier was called the CC tier at BlizzCon, but it's not really apt. The three talents listed are all fine talents. Throwdown and Piercing Howl work pretty much how you remember them, while Cripple effectively makes Hamstring apply by your Rend ticks and auto-attacks. There's nothing really wrong with these abilities, but they're not true CC. There's a 5-second stun and two snares, one an AoE, the other single-target but not requiring any effort to apply.
It would have been nice for the CC tier to have an actual PvE-focused CC instead of three abilities mostly useful for PvP or kiting. Something as simple as an Impaling Throw that uses your weapon to root someone by pinning them to the ground or walls or something. I mean, we can silence people by throwing weapons at them -- why not?
At level 60, we see three talents aimed at silence or interruption effects. Gag Order and Rude Interruption return more or less unchanged, joined by Disrupting Shout. Disrupting Shout is an AoE interrupt that hits everything in 10 yards and locks out any casting in the same school for 4 seconds. I like to call it what every PvP warrior has ever wanted. But it's also probably a solid option for tanks that prefer charging into a pack to trying to silence a caster on a pull.
Meanwhile, the level 75 talents are all aimed around rage. We mentioned last week that Enrage effects will be purely about rage generation, and these three talents are all aimed at different ways to manage that. Deadly Calm will make HS and Cleave cost no rage. Death Wish will place you in an enraged state and also will increase your rage generation from damage taken. And Bull Rush will enrage you when you charge or intervene. With combat now more about rage-generation attacks that allow you to spend rage later, these abilities could serve either a tank who needs or wants more rage for the larger rage cost cooldowns like Shield Block as well as a DPSer. I'm still sad to see Death Wish go from a pure DPS cooldown in this fashion.
Finally, at level 90 we get the big three talents, the iconic ones that deal damage and bring flavor to the class ... and two of them are talents you currently have and that you'll lose for five levels, which is kind of weird. I'm not opposed to Bladestorm and Shockwave being big-ticket talents, and I love Avatar, at least in theory. I like the stated goal of making each talent give you the feel of the blademaster, tauren chieftain or mountain king from WC III. That said, it's still strange to contemplate losing two of the most signature warrior talents in the current game for five levels once Mists drops. I do love the idea of being able to go arms and take Shockwave for a heavy add fight or Avatar for a single-target fight.
What will these talents mean?
Of course, it's too soon to know what the final forms of these tiered talents will be, although considering how far along the Mists talent calculator is, there's certainly been significant work done already. My misgivings on the survival and CC tiers aside, what I really do love about this talent scheme is the ability to take a talent spec based on what you want to do with it. It's easy to imagine an arms spec designed around messing with groups, and if we get the ability to switch talents on the fly (mentioned at BlizzCon), you could switch to a single-target spec for DPSing a boss fairly easily.
I certainly feel that there are some odd artifacts of this redesign. There's not a lot of new here, which really isn't that surprising considering we're only going five levels. More difficult for me to grasp is the idea of having to wait five levels to get back talents I'm used to having a lot earlier. I'm spoiled by Shockwave tanking.
Next week, leveling a warrior.
At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, including Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors, a guide to new reputation gear for warriors, and a look back at six years of warrior trends.