The talent systems for Mists of Pandaria is one that's received quite a bit of attention since it was first announced, and with good reason. It's a complete revamp of the current system, a reduction of the total number of talents by a considerable amount and an attempt to make the talents something more fun and less mandatory.
We've talked about them since they were announced at BlizzCon 2011, but talking and speculating about them is much different than actually sitting down and getting to test them out for yourself. Today, I'm going to talk about my own personal experience with these talents, and I'm going to offer up my own opinions, just like the last article. The talent system now doles out talents every 15 levels, presenting a clear tier structure to anyone looking at them, and that's exactly how we'll tackle them.
Tier 1, Level 15: The survival tier
The first of your available talents is dedicated to keeping you alive. This is your survival tier, and like every other tier after it, it presents three options to you. In the first tier, our old friend Nature's Guardian makes a return, with very much the same effect as it has right now. It raises your maximum health for 10 seconds and reduces your threat on a target. Pretty standard -- nothing too fancy here. Second is Stone Bulwark Totem, which gives you a totem that allows you to shield yourself on a 1-minute cooldown. Third is Astral Shift, which allows you to reduce your incoming damage by 40% for 6 seconds every 2 minutes.
All of them are pretty nifty, and each does its respective job well in its own regard. But after playing with all three, the one I liked the most is Stone Bulwark Totem. First, I like it because it gives me one of my totems back -- a purely selfish reason -- and second, it allows me to give myself an awesome-looking shield that's pretty effective on a short cooldown for only 8% mana. I get a lot of mileage out of this talent, and it's saved my bacon more than a few times. I like it most because it just offers something different to the class than the other two talents at this tier.
Tier 2, Level 30: The escape tier
The second tier is what I like to call the escape tier. It's basically the crowd control and anti-crowd control tier of our talents. Your three choices here are Frozen Power, Earthgrab Totem and Windwalk Totem. Frozen power gives your Frost Shock a root effect for 5 seconds when you cast it. Earthgrab Totem gives you a totem that causes an AoE root effect that also lasts for 5 seconds on a meager 30-second cooldown. Windwalk Totem lets you remove all movement-impairing effects on every raid member within 40 yards.
In this tier, I really like Earthgrab Totem and Windwalk Totem. Earthgrab, I get a lot of utility out of in the available dungeons as well as just questing around Azeroth. Basically, I use it to help keep things away from me and my friends and make a tactical retreat when necessary. I really like this talent. Windwalk Totem I think will be more of a raid-friendly totem, when we get to that point, or even a PvP totem. It's handy for getting rid of movement effects and has a fairly short cooldown, though I didn't get to play with it too much.
Tier 3, Level 45: The totem utility tier
This is our totem utility tier, adding some new tricks to our current companions. It seems a little counterintuitive with the change in how totems work, but your three choices here are Call of the Elements, Totemic Restoration, and Totem Projection. You might recognize Totem Projection as a former level 90 proposed talent, and you'd be right. It's the old totem launcher, and as excited as I am about this being in the game, it's pretty unwieldy as far as healing goes. I've sort of given up on it for right now. Totemic Restoration gives you back any lost time you have on a totem if it's destroyed before the full duration has expired. It's nice, but with a lot of our cooldowns and the duration of some of our key totems being like they are, I have a hard time fitting this in. Basically, with Mana Tide Totem and Spirit Link Totem on such a short duration, I just didn't find much use for this talent in PvE.
Call of the Elements however, I got very familiar with, and for good reason. It's a shaman's version of the hunter's Readiness, allowing us to pull our totems off of cooldown if their cooldown is less than 5 minutes. As a resto shaman, I love this talent. Think about it: You can pull Mana Tide and Spirit Link right off of cooldown if you're in a pinch and have to use them back-to-back or much sooner than their cooldown allows. That's pretty powerful right there, and that alone I think will make this a favorite of resto shaman in the expansion. I know I ride that button quite a bit. It may have an 8-minute cooldown, but man, oh man, can it be handy!
Tier 4, Level 60: The utility tier
I don't know what to call this other than another utility tier. It gives you a few options allowing you to augment some of your abilities. You get Elemental Mastery, Ancestral Swiftness and Echo of the Elements. Elemental Mastery gives you 30% more haste when you use it and has a 2-minute cooldown. Ancestral Swiftness grants you a passive 5% haste and lets you instant-cast any spell with a cast time less than 10 seconds when you activate it; it has only a 1-minute cooldown. Echo of the Elements lets your direct healing and damage spells duplicate randomly when you cast them. While this seems pretty cool, the proc rate for restoration is actually pretty low, below 10%.
Elemental mastery may be tempting, but I'm still looking at Ancestral Swiftness as the star of this tier. The passive haste that it constantly gives you is always welcome, and the ability to instant-cast a healing spell every minute is also incredibly handy. Call me nostalgic, but I think Ancestral Swiftness has been pretty good to us in the past, and I think that it will continue to be good to us.
Tier 5, Level 75: The goodies tier
This tier is one of my favorites, and it offers quite a bit in the way of goodies. First on the list is Healing Tide Totem, followed by Ancestral Guidance and Conductivity. Conductivity is incredibly interesting to me because it adds a nice augmentation to your Healing Rain, allowing you to spread some extra healing to everyone inside the Healing Rain. So cast a Healing Wave, Greater Healing Wave, Healing Surge or Lightning Bolt on a target inside your HR, and everyone inside of the HR gets 20% of the healing or damage done. It's a pretty interesting talent that lets you put out a little extra healing, and I can see just being very handy in a raid environment.
Ancestral Guidance gives you a 10-second window every 2 minutes where 40% of your damage or healing is copied to a nearby injured party or raid member, and Healing Tide Totem is our version of Tranquility, and this is the one that I've been spending the most time with in dungeons so far. It's wonderful, handy and does a fair amount of healing every 3 minutes. You can reset it with Call of the Elements if you need to and use it again. Honestly, I don't think I've had a bad experience with this talent yet. It's really quite awesome.
Tier 6, Level 90: The endgame tier
Remember when we speculated about what our level 90 talents would be? Well, what we got isn't quite what I expected. We won't spend too much time on them today simply because I haven't gotten to play with them and can't really offer an opinion. But, what they are so far: Unleashed Fury, Primal Elementalist and Elemental Blast. Unleashed Fury is a little strange. It basically offers up an expanded version of our Unleashed Elements. For restoration, it increases the healing of our next single-target heal to get an extra 50% bump. That's pretty nice, but I'm not sure that's a level 90 talent-worthy bonus there.
Primal Elementalist allows you to turn your Fire Elemental and your Earth Elemental into pets complete with pet bars and expanded abilities. Even from a healing standpoint, that's pretty darn cool. How many fights have you been in where you cast your elemental, only to watch them sit there an do nothing? Well, this fixes that problem pretty handily. Last is Elemental Blast, allowing you to dish out a little punishment and increase your crit, haste or mastery by 5% for 8 seconds. You can do this every 12 seconds. It's basically like a super Shock, and that stat increase it gives could wind up being handy even for a healer. But only time will tell, as we'll have to wait and see how these talents play out.
What do you think of the new talents so far? Have you had a chance to play with them on the Mists beta yet?
Totem Talk: Restoration lends you advice on healing groups, DK tanks and heroics and mana concerns in today's endgame -- or take a break and look back at the rise of the resto shaman. Happy healing, and may your mana be plentiful!