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Totem Talk: Mists of Pandaria talent calculator for restoration shamans

Joe Perez

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Totem Talk for elemental, enhancement and restoration shaman. Want to be a sultan of swing healing? A champion of Chain Heal? Totem Talk: Restoration, brought to you by Joe Perez (otherwise known as Lodur from World of Matticus and co-host of the For the Lore and Raid Warning podcasts), shows you how.

BlizzCon 2011 was an exciting time with a lot of announcements for every class and for the state of the game in general. If you're a regular reader of the column (and I hope you are), you'll remember that we talked a little bit about the proposed talent system changes before and what it meant for restoration shaman.

Well, since then, the official talent calculator for Mists of Pandaria have been released on the official World of Warcraft site. With it, there are a few surprises. It has caused quite a stir throughout the community, and many of the bloggers out there have been sharing their thoughts on the new calculator and what it means for the future of their classes and specs. So today that's exactly what I'm going to do.

We've talked about this before, but it bears repeating. Cataclysm brought about a pretty revolutionary (and at the time controversial) change to the talent system by breaking it down from what we knew for years to the 31-point talent system we have today. It allowed for specialization locking a player into a certain talent tree, eliminating hybrid talent builds, but in exchange giving players some key abilities as perks. It was the first step in streamlining the talent system.

Even then though, it wasn't quite what the talent system was meant to be. The developers at Blizzard had stated they wanted talents to be fun and give your character flavor. They were supposed to be more flexible and give you perks without becoming mandatory, but as we all know, your talent choices have a divine impact on how you heal. For example, skip Nature's Swiftness, and you'll suffer for it at some point.

Whole new philosophy

Moving into MoP, the idea is to give your talents a more flexible feel. First of all, you can swap them out for other talents whenever you're not in combat, or at least that's the plan. That right there gives you a lot more flexibility than you have right now, when you have to run to a trainer whenever you want to swap your talents around.

Also, instead of having separate trees for your talents, after you pick your specialization, you then get to pick from a pool of three talents every 15 levels. This means you can have a healer with something that isn't necessarily directly related to healing. They are divided into six sets of talents, and each set has a theme to it. Movement and survivability are two that come to mind.

The other thing to note is that the new talent system is not supposed to be full of choices that define your class or are absolutely necessary to you doing your chosen job. Instead, each tier offers different utility perks for your character that you can utilize. While right now a lot of talents or perks seem pretty rough (and in some cases downright useless for some classes), we have a long way to go before they become set in stone. Remember, the game isn't even at the beta phase yet. We're just getting a lot more transparency in the design process than we've ever really gotten before.

The change really has caused quite a stir, and a lot of people are afraid of the new talent system or downright hate it already. Matt Low and I actually had a pretty long and heated debate about the new system. He couldn't understand why, for the most part, the level 90 talents for most classes seemed rather weak on the power scale. I argued that the entire point of the new system was to allow you choices that gave your character a little flavor without being mandatory or breaking the scales at this point.

Take a look at the shaman top tier 90 talents for a great example of this. Totemic Projection relocated your active totems to a specified location. I'm slightly less jazzed about this talent than I was a few weeks ago because of that word "active" in the description. What it means is that you can relocate your totems that are already out to a new location, making it not as exciting at just launching a Spirit Link Totem where you want it to go. Totemic Restoration gives you a reduction in the cooldown of your totems if they are prematurely killed or removed from action. While that's fine and dandy, when some of our totems have 6-second or 2-minute duration and come stacked with a cooldown of a few minutes; that extra second or two doesn't really seem like it would make that much of a difference.

Elemental Harmony seems cool, allowing you to have multiple totems of the same school out at a time. You could have Healing Tide Totem, Healing Stream Totem and Mana Tide Totem all out at the same time. The talent excluded fire totems from the effects, and it sounds pretty cool -- but then you have to think about the streamlining of totems over the last year and change. While new totems are being added, this talent isn't really game-breaking, but it does add a fun flavor to your shaman. Sure, some talents will be better for some encounters or playstyles, but it's less about having the optimum talent choices and more about you choosing how you want to play your character.

New ability spread

Another thing of note with the new talent calculator is that after you pick your specialization, your skills and spells show up on a list showing what level you get which ability. This has probably caused the most stir among players. It's pretty cool that it shows you what abilities you get at what level, but also you get to see where some of those talents are getting folded into just being class abilities you gain as you level up. Ancestral Focus being given to players at level 1 and Healing Wave not becoming available until level 20 are just examples of how things are starting to shape up.

Not only does it tell you the level you get the spell or ability, it tells you if it's a passive ability, something you get from your spec or something you just get from being that class. It also lets you filter it out by each of those options. It was a nice surprise to log into the official calculator and to see that in addition to just having our talents, but it's something we shouldn't be freaking out about ... at least not quite yet.

Personally, I don't think that aspect of it is quite finalized yet. First of all, the different healing specs abilities seem pretty randomized as far as to what level they get their healing spells. I think that's something we'll see become a lot more normalized before this goes live. Secondly, we have a long time before the game even goes into the beta phase, which means that things will change. Pile that on top of the fact that this is a complete overhaul of the system we have today, and you can bet dollars to doughnuts it's going to be tweaked and looked at with a certain scrutiny before it graces live servers.

So what do you think of the new talent calculator? Do you like how it is laid out? What do you think of our new talents and the talent system? What do you think about how the abilities will be laid out for us?

Totem Talk: Restoration lets you Ask a Shaman about the tricks of the trade. We'll introduce you to the very latest pre-raid gear and show you how to manage your cooldowns. Happy healing, and may your mana be plentiful!

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