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No-brainer talent and cookie-cutter builds

Matthew Rossi

I was reading the forums the way I do recently, when I came across this thread. In it, the original poster Strawberry asked for examples of talents in the new talent system that players would always take. In the current talent system, as an example, no fury warrior would avoid Flurry. You'd be an idiot to do so.

chimed in, indicating that he wanted to increase people's awareness of the thread and get them participating, because the thread was useful. The reason it is useful is because no-brainer talents are something Blizzard's trying to do away with in the new talent scheme, and the only way to really know what talents are must haves is to have people tell them.

The entire purpose of the new talent system is to promote choice and do away with the cookie-cutter builds of the previous and current talent paradigm. Cataclysm actually ended up with a lot more choice than previous iterations -- you usually have a few talent points left over when you're done getting the basics down -- but Mists of Pandaria is poised to remove the concept of going elsewhere for a spec or copying someone else's build entirely.

This got me wondering. Assuming the thread does its job and helps identify talents that are too good to pass up right now and make adjustments to bring them in line, will that make the game harder or easier for new and inexperienced players?

You will be what everyone else was

Cookie-cutter builds evolved for a few reasons. The first was, the original talent system (and its Burning Crusade/Wrath of the Lich King iterations, which were merely extensions of it) was designed for just such an event. It had talent choices that were effectively pitfalls, and it had choices you simply had to make for efficiency and power. As a result, builds like the 31/5/15 and the 31/0/20 warrior builds of the original game became standardized. Only a few diehards raided fury back then (I know, because I was one).

As classes broadened in The Burning Crusade, classes with tanking and healing specs were no longer pigeonholed into those roles when raiding or doing dungeons. The rise of dual spec went a long way toward promoting off spec viability as well. This didn't curtail cookie-cutter specs, though. People simply had two of them. You specced for healing/tanking, DPS/healing, PvE/PvP, two DPS specs -- the point being it didn't remove cookie cutter specs because it in fact promoted their use. It's harder to master two specs, and with talent pitfalls and no-brainers still in place, it was often easier to simply copy someone else's spec or come to a site like WoW Insider and take a spec from one of our leveling posts.

Breaking new ground

If the new talent system succeeds, there will be no talent that is a clear and obvious choice, or at least very very few of them. I expect that for dedicated PvP or raiding, a few talents might still stand out as ones almost everyone takes, but as long as there are only a few of these talents and the other choices are still reasonably competitive, the system can still work.

The difficulty lies in choices for new players. If they can grasp the new system with relative ease and set up a functional build, then it was and is an improvement across the board. At present, for the classes I've played on the beta (monk, shaman, DK, warrior), I think the potential is there for this new system to be easily picked up while playing. I wouldn't argue that it is perfect, but I would definitely say it's an improvement in terms of apprehending it and making use of it.

So head on over to the forums if you're in the beta and tell them how they can make it better. Are there any talents you'd always take? Why? Give them some details to work with.

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

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