Distribute the last 5-10 points however you like

This is Blizzard’s declared goal for talent trees in Cataclysm. Ghostcrawler & Co have stated time and time again that they do not want to “kill cookie cutter builds” or something ridiculous as that. Of course, they say, there still will be a large core of talents which are somewhere between mandatory, crucial or signifying for a particular spec. What they want is that after you pick up what you indisputably need, you’ll still have room for a few utility and flavour talents of your liking. “We want cookie cutter specs to say ‘and distribute the last 5-10 points however you like’,” is what they say. I like the notion and I’m curious whether and how they’ll make it work.

What suddenly occurred to me yesterday regarding this goal is that if you have more talent points than mandatory talents, you will never have to choose between mandatory talents for different scenarios. Now, this may be a matter of semantics. Maybe this is precisely what “utility and flavour” is supposed to mean. Here’s a very practical and close-to-home example.

Currently, I run two Protection specs. One uses 3/3 Focused Rage, while the other one grabs those three points and puts them into Improved Disciplines as well as into the fifth point in Shield Specialization. Also, the first uses Glyph of Cleaving, while the second one uses Glyph of Shield Wall (it’s really the talent distribution that’s the main deal here – at this point in time I could do perfectly fine without the Cleave glyph, but Focused Rage is the ultimate distinction). Spec Two is my progression spec; Spec One is my “everything else, mostly content I desperately overgear, so I’m in perpetual danger of rage starvation” spec. And the point here is that most, almost all tanks would be perfectly happy to only use the progression spec, however, I actually like running content that is not “the latest and highest raid tier”, so I was reluctant to let go of that aspect. Throw in the fact that I really love playing Protection, and do not really love playing Arms or Fury, and there you go, prot/prot.

Enter Cataclysm. Now, since I am supposed to have 5-10 points for non-mandatory talents, it means I’ll be able to pick all the mandatory talents before! But, wait a second. Maybe this is precisely what it means? Maybe these are the sort of optional talents they’re talking about? Like, you know, Sword and Board and Toughness are mandatory, but Improved Disciplines and Focused Rage are utility/flavour.

At this point, of course, the example becomes very far fetched. For one, things will change a lot in Cataclysm. It means talents, mechanics and, most importantly, encounter balance – the way we play and the way we spec will not be the same as now, so there is absolutely no point in pondering the relative and absolute worth of a particular talent or ability in Cataclysm based on its current implementation and importance. Currently, nearly every progression tank will call Improved Disciplines mandatory and Focused Rage situational at best. A point could be made, based on the very limited information we have so far, that if these talents will be present in Cataclysm at all, their value may invert. No way to tell. So, I am not pointing at these specific talents and saying “this one and that one”, but only saying “talents like these, in an approximative, general way”.

Where am I going with all this? Vaguely to the point I was expressing at the beginning. If after filling the mandatory parts of my talent trees I am left with more points than currently, I am much less likely to be missing points for something I desperately want to get. Which would make it much more likely to come up with a spec that is optimised for me, rather than for the content (or, in other words, more likely to find a spec that is optimal both for me and the content). This seems to be what Blizzard has in mind, and it is a goal I find appealing.

Who knows, I may even end up with a DPS off-spec again! Which is a great transition to my next post, which will be about my thoughts on the qualitative state of Warrior DPS and what I’d hope and wish for in Cataclysm.

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