Can’t See the Talents for the Trees


Since I don’t do photoshop and I don’t have a paid staff to make my blog look all pretty and professional, just imagine there’s a graphic at the top of the page of a Bear Druid standing upright, gazing with confusion at an open Talent Tree, with little question marks over their head. Okay? Thanks bunches.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

Coming back to World of Warcraft after the end of Legion feels a bit strange, as you can probably imagine. It’s been a while. Everyone else is 120.

Why are we here, anyway? Who’s the big bad of this episode?

Every other expansion has had a clear ‘sell’, a concept meant to get you pumped up and ready to claw that tree one more time. Fight the Burning Legion! Fight Deathwing! Fight Arthas! Fight the evil Warchief! Fight the ‘Mirror, Mirror’ evil goatee versions of the Horde! Fight the, er, um, Burning Legion again, but this time for sure!*

*That’s a Rocky and Bullwinkle joke, for those of you who are also ready for the nursing home. Ah yes, random access memory bear, it’s all coming back to me.

Anyhoo, what was I supposed to be pumped up for this time? Fighting the Horde (or the Alliance)? Um, wait, what? We put aside our differences and fought together to save all of existence from the Legion. We literally JUST proved the power of friendship. You want me to, what, go claw the face off of my fellow Druids just because they’re factionally challenged? Yeah, no, I think that would make things a bit awkward around the watering hole in the Druid Grove later.

You know, that bipartisan Druid Grove we all hang out in? Sure, YOU might call it a hippy commune, but just because we sit around a campfire smoking weed, drinking homemade wine, growing mushrooms, nurturing the surrounding wildlife and telling stories about what we did to protest the war against OMG we ARE a hippy commune.

I’m saying, just because Blizzard Ex Machina says our faction leaders did some evil crap doesn’t mean us war heroes with godlike power have to give in to their stupidity. I’m not above using a faction leader as a scratching post if they tell me to go commit some random atrocity to ‘get even’ with those mean old baddies that we trusted with our lives on the front lines last month. Sure, burning a tree is bad, but my buddy Druid JimmyJoe Hordebob didn’t do it. I should know, he was puff puff passing it on to me, bub. Wasn’t anywhere NEAR that dang ole tree. Want a shroom?


Okay, but expansion! New hotness! FUN!

Meh to Horde vs Alliance, but if Blizzard is true to form, we only THINK this is what the point of the expansion is and sooner or later a new patch will bring a real big bad earth shattering faction uniting challenge to get all up in arms about. So in the meantime, log in for the first time in a year and OH SHIT MY TALENTS WERE RESET.


—– The point of the post. Yes, it took 400 words to get to the point of the post.

Logging in after a long time away (remembering to update addons first, I’m not a total noob) and finding my Talents were reset is, well, a tragedy. Or a comedy. Comedy is tragedy happening to other people, right? So for you, the reader, this is a comedy, but for me, ugh.

A blank slate, a long list of Talent choices to make, and I’ve been away long enough that I’m looking for clues on my action bars as to what the HECK I used to have.

Hmm, that Talent icon looks like that icon on my action bar, what does that do. Hmm, I don’t know if that sounds like something I would have chosen. Aw, heck with it, what does Icy Veins say?

It’s exactly like seeing all of the Talent Tree choices for the very first time, evaluating each one on what the description implies it MIGHT do and then trying to figure out if I want it.

What’s that? Choose some Talents, test them out at the targeting dummies, mix them around and actually, like, TEST them to see what I like? You’re new here, aren’t you.

Never resort to sense what you can hyperbolize into a blog post.*

*I used hyperbolize in a sentence at work, and I watched as one of my coworkers, a boilerman, stopped, pulled out his phone and Googled it. Kinda made me sad. What IS my life, after all, if not a living tribute to the joys of hyperbole?

What I’m reminded of is, not all Talents are created equal. Or at least, equally exciting.

At their best, I love the Talent choices that add a new ability that synergizes off of a core ability.

I know I didn’t explain that right, so let me try again, this time using my words.

I like Talents that activate when you use a core ability, and do something to further personalize your chosen playstyle.

See, I like the idea of creating your own chain combos tailored to YOUR playstyle. Having a set of core abilities, and then other, choice driven abilities that can activate as a free option during a fight.

At the most basic, say, you get to choose between three options in the Talent tree to see what happens when you cast Judgment; a new ability triggers that does an AOE damage or effect, does a big single target strike or stun, or gives you an enhanced or instant-cast self or targetable heal.

Now, that was only an example. Being given a choice between AOE, single target damage, or support options aren’t really having a true choice. You’re going to feel driven to select what best enhances your assigned role in a raid or group environment. It’s a non-choice.

But you know what kind of Talents I mean. Passives and stuff are all fine, but they feel like a cop out to choose them. If you choose one they’ll just sit there in the background and do their thing no matter what you do. You don’t get to click a shiny new button, and I like shinies, dangit!

Or to put it another way, I like to have options that will change the way I play my character, change how I react to a given situation. If I have the option to choose a Talent that gives me defensive buffs that increase in strength if I’m surrounded, selecting that will change how I view a fight. I will start LOOKING for large groups to pull to get myself surrounded to take advantage of it. Wouldn’t you?

And THAT is exactly the kind of Talent I love. Something that, once you choose it, changes how you view your tactical approach to encounters, whether solo or in a group. It’s a choice that excites me, because you have to make a conscious effort to play differently to best take advantage of it.

I like to read the descriptions of the Talents, imagine the kind of playstyle and ability synergy you’d need to flow with to best take advantage of them, and make my decisions that way.

The only problem?

Talking to Cassie (my lovely Paladin wife) highlighted the issue perfectly.

She resubbed a week ago, ahead of me, and she tells me, “They reset my Talents, so I went to Icy Veins to find out what I’m supposed to take.”

That. That right there. Have you ever felt that pressure?

That feeling (or assumption) that there is a ‘right’ Talent to choose, and two wrong Talents that ain’t near as good.

If it’s true, do you ever wonder why there are two extra bad choices? Are they there because the designers had to fill out a tree?

Do you ever wonder if the developers honestly thought all three choices were equally valid, valuable and vital? Or do you think they secretly knew that one would be the ‘good’ one, and the others were, well, kind of meh?

In a world of gearscores and playtesting in a sandbox environment, someone will ALWAYS have a ‘approved’ Talent list. One reason I like Icy Veins is, the authors of their class and spec suggestions always make a point of only recommending some of the key Talents that have a direct impact on raiding or groups, and specify that the rest are flavor Talents you can feel free to enjoy as you like. I’ll choose what I like anyway, but you like that reassurance that you’re not going to have everyone that inspects you 0.2 milliseconds after joining a random group kicking you from the party for noob Talent choices.

But wouldn’t it be cool if with each set of choices, you got the feeling the designers brought their ‘A’ game and wanted to give you an actual hard choice with each tier of Talents. Where you’re having a hard time picking among three things you really want, rather than trying to pick the least bad of a group of three meh Talents? Or worse still, trying to pick the one Talent out of three choices in a tier that you might actually get some use out of.

I’m just coming back from being away and looking at it cold, so what do I know?

What do you think, having played the game to this point? Has Blizzard done a great job with your Talent choices? Do you have a favorite that actually stands out and means something great to you, the way old school Stampede did for Hunters when it came out?

Let me know in the comments, especially if there is a particular set of Talents you like to use as a Kitty Druid, Ret Paladin or BM Hunter. Not that, you know, I’m selfish and want advice on fun choices to try out or anything. Just because, uh, hey look at the time!

12 thoughts on “Can’t See the Talents for the Trees

  1. This reminds me of one of my pet peeves from WoW, being judged for choosing the “wrong” spec altogether.

    This isn’t an issue for Druids, much. If you want to Tank, you Bear.

    But my Warlock…Oh, my Warlock.

    I played an Affliction Warlock from Outlands all the way to Pandaria. (To be fair, I didn’t play him much during Lich King. I was busy Bear Tanking.)

    For most of that time, I read quest guides or raid tips that all boiled down to the same thing.

    Warlocks should be Demonology or Destruction. Affliction, for some reason, was always the red-headed step child.

    Want Green Fire? Trying to finish the Black Prince quest? Brawler’s Club? Better leave that Affliction gear at home.

    But I liked Affliction. I enjoyed the thought that I was draining the life out of my opponent and getting stronger through their suffering. (Maybe something to see a therapist about?)

    I could never understand why there was a whole talent spec there that, for some reason, all the “experts” agreed was inferior.


    • Very true. Is there a third spec they added because everyone has to get three, but they don’t really mean it? Sometimes I wonder.

      I’ll never forget the brutality of vanilla WoW Druid specs, and how nothing but resto was considered a viable raiding spec by anyone I ever met until shit got revamped for Burning Crusade. I played bearcat mixed spec anyway, but if I wanted to see Molten Core, I had to flip to resto.


  2. Their are actually few “bad” talents. If anything, most are situational and you’re meant to swap to them when warrented. Icy-Veins is pretty good at highlighting which talent you generally want to pick for normal, every day use, with the expectation (I assume) being that the player will learn when other choices matter more.

    But regarding your point about factional conflict, I see it as something akin to the allied nations in WWII. Russia (Horde) joined with us out of necessity, but the truce didn’t last long once the war was over. But, as you point out, it does feel somewhat weird after the class hall experiences from Legion. I’d place Shaman, and Priest in the same boat as Druid, where factional conflict doesn’t fit the newly established motif for those classes. But it is, what it is, I guess!

    Glad to see you playing WoW again, and blogging. Keep it up!


    • That’s an excellent point about WWII alliances, I didn’t think about it that way before but it makes perfectly good sense for an overall “our governments oppose each other now so we have to as well or be traitors within our own lands” kind of thing. I think the dissonance for me comes from the concept that the story conceit is that we aren’t a cog in a massive faceless army, tools wielded by our governments, but the few rare top of the line world shaking heroes that in the end save everything that is. So when the story approaches those kinds of foolish decisions without giving me the chance to stop it before it gets out of hand, it annoys me, because we as the ‘few’ heroes are most certainly not faceless cogs, and they should be grateful we don’t decide their foolish tyranny is over and done and purge the leadership to take over ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dark Lady watch over you.

    Haven’t had a talent reset in a while (I’ve not stopped playing in a while.) I’ve had the Icy Veins issue after boosting some characters, but then I end up with alternate builds anyway, because IV’s builds are good, but they shoehorn me too much into a specific play style.


    • Since I haven’t raided since Warlords, the fact that Icy Veins (rightly) prioritizes raiding specs over other playstyle approaches means I like their analysis of each talent and skill and stat but then I generally build my own around how I expect to play.


  4. First, I read Rohans comment and tripped up on knowing I read that in a blog and then looked at the named and realized which blog…

    Talents are weird. No matter what blizzard does, theory crafters will min/max a template and that’s what you are going to see most of the time. I’ve always liked the idea of choosing something else but I also like pulling my weight in tough content like mythic plus and raids, so I always take the template. I haven’t been this deep in a raid their since wrath, so I played with what was fun more in the last few expansions. In the end it doesn’t really matter because the class’s keep getting reworked so much I have to relearn the feel every expansion.


    • Right? Rohan drops in and it’s all, “hey, someone famous showed up! What the hell?”

      I do like things changing a bit to keep the feel of things fresh and new, although I still with Bears were more dedicated to stat building and always on immunities and defense and damage reduction. Maybe that’s because I always wanted to spend most of my attention herding the party safely through ready to feral charge / taunt when agro was pulled rather than staring at button cooldowns trying to juggle an always fluctuating survivability. God bless those that can do both, I must be too old to hack it anymore.


  5. Welcome back!

    A good starter strategy is to just take all the talents in the left column. They’re all passives, and define a simple “base” class that’s still pretty fun to play. I use this strategy for alts and specs that I don’t play often.

    Then after you get used to the basics and any changes made to your class, you can branch out into the more complicated talents in the other two columns. For my classes at least, Blizzard has done a good job of making interesting talents.

    For Ret paladin, I like the Divine Purpose build (can find it in the Icy Veins guide). Your other choice is the Inquisition builds, but I don’t like maintaining that buff.


    • I never noticed that about the left side talents. Thanks for the tip! I’ll have to watch for that, and check out the Divine Purpose build. In coming back I’m gonna play with the pally first, then the druid. Kitty is 4 fite, but pally is for transmog!


  6. I ran into a talent reset when I logged in for that “free play weekend” they did a couple months back. I’m actually OK with good passives since I’m a filthy casual soloist, but I agree that talents that can change playstyle and tactics are more interesting. I’ve always had the sense that Blizzard doesn’t like fracturing things that much *or* letting players have too much agency, so I’m not surprised that the overall design is a bit constrained… but I’m definitely a fan of choices. That’s why I play games instead of watch movies, after all.


    • Yes indeed. I love it when you are offered multiple choices that ALL sound not just useful or powerful, but fun to implement. Like the Hunter Stampede, again, how cool is that to unleash for an ability? Give me three choices side by side that are all as cool as that and watch me start by having a nervous breakdown trying to pick one, and end up with me using all of them over time as I switch for something new, novel, fun and still viable.


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