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  • Home » Talents

    Talent Point Battle: Mandatory vs Optional vs Cookie-cutter

    Posted on Sep 22, 2010 by: Jason Zimmerman
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    Talent decisions and builds for Cataclysm

    Blizzard’s goal to give players flexibility in choosing talent points in Cataclysm came under fire on the official World of Warcraft Forums recently. After reading through all of the posts, both by players and by Blizzard’s own Ghostcrawler, I started thinking about how and why we make talent choices, and the repercussions of those decisions.

    First off, let me start by saying that I am for the post part a “cookie-cutter” talent build guy. I do examine talents and try to adjust according to my play style, but less than I used to. When I was healing as a Shaman in dungeons in Burning Crusade and early Wrath of the Lich King, I really examined how I liked to heal and adjusted stats and talents accordingly. Since then, I’ve become a raiding Paladin tank, and I stick much more closely to cookie-cutter talent builds with much less deviation.

    Does that mean that I think cookie-cutter builds are the only way to go? No, it doesn’t. I would love for the day to come where players can make choices about their talents, customizing them to their own personal style, and be happy and successful in whatever aspect of the game they choose to participate.

    Unfortunately, it really isn’t quite that easy to deviate from cookie-cutter builds for a number of reasons. One big reason is player perceptions of other players based on their talent build.

    First to step into the ring are the mandatory talents. A mandatory talent is one that your primary spec must have, no question about it. For example, as a Protection Paladin, it is a no-brainer that I take Toughness. No question about that one.

    Mandatory talents are closely related to the cookie-cutter talent builds because a cookie-cutter build basically says: all talent points in this build are mandatory.

    But what Blizzard is going for, and what players should have the ability to choose, are a number of optional talents that you can put into your personal talent spec. Using the Protection Paladin example again, a talent like Wrath of the Lightbringer might be something that some players want and some don’t. Based on your play style or your preference you might choose this talent and there may be another talent that you leave out in the process.

    Doesn’t the concept of free-choice and free-thinking sound great?

    The problems arise however, when players designate a particular talent spec to be the cookie-cutter build from which all great players are made, and if you choose to deviate from that build, you fail–game over–don’t even think about getting an invite to my raid until you respec.

    There is a stigma that is place on players who deviate from the cookie-cutter builds by those who live and die by the smallest increases in potential dps, healing, and effective health. If you deviate, then clearly you are a bad player. Right?

    No, of course not. We can’t judge a player solely by their ability to copy what others have done before them. But this argument falls in line with gearscore arguments. When you need to invite someone you don’t know to your raid, how do you judge what they can do? Talent spec, gear, gearscore, and achievements are a few ways. All of those quantifiable values give us a way to make a decision. We can’t put a number on skill, therefore players get judged unfairly on things like which optional talents they chose.

    When it comes to choosing talents make sure you have your mandatory talents. If you see someone without a talent that is mandatory, don’t berate them, offer advice. If someone has some optional talent that you don’t prefer, don’t berate them, see how they perform. If someone is under-performing, then it might be time to have a talk about moving closer to a cookie-cutter to see if that fixes the problem. More likely however, rotation, gear, latency and other issues are probably a bigger issue than the placement of 1 or 2 talent points.

    Who wins the talent point battle in the end? Ultimately I’d like to see mandatory powerful talents team up with optional less powerful talents that fit a certain play style and certain players the best, defeat the cookie-cutter builds, and bring originality and customization back to talent trees.

    Comments

    comments

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    • http://twitter.com/Evinrue Evinrue

      Speaking for myself and being a part of a “hardcore” guild well, it’s true there is major pressure into “correct” specs. (A good period of time my boomkin spec didn’t have starfall lol!) Unfortunately for those heralding flexible talents, I can’t see a future where there isn’t a maximizing “be the best you can be” mindset to squeeze out a bit more dps or hps. It’s a fact of raiding, and especially progression / hardcore raiders. What needs to change (but won’t) is the elitism from PUGs leaders expecting casual players to know the ins and outs that generally only “raiders” know.

      But I think the largest point I’m trying to drive at is that if you perform, perform well, and justify your spot in a raid, a guild will be more flexible in what you might do to play with your spec. Like going Resto/Resto, with one specialized for 10mans vs 25mans. 😀

    • Icesnake

      Or you could just do what you like and tell the raid leaders to suck it. There comes a point when you have to choose: Are you playing WoW to have fun, or to make it fun for the raid leader? I spent probably 50K gold respeccing, regemming, regearing, and trying to please the raid leader in my old guild before I figured out that he wasn’t going to be satisfied until I had 0% threat, 25K DPS, and a gearscore of over 9000. That’s when I /gquit and trandferred to Lightbringer.

    • Whimzee

      I tend to try the cookie cutter specs because I don’t want to do the theorycrafting and talents I think sound good turn out to not be good for my playstyle and vice versa. But I’ll look at several different “top tier” players with my spec and read the blog articles about why one talent is better than another and then choose based on that based on the spells I frequently use.

      For example, in my boomkin spec on my druid, I originally didn’t take Eclipse because it sounded too complicated but after researching it, I realize that’s the whole basis of the balance tree. At least in Cata, that won’t be an issue, but it’s a lot of the reason I didn’t like dps-ing on my druid in the first place because my dps was so poor due to poor talent choices. Ah, who am I kidding…I don’t like dpsing anyway. I’m much happier healing 😉