Friday, July 07, 2006

Talent Trees

I really like the Warlock talent trees. They are very well designed, and the sheer variety of viable warlock builds is amazing. This is not to say that they are perfect, as there are some mediocre talents here and there, but the top end warlock talents are really strong.

There are different points in a tree where I think you can judge how good a talent tree really is. If you stopped after spending 20, 21, 30, or 31 points in the tree, can you get a good build? So let's look at the warlock trees, and how they stack up:


20 pts - Yes, Nightfall/X builds are common
21 pts - No, Siphon Life generally isn't worth stopping at
30 pts - Yes, Shadow Mastery is a great talent
31 pts - Yes, Dark Pact is a staple levelling talent, and gets a serious look from early raiders


20 pts - Yes, Dark Pact/20 is considered the best levelling build
21 pts - Yes, I'm currently running an Shadow Mastery/Demonic Sacrifice build
30 pts - Yes, Master Demonologist is possibly the high end raiding build
31 pts - Yes, Soul Link builds are considered the best in PvP


20 pts - Yes, contains a lot of staple raiding talents
21 pts - Yes, a lot of builds, including the classic SM/Ruin
30 pts - No, I haven't seen too many builds that stop at Emberstorm
31 pts - Yes, Conflag builds exist

So what we can see is that each tree contains at least 3 of the 4 possible stopping points, leading to a large number of combinations. This gives the warlock class a tremendous variety of builds.

Now lets look at the paladin class:


20 pts - Yes, Illumination is really good
21 pts - Yes, Divine Favor is also really good
30 pts - Yes, Holy Power is also a good stopping point for healing paladins
31 pts - Yes, shockadins love Holy Shock


20 pts - No, seriously, this seems like a terrible place to stop
21 pts - Yes/No, in many ways just taking 21 points seems forced by raiding into a sub-par spec, just to get that extra Blessing
*25 pts - Yes, Reckoning is a stopping point
30 pts - No, heh, can't even imagine ending with 1H-spec
31 pts - Yes, this talent is the entire point of the Protection tree


20 pts - Yes, enough talents to complement a 31 point build
21 pts - No, Sanctity Aura isn't good enough on it's own
30 pts - Yes, Vengeance is quite good
31 pts - Yes, Repentance is a solid talent

So as we can see, Holy is in really good shape. All four stopping points are completely viable. Retribution is in decent shape as well, with 3 of 4 stopping points. Protection on the other hand has 2, and one is in an awkward position.

Add to this the fact that Spiritual Focus is considered a must-have for paladins, and the number of builds are restricted and are weighted heavily towards to the Holy Tree. Realistically, the trees need to be a bit more balanced, with Protection or Retribution combinations being more viable.

Realistically there are only four paladin builds. Holy/Retribution, Retribution/Holy, Reckoning, or Protection/Holy. And the first two are far more popular than the last two. There needs to be more, and also more differention between builds in the same tree.

In fact, I think that only having two popular builds is bad for the community. It sets up a gulf between Holy paladins and Retribution paladins. In contrast, warlocks--with their multitude of builds--seem to regard differences in build and playstyle as far less of a dividing factor than paladins do.

Edit: After thinking about it a bit more, I think I need to expand on things. It's not just that the warlock trees have better stopping points, it's that choosing one stopping point over another makes a significant difference in playstyle. For example, take a warlock 30/20/0 build. If you put the extra point in Affliction (31/20/0), you get a Dark Pact build. If you put the extra point in Demonology (30/21/0), you get the SM/DS build. These two builds play very differently to each other, and where you put that last point matters a great deal, even if the previous 50 points are identical!

In contrast, take the common Retribution/Holy build (20/0/30). Here you have a choice of of Divine Favor or Repentence. But the one you choose does not matter all that much. It does not really change how you play. The build is dominated by the previous 50 points.

To be honest, the only ending paladin talent that really makes a significant playstyle change is Holy Shield. A build without Holy Shield plays very differently than a build with Holy Shield.


  1. Can you explain why you think a build with/without Holy Shield makes such a difference?

  2. Well, I'm generally talking in solo play.

    If you don't have Holy Shield, you generally equip a slow 2H, go up to something and turn on Seal of Command.

    If you have Holy Shield, it's more normal to be using 1H/Shield and fighting several mobs at once. You tend to judge Wisdom more than Crusader.

    Seal of Command is also a playstyle changer. If you have SoC, you go for slower weapons than someone without SoC. SoC tends become the default seal. But it's fairly low in the tree so many people pick it up.

    Whereas Divine Favor over Repentence doesn't really change your tactics. If you have Repentence, you get an extra stunned JoC on humanoids. If you have Divine Favor, you get a free heal at some point. But your tactics are more defined by the earlier points spent.

    Imagine if SoC was the 31-point talent in Ret, for example. All of a sudden, there is a huge difference between 21/0/30 and 20/0/31. (Of course, I don't think SoC is really good enough for 31-points, but the way it changes gameplay is good enough for a 31 point talent.)

  3. I think I understand your point. But even if I did have holy shield and didn't have SoComm, I still think I'd use a 2H for soloing.

  4. It depends on your options. Keep in mind that with just white damage in my pvp gear (900 attack power, 16% crit, Draconic maul) my white damage is between 200 to 500 depending on armor and crits can get up to 800. That's every 3.5 seconds. While I have other damage options (Shockdin build) they have no where near the damage to mana ratio that SoC brings to the table.

    If I didn't have SoC then I would be using sword and board because the combo of fast one hander + SoW + JoW just kills downtime. You can go into a mode where the killing just doesn't end. (Just set aside a week or so) And the damage gain from Holy Shield would offset the loss of white two hander damage.

    One thing that most classes just don't get is that most Paladins just don't have a lot of options for dealing damage. We're an extremely passive class. In PvE we have SoC, SoR (A joke for damage, woot +30 holy damage on each swing!) SoCr (We hit a little faster but not as hard, go us!) Holy Shock (Thirty second cool down and you've blown your instant heal) holy shield and Conscrate. Some of those skills are great for tanking, like SoR but SoR isn't a killing ability. And keep in mind that Paladins have to choose either Holy Shield or Holy Shock.

    Now you can find some tips and cheat liberally with somethings sometimes but it's too expensive to use Oil of Immolations on every fight. Or grenades in every fight...