First Impressions of the Cataclysm Disc Talent Tree for PVP
The new 31 point talent trees have been released (well, some of them anyways) so I decided to take a look at what the gurus at Blizz have done to the most awesome class and spec in the game: Disc.
Here is my first attempt at a PVP build under the new system: CATA Disc PVP Build. ***UPDATE – With the new Beta build 12539 release July 21, 2010, the link above does not work. I am going to leave the description of the build up, however, as a reference point to discuss future changes to the talent trees.
All this is subject to change since we are only in Beta, yadda yadda yadda. Also note that somehow Blizz misplaced my Beta invite, so I am just working off of publicly available information, and not first had experience. (psst, Blizz, call me if you are reading this.)
My general impression of the talent tree revamp is that it removes a lot of choice and individuality from the process of selecting your talents.
Under the current system, you have the ability to tailor your talent tree to your particular playstyle. (More so for Disc PVP than for Disc PVE.) If you primarily play dispel cleave, your spec will look very different than if you focus on the 2s bracket with a rogue partner. Likewise if you are a raid healer vs. a tank healer.
There is so much potential for customization in the current system, in fact, that you will rarely find two PVP Disc Priests that are running the exact same build. That goes for Shadow PVP as well. (And we all know that no one plays Holy PVP.)
With the slimmed down 31 point talent tree, however, there is very little room for customizing your build to suit your playstyle. Welcome to World of Cookie Cutter.
/makes saving throw vs. rant
So lets look at the tiers shall we.
2/2 Improved Power Word: Shield – Bread and butter Disc talent, don’t leave home without it.
3/3 Twin Disciplines – Down from 5 points to 3, it also now increases the absorption on your shields. Instant casts are critically important in PVP, and the extra oomph really helps.
3/3 Mental Agility – 10% mana savings on your instant casts, down from 15%. PVP Disc has major regen issues as it is, and unless that changes in Cata, you are going to need every bit of regen/mana savings help you can get. Despite the nerf, you still need to fully talent this one.
2/2 Evangelism – DPS boost and mana savings if you chain cast Smite. This, along with the Archangel talent (discussed below), are two of the very few optional talents in the build. Disc Priests are by far the most offensive healers in PVP currently, and the revamp seems to be encouraging us to continue to blend both healing and DPSing. Like it or not, Lolsmite has become almost as central to our PVP class identity as Power Word Shield. As such, I fear that skipping this talent would gimp your offensive burst potential, which is often a game changer in the arena. Considering the alternative talents to Evangelism+Archangel in my spec (Renewed Hope, Reflective Shield and Borrowed Time) I think you are better off with the DPS boost.
1/1 Archangel – Useless without also taking Evangelism, this talent lets you nom nom nom your Evangelism stacks for mana and a boost to your healing. This talent really excites me. If you play 2v2 arena, you know that getting a kill often requires you to apply some pressure at the right times to assist your partner. Many times, doing so means watching your partner’s health get precariously low while you whittle down your blue bar casting mana inefficient DPS spells. Enter Archangel, which will give you back a nice chunk of mana and boost your healing throughput for that post kill moment when you really really need to heal your partner.
With only a 15 second cooldown, it may be possible to improve mana efficiency via Archangel by weaving in a Smite here and there and regularly consuming less than a full stack of Evangelism. We’ll have to wait and see how this one works in practice.
3/3 Improved Inner Fire – Same as it ever was, so don’t make any changes here.
2/2 Improved Mana Burn – No change here either. I am a big fan of Mana Burn, but I would like to see it be slightly more mana efficient. I feel like I can spend a huge portion of my mana draining another healer of his/hers, only to then get out regened. Still, shaving 1 sec off of the cast time is well worth 2 talent points, not to mention the satisfaction of watching an opposing healer run for the safety of a pillar whenever I let loose with this spell.
0/2 Renewed Hope – Bonus crit if your heal target has the Weakened Soul debuff, but our beloved 3% raid-wide damage reduction is gone. Crit talents are not feasible for PVP Disc Priests, who currently have to forgo crit in favor of spirit to make up for our craptacular regen. If we don’t have to choose between crit and regen in Cata, then we might be able to look at crit based talents again. Put this one on the back burner for now.
1/1 Inner Focus – You need this spell for when you are OOM and have to get off that Divine Hymn, or Power Word: Barrier. Just do it.
3/3 Atonement – Another talent that enhances Smite (noticing a pattern yet?) by converting a portion of the damage done to healing on allies within 8 yards of the Smite target. A great talent if you play offensively with a melee dps partner. Less so if you don’t.
0/2 Reflective Shield – I like this talent, but it needs to reflect more damage in order to be viable and/or apply to every shield I cast, not just the shield I cast on myself. With the giant increase in health pools in Cata, I just don’t see 45% of my shield’s absorption being meaningful damage in arena or bgs.
3/3 Rapture – Our regen sucks, therefore you must Rapture.
3/3 Borrowed Time – Nerfed from 25% haste to 15% haste, but still improving your PW:S absorption. Still worth all three talent points, but less bang for the buck. BT plays less of a role in arenas, since we have fewer partners to bubble and the same Weakened Soul debuff to deal with, but the loss of 10% haste post bubble will be felt.
2/2 Aspiration – Cooldown reduction for your awesome abilities – priceless.
1/3 Divine Aegis – PVP Disc does not crit, so we only want to put the absolute minimum talent points here to get to PW:B in rank 7. I would not be surprised if we had to go the full 3/3 in order to get to PW:B, but as it is written now, we can get by with only 1/3.
1/1 Pain Suppression – If I need to explain this to you, get the fcuk out.
0/3 Focused Will – A solid defensive talent for those times when you are the burst target. Larger health pools in Cata will make defensive talents like Focused Will slightly less useful, and often come at the expense of dps boosting talents. Take Focused Will if you are just getting started in PVP, and then replaces it when your gear and skill levels improve.
3/3 Soul Warding – 15% mana reduction on PW:S, and 3 second lower cooldown (up from 4 seconds). Blizzards attempt to limit bubble spam doesn’t really bother us in PVP, and we really were just taking this for the mana savings anyways.
2/2 Grace – Damage reduction and improved healing, but only stacks to 2 (8%) instead of 3(12%). Once again, less goodness than before, but still too good to pass up.
1/1 Power Word: Barrier – Our long-awaited, shiny new toy. If you play Disc and don’t have this ability talented, you will no doubt be subject to unimaginable levels of ridicule and humiliation.
Holy Tier 1:
2/2 Improved Renew – 10% better healing on an instant cast, heal and forget spell. What’s not to love.
0/3 Empowered Healing – Although throughput is good, we generally try to avoid long cast heals in PVP like the spells covered by this talent. Getting a GHeal off in the arena should have its own achievement. Just not worth 3 points.
3/3 Divine Fury – Decreased cast time on big heals is meh, but the reduction on Smite and Holy fire is absolutely essential if you are going to be able to DPS effectively.
Only time will tell whether the new talent tree is good for PVP Disc or not. I like the fact that they are adding some more firepower to our tree, but I worry that some of the throughput nerfs are going to weaken us significantly without fixing our regen issues.
If Evangelism and Archangel are tuned correctly, they have the potential to solve our regen problems in bgs and the arena. The fact that our regen fix is tied to a dps boosting talent terrifies me from an ability-to-balance-the-game perspective though.
With the exception of those two weeks between the resilience buff and the PVP healing nerf, Disc Priests have had a fairly rough time in WotLK PVP. Hopefully Cata will change things for us.