Tree Pruning: Restoration, Gristle-Free

If I have to tell you again to back off, you an’ me are gonna go round and round. — Mr. White

Revolutionary Beta Restoration Build

One of the buzzwords that floats around our office after every meeting and training seminar is “The Delta.” Basically, what’s the difference between what we know or do now and what we used to know/do. The delta just refers to anything that’s changed or is different. I thought I would do a typical nerd thing and apply that to the new 31pt talent trees that broke last night.

There’s been an expected avalanche of bitchingcommentary on this newly released info, but let’s give Blizzard the benefit of the doubt and take our time to break it down.



  • Improved Healing Wave
  • Improved Reincarnation
  • Healing Grace
  • Tidal Force
  • Healing Focus (Moved to mastery)
  • Tidal Mastery
  • Healing Way
  • Focused Mind
  • Purification (Moved to mastery)
  • Earth Shield/Improved Earth Shield (Primary Tree Ability, Level 10)


  • Ancestral Resolve – Tier 1 – Reduces damage taken while casting spells by 5/10%.
  • Spark of Life – Tier 1 – Increased your healing done by 2/4/6% and your healing received by 5/10/15%.
  • Focused Insight – Tier 2 – After casting any shock spell, your next heal’s mana cost is reduced by 25/50/75% of the cost of the Shock spell, and its healing effectiveness is increased by 10/20/30%.
  • Nature’s Blessing – Tier5 – Increases the effectiveness of your direct heals on Earth Shielded targets by 5/10/15%.
  • Telluric Currents – Tier 6 – Your attunement to natural energies causes your Lightning Bolt spell to restore mana equal to 20% of damage dealt.

Enhancement Sub-Spec

  • Ancestral Swiftness – Moved up to tier 2 making it accessible to restoration shamans. Improved Ghost Wolf is also rolled into this talent:

Reduces the cast time of your Ghost Wolf spell by 1/2 sec and increases movement speed by 7/15%. This does not stack with other movement speed increasing effects.

The enhancement sub-spec is the same as it was in Wrath of the Lich King, it’s just less talent points.

Elemental Sub-Spec

There still isn’t one for PvE Restoration.

Improved Healing Wave/Tidal Waves

An interesting omission from the new talent tree is Improved Healing Wave  (cast time reduction). Heals that take 3 seconds to cast are not fun and tidal waves is very deep in the tree. I can only expect that either Lesser Healing Wave will be given earlier or you will be able to do something to reduce that cast time. Having Earth Shield at an early level will alleviate this issue somewhat until you get Lesser Healing Wave, but that puts a new spin on healing at the end game.

Using Chain Heal and Riptide to have a tidal waves buff available is going to make for interesting healing strategy. The charges still only stick around for 15 seconds, so Riptide is going to step to the forefront as our primary heal purely for setup purposes. There’s no way you want to be caught needing to use a (Greater)Healing Wave with no Tidal Waves buff. Healing Wave is currently our cheapest heal, sitting at 6% base mana and Riptide is only 10%.

Improved Chain Heal

What’s the point of this talent? My chain heal is more…better…er! It sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise clean tree.


During the round table we talked optimistically about what they could do with the new 31pt talent trees. What I realized after actually seeing the trees is that we didn’t really think hard enough about what “trimming the fat” out of the trees really meant. The message coming out of Blizzard is that they wanted to take out all of the “required” and uninteresting talents and make us make some real decisions, some real choices, and get get some fun talents.

Now I’m not completely insane. I don’t expect every single talent to be a fancy new heal or piece of utility, but this is the same tree we already have; it just uses less talent points and haves some things moved around. My vision of “required” and Blizzard’s must be very different. What is the difference between these two scenarios:

  • A long talent tree with several +heal and +crit talents used to get deeper in the tree
  • A short talent tree with the same path, those +heal and +crit talents are given automatically as you spend more points

Nothing…for an experienced player, and I think that’s where a lot commentators are going wrong whenever they evaluate everything that is coming in Cataclysm.

WoW 2.0

Cataclysm is not so much an expansion, but a revamping of the game’s core systems. Technically it will be WoW 4.0, but as far as the mechanics of the game are concerned, this is a different game than the one you picked up off the shelves back in 2004. As different as Rugby and American Football.

This expansion wasn’t made for you.

It was made for the guy on the other side of your cubicle wall that hasn’t yet purchased a WoW subscription. For those of us that have been playing the game for 4+ years, all of these changes seem innocuous, boring, ‘meh’ whatever adjective you want throw out, but to a new player each talent point really does matter. The problem comes with the fact that we were told we would have some choices to make. The choice for resto shamans ends up being 1 talent point and whether I want to top off Ancestral Swiftness, Improved Shields, or Ancestral Awakening (or maybe Nature’s Blessing if you aren’t doing a lot of tank healing).

That’s our customization. Instead of giving us more tools to pick from, we had some taken from us. Tidal Force wasn’t that great of an ability (everyone just macros it in with NS), but it was removed and replaced with nothing.  Filling out my new Cataclysm build took me all of 10 seconds, but it should for me. I’m an experienced player that’s been playing my spec for over 2 years and have spent a lot of time spec’ing into resto and studying the talents. I also have the added benefit of playing a healing class where spec’ing and gearing is fairly straight forward. In the back of my mind I was hoping, optimistically, that I would need to make more sacrifices.

Still no word about Spirit Link. Still nothing new for Restoration Shamans to play with.

Whenever you start talking about class changes coming in Cataclysm, the discussion immediately shifts to “…when leveling…” and “…but for new players…”. I guess that’s all well and good for the longevity of the game, but the only thing that’s keeping current players interested is more of the same: new zones, a few more levels, new dungeons, new abilities.

Setting up your character, for the first time in MMO history, involves no decision making. If you want to play an Enhancement Shaman in Cataclysm, you can do it and make absolutely no wrong choices. Is that a good thing? Do we want it to be that simple? Maybe we do and I’m just thinking as Old Man Borsk instead of Hipster Borsk.

Different Outlook

There are different ways you can make talent trees, but lunch is never free in game design. You will never please everyone.

Short, Single path, 1 correct

The Cataclysm Way. Straight-forward, simple for new players. Old players feel like it’s a bit of the same, but just less talent points.

Long, Multiple path, 1 correct, several wrong

Pre-Cataclysm. A well made spec reflects a player with experience or one that knows where to find the information. Typically they are honed based on a gear set or “flavor of the month.” Lots of pit-falls and “ha ha” talents.

Long, Multiple paths, All correct

Too hard to balance and design properly.

The WoW designers have chosen to move the decision back to the character select screen. It is at this point where you have your choice of 10 classes and 30 total specs. Once chosen, you level and gain power. But what is the point of having a talent tree if all I’m doing is spending points straight down the tree exactly like everyone else? Can’t the game just ask me at level 10 what spec I want to play and then fill out the tree for me? Instead of revolutionizing the system, the designers have accepted that cookie cutter specs exist and just gave everyone the cookie cutter build as their only choice.

This raises a lot of philosophical gaming topics, but the one truism that is being hard-coded into everyone is this: There are two choices in RPGS, correct and incorrect. There aren’t multiple correct ways to play a spec. For DPS the choice is more stark. Flavor of the month (Mutilate vs. Combat, Fire vs. Arcane) will always exist for them.

Maybe I’m just jealous.

16 Responses to Tree Pruning: Restoration, Gristle-Free

  1. Chastity says:

    I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t discount Telluric Currents and … oh the Shock one, I’ve forgotten what it’s called.

    Blizzard seems to be pushing the idea of healers-who-DPS quite strongly, I’d be surprised if they didn’t wind up being competitive.

    I’m also a bit concerned about how this will actually work for new players because with the new trees Talents come *far* more slowly, which strikes me as bad for new players.

    • Borsk says:

      Focused Insight I think is what you’re referring to. I’ve had a couple shaman ask me about this “dps as a healer” thing. My stance for now is: I’ll do it if it’s both viable and necessary.

      For now I’m sticking with talents that increase my maximum “passive” throughput (stuff I don’t have to process or activate via something else).

  2. krovost says:

    Looks like my 33% chance on Spirit Link making it is turning into a safe bet.

    All in all I’m quite looking forward to these shaman changes.

    Having 3 healers at 80 right now while my shaman sits at 71-72ish makes me want to go and level him so I can partake in the dps/healing hybridization happening here.

    I love this design since it’s already my playstyle. As a pally I’m constantly judging on cooldown (sure for 100% waves of Judge of Light heals floating on my screen) but also for the extra deeps. Holy Shock a boss, shield bash, exo, conc. I’m mad about using all my dps abilities whenever I have a spare moment between heals.

    Just ask Borsk. How many times have I asked to come into LK on my alt priest so I could still heal but Sear in p3?

    To many times to remember.

  3. krovost says:

    woah, healing hybridization happening here…

    <– Accidental alliteration all-star.

    OMG its ongoing over and over!!!!

    and again, aaaaaahhh


  4. Eiona says:

    I have to say I agree with everything you posted here, Borsk. It did only take me 10 seconds to fill out the Elemental talent tree, and even then it felt lacking. There is nothing new here, theres no challenge. Every single elemental shaman is going to put 34 talents into Ele, only 2 of those are up in the air as to where you want to put them, and even then, your choice is +damage from Nova or -damage taken.
    For whatever reason, blizzard is ‘dumbing down’ this game.
    Blizzard should just implement a Staples ‘Easy’ button, and when you click it, your cookie cutter spec magically appears.

  5. Kazgrel says:

    Regarding the apparent loss of Improved Healing Wave, it is mostly likely going to be baked into some part of specialization; in fact, it may already be in, but not listed on a tooltip. Example of such exists in the elemental tree; at first glance, we appear to have completely lost our Lightning Mastery talent, only to find out that it’s baked into Eye of The Storm, which shaman will get at level 10 if they pick elemental as their spec. The tooltip for EoTS doesn’t reflect this as of yet, though.

    • Borsk says:

      That was my assumption as well. When I noticed inwas gone I looked through every tooltip I think to try and find it. We all know how famous Blizzard is with their tooltip expertise.

      This could all be fixed by sending me a beta key. Make with it!

  6. […] Borsked chats about the newly pruned restoration tree for shaman. […]

  7. Linda says:

    Personally, I can’t even begin to complain about talent builds until I lament the passing of cleaning totem! I am nowhere near the final stages of grieving.

  8. Arinnaya says:

    Some points: the Healing Wave cast reduction time will probably be unnecessary because they’re making Greater Healing Wave and Healing Wave separate spells – I assume GHW will be the 3 second cast and that HW will have a more reasonable cast time.

    I also disagree that it takes no decision making – but the decision isn’t something meaningless like do I take 2% intellect or do I take an increase to SoE/FT totem by 5%? Instead you’re choosing a spec and therefore the style of play associated with it. No more will we start a resto shaman and end up waiting a long time to get Earth Shield to start healing like a Shaman does – Earth Shield on tank and strong raid healing (it would be nice if Chain Heal could be learned before level 40 as well!)

    I will say at this point that it is still beta and a lot of the talents are either exactly as they are now, or they’re one of the new talents that were already in a previous build in the beta. At this stage there are still changes to be made.

    I feel you talk about pre-Cata talent trees with some rose-tinted goggles, as though somehow having loads of ****ty talents that noone wants is a good thing because it shows who’s the good players and who isn’t. My counter would be that Blizzard has said you shouldn’t have to use an outside source to play the game well – maybe if you want to be in the top 10% of gamers you would, but for general purposes you should be able to learn the game within the game. For example what’s the difference between +5% healing and +20% healing coefficient. You and I know because we’ve both been playing a long time and do look on websites to improve our performance. But for a lot of people, new and experienced alike, it’s a lot of maths to try and figure out what the best talents are. Some are also so poorly worded that they sound good but really aren’t (off the top of my head Unbridled Wrath in the fury tree for warriors is one of these). The problem was that “well-made” really meant ej cookie cutter or gtfo.

    “but the only thing that’s keeping current players interested is more of the same: new zones, a few more levels, new dungeons, new abilities.”

    How is this different from any other expansion? If you really believe that playing around with talents all day was the only reason you bought a new expansion then you’re definitely lying to yourself. You’ve also managed to wave away a whole expansion’s worth of content with ‘new zones, a few more levels, new dungeons, new abilities’.

    A talent tree is a MEANS to an END, nothing more. It’s not a mini-game that we should have to play every patch when there’s a change, it’s something that should enable us to clear the content – whether that’s levelling, questing, dailies, PVP, dungeons/heroics, raiding or whatever else we choose to do.

    While you or I can already come up with a decent spec because we’ve spent a long time reading (or in your case writing ;)) on the internet about it, I will be more comforted when I pug things knowing that at least it’ll be tough for someone to really mess up a spec, something that I can’t say is true right now.

    This has turned into a bit of a rant by now, so I’m going to stop here. Good read and roundup – I can’t resist an argument about Shaman talents 😉

    • Borsk says:

      Thanks for the rant! I enjoy the discussion, as it’s something I don’t get a whole lot around these parts.

      Anyways, I don’t think that the current (51 pt) talent trees are generally the right or wrong way to do things. I love that the 31pt trees bringing are bringing your core spec abilities to the forefront right away. Back when I was still playing my hunter pre-Tier 6, the biggest offender of this was Steady Shot weaving and shot rotations. There’s no way you would know how to DPS properly as a hunter unless you knew what EJ was.

      The purpose of that part of my post was to point out the stark difference between what has been done in previous MMOs/RPGs and the direction WoW is going.

      I believe as you do, that having to research and go around to 2 or 3 websites, is something that should be all but eliminated for the base play of the game. However, there is something to be said still for player collaboration and true min/max in the form of character customization at roll time and as you level.

      One of the draws of RPGs (MMOs specifically) is their inherent complexity. That’s something that’s been a feature of the genre since D&D, and if anyone can pull off a shift from that, it would be Blizzard. Again, I don’t necessarily believe that this new path is worse, it’s just very different and kind of a leap.

      I do sort of hand-wave away a lot of the massive revamps coming that will affect everyone. My thoughts on Cataclysm as an expansion are “just another expansion.” That’s just me though, my life in game exists inside of the swirly dungeon portals. 🙂

      @Healing Wave
      My hope is that they bake in the cast time reduction into something else (not a glyph). Right now the spell data has both GHW and HW at 3 sec cast times. Oh the joys of discussing beta. Could be worse, could be the stretch of time during ICC with no info at all!

  9. […] Borsked chats about the newly pruned restoration tree for shaman. […]

  10. […] Borsked chats about the newly pruned restoration tree for shaman. […]

  11. […] the spirit of Cataclysm, which someone so appropriately has dubbed WoW 4.0, talent trees are the latest game element to see some of the effects of new-but-old-but new […]

  12. […] also had a look at tree pruning, but he’s also talking about account-wide […]

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