Analysis: Dragonflight Talent Trees

Let’s sit and have a chat, because there are some glaringly serious issues with them…

Ok, I am aware that we’re still in an alpha state right now, but as it currently sits there are some huge issues with the so far revealed Talent Trees.

Thus far we have been privy to full talent trees for the full following classes and all their specs:

  • Hunter
  • Druid
  • Death Knight
  • Rogue
  • Priest

5 Classes so far, and 16 Specs, so we have a nice taster of the sort of direction Blizzard are heading in with the talent revamp. Or so you’d think. With the currently revealed trees, it’s become painfully obvious that there is no unified oversight of these tree designs whatsoever. And that’s where the main, critical problem comes in:

A quick initial glance at the analysis above will reveal one simple salient issue: The variation in points needed to unlock talents is wildly all over the place.

Take the biggest issue tree for starters: Survival Hunter. Now, before I get into this, Blizzard have stated today that they are going to be taking a look at the tree again. But let’s look deeper into why they’re doing that.

Each Spec tree has a maximum of 30 points to use on purchasing talents. This is done by pumping these 30 points into nodes on their way down the tree until you spend all 30 points. You don’t need to get to the bottom of the tree if nothing down there interests you, but in most cases there should be a major talent towards the bottom of the tree (such as Trueshot etc).

This is, as it currently stands, the Survival tree:

As you can see here (and more clearly in the spreadsheet above), there are 32 nodes altogether, which is the lowest number of nodes available to any revealed spec so far. That’s not the issue. The glaring issue here is the number of 3-point nodes in the tree. And to get past any 3-point node to an option below it, you need to spend all 3 points to get past it.

It’s not like it opens after the first point goes in and you can choose to carry on with a weaker version of that node to get to something else connected to it. You NEED to pump the full 3 points into it before you can move on. Much like your mother telling you that you had to eat your vegetables before you could get your dessert, nearly a full third of the Survival talent tree as a whole is filled with 3-point nodes – 10 out of 32.

That’s a lot of vegetables mom.

In total, Survival would have to spend an unavailable 58 points in order to fill out its entire tree. Contrast that against Resto Druid. It has 35 nodes, which is 3 more than Survival, but to fill out its entire tree you would only require a 43 point spend. 43 vs 58. 15 fewer points, which is 50% of the entire available point allocation. What’s more, Resto’s tree has NO 3-point nodes, and a below average eight 2-point nodes.

That means, with the 30 available points to both specs, Survival can barely fill half its spec tree (51.72%), whereas Resto Druid is able to fill out nearly 70% of its tree (69.77%), despite having more nodes.

The main issue causing this problem is, as you can see, the eye-watering number of 3 point nodes in the SV tree. 10 nodes that NEED 3 points put into them, which in and of itself would eat up the entire 30 point allocation of available points. Compare that to the remaining spec trees that have either NO 3-point nodes at all (7 of the 16 specs so far), or have at most 4 of them. The average number of 3-point nodes per spec outside of Survival is 1.33. So that shows how much of an outlier having 10 of the buggers is.

A Short Interruption

Another issue I’ve noticed is Interrupts. Some specs, like the entire Rogue class, get an interrupt as a baseline part of their kit, therefore requiring no outlay of points in order to obtain one.

For other classes and specs, they maybe have two interrupts available (Balance druid), others have one. Some need only a single point spent in the class tree to be able to obtain their interrupt (Death Knight – a total of a 2 point spend), others require a considerable point spend in order to obtain it in their spec trees:

Balance: 9 points (either in Class tree or spec tree, or both!)
Hunter (Class Tree): 4 points
Shadow Priest: 3 points
Death Knight (Class Tree): 2 points

Frankly, Interrupts should be BASELINE for all classes and specs. NO-ONE should be able to spec out their character and avoid taking an interrupt. For example a Shadow Priest can avoid taking an interrupt at all, and spend their entire 30 point allocation without any issue. Because in a world where someone can use the points required to obtain an interrupt (unless you’re a rogue) to buy a throughput talent instead, guess what’s going to happen?

It’s a definite point of potential toxic/ignorant behaviour, that’s only going to be encouraged by Blizzard by allowing this to happen.

Spec Identity

Along with these talent trees, baseline parts of each spec’s kit is being broken up into various branches of these new trees. And with some specs having a harder time obtaining nodes (Survival), and other specs nearly able to fill out their tree entirely (Resto Druid), some of the specs have fundamental parts of their spec identity able to be unobtainable with bad speccing.

BM Hunters: When you think of a BM Hunter’s cooldowns you think of two things: Bestial Wrath and Aspect of the Wild. In Dragonflight these are not baseline for the spec, and require 10 & 11 points spent respectively in a specific branch of the tree in order to pick them up. Here is an example of a badly specced tree, where a new BM Hunter player could potentially miss out on their specs two core cooldowns in order to get to the bottom of another branch to pick up a final talent:

In the picture above, Bestial Wrath is smack bang in the centre of the tree, with Aspect of the Wild to its lower right.

This should not be possible. Fundamental pieces of the spec kit should be some of the earliest nodes in the tree, and unavoidable, such as Multi-Shot above.

Marksmanship has a similar issue with its core dps cooldown, Trueshot. It’s a 20 point spend to obtain, and much like Bestial Wrath and Aspect of the Wild, it’s entirely possible for uninformed players to completely bypass their main spec cooldown, which will lead to group toxicity when they do much less damage than others in their group, and potentially get kicked.

Take Outlaw Rogue as a comparison. Its main dps cooldowns, Adrenaline Rush and Roll the Bones are both very high/early in the tree, and missing them is next to impossible, with only 3 points required to pick up both.

Below is Roll the Bones, with Adrenaline Rush immediately above it:

TL;DR

Yes, the Talent Trees are still in Alpha, and yes, a lot COULD change between now and Dragonflight’s release later this year. However, given Blizzard’s track record at making changes based on community feedback, particularly during the alphas & betas of yet-to-be released expansions (Legion & Shadowlands cases in point) , I’m not entirely confident that they will suddenly rework entire trees based on logic and common sense.

At the very least, someone at Blizzard needs to have a unifying oversight on the Talent Tree design ethos and try to ensure, as much as is possible, that no specs are outliers in either direction, much like Survival Hunter and Resto Druid currently are, in terms of point spend at least. Survival at the very least should see a conversion of 70% of its 3-point nodes to make them 1 or 2 point nodes at worst.

Furthermore, issues like core spec cooldowns that are central to a spec’s identity being given late in a tree, down a specific branch that can potentially be avoided completely, such as Trueshot, Bestial Wrath & Aspect of the Wild? That needs to be rectified, and they need to be made available early and nigh-on impossible to miss, much like Outlaw Rogues.

Perhaps the Talent Tree designers for some of the classes (because clearly they’re all being done by different developers) need to speak to those responsible for the Rogue trees, where core spec cooldowns are given early in Trees, and interrupts are given baseline to the entire class.

Conclusion

As it stands, the entire Hunter class is a bit of a mess in terms of tree design, and all three specs’ trees need serious reworking, both in number of points required to obtain talents, as well as talent placement overall in various trees. As such, I’m currently unlikely to carry on playing my Hunter in Dragonflight, as a main at least. And it’s looking like I’ll not even be playing it for the experimental Season 4 in Shadowlands, which launches in a couple of weeks as of current writing.

But that’s another story in and of itself…

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