Microblog: Talent Choice Equation

Long time readers might be familiar with how I chose talent recommendations, and might know that it’s a little different than most guides out there. I think what surprises most is that I don’t rely on sims. They’re a part of the equation, but not the last word. I value many other things when it comes to talents.

In no particular order:

  • Utility
  • Ease of use
  • Generality
  • Personal preference
  • Popularity
  • Variety
  • Sims & Logs

That’s just for recommendations in my guide. When making actual talent choices in game, there’s an important #1 addition: fight mechanics.

Utility

Talents are more than just the damage / healing / damage reduction benefits, there’s always something more. As tanks, we are especially well served by being able to trade objective benefits for subjective ones.

Ease of Use

We are not computers, so in contrast to sims, anything that doesn’t demand extra attention gains some points from me. Just having a talent that doesn’t serve as an extra distraction while learning a fight is a powerful thing, even if that talent might not be the final choice when you kill the boss.

Example: Light Brewing, Agonizing Flames

Generality

Some talents are really strong in niche situations, and others are just modestly strong in all situations. In a guide, since I have no way of knowing what content you’re trying to tackle, I’m going to lean toward recommending general talents.

Example: Healing Elixirs, Feast of Souls

Personal Preference

I don’t know what other people like, but there are a few talents I’m just fond of. I can’t completely separate my own biases from this blog, nor do I really want to.

Example: Felblade, Chi Torpedo

Popularity

Keeping in mind my own bias, sometimes I’ll adjust my talent recommendations based on what the community as a whole prefers, even if it’s not my favorite thing. Just because I don’t like a talent doesn’t mean it’s a bad recommendation for others.

Example: Last Resort, Blackout Combo

Variety

Sometimes I recommend talents because I love finding uses for all of them. Even if there’s a super-niche talent, I want to find a case where it’s valuable and talk about it.

Example: Elusive Dance, Concentrated Sigils

Simulations / Logs

Sometimes the numbers speak for themselves, and even the utility benefits of some talents are overshadowed by poor simming and logging.

Example: Special Delivery (before the latest buffs to its siblings)

Microblog: Un-identity Talents

I wrote a while back about talents that I cling to because I just kinda like them. There are also talents I avoid, because I just kinda don’t.

Most of the talents I avoid are just fine balance-wise. Often, they’re even part of the cookie cutter spec most people take. And that’s great! I want them to be viable talents, for other people.

On my monk, I never take Black Ox Brew. It’s a favored talent of that tier for other people, but it doesn’t contribute to my ideal brewmaster, which is one that manages resources from second to second. I mean, I just really love the other two choices, and they’re how I want to play. (I also tend to avoid on-use talents if I can because I’m terrible/lazy.)

There’s also Blackout Combo, which is a fantastic talent that I don’t enjoy all that much. Many people do enjoy it, and I’m glad it exists. But again, it doesn’t contribute to my brewmaster ideal in the same way the other choices do. I want to manage my stagger to extremes! Either by making it really big, or purifying it really small. Stagger is my drug, and while Blackout Combo does effect it indirectly, it’s not quite the same level of excitement for me.

On my demon hunter, I hardly ever take Spirit Bomb. This historically was an unpopular talent, but even now that it’s buffed I still not be super excited about it because I don’t really feel a need for sustained leech on my DH.

I also rarely take Last Resort, another strong, popular talent! Because the way I play, I hardly ever make simple mistakes that can be recovered from with a heal to 30% and extra hp. No, the mistakes that kill me are catastrophic, usually when I fail to use Demon Spikes when I clearly should have, or if I stand in something, or mis-taunt. Last Resort doesn’t save me from those, so I pick one of the other choices instead.

I still use these talents from time to time, but I don’t enjoy them as much as the other choices.

Microblog: Talent Experimentation

It’s funny. I love talents more than the average joe. Like, a lot more. I get frustrated when people who don’t change talents for like I do (that’s basically everyone). I quietly rage at people who aren’t open to talent variation. But I also hate spending gold. I’m frugal to a fault. So I rarely change talents in raids unless a) it’s something vital to our strategy, b) there’s a tome set out for everyone, c) we’re on a break so I have time to visit a city, or d) I’m on my monk and I can Zen Pilgrimage to quickly get out and back.

This can be really frustrating when I want to experiment. I love experimenting, especially in those early progression pulls where you have no chance of actually killing a boss, so you might as well learn as much as you can about your talent choices. But I have to really really want it to spend that much gold on a tome. (And I’m not actually spending that gold, I am a herbalist and a scribe for the one reason: making my own tomes. But just knowing how much they sell for stays my hand.)

I usually take down notes between pulls of what talents I’d like to spec into during our next break. We only get one break in the middle of three hours, so sometimes that’s a long period of thinking really hard about how much I want a talent instead of experimenting with it.

I know a lot of people make their talent decisions before a fight by researching what other people do. That’s the smart thing, but it’s not what I enjoy. And with how communities tend to cling to certain talents, I don’t quite trust that other people are making decisions based on experimentation over what’s viewed as the only acceptable choice by the group.

I find a lot of joy in swapping talents even if I don’t have a specific plan in mind, because all the time I’m accidentally finding creative solutions I never thought of. I would love to also use farm raids as an opportunity to experiment, though that’s even less likely to be worth the gold cost of a tome.

Brewmaster 7.1.5 Talent Changes

Throughout Mists and Warlords, our level 75 defensive talents have been exemplary. The choice between the three talents was always compelling and varied; the universally useful (but minor) Healing Elixirs, the strong damage reduction (but restricted uptime) of Dampen Harm, and the impressive magical damage reduction (but situational use) of Diffuse Magic.

But when the tanking paradigm changed in Legion, these talents suffered. In a world where big defensive cooldowns were neutered, and active mitigation was molded to fill that role, Diffuse Magic and Dampen Harm fell into disuse. Compared to Ironskin Brew, both abilities were ineffective. Diffuse Magic could reduce magic damage pretty well, but why waste a talent on it when Ironskin Brew is nearly as good, and most boss burst magic were designed to be countered by frequently usable active mitigation anyway. Dampen Harm could be used to reduce those giant physical attacks, but if it was used at the same time as Ironskin it was unlikely to even trigger. These two talents were built in a time when infrequent defensive cooldowns were necessary, and clung to that ideology even when tanks changed to value frequent defensives much more.

But, in 7.1.5, that’s all going to change!

Continue reading “Brewmaster 7.1.5 Talent Changes”

Microblog: Talents as Identity

There are some talents I feel an emotional attachment to, like this is how my character is. For my dh, that includes Felblade, Fel Devastation, FalloutFeed the Demon, and Soul Barrier. I’ll change them around sometimes, but I just really like the way those talents are and what they add to my perceived playstyle.

I don’t have quite the same attachment to brewmaster talents. Most of their talents are a choice on what tool solves a problem. Do you need aoe? Hard crowd control? Raid healing? (The one exception is the level 100 talents, which are my favorite for this reason.) But vengeance talents do things like change how you value soul fragments, how you layer your active mitigation, how you generate or spend your mixture of various resources. Choices that enable you to create completely different types of demon hunters, leeching demon hunters, soul fragment demon hunters, cooldown demon hunters, etc.

Brewmaster 100 talents are similar. There’s only that one tier, but that tier allows you to be a damage reduction monk, a smooth monk, or a complicated monk. It’s a beautiful tier! The key difference is that the entire tier has three interesting choices that increase complexity in different ways, whereas demon hunters rarely have three interesting choices on the same row. They’re all spread out so that each row might have one complex choice and one simple choice and something else.

Since I see so many of my DH’s talents as identity talents, I tend to not change them much. Sure, there are cases I will find Last Resort more useful than Soul Barrier, so I’ll change. But if there’s not a clear winner, I want to go with the choices that define the playstyle I want.

On my brewmaster, with their mostly-straightforward talent tiers, I change things around more. Sometimes I need RJW or sometimes Special Delivery, and I don’t particularly love one over the other because they don’t carry an identity with them. I am not the RJW monk like I’m the Felblade DH. I don’t feel deeply unhappy when I spec into Special Delivery like I would if I had to spec into Razor Spikes.

My identity talents add fun to my game. I don’t like speccing out of them because the other options are less fun for me. Fun can come from finding the right tool for the job, as it does when I play around with brewmaster talents, but it also comes from regularly using tools I enjoy the most.

Thoughts on Guides for the Quick and Dirty Audience

A few month’s ago I wrote about the two major audiences I see reading WoW guides. To quote myself:

Guides generally have two different audiences: “I want to jump in and play” and “I want to understand”. The vast majority of a guide’s readers will be in the former group, what I’ll call the quick’n’dirty players. They can range from new players who want to tank a 5 man with a freshly boosted monk, to experienced players who want to try a new class, to casual players who want to spend their precious few hours of free time playing a game instead of reading about it. They are interested in getting an introduction that is easy to digest and follow. Cookie cutter builds are targeted to this type of reader, and they often get frustrated when the answer to their customization questions is presented as subjective. They build the body of a readership and are really important for establishing an audience.

The latter group, the “I want to understand” people, or what I’ll call the comprehensive players, are more interested in why these choices were suggested and how to master the spec they are already familiar with. These are a smaller group that usually starts out as the quick’n’dirty type, but eventually want to know more. They may want help solving a particular problem, or they want to customize their character to their liking, or they simply want to be better at the game. They want explanations for everything, beyond the “do this”. Cookie cutter builds can actually harm this group because cookie cutter builds don’t offer nuance. A talent row that is actually competitive might come across as inflexible because the majority of cookie cutter builds suggest a single talent. Brewmaster healing talents and resource talents often hit this wall, because each row has a popular choice (Chi Wave and Ascension, currently), but there are good reasons to change that choice when need arises.

Today I want to talk about that quick’n’dirty audience, and how to better meet their needs. Right now my Brewmaster guide is sort of in the middle of catering to quick’n’dirty players and comprehensive players, which disrupts its ability to serve either group particularly well. To focus on the larger group, I want to find out what the majority of my guide readers look at, and use that information to craft a better experience.

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On Talent Restrictions, Social Friction, and Cookie Cutter Builds

Blizz, I need your help.

A few months ago there was a little movement among guide writers (you can see my contribution here) on how to discourage cookie cutter talent builds and advocate for individual experimentation. For one, swapping talents is just fun — you feel smart when you pick the right one, and it’s more rewarding when there’s an interesting choice and opportunity cost with that talent tier. Two, players will probably do better when they are encouraged to find talents that work for them and their current struggles, as opposed to the general “best in slot” talent. I mean, Blizzard knows all these things. Some devs even retweeted my arguments. But that all lies in contrast to the significant barriers that will be placed on talent swapping come Legion:

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Categorizing Vengeance Talents and Traits

Looking through Vengeance demon hunter talents and artifact traits, you might notice that quite a few interact with each other. For instance, Charred Warblades heals you for 15% of the fire damage you deal, and there are many skills, talents, and traits that increase fire damage further. Let’s just take a look at those.

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Guide Writing and Cookie Cutter Builds

Yesterday there was an excellent post on Blizzard Watch written by Zoopercat, one of the creators of Ask Mr. Robot. In it, she shows through data (sims and surveys) that the community’s perception of a talent (or any other character combat customization) effects usage far more than the actual value of the talent would imply. The suggestions from cookie cutter builds, such as those found in guides, tend to present choices as black and white, and discourage customization, even when case-by-case choices are nearly equal or even more optimal. I highly recommend reading it.

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Mists Retrospective: Level 90 Talents

Our final tier of talents specialized in AoE damage, specifically the magnitude and frequency of that AoE damage. In the beginning of the expansion, Rushing Jade Wind was an entirely different talent. It was an aimed AoE burst skill that also increased the damage of Spinning Crane Kick. While not a useless skill, it was very situational, and given the absolutely uselessness of Chi Torpedo for non-healers, we were given a more competitive choice in the form of today’s sustained AoE RJW.

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