This is really long, so I do apologise and have added a TL;DR at the bottom
Let’s start with all the positives (spoilers, there’s a lot):
First of all, the Class tree:
I assume that the philosophy here was that the 3 specs are all going in extremely different directions, so the spec trees are more about specializing your throughput and therefore those points are more of a premium, ergo less room for throughput on the tree. I agree with this almost entirely, and for a first pass it’s almost dead on, I’m genuinely not sure there’s anything I’d change significantly. There are a few minor things that could maybe sneak into the spec tree to make a little bit more conflict on the class tree, but honestly given it would start pulling from utility I’m undecided on if that’s even a worthwhile experiment.
The tree is structured incredibly well, with pathways subtly encouraged that opens up a huge range of options to tailor your non performance based utility, and this works great. The sheer wealth of options, mix/matching going on and freedom to create a swiss army knife of niche utility, rather than being railroaded into certain routes is excellent. This design is almost flawless.
The Spec tree:
I’m a big fan of the structure here too, things are segmented both thematically and with some good through-path nodes to get anywhere you want to mix and match. That the opening is more railroaded to open that, and the bottom is so desirable makes the central section the puzzle to solve of “what do I want, and how do I get there comfortably” alongside “how much do I want something, and am I willing to give something else up”. This is extremely close to a perfect iteration of conflict in the tree that makes things genuinely appealing where you’re just shy of enough points to get everything, and that friction is extremely engaging.
It also has some great interlinking synergy between what I’d consider the 3 pillars for Enh gameplay in alpha - those being GCD efficiency, Maelstrom Generation/expenditure, and DPS CD profiles. There is a legitimate question with certain choices as to whether they align with each other for windows, do I have enough Maelstrom to sustain it, and do I have enough GCDs to execute it elegantly. These three points pulling and pushing against each other opens up a lot of interesting questions, and not only do I think it’s been achieved on the tree structurally; I love it.
And, the negatives (spoilers, there’s not many and they’re specific):
Call of the Elements: it’s alright but it’s a little too niche perhaps unless you use Wind Rush. I understand that not everything has to be super appealing here, but that’s one of the ones I have the hardest time finding a want for. The follow-up is even worse here. This is a minor gripe.
Surging Shields: this is a minor gripe again, but it feels like it could be a conflicting throughput option if we had a more engaging way to activate Lightning Shield (think something like old Static Shock?), but this is more a philosophical point than anything else, because more throughput in class means less room for utility.
GCD requirements of utility totems: from a personal PoV, dropping buff totems is fine if they’re long duration, but the lower duration, lower CD maintenance things (such as Stoneskin) start to get in the way of actual gameplay and don’t feel that impactful. I want to be clear I don’t dislike the idea of maintenance totems or even party buffs here; but some way of condensing the GCD or dropping multiple totems at once here (a la WotLK and up) might be nice. In a world where you could potentially have 3-4 maintenance level clashing utility tools (mana spring, healing stream, stoneskin, windfury) that’s a lot of globals that are directly getting in the way of playing your spec.
Hex placement: this is another minor personal gripe, but I feel like flipping Hex and Purge might be a little more elegant just by virtue of both how iconic Purge is, and how rarely useful Hex is. This keeps it accessible, but through other more flexible utility, and also easily fits into the tree spacing by adjusting the placement of the Hex upgrade one node down.
One thing I’ve noticed in a few discussions and even in here, is that the P.Wave + Ascendance sides are opposite to where they “belong”. While it is a simple fix to swap them, I genuinely like the idea of cross pathing to “build your rotation” here, and I think it could potentially be fixed in a more interesting way by looking at the pass through gates rather than just flipping them and making everything more linear and vertical:
Gathering Storms: This is my one glaring issue on the tree from a mechanical perspective. Tuning aside (obviously), it’s placement blockades something that a Lava Lash style would want to get to, but improves a button it never really wants to press - while on the other hand also not really enhancing the style SS or Maelstrom heavy build would do very much either. Personally, some way of retooling this to make CL an appealing press in AoE for one build (SS), and ST for the other (LL) might work out well. This would create a build-your-priority friction depending on how busy your GCD currently is/fight style where you have 4 options:
– Lava Lash + Crash Lightning focus
– Stormstrike + Crash Lightning focus
– Stormstrike + Lava Lash focus
– A mix-and-match (but not fully fleshed out!) of all 3
As it stands right now, Gathering Storms feels a lot like two points that will likely be avoided because it doesn’t mechanically do very much and gets in the way of what most of the other options aim to do.
Second points of Elemental Assault/Frost Witch: These are dangerously close to trap points because of how much value is weighted to the first point, with the second being low impact. These feel better suited as either single pointers, or mechanical improvements to their effect per point rather than the Stormstrike damage amps.
Hot Hand Placement (and possibly design): In a similar vein to Gathering Storms, while I understand tax points this goes against the purpose of pathing from Stormstrike; without support talents for Lash and with the other things it can be paired with (and especially where it leads), it could be placed better. A common suggestion would be flipping it with Elemental Weapons, which I agree with. I would also really like a second look at the way the ability works both with the proc rate, and how punishing it can be in play with only one charge of Lava Lash.
Ice Strike and Swirling Maelstrom: I think these could stand to be flipped to start with, it’s strange to have an upgrade to Fire Nova that paths through Ice Strike that has massive interaction with Hailstorm, but not Nova. It’s a hard sell to have it affect both, but moving these gives better access to Nova, and since the dependency is missing maybe bringing back something similar to the Chilled to the Core Conduit (but also working in some variable way with Nova) might suit better here. (P.S. I love the new Ice Strike)
(Linked to above) - Right Side Ascendance link: With the above two in mind, cutting the link from Ice Strike to Ascendance (and making Ice Strike a dead end), and moving the link to Stormflurry → Ascendance fits both thematically and opens up more elegant routing from the Left.
Doom Winds: This is a cool button I’m glad is back on its own, but with short duration high conditional reqs it being OGCD would be nice (its hard to tell intent because it’s not implemented though). The trigger chance is a little odd, and I think there might need to be a little consideration toward it impacting the Mastery situation like SL, either via it scaling the proc chance with it or the amp improving via it with a similar conversion that Improved Stormbringer uses.
A rough and ready visualization of this is here - this keeps easy access to Windfury Totem for obvious reasons but vastly spreads out pathing and appeal in the centre block:
Finally, the vague maybe this could be the cherry on top points:
These are more things that could just round out the tree in general and solidify every path as an engaging choice and combination:
Ascendance (and DRE): I think this could absolutely stand to have the same choice node Elemental has, picking between on demand burst or infrequent shorter burst windows - given how impactful the tail end picks are I could see a use case for both and this option is very engaging. This also serves to remove a needed keybind for those who have pathed through a lot of active abilities and might feel overwhelmed.
Improved Chain Lightning: This is a cornerstone of SL gameplay and I like it a lot, one thing that I don’t like is that the Lava Lash playstyle frequently gains no use out of it because it avoids pressing it in lieu of just maintaining the buff. Perhaps a choice here to pick between CDR or a way extend the buff duration either passively or actively when GCDs start to clash with certain ability combinations would be interesting.
Lashing Flames: I’m adding this solely because of people asking me to voice it, but it being missing is a surprise because if capped off a playstyle in SL. I appreciate Primal Primer pseudo-recreates the tab-targetting Lava Lash, but the Splintered Elements link is cut here. This seems like a potential option to place on the tree somewhere (or some Flame Shock related interaction in general).
Fire Nova Target Cap: I understand there’s a lot of issues with Combat Log events and flood, and the PWave link so uncapping number of Flame Shocks is out of the question. I would like turning each Nova into uncapped versions to help solidify it as the uncapped AoE vs. Hailstorm’s capped though.
Elemental Spirits RNG: I know, beating a dead horse but there’s frustration over the lack of control of what spawns from this and how wildly the value varies. I like the concept and the aesthetics 100%, it’s just a common pain point that might be worth a little tweaking or adding a little control to is all.
The Keybind Situation
The tree aside, this is one concern that is cropping up more and more from some players and I can see where the concern is coming from - there is a potential for an overwhelming amount of keybinds needed.
This is less something I immediately feel when playing the Alpha, but it is something to keep in mind since so many things are individual active buttons with relatively low cooldowns. As an example there’s the potential for us to have 4 separate offensive Maelstrom Weapon spenders (Lightning Bolt/Chain Lightning/Lava Burst/Elemental Blast) that all have their place. Combine this with strikes, that’s a whole lot of individual rotational keybinds to juggle.
Since this is really long and probably a bit much, a quick TL;DR:
Talent tree is really, really good but some minor placement tweaks could perfect it while keeping conflict intact. Gathering Storms is the one talent that feels like it doesn’t fit. A few old staple talents could do with a little tweaking to fit in this system, but by and large it’s mostly a slam dunk.