Your first talent points

For new players – and a lot of practiced ones as well – the first five talent points are a major milestone. But what to choose…. Today I’m going to look at the first tier, the advantages and disadvantages of each of your first layer of talents. There’ll be an occasional digression to give some structure to better understand why the (dis)advantage exists, but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum as this is going to be long even for me.

First, the two most commonly recommended.  Spirit Tap (in the Shadow tree) and Wand Specialization (over in Discipline).

Spirit Tap has 5 steps.  5/5 is: “Gives you a 100% chance to gain a 100% bonus to your Spirit after killing a target that yields experience or honor.  For the duration, your mana will regenerate at a 50% rate while casting.  Lasts 15 sec.”  To understand the use, we need to recall the 5 second rule.  Under normal circumstances, we regenerate 1/4 our spirit as mana every 3 seconds, starting 5 seconds after we last tapped our mana pool, and before the regen starts we get zero mana back.  When Spirit Tap is in progress, we generate a minimum of 1/8 of our spirit as mana every 3 seconds ALL THE TIME.  And if we’re past 5 seconds, we receive 1/2 our spirit as mana every three seconds.  The basic thing to keep in mind is that this means our grinding is faster.  We don’t have to spend as much time waiting (and drinking) between kills.  To put it more bluntly – with spirit tap, you will probably gain levels faster because you can go to the next kill sooner.

The other common recommendation for starters is Wand Specialization.  “Increases your damage with Wands by 25%.”  Look, I know I said to save money instead of spending it.  But if you haven’t got a wand by level 10, go to the AH and buy a Lesser Magic Wand.  At 11.3 dps it’s about half Smite’s damage but it uses zero mana.  What this talent will do, however, is increase 11.3 to 14.2 dps.  Which means you kill faster. Which means you level faster.    I know, 3 dps doesn’t sound like much.  Except… it is at your level.  And when you get a more powerful wand you get a better gain.  Using wands to finish your kills will put you in the regen window faster for your next attack (because wands don’t touch your mana pool).  This makes that weapon more effective.

Those are the two most commonly recommended choices, and both are chosen for the most obvious of reasons:  They’ll help you level faster by letting you kill things faster.  I said we’d look at all the choices, however.  Let’s start other choice in the Discipline tree – Unbreakable Will.

Unbreakable Will rank 5: “Increases your chance to resist Stun, Fear, and Silence effects by an additional 15%.”  If you are undead or a dwarf, Fear shouldn’t bother you.  For everyone else, however, it can be a killer.  And stun and silence are just as bad.  That said… until you’re level 20 you’re unlikely to experience any of these unless you PVP.  They won’t help your leveling particularly, especially at the first few levels.  This is a frequent choice for later builds, either with later points or during a respec (dumping talents and selecting anew).  But since for levels 10-14 (your first five points) it’s essentially zero benefit, it’s not recommended at this level.

Since we’ve already been in Shadow tree, let’s go there next.  And there we find the third most frequently selected ‘first talent’ – blackout.

Blackout Rank 5: “Gives your Shadow damage spells a 10% chance to stun the target for 3 sec.”  With 10% chance you’ll see this every 3d to 5th fight depending on PVP or PVE and your casting style.  Note, please, that a wand that does shadow damage will not cause this to go off (proc).  Only spells that tap your mana poll will trigger it.  That said, 3 seconds can be life or death.  A stunned target can’t run.  Any spell it was casting is stopped and has to be restarted.  It can’t defend itself or resist.  It is, for three seconds, a free and easy target.  Yum.  Stunned things die faster — and don’t damage you as much — which lets you gain levels faster.  Just not as fast as Spirit Tap or Wand Spec.  This spec is more frequently chosen when a lot of PVP is expected.  It’s also popular as a later build selection.

That leave the three talents in the holy tree – Healing Focus, Improved Renew, and Holy Specialization.  Let me start by mentioning the common fact of all three spells – they are near worthless for improving your leveling solo (with a caveat for Holy Spec), but if you’re going to group constantly these should be strongly considered.  The reason so many players go for the Spirit Tap or the Wand spec first is that most players don’t get to group till they start running instances – and those don’t happen till you’re into your second group of five at the earliest.  If you’ve gotten so lucky as to be constantly teamed with a partner from the start, however… let’s look at the holy tree.

I’ll start with the one holy talent that can be useful for solo leveling.  Holy Specialization.  At rank 5: “Increases the critical effect chance of your Holy spells by 5%.”  Over time, this will increase your DPS from Smite and Holy Fire by about 2.5%.  This isn’t a lot when compared to the Wand Spec.  But it also applies to your healing spells, and a 2.5% increase to your overall healing is USEFUL – if you’re in a party.

But if you’re in a party consistently at this level, you’ll probably get more benefit from the other two talents in the holy tree.  I’ll note that usually if either is chosen, both are chosen.  The reason is that the max rank of Healing Focus is 2, while Improved Renew caps at 3 — conveniently, 5 talent points (opening the next tier for your sixth point).

Healing Focus Rank 2: “Gives you a 70% chance to avoid interruption caused by damage while casting any healing spell.”  If you haven’t discovered it yet you will – getting hit interrupts your spell, making it take longer to cast.  The perfect tank will keep you from getting hit as they “pull aggro”.  Unfortunately, at these levels the tank’s aggro-pulling talents are as short as your healing or damage talents.  You WILL get hit, you WILL get interrupted.  If you’re grouping constantly at these levels, choosing this talent will make you a healing god because you get your heals off ON TIME.  You will experience the frustration of a wipe due to the tank dying while your heal is “on the way” far, far less.

The other half of this typical pair, improved renew rank 3, reads: “Increases the amount healed by your Renew spell by 15%.”  Renew is a heal-priests most important worktool.  Its presence gives the priest a breather – a chance to see what’s needed; to pause and drink of the 5SR.  It’s a fire-and-forget spell that you can toss instantly to other party members and return concentration to the tank.  With this talent, the renew you have at level 14 does almost as much (115 health) as the Heal spell you have (Lesser Heal 4, 135-157), and do it for 85% as much mana.

But if you’re going to spend most of your leveling time solo, the party-aid talents — the holy tree talents — are a waste.

Consider your circumstances, consider how you expect to play, and choose.  Choose first for fun, of course.  But if you just don’t know, now you know what’s generally recommended and why.  Have fun.


~ by Kirk on August 15, 2007.

2 Responses to “Your first talent points”

  1. Good post; summarizes the first tier nicely. I’d like to add a couple of points, however. When picking your first talents you DO need to check the second tier (is that analysis in the works?); whatever choices you make from 11-15 will put the second tier talents in other trees out of reach for at least another 5 levels, so it’s worth bearing the next step in mind. The logic still follows, however: if you’re lucky enough to know what style you’ll be playing, there’s obvious choices in holy and shadow (Divine Fury, for cast time, and certainly SW:p for grinding). For disc, I think the choices are less immediately appealing unless you’re on a pvp server. I also think it’s worth stating if this is your first on-line game, or even your first healer character, and you are planning to do any instances at all, renew should be an early choice. A lot of people say it is perfectly possible to heal all the way to 60 as a shadow priest, but, running pick up groups and new to healing myself, I felt I needed all the help I could get. It’s rude to inflict your learning curve on complete strangers, after all.

    As a case study, I knew I would be doing a fairly even mix of soloing and instances. I went for spirit tap first – first character, no money, didn’t want to be buying endless mana regen drinks – then took renew and healing focus to help my instance healing; after that I think it was sw:p and the improved heals speeds, and followed up with wands. After that, I went – and have pretty much stayed – disc with a gradual move toward holy.

    One final point is that respeccing is cumulatively expensive – if you think you’ve made a mistake in the early levels, correct it, but be more careful next time. I’ve respecced four times – twice to correct mistakes and twice, at level 39, (once in and once out) to experiment with the pvp talents. Now at level 59, I’m considering repseccing again, and the cost is negligible compared to my bank balance.

    Just my additional comments. As I say the post is solid advice, and I can assure you it is NOT obligatory to spec shadow if you don’t want to. And, Kirk, I’m heading towards the end game myself; would appreciate seeing your thoughts on viable 60-70 builds & levelling/gear goals.

  2. Actually, I wrote this with the absolute beginner in mind. And for them, looking at tier 2/3/… is, well, almost unreal. I’m also aware that almost every player respecs at least once on the way up — most more than that (though I’m really unusual as I do it a lot. As in, I quit counting after 10.)

    I have to respond to one point: “It’s rude to inflict your learning curve on complete strangers, after all.” Bah. Your entire PLAY is a learning curve. And others are doing the same — “Wait, I can use POISONS?” “My pet can do WHAT?!” “ooohhh, fireworks…” I would rather you LEARNED – tried various things to find YOUR best fit – than stick rigidly with what you THOUGHT was right, in theory, back when you were level 5.

    Beyond those points, excellent comments. And see upcoming posts re your questions…

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