When World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria is released all the classes will get a brand new talent system to deal with. The new talent system 2.0 is vastly different than the old system and greatly simplified. For a complete look at the new system check out the preview article here: WoW Talent System System Overhaul - Mists of Pandaria and Talent System 2.0.
This article however looks at the brand new hunter talent tree to see if each choice that you can make provides a greater impact on your character than the old system provided. After all while the old talent system has plenty of points to allocate, most of them are locked into preset talents for best effect and there are few real choices to make. Therefore let's look at the new system and see if there are some real choices for hunters.
You can look at the new talents for Druids on the Mists of Pandaria Hunter Talent Calculator over on Blizzard's site.
Mists of Pandaria Hunter Talent Tree: Tier 1
The first tier in the new hunter talent tree is all about your ammunition. There are three very different and useful ammunition types available to you. The first is Frozen Arrows, which grant your auto shot a chance to slow enemies for a brief time. Next up Arcane Arrows which allow your auto shot a chance to restore some focus. Lastly Venom Tipped Arrows place a stacking DOT on the target.
All three are extremely useful in different situations. I can frozen arrows being great option in PVP since any slowing effect is a bonus when trying to avoid your enemies. Arcane and venom tipped arrows are both more of a PVE ability to me, although they would work in PVP as well. It is hard to judge between the two just yet which is better as there is no damage amount specified for the venom tipped arrows. Extra focus means extra specialty shots and damage, so it will really come down to which provides more overall DPS and which set bonuses you have at the time. Arcane arrows would require more management of your shots, while venom tipped allows you to use your normal rotation and just grants some straight extra damage. Like I said, all really nice abilities.
Mists of Pandaria Hunter Talent Tree: Tier 2
The second tier is all about old talent tree special abilities. It has the Silencing Shot, Wyvern Sting, and Intimidation abilites that used to reside in each of the hunters three different talent trees. All remain the same as they were before and all are very useful.
Silencing shot and Wyvern Sting are both all around great abilities in either PVP or PVE, my preferance is silencing in PVE and wyvern for PVP, but both work in different situations as well. Intimidation is great for hunters that rely on their pets and is probably the best choice while you are leveling up, however once you hit max level it loses it's appeal dramatically. At max level the game is about PVP, PVE (instances and raids) and not about solo content.
Mists of Pandaria Hunter Talent Tree: Tier 3
This tier is about improving your Disengage ability. There are three options here, first up is Posthaste which grants you a 60% movement increase for 4 seconds after a disengage. Next there is Evasiveness which grants a 100% chance to dodge and to avoid spells for 4 seconds. Lastly, and best of the lot in my opinion is Exhilaration, which heals you for 15% of your health after a disengage.
Don't get me wrong, I like all three and they all have thier uses, but to me exhilaration tops them hands down. In PVP any self heal is massive, and in PVE I mainly use Exhilaration to get out of AOE or splash damage where a self heal would help out the healers save mana. Posthaste is good too as it allows you to leap away and then reposition more quickly, which could be great in PVP, but not so much for PVE when you generally leap back and then plant and shoot from there. Evasivness is almost entirely for PVP since if you are being hit and focused on in PVE you are already doing something wrong.
Mists of Pandaria Hunter Talent Tree: Tier 4
Tier four is about avoiding damage or regenerating damage. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Chimera is the same as it was before, allowing your cooldowns for deterance and disengage to shorten when you are hit. Aspect of the Iron Hawk is new and grants you you a 15% reduction to direct damage when your aspect of the hawk is up. Lastly Spirit Bond which is the same as it was before, regenerating your health and your pets health passively.
All three are useful in PVP but I would take either CTHC or AotIH for PVP depending on your play style. CTHC is a very active ability that probably allows you to take far less damage over time, but is something you have to actively use. AotIH is completely passive and you can just go about your normal game and it will protect you. Neither adds much to PVE though as you should not be hit most of the time. My choice for PVE would be spirit bond as it would allow you to regenerate health inbetween fights instead of having to eat or have a healer top you up.
Mists of Pandaria Hunter Talent Tree: Tier 5
This tier is about some control over your focus and abilities. First up is Fervor which instantly restores 50 focus on a 2 minute cooldown. Next up is Readiness which refreshes all of your cooldowns and is on a 3 minute cooldown. Lastly Thrill of the Hunt which gives each shot that uses focus a 15% chance to refund its full cost.
To me there are really only two choices in this tier, as fervor seems rather weak. Thrill of the hunt seems the best for focus regeneration as you will be using many shots over the course of a two minute period. The overall focus you get back will be much more than the 50 focuse every 2 minutes from Fevor. Even if all you did was 1/2 the time use steady shot to regenerate focus and 1/2 the time use arcane shot to burn focus. That means roughly 40 arcane shots every 2 minutes which would mean 6 of them would refund thier focus cost. That means roughly 150 focus back every 2 minutes. I think the math speaks for itself.
Readiness is awesome for PVP so that you cna get all of your escapes, traps, and shots back when you really need them.
Mists of Pandaria Hunter Talent Tree: Tier 6
The final tier is all about control over your enemies, and there are some really nice choices here. Flash Freeze removes the cooldown from your icetrap, although still only one target can be trapped at a time. Black Ice slows enemies in your frost trap even more, and boosts your movement through it. Transmorph Trap is brand new and gives you the equivelent of a mages polymorph spell.
For PVP flash freeze and black ice are the best and really are a toss up. Flash freeze would allow you to constantly have someone in ice, and just rotate through targets as they become viable. Black ice allows you to kite and control players (or pets) even better than you could before. Which one is better is really up to your play style.
Transmorph trap is the PVE choice as it provides a secondary control ability. Rarely has a skilled hunter ever had to worry about not having an ice trap ready in time to re-use it in PVE situations, but sometimes you just really want two things controlled. This would let you do just that, and could be extremely valuable in groups, raids, or even soloing, and is therefore my PVE choice.
Mists of Pandaria Hunter Talent Tree: More or Less Choice?
I've looked in-depth at three different Mists of Pandaria talent trees now, and the Hunter is my favourite so far. It offers some real choices that are all good exciting abilities that while they have the potential to be powerful are not significantly better than anything else on thier tier.
Sure there are some that I feel are better and obvious choices, but that is due to the way I play. I can see the value in many of the other talents even if personally I would not use them. The one exception here is in the fifth tier, I think that Fervor is pretty weak for a 2 minute cooldown. It really should just completely refill your focus, then it would be a tossup between it and thrill of the hunt to me.
The new talent system for hunters successfully pulls many of the old talents in to be used by any spec, as well as adds a number of new and different abilities. I can see several builds that I would like to play in both PVP and PVE situations and for that reason I believe that this new tree does in fact offer fewer choices, but they are much better and more important choices.