The pre-patch festivities are in full swing for the arrival of World of Warcraft dragon flight (opens in new tab) expansion, and we will soon be able to fly over new lands and face new enemies. But I want you to forget all that, create a new character and go kill some wolves in Northshire. Even if you already have one of each class at maximum level. Seriously.
Let me explain: my favorite part of the pre-patch is the return of what I’ll call the “old school” talent system from now on, which players starting after Mists of Pandaria couldn’t experience until WoW Classic reminded everyone how much better it was then the system that replaced it. Each level you get a talent point that you can put in one of the two tall trees. Sometimes you unlock a small, passive improvement, such as an extra 2% chance of critical hits. Sometimes you get a new button that allows you to pull a horse from a pocket dimension and trample your enemies.
This is different from what I’ll call the “new school” talent system, which we’ve actually had since 2012 – making it a full decade old, the norm for most of WoW’s history, and not really new at all. I was never a fan of this newer, streamlined system with far fewer options. It tried to pare down all those small, incremental choices into bigger, more meaningful choices that came at every level.
The problem was that it took away a lot of the feeling of getting incrementally more powerful as you level up, especially now that most WoW world mobs have some degree of level scaling to keep up with your character in raw stats . Yes, high-end raiding and PvP mostly drew everyone to the same talent that was built up under the old school system. Yes, choosing between a 2% critical hit chance and a shorter cooldown on my pockethorse isn’t the most impactful, single choice. But those little choices add up. And I to feel like i get more big crits after taking that 2% crit talent. I am modifying my character little by little and making myself more powerful, in a specific way of my choosing, each level.
The only downside to returning to the old-fashioned talent system, though, is that you log into a max level character and get 50 talent points over your head from a giant bucket, forcing you to figure out what to do with it. them. If you just want to get right back to running high-quality content, you’re probably going to read a guide that tells you where to put them and how to use them. Like a bump. Yes, I said it. You are cheating yourself on the journey if you do that. And, more importantly, you’re cheating yourself of the very real, very important blessing of internalizing all these little pieces of your character’s gear one by one.
Back to basic
Therefore, you have to start over with no talent points, especially if you are a returning player. I’ve been playing a Retribution Paladin since 2004, but I rolled a brand new one anyway and tossed them into the same Kobold-infested valley where I started 18 years ago. I took my time and carefully and lovingly chose a new talent at each level based on what I liked best from the available options. While I haven’t followed this spec since Legion, it was very easy to figure out which buttons were now the core of my role and which were optional or situational. I never had to deal with learning more than one new button at a time. When I felt like I had enough buttons to worry about, I could just choose talents that don’t add more buttons.
I’m sure when I hit level 60 my build wasn’t optimized for Mythic raiding. But I felt a strong sense of ownership about it. I knew what each part of it did, through repetition and refinement. Each skill was right where it needed to be in my hotbar, with the skills I used more often taking precedence over keys one through six. I understood Dragonflight’s Retribution Paladin on a holistic, intuitive level, rather than trying to copy what I read further Wow (opens in new tab).
Zero to Hero
There’s never been a better time to play this way, either. I’ve also started a new Marksmanship Hunter and a new Fury Warrior, both specs I’ve gone through at least one full expansion cycle in the past. The new leveling curve which just rolled out allows you to progress from level one to level 60 in about eight to 12 hours while playing as a normal person. Determined speedrunners can do it less than four. If you’re playing in War mode (which allows for PvP almost anywhere, but gives you an experience bonus to compensate), take advantage of the 18th Birthday buff you’ll find in your mailbox until November 27, or if you want to help out basic baddies clearing during Dragonflight’s pre-patch Primal Storms event (which you can start at level 10), you’ll really be tearing through those experience bars.
Perhaps best of all, the Chromie Time feature now lets you level up from 10 to 60 in each expansion, so you never have to see the Shadowlands again. You could start two brand new characters from classes you’ve never played before and max them out on weekends if you have enough free time. Never before has there been so much harmony between reason and opportunity to start a new character.
WoW is a game that over the years has become more and more about the destination than the journey. I think that has generally been to his detriment. And yes, the ability to get a character to maximum level at warp speed contributes to this. But that doesn’t mean you can’t roll again and live in that sweet spot for a while, where the journey is what matters most and you build your character from buffoon to badass little by little, just the way you want to. After all, that’s the essence of a good RPG.
Weeks or months from now you’ll be staring at a series of maxed-out characters throwing themselves into higher Mythic key runs for the chance at some marginal stat boosts. And you may find yourself longing for the days of quests through Redridge and Silverpine, learning how to be a hero again. Enjoy it as much as you can while you can.