There are three types of talents. Talents that buff only you and your performance, talents that buff only somebody else and their performance, and talents that do both.
Take Improved Fireball. This talent only improves your own performance, having zero effect on anyone else.
Improved Scorch, on the other hand, provides a very powerful buff to everyone else. The mage does benefit from the debuff, too, but there isn’t anything about the talent that is pure selfishness. In fact, it actually lowers the mage’s DPS to keep the debuff up.
Focus Magic is something in the middle. The buffee gets a 3% crit boost, and so does the buffer.
There have been and still are many buffs that are selfless in nature, but most of them have quietly evolved to have a selfish portion to them anyways.
Improved Mark of the Wild, for instance. The talent used to increase the strength of Mark of the Wild. While this did provide a little bit of a buff for the druid, the talent’s main purpose was to buff everyone else. Now, in addition to boosting the effect of MotW, it will also give the druid a permanent 1/2% boost to all of their stats.
Selfish and selfless.
Another example is Hunting Party. As it is on the live servers, it allows the hunter to provide the Replenishment buff to their allies. Again, this has a little buff for the hunter (they can use Replenishment), but also again, the talent’s primary purpose is to assist others.
On the PTR, the talent is being changed to boost the hunter’s agility, in addition to providing the Replenishment buff.
Selfish and selfless.
Enduring Winter currently functions the same way. In addition to providing Replenishment, it boosts the mage’s elemental’s uptime, thus producing higher DPS.
Of those three types of talents, the type that buffs up others is being phased completely. The goal seems to be that Blizzard is aiming to have the talents arranged in such a way that the player isn’t gimping themselves to gain a selfless talent that provides nothing for themselves.
Top DPS Survival hunters, for instance, took zero points in Hunting Party as it only provided for others, and never themselves. With the talent points they saved, they could then invest them in further DPS talents.
In other words, these players could sacrifice some DPS to gain some utility, or screw the utility for superior damage output.
What started to happen in high end raids was apparently enough to cause consternation at Blizzard.
Take a raid with three Survival hunters. One of them needs to have Replenishment, but only one of them. Therefore, the other two would be able to skip the talent entirely, pick up other DPS talents and have better DPS because of it.
Meanwhile, whichever poor sod drew the short stick gets relegated to a subpar position on the damage meter because of the utility talent.
High end mages have always had a similar issue. If there are three fire mages in a raid, only one of them will use Scorch. Indeed, only one of them need ever spend three talent points on Imp. Scorch.
The others are free to spend talent points elsewhere to increase their personal DPS, and because they never have to cast Scorch, their DPS will always be better than the poor guy who has to keep Scorching.
So the master plan is to add a selfish component to every selfless talent. A SV hunter who invests points in Hunting Party will also receive a 1% boost to their Agility every rank. It isn’t much, but it’s something so that they aren’t completely screwing themselves on the damage meters.
All this is basically a round-a-bout way of saying that utility is rapidly becoming an excuse for less damage, not a reason. Blizzard themselves even stated this, repeatedly, during LK development.
Why is it still a DPS loss to use Scorch? Why does Improved Scorch continue to offer the mage nothing? Why does Winter’s Chill continue to offer the mage nothing?
Sort of related, why does the arcane tree not have a way to offer the crit debuff?
Arcane is the most selfish tree in the game. It relies extremely heavily on outside buffs, offering basically nothing in return. It can offer 3% crit to one other caster, and even that is just a clever ploy to give the mage even more crit.
There really isn’t such a thing as a clearcut utility class anymore. There are still distinctions between tank/healer/DPS, but the line between a utility class and a pure class has all but disappeared.
To look at it pragmatically, mages have always offered their raids/parties out of combat mana regeneration and transportation at the end.
More recently, mages offered one of the most powerful offensive caster debuffs in the game, and mages even offer Replenishment now.
Like it or not, mages are a utility class, just like everyone else.
So where’s the utility for arcane?