I’ll say this flat-out to start. I think people are seriously miscalculating the effectiveness of thp talents, and a large part of it is that everybody is getting hit. a lot. This isn’t a git gud call, this is being realistic and recognizing that with the justified dodge nerfs, pokes during hordes become more common. Getting speared by storms is more common. Blocking instead of spamming lmb is more common, and also does not award thp. Barkskin was run much more frequently than ever before.
Previously, cleave granted ridiculous amounts of thp during hordes and additionally afforded sustain throughout a map by resetting your thp decay on every ambient you came across. The only thp talents that surpassed it were crit/hs or stagger with a shield weapon. When they removed thp from single target attacks, I thought the balance was shifting back towards health management, and a core gameplay loop where having a full white bar was not the norm without additional investment. WHC thp on tag death was removed. Ult thp talents are gone. Bonus healing talents were mostly removed.
Strictly speaking, the slower you hit, the less thp you gain no matter which talent you take. Many classes actually gained attack speed steroids, and potent ones at that. Zealot has 20% permanent attack speed. WHC has 10% on tag for 15 seconds. BW gets attack speed for hitting 4 targets. The counterpoint to this is that the less time you spend attacking, the less thp you gain. Any time you’re evading the deadlier hordes, or blocking a stormvermin overhand that you could previously stagger through, you’re no longer gaining thp. Here I think is one of the more subtle effects of the stagger system, especially with respect to elite enemy attacks.
Anecdotally, I can confirm my findings (imagine that). Playing exe merc or hammer slayer I am regularly topped off from a glut of elites killed that my team seems unwilling or fearful to engage. BW fire sword (a spec I mained pre-WoM) takes about 10 seconds in a sea of slaves to generate a full bar. WHC and lmb spam are also great with hs/crit, and I’ve no doubt that the elf classes are fine with it as well. What I do notice is that I am getting hit an order of magnitude more times than I did pre-patch.
So, let’s talk about thp on cleave. In an ideal world, talent choices present opportunities for your spec to distinguish their role, as well as support a wide variety of playstyles. Thp on kill rewards dealing with elites. Thp on headshot rewards well placed attacks and supports weapons with good headshot angles. Previously, stagger was simply a cleave alternative that outperformed in hordes if you had a weapon that supported it (shields/bashes), and suffered against single targets or enemies you wouldn’t or couldn’t stagger (think bosses, or landing the push followup on sword and shield). Largely a non-choice. With the new stagger mechanic and emphasis on stagger weapons and specs, thp on stagger as a talent is more relevant but still has quite a bit of overlap with cleave—both excel in horde situations where you can repeatedly hit multiple targets. One of the problems here is that there’s not really a choice to be made for stagger or cleave, you simply pick the one that fits your weapon best. In the same way I would like to dissociate thp on hs from crit, because it simply comes down to a numeric choice: “Does my weapon or class have bonus crit?” I’m not sure what can be done to give stagger an identity. As of right now, you pick it when using a stagger weapon because the numbers on cleave suck. I think cleave has an easy route to take for giving it a stronger identity, and that’s to buff the thp gained for hitting 3/4/5 targets and remove thp gain on single targets. This would cement its purpose and power as a tool for wading fearlessly into a horde, and create a significant downside while dealing with ambients and bosses.