It's a case of life imitating art if patch 3.1 is anything to go by, in which shadow is undergoing the same tragic bloat.
In real terms, the test realm tree has actually shrunk by two points, but it has swapped a five-point talent (blackout) that nobody should raid with, for a three point talent (improved devouring plague) that everybody should take. If this makes it to live, it will mean a net gain of three talent points that we just don't have.
Now I'm not going to make too much of this, a shadow raiding build isn't a tricky thing, and we already drop points into talents that, in the general scheme of things, could be considered optional. All this means is we will be able to pick up fewer of these optional talents than before. My dilemma is which ones should we drop?
I'm starting from the assumption that this core build includes all the key talents for raiding — which only leaves three points to play with between the remaining options:
Shadow affinity (3 points) — some of you have already argued on this blog that you don't need the increased threat reduction from this talent. I personally would be very nervous to run without it, particularly on aoe trash. But that's your three spare points gone already.
Veiled shadows (2 points) — the lower cooldown on shadowfiend will give you at least two shots per boss but they're wasted points if you don't use it. I don't know how long the fights will be in Ulduar, but I'm loathe to take this talent unless I absolutely have to.
Improved vampiric embrace (2 points) — alas, vampiric embrace, I knew you so well. Changes to this spell in the Wrath expansion very nearly killed it; this extra squeeze on talent points is the final nail. In fights with regular, raid-wide damage, it's actually quite useful, but it will be very hard for anyone to justify these points now and without the improvement vampiric embrace is virtually worthless. Might as well take it off your hot bar.
Improved shadow form (2 points) — another one of those talents that you don't need until... erm... you need it. You don't often need pushback protection in current raids, but we know raid damage is only going to get worse. Possibly another one of those talents you should only take if you absolutely have to.
Admittedly, some of the talents I've classified as 'mandatory' in the core build could themselves be targets for shaving.
Talents that provide mana efficiency, such as meditation and focused mind, are worthless if you have the mana to last the fight without them. But would we? As raid fights get harder, and mana regeneration is squeezed, I'm not sure we would.
Is inner focus really worth the point? If you make the most of it, it's still only a few mp5. Would the mana return from veiled shadows be a better investment? Someone who can do maths tell me!
I'm also rather unimpressed by improved shadow word: pain — the spell has lost a lot of lustre in Wrath, and with the new devouring plague talent, three per cent per talent point is looking more and more like a very poor investment. In my last Naxx run, these two talent points combined accounted for less than one per cent of my overall damage. Can anyone say that's a bargain? I'm seriously considering dropping this talent in protest until Blizz does something to improve it. But I did say earlier that I'm feeling rather grumpy today, and may change my mind when I feel better.
What are the optional talents for you, and where will you be spending your points?