The Google Keyword Tool is SUPER helpful for building a foundation for your keyword research strategy. At the end of the day, these search numbers are coming straight from the horses mouth. You can filter down to a hyper-local level and see which keywords are getting the largest search volume. Plus, with it’s integration with PPC you can get a quick idea about commercial intent by looking at the bid and competition metrics. How much are people bidding on KWs, higher = more likely to generate a return. Usually its aligned with search intent. That said, the trending data is a little less reliable. I would still use Trends to analyze the popularity/ seasonality of KW search volume.
The keywords you want to focus your SEO on should closely resemble the vocabulary of your audience. In order to come up with the proper keywords you really have to get inside the heads of the people who search for your website. What terms will people use? How do people search? Which question does your website answer? You should create a list of all search terms people could use and think of combinations and nuances within these search terms.
I actually don't use any keyword tools aside from Google Trends, but only rarely do I even use that. I try to talk to many of our target audience members (entrepreneurs) as I can. I attend events, I have phone calls, I sit next to them while working. Generally speaking, I think it's a waste of time to START with keyword tools instead of actual customers. Yes, you can target people in broad swaths and get a high level sense for what's interesting and trending, but at least in the case of our business at NextView Ventures, it's way more powerful to talk to actual "customers" you serve.
One possible problem is that although the Keyword Planner has some cool new features (including integration of the Google Traffic Estimator, which will be retired too), as of this writing, the indispensable Exact Match and Phrase Match features are nowhere to be found! Whole books will become useless without these, so I hope Google will eventually port them to the Keyword Planner. Nor do you see the “Include specific content” option, which is a life-saver for the adult industry, which spends the most on Google PPC.