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July 7th update Edit

Blizz
Cataclysm Class & Mastery Systems Update | 2010-07-07 15:58 | Zarhym
When we first announced our design goals for class talent trees back at BlizzCon 2009, one of our major stated focuses was to remove some of the boring and "mandatory" passive talents. We mentioned that we wanted talent choices to feel more flavorful and fun, yet more meaningful at the same time. Recently, we had our fansites release information on work-in-progress talent tree previews for druids, priests, shaman, and rogues. From those previews and via alpha test feedback, a primary response we heard was that these trees didn’t incorporate the original design goals discussed at BlizzCon. This response echoes something we have been feeling internally for some time, namely that the talent tree system has not aged well since we first increased the level cap beyond level 60. In an upcoming beta build, we will unveil bold overhauls of all 30 talent trees.
Talent Tree Vision

One of the basic tenets of Blizzard game design is that of “concentrated coolness.” We’d rather have a simpler design with a lot of depth, than a complicated but shallow design. The goal for Cataclysm remains to remove a lot of the passive (or lame) talents, but we don’t think that’s possible with the current tree size. To resolve this, we're reducing each tree to 31-point talents. With this reduction in tree size we need to make sure they're being purchased along a similar leveling curve, and therefore will also be reducing the number of total talent points and the speed at which they're awarded during the leveling process.

As a result, we can keep the unique talents in each tree, particularly those which provide new spells, abilities or mechanics. We’ll still have room for extra flavorful talents and room for player customization, but we can trim a great deal of fat from each tree. The idea isn’t to give players fewer choices, but to make those choices feel more meaningful. Your rotations won’t change and you won’t lose any cool talents. What will change are all of the filler talents you had to pick up to get to the next fun talent, as well as most talents that required 5 of your hard-earned points.

We are also taking a hard look at many of the mandatory PvP talents, such as spell pushback or mechanic duration reductions. While there will always be PvP vs. PvE builds, we’d like for the difference to be less extreme, so that players don’t feel like they necessarily need to spend their second talent specialization on a PvP build.

The Rise of Specialization

We want to focus the talent trees towards your chosen style of gameplay right away. That first point you spend in a tree should be very meaningful. If you choose Enhancement, we want you to feel like an Enhancement shaman right away, not thirty talent points later. When talent trees are unlocked at level 10, you will be asked to choose your specialization (e.g. whether you want to be an Arms, Fury or Protection warrior) before spending that first point. Making this choice comes with certain benefits, including whatever passive bonuses you need to be effective in that role, and a signature ability that used to be buried deeper in the talent trees. These abilities and bonuses are only available by specializing in a specific tree. Each tree awards its own unique active ability and passives when chosen. The passive bonuses range from flat percentage increases, like a 20% increase to Fire damage for Fire mages or spell range increases for casters, to more interesting passives such as the passive rage regeneration of the former Anger Management talent for Arms warriors, Dual-Wield Specialization for Fury warriors and Combat rogues, or the ability to dual-wield itself for Enhancement shaman.

The initial talent tree selection unlocks active abilities that are core to the chosen role. Our goal is to choose abilities that let the specializations come into their own much earlier than was possible when a specialization-defining talent had to be buried deep enough that other talent trees couldn’t access them. For example, having Lava Lash and Dual-Wield right away lets an Enhancement shaman feel like an Enhancement shaman. Other role-defining examples of abilities players can now get for free at level 10 include Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst, Shield Slam, Mutilate, Shadow Step, Thunderstorm, Earth Shield, Water Elemental, and Penance.

Getting Down to the Grit

Talent trees will have around 20 unique talents instead of today's (roughly) 30 talents, and aesthetically will look a bit more like the original World of Warcraft talent trees. The 31-point talents will generally be the same as the 51-point talents we already had planned for Cataclysm. A lot of the boring or extremely specialized talents have been removed, but we don't want to remove anything that’s going to affect spell/ability rotations. We want to keep overall damage, healing, and survivability roughly the same while providing a lot of the passive bonuses for free based on your specialization choice.

While leveling, you will get 1 talent point about every 2 levels (41 points total at level 85). Our goal is to alternate between gaining a new class spell or ability and gaining a talent point with each level. As another significant change, you will not be able to put points into a different talent tree until you have dedicated 31 talent points to your primary specialization. While leveling, this will be possible at 70. Picking a talent specialization should feel important. To that end, we want to make sure new players understand the significance of reaching the bottom of their specialization tree before gaining the option of spending points in the other trees. We intend to make sure dual-specialization and re-talenting function exactly as they do today so players do not feel locked into their specialization choice.

A True Mastery

The original passive Mastery bonuses players were to receive according to how they spent points in each tree are being replaced by the automatic passive bonuses earned when a tree specialization is chosen. These passives are flat percentages and we no longer intend for them to scale with the number of talent points spent. The Mastery bonus that was unique to each tree will now be derived from the Mastery stat, found on high-level items, and Mastery will be a passive skill learned from class trainers around level 75. In most cases, the Mastery stats will be the same as the tree-unique bonuses we announced earlier this year. These stats can be improved by stacking Mastery Rating found on high-level items.

To Recap

When players reach level 10, they are presented with basic information on the three specializations within their class and are asked to choose one. Then they spend their talent point. The other trees darken and are unavailable until 31 points are spent in the chosen tree. The character is awarded an active ability, and one or more passive bonuses unique to the tree they've chosen. As they gain levels, they'll alternate between receiving a talent point and gaining new skills. They'll have a 31-point tree to work down, with each talent being more integral and exciting than they have been in the past. Once they spend their 31'st point in the final talent (at level 70), the other trees open up and become available to allocate points into from then on. As characters move into the level 78+ areas in Cataclysm, they'll begin seeing items with a new stat, Mastery. Once they learn the Mastery skill from their class trainer they'll receive bonuses from the stat based on the tree they've specialized in.

We understand that these are significant changes and we still have details to solidify. We feel, however, that these changes better fulfill our original class design goals for Cataclysm, and we're confident that they will make for a better gameplay experience. Your constructive feedback is welcomed and appreciated.

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Passive talent tree bonusesEdit

Icon-time This section concerns content that is out-of-date. Reason: Needs update for Patch 5.0.4 and later.

Blizzcon 2009 examplesEdit

Blizzard has used Armor Penetration as an example at the 2009 BlizzCon to explain this system. In a slide presentation, they showed two specific examples to demonstrate. For a Combat rogue specced 15/51/5 with an unknown Mastery stat, he received the following bonuses from the Mastery System: [1]

  • Assassination (15 talent point): +10% Melee Damage, +2% Melee Crit, +5% Poison Damage
  • Combat (51 talent points): +72% Melee Damage, +5% Melee Hit, +10% Armor Penetration
  • Subtlety (5 talent points): +4% Melee Damage, +1% Melee Haste, +0.5% Energy Regeneration

Armor penetration is green, which may indicate that it is modified by the mastery stat.

The second example was a Retribution paladin specced 0/13/58 with 20 Mastery, with the following bonuses:

  • Holy (0 talent points): +0% Healing, +0% Spell Crit, +0% Crit Heal
  • Protection (13 talent points): +3% Damage Taken (probably a typo), +3% Health, +2% Block Amount
  • Retribution (58 talent points): +75% Melee Damage, +10% Melee Crit, -12% ability cooldown

Ability cooldown is green. The tooltip for the Mastery stat in the stats panel says "Ability Cooldown: -12%".

Eyonix, a Blizzard employee, gave a more detailed breakdown of the Mastery stat on the WoW forums:

Blizz
Mastery System Preview | 2010-03-09 02:07 | Eyonix
Last week, we gave you an early look at the changes we’re making to the stat system in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, and explained how these changes will ultimately provide players with more interesting gear choices and make stats easier to understand. Today we’d like to go into more detail about a brand-new feature that’s an integral part of this overhaul: the Mastery system, a set of new game mechanics designed to allow players to become better at what makes their chosen talent tree cool or unique. With this system, we want to accomplish three things: give players more freedom in how they allocate talent points, simplify some of the “kitchen sinky” talents that try to do too much at once, and add a new stat to high-level gear that makes you better at your chosen role.

Here’s how the system works: As you spend points in a given talent tree, you’ll receive three different passive bonuses specific to that tree. The first bonus will increase your damage, healing, or survivability, depending on the intended role of the tree. The second bonus will be related to a stat commonly found on gear desirable to you, such as Haste or Crit. The third bonus will be the most interesting, as it will provide an effect completely unique to that tree -- meaning there will be 30 different bonuses of this nature in the game. This third bonus is the one that will benefit from the Mastery rating found on high-level (level 80 to 85) gear.

One of our primary goals with Mastery is to give players more flexibility to choose fun or utility-oriented talents rather than make them feel obligated to pick up “mandatory” but uninteresting talents, such as passive damage or healing. (For examples of the kinds of powerful but boring talents we’re talking about, take a look at the talent tier just above the 51-point talent in many of the existing trees.) In a sense, Mastery makes it so every talent in (just for example) a rogue tree essentially has an invisible additional bullet point that says “…and increases your damage by X%.” This way, if you choose a talent like Elusiveness (which reduces your chance to be detected while stealthed) or Fleet Footed (which affects movement), you won’t feel like you’re giving up damage in exchange for utility.

There will still be talents that boost damage, of course, but those talents will also affect the way you play. For example, you can still expect to see talents like Improved Frostbolt, which reduces the cast time of the Frostbolt spell; it increases DPS, but it also affects the mage’s rotation. Piercing Ice, however, is just “6% more damage” and is the kind of talent we’re trying to eliminate by implementing the Mastery system.

As we get closer to Cataclysm’s release, we’ll go into more detail about the changes coming for each class, including individual talent-tree adjustments and how Mastery will affect them. In the meantime, here are a few examples to demonstrate the three kinds of passive bonuses we described above. Please keep in mind that we're still working on this system, and the handful of examples we're providing here are, of course, subject to change.

Holy Priest

For each talent point spent in the Holy tree, the priest also gets:

  • Healing – Improves your healing by X%.
  • Meditation – Improves your mana regeneration from Spirit in combat. This would likely replace the existing Meditation talent from the Discipline tree, which many Holy priests consider to be a “must-have.” Regeneration will also probably be determined by whether you are in or out of combat, and not the “five-second rule.”
  • Radiance – Adds a heal-over-time effect to direct heals, such as Flash Heal. Mastery on gear would boost this bonus, and no other talent tree would grant it.


Discipline Priest

For each talent point spent in the Discipline tree, the priest also gets:

  • Healing – Improves your healing by X%.
  • Meditation – Improves your mana regeneration from Spirit in combat. This would likely replace the existing Meditation talent.
  • Absorption – Improves the amount of damage absorbed by spells such as Power Word: Shield and Divine Aegis. Mastery on gear would boost this bonus, and no other talent tree would grant it.


Frost Death Knight

For each talent point spent in the Frost tree, the death knight also gets:

  • Damage – Improves your melee and spell damage by X%.
  • Haste – Improves your melee Haste by Y%. This might allow us to remove some of the Haste in the Icy Talons line of talents.
  • Runic Power – Improves the rate of runic power generated by abilities. While all death knights want runic power, Frost death knights would generally have more runic power than Blood or Unholy death knights (who would receive a different benefit from their respective trees). An Unholy death knight who sub-specs into Frost would still be able to benefit from this bonus, though because they’re investing fewer talent points, they’d benefit to a smaller degree. Mastery on gear would boost this bonus, and no other talent tree would grant it.

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April 2010 class preview examplesEdit

This preview introduced the Vengeance mechanic.

Blizz
Cataclysm Class Preview: Warrior | 2010-04-08 16:01 | Bornakk
Vengeance: This is a mechanic to ensure that tank damage (and therefore threat) doesn't fall behind as damage-dealing classes improve their gear during the course of the expansion. All tanking specs will have Vengeance as their second talent tree passive bonus. Whenever a tank gets hit, Vengeance will give them a stacking attack power buff equal to 5% of the damage done, up to a maximum of 10% of the character's un-buffed health. For boss encounters, we expect that tanks will always have the attack power bonus equal to 10% of their health. The 5% and 10% bonuses assume 51 talent points have been put into the Protection tree. These values will be smaller at lower levels. Remember, you only get this bonus if you have spent the most talent points in the Protection tree, so you won't see Arms or Fury warriors running around with it. Vengeance will let us continue to make tank gear more or less the way we do today – there will be some damage-dealing stats, but mostly survival-oriented stats. Druids typically have more damage-dealing stats even on their tanking gear, so their Vengeance benefit may be smaller, but overall the goal is for all four tanks do about the same damage when tanking.

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Death KnightEdit
Blood
  • Damage reduction
  • Vengeance
  • Healing Absorption: When you heal yourself, you'll receive an additional effect that absorbs incoming damage.
Frost
  • Melee damage
  • Melee Haste
  • Runic Power Generation: This will function as the name implies, and the new rune system will make generating Runic Power more appealing.
Unholy
  • Melee damage
  • Melee and spell critical damage
  • Disease Damage: Unholy death knights will be able to get more out of their diseases, which are integral to the tree's play style.
DruidEdit
Balance
  • Spell Damage
  • Spell Haste
  • Eclipse: We are moving Eclipse from a talent into a core mechanic of the class and making it less random. Balance druids will have a new UI element that shows a sun and a moon. Whenever they cast an Arcane spell, it will move the UI closer to the sun, and buff their Nature damage. Whenever they cast a Nature spell, it will move the UI closer to the moon, and buff their Arcane damage. The gameplay intention is to alternate Arcane and Nature spells (largely Starfire and Wrath) to maintain the balance.
Feral (Cat)
  • Melee Damage
  • Melee Critical Damage
  • Bleed Damage: Feral druids will receive two sets of passive bonuses depending on whether the druid is in cat or bear form. Bleed Damage will be improved for cats. Savage Defense is the current bear mechanic for converting crits into damage absorption and will be improved for bears.
Feral (Bear)
  • Damage Reduction
  • Vengeance
  • Savage Defense: Feral druids will receive two sets of passive bonuses depending on whether the druid is in cat or bear form. Bleed Damage will be improved for cats. Savage Defense is the current bear mechanic for converting crits into damage absorption and will be improved for bears.
Restoration
  • Healing
  • Meditation
  • HoT Scale Healing: HoTs will do increased healing on more wounded targets. The mechanic is similar to that of the Restoration shaman, but with HoTs instead of direct heals. In Cataclysm, we anticipate druids using a greater variety of their spells so there is a distinction between healing and HoT healing.
HunterEdit
Beast Mastery
  • Ranged Damage
  • Haste
  • Pet Damage: Many of the passive benefits to pet damage will no longer be available in the Beast Mastery talent tree. However, these will be provided through the new Mastery mechanic.
Marksmanship
  • Ranged Damage
  • Armor Penetration
  • Double Shot: The hunter will have a chance to launch a free attack off of the global cooldown for 50% damage.
Survival
  • Ranged Damage
  • Ranged Critical Damage
  • Elemental Damage: Hunter abilities such as traps, Black Arrow, and Explosive Shot will do elemental damage of the following types: Improves the Arcane, Fire, Frost, Nature or Shadow damage of abilities like traps, Black Arrow and Explosive Shot.
MageEdit
Arcane
  • Spell damage
  • Spell Haste
  • Mana Adept: Arcane will deal damage based how much mana the mage has. For example, Arcane mages will do much more damage at 100% mana than at 50% mana. If they begin to get low on mana, they will likely want to use an ability or mechanic to bring their mana up to increase their damage.
Fire
  • Spell damage
  • Spell Crit
  • Flashburn: All direct-damage fire spells will add a damage-over-time (DoT) component when cast. The flavor will be similar to how Fireball works; however, the DoT component will be much stronger.
Frost
  • Spell damage
  • Spell Crit damage
  • Deathfrost: Casting Frostbolt places a buff on the mage that increases the damage for all frost, fire, and arcane spells. The only damage spell that won't be affected by this buff is Frostbolt.
PaladinEdit
Holy
  • Healing
  • Meditation: This is the spirit-to-mana conversion that the priest, druid, and shaman healers also share.
  • Critical Healing Effect: When the paladin gets a crit on a heal, it will heal for more.
Protection
  • Damage Reduction
  • Vengeance: This is the damage-received-to-attack-power conversion that all tanks share.
  • Block Chance: We want to keep the kit of the paladin as a tank who blocks a lot. So by contrast, the warrior tank will sometimes get critical blocks, but the paladin will get more normal blocks.
Retribution
  • Melee Damage
  • Melee Critical Damage
  • Holy Damage: Any attack that does Holy damage will have its damage increased.
PriestEdit
Discipline
  • Healing
  • Meditation
  • Absorption: Improves the strength of shields such as Power Word: Shield, Divine Aegis, and Power Word: Barrier.
Holy
  • Healing
  • Meditation
  • Radiance: Your direct heals add a small heal-over-time component to the target.
Shadow
  • Spell damage
  • Spell Crit
  • Shadow Orbs: Casting spells grants a chance for Shadow Orbs to be created that fly around you and increase your shadow damage. This will help lower-level characters feel more like "Shadow priests" before they obtain Shadowform.
RogueEdit
Assassination
  • Melee damage
  • Melee critical damage
  • Poison damage
Combat
  • Melee damage
  • Melee Haste
  • Harder-hitting combo-point generators
Subtlety
  • Melee damage
  • Armor Penetration
  • Harder-hitting finishers
ShamanEdit
Elemental
  • Spell damage
  • Spell Crit
  • Elemental Overload: Your direct-damage spells have a chance to proc a less powerful 'bonus" version of the spell. This will work much like the current Lightning Overload talent, but would also apply to Lava Burst.
Enhancement
  • Melee damage
  • Melee Haste
  • Nature Damage: This will provide a passive bonus to the Nature damage dealt by the Enhancement shaman.
Restoration
  • Healing
  • Meditation
  • Deep Healing: Your direct heals will do more healing when the target's health is lower. This will scale to damage (e.g. someone at 29% health would receive more healing than someone at 30%) rather than have arbitrary break points.
WarlockEdit
Affliction
  • Spell Damage
  • Spell Crit
  • Shadow DoTs: The damage caused by Shadow damage-over-time spells is increased.
Demonology
  • Spell Damage
  • Spell Haste
  • Demon Damage: The damage caused by pets and Metamorphosis is increased.
Destruction
  • Spell Damage
  • Spell Critical Damage
  • Fire Direct Damage: The damage caused by Fire direct damage spells is increased.
WarriorEdit
Arms
  • Melee Damage
  • Armor Penetration
  • Bonus Swing: This is similar to the Sword Specialization talent that is currently in the game, but Bonus Swing will work on all attacks and with all weapons. You have a chance to proc a free, instant weapon swing that hits for 50% damage.
Fury
  • Melee Damage
  • Melee Haste
  • Enrage Intensity: Every benefit of being enraged is increased. This includes doing more damage/healing/ etc. from abilities like Bloodrage, Death Wish, Enrage, Berserker Rage, and Enraged Regeneration.
Protection
  • Damage Reduction
  • Vengeance
  • Critical Block Chance: As we mentioned in the stat changes preview, block rating is changing to a chance to block 30% of a melee swing's damage. Protection warriors have a chance that the block will be a critical block and block for 60% of a melee swing's damage instead. There will likely be talents available to push the amount blocked even higher.

August 2010 Beta MasteriesEdit

Masteries are affected by the Mastery Rating on your gear.

For example, a level 82 player will get 1 Mastery point for each 93 Mastery Rating he has. This mastery point will increase the mastery bonus differently depending on the class, +1 Mastery Point doesn't necessarily means a +1% increase to the bonus. (e.g. A Beast Mastery hunter with +2 Mastery gets +4% increased pet damage)

Death KnightEdit
Blood
  • Life Shield: Each time you heal yourself via Death Stike, you gain 50% of the amount healed as a damage absorption shield. Absorb increased further by mastery rating.
Frost
  • Frozen Heart: Increases all frost damage done by 20%. Damage gains increased further by mastery rating.
Unholy
  • Blightcaller: Increases the damage done by your diseases by 20%. Damage increased further by mastery rating.
DruidEdit
Balance
  • Total Eclipse: Increases the bonus damage from Eclipse by 12%. Damage increased further by mastery rating.
Feral (Bear)
  • Savage Defender: Increases the damage absorbed by your Savage Defense ability by 32%. Absorb increased further by mastery rating.
Feral (Cat)
  • Razor Claws: Increases the damage done by your bleed abilities by 20%. Damage increased further by mastery rating.
Restoration
  • Symbiosis: Increases the potency of your healing spells by 10% on targets already affected by one of your heal over time spells. Each point of Mastery increases heal potency by an additional 1.25%.
HunterEdit
Beast Mastery
  • Master of Beasts: Increases the damage done by your pets by 20% Damage increased further by mastery rating.
Marksmanship
  • Wild Quiver: Grants a 16% chance for your ranged attacks to also instantly fire an additional ranged shot for 50% normal damage. Chance increased further by mastery rating.
Survival
  • Extreme Survival: Increases all elemental damage you deal by 20%. Damage increased further by mastery rating.
MageEdit
Arcane
  • Mana Adept: Increases all spell damage done by up to 12%, based on the amount of mana the Mage has unspent. Damage increased further with mastery rating.
Fire
  • Flashburn: Causes your non-periodic fire spells to deal 10% additional damage over 4 sec. Damage increased further by mastery rating.
Frost
  • Frostburn: Your Frostbolt spell causes its victim to take a 12% increased damage from all other spells you attack the victim with. Damage increased further by mastery rating.
PaladinEdit
Holy
  • Illuminated Healing: Your healing spells also place an absorb shield on your target for 8% of the amount healed lasting until cancelled. Absorb increased further by mastery rating.
Protection
  • Divine Bulwark: Increases your chance to block melee attacks by 16%. Block chance increased further by mastery rating.
Retribution
  • Hand of Light: Increases all holy damage done by 20%. Damage increased further by mastery rating.
PriestEdit
Discipline
  • Shield Discipline: Increases the potency of all your damage absorption spells by 20%. Absorption increased further by mastery rating.
Holy
  • Radiance: Your direct healing spells heal for an additional 10% over 6 sec. Healing increased further by mastery rating.
Shadow
  • Shadow Orbs: You have a 10% chance for your Shadow Word: Pain and Mind Flay spells to grant you a Shadow Orb each time they deal damage. The Shadow Orb increases the damage done by your Mind Blast and Mind Spike spells by 20%. Damage increased further by mastery rating.
RogueEdit
Assassination
  • Potent Poisons: Increases the damage done by your poisons by 20%. Damage increased further by mastery rating.
Combat
  • Main Gauche: Your main hand attacks have a 10% chance to grant you an extra off hand attack. Chance increased further by mastery rating.
Subtlety
  • Executioner: Increases the damage done by all your finishing moves by 20%. Damage increased further by mastery rating.
ShamanEdit
Elemental
  • Elemental Overload: Grants a 20% chance for Elemental Overload to occur. Elemental Overload causes a Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, or Lava Burst spell you cast to trigger a second, similar spell on the same target at no additional cost that causes 60% of normal damage and no threat. Chance to trigger increased further by mastery rating.
Enhancement
  • Enhanced Elements: Increases all elemental damage done by 20%. Damage increased further by mastery rating.
Restoration
  • Deep Healing: Increases the potency of your direct healing spells by up to 20%, based on the current health level of your target (lower health targets are healed for more). Healing increased further by mastery rating.
WarlockEdit
Affliction
  • Potent Afflictions: Increases all periodic shadow damage you deal by 13%. Damage increased further by mastery rating.
Demonology
  • Master Demonologist: Increases the damage done by your demon servants and damage you deal while transformed into a demon by 12%. Damage increased further by mastery rating.
Destruction
  • Fiery Apocalypse: Increases all fire damage you deal by 10%. Damage increased further by mastery rating.
WarriorEdit
Arms
  • Strikes of Opportunity: Grants a 16% chance for your melee attacks to instantly trigger an additional melee attack for 50% normal damage. Chance increased further by mastery rating.
Fury
  • Unshackled Fury: Increases the benefit of abilities that cause you to be enraged or consume an enrage effect by 80%.
Protection
  • Critical Block: Increases your chance to block by 10% and your chance to critically block by 10%. Chances increased further by mastery rating.

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