The New Talent System

Posted: by Frostheim

Blizzard unveiled their new talent system for the Mists of Pandaria expansion, and it’s a massive change — and, I think, a pretty great one.

They talked a lot about how the original design for the talent system essentially failed in its design goal. They wanted a way for characters of the same class to make choices that made them different from each other. Unfortunately the way the talent system worked in practice gave you different specs, but no real choices other than that. Because there were pretty demonstrably better and worse talents, cookie cutter builds became the way to go, and if you deviated from them too much, you were hurting your ability to play your character to the fullest potential.

They felt that their Cataclysm revamp helped a bit, but not nearly enough. They created some choice in talents, but not enough choice. They got rid of some junk talents, but not all of them. And it was still possible for players to make a demonstrably “wrong” choice — which means that it’s not really a choice at all, just a trap for the unwary.

The goal of the new talent system is to bring meaningful choices to players. Here’s how it works:

Character abilities are split into three categories:

  • Class Abilities: much as we have now, things like Steady Shot and Freezing Trap that are available to all hunters.
  • Spec Abilities: this is being greatly expanded. Currently we get one spec ability when we turn level 10. In MoP you’ll still choose your spec at 10 and get a spec ability, but then you’ll get additional spec abilities as you level. These are the must have talents and, in some cases, core class abilities will switch to spec abilities (Kill Command will become the BM level 10 ability, for example, and no longer be available to other specs as a class ability.
  • Talent Abilities: Talents are the only choices that you make after choosing your class and choosing your spec, and are the area where you individualize your character and separate her from other characters of the same spec. Talents are universal to a class, and are not spec-specific — so BM, MM, and SV hunters will all be choosing from the same talent pool.

The Talent System

The way talents will work is you choose a new talent at level 15, and every 15 levels thereafter. Every 15 levels is a new tier. No talents will have ranks, and in general they’ll all be pretty substantial abilities — rather than the host of minor ones we have now with substantial ones mixed in.

Every time you get to choose a new talent you have three talents to choose from. You can only choose one of the three for each tier (every 15 levels) and you can never have two talents from one tier.

So at level 15 you can choose between talents A, B, and C. You get one of them, and you choose A. Then at level 30 you get to choose between talents D, E, and F. You cannot go back and take A or B — you only get one talent per tier.

The goal is to make the choices apples to apples comparisons, at least as much as possible. So in general you won’t be choosing between a dps talent and a survivability talent, but instead will be choosing between 3 dps talents, or 3 survivability talents.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still going to be some “right” choices no matter what they do. If you have more than one dps talent in a tier, we are going to be able to calculate which one is the best for each spec (or possibly by fight) and that is going to be the way to go.

However in practice we don’t have a lot of tiers of pure dps talent clusters, so instead we’re choosing between 3 survivability talents, or 3 utility talents. And those are going to be the kinds of things that are going to change up a lot more on a fight by fight basis.

Changing Talents

While we didn’t get specifics, Ghostcrawler stated that they wanted to make changing talents as easy as changing glyphs. So it’s something that you can’t do in combat, but can easily do in between combat encounters. So you can use one talent setup for the first boss in a raid, then switch out a couple of those talents for the ones that will help you most on the next boss.

This is awesome.

One of the things I love about this system the most is that it removes the ability to make really, really bad choices. You can’t have a MM hunter who fails to take Chimera Shot. The vital abilities for your spec are built in. I’m sure that there will be opportunities to make suboptimal choices, but you can’t cripple yourself anymore out of ignorance.

I also love that every talent is actually meaningful — no more will we get talent points that are just tiny little meaningless things. Now when you get a talent you have an awesome new ability. Getting a new talent rocks!

In addition to the overview of the whole system, we also got a sneak peek at exactly what they were thinking of doing for all of the hunter talents at every tier — and I will post all of those in a moment.

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  1. Jaeger says:

    It’ll definitely be interesting to see how it works out in the end and what the flavor for the specs will end up as. I definitely like that you’ll be able to re-talent easily though.

  2. bahzob says:

    Looks good, just goes to show what a fail the Catalcysm talent redesign was.

    • Ghedrhalla says:

      The Cataclysm redesign wasn’t a failure, they just did things in two parts for us, with MoP being part 2.
      WotLK talent tree had 9 levels, Cata 7, MoP is looking like 6 and it will be a choice of 1 item from each level.
      The s#!t storm would have been unbearable if people suddenly found out that 1/3 of the tree is gone in height, 2/3 (3/4 in some cases) of the width gone AND we don’t know yet if anything is happening to dual-spec.

      The Forums are already lighting-up with rage over the game being ‘dumbed down’ or made for casuals/care-bears/basically anyone who doesn’t live on the EJ forums while being a top10 raider. And that’s about stuff that probably doesn’t even qualify as Alpha testing yet.

      The real trick for Blizzard will be in making sure what goes as a class skill and what goes as a spec skill make sense and come at levels that are neither over- nor under-powered. I wish them luck with that hideous task.

      • JTW says:

        has you expected anything else to happen? The usual idiots are as usual out in force, qq’ing about anything and everything without ever having seen it in action let alone having used it themselves.
        I hadn’t expected anything else. Had Blizzard done things completely differently, made the trees far deeper and broader, far more talents, etc. etc. those very same people would have complained that it leaves too many unknowns to determine the optimal spec and that it therefore sucks, the very same people now complaining there’s not enough choice and everyone will end up the same (which everyone is now anyway, pretty much, and I think you’ll find more different specs after the change as it looks like a lot of the talent options will be pretty similar in power, just different in its application).

        The real trick for Blizzard is changing the game in such a way that these “people” quit en masse (I estimate they total no more than a few hundred to a few thousand worldwide), while retaining the majority of the population and drawing in enough new players to absorb the damage their negativity has done and will do to the regular players who accept those qq posts as fact and quit because of them.
        The community would be a lot better off that way, but as most of those people have been playing WoW as well as constantly whining and complaining about it since release or close to I doubt it will happen (iow they’re utterly despicable, constantly claiming they’re quitting over every smallest thing yet never doing so).

  3. sheppo says:

    overall, i think i agree with the new talent system. I can see, very easily, how it will work for a pure dps class like hunters, and just looking at the talents shown its easy to see how different talents would be suitable for different encounters, today.

    I didn’t hear mastery mentioned at all during yesterdays blizzcon, which does make me wonder if it’s still something we’ll have. I think it was primarily in the game to aid with balancing specs, more than anything, so it’ll be interesting to see how, or if it still factors in at all.

  4. Winchesteer says:

    Am I reading this right…once we pick a spec at level 10, say BM Hunter, that’s the only spec tree that character will have? Currently, we have 2 specs that we can swap between, I can pick either MM or BM hunter for example, but the new system sounds like we will only have 1 spec that we are locked into. Only a handful of talents will be swapped around under the new system, but in the end, I’ll be BM hunter without being able to drop into MM when needed…right?

    • Winchesteer says:

      I think I may have found the answer…someone on the WoW forums said they covered this in the Q&A and Dual Specs will still be available…sweet.

      • JTW says:

        yup, dual spec AND able to modify your talents on the fly without having to redo the entire tree at a trainer. SWEET!

  5. Jaberjaw says:

    This is a the 4th xp pack EVERYONE KNOWS THAT THE FORTH MOVIE SUCKS like shrek, EVERYONE KNOWS FF4 sucked EVERYONE knows Sonic 4 sucked! EVERYONE KNOWS KARTE KID 4 sucked. hmmmm, Blizzard rushed thru it cause a noob who was rich that he could screw your ideas and controle the virtual word. No! I like the ideas bout talent system change. Even those it will lure 13 year olds who think it cool to curse lol. I just wished they’d ask the gamers before my Norganon server and the guild in it is gone.

  6. Jaberjaw says:


  7. Yvvii says:

    I quite like the idea of setting the new talents in a tier system so your choices are meaningful, but I am not so sure about how few of them you will get, it doesn’t allow for that much difference between builds.

    Maybe every 9 levels with weaker talents would have allowed for better diversity, and gives you a choice to look forward to more often while levelling, because getting set powers pre-picked for you only has so much excitement value.

    Still if it gets rid of the ability to make really bad builds then I am all for it, though I am personally of the opinion that once build you should stay with your build rather than being able to chop and change for each encounter, that loses the RPG element too much for me.