Mastering mages in Cataclysm

You might have heard by now that Blizzard released some details about their new mastery mechanic. Let’s talk, shall we? But first, the details:

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.

Although “simplify” is a scary word I see their point and am not frightened. They have a valid point that there are talents that try to do a lot and ones that you “have” to pick otherwise you’re doing it wrong. I hate obvious choices because they erode character customization.

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.

The first bonus eats away at “you’re doing it wrong.”
The second bonus puts the focus more on you than on your gear, which I support. (At least, that’s the feeling it gives me.)
The third bonus is, well, we’ll just have to wait and see, really.

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.

Huzzah! That’s the perfect motivation—just what I wanted actually.

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.

Excellent. I approve.

My primary concern with any simplification is the potential for reduced character customization. For example, how many arcane mages do you know that’re speced 57/3/11? How many vary that spec by just a few points?

That, to me, indicates a problem. The problem is that there are “obviously better” choices in talents to pick over ones that are “obviously poorer.” In an ideal case every mage should be different, picking talents accoring to personal preference and play style. There shouldn’t be an “obviously better” choice.

For example, if I wanted to build a haste mage then I should be able to talent into things that revolve all around double-quick spell launches. However, as a result, my total damage may suffer by comparison to someone who has built a steady damage mage, someone who doesn’t cast quickly, but when they do cast their spells hit pretty heavy.

But in the end the two mages should have the same level of contribution in a raid, depending on the situation. If the monster stuns the party a lot for example, then the haste mage would have an advantage since they’ll get more spells off compared to the steady damage mage, who will get stunned out of casting enough of his spells to make a difference.

The current situation, however, is broken. Pure frost mages are “obviously worse” than either arcane or fire mages. This shouldn’t be.

I should be able to pick any of the flavors available to me and still contribute. Where I distinguish myself is my style and my rotation. Maybe I lead with frost then follow up with fire and finish off with arcane, or I fancy myself an elemental mage and do only fire and frost, ignoring arcane almost completely.

I would very much like to see a day when two mages meet and it’s not immediately apparent what they’re going to do in a raid.

Or, hell, that every mage I meet isn’t arcane. 😉

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Geek. (But so are you!)

Posted on March 9, 2010, in World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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