This past week, Blizzard held a Developer Q&A session regarding class design in Mists of Pandaria. A lot of questions I had in my previous post, Mage Ability Flow in MoP, were addressed. This article observes the answers and goes on to predict a leveling bonus distribution.
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First off, I need to apologize for several inaccuracies in my original post. I neglected to mention that in the current model, mages learn Frost Nova at 8, and actually don’t learn anything at 60 – the three Polymorph spells shown on Wowpedia are cosmetic changes to the base Polymorph spell learned at level 14. I was furthermore probably remiss in not mentioning universal bonuses such as riding. The foibles of a new blogger! The original post has, of course, been corrected, though I’ve left in some comments which have been proven inaccurate since the post was published; I feel that it’s good to keep anachronisms in as a means of showing when information is released. I’ve also added some colorful charts illustrating the leveling bonus distribution as discussed in various sections. Some of them are included in this post as well.
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Dev Q&A Highlights
Excerpts from the Dev Q&A will serve as a foundation for the content of this post.
When are we gonna get a crack at the official Talent Calculator for MoP? Even just a work in progress one that perhaps could change as you guys make changes. Would be VERY cool to see how the talents progress form now until release.
We are working to get one up soon (TM). We want to include all of the core class and spec spells, because the main concern from players (especially those not at Blizzcon) is what happens to various spec spells. The talent calculator will also help alleviate concerns about leveling up, because you’ll be able to see that you get new spells about as often as you do today. Just remember that the individual talents and spells will change a lot before we ship 5.0.
The Blizzard talent calculator will, apparently, do everything I’m setting out to do: put the new talents in the context of overall leveling progression. Though it’s obviously not, Ghostcrawler’s answer can be read as a direct response to the points raised in my first post. I’m excited to compare my napkin-note predictions to the real deal.
In the old talent trees, a lot of the talents gave players spec-specific gameplay mechanics that are core to its gameplay, such as the Mage’s Hot Streak talent. (…) With the new talent system, how are these mechanics going to be incorporated into the classes? It would seem overwhelming to players to roll all of the core spec mechanics into the Level 10 Pick Your Spec decision.
In most cases, if it’s a fun mechanic, we give it to your spec. All Fire mages get Hot Streak at a certain level.
Are the new spec abilities replacing must have talents going to be in the order you would get them now, or are you going to change it around a little bit (For instance, getting Hot Streak together with Pyro)?
We are completely reflowing when you get spec abilities to make the gameplay the most fun we can make it. We want to spread the abilities out over as many levels as possible, but core mechanics should be learned early, and more situation or raid-oriented abilities come later.
In my previous analysis, Hot Streak wasn’t a talent I was worried about in the Mists of Pandaria system – it’s a core enough mechanic that like the second commenter said, I feel could simply be bundled into Pyroblast. Relative to the Fire tree, I still want to know what’s going to happen to Ignite.
You mentioned at Blizzcon that all mages will be getting Living Bomb. How will this along with talented Scorch be balanced so that it is not too powerful for fire and too underpowered for other specs? [Will] spec spells such as Living Bomb do the same amount of damage no matter which spec you are in?
Mages don’t really need their +fire, +frost or +arcane specializations in 5.0 because only Fire mages will have Fireball. So Fire mages won’t do more damage with LB or Scorch. They will still feel like Fire mages though because of Fireball, Ignite, Combustion and Hot Streak.
In all the Blizzcon coverage, I somehow missed that Living Bomb was becoming a baseline ability. This’ll be addressed below, but my thought is that Living Bomb, Deep Freeze, and Focus Magic (not Arcane Power!) are becoming baseline to keep things equal.
Why did you pick Blast Wave, Dragon’s Breath, and Slow as the level 90 mage talents? Most every other class has gotten new skills at 90. Why put spells we mages get a lower levels at 90?
You know, that’s an excellent point – we’ve heard from several people that Mages could use a few more new talents. We’ll take a look.
I’m glad Blizzard has taken this stance – while it was nice to say “We are the poster children of the new system”, it still left me a bit shortchanged when looking at the creative new abilities for other classes. That being said, I took a stab at what we’ve got to work with now and created a possible level bonus progression.
To recap the last article, my theoretical re-grouping of abilities into spec bonuses left a lot of empty space, especially in the early game. The list in the bottom right accounts for most of the red boxes: these are the abilities that I believe(d) Mists of Pandaria will be removing from the Cataclysm leveling and talent systems to make way for the new spec and talent systems. Some of them are confirmed – the three nukes, any ability learned through the Cataclysm talent trees, and anything that appears in the Mists of Pandaria trees. Others were the result of my own speculation. Please refer back to my previous post for more details.
I spent some time thinking about what I had written and what the state of things seemed to be. For one, there’s a fair bit of doubling up in the grid above, and several levels granted multiple baseline abilities (which I didn’t bother depicting). Between representing the spec bonuses I had previously excluded and spreading around the doubled-up abilities, I figured there had to be some way to get rid of most of that red space. This is what I came up with:
Redistributed Ability Flow
- Level 1: Frostfire Bolt. Blizz has stated this to be the new intro mage ability.
- Level 3: Arcane Missiles. There just aren’t enough damaging spells to group Arcane Missiles, Fire Blast, and Ice Lance together and wait until level 10 to hand one out.
- Level 5: Fire Blast. The same principle applies here.
- Level 7: Frost Nova. This has been moved up to replace Frostbolt, since lowbies won’t have the snare.
- Level 8: Blink. This ability ended up here through a lot of shuffling, but the extra movement is definitely nice before getting a mount.
- Level 9: Counterspell. Left untouched from its Cataclysm position.
- Level 10: Arcane Blast/Fireball/Frostbolt. The first specialization bonus.
- Level 12: Arcane Barrage/Pyroblast/Summon Water Elemental. The second spec bonus, in line with Blizz’s design to set up core mechanics very early. Evocation used to be here but is wholly unnecessary with the high amounts of regen early on.
- Level 14: Polymorph. Same as Cataclysm.
- Level 15: Ring of Frost/Cone of Cold/Frostjaw. Talent #1.
- Level 18: Remove Curse. Another ability that got shuffled around. I don’t even know if anything uses curses this early. Used to be Cone of Cold, which is now a talent.
- Level 20: Apprentice Riding. Arcane Blast used to be another bonus, now learned by Arcane mages at level 10.
- Level 22: Invisibility. This one’s weird. Invis is currently a level 78 ability, and Arcane Explosion is here right now. “Greater Invisibility” is a level 30 talent choice, so I figured “Greater” modifies a normal version, which has to be learned before 30. AE got moved way down and is the AoE spec bonus for Arcane.
- Level 24: Teleport. Just like it is now.
- Level 25: Glyphs.
- Level 26: Evocation. This is well beyond the boosted regen levels and replaces Scorch, which is now a talent, in lieu of anything similar.
- Level 28: Ice Block. This ability has been moved up by 2 levels, bumping Ice Lance down a bit. Between the two, Ice Block needed to stay closer to its original spot.
- Level 30: Greater Invisibility/Cauterize/Cold Snap, he second talent decision. This was where Ice Block and Remove Curse were.
- Level 32: Slow Fall. Same as it is now.
- Level 34: Ice Lance. A bit later than the 28 we learn it at today, but still an early ability.
- Level 36: Arcane Power/Combustion/Icy Veins. The last spec bonus was at level 12, and this is just a bit earlier than the specs were earning their first cooldowns anyway. Mage ward has been delayed, but the survivability of the lv.30 talent and the control of the lv. 15 should offset the loss of defense.
- Level 38: Conjure Refreshment.
- Level 40: Journeyman Riding.
- Level 42: Arcane Explosion/Flamestrike/Blizzard. AE was definitely delayed, but Flamestrike and Blizzard were both advanced to reach this position.
- Level 44: Portal. It was delayed by 2 levels to make room for the AoE spec bonuses.
- Level 45: Presence of Mind/Scorch/Arcane Flows, the mobile cast talents.
- Level 46: Mage Ward, replacing Mana Shield which has become a talent.
- Level 48: Conjure Mana Gem. Unmoved from its position now.
- Level 50: Glyphs and the Wizardry cloth armor bonus.
- Level 52: Teleport/Portal: Stonard/Theramore. 52 was when the Teleport was learned and there’s not much reason to keep the two separated.
- Level 54: Mage Armor/Molten Armor/Frost Armor. This is the level Frost Armor is currently learned at, with Molten Armor delayed and Mage Armor hastened to work as a set.
- Level 56: Arcane Concentration/Master of Elements/Enduring Winter. Frostfire Bolt was once here and by now most mages are at a point where passive mana regen would be well-appreciated.
Levels 58-67 (Outland)
- Level 58: Arcane Brilliance. Unchanged.
- Level 60: Mana Shield/Blazing Speed/Ice Barrier. The survivability tier of talents.
- Level 62: Teleport/Portal: Shattrath. Like the 52 transport abilities, I see no reason to separate them.
- Level 64: Mirror Image. This ability used to be learned at 50, but I figured since tanks received a massive buff to their threat generation, Mirror Image could wait and even things out.
- Level 66: Focus Magic. The first of three abilities I thought would be bundled as spec bonuses. After consideration, opening FM to every mage grants more freedom in terms of which spec to choose.
Levels 68-80 (Northrend)
- Level 68: Spellsteal. It’s been advanced by 2 levels to replace Mage Armor.
- Level 70: Artisan Riding.
- Level 71: Teleport/Portal: Dalaran
- Level 72: Deep Freeze. Used to be grouped with Focus Magic and needed a new home. Northrend seems appropriate – everything is colder up there.
- Level 75: Sickly Polymorph/Heavy Polymorph/Double Polymorph and Glyphs. Choose Glyph of Polymorph and Glyph of the Penguin to maximize your Polymorph fun.
- Level 76: Ritual of Refreshment.
- Level 78: Living Bomb. I wanted to make sure LB stayed close to its original 79 home as the final Fire talent.
- Level 80: Master Riding/Mastery.
Levels 81-85 (Cataclysm)
- Level 82: Flame Orb. Moved up from 81 to match the cadence of leveling.
- Level 84: Time Warp. Moved down from 85, again to pace things out since Ring of Frost is gone.
- Level 85: Teleport/Portal: Tol Barad.
Levels 86-90 (Pandaria)
- Levels 86-89: Unknown. I hope we get a few new abilities in here.
- Level 90: Dragon’s Breath/Blast Wave/Slow. The final talent choice, and another form of control.
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Compared to the current distribution of abilities, there are no longer any levels at which multiple abilities are learned through leveling or talents. The removal of talent points every other level is of course a change that can’t be compensated for, but the best part is that the redistribution as described above doesn’t create any more breaks in pacing than there are now. With Blizzard’s intent for new abilities, it’s possible that we even see a removal of the two hiccups and achieve a perfect cadence.