9 Mar 2010

More on Mastery

In what feels like a healthy dose of rumour control, Blizzard today released a huge update on how Mastery will work in Cataclysm. While there are no mage specifics, there’s a ton of information available to allow us to predict how Mastery will work. It’s also worth looking at what problems Mastery won’t solve for mages and other DPS caster classes.

A key disclaimer though: while I’ve covered the basics of Mastery, the impact on mages is largely educated guesswork. Where I talk about a specific stats or spells these are just examples rather than official intended changes. For the official line, read the blue post.

Mastery will be made up of three bonuses:

  • A boost related to the role we play. Since our single purpose in life is to deal damage, this will probably be a straight increase in spell damage. It also means that our spell damage can scale outside of intellect, which will be the main contributor to spell damage in Cataclysm. Even mages with sub-optimal gear should have a solid baseline from this bonus.
  • A boost related to the stats we look for in gear. Bearing in mind that spell damage is only going to appear on weapons in Cataclysm, this will probably be stats like Haste or Crit. I’m really hoping that we don’t end up with a Hit bonus, but I have a feeling it’ll creep in somewhere.
  • A boost related to the tree that we spec into, in order to provide funky additional affects. For arcane this might be a play on Arcane Concentration, Fire will probably get an increase to the DoT affect of their spells and Frost is likely to get some kind of boost to slowing or snaring abilities.

There’s also some important information about how these bonuses will grow as you develop your character:

  • The first two bonuses (the generics) will increase as you sink talent points into the various trees. It’s not yet clear if you’ll get the same level of bonus if you sink all 71 points into a single tree or if you spread them across all three.
  • The third bonus (Spec Mastery) will increase based on the gear that you’re wearing. Some of it will come from come from wearing gear relevant to your class – this means moonkin in leather, holy paladins in plate and elemental shamans in mail. If they start downgrading (wearing cloth gear) then they lose the mastery bonus. In addition, new gear in Cataclysm will have a further +Mastery stat on it. This stat will go directly to the Spec Mastery bonus – as long as it’s your armour type. Moonkin wearing cloth with +Mastery on it will be wasting the stat points

With all that in mind, what does it mean for mages?

  • Hopefully this will mean the end of bland “increases this stat by x%” talents like Precision, Arcane Focus and Piercing Ice. The Generic Mastery bonuses can take care of sliding scale stat boosts such as these instead of players feeling forced to take “mandatory” talents. I’m also hoping that “pop” talents like Arcane Power and Icy Veins still remain, as they provide the opportunity for burst damage when needed.
  • We should get a bit more free talent spend to help with picking up playstyle-based talents, and there should be more wiggle room for experimentation.
  • Mages that focus on PvE and PVP should be able to dualspec comfortably, as Spec Mastery gear bonuses will apply to both specs, with each tree specialisation providing it’s bonus when that spec is active. Of course, resilience is another issue entirely. It might also mean that just as you have Discipline/Holy dualspec priests, you might end up with dualspec mages that use different specs depending on the shape of the raiding encounter (static fight versus constant movement).

What questions still exist?

  • There’s still the question of how the Spec Mastery bonus will scale with the number of talent points in the tree, if at all. Will it be something that’s activated purely on whichever tree has the most points? Will we have to hit a 51 point talent in order to select it? I’m nervous about ending up with 76 point Arcane mages, purely because it’s the only way to maximise the Spec Mastery stat.
  • With a number of talents being eliminated, will we end up with thinner talent trees in Cataclysm? If that happens, will the number of points in our talent pool go down, or will we end up with more spread between trees?
  • Are we throwing away the idea of hybrid specs such as Frostfire?

All in, the further detail is making me quite excited for mages in Cataclysm. I’m hoping that it’ll mean that more of the stuff that we need to do our job will be built into our class as standard instead of being chosen by our spec. I’m also hoping that with the changes to how stats affect each class (e.g. mages no longer benefiting from Spirit) that we’ll see an easing of the loot competition that’s plagued a lot of Burning Crusade and Wrath.

On the other hand, I’m expecting to see a lot of gear that “could” be useful to someone with current itemisation end up being sharded or junked in the expansion. Also, depending on how Reforging works, you may end up with only those characters with skills such as Tailoring or Blacksmithing being able to re-tool a soulbound item and make it useful. I’m hoping that it’ll work in a similar way to Enchanting, but we’ll have to see.

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