The next edition of World of Warcraft will release in a few weeks, with Mists of Pandaria hitting public servers in September. With the beta for Mists winding down, most of the coming upgrades and changes are pretty well set. In our last segment, we looked at the broad changes coming to the game overall. In this one, we’ll look at some class-specific changes that will change how the game is played.
Our look at the classes most affected by the coming changes when Mists releases will be in order of the amount of change perceived to be happening to them. We’ll begin with Warlocks, who will see huge differences between Cataclysm and Mists. Then we’ll go to warriors, Death Knights, and finally Paladins. Warriors will come first simply because the changes there also affect the next two we’ll be looking at.
Believe it or not, most of the changes coming to Warlocks are for the better. Old hat gamers rarely believe statements like that, but in this case, it’s the truth. The primary player complaint since the release of Cataclysm has been addressed: Warlocks are no longer unwieldy and grinding requirements for leveling a Warlock are overhauled.
Overlaps in the Warlock specs are largely eliminated in Mists, so now when a player chooses a spec, that spec has meaning compared to other options instead of just being a title with a couple of differences that were mostly cosmetic. This will mean a learning curve for some current players, but it definitely changes things for the better overall, adding a lot more balance.
Warlocks are also no longer beholden to trainers for most of their levels. When a character gains a level, the attributes, spells, etc. from the new level automatically appear for the Warlock. This fits with the Lore, since Warlocks are intuitive, naturally-tuned people rather than book-learned, training types. So their abilities are largely granted as learned through experience rather than training. In the middle of combat, if you ding a level, an empty space on your action bar might suddenly have a new spell or ability added.
Speaking of spells, they’re a lot more tuned to spec than they have been before. This is the divide mentioned earlier. A demonologist will see Demonic Fury right away, though in a limited fashion, for instance. At levels where enhanced out-of-combat healing drops off, spells that make up for this begin arriving, so at about level twenty, Drain Life and Soulburn will show up.
Finally, the grind of the late-30s through mid-50s in leveling where nothing much is gained and things seem to drag on forever will be gone. Spells are gained, at minimum, at every five or six levels. No more 8-level spans with no upgrades. Further, at almost every level, current spells and skills upgrade as well, so even if nothing new comes, current abilities get a boost. This will make getting a Warlock to higher levels will be more fun and thus easier. The amount of work hasn’t really changed, but the ability to keep interested in the process is back.
The warrior classes as a whole will notice the changes in combat rolling the most. The splitting of avoidance and block covered in our first section of this series will mean that warriors will see a lot of change in how their Defense stats look and how they interact in battle.
The next big change will be in Rage generation. Right now, except at low levels, Rage is largely a passive thing. Warriors gain it through gear and skills and rarely have to “build Rage” during battle. It’s just there. A lot of that will change and Rage will become a resource that warriors will have to actively work to get.
Tanks will see the most gain from this change. Threat moves no longer require Rage to perform, but instead build it so that it can be used on mitigation abilities instead.
For all warriors, gear will change in how it alters Rage and will have a lot less mileage when it comes to adding it to your character. Also, Intercept is gone and Charge is now default when attacking in most cases. This makes the system of targeting and attacking a little simpler.
Rage will be built in two ways, depending on your warrior’s stance. In Defensive Stance, things change little from the current Cataclysm setup. You keep critical immunity and high threat, but get no Rage generation from attacks and shouts, only from damage taken. In Battle Stance, rage comes from white hits and that’s about it. In Berserker Stance, rage is gained from both hits and incoming damage. Finally, nearly all of the warrior’s abilities can be used in any stance with just a couple of exceptions for Battle Stance (specifically Vengeance and similar tanking abilities).
Last but not least are changes to hit and expertise. These are now normalized into percentages of your total score, so rather than being based on a number (your score), they are based on a percentage that doesn’t change even as your score grows. That number is 7.5% for single-wield and shields. It’s a little higher for dual-wielding. This normalizes the hit and expertise numbers and makes it not only easier to track, but simpler.
The biggest and most obvious change to Death Knights is with Talents. When Mists releases, Death Knights will see their Talent tiers dramatically altered. No Talents are gained at all until level 56 and then they are rewarded very quickly through to level 60 as the DK plays catch-up. Talents are no longer (for the most part) gained through random quests, they just happen as you level. This is meant to nerf Death Knights in earlier levels to even the game.
Unholy rotation also sees a much-needed overhaul. Many Talents will open to all DK specs, including Lichborne and Death Siphon. Some of these cross-spec Talents will be gained, but largely unusable, until more levels are added. For example, Scourge Strike is gained at level 58, but it’s at least two more levels before it can be really utilized. Blood and frost specs, however, will see their Talents mostly usable when they’re gained. This, overall, brings the specs together into a more even lineup so none of them is more appealing than another (more or less).
Finally, the range slot is gone. Death Knights will no longer have ranged combat, which is becoming exclusive to Hunters. Quest items like the Sigil of the Dark Rider are now mostly ornamental because of this . Mounts are also changing, though mostly just in the way you gain the ability to use them. You no longer begin ready-to-ride, but have to gain the ability from a gryphon master in the starting area.
The holy tanks of WoW are going to see some subtle alterations that make many of their abilities better overall. Active mitigation, Holy Power, cooldowns, etc. will change.
Mitigation is the name of the game for the tank and with changes to Holy Power (not to mention the dual-roll change mentioned in Part 1), how this is managed will also change. At level 85, Boundless Conviction is introduced and allows the Paladin to bank 5 Holy Power instead of just 3. Costs for abilities don’t change, so most of the “good stuff” still requires 3, but having two more in the bank can mean a lot of change in play style.
Active Mitigation will come through the same general abilities used now, like Shield of Righteous Power and its activation of Bastion of Glory and World of Glory. Shield of Righteous Power now requires 3 Power, but reduces damage taken by 30% for 3 seconds as well as adding the other two effects, which can stack up to 5 times. That amounts to a huge amount of bang for just 3 bucks. These effects can be stacked with other things like Diving Bulwark, which increases block percentages to add a lot of threat and drop damage receipts in a big way.
Another big change will be the removal of auras. The system will be completely nixed with the release of Mists, but a few of them will be turned into abilities to continue. The status bar for auras is being repurposed into a seals bar. Several abilities will become spec-specific, making the specs more specialized and enhancing the differences. Holy Wrath is now exclusive to protection as is Consecration. Retribution now gets Exorcism exclusively.
The changes to the Talents system will mean that Paladins will see some changes to their abilities in speed boosts, crowd control, and HoTs.
Almost everything here improves the game. World of Warcraft won’t be perfect, of course, but it will be much better in nearly every way. Mists will add new life to this long-running MMO, for sure.