Talents are special abilities that can be chosen to augment your character. Talents may be passive bonuses or active abilities. Each class has its own selection, with 18 talents split over 6 tiers. Talents are limited by level, with a new tier becoming available each 15 levels, for all classes except death knights. Talents are class-specific, but are available independent of specialization. Talents offer a further level of customization beyond class and specialization selection, and can be changed very easily and cheaply.
Full listings of the talents available to each class can be found on that class's abilities page, eg: Priest abilities.
Talents are split over 6 tiers, with 3 talents on each. Each tier is unlocked when the character reaches the appropriate level. For all classes except death knights, a new tier becomes available every 15 levels:
- Tier 1: level 15
- Tier 2: level 30
- Tier 3: level 45
- Tier 4: level 60
- Tier 5: level 75
- Tier 6: level 90
Death knights start the game at level 55, and so gain their talents at levels 56, 57, 58, 60, 75 and 90.
The Talents pane is found in the Specialization & Talents window. This can be accessed by clicking on the appropriate icon on the interface bar at the bottom of the screen (assuming you are using the default UI), or by pressing the N key (if you haven't unbound it or bound the key to a different action). From this window, selecting the Talents tab will show you the talents available to your class.
Only one talent can be chosen from each tier. Often tiers offer talents with a similar theme, such as offering a mage various methods of incapacitating their enemies, providing a priest with a range of AoE damage and healing abilities, or offering a warlock various methods for regaining health.
To learn an available talent, simply click on the icon. If you already have a talent selected from that tier, you will be asked whether you wish to unlearn that talent. Talents can be unlearnt using for characters level 25-80, for characters level 81-85 or for those at 86 or above. Talents can also be reset entirely for a small fee, by visiting a class trainer. Talents cannot be reset in combat, or while the currently selected talent from that tier is on cooldown. Talents can be reset in the preparation stage of battlegrounds and arena matches, but not once a match has begun. Resetting talents reset during the preparation stage of an arena match has no cost, allowing players to customise their talents for each match. However, talents are reverted to their previous settings once the player leaves the arena.
As with glyphs and specializations, characters with Dual Talent Specialization have two separate sets of talents. Learning and unlearning talents in one spec does not affect the other spec's choices.
Patch changes and talent resets
Occasionally, Blizzard will restructure a class's talent tree. If the change is significant, they may reset that class's tree, allowing you to respec for free. Talent changes do not always give a free respec: for example, in patch 2.3.2, the mage spell was made trainable, and the talent was moved to its place, and the new spell was put in Cold Snap's old spot. This change did not give mages a free respec, but it required those mages specced for Ice Block to go to a trainer and buy that spell.
Prior to every expansion, Blizzard has and will reset the talent tree incase the player wished to change before the new expansion.
Online calculators can be used to experiment with possible talent builds.
- Official World of Warcraft Talent Calculator (EU)
- Official World of Warcraft Talent Calculator (US)
- Wowhead Talent Calculator
Pet talent points
The subject of this section has been removed from World of Warcraft.
Prior to Patch 5.0.4, hunter pets enjoyed their own talent system, featuring trees in which hunters could spend each pet's talent points. The pet talent system was removed with Mists of Pandaria, with many talents removed, and the rest converted into specialization-specific pet abilities.
- Many talent tiers offer choices between benefits to different aspects of your character, or different combat roles. Some are also better oriented for PvP or PvE.
- If you intend to participate in end-game PvE raid content, it is recommended to choose talents (and select gear) with the boss encounter in mind. For example, a talent that improves damage or survivability against the boss might be preferred over a talent that only improves damage or survivability against trash mobs. The raid will undoubtedly find the boss encounter more difficult, and preparing for it will aid in surpassing the challenge.
- The following indicators can be used to distinguish between which areas of play benefit most from a talent. Note that some talents cleverly offer different bonuses for different types of play. As such, these are rough indicators rather than rules:
- Any ability that activates "whenever you are critically hit" is a PvP talent (PvE players won't get critically hit much) and can probably be safely skipped if you aren't doing much PvP.
- Any ability that gradually applies several stacks of a buff or debuff is designed for longer fights such as boss encounters, which last long enough for these abilities to reach a full stack. When you're leveling, your fights usually won't last long enough, so skip these talents if there's something better available. However, these talents are extremely useful in PvE end-game raiding (during the boss encounter) and PvP.
- Any talent that decreases threat caused by your abilities is obviously a PvE talent, designed for group situations such as instances. Threat has no function in PvP, and so talents focused on threat reduction are likely designed with PvE in mind. These talents are also counter-productive for players wishing to fill a tanking role. They are strictly for the PvE instance/raiding damage and healing roles only.
- Any talent that makes you go faster in terms of movement (or mount) speed will save you a tremendous amount of time and is almost always worth getting while leveling, but may be considered less valuable during end-game PvE. Non-mounted movement speed increases can be very useful in PvP, however.
- While leveling, feel free to experiment with talents and choose that are the most handy or useful for you. Talent choices will likely differ at max level anyway, and in the mean time convenience and enjoyment is usually more important than that critical extra 3% survival if things go wrong. In addition, leveling frequently involves participation in multiple types of play (questing, instances, PvP) and so it is unlikely that a single talent build will be ideal for all play, and usually uneconomical to reset them for each situation. However, be aware that when playing in groups, your talent choices may impact other players; if anticipating a tough encounter, you may wish to re-customise your choices accordingly.
- After purchasing Dual Talent Specialization, players may wish to have one PvE build and one PvP build.
- There's no such thing as a bad spec (except in very few cases). That's still no excuse to bring your PvP spec into an end-game raid, however. Be aware of the strengths and purposes of your talents, and utilize them accordingly.
- If you see someone else saying that only certain talent builds are acceptable, pay no attention to him/her. Talents were implemented so that players could further customize their characters. Choose the talents that work best with your play-style, but do be mindful of which talents you end up choosing.
Mists of Pandaria changes
Mists of Pandaria (Patch 5.0.4) saw the largest changes yet to the talent system. The separate talent trees were replaced with a single set of talents for each class, and talent points were removed entirely, with players instead able to choose a single talent from each tier. The number of talents available was also significantly reduced, and relearning talents was made possible via and similar, enabling players to change their specs on the move, and even between encounters. As well as facilitating experimentation and variation, this change was also promoted as allowing for a far greater degree of versatility, with players able to change talents in order to meet the demands of a specific encounter, such as facing a particular boss, or catering to the strengths of the opposing team in arena and PvP. Talents were also freed from their ties to a specific specialization, with players granted access to new sets of talents available to all members of that class.
During the beta test and early months of Mists of Pandaria, these changes sparked much controversy and debate among players, with numerous threads devoted to the subject on the official forums. Many players felt that the new system stripped them of much of their choice, replacing dozens of talents with only a few, and forced them to choose between talents that were often considered equally undesirable. Some also considered the changes to the talent system to be a further simplification and dumbing-down of the game. Others argued that the new system in fact increased choice; while the previous system had presented dozens of talents to choose from, in practice most end-game players chose very similar builds, with little if any room for customisation. Additionally, what differences were to be found were largely limited to where to place the last few points, and these choices were often considered to make little difference to the player's abilities. In contrast, it was argued, the new system offered players far more choice, and far more significant choices, with most talents representing substantial differences to the player's abilities and playstyle, in spite of the apparent lack of options.
- Main article: Talents (history)
Talents have gone through some very substantial changes over the years. The prime form of character augmentation and customisation in World of Warcraft, talents were the predecessors of specializations, predating the introduction of fixed specializations by many years. Originally a complex and intricate system of possible combinations, since Wrath of the Lich King talents have been reduced and simplified, with many of their earlier functions being split off into other mechanisms. The original means of customising your character's abilities and combat role, Cataclysm saw the creation of specific specializations, making the selection of a player's talents more helpful than critical, while Mists of Pandaria saw them converted to a far simpler system, with choice no longer determined by specialization or previous selections. While the current system features a fraction of the number of talents previously known, a large amount of talents have been converted into specialization-specific or class-wide abilities, with many key abilities having started life in the higher tiers of a class's pre-historic talent trees.