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Design Corner: Master Specializations

Previous Design Corner Articles:
Design Corner: Future WoW World Content Design
Design Corner: Time-Lost Halls of Karazhan Part 1
Design Corner: Improving the Garrison in 6.1
Mythic Dungeons and how they’d fit in the current system

Welcome to the WoW Weekly Design Corner! In this editorial series I (Mezzy) look at different parts of WoW and see how I would design the next new thing, or perhaps improve upon it. Keep in mind that this is an editorial/article and the following designs are NOT official content. Today we’ll be taking a look at class specializations within WoW.

Now this is an idea that I’ve been mulling on for many months and you might have heard parts of it on our podcast. Adding to that the recent announcement that in WoW: Legion we’re going to see a diversification of existing specs, this was the right time to flesh out the idea and write it down.

An issue that we’ve had for a while now is that specializations (specs) for some classes have become so similar due to homogenization, while others have remained similar (for the most part) through multiple expansions. If you’ve played the game a long time that could make it feel stale, and while you could reroll to another class to get a new(er) game experience you would still feel the loss of progression you put into your character.

To add some new life to the classes themselves Master Specializations could be added to the game. Now keep in mind that it is unlikely that it would be added on a mass scale due to the work of tuning it would bring to the table, but we’ll disregard that moving forward to take a look at the full idea/fantasy.

What are Master Specializations?

A blast from the past
A blast from the past

Master specs are specs outside of the (usually 3) regular specs for players to play their class in a completely different role. To prevent new players from getting overwhelmed, unlocking these specializations could be done through a class quest chain where in you interact with some npcs of your class who think outside the box. A few examples, some of which we’ll flesh out below:

  • A hunter could become a tank, drawing on the power of their pet
  • A hunter could become a healer, instead of using the elements to damage npcs they can use the elements to heal players
  • A mage could become a melee dps or tank (think of the battlemage in Dragon Age: Origins)
  • A shaman could get a support spec, in which totems are central to the gameplay to boost the performance of other players
  • A rogue could get a ranged dps spec focused on poisons and bleeds, but also find weaknesses increasing damage taken by the enemy by 5% for the entire group
  • A priest could get a support spec that focuses on reducing damage taken and shortening debuff durations instead of absorbs/heals

A word on the possibility of a new support role


Adding a support role would present some challenges for the community to solve. How would a support player stack up compared to a healer or dps? Are they worth the raid spot? We love our damage meters, it would suck not to see the damage we reduced or the damage we added show up on our record in the meters!

When it comes to the meters, they are not everything. As a raid leader I find myself having to say over and over, tactics over numbers. Killing the boss is the goal. Would you not still be a vital part of the team if your strength of the earth totem increased everyone’s damage by 5% for 8 seconds every 30 seconds? Imagine having that in a fight where adds spawn regularly (and they do in a lot of fights these days). A potentially dangerous mob that could wipe your raid would die much quicker because of you being able to increase everyone’s damage.

Or imagine that you could stand in a pillar of light every 30 seconds for 5 seconds to reduce your damage taken by 5% on a fight that has regular raid wide AoE. Also not uncommon these days.

On top of that, the community could be helped out by blizzard by having a new combat log event being created that says how much damage or healing (or damage reduced) the support role ability provided. Addon developers could work with that, update their addons and then they would be able to compare support playing players to each other.

There are problems with adding a support role, but they’re problems that can be solved. Adding on top of that, Master Specializations are mean to give you an alternate gameplay style. You can always choose not to play it and play one of the normal 3 (or 2 or 4) specs as you always have!

Going into detail on a few masters specs

Given that I play a hunter myself, I’ll go into more detail on 2 different hunter master spec ideas, and 1 priest master spec. We now know that Survival hunters will become a melee spec in Legion, but when originally coming up with the concept it made more sense to me to make Beastmastery a melee spec. The numbers on the spells are obviously not final, but a representation of how the master spec could function.

Beastmaster Tank Hunter


In the master spec version of Beastmastery, the hunter takes on the Aspect of the Bear. The hunter is able to draw power from their pet and depending on the pet that the hunter is using they will have different abilities/cooldowns. The master beastmaster would tank as a regular melee tank and use melee weapons. In order to be nimble the master beastmaster prefers to use 2 one-handed weapons.

Aspect of the Bear: Increases health and armor by 20% and threat generation by 100%. The hunter gains bonuses to their abilities based on the pet they have active.

Toughness (passive): Combat hardens the hunter, every time the hunter deals a critical hit he gains a stack of Toughness. Max 30 stacks.

Wild Reflexes (Active Mitigation): Consumes Toughness. The hunter gains 30% chance to dodge attacks. Spells can also be dodged, but this will reduce the damage taken by spell by 15%. Lasts 0.5 seconds per stack of Toughness consumed.

Unbreakable Bond (passive): The hunter’s pet will share 3% of the physical damage the hunter takes. If a magic based pet is active it will share magical damage instead.

Sacrificial Bond: The hunter’s pet feels the pain of the hunter and shares 20% of the damage taken for 10 seconds. Unbreakable bond’s damage percentage goes up to 5% for the duration of Sacrificial Bond. 2 minute cooldown.

The master beastmaster’s kit would of course be rounded out with a taunt, interrupts and damage dealing abilities.

Survival Healing Hunter

In the master spec version of Survival, the hunter infuses his arrows with the elements with the intent to heal instead of deal damage. There are 3 options this spec could take in regard to pets.

– The pet could attack enemies as they do now, providing some extra dps to the raid.
– The pet could act as a support element, intercepting hits of damage from other players, reducing the amount of damage some players take.
– A new pet family, similar to the spirit beast, could be created to provide the master survivalist with pet that heals those with lower health.

The master survival hunter can have most of their current spells (pre-legion) converted into healing spells. Black Arrow would be on a shorter cooldown, allowing the master survivalist to become a HoT-oriented healer. The kit would need to be rounded out with a few cooldowns.

Regenerative Shot: Reduces the target’s damage taken by 30% and increases the healing of your healing over time spells on the target by 20% for 6 seconds. 2,5 minute cooldown.

Volley: Shoot a volley of nature infused arrows to the targeted area. Channel for x amount of healing every 1 second for 5 seconds.

Aspect of the Viper: Attacking an enemy npc for 3 seconds will give you x amount of spirit for 3 seconds.

“Cleric” Support Priest

PriestA priest who uses the Cleric master spec infuses the light into beneficial spells for their group, increasing the chance of success in fights.

Pillar of Light: Guide the light to the targeted location for 5 seconds. Every player standing in the pillar will take 5% less damage. 30 second cooldown.

Repel Malady: The duration of any debuffs the target gains in the next 8 seconds will be reduced by 20%.

Infuse Light: Channel the light onto your target, reducing their magical damage taken by 5%. Channel lasts up to 8 seconds.

Power of the Naaru: Increases the effectiveness of the target’s active mitigation for 8 seconds. Also reduces their damage taken from all sources by 30%. 2 minute cooldown.

It’s now been announced discipline is moving towards atonement play in Legion, but my idea had been to have the Cleric have atonement as well for filler spells, to contribute to both damage and healing in this new support role.

Some final remarks

These are just a few examples of possible ways classes could play a different style to prevent it from getting stale. Some classes have more possibilities than others due to their fantasy/lore background giving more opportunities to work with. Nevertheless, this is one addition I’d love to see in WoW. Hopefully the class diversification will offer some new play as well.

A counter argument to not implementing the master specs could be that it would mean if a master spec x is so good, but plays much differently players would not appreciate it. However that seems to be a risk worth taking as the complete SV spec is being changed in such a manner in Legion already.

And lastly to point out by giving pure dps classes a chance at a different role, they could help reduce the queue timers for looking for group tools.

What do you think of the Master Specialization idea? What master spec would you like to see be added to which class? Do you think a support role would work out? Let me know in the comments! Be sure to follow WoW Weekly’s social media in the side bar on the right!

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