Personalizing your character is what separates each character of the same class. During the early Beta Test, the character Talent system was very rough and Blizzard went back to the drawing board to make the system more intuitive by adding prerequisites to the Talent system. If you have played the Diablo series of games you'll be more than familiar with the idea of a skill tree and this is the new system Blizzard has employed for World of Warcraft's Talent point assignment.
Why have Talents?
As you play the game and your character levels up, starting at level 10, your character is given 1 talent point (TP) every level to assign to their Talent Tree. Each character has a different tree and different Talents. The reason talents are included is so that each player in the game of the same class will be slightly different as far as how their skills work and how effective they are in combat. Every talent is unique to a specific class. Talents are gained through level progression. Certain talents for your class are beneficial while you are leveling, other talents help you do better in PvP. Without this system each class character would be identical, which doesn't exactly add variety to the gamespace. It's up to you as the player how to make your character different by specializing in the character's different Talents.
How does the Talent system work?
With the maximum character level set at 80, a player can effectively assign a maximum of 71 talent points to their tree (leveling from 10 to 80 gives 71 points). Attaining a certain Talent's ability to augment your character is not as simple as just assigning 1 single point into a Talent.
For example, to activate and utilize a Talent in the second tier of the tree, you may have to assign 5 of your TPs into a Talent in the top tier prerequisites before it becomes active. Because the system is tiered, players have to think long and hard before assigning a point. Once you have allocated a TP, you cannot unallocate it. However, there will be NPCs available in some of the larger cities to allow players to reassign all their Talents, for a price, of course. This price will increase every time you reassign your Talents.
While planning one's template, take note that the ultimate talent in each of the Talent Trees require 50 Talent Points placed in that tree to unlock. This means that to learn the ultimate Talent in a tree, you need to place at least 51 points in that tree (attained at level 60). This prevents you from learning the ultimate Talent from either of the other 2 trees because you will only have a maximum of 71 Talent Points.
Each character class features three Talent Trees, each unique to the class. You may want to specialize in one tree or spread your points over two or even three trees. Spreading your points will mean that it would be impossible for you to become efficient in one single Talent discipline - the choice is yours.
- Often there are Talents in one tree that will provide useful benefits to another tree (such as the Elemental Precision talent in the Mage's Frost tree, which would benefit both a Mage speccing for Fire and a Mage speccing for Frost). It is often useful to place Talent Points in multiple trees in order to further enhance your desired spec.
Where do I assign Talent Points?
There are a couple of ways to activate your Talent screen. One method is to click the Talent icon on the interface bar at the bottom of the screen (assuming you are using the default UI coded by Blizzard). This pops up the Talent interface which features the main Talent window showing the tree and Talents. It also features three tabs along the bottom which can be clicked to flip between each of the three trees. You can also activate the Talent interface by pressing the N key (if you haven't unbound it or bound the key to a different action).
What if I choose the wrong Talents?
Don't panic! Players have the ability to unlearn all their talents and start over. Your Class Trainer, for a modest fee (increases by 5 each use, to a maximum 50, however the first time you do this you will only be charged 1, a freebie of sorts), will let you recover all Talent Points spent up to this point. You can then reassign all your points. Keep in mind that all points are removed from ALL trees, and you'll also unlearn higher ranks of the spells achieved through a talent point expenditure. Fortunately, as of patch 2.4 you will automatically relearn the ranks of these spells as soon as you put talent points back into them.
You can avoid accidentally clicking the wrong talent by enabling talent confirmation. This is an option in the Features tab of the options. pane.
Since patch 1.11 there is a decay in the cost of such talent respecs:
- The cost to unlearn talents will now decay over time. This cost will be reduced by a rate of 5 gold per month to a minimum of 10 gold.
Note: Although the official patch notes continue to say that the minimum is 10, subsequent official posts on the WoW forums have confirmed that that is a mistake, and the cost will only be reduced to a minimum of 15.
Occasionally, Blizzard will restructure a class's talent tree. If the change is significant, they will 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 Iceblock was made trainable, and the talent Cold Snap was moved to its place, and the new spell Icy Veins 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.