Career Mastery: Master BlasterSeptember 2, 2008
Part of the entire Warhammer Online hype campaign has focused on what WAR is doing different — or at least better — than the rest of the MMO crop. How it’s setting itself above and apart from the pack, so to speak. We’ve heard gangbusters on Public Quests, the Tome of Knowledge, RvR, Living Guilds/Cities, Open Grouping and so on. Yet in doing so, I’ve noticed a distinct lack of coverage on some of the more “staple” MMO elements that WAR shares with other games — the upcoming auction house/economy, crafting (partially implemented, last I heard), armor sets, gear and the Mastery Paths.
I think the latter has been overlooked for a few reasons. One, we have 20 new classes to check out and sort through as it is — skills, combat style, strengths, weaknesses. Jumping ahead to how these classes are configured via the Mastery Paths is like going ahead to a 201 class when you still haven’t taken the 101 course. In a few months, once people have settled into the game and gotten up into the 20s and 30s (or rank 40), there’s going to be a lot more discourse concerning the paths and how people are specializing their character. But for newbie players traveling through ranks 1-9, it isn’t an issue at all.
The second reason is that there’s a somewhat common perception that Mythic’s approach for the Mastery Paths is fairly tepid — three very linear ways to develop your character, without the “branching” of World of Warcraft’s talent trees. What’s worse is that there are both Career Mastery Paths (which are obviously limited to one career) and Renown Mastery Progression (which we’ll talk about some other time), which is a bit confusing as well.
The final reason I see is that the Paths come across as a muddled catch-all of character improvements, but they’re by no means the only way that you’re going to boost your character over the course of its life. Are the Paths supposed to shoehorn us into a certain role? Provide class-defining skills? Are they under or overpowered? A lot of people have no idea, and therefore apathy grows toward the system.
So let’s take a look at the Mastery Paths and what they mean for you.
Mastery Path Basics
Like some “other” games (innocent whistle), you gain your first Mastery point at level 11, and you continue to accumulate these points — though not every level — until you hit 40, at which you’ll have 25 Mastery points to play around with. Each career has three Mastery Paths, each of which contain 15 ranks and 7 “other” abilities (tactics, skills and morale abilities). The 7 other abilities start at rank 3, then every odd-numbered rank thereafter (5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15). You simply hit the plus (+) button to chug a point ranking up, and then click on a tactic, skill or morale ability (for an additional point) to gain the use of those.
Doing simple math, you can quickly deduce that by maxing out an entire Mastery Path and all its related abilities, you’ll be left with a measly three points to plug into one of the other Paths. D’oh!
Note that you don’t have to buy lower-tiered tactics, skills or abilities to purchase the higher ones, you just have to advance the ladder to that point.
One other thing is important to keep in mind: the points you put into Mastery Path ranks are not wasted to just get to another special ability up the ladder. Each Mastery Path has a group of career skills that it is directly linked to — and by ranking up that Path, those skills will also see a marked increase in terms of power. It’s not widely known exactly what the mathematical formula for increasing these skills — different types of skills (healing, damage, buffs, etc.) seem to have different modifiers as well. I’ve read (don’t hold me to this) that it buffs a linked skill about 60-80% more.
All you need to know is that more ranks in a path = more powerful skills related to that path. Want to be a better healer? Rank up to 15 in your healing path and watch your efficiency and power soar!
You aren’t tied to a particular spec/build when you start putting your points into a Path. The Mastery Path interface has a button to allow you to respec — aka “refund” — your points for a certain fee.
Advanced Mastery Path Know-How
Even at Rank 40, you’re not quite done gaining Mastery Path points! There are special pieces of armor out there that give you a temporary buff to a particular Mastery Path (+1 or +2 to a certain Path) when you wear the armor. You can’t use these “fake” points to help you gain any of the 7 other abilities on the tree, but it can artificially boost you to rank 16 and beyond.
You can also earn Mastery Path points through your renown ranks (RR). You get one more point at RR 40, 50, 60 and 70 — a total gain of four new points to play with (bringing the grand total of Mastery Path points to 29). On top of this, when you finally hit RR 80, you get a +1 Mastery Path bonus that applies to all three trees (effectively, 3 points handed to you) — but this bonus is treated like the armor bonus, and does not count to help you gain Path skills/tactics/morale abilities.
(Note: I’ve also read that you simply get another point at RR 80 instead of the +1 to all three paths — can someone verify this one way or the other?)
Mastery Path Extra Credit
As straightforward as this all may appear, Mastery Paths do offer you a bit more in terms of character customization than choice 1, choice 2 or choice 3. For starters, there’s no rule saying that you have to take any of the 7 other abilities in the tree — you can go down a path just to rank up and get the linked skill bonuses, then put the remaining 10-14 points in another tree of your choice (perhaps eschewing other abilities there as well, to make your character more basic in terms of options, but more powerful in terms of base skills boosted.
You also have to choose how you’re going to invest points as you level — will you try to race up the ladder to rank 15 before putting any points into the other path abilities, or will you get them along the way? What levels will you plan on respeccing to readjust the point pool you’ve accumulated? Will you level more DPS and then respec to a healer for the end game?
Time will tell how important the rank 11, 13 and 15 special abilities in each of the Paths will be, but conceivably Warhammer Online will be a lot more friendly toward the player who wants to form a hybrid character.
If you’re the type who doesn’t mind a little spoilage in exchange for being able to map out your character’s progress, then I’d guide you over to WARdb, where they have an excellent “career builder” in their Tools section. There’s also this career builder to check out too!