Updated For Mists of Pandaria

Did Blizzard remove ‘cookie cutter’ builds from the Mists of Pandaria talent trees?

Blizzard stated late in 2011 their intentions to remove the need for cookie cutter builds in the Mists of Pandaria expansion. Did they succeed?

It’s very early days yet, but on the strength of the choices players have made for their characters in the Mists beta, it seems Cookie Cutter builds will be around for quite a while yet.

At WowPopular, we have been taking a look at the talent trees chosen by players in the beta. After looking at over 1,000 characters, we’ve found that most players choose the same talents in each tier of their class tree. In fact, of all 66 classes and tiers available, there are 48 tiers where one talent choice clearly stood out as the favourite. Putting it another way, in more than two thirds of the time, players unanimously chose one specific talent over the other two available.

We’ve compiled these stats into graphs that can be seen by looking at each class (and specialization within the class) from the Talents page on WowPopular. And we’ll be constantly updating these graphs after Patch 5.0.4 (and Mists) is released.

Here’s a great example. Take a look at the class distribution for Druids:

This is a count of all talents chosen by all druids in the beta, separated into tiers. For example in the first tier the third talent, Wild Change is the most popular. No one has chosen the second talent, Displacer Beast.

In fact, in each of the 6 tiers, a clear favorite can be seen. Almost every druid in the game, regardless of spec will have an almost identical ‘cookie cutter’ talent tree.

Here’s another example; the Paladin class.

5 out of 6 tiers show a clear favorite.

The Warrior class is a little less clear cut.

Here there is no clear winner on tier 3, 4 or 6. This is likely because each of the warrior specs prefers a different talent for these tiers. In tier 4, for example, Arms warriors prefer Dragon Roar (knocking down enemies for 3 seconds); Fury warriors prefer Bladestorm (causing damage to all close enemies); whereas the Protection warrior tanks prefer Shockwave (stunning enemies in front of you).

Some talent distribution trees are more even, like the Monk class:

Our guess is players in beta have been trying out the different abilities of the Monk class. ‘Cookie cutter’ builds won’t start to show until a few weeks after the expansion is released.

So, did Blizzard fail at balancing the Mists of Pandaria talent trees? We say, yes. While there will undoubtedly be subtle differences between the talents chosen by raiding characters compared to PvP players, there are likely to be only one or two talents that are different for each class. We’ll keep you updated as the number of players using the new talents increases.


WowPopular provides information on the most popular talents, glyphs, gear, enchants, gems and reforges for maximum level players in World of Warcraft according to playstyle. The popular talents for Mists of Pandaria are now available. Other items will follow a few weeks after the expansion has been released.

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