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World of Warcraft is a game of specialists; even (and especially) the so-called hybrid classes end up playing in specific, focused roles in group and end-game content. The higher you level and the more talents you learn, the more specialized your character becomes. Your "spec" (specialization), determined by where you've distributed your points among the three talent trees available to your class, begins to define and inform your gameplay as you group with others more and more often.
At some point, you'll want to experiment with another set of talents -- that's time for a respec. (Look for talent recommendations in our leveling guides and our Class 101 series.) Soon enough, you'll be wishing you could switch between one set of talents and another -- and you can, with dual specialization.
Before we dig into the basics, we should note one of the more exciting changes for leveling players coming up in Cataclysm. The expansion will lower both the required level and cost of dual spec, giving players more flexibility for group and individual play than ever before.
From the Twitter chat with Blizzard developers on July 16:
Q: With the new 31-point tree system, how will players use dual-specialization? Do we get to choose a new tree when we first use our secondary specialization (off-spec)?
A: You can use dual-specialization for a different specialization in beta, if you choose, much as you can today. We are going to lower the level at which you can use dual-specialization, as well as the cost for purchasing it, because we recognize that using Dungeon Finder while leveling is likely to be popular.
Q: How will a brand new players know what a good leveling specialization is? Are they expected to know what site to visit and read up?
A: We hope that most talent builds are decent for leveling. Giving players a good ability at level 10 definitely helps with this. We are trying to avoid the traps of bad talents by just removing them altogether (Unbridled Wrath, RIP).
Dual spec basics
Dual specialization allows you to save and easily switch between two separate talent specs, glyph sets and action bars. First available at level 40, dual spec is a pricey proposition -- 1,000 gold, a check you're not likely to want to pick up with a first WoW character. (Once you've leveled more characters to the top of the game, you'll find expenses like these much easier for additional characters.) The convenience dual speccing brings is unparalleled. You'll be able to switch specs and roles in groups -- say, from a DPS-oriented spec for questing to a tanking or healing spec -- on the fly, without a visit to your class trainer, respec fees or the tedious retraining of your talents and abilities.
How to dual spec your character
- You must be level 40 and be able to pay 1,000 gold to purchase dual specialization. Reputation discounts do not apply to the cost.
- Visit your class trainer and purchase dual specialization.
- Train your first (primary) spec. If you go into your interface options and check Preview Talent Changes (Escape > Interface > Features > Preview Talent Changes), you'll be able to preview and play around with your new talent points before saving and setting the entire set (similar to the talent calculator tools on Wowhead.com). Don't forget to save when you're done! The specialization icon on your spec tab will be represent whichever talent tree you invest the most talent points in.
- Train any additional spell ranks that are necessary.
- Plug in the glyphs you'd like to use with this build.
- Put spells/abilities specific to this build on your action bars. Each spec has its own set of action bars. When a new ability rank is learned, it will only be updated on the active spec's action bars. Druids' alternate forms use the same action bars for both specs.
- Click over and activate your secondary spec and train the talent points. Don't forget to save!
- Train up any necessary spell/ability ranks. The trainer only shows spells or abilities linked to your active spec, so make sure you've activated the second spec before clicking in to the trainer.
- Glyph for your secondary spec.
- Set up your action bars for your secondary spec.
This photo gallery from the test realms back when dual spec was first being implemented gives a good overview of the process. (Some details may have changed; refer to the text above for the process.)
When you change specs with the dual spec feature, you literally just click a button. It's a five-second cast that swaps your glyphs and action bar right along with your spec. When you change specs, your mana/rage/energy will be reset to zero and you'll lose any spec-specific buffs. There's no cooldown time on switching specs; you can change back and forth as often as you like. You can't change specs, however, during combat or in battlegrounds (except during Preparation before the battle begins) or arenas.
If you decide you'd like to modify either of those specs, you'll need to pay a respec fee and go through the respec process at a class trainer, as usual. Make sure the spec you want to re-do is active before beginning the respec process.
You can change your glyphs and action bars for free, of course, as often as you'd like. To change your glyphs, activate the spec appropriate to the glyph set you want to change, then have at it.
Hunter pets get two sets of specs right along with their owners. Don't forget to set their talents, too!
Finally, you may want to install an addon that makes it easier to swap your gear back and forth between your two specs (say, from your healing gear to your DPS gear). Some addons can do this automatically for you when you change specs -- a real convenience!
Reader tip of the week
Admit it: Those loading screen tips are kinda cool -- so let's create our own! Each week, we'll include a reader-submitted tip designed to help leveling players.
Our first tip comes from Natrii of Executus (US):
Thanks for getting the ball rolling, Natrii -- and better luck with those pillagers next time! Share your own hard-earned wisdom covering levels 1 through 80 to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Include your character's name so we can give you credit.)Survival is your first priority! Whether you are leveling or raiding, no matter what your role, staying alive is your first priority. A dead DPSer does no DPS; a dead healer does not heal. And if you die while soloing, you're losing time. Death is avoidable most of the time. Avoid it when you can, though sometimes it is unavoidable. /glares at Defias Pillagers
Looking for mid-level beta screenshots
Darn it -- mid-level screenshots and details from the Cataclysm beta just aren't as popular as those from the goblin and worgen newbie zones or the high-level content. Are you in the beta? We're especially interested in screenshots covering levels 20 through 59, which we'll toss together periodically in a special mid-level WoW Rookie Cataclysm gallery. Share your shots with fellow WoW Rookie readers by emailing 'em to email@example.com.
Recent articles of interest to rookies and fresh 80s
Visit the WoW Rookie Guide for links to everything you need to get started as a new player, from game lingo for the beginner, to joining your first guild as a mid-level player, all the way up through what to do when you finally hit level 80.