Saturday, October 22, 2011

Top 5 Class Roles That Nearly Existed

I love it when you casually read something and it grows in your brain until you've spawned an idea that is just awesome, or so you think anyway. The other day I was reading Gavendos answers to Blizzards Class Feedback questions, and one thing commenter Safari said to that post really set my brain gears in motion.

"One thing I wrote is another role. I think hunters should have melee DPS spec as well. Based on fast quick attacks of course." 

Melee hunters? The very symbol of newbie playstyle and a standing joke in the WoW community from the dawn of WoW till today? But you know what - why can't hunters be a melee class? In fact, Blizzard have themselves pondered the idea, because many design choices about hunters definitely show that Blizzard long thought of meleeing hunters as a valid option. And they're not alone. Here is my top 5 list of class roles that could've come to be;

5. Dk Healers
When I first heard about the design idea of Dks, I imagined a plate wearing warlock, essentially. I thought it would be awesomely cool with a caster that worked as a tank, who commanded its undead minions to do his tanky bidding. That isn't what Dks turned out to be at all, but there are still a couple of things that if changed the right way could turn a dk into a caster - either as dps or a healer.

Why it could be true:
Unlike the other items on this list, Dks don't have anything that screams "COULD BE CASTER!", but rather a lot of hidden potential. For instance, Death Coil heals if used on the dks ghoul, this could theoretically be designed to heal anyone. And while we're down that path, many of the dks skills could of course be designed to heal rather than deal damage - like Death & Decay. Their Gargoyle could work like a little summonable healing pet. Death Strike could give the dk a Holy Power-like heal. Blood Tap already heals the group with the right glyph. And before you say "well you could design any skill in the game to just heal instead of deal damage, Rip your friend for a hot ey!?" I don't agree. None of the other dpsers skills would make sense as healing skills, but many of a dks skills would (except you would maybe have to rename the skills to a little less death, like Death & Decay to Undeath & Undecay or something). They have a resurrection. Originally Blood Aura made so that everyone healed themselves worth of their damage dealt, like a version of Vampiric Embrace. They are in a sense the opposite of any healer, but how awesome wouldn't it be if they then actually could be healers?

Why it isn't true: Initially Blizzard intended for Dks to be a little bit of everything. Icy Touch was so strong for a while that Dks could've been competitive ranged dps if they had had enough runes, even called "Plate Witches". They did the most damage, took the least damage and could heal themselves for more than any other non-healer could. Each talent tree basically turned the Dk into a tank-dps with strong self healing capabilities. Blizzard then realized that eventhough it would make Dks fun, it made every other class annoyed and that they had to decide just what Dks were supposed to do and be. So they made a warrior out of them, turning one talent tree into a tank tree and the others into dps (where one coincidentally is for twohanders and the other for dual wielding). The Dk just didn't fit into the frame that every other classes had been molded in, and so Blizzard had to reshape them into that frame instead. In that process, any possibility of a healing dk died. But it would be awesome to play.

4. Tank Warlock
This didn't just almost become true, tank warlocks actually existed during a short period of Burning Crusade and Wrath, albeit in two different forms. A fellow guildie of mine wanted to see just how far he could take his lock using the old SL/SL build. He managed to actually turn himself into a proper tank lock, tanking me and other people through real Burning Crusade heroics!

Why it could be true: Warlocks actually have an entire spec - Demonology - that has many sneaky features in it that could've been used for tanking. Soul Link reduces the damage taken by the lock by a significant amount, but that was far from everything. In Metamorphosis the warlock took less damage, was made crit immune, had a mass taunt, and a charge to quickly get to the mobs in Demon Charge. They also had a skill, Searing Pain, with increased threat value to keep aggro on mobs.

Why it isn't true: It undoubtedly seems like Blizzard at least thought of the possibility, but eventually scrapped the idea. Metamorphosis still reduces crit chance received and damage taken, but the taunt has been removed and Demonic Charge changed into Demonic Leap (which still is basically the same thing though). The idea worked so well that it actually briefly worked too well. Designing a tank that can deal regular dps damage is a very dangerous thing to do, as anyone who had to fight a protection warrior in late Wrath or a dk in early Wrath will attest. In order to fix this, Blizzard would probably have to reduce damage done by anyone in Metamorphosis, which would make the cooldown worthless for anything but tanking. Also Blizzard probably thought that anyone who plays a warlock wouldn't be interested in tanking anyway. Or would they? As far as I know, it's still a deep harbored wish among warlocks to be able to turn into a real tanking maniac every once in a while, just as back in BC. The way warlock tanking worked back in BC wouldn't work today though, since the damage reduction from Metamorphosis doesn't make up for the lack of proper dodging, or not being able to parry or block as a warlock.

3. Melee Hunter
As mentioned, the idea of a meleeing hunter is far from an old one. And if we look at other games we realize that the pure-ranged hunter version that we have in WoW is actually a rather unique style of hunterism. Most other rpgs depict the hunter as some form of Aragorn inspired mix between the WoW version and a Wow rogue - a character that has the possibility to do good damage in ranged but who also is able to fight in melee and be annoying as hell with traps if needed.

Why it could be true: Anyone who played hunter back in Vanilla remembers that the way the old Survival tree used to look, it seemed suspiciously much like Blizzard wanted survival hunters to actually be melee hunters, or at least some 50/50. The fact that Hunters have more melee skills (Raptor Strike, Mongoose Bite, Counterattack, Wing Clip, traps before Trap Launcher) than any melee has ranged skills seems like further proof that Blizzard at least at some time thought hunters should be able to go melee. Not to mention Hunters actually wield melee weapons with their ranged weapon as a backup. Coincidence? Perhaps, but most hunters agree they'd much rather see their ranged weapon than their melee weapon on their backs.

Why it isn't true: Some of you might hate me for saying this, but let me ask you a question: If you could choose to be able to use your skill at 40 yards or only in melee range what would you prefer, regardless of class? Eventhough most hunters didn't turn into melee hunters for the simple reason that their melee skills just weren't all that good, another factor is that ranged always have been a lot easier to play than melee. Right now, hunters combine the best of two worlds with the benefits of actually dealing melee damage while being a ranged class, why would they give that up to go into melee range with all the drawbacks that has? The only drawback a hunter has towards other ranged is that they can't deal damage in melee, something Blizzard already fixed once and surely will fix even more soon. But wouldn't it be interesting if you as a hunter could smoothly switch between being ranged and melee, eventhough most hunters would end up being ranged 95% of the time.

2. Tank Shaman
As with the tank warlock, this is something that was so close to becoming true, it actually worked in a limited setting. Up until approximately level 40, enhancement shamans are actually capable of decent tanking. So capable in fact, that I wrote a guide on how to do it (as I've done with warlock tanking as well). Unfortunately, the lfd tool has killed both aspiring warlock tank and shaman tanks, so if you want it to happen you have to gather 4 friends who are crazy enough to join you.

Why it could be true: Shamans actually have a taunt. They have a totem that does nothing but tank. Enhancement shamans prefer two one handers, but can wield shields if they want to, and enhancement shamans used to have a talent that gave them parry and a talent called Shield Specialization which increased their block chance by up to 5%. They have a skill that reduces damage done to them by 30%. And they have a weapon buff that increases their threat by 30% and reduces their damage taken by 5%. Need more proof?

Why it isn't true: The reasons there aren't any shaman tanks running around are probably the same as why there are no tank warlocks. Blizzard learned that combining the design of a dps with that of a tank was a very bad idea. Nonetheless, Shamans have retained most of their tanking skills, in fact, Rockbiter was changed to increase threat in Cataclysm - this isn't some old remnant from Vanilla that Blizzard has just forgotten about. This is a change they actively applied to Shamans recently, for some reason.

1. The Everything Druid
Druids are among the hybrids that have suffered worst from the "hybrid" curse. Back in Vanilla, Blizzard often wanted hybrids to be good at a little bit of everything, which meant they weren't good at anything (or only one specific thing like healing). This was especially true for druids. They were known as the "Jack of all trades" and Blizzard obviously wanted druids to be able to freely fulfill any role (them being the only class that currently can do every role in the game) and only specialize slightly in one.

Why it could be true: Back in Vanilla, Blizzard really thought of druids as bear-chicken-cat-healers (although chicken form didn't exist initially). As with many hybrid gears back then, many leather items had both melee stats and caster stats on them, or set bonuses that catered both. All druids had the capability to combat res, throw heals, go into tank form or sprint away as a cat for a reason - they actually wanted them to be able to do anything during a fight. People who decided to focus on one area were rewarded with extra good talents. This might sound odd, but that is actually how most talent trees worked, only it had the most interesting implications for druids. Imagine a druid that truly swaps roles mid fight, going from tanking to ranged to caster to healer as needed, mid combat.

Why it isn't true: Unfortunately, as I mentioned, being half ass at everything means not being good at anything. Druids became known as "Jack of all trades, master of none". Blizzard also realized that allowing people to freely spend their points some here and there made designing talent trees a hell. In some cases they made some talents too good which meant everyone had to take it anyway (like Innervate for druids). In some cases they made combos so good that everyone took that anyway (like the warlock SL/SL build). And if combining a healer and tank is dangerous, imagine the horror of a class that is actually every role in one? I still think it would be totally rad.


  1. Really great post! And funny! I loved how the creativity of the players would result in tanking warlocks etc, that's brilliant.
    Not long ago (like 30 mins) I heard from Blizzcon that they are planning to remove the minimal range for hunters. That aaaaalmost makes them melee, although still using a ranged weapon.

  2. This is great!

    I remember my brother trying to do a melee hunter in vanilla as SV just to give it a try - and he ended up doing some insane dps for a while. (This was while levelling, not at top level.)

    As a Warlock I don't necessarily want to be a full time tank, but I definitely miss those special little fights where a caster tank was used. Like Leotheras in SSC where you'd tank his demon form. It wasn't even with Meta, just the fact that how you specced with SL/SL and someone spam healing you and your pet you wouldn't die.

    I also got to tank the one phase on Mimiron in Ulduar. I do wish there were more fights like that, where you'd get an unconventional tank like a caster. It just makes it all the more fun!

  3. Drizzt Do'urden is another famous melee hunter. I don't think anyone would call Drizzt a noob.

  4. I was going to mentioned Leotheras, but Saga beat me to it. :) Olm the Summoner in Gruul's Lair also used to be "tanked" by multiple warlocks, by enslaving the felhounds he summoned and turning them against him. I kind of miss fights like that.

    I'm also a bit sad that hunters meleeing is completely going away. Not that I ever wanted to be a melee hunter, but I always thought that there was something very stylish about raptor strike, mongoose bite (who even remembers that anymore), wing clip and awaaay! Now you'll just be shooting things at point blank range even while you're getting beaten up and that's kind of... meh.

    As far as tanking shamans go, I remember this elemental shaman back in BC who tanked all of Karazhan, gemming for defense and everything. It remember seeing that on YouTube and thinking that it was very cool. :)

  5. I always wondered why did the ranged weapons have a separate slot instead of being 2-handed weapons like I was used from other games - now I know it. Thanks for the post.

  6. I used to enjoy Boomkin tanking back in BC