Ah, Drek'Thar. Before he moved into Alterac Valley and killed himself a mess of alliance, he was chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, the first teacher who brought Thrall along the path of the Shaman, blind Far Seer and one of many who had to redeem himself after falling for Ner'zhul and Gul'dan's warlock tricks. I'm sure, as shamans, we can all relate to falling for warlock tricks, right? Stupid Death Coil... anyway, we all know that Drek'Thar was one of the standard bearers who kept the traditions of shamanism alive during the dark period of the Old Horde, who kept the Frostwolves intact in the Alterac Mountains long enough for Thrall to grow to manhood and find them, and today he spends his time killing a whole lot of alliance folks and taking trips to Outland to watch Thrall's home videos of the Orc Cinematics from Warcraft III.
Drek is a trend-setter for us. He was dual-wielding before it was cool. Heck, he was dual-wielding before it was possible. He's just that cool. Think of him as the Saurfang of shamans, except with a lot larger body count. That's right, I'm saying Drek has killed more people than Saurfang. Drek kills a lot of people.
I'll admit this column so far is kind of turning into a lore-nerd festival, and I can't really help it. After writing the big paean to Uther yesterday I kind of feel like I need to balance it out with a testimonial to an awesome horde NPC, and this is the shaman column, so a great shaman should get some press. But I don't want to turn this into Know Your Lore, inasmuch as we already HAVE that column. So, then, why talk about Drek'Thar at all? Because he serves as a model of what shamans should be, and therefore, gives us ideas to discuss about the future of the shaman class.
Drek'Thar is a melee powerhouse. He possesses the standard melee shaman abilities like Windfury and Stormstrike, but in addition can lay down area damage with Whirlwind and Sweeping Strikes, abilities more commonly associated with warriors than shamans. I'm not arguing that enhancement as a tree should just appropriate these abilities... for one thing, it makes playing a shaman or a warrior less fun if they become copies of each other... but it's clear that as shaman, one of our iconic roles is in fact to bring the pain and Drek'Thar does just that. Also, quite frankly, Drek'Thar is dual-wielding swords. This has always been one of my biggest problems with playing a shaman: many weapons that would well suit an enhancement or elemental shaman are out of reach for them because they are swords. Since the modern blademasters of the new horde draw their power not from demonic magic but from the spirits of the elements, you can't really argue that it makes sense for shamans, the servants of those elements, to be unable to do so. I realize not everyone is going to agree... shaman's not using swords is like hunters not using maces, an established part of the game and unlikely to change... but if I had my way it would, and Drek'Thar is one reason why.
Drek'Thar's companion wolves, originally Wise-Ear and now Drakan and Duros, also make me envious. Note that I don't want shamans to become a pet class... we already have totems to juggle without adding that kind of micromanagement... but while I know the wolves are due to Drek'Thar's status as a Frostwolf Chieftain, I'd still like to see a spell or ability that allowed a shaman to summon a guardian wolf to defend him or assist him in some other way, similar to the tanking and magic DPS we can summon with earth and fire elemental totems. Since we're not likely to ever get a water elemental totem, perhaps this could take its place.
Drek'Thar's ability to fight while blind also inspires me to long for a shaman ability to target enemies he or she cannot see clearly, or even at all. A form of stealth detection, a means to engage invisible or otherwise undetectable opponents, or even the ability to see mobs that are otherwise out of phase with the world, anything. Shamans are supposed to be in tune with the elemental nature of the world, yet we don't really get a chance to do anything special with this knowledge. The spirits guide Drek'Thar's blows even in his blindness, but we can't get them to warn us when we're about to get stabbed in the back? Something as simple as a buff to Sentry Totem that gave us a small bonus to our chance to detect stealth... nothing that would break the game or always reveal rogues, just a little bonus, would be nice.
Finally, to turn back to Drek's melee abilities, this is one that I think even elemental and restoration shamans should have: a scaled back version of his AoE knockdown. Caster and healer shamans need, in my opinion, an 'oh crap' ability when things go south, be it aggro from too many mobs or everyone swarming them in arenas. The ability to knock up to four or five down for 2 seconds wouldn't be overpowered, but it would serve as a minor aggro management tool (no, it wouldn't clear aggro, but the tank has more time to get it back if the mobs are on their backs instead of killing the healer) as well as a small counterpoint to various abilities other classes have, a means to stay alive just a little longer. Obviously it would probably have to have at least a three minute cooldown, but I really think it would make a good earth-based totem or spell. Perhaps even work it into a WoW version of Earthquake?
Okay, that's probably enough wishing for abilities. I'm sure folks will explain why any and all of these are too much like other classes and/or game breaking, but believe me I don't want to make shamans overpowered. I have to fight them as a warrior all the time. I just want to see more of the flavor of previous Warcraft games, and the shamans we meet in game, to be brought into the class. Someone like Drek'Thar, who serves as an exemplar of the shaman in WoW, should definitely not be almost unrecognizable when compared to the average shaman player running around. (It goes both ways, too: why doesn't Drek drop any totems? I mean, heck, shouldn't he have at least Strength of Earth and Grace of Air down? I know he's got Windfury on his weapons already, so he doesn't need that. Imagine how awesome it would be if Drek popped a fire elemental totem during the fight. Then again, maybe he doesn't want the annoyance of having to re-pop the totems every time some jerk wands them down.)
Next week, gear for the 58 and up shaman, starting in Hellfire Peninsula: what quest drops and instance gear should you be looking for and where can they be found? Who drops what? We'll cover all three specs in as much details as column space allows and point you to some more in-depth gear guides as well. And I'll try and restrain my man-crush on Drek'Thar.