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A discussion in defense of new race/class combinations

Michael Sacco

There's been a lot of news about possible new features arriving with the upcoming Cataclysm expansion. I covered one of those recently, that being the possibility of new race/class combinations, ones that were previously unavailable to player characters.

Now, this feature would actually make a ton of sense, especially taking the following into consideration:

- We've had the same 9 classes available for going on 5 years now.
- With new races being added in Cataclysm, there's almost certainly no hero class.
- It's quite likely that the new races will be unable to be Death Knights, at least at first.
- The leaked information from MMO-Champion suggests that Azeroth is getting a makeover, graphically and design-wise.
- The Paid Faction Switch service is coming soon, and adding these new combinations would bring almost 100% parity between factions in terms of classes available.
- Blizzard has been tossing quests that hint at these new combinations into the past few patches and onto the PTR.

But of course, the WoW community is a fickle beast, and what they seem to be focusing on here tends not to be the gameplay benefits of adding new race/class combinations, but the "lore-breaking" aspects of said combinations.

Well, I don't think any of these are unreasonable, and in fact many of them have precedents in lore. To make the discussion more interesting, I've brought in my lore-hound colleague Daniel Whitcomb, and we'll expound on each new possible option to give you clear reasons why they're not only plausible, but likely. On top of that, I'm bringing in our class columnists to give their insight on the new choices and explain their pros and cons in terms of gameplay!

Let's start, shall we?


Mike Sacco: This is actually one that people seem to be freaking out about.

Daniel Whitcomb: Whereas for me, it's probably one of the ones I'm most excited about. Mythology and Religion have always been some of my favorite subjects, so the idea of Warcraft fleshing out the religions of the world is possibly my favorite possibility from the lore so far.

MS: Right. In the quest that was added in patch 3.2, Tahu Sagewind seems to be doubting that Night Elf-style moon worship is the right way to go for all spiritual Tauren; that there should be some balance between the sun and the moon, just as they worship their personifications, An'she and Mu'sha. Sun and Moon, male and female, light and darkness. He seems to think that pure Druidism is getting it wrong by not taking this balance into account.

DW: And given that whole sun worship hook, I'm really hopeful that the new Priests and Paladins are sun worshippers, using the power of the sun to cast their damage and healing spells in the same way Druids use arcane magic when casting moon-related spells. On top of that, Aponi Brightmane's conversation with Tahu does seem to suggest that she might have found something to admire in the Argent Crusaders and feels inspired to take up their abilities, so I can see that too. I'm really hoping it's sun worship though.

MS: Either way, we could be looking at the first Tauren Priest in conflicted druid Tahu, and the first Tauren Paladin in injured warrior Aponi.

DW: Aponi?

MS: Aponi.

DW: Wait ... Ghostcrawler promised us Aponi ... and he delivered!

Priest columnist Matt Low's perspective: Holy cow! I don't think anyone saw this one coming! Possible? Yes it is! Taurens can be Druids or Shamans. While it may not seem obvious, the Tauren have an affinity for healing. With Taurens being able to train for Priesthood now, they can add their own diversity and racial talents among Horde players.

Possible Tauren Priest names might be Holyhoof or Lighthorn.

Tactically speaking, the first thing that comes to mind is that Tauren Priests will have a defensive mechanism for anyone close by them. The War Stomp will be enough to stun and stall pesky players (such as Rogues) long enough for them to get clear or wait for reinforcements. If that's not enough, the base health increase allows them to survive a little bit longer. They'll probably survive an extra 2 seconds before they get turned into beef. Priests and Herbalism also go well together. I'm not quite sure how handy Nature Resistance is going to be. My first thought is that it'll increase their survivability against Chain Lightning and other related nature spells that are prominent in Ulduar.


MS: Here's another one over which the player base seems to be split in half. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but it's not as if there's no precedent for trolls turning into animals.

DW: Seriously. In both Zul'aman and Zul'gurub as well as Zul'drak, we've seen Trolls channel animal Loa to gain power. It's certain possible that certain Troll Priests could call on their Loa for similar empowerment, and thereby gain Druid-like powers.

MS: Right. They have the pick of the pack in terms of animals to worship.

DW: What's really intriguing to me is which set of Loa player-character Troll Druids might call upon. As Darkspears originally hail from Stranglethorn, they might call upon the jungle Loa of Zul'grub, assuming they're now freed from the influence of Hakkar. On the other hand, Zul'aman offers more immediate analogues to current Druid forms, including Bear, Cat, and Bird Loas.

MS: For me, the Stranglethorn bunch seems much more likely, actually. If you've ever quested in Zabra'jin, you do some scouting on Lost One Druids in Feralfen Village for the Troll Shaman Seer Janidi, and she says, "No self-respecting Darkspear troll engages in bird worship. Their spirits are weak, capricious, and best left to the Amani."

DW: Right, which brings up the question: Does that mean, perhaps, different animals for Troll Druid forms? The possibilities certainly have me excited!

MS: After all, it's not called Storm Crow Form, it's called Flight Form. Maybe we'll see Bat Form for flying Troll Druids. Maybe their cat form could be a badass tiger with 80s hair.

DW: Yeah, and Serpent or Spider Tank form? I'm on board. But then again, I'm not sure if Blizzard wants to take the plunge and make that much of a change to class flavor, even if the basic mechanics and numbers behind the spells and forms are the same. They could just go the other way and allow some Trolls to get buddy buddy with the Tauren and learn Druidism from them -- or they could introduce a whole new set of Loas or mix and match Loas. Like I said, I love fictional religion and mythology, and I've been in love with troll Loas since I first read about Eraka no Kimbul and Ueetay no Mueh'zala in Zul'Farrak. So, I'm hoping it's all about Loas and not just a bunch of Trolls converting to Earthmother worship a la Tauren.

Druid columnist Allison Robert's perspective: We know that Trolls are perfectly capable of managing the shapeshifting mechanic (e.g. Zul'Gurub, Zul'Aman, and Gun'drak), so the most class-defining part of being a Druid isn't really a stretch for them. Moreover, Trolls are already capable Shaman, and the two classes' views on the world aren't entirely dissimilar. Lorewise the only thing that's kind of tough to accept is that the Trolls would willingly join a class so inextricably linked to Night Elven civilization and culture, but better them than the Blood Elves (who were perhaps the other likely choice). Trolls are still the least-played Hordeside race (possibly the least-played race in the game, period) and so they're unlikely to impact the population advantage still held by the Night Elves, but I might have had to kill myself if Blood Elves got Druids.

Now, frankly, Troll racials are amazingly bad for Druids. This is the one area where Horde would have been better off getting Blood Elves as Druids; BE racials would have been fantastic for the class. Beast Slaying has situational use, and isn't likely to have a significant impact on either PvE or PvP. Bow and Throwing Weapon Specialization are both useless for druids. Da Voodoo Shuffle is hardly a big deal for a class that can already shift out of most movement impairing effects. Regeneration is pretty meh. Helpful while grinding, to be sure, but as with Beast Slaying, it's situational.

Berserking is slightly different. Useless for Balance and Resto, somewhat useful for Feral. Oddly enough, Bears might get better use from it than Cats, because +haste (which is basically what Berserking is) still isn't a great stat for kitty; even with Savage Roar, the vast majority of our damage comes from special attacks dependent on Energy ticks and not white hits. I can see Berserking being a nice but not overwhelming DPS boost for cats, but helpful for Bear threat generation in 5-mans, especially if combined with Berserk. In raids, close to the hard expertise cap are you?

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