New Class: Mercenary

I said I was disappointed that there was no new class announced for Shadowlands, that made me think what could they have added?

There are 12 classes. So looking at them (or how I see them anyway):

  • warriors are basic fighters, the footmen (plate) (tank, melee)
  • paladins are warriors + have the devotion to the holy light. The healing spec makes sense to me because in a battle, standing still (easy target) should be armoured up (plate) (tank, melee, heals)
  • death knights are warriors but they draw from death with the runic system etc. (Plate) (tank, melee)
  • shaman draw on the elements, have totems (mail) (melee, range, heals)
  • Hunter has a melee spec now I think? (Which is weird), marksman (all the shooting) and beast mastery (animal friend) so a lot more diverse. They have generally been marketed as being a nature type hunter, roaming the wilds (mail) (melee, range)
  • Demon hunters were elf warriors I guess originally and then studied the legion and got their powers from the fel (leather) (tank, melee)
  • Druids are literally shapeshifters getting their power from nature (leather) (tank, melee, range and heals)
  • Monks are martial artists with a love of beer (leather) (tank, melee, heals)
  • Rogues are the sneaky, backstabbing type wielding daggers and stealthing around picking locks (leather) (melee)
  • Priests have the devotion to the holy light but they also have the void in the shadow spec (cloth) (ranged, heals)
  • Mages throw magic around (cloth) (ranged)
  • Warlocks are like mages but they went to the dark side and have demons (cloth) (ranged)

So what are we missing? Well that depends on what angle we’re approaching the problem. Armor types split 3/2/4/3 with mail being the one trailing the pack. There are 6 tank options, 5 heals, 9 melee and 6 range. More important than the details there is the big question – what are we aesthetically missing?

Why would you want to save the galaxy Azeroth?
The answer is shouting at me (but then I have been playing swtor) – where is the soldier of fortune? The mercenary looking for riches and glory. I mean we get gold as quest rewards, we literally go and plunder dungeons. Sure there is the whole ‘saving the world thing’ but then that easily works out because the merc is “one of the people that live in it!”

As much as I would love another tank option I don’t think that would fit the character. Why would they risk their neck like that? How much gold would they need to take all the fire? Equally I think they should have a couple of combat self-heals maybe, based on potions/bandages, but it’s not a profession which lends itself to healing others.

Which leaves dps. I think they should be a mixture of range and melee. So specs?

  • Cover (range): most abilities only work from crouching (it would be so cool if it produced a shield for them to hide behind). Gun for the mainhand, maybe a dagger for offhand. Most abilities won’t work in melee, hence a couple of last resort dagger attacks (which pull from the melee spec). They have a lot of stuns, snares, slows etc. to keep mobs away from them and maybe a roll function like monks so they can move and crouch again if they need to kite mobs. This is a tactical spec.
  • Raider (melee): again a gun and a dagger I think as there is no way they will introduce new weapon types. A heavy movement spec. there should be a lasso type ability to yank mobs close for then a dagger in the gut, and then a backflip for medium distance to unleash all the firepower. The abilities to shoot, stab etc. would work without the movement but perhaps it buffs them and makes them more powerful? I think of this as the Indiana Jones spec.
  • Tinker (range): I know engineering is a profession but basically the merc would have all the toys, all the explosives and rockets etc. So build turrets, plant bombs, electro whip maybe? Also self-buffs to make shooting more powerful. This would be a DOT heavy spec.

I tried to keep it melee or range because obviously if they are both then that would be overpowered. The raider spec does dance between them but the concept of darting around seemed fun in my head. The tactical spec alone would be a balance nightmare with the crowd control component when it came to PvP. Although maybe if they put diminishing returns on if the same player was being hit, and obviously the cover merc would be weak in melee so it might balance potentially. The tinker would probably run into issues with needing too much build-time, the on demand dps would likely be low.

That being said I think it works out to be aesthetically and mechanically different to anything currently in game. They should probably wear mail but leather might make more sense due to the movement requirements. The only class currently (I believe) that can equip guns is hunter, and daggers are mostly rogues I think, so that works out. I also think that given the faction divide (and disillusionment caused by the fourth war) that Shadowlands might have been a good time to bring them in but perhaps nobody could pay them enough to venture to the land of death so the expansion after could work too.

What races? Should be an equal number on each side of the fence. For the…

  • Alliance: human obviously, so also Kul Tiran, Mechagnomes because you can’t have an engineering spec without the cyborg race, night elf (given everything that happened in the fourth war)
  • Horde: Forsaken because who do they owe loyalty to now?, goblin because they are the original “time is money” race, Vulpera and blood elf

I might have said worgen and dwarves but the merc is a harder fit horde side perhaps because of the old “blood and honour”, they seem more community orientated, they have a tighter bond and so would therefore be less ‘privateer’ about it. At least that’s how I see it but the old YMMV does apply.

Queue queue times
Now having said all this it does occur to me that adding a pure dps class is likely to be problematic on its own. Dps already outnumber tanks and healers and if the ‘new shiny’ was dps then it would be even worse – not a great sales advert. So could we make a merc a tank or a healer? I do stand by what I said above in that how much gold would be required to make them take all the fire? and that if they are going to be running into danger then depending on others for their survival (as a healer) doesn’t track for me. Is there a way to make it realistic?

I said about about the Bounty Hunter class in Swtor – that has a tank spec, just one out of the 6 spec options but it does exist. Crucially I think it’s a ranged tank spec which would be revolutionary in terms of mechanics. I’m not sure whether it is still a ranged tank or not, I can see the problems because surely the boss charges and the tank kites and then what about all the poor melee? Still perhaps the tactical cover spec I outlined above could be adapted to being a ranged tank. Add on a jetpack to blast the boss in the face as the tank epic jumps to the other side of the room to take cover once more. That way they might be ‘taking all the fire’ but it is in the most careful self-preserving type way. It could be said that those mercs who go that path do it because they don’t trust other tanks not to lose aggro and then they’d get their faces mauled without the tools to deal with it.

That would mean we’d have a tank, melee and a range spec. Can we do better? Well druids do technically have four specs. Although the last new class (demon hunter) only had two which presumably meant for 1/3rd less work as they had one less spec to balance, so it’s unlikely that they would want to increase the amount of work to four. We adapted the cover spec to tank, could the tinker spec be adjusted to healer? To be honest my gut says no because I like the idea of chucking grenades and building turrets and firing off rockets. I suppose there could be a small amount of dps (for self protection) and then the rockets are full of healing goo, and the turrets are heals over time. That could work but I think we lose something interesting and different. I guess this is perhaps why the Tinker is a class that has been suggested on it’s own because mechanically it can extend easily both offensively and to heals.

This is where variability in spec builds would be good. The most fun I had on my kitty druid for a while pre-nerf in 4.2 (I think?) was pinch-hitting as a tank because I had these cooldowns I could blow and in a dungeon I would be god-mode for a short time, enough to finish the fight or combat res the real tank. Another example is one I have no experience with but shockadin – basically an offensive holy paladin. I’m sure there are many others, shaman tanks maybe? They were kinda viable up until level 40 or so back in vanilla I think. I know people talk about weapon restrictions, how they wish to dual-wield when they can only use two-handers.

Walking the tight-rope
Obviously the more variables the more balance problems there are. Personally I think this is where competition and PvP gets in the way of good solo play/relaxed play with friends, as it places iron band restrictions that all specs need to basically perform to the same level. They want everything to be viable. That obviously doesn’t work as Demon Hunters, druids and death knights are scorned tanks in any kind of competitive play at this point in BfA (8.2.5) but you can still play them. They might not be mini-maxed as the best/viable for bleeding edge but the balance effort means that they still work enough. For instance I have done some heroic raiding on my Demon Hunter tank and my guild didn’t blink. Maybe that’s just because they are nice but either way I’m 6/8hc in Eternal Palace, it works.

So trying to make variable builds viable in addition to all the specs is a non-starter. PvP is another can of worms on top of competitive play. I don’t PvP and I’m not competitive so it annoys me that options are restricted in the name of balance. However I’m not dense and I can see that if a person enjoys a playstyle, then they want to be able to play like that, and if they are refused raid spots, or they get killed in PvP all the time then that’s not fun. People shouldn’t be forced to change spec or class in order to play the game. So I do get that balance matters and I do appreciate the headache that gives the developers. It’s a knife edge, trying to give classes cool mechanics and compelling game-play, but also trying to make them all the same so no class/spec is special/overpowered etc.

To go back to the mercenary class I’m designing I said that the Raider spec was flirting with the notion of being both ranged and melee which would be overpowered. The Tinker spec having ranged and heals capability would be overpowered. I know the priest discipline spec has the mechanic of doing damage with healing as a side effect (that’s cool, my first priest was disc for this reason) so there is a small amount of precedence. Obviously being able to do both would make them weaker in both respects, unless of course by talents you go all in to offensive or heals, in which case then by losing the other you’d get power boosted. I suppose that could be neat except when it comes to role assignment. The reason why druids have four specs now is that feral used to tank and dps but they split them apart. This is coming back full circle to what I said about how variability in builds would be epic but unfortunately I do understand the balance considerations as some build will always be ‘the best’ and then people feel forced to play that build/class.

Wrapping this up
Let’s create an actual profile (yes I did pull up the character creation screen)

Role: Tank, Healer, Ranged or Melee Damage (ideally)

Mercenaries are the lone wolves of Azeroth, disenchanted by stories of glory and honor they fight for their own reasons. They are tactical and reliant on the latest advances of gnomish and goblin technology.

Choose one of the following races to be able to play this class:

Human, Kul Tiran, Mechagnome, Night Elf, Forsaken, Goblin, Vulpera, Blood Elf

So there you have it. The class I would love to be added to Warcraft. I wish I could say coming soon TM because I would seriously love to play this but there is no new class in Shadowlands, and the future next next expansion is at least three years away. Until then I can only dream.