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WoWMay 16, 2022 2:00 pm CT

What role does the Dracthyr Evoker fill?

After three expansions, World of Warcraft is finally getting a new class again, the Dracthyr Evoker — but what niche does that class fill, if any, that wasn’t already covered by the existing 12 classes? Is the Evoker going to bring anything new to the table with its two roles of healing and ranged DPS, its new mechanics, or the simple fact that it’s a mail-wearing class?

Let’s explore what this new class is able to bring to the game, based on the small bits of information we already have — combined with healthy dashes of speculation.

The healing spec, Preservation, presents new takes on existing niches

Currently, WoW has six healing specs. A valid question that might have crossed the minds of several players is: did it need another one? What will Preservation Evokers bring to the table that the existing healers didn’t already cover? To find the answer, let’s recap what we already know about the spec.

Based on the presentation video for the Evokers and on a few developer interviews, it sounds like Preservation Evokers will specialize in two things: AOE healing for targets that are clumped together (based on the natural healing abilities of the Green Dragonflight), and preparation for incoming damage (based on the time-bending powers of the Bronze Dragonflight).

The former could definitely fill a unique niche. While there are existing healers with fantastic AOE healing capabilities, such as Restoration Shaman, it sounds like the Preservation Evoker take on this role will be more burst-based, allowing you to generate massive healing that hits a smaller area. If that’s the case, Preservation Evokers will be healers that focus on paying close attention to the battlefield, always aiming their abilities where party and raid members are clumped together, to get the most out of it — in contrast to the more “fire into an area and forget” style of area-healing abilities like Healing Rain for Shaman or Efflorescence for Druids.

The latter role, that of protection against incoming damage, is certainly covered by shields and the like — Discipline Priests have certainly excelled in this throughout the history of the game. But Discipline is definitely the most niche healing spec in the game already, functioning quite unlike the others. There might be some appeal to playing another healer that also specializes in preparing the party or raid for damage, but who doesn’t subscribe to the “two-step” gameplay approach of Discipline Priests, who — outside of casting shields — need to add Atonement to their allies and then deal damage — a play style that doesn’t appeal to everyone.

The damage spec, Devastation, operates from medium range

Devastation Evokers will be the first new ranged spec the game has ever gotten since its release in 2004. That, in itself, might be reason enough for the introduction of this spec: players got to learn to play and love Death Knights, Monks, and Demon Hunters throughout the years, and their introductions have definitely been welcomed by many. There’s considerable alluring power in the idea of trying out an existing role with a brand-new class fantasy and fresh gameplay mechanics. Ranged DPS was the only role that had never gotten to enjoy that so far.

But this spec is being described as operating from “medium range” — which might make it distinct to everything else we currently have. Perhaps it’ll have shorter range on all of its abilities — but that, by itself, doesn’t sound like “fun.” It sounds like an arbitrary restriction. So I have to imagine that the designers will give Devastation something to actually benefit from being closer to their foes than other ranged specs, turning that limitation into a boon.

From the videos we’ve seen, Evoker seems like a mobile class, even taking to the air mid-combat and flying across the battlefield, torching things on the way. It stands to reason that attacks of that kind will reward players who are good at positioning themselves and aiming their abilities — not unlike what we’re speculating might happen with the healing spec. So, perhaps, being somewhat close to your enemies will allow you to have fun by zipping around foes, trying to torch as many things as possible with each button press — and that does sound like it could be fun.

This medium range might also have implications on specific boss fights, of course — perhaps the WoW team will design fights taking it into account from now on, creating mechanics where the optimal place to be is neither at melee range, “glued” to your enemy, nor as far away from them as possible — there might be a sweet spot in those fights that Devastation Evokers occupy, allowing them to truly shine and making them desirable with their new range niche. Assuming that’s the case, and this experiment succeeds, I could definitely envision other specs which already enjoy a few “mid-range” abilities, such as Survival Hunter or Outlaw Rogue, also occupying it in the future.

The Empowerment system might introduce a new paradigm for abilities

Empowered Abilities are a very interesting concept. They ask the player to hold down the button, and the longer they hold it down for, the stronger the ability becomes when they finally release it. That’s a very promising new mechanic — it allows the designers to create interesting new decisions, where there isn’t a single optimal answer for every situation. Perhaps you might enjoy short bursts of your abilities on movement-heavy fights, while holding them down for just a bit longer for optimal single-target damage, or holding them down all the way whenever some AOE is needed.

I’m not certain if this system will ever make it out of the Evoker class and find its way into other classes. That’s certainly something that only time will tell, since it hinges on many things. Empowerment needs to be a success for Evokers first, of course, and the WoW team needs to find ways to introduce it to certain specific abilities from other classes where doing so isn’t disruptive. It wouldn’t be good if players of other classes suddenly started disliking playing their characters because they’ve been fundamentally changed by a new mechanic they’re not used to.

Nonetheless, even if Empowerment never makes its way out of the Evoker, it already has the potential to be a huge draw to the class. Players might feel compelled to try playing an Evoker because of that mechanic, and might end up liking it so much that they decide to stick with the new class.

The game badly needed a new mail-wearing class

This is certainly one of the strongest reasons to add this new class, in my opinion. Having four leather classes but only two mail classes always felt strange and unbalanced. The amount of armor appearances, the way loot tables are conceptualized, the value of certain professions — there are a lot of systems that depend on armor type distribution across the classes.

With the introduction of Evokers, the mail armor slot is now equivalent to cloth and plate, and the difference between leather and it isn’t as great anymore. The game as a whole will benefit from that balance. And if we ever get new classes in the future, one would hope we’d be moving towards total balance, rather than getting a fifth leather user and making things weird again.

There are probably a lot more ways that Evokers will be unique and add new concepts and mechanics to the game, but since our information is limited, all we can do is wait for more to arrive in the following months. Hopefully it doesn’t take too long for us to learn more.

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