Many years ago, I walked into a local gaming shop as the clerk was talking with another customer about World of Warcraft adding the Felguard as the new Warlock pet. I smoothly joined the conversation and quickly noted the clerk did not support the idea of adding such a powerful demon to the warlock arsenal. He summed up his feelings by asking, “So you think warlocks should be able to tank now?”
“Yes,” I said.
He walked away in disgust. His contempt at the notion of expanding beyond the role shouldered by warriors, paladins, and druids perplexed me.
I have tanked in the past, and while I always got my group through the dungeon, I found the experience to be an exercise in uncomfortable anxiety. It is because of the stress spike I feel from queuing as a Tank that I hold skilled tanks in high regard. This said, World of Warcraft changes with every expansion. There is no reason to believe the trinity of tank, healer, and damage dealer, and the classes they encompass will not evolve over time.
Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo games are shining examples of “Every class can tank.” At this point in World of Warcraft’s story telling, haven’t we undergone similar trails as our Diablo characters? No matter your current World of Warcraft class and spec, if you are max level, are you not a recognized Champion of Azeroth, empowered with skills and abilities to vanquish Old Gods and demonic invaders?
I am not suggesting Holy Priests should suddenly be able to tank. This is not the focus of their construction. Blizzard added a fourth specialization to Druids, making Guardian a dedicated tanking spec. Adding a fourth tanking spec as the next big step in class customization for all healing and damage classes is not so radical an idea.
A tank’s role is hold the mob’s attention (hold aggro) and stay alive (damage migration and healer assist) while the damage dealers kill it. A glance at the priest class, for example, reveal the foundations for its tanking potential. There are spells which can be empowered or modified for tanking efficiency; Psychic Scream for pulling aggro and Power Word: Shield, which is already used by Discipline priests for damage migration in supporting tanks. The same can be applied to a mage’s Ice Barrier, or a rogue’s evasive maneuverability.
A fourth spec provides a fresh avenue of exploration for players who love their class and would welcome a new way to play. Not to mention, tanking for all would significantly reduce dungeon queue times, and assist in times when a dungeon team mate disconnects, bails, or needs to be kicked.
There was a time when Gnome hunters and Tauren priests were only visions of fantasy. Well, World of Warcraft is a fantasy game, and now those racial combinations exist. World of Warcraft: Shadowlands stands out to me, not because of the level squish or new leveling paradigm, but because of the new character customization. New tattoos, necklaces, and skin colors add nothing to the story or game play, but they are important for players to express their individuality in a world dear to them.
If Blizzard continues on this path of increased emphasis on player options, they will eventually reach the crossroads of whether to expand class role choice. I hope they take the road of new possibilities. I may try tanking again if it was my beloved mage leading the charge.