World of Warcraft Class Q&A Series: The Shaman

Blizzard Entertainment has begun a new World of Warcraft Q&A series in which members of the development team field questions about current and future plans for each of the game’s classes. The first Q&A focuses on the Shaman, with Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street providing the answers:

Where do shamans fit into the larger scope of things currently and where do you see them going from this point forward?

Ghostcrawler: The shaman class has a pretty dynamic history. In classic World of Warcraft there was a period where everyone viewed shamans as overpowered. I remember one of my earliest experiences in the Barrens trying to group with a shaman to do a group quest. But he just told me was an overpowered shaman (Frost Shock!) and didn’t need the help.

In vanilla World of Warcraft, shamans at the end-game were healers. Period. By The Burning Crusade, we decided that all three of their trees should have viable roles in the end-game. We also decided that hybrid classes (those that can fill more than one role, such as damage and healing) should do less damage than the classes that could only fill the damage role. This philosophy generally worked, in some cases too well, because Sunwell raids were infamous for stacking lots of shamans.

In Lich King, a primary goal for raiding was to give players far more flexibility in which classes they brought and try to de-emphasize (raid stacking) as much as possible. This meant we needed to share the unique, mandatory buffs among more classes and specs so that, for example, a raid wasn’t gimped if they happened to lack a +spellpower or +crit buff. However, we didn’t want say shamans to no longer be attractive for raiding so we brought up their damage a lot. It might still not be as high as rogues or warlocks, but it’s close, and if you have the right gear and really know how to play, you can even beat those classes on some bosses. No raid worth its salt would turn down an Enhancement, Elemental or Restoration shaman for fear of bringing down the raid.

In PvP, especially Arenas, shamans have never really been a powerhouse class and we view this as a problem. Shamans have always had a place in the 5 vs. 5 bracket, where their buffs are most meaningful spread out among multiple characters. Elemental has sometimes had a niche as the (kill the wounded guy) spec. Currently, however, much of the PvP community is very focused on the 2 vs. 2 bracket, where teams that pack a lot of abilities into a single class tend to dominate. This is something we need to improve for the shaman class.

Shamans have three really distinct roles. Enhancement is melee DPS. Elemental is ranged DPS. Restoration is healing. Once upon a time there was a potential tanking role for shamans as well, but we have pretty much phased that out.

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