World of Warcraft: Dragonflight will finally take players to the long-awaited Dragon Isles. Here, they’ll meet up with a recently-awakened species called the Dracthyr — dragon people who can transform into humans at will. This new race adds more than just narrative intrigue, and will serve as both a transforming and a cross-faction player race (the Dracthyr are playing second banana to the Alliance’s Worgen and the Pandaren respectively here). But the Dracthyr are even more unique than the Worgen or the Pandas; they’re intrinsically linked to the new Evoker class.
In Dragonflight, Dracthyr can only play as Evokers, and Evokers can only play as Dracthyr.
In a pre-brief interview session, I spoke to lead narrative designer Steve Danuser and lead combat designer Brian Holinka about the new race/class combo, and what they bring to World of Warcraft: Dragonflight.
The Evoker class is the first ranged class Blizzard has ever added to World of Warcraft. All the other post-release classes — Death Knights, Monks, and Demon Hunters — are melee-focused. The new class will be able to wear mail armor (another underrepresented group in WoW) and offer both a spellcaster specialization (Devastation) and a healing specialization (Preservation).
It’s a race/class combo not entirely dissimilar to the Demon Hunters from the Legion expansion, which can only be Blood Elves with the Horde or Night Elves with the Alliance. But while the Evokers and Dracthyr are singular, there are loads of customization options to make your character different than any other — far more than the wings and horns of the Demon Hunters.
As a single class and race combo, the Evoker sacrifices the pure customization that WoW has always had for something else entirely: synergy. “The synergy between the story of the race that’s behind it and how the class functions and plays is tighter than anything we’ve done before,” said Danuser.
“[Evokers are] able to use their wings to buffet people away, they’re able to breathe fire out of their mouths, they’re able to knock people back with their tail,” said Holinka. “Those are things we couldn’t necessarily have a Gnome do. And so it feels like, in order to really deliver that fantasy of being a dragon in the world of Warcraft, [allowing for only one race to play the class] was a necessary step.”
The duo told me that every aspect of the class and race intertwine together to make the class more unique, and that plays in heavily with a variety of the class’ actual abilities.
“We have an ability called Soar that allows [Evokers] to kind of get up in the air and cast a few abilities while they’re mobile,” said Holinka. “And so that feels very powerful. We have a deep breath ability, where you actually take flight, Onyxia-style, and do a bombing run.”
More than just being a more mobile spellcaster than most, Blizzard is trying a new type of spell with the Evoker.
“There’s a mix of high mobility and casting spells, plus these new Empowered spells, is something that’s very specific for Evoker right now,” said Holinka. “That’s an ability that you press down the key, you hold it down, the longer you hold it down, something different happens. So whether you hit one target, two targets, three targets depends on how much you’re willing to commit to that particular spell.”
As far as the Preservation healing spec, Holinka said the goal is to always find a niche while still allowing them to be competitive in raids and dungeons. For Evoker, that niche seems to be group burst healing. But Holinka didn’t mention any specific abilities like he did for Devastation.
With both of the Evoker’s specs, mobility seems to be the name of the game. While it likely won’t be as mobile as the ever-moving Demon Hunter, high mobility on a casting class (typically known for their static natures) is going to be quite potent, especially in the timed Mythic Plus dungeons.
Ultimately, much of how the Evoker will work in World of Warcraft is unclear. Not because Blizzard was coy about the class — Danuser and Holinka were actually quite open about several of the class’ abilities and its identity — but because WoW has never seen a class like this before. Between the spellcasting mobility, transformation, and empowered spells, Evoker is shaping up to be very unique class in the world of Azeroth. And that makes it perhaps the most exciting back-of-box feature in several expansions.