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World of Warcraft’s latest patch offers a whole new way to play the game

Meet the new support spec

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight’s Dracthyr Evoker, a bipedal dragon-esque humanoid, uses the energies of the Bronze Dragonflight to heal their allies. Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight has been a well-received expansion so far; now, the Fractures in Time update delves deeper into some of the mysteries of the Bronze Dragonflight. The heroes, alongside their dragon allies, have arrived at the ancestral home of the Dragon Isles, only to find that problems have been brewing under the surface for the last 10,000 years. The Fractures in Time patch unrolls a nefarious new plot from the Infinite Dragonflight, but players will have new tools to fight back — including a new and unprecedented player specialization.

Longtime World of Warcraft players know that the game operates on the holy trinity of tank, healer, and damage. Some classes can jump across those archetypes, like a Priest respeccing from Holy (healing) to Shadow (damage). Now there’s a new contender to shake up the class dynamics: the Dracthyr Evoker’s Augmentation specialization. The Evoker launched with two specializations: the damage-dealing Devastation spec and Preservation for healing. Fractures in Time introduces this new third spec, and it’s designed around helping your allies hit harder and kill faster. It’s World of Warcraft’s first dedicated support spec.

“One of the big themes for the class is, you have five dragonflights of magic, and you want to use them all. For Devastation and Preservation, we focused on Red, Blue, and Green,” says senior game designer Graham Berger in a call with Polygon. “We’ve seen a lot of corrupted Black dragons, but not the original form that Neltharion used before he became Deathwing. So the team wanted to explore that now, and talked internally about what we could do with Black dragon magic. We also wanted to explore the Bronze, there’s a lot to play with in time magic.”

A Dracthyr Evoker, a bipedal dragonesque humanoid, channels their Augmentation powers in a swirl of reddish-bronze magic. Image: Blizzard Entertainment

The abilities an Augmentation Evoker has aren’t completely unprecedented; some healing classes, like Shaman or Paladin, have played supportive roles in past iterations of World of Warcraft. Powerful buffs like Bloodlust can be the difference between downing a boss or heading back to the spirit healer. But the Augmentation Evoker takes those high moments of support and integrates them into the class’s moment-to-moment kit.

“It’s for an audience that isn’t especially served by any of our existing specializations,” says Berger. “We had a lot of questions to answer about it. How do you balance this across so many different ways of playing World of Warcraft, with so many different group sizes? How do you give players feedback on what they’re doing well and what impact they’re having, when so much of their value comes from what they bring to other players?”

Thus, the Augmentation specialization arrives a little later in the expansion than its two predecessors — it’s simply a more complicated beast. It took time to craft a version of an Augmentation Evoker that can still solo through leveling content and hold its own in a fight. “We made Augmentation able to solo by making them pretty tanky and survivable. You can apply skills to yourself to give yourself more armor, you have defensive capabilities, and you can still deal damage,” says Berger. But with more than half the class’s abilities centered around empowering teammates, you’ll always be more powerful with a few friends.

An elemental boss made up of sand and bronze casings in the upcoming Infinite Dragonflight mega-dungeon in World of Warcraft Image: Blizzard Entertainment

Where does a support class go in the tank-healer-DPS system? Augmentation Evokers will queue up as damage dealers. “We’ve done a lot of work on how their abilities interact and how many people you’re buffing, to look at the numerical values to make them equivalent to other DPS,” says Berger. “We didn’t want to break that trinity, because it would really disrupt the game — like, do dungeons need to be six players, now? So it was like, OK, how do we fit them into the existing paradigm and still play differently?”

As such, Augmentation Evokers are force multipliers. In a game so heavily based on teamwork, it’ll be fascinating to see how the new play style lands. Will guilds pick this new play style up for the Race to World First in the game’s raids? Will support take off as a play style, and will we ever see future classes with a new take on the concept? After nearly 20 years, there are still new ways to play World of Warcraft. The Dracthyr Evoker is one of the most experimental classes we’ve seen yet, and the Fractures in Time update takes that even further.

Fractures in Time goes live on July 11. The patch includes a new mega-dungeon, Dawn of the Infinite, as well as new Time Rifts opening up in the Dragon Isles, and new quests relating to the Bronze Dragonflight and the inevitable tragic fate of their Aspect, Nozdormu.

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