In the history of WoW, only 3 new classes have ever been added.
Each one has, so far, brought massive changes and required something on par with a total rework to, well, work.
Death Knights, first class added, were unique in that at their introduction, they could do any of their roles with any talent spec. Tank DKs were often Frost spec when Wrath of the Lich King was first out – it brought the largest amount of physical damage reduction and the best utility cooldowns. Over the course of WotLK, that spec shifted, with dual-wield, Unholy, and weird hybrid tank specs up until the standard was really set on Blood – a change which Blizzard then codified for Cataclysm onwards, and has been the case ever since.
Similarly, albeit on a larger timescale, Monks required a lot of tweaks and changes. It wasn’t even to the same scale of changes as Death Knights, but they did require some work. Brewmaster tanking was arguably too strong, and changes made in Warlords of Draenor, after their introduction in Mists of Pandaria, made them even stronger. The core mechanic of Guard/Stagger got even stronger with Resolve scaling as it did during WoD, meaning that a Brewmaster played poorly could still withstand really withering attack, and a well-played Brewmaster was fucking invulnerable. Mistweaver also needed some changes, as the Mana Tea mechanic, coupled with Chi as a secondary resource, made them far too capable of healing even at low or no mana. This resulted in what we have in Legion, where Brewmaster can no longer Guard, and Stagger/Purify combos are neutered in effectiveness. I miss the old BrM, but also, it was a change that was necessary for the health of the game, so I can’t fault Blizzard too much. Similarly, old Mistweaver was amazing – I could frequently clutch out massive healing for my group while running on fumes, thanks to Chi, and while I miss the mechanics that Mistweaver had back then, new Mistweaver is (fairly) fun.
This leads me to an interesting observation I made at Blizzcon, while playing the Battle for Azeroth demo – short of adjustments for the loss of the Artifact weapons, Demon Hunters…aren’t changing.
This is unique in the game’s history. No class added to the game has had such a small number of changes going into their following expansion. Even while Monks received few changes going into Warlords of Draenor, there were still a number of tweaks designed to try and bring them more in-line, and to increase class representation. Demon Hunters…have none of that.
To be fair, we’ve seen changes through much of Legion, albeit very minor tweaks. Havoc was mostly balancing tweaks, intended to bring Momentum builds into line with Demon Blades and Demonic builds, making the 3 major DPS talent templates feel about equal. Demonic is your bread and butter AoE spec (and also the one you use for the Artifact Challenge, because dem soul frags), Momentum is a fun, skillcap exercise, and Demon Blades is a scaled-back rotation that allows you to take more active-use talent choices to fill the gaps in Fury generation. Vengeance too has been tweaked, but more than just balancing. Our last two tiers of talents were reconfigured heavily to break us out of cookie-cutter hell, where in 7.0, damn near everyone took Last Resort and Fel Devastation. These are still great talents, but the relative decrease in their value has made strong contenders out of talents like Soul Barrier, Spirit Bomb, and has given builds more depth and ways to spend fragments outside of just Soul Cleaving them away. Couple that with the increase in damage reduction given to us through rebalancing in 7.1.5 and we are in a much better spot than launch, although it didn’t take much change to get us there.
It feels odd to be so interested in this, because I think sometimes we give Blizzard a lot of shit as a community for being incapable of balancing things. But it does speak to just how much I think the design team has improved, that a hero class can be added, feel really strong and powerful, but yet be relatively in-line with everyone else. This comes full circle as in BfA, we get damn near no changes. No new talents, minor value tweaks that keep us doing the same damage (proportionally, given that the stat squish means being able to crit for 1.1 million would kill damn near anything!), and a similar pace and style of gameplay. Sure, this is mostly hard to say is indicative of much yet, given that an alpha or beta test has yet to begin, but given the state of balance in that Blizzcon demo, I do think that this represents something of a shift for Blizzard.
Demon Hunters are unique in many ways, and I find it fascinating that the class seems to be surviving into 8.0 with very little change. There are still some concerns that could warrant address (huge PvP burst/cleave that makes them able to burn through opponents, excess self-sustain that INCREASES a lot in 8.0 at present for Vengeance, a large number of DPS and burst cooldowns that allow them to very effectively game out short fights) but overall, I think the class is in a good place, and it seems Blizzard agrees.
When you look back on the history of added classes, perhaps we’re getting Monked. Maybe we’ll be changed more drastically in 9.0, or patch-changed piece by piece into something new and different, but either way, I find the whole process really intriguing.
That alone is one reason I am anxiously awaiting an 8.0 alpha.