So by now, most WoW folk who would ever visit a site like this are probably familiar with the interview wherein Ghostcrawler (or “Ghost Crab” as I’ll forever call him from now on*) mentioned the consideration of a “buff” class/role. Now, I interpreted his words to imply a buff “role” rather than “class” and that got me thinking about the possibility of adding a 4th spec (and maybe a 5th for Druids) to the game that could help serve as this buff role.

Now, before I get into what a buff role might be like, let me explain why I think a 4th spec is a cool idea in the first place.

For starters, it helps to avoid over-populating the game with yet another class. So far the game has had 2 major class additions, bringing the total number of classes up to 11. While I don’t doubt Blizzard’s ability to make a new class interesting and unique, it’s starting to feel like adding a new class is just a way to draw attention to a new feature. It’s cool, and unique, but not entirely necessary. Maybe even a bit redundant.

Secondly, it means that to experience the “new class” existing players wouldn’t have to start an alt, level all the way up, and the decide at max level if they want a new main, or to go back go their old one. If you as a player love your class and love the particular toolkit available to you, you wouldn’t have to abandon your precious shadow priest you’ve been playing 7 years just to try out the new feature. All it would take is a respec and some practice and you get to experience the new spec right from the comfort of your class.

Lastly, it would add a new dynamic to the game that changes things more than a new class itself ever could. Think about it: an entirely new role. Blizzard hasn’t exactly been afraid to shake things up in the past, and a 4th role to consider for dungeons, raids, etc. is certainly a way to shake things up. But of course, that’s where the difficult actually comes in: what would a “buff” role be like in practice?

This is where I’m thinking out loud more than anywhere else, and it’s also where I’d like outside input. For me, a buff role would probably come closest to what shadow priests were in BC, maybe combined with what paladins were like in Vanilla. And hey, let’s throw in a little Disc. priest/Mistweaver monk in there as well. What exactly do I mean by that?

For those not familiar, shadow priests in BC returned mana to groups based on their damage output. What this meant is that they were invaluable to raid groups. The healer group needed a shadow priest. What it also meant was that shadow wasn’t ever going to top the damage meters. What it excelled at in utility, it suffered in pure output. And quite frankly, that was fine by me. I knew I would never top meters but I also knew I was a necessary member of the raid. Of course, what this eventually led to was Blizzard feeling “raid stacking” was becoming too important and implementing the “bring the player not the class” mantra. So how would a buff role avoid this pitfall?

Pretty much the same way it did in Wrath. A replenishment-style system of raid buffing via damage. Think of it like this for a moment: a buff role would be available to multiple classes. Each buff-specced class could use damage output to provide raids with multiple buffs (more so than just mana return). Lets say a “buff” warrior at maximum output provides the raid with a nice health boost. Or a “buff” mage doing its job allows a temporary buff of the raid that functions like a mini-Time Warp.

In other words, picture all the current buffs available, only slightly more interesting and dependent on the performance of a buff role. The buff role-er wouldn’t be topping meters, but his/her presence is what keeps the raid chugging along at maximum efficiency.

I know it might sound weird right now, but it’s an idea in progress. And coming from someone who played shadow back when damage had a direct correlation to health and mana returned, I feel the dynamic is certainly one that could help the game. It is a work in progress but still something I like the idea of very much. And at the very least, opens the discussion for a new spec to be added to the classes.  A “buff” role might not work for every class, but for those that don’t there is always the possibility of adding a 4th spec, even if it’s not a new role.

Of course, there are a lot of concerns this could bring up:  First and foremost, would this type of role be fun?  Even if it is fun, would enough people want to play it?  And in terms of gameplay, how easy would it be to balance around adding an entirely new role to the game?

I don’t have an answer to the last question (I’ll leave that up to Blizzard) but the first two, I honestly do think “yes!”  People have their preferences, and I doubt I’d be alone in enjoying this type of role (if I am alone, then I guess I’m just weird).

*I may not actually call him Ghost Crab forever.