I began my Warcraft journey like many others. Intrigued by the effervescent praise a friend heaped on the game, I signed up to start a free trial. The impact was immediate. As the first MMO I’d ever encountered, I was bowled over; the setting, the scale and open-world freedom embedded in me an adoration for the game that has endured for over a decade.
My entrance into Azeroth was in the twilight days of the Burning Crusade expansion. Things were very different in the game back then. A lot of it was inaccessible to a wandering noob like me who spent his quest earnings profligately and was prone to vacillating over which class to play. Yet I remember with great fondness how my friends and I slowly found our feet beneath the boughs of Elwynn, gained swagger and confidence out in the sun-baked fields of Westfall, only to die horribly in the choking murk of Duskwood.
These missteps aside, I’d finally settled on the Mage as my class. Having favoured wizards in other fantasy games, it was an obvious choice and one I set out on with great zeal, engulfing packs of scabrous gnolls in raging fire and bringing unpitying, frozen death to the footpads and brigands menacing the good folk of Goldshire.
However, for all the pyrotechnics and solid utility a Mage brings to the table, questing proved difficult for me. The fragility of the class was brought into stark focus as I observed friends playing Paladins, Warriors and Hunters all charge (or send their pet charging) into the fray. Trading blows and vanquishing enemies seemed easy if you were clad in plate armour or had a ferocious beast to do your fighting for you. For me, I seemed to be stuck in a panicked oscillation between spellcasting and running away, a situation made significantly worse when there were multiple enemies to contend with.
The final straw came with the release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Arguably one of the greatest expansions released for the game, it also marked the advent of the infamous Death Knight character to the World of Warcraft. Around the time of the expansion’s release I recall my friends and I were advancing steadily into the level 50 to 60 bracket and that it coincided with our first, faltering forays into PvP. What happened next was to prove brutally educational.
Think robe-wearing Mage, think enemy Death Knights by the bucketful and think ‘Death Grip’. The picture I’m painting here is that most iconic of Death Knight abilities being used ad-nauseam on my puny little Mage. Each bedecked in powerful armour and wielding lethal weaponry, my wimpy wizard stood no chance against this deathly army. Being pulled violently from pillar-to-post by a gang of mouldering bullies, each competing via keystroke to bury their blade in my guts was not an enjoyable experience.
As this miserable scenario occurred in the majority of battlegrounds I took part in, I began to grow despondent and weary of my Mage’s lack of fortitude. Consequently, for no other reason than to be a more dominating presence in PvP, my first big character shift occurred. I put my Mage on ice and created a fearsome Death Knight of my own.
Success was immediate and incredibly gratifying. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say Death Knights were a little overpowered in those days, with their bespoke gear and arsenal of powerful abilities they certainly proved useful in my own crusade against the Lich King. Questing in Northrend was a breeze, my harbinger of death well-equipped to deal with whatever was thrown at me. Elite quests that recommended a group of players I often completed solo, relishing the challenge of doing so. In PvP, armed with a reliable gap-closer, a punishing root and snare, spell interrupts, spell resistance, stun immunity and generous self-healing, my performance improved dramatically. Being able to stand firm against any class only encouraged me to delve deeper and refine my techniques further.
For the first time, I felt immersed in my character and had developed a competency that meant I was no longer stumbling around trying to figure out what to do. Instead, I was confidently striding the frigid tundra of the North, actively seeking my next challenge. I recognise that these attainments were the result of the power of the Death Knight class relative to others and my growing experience and understanding of how the game works. None of these diminish the fun I had though, even if that fun wasn’t to last.
After playing my Death Knight intensively for the majority of the Lich King expansion, I eventually grew tired of him. Perhaps it’s the contrarian in me but after being surrounded by innumerable Death Knight players all swinging the same weapons and using the same abilities, I grew hungry for change and it didn’t take long for me to set my sights on the class that would usher in my second sea-change: the Rogue.
As with my shift from Mage to Death Knight, my new class direction was predominantly the consequence of PvP. Even the might of the Death Knight was not impervious to the multiple stuns and vicious poisons a Rogue could deliver. I watched with admiration and experienced with irritation how a skilled Rogue could defeat a foe with ease, allied victims often taking to the chat window in battlegrounds to howl in outrage.
It might seem like a far-fetched memory when compared to today’s Rogues but there was a time when they could dispatch an opponent with a single stun-lock rotation. This was a period when talents were still in a tree formation and you could cherry-pick across specialisations as you weren’t fixed to just one like today. The rotation would look something like this: Cheap Shot > Mutilate > Mutilate > Kidney Shot > Mutilate to five combo points > Eviscerate with an occasional shot of Thistle Tea used somewhere in the rotation to keep the roguish energy flowing. Simple yet devastatingly effective, this ability rotation often resulted in the target’s demise before they got out of the second stun and brought misery to players far and wide.
In response, I could have re-doubled my efforts to counter this onslaught with my existing characters but I didn’t, I gave in to my desires, I wanted in on the action! A Night Elf Rogue was swiftly born and dagger-shaped havoc followed as I offset the slow and difficult levelling experience (no self-healing for Rogues back then) with the joy of my new-found lethality in PvP.
My pointy-eared killer sustained me through the close of the Lich King expansion and the entirety of Cataclysm. He then went into hibernation with my game account through Mists of Pandaria (a consequence of burnout and disinterest in the expansion) before re-emerging in time for Hellfire Citadel in Warlords of Draenor. However his tenure as my main character, as thrilling as it had been over the years, was drawing to a close; I began Legion with my Rogue but didn’t finish it with him. For the third and I hope final time, my interest waned and my attention was drawn to another class.
“Familiarity breeds contempt” so the saying goes. Whilst I didn’t loathe my Rogue, his status as my longest serving main character in WoW had certainly taken its toll; I was growing increasingly complacent and uncomfortable with the class and I felt ready for a change. Pivotal to my growing disquiet were my early PvP encounters in Legion which ranged from less than satisfactory to abysmal. I felt the Rogue class struggled in Legion PvP, not just against the new Demon Hunter class but in its ability to perform against most other classes as well.
As unrated PvP has always been a big part of my playing, this was a serious problem for me and influenced my decision to switch gears. On reflection, this ‘problem’ was certainly more to do with my own perception and lack of skill than any serious flaw with the class but my mind was made up. It was time to devote my time and energy to something new: the Warrior.
In truth, the mighty Uthric was created several years ago, at some point between the end of Wrath of the Lich King and the early days of Cataclysm. Unlike several other character classes that I’d periodically tried and abandoned over the years, I’d kept my Warrior up to speed throughout each expansion as a way to take a break from my Rogue. There was something about the Warrior class that meant I’d always come back to it; the skulking Rogue, lumpen Death Knight and fragile Mage all had their perks but there was a gap in each of their skill sets and themes that I found were satisfied by the Warrior.
Legion had only been live for a few months before I decided to make the switch to a hulking, plate-clad demolisher as my main vehicle for my Warcraft adventures. Since then, I haven’t looked back and have deepened my enjoyment and appreciation for the game through a roaring tide of Mortal Strikes, Rampages and mercurial fortunes in PvP.
As we venture into the Battle for Azeroth and beyond, I’m happy that it’s Uthric who will be leading the charge.