Hello everybody! It’s been a while since I last updated this page as RL has been taking over my daily life and I also got back to raiding with my guild. Today, I am finally taking some time to write about a theme which has been making the Warcraft community pretty excited: the possibility of Dark Rangers in WoW Legion.
Before we get into the thing I’d just like to thank everyone who voted on my recent poll. There are so many Hunter themes I would like to write about, including other ideas which were not included in this poll, and I was curious to know what people were most interested in so I could hit that first. Hopefully I’ll be able to approach each and every one of these themes, either way.
But yes, Dark Rangers.
When Sylvanas Windrunner, Banshee Queen of the Forsaken, regained her physical body, she realized that the natural world would never respond to her wishes again. Angered by this development, she turned to the arts that were becoming more and more natural to her: Necromancy. She altered her elven ranger teachings into a new form. Thus, the dark rangers were born.
We first came in contact with Dark Rangers in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. When Arthas, corrupted by Frostmourne and the Lich King, invaded the high elven kingdom of Quel’thalas in order to use the power of the Sunwell to revive Kel’Thuzad, it were the former Ranger Corps, rallied by Sylvanas Windrunner, who first confronted him. However, the undead army kept pushing the elven ranger forces back and Arthas killed Sylvanas before she could manage to warn Silvermoon of their coming. She (as well as many of her rangers) was then raised as a banshee, her elven spirit corrupted.
Months later, Sylvanas was actually one of Arthas’ primary generals and aided him in the purge of Lordaeron. But soon after that, Nerzhul’s powers (and thus Arthas’ as well) began to weaken and many of his undead minions found themselves free of will, including Sylvanas herself. She then rebelled against him together with the rest of high elven banshees. Even though she failed to kill him, she did manage to recover her physical body, becoming the corporeal undead entity we see today.
(For more details on these events I recommend you to play Warcraft III or read Christie Golden’s novel “Arthas: Rise of the Lich King”, which is still one of my personal favorites.)
As Sylvanas proclaimed herself as the ruler of the free-willed undead – aka the Forsaken – many of her banshees also regained their physical bodies and acquired great powers. Therefore, nearly all Dark Rangers are undead high elves. There has only been one single recording of a non-elven Dark Ranger to this day: Nathanos Blightcaller, former human and current hunter trainer in the Undercity.
Nathanos Marris, as he was called in life, was the first and last of the human ranger lords and was a tactical genius, as he granted the Alliance many victories in around a decade of battling. He fell in the defense of Lordaeron, but was eventually freed from the Lich King’s will by the Banshee Queen. His accomplishments granted him the title of Champion of the Forsaken.
But let us get to the main point of this post. For years, a considerate amount of players have been wishing for a playable Dark Ranger class in WoW, but this never came to fruition for both lore and technical reasons.
Until Legion, kind of.
This tweet was the very first hint that Dark Rangers were, somehow, coming to WoW in the upcoming new expansion. Soon other hints started to come up, such as a vague comment on Black Arrow’s revamp and new mail gear icons which resembled Sylvanas’ outfit, including a dark hood with red eyes(!). More recently, these icons were confirmed to belong to the (amazingly looking) Hunter Tier 19.
Although the Marksmanship spec is still not available to test in Legion alpha, we’ve had lots of datamining indicating that MM Hunters may be able to follow a Dark Ranger build/approach thanks to exclusive abilites and talents resembling the arts of dark magic and necromancy. These are:
- Black Arrow (lvl 15 talent): Fires a Black Arrow at the target, dealing x damage over x seconds, stacking 3 times. 3 charges. 40 Focus. 40 yd range. Instant.
- Dark Ranger (lvl 100 talent): Your attacks now have a chance to summon a Dark Minion. The Dark Minion will taunt and attack your current target. – obs.: definitely not a good option for raiding as of now… EDIT (16.07.03): With the latest Alpha build (21215) the Dark Ranger talent has been removed and replaced by a new one called Sidewinders, which replaces Arcane Shot and Multi Shot. Black Arrow now has the chance of summoning a skeletal minion, making it look like the tier 15 leveling talent of choice.
- Call of the Hunter (MM artifact major trait): Marked Shot has a chance to summon a regiment of fallen hunters to rain arrows down upon your foes.
Add that to the T19 set and these little extras…
- Exotic Munitions (lvl 45 talent): Allows you to modify your ranged weapon to use exotic munitions: Incendiary Ammo (…) Poisoned Ammo (…) Frozen Ammo – Arms your ranged weapon with exotic ammunition that lasts for 60 min. Each autoshot deals (17% of weapon damage) additional Frost damage and reduces the target’s movement speed by 50% for 4 sec. Only one exotic munition can be active at one time.
- Heightened Vulnerability (lvl 75 talent): Your next Marked Shot applies 3 stacks of Vulnerability to all Marked Targets. Instant. 20 sec cooldown. – obs.: therefore correlated with Marked Shot, which can have a chance to trigger Call of the Hunter.
- A Murder of Crows (lvl 90 talent): Summons a flock of crows to attack your target over the next 15 sec. If the target dies while under attack, A Murder of Crows’ cooldown is reset. 30 Focus. 40 yd range. Instant. 60 sec cooldown.
…and you get Blizzard’s attempt at providing players with a Dark Ranger gameplay style. Not gonna lie, I am very excited for this. But let’s put the hype aside for a bit and take a deep look into it.
The truth is, introducing Dark Rangers in WoW is still problematic. From what we’ve observed, the Dark Ranger fantasy doesn’t seem to be distinct enough to make it a new class, as it would feel too much of a Hunter/Death Knight hybrid. This is probably why Blizzard decided to introduce them as a Hunter build instead. And then comes the lore.
Firstly and as stated above, Dark Rangers are mostly undead elves in lore and most of them even refuse to teach their dark arts to other races since they are loyal to Sylvanas only. By opening this branch of customization to the Hunter class, we will start to see Dark Rangers of pretty much all races. Of course, this could be lore wise justified by the Dark Lady’s wish to gather more Dark Rangers in order to fight the Legion and thus having Nathanos Blightcaller train newly ressurrected hunters.
This brings us to point no. 2:
An elven ranger seeking to convert to a dark ranger must, of course, have died, returned as a Forsaken, and seek to learn the arts of the shadow rather than the wild. This ordeal is difficult, as the dark ranger must twist everything she was taught about nature to start learning her darker trade. Then comes the hard part. A dark ranger-to-be must undergo a lengthy trial, where she unlearns everything she was taught as an elf and learns the new arts of a Forsaken.
Which raises a big question. If every Dark Ranger is basically part of the Forsaken, how can Blizzard justify the existence of Dark Rangers fighting for the Alliance from a lore point of view? Even if being undead wasn’t a pre requisite, living hunters have never had any affinity to undeath and necromancy. It just feels so out of place.
I know what some of you are probably thinking. We already have similar issues ingame. Undead Beast Mastery Hunters, for instance, don’t make much sense either since living creatures react violently to undeath and we also know nature magic doesn’t really work for them. Sylvanas herself experienced that after she retrieved her physical body- that’s where the Dark Rangers came from, after all.
This makes me a little concerned that some races simply won’t fit the fantasy, namely Alliance races. I am NOT defending that only Horde players should have access to Dark Rangers and/or this MM build, of course, but it does raise a lot of questions. Dark Rangers are simply very exclusive, so I’m curious to know how Blizzard will justify the availability of these spells to all races.
As far as it goes to game mechanics, I guess we still have to wait a little bit to better evaluate this approach, until Marksmanship Hunter becomes available to test in Legion alpha.
I’d like to hear your opinion on this. Considering the new talents and traits, do you think you will be able to effectively play a Dark Ranger in Legion? Do you believe the fantasy is satisfied? And are you excited for it?
Update #1 (16.07.03): Added a note about the removal of the Dark Ranger talent in the latest Legion Alpha Build 21215.