We pretty much agree with Wolfshead’s suggestion that the next World of Warcraft (WoW) hero class will likely be a melee-oriented healer ala a monk, or, as Wolfshead proposed, the Runemaster:
I expect Blizzard to slightly morph the monk into one of their own creations and use one of the existing classes from their Warcraft RPG or RTS games. The Runemaster is the natural candidate as he incorporates magical runes which should give the archetypal placid monk a injection of pizazz. Martial arts classes are fun to play and quite popular in today’s video game culture.
While the Paladin class is already based on the monk mold, it differs in its pleasant take on tanking, compared to what we would envision as more of a “Rogue with healing” class. Quite simply, a Runemaster character could employ mechanics perhaps based on the Death Knight rune system, and differ from the Paladin by being too weak to handle damage that tanks are meant to soak. The trick will be in keeping a Runemaster’s DPS high without taking over Rogue roles. This could chiefly be addressed by letting a Runemaster’s DPS power their healing abilities, much like healing classes in Warhammer: Age of Reckoning (WAR) work. Indeed, the Runemaster could serve as a great short-range AoE healer that would help maintain health for those around him, instead of focusing on direct healing like Paladins, Priests, and Druids. And, instead of working to buff group-mates like the Paladin does, the Runemaster would instead serve a greater crowd-control function, perhaps through the use of debuffs.
Interestingly, what we’re seeing in the Death Knight, and what we may very well see in future hero classes, is less “new” classes, but rather better designed classes evolved from WoW’s traditional cast. For example, we can easily see the Death Knight reworked slightly (mostly in atmosphere) such that he could entirely replace the Warrior class, and with something like the Runemaster a viable class alternative, we really don’t need a Rogue class if the Runemaster were built equally flexible. Of course, that’s the type of evolution we’d expect from a seven-year-old game.
Regardless, there’s no denying that hero classes will continue on as WoW ages, if for no other reason than they add additional replayability to an aging game. While newer players may feel that catching up to WoW veterans is nigh impossible, that’s hardly the case if they jump on the WoW bandwagon around the time a new expansion comes out.