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WoW: Dragonflight's New Augmentation Spec Is A First For Blizzard's MMO, In More Ways Than One

Augmentation may technically still be a DPS specialization, but its unique buff-focused playstyle is all its own.


World of Warcraft's newest class, the Evoker, is about to break even more new ground for Blizzard's long-running MMORPG.

When Dragonflight released last year, Evokers were the first class in the game to be tied exclusively to a new race, the draconic dracthyr. They were also the first to feature "empowered" spells, where players could power up certain abilities by holding down ability keys. Come the release of the game's upcoming Fractures in Time update, Evoker will be the first class in the game's nearly 20-year history to receive a new specialization mid-expansion. That specialization, too, will be unprecedented. Though still technically labeled as a DPS, the new Augmentation spec for Evokers will be unlike anything else currently in the game, with a buff-focused playstyle never seen before in WoW.

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In an interview with GameSpot, senior game designer and Evoker design lead Graham Berger said the third specialization had been planned for during Dragonflight's development. But because a support-style DPS role had never been done before, Augmentation didn't arrive for launch. The team wanted to make sure they had their "ducks in a row" and had good answers to all the big questions adding a new dynamic to the game would bring. Taking their time allowed the team to debut the new spec alongside narrative quests that push the story of the dracthyr and their understanding of their place in the world forward. Augmentation will automatically be unlocked for all Evoker players with the arrival of patch 10.1.5, but the narrative justification will be there for players who want to dive in and learn more.

Augmentation works similarly to the Evoker's first DPS spec, Devastation. Players still use Essence as a resource, cast Living Flame and Azure Strikes, hold down keys to "empower spells," and have familiar utility shared across the class. But whereas Devastation is primarily focused on dealing damage and Evoker's second spec, Preservation, is about keeping party members alive, Augmentation is all about empowering other DPS players in a group for as long as possible.

Augmentation will be introduced as part of WoW's upcoming Fractures in Time update, which will add a new time-traveling mega-dungeon, Dawn of the Infinite.
Augmentation will be introduced as part of WoW's upcoming Fractures in Time update, which will add a new time-traveling mega-dungeon, Dawn of the Infinite.

The kernel of the idea for Augmentation started as the team thought about what, exactly, Black dragon magic looked like. The magic of each dragonflight is represented in the Evoker in some way, with Devastation wielding primarily Red and Blue magic and Preservation focusing on Bronze and Green magic. Black magic, then, was still missing. WoW players have long battled against evil Black dragons like Onyxia, Nefarian, and even Deathwing himself, but the question of what Black dragon magic looked like prior to Neltharion's downfall was an enticing one.

"So we had this question, what did Black dragon magic do before Neltharion got corrupted?" Berger said. "He was the Earth Warder, he protected others, but he was also incredibly strong and one of the leaders, obviously of his own dragonflight, but among the Aspects as well. Empowering those around him is a really cool avenue to explore and makes it feel really different than what we've seen with Black dragon magic previously."

And thus, the idea of Augmentation Evoker was born. Berger said the team looked to WoW Classic for inspiration when it came to designing a buff-focused DPS spec, using Enhancement Shaman's use of totem twisting and the ability for Shadow Priests to replenish a portion of their group's mana by dealing damage as examples. The team also looked at other MMOs with similar buff-focused roles when thinking about how such a role might fit into WoW.

Augmentation's primary buff is Ebon Might, which significantly increases the primary stat of up to four nearby party members. Ebon Might only lasts a certain amount of time, but using certain spells will add more time to the buff's duration. The key to playing Augmentation well, then, is to maximize Ebon Might's duration so that party members are powered up for as long as possible. Other ways an Augmentation Evoker can improve their group's performance is with an armor buff designed to help tank players, health and movement speed buffs, and opportunities for attacks by party members to deal additional damage.

Keeping Ebon Might up on allies is key to playing Augmentation well.
Keeping Ebon Might up on allies is key to playing Augmentation well.

For most of the spec's development, having Ebon Might up on the party 100% of the time was fairly trivial, according to Berger. It was designed that way in order to make the spec more approachable. But the team late in development noticed that having the spec's primary contribution to the group be so easy to do well meant that players didn't know how to improve their gameplay further. Now, on the current build of the game's public test realm where players can try out upcoming content, players are maintaining Ebon Might about 60-70% of the time, something that should improve over time as they learn the class and get better gear.

"Making sure there was that room for mastery with their key mechanic was really important," Berger said. "Now it's, 'Okay, you're playing Augmentation, your Ebon Might is 50% [uptime]. Best thing you can do is how do you get more Essence, how do you spend more time casting, how do you extend that?' So it's a very deliberate design choice to make it not 100% and that to be the main avenue of improvement."

Even if maintaining Ebon Might is a little more challenging now, Berger said the goal for Augmentation was always for it to be accessible, considering it's a spec that brings a never-before-seen playstyle to the game. One reason Augmentation Evoker is easy to pick up and play is the fact that many of their key buffing abilities will automatically seek out allies, though players do have the option to target specific individuals with some spells. Ebon Might, for example, will prioritize DPS players.

"Once you're comfortable with Augmentation, or if you're one of those players who wants to get into the depths and master the complexity of the spec, you have the option to start targeting specific individuals you're playing with," Berger said. "But it's not at all necessary to play the spec and to be pretty darn effective even with those auto-targeting abilities we've built in."

Though much of Augmentation's identity revolves around buffing allies, Berger was sure to point out Augmentation is still a DPS spec. Their contribution to a party or raid should be "about the same as any other DPS," Berger said, and isn't intended to replace a dedicated healer, even if Augmentation does bring some off-healing to the table.

"It's been a goal for us to make sure Augmentation is a damage dealer," Berger said. "They aren't a new fourth role in the game. I certainly don't expect them to be required for a Mythic raiding group. You shouldn't have to have an Augmentation Evoker in your raid to be successful. A lot of the design decisions we've made are to achieve that goal."

WoW: Dragonflight's Fractures in Time update does not yet have a release date but is expected to arrive this summer. In addition to Augmentation and the story quests surrounding it, the update will introduce a new time-traveling mega-dungeon, Dawn of the Infinite, where players will come face to face with the biggest dragon in Warcraft history, Galakrond.

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