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WoW Archivist: Spells we've lost

Ghostcrawler zaps a gnome
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Back in June, Ghostcrawler identified "ability bloat" as a major issue that he'd like to address in WoW moving forward. GC later confirmed Blizzard's intention to cull spells, but admitted "there will be many tears." Since the tweet, WoW Insider and many others have speculated about which spells will disappear forever and which will remain.

While I agree that bloat is a problem, it's not the first time that Blizzard has looked at reducing our endless action bars to more manageable proportions. Many beloved spells have already vanished, along with many strange and pointless ones, too. Let's look back at some of these spells from bygone days.

Shaman

Most missed: Cleansing Totem
In Wrath, the original Poison Cleansing Totem and Disease Cleansing Totem merged to become Cleansing Totem. It attempted to cleanse a debuff of each type every three seconds. Shamans loved this "fire and forget" method of cleansing, but Blizzard killed the spell because they wanted removing debuffs to require the active attention of a player.

Least missed: Windwall Totem
This totem had a cool name, but the narrowest possible application. It reduced damage from ranged attacks. Only attacks made by bow/gun-type weapons and thrown weapons counted -- not spells. Because wind affects bullets but not fireballs?

Weirdest: Sentry Totem
Long mocked as "Screenshot Totem," Sentry Totem allowed the shaman to switch camera views to it to keep an eye on a distant location. It had some strategic applications in battlegrounds, but given that it took up the air totem slot, few shamans used it. The totem did, in fact, help players to get great screenshots of boss kills, though. Never forget!

Warlock

Most missed: Curse of Doom
Warlock spells with "doom" in their name seem to be unlucky. I can't imagine why... First, Blizzard took away the hilarious "kill a random participant" moment during the original Ritual of Doom. Then they redesigned (but really, replaced) Curse of Doom. It became Bane of Doom and then simply Doom, both more or less normal DoTs with a chance to summon demons. The original spell was unique: a 60-second debuff that did precisely nothing for 59 seconds. At the last tick, the target would take a massive amount of damage. The curse also had a chance to summon a Doomguard at the end of its duration. The Doomguard was not your friend -- he'd attack you unless you Enslaved him. Many warlocks enjoyed timing the original Curse of Doom to damage a boss during strategically vulnerable phases.

Least missed: Create Spellstone/Create Firestone
Warlocks love rocks: Soulstones, Healthstones and, originally, Spellstones and Firestones. The latter two items, once conjured, had to be equipped in the offhand. Firestone provided a buff to fire damage, and the Spellstone could be consumed to absorb spell damage. The stones couldn't be equipped if you had a stave, so Blizzard eventually allowed them to be placed in the wand slot instead. They couldn't compete with wand stats, however, and they saw little use. Later, they became consumable items that you didn't have to equip, similar to Wizard Oil. Eventually Blizzard gave up on the concept and cut them.

Weirdest: Detect Invisibility
Hey, now I can see stealthed mobs and players! That's what most warlocks thought when they learned this spell. Detect Invis did no such thing. Stealthed, as it turns out, does not invisible. Only a handful of mobs in the game had invisibility -- most creepily, ghosts in the Ruins of Lordaeron. In PvP, you could see an invisible mage, but the mage could then also see you. Detect Invis, while cute, was largely useless. (Actually, felhunters had an ability called Paranoia that did help you detect stealthed units, but it too was removed.)

Paladin

Most missed: Divine Intervention
As old-school paladins will tell you, the iconic DI just felt great to use. You gave up your life to shield another member of your group. What's more paladin than that? You could help the raid survive for those few extra seconds to down a boss, or save a rezzer to prevent a long runback after a wipe. Unfortunately, the spell caused too many boss exploits and bugs, and Blizzard had to nix it.

Least missed: Seal of Command
Dubbed "Seal of Casino" during vanilla, the original version of Seal of Command gave you a chance for extra strikes on each melee hit. Paladin damage was so pathetic while leveling, and players had so few buttons to hit, that most of combat was spent hoping that Command would proc. When it did, it dealt massive damage. When it didn't, you were bored out of your mind. It's possible that no spell in the game has been redesigned as many times as SoC. It became a flat holy damage bonus on attack, and then evolved into the "cleave seal" halfway through Wrath. In Cataclysm it became a passive talent, and then in Mists it made a comeback as a true seal again. It's now so long removed from its random proc form that it's a different spell entirely.

Weirdest: Sanctity Aura
This retribution talent originally buffed the holy damage -- and only holy damage -- of everyone in your party. Given that no other classes bothered using holy spells to deal damage back in vanilla, this was basically an aura for prot and ret pallies only. During Burning Crusade, when paladin tanking became more prevalent, the aura was marginally useful. Over time Blizzard supported the ability with new talents, but no one really missed Sanctity when it disappeared at the beginning of Wrath.
Hunter and pet with glowing eyes
Hunter

Most missed: Eyes of the Beast
In Molten Core, Eyes of the Beast wasn't just for screwing around. Controlling your pet directly was the best way to pull the pathing Baron Geddon out of a roomful of trash (and another boss!) into Garr's area, where he could be fought in safety. Many pets made honorable sacrifices in the name of Tier 1 shoulders in those days. Part of the hunter love for this spell comes from the famous Baron pull, but also from the spell's quirkier uses, such as sending a high level pet into a low-level town to gank very confused people.

Least missed: Lacerate
A remnant of the abandoned "melee hunter" concept in the survival tree, Lacerate was a melee strike that caused a weak bleed debuff. No one spec'ed into it, let alone used it.

Weirdest: Scorpid Sting
The original version reduced strength and agility and was rarely used -- partly because hunters just couldn't afford the mana. A revamped incarnation reduced the enemy's chance to hit by 3%. This was an improvement, but it was still difficult for mana-starved hunters to work it in. Regardless, the ability always felt more like a rogue's poison or a warlock's curse more than something a hunter should do.

Mage

Most missed: Amplify Magic/Dampen Magic
Amplify increased all spell damage and healing taken, while Dampen did the opposite. Sure, it sucked to cast this on every single person in the raid before a pull, but many mages have fond memories of strategically using these spells to down bosses. Raids used Amplify in particular with great success against bosses who only dealt physical damage, such as Kurinnaxx, Gruul, and Deathbringer Saurfang. Dampen came in handy against magic-heavy encounters such as Twin Val'kyr. Unlike almost every other buff in WoW, Blizzard never implemented raid-wide versions of these spells, and they finally got the axe in Cataclysm.

Least missed: Detect Magic
It's strange but true: during classic WoW, you couldn't see the active buffs on an enemy mob or player. Only mages could do so using Detect Magic. The game is better off now that everyone can see the buffs.

Weirdest: Khadgar's Unlocking
In beta, mages could unlock chests and doors just like a rogue, except they didn't have to grind out lockpicking in order to do so. Higher ranks unlocked more difficult locks. The spell also required a Tiny Key reagent to cast. The ability never made it to live, but some beta mages still miss it.
Insect Swarm vs a rat
Druid

Most missed: Thorns
Thorns reflected damage to attackers when they hit you. It was never the most powerful buff, but many tanks in classic WoW were grateful for any bit of threat generation they could get their hands on, especially when it hit multiple targets. Blizzard eventually turned Thorns into more of a cooldown spell than a buff, and then removed it in Mists. Now that threat generation is so much easier, the time of Thorns may have passed, but it remains an iconic druid spell. I'd love to see Blizzard give us a revamped version of it someday, with appropriately thorny textures this time.

Least missed: Cower
This spell reduced feral druid's threat by 10%. It was necessary through most of WoW when tank threat was more difficult to generate, but has no purpose today.

Weirdest: Insect Swarm
Players loved the concept of Insect Swarm: summoning a bunch of bugs to harass the enemy. Originally, IS both dealt damage over time and reduced an enemy's chance to hit with melee and ranged attacks. The effects matched the panic of a sudden bee attack, but IS stood out because spells usually give a debuff or a DoT, but not both. The hit debuff was eventually removed. When Blizzard instituted the eclipse mechanic, Insect Swarm didn't really scream "sun magic," so Sunfire replaced it.

Warrior

Most missed: Challenging Shout
So many boss strats in previous expansions relied on this AOE taunt. Maybe that's why Blizzard decided that CS and all its AOE brethren had to go in Mists. It was a warrior's favorite panic button when dozens of mobs ran screaming at your group. Healers everywhere are a little less safe now that Challenging Shout is no longer with us.

Least missed: Rend
This DoT was never beloved. It began its life with pathetic damage, useful for little other than keeping a target from reentering stealth. Rend became more relevant later with some talent-based buffs, but few are sad that it's gone. Warriors now have other ways to bleed targets that don't require an extra button press.

Weirdest: Mocking Blow
Despite the fact that "mocking" was in the name, you could use this taunt while silenced. Was it a body language thing? We may never know. For two expansions, you couldn't use this taunt in defensive stance, a.k.a. the only stance you wanted to be in while taunting 95% of the time. That oddity changed in Wrath, but Blizzard put a stop to the mockery in 2010.

Priest

Most missed: Divine Spirit
During classic, Divine Spirit and its multiple player version, Prayer of Spirit, were the biggest reason to spec disc. One disc priest in a raid could dramatically improve the mana situation for all of your casters with this spirit buff. Now that spirit also grants hit, Blizzard didn't want people to worry about reconciling spell hit on gear with buffs, so it's understandable that the spell is gone. But many priests remember that awesome blue and yellow icon with great fondness.

Least missed: Mind Soothe
This little-used spell decreased the distance at which a single humanoid or dragonkin mob would aggro you. With it, you could sometimes skip some mobs while trying to get to a quest item, or skate past a pull or two in dungeons. I remember it coming in handy during Dire Maul tribute runs. Lorewise, it fit the priest toolkit well, but it was never exactly a staple.

Weirdest: Starshards
It sounded and acted like a balance druid spell: a DoT that dealt arcane damage in the form of falling stars. Only night elf priests had access to it. While the ability made sense for a night elf, nothing about it said "priest." Blizzard axed it during the Great Priest Racial Revamp of 2008.
Swirly ball
Rogue

Most missed: Riposte
Riposte could only be used after parrying an opponent's attack, so it was used far more often in PvP than PvE (though occasionally it found a use when a rogue was called on to evasion tank). Once triggered, this Combat talent hit for 150% damage and debuffed the victim with a 20% slower melee attack speed for 30 seconds. It also granted a combo point to boot. Riposte devastated a melee player's ability to deal damage, and for that reason Blizzard probably decided it was too powerful.

Least missed: Ghostly Strike
Ghostly Strike, despite its large energy cost and low damage, was still valued for its dodge buff. It's a testament to rogues that the least missed ability is still valued by some. The original spell dealt damage to you when you used it, though, and no one misses that version.

Weirdest: Detect Traps
Rogues hardly ever needed the extremely situational Detect Traps outside of PvP'ing against a hunter or that first room in Icecrown Citadel. As the only self-buff rogues could cast (outside of poisons), the ability was nonetheless cherished. The animation for the spell inspired its nickname, Swirly Ball. In patch 1.11, the spell became a passive effect, and Swirly Ball was no more. Fierce demand for the return of Swirly Ball led to the Glyph of Detection in Mists, but the "cast" is now purely cosmetic.

Death knight

Most missed: Unbreakable Armor
One of the best personal cooldowns of all time, UA gave a solid bonus to both strength and armor once a minute. It also had one of the most badass spell names. Every DK spec had both a tanking and a DPS aspect in Wrath, so Blizzard needed spells that worked for both. UA certainly filled that niche -- perhaps too well. It only lasted for one expansion.

Least missed: Hungering Cold
While great in PvP, HC made for pretty terrible crowd control in PvE. It was so good in PvP that Blizzard gave it a cast time, making it that much worse in PvE. Some people still miss the original HC, but DKs have lost so many awesome spells that it's hard to find one that isn't mourned in some fashion.

Weirdest: Shadow of Death
This short-lived talent allowed a DK to rez himself as a ghoul after death. It wasn't very powerful, but it was unique, fun and made you truly feel like the master of death. Blizzard got rid of it one patch after it went live. The original Raise Ally could also rez a fellow player as a ghoul, but Blizzard changed it to a real battle rez in Cataclysm.

Monks are too new, and this column is already too long, so I'm skipping them this time around. What spells do you miss? Tell us below!
After months of surveying, WoW Archivist has been dug back up! Discover lore and artifacts of WoW's past, including the Corrupted Blood plague, the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, and the mysterious Emerald Dream.

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