Most Iconic MMO Abilities

by Tyler Edwards, November 30, 2013

In all the wide world of MMOs, there are countless interpretations on the standard class archetypes. A priest in one game might play very differently from a priest in another game. But yet, there are always common threads. There are certain abilities that seem to crop up in virtually every MMO on the market. They might have slightly different names or ways of operating, but they're all basically the same concept. These are iconic, class defining abilities that we're never going to be without.

warrior whirlwind


The blades on the warrior go round and round, round and round, round and round...

Warriors might not seem like the whimsical sort, but they really love to spin. Rare indeed is the game in which warriors do not have some variation of the whirlwind concept, where the warrior spins with their weapon to strike everyone nearby.

Apparently, they love cutting people up so much they need to dance for joy. Even ballet dancers do not spin as often or as gracefully as these plate prancers, these battle ballerinos.

But hey, it's not like anyone's going to make fun of their moves. Anyone who did would likely find themselves facing a very coordinated, elegant tempest of steel capable of reducing them to a substance resembling ground beef.

ninja parade


Every rogue or assassin needs stealth, the ability to hide in plain sight and ambush their unsuspecting prey. Without it, they're merely shifty warriors with smaller weapons and crappy armor. But with the ability to bend shadows to their will, they become the sum of all MMO fears. There is probably no ability in all the MMO universe more feared, hated, and despised than stealth. It's a power specifically calculated to ruin someone's day. One moment, you'll be cheerfully stomping noobs without a care in the world. The next, you're a stain on the ground with some obnoxious rogue /laughing at your mangled carcass. It is moments like these that make assassin archetypes the most hated people in any MMO. Of course, to the assassins themselves, all this hate is a badge of pride - a sign of a job well done.

rogue qq


And what does all that sneaking around lead to? Lots and lots of stabbing. Specifically, backstabbing. Not only do assassins function best when fighting enemies from behind, but they also usually have at least one or two abilities that can only be used while standing behind a target.

Insert obligatory "rogues do it from behind" joke.

It makes sense in terms of class flavor, but it can be endlessly frustrating for the players trying to use such abilities. The fact that most mobs automatically spin to face their targets makes soloing miserable, and even with a tank, the need to be behind a target can make life difficult.

The next time you've been mercilessly ganked by an assassin, remember that their eternal penance is to be constantly matched with tanks who randomly spin bosses around, causing assassins to festoon their monitor with spittle as they curse every developer who ever implemented positional requirements.

burning fireball


It's time for some honesty: Everyone likes setting things on fire. Don't try to deny it. You know you can't resist the moment of ignition, where heat and smoke come to life and consume all in their path in a glorious conflagration of cleansing flame that...

Ahem. The point is that slinging fire at things is a lot of fun. Enter the mage class. Clever folks that they are, mages are always sure to offer the ability to launch a ball of fire to players early on. It's a time tested classic of a spell that everyone likes. It's simple, straightforward concept that anyone can grasp. Fire good. Enemies on fire better.

priest 1


If there's one thing every healer needs, it's... a heal. A shot of NyQuil and some Advil won't cut it when you're healing fourth degree dragon fire burns and aggravated demon horn impalements.

Such spells are just about as simple as you can get. Even healing classes with more unusual mechanics always have at least one spell that boils to, "Makes the hurting stop."

It's a bit boring, but maybe that's a good thing. Healers have enough to deal with without needing to understand complicated spell mechanics for their basic duties, and sometimes, things just don't need to be complex. Maybe it's okay for healing to just be healing. Or maybe MMO developers just need to be a little more creative.

warlock 1

Emo cutting:

Most MMOs have at least one "evil" spell caster class. Necromancers, warlocks, dark mages - they all wield powers of shadow and death, drawing strength from pain and suffering. They are known for their cruelty and ruthless will to defeat their enemies by any means necessary.

But they're not just sadists. They're also masochists. These classes almost always seem to have some ability to sacrifice their own health to restore mana or otherwise boost their power. This probably doesn't help their image among other players as emo kids.

Let's just hope that the raid boss knows the safe word. It's "cinnamon," by the way.

coyote trap


What do Wile E. Coyote and rangers have in common - aside from a reputation for gross incompetence? They both love to set traps.

Presumably, this is to showcase their identity as masters of the wilderness, though this is somewhat undermined by the fact that a lot of these traps are ludicrously overcomplicated by wilderness survival standards - but at least not so complex as the coyote's gadgets. One wonders how they can manage to put together explosive fire traps out in the wilderness. Apparently, napalm grows on trees.

Traps are a mechanic that encourages careful and methodical preparation. Which should make them a real source of joy when the tank is determined to pull everything in a three mile radius with no breaks between fights.

Thankfully, rangers don't buy their traps from the Acme Corporation, so they at least don't have to worry about dynamiting their own faces.

leonidas shout


If there's one thing warriors like, it's hitting people with weapons of improbable scale. But if there's two things warriors like, the second is yelling at people.

The vocal cords of warriors are as over-developed as the rest of their bodies. They can shout at enemies to scare them away, or shout at allies to increase their health or fighting power. Presumably the latter shouts are along the lines of, "YOU CALL THAT FIGHTING? MY GRANDMA COULD HIT HARDER THAN THAT, YOU PANSY ROGUE!"

In some games warriors can yell with such force that they can damage and knock back enemies with their voice. Makes you wonder what they ate the night before.

ray of frost

Wimpy ice based snare:

Mages are the masters of the arcane and the elements. They can hurl bolts of flame at their foes, summon raging storms to obliterate whole packs of enemies, and even bend time itself to their will.

But not all their abilities are so exciting. One ability that all mages seem to end up with is some sort of ice-based root or snare ability. The general idea is to prevent enemies from reaching the mage and feasting on their juicy, juicy mage bits.

There's no denying such abilities are useful. The ability to control the battlefield while questing is invaluable. But they're rather dull. They don't do much damage compared to other spells, and they don't have the flare of fireballs or lightning bolts. They're also totally useless versus the kind of enemies that matter, like dungeon bosses, leading mages who've come to rely on such spells to be pretty lost when they start on more serious content.

mage autoattack

Auto attack:

But if there is one MMO ability more ubiquitous than all others, it is auto attack. A simple toggle to make your character automatically beat on an enemy. Even casters, who don't really have any reason to ever be clubbing enemies with their staves, come equipped with this most universal skill.

For a long time, auto attack was something you would find everywhere. It was standard issue, regardless of the MMO you played. But these days, we're starting to see developers leave auto attack behind, instead favoring combo builders or other spammable basic attacks.

Most people would probably say, "Good riddance. Auto attack was boring anyway." And perhaps it was. But we can spare a moment to remember all the good times we had with auto-attack. Many a dragon has fallen to these automated slaps and tickles.