Rexxar, the Hunter Hero, stands as an oddity in Warcraft lore. While aligned with the orcs and officially part of the Horde, Rexxar is half-ogre, half-orc – a rare breed even in his home world of Draenor. He is also part of another long-forgotten group: the melee hunter.
Rexxar in the First Horde
Rexxar was born into the peaceful Mok’Nathal clan , in the northern mountains of the world of Draenor. A half-breed like the majority of the clan’s population, he was restless in his youth, and jumped at the opportunity to join the newly formed Horde as they marched into the Dark Portal and towards the world of Azeroth, with dreams of conquest in their minds.
For a while he fought side-by-side with his half-brothers and his wolf companion during the first and second wars, but he soon grew disillusioned with civilization and organized society, mostly due to the infighting and succession of betrayals that came to characterize the Horde’s early years in Azeroth.
When his loved wolf companion was killed by a rogue orc warlock from Gul’dan’s clan, he decided he had enough.
He then set out to travel the wilderness of Azeroth, befriending the bear misha, who would become his inseparable companion ever since.
By some odd and never-explained way, he eventually reached the western, forgotten continent of Kalimdor in his travels. This is remarkable in itself because even for highly literate characters in Warcraft lore, Kalimdor is either unknown or a legend, before the migration that happened in Warcraft III.
While some exceptional individuals, like the Guardian Medivh and his mother Aegwynn, had knowledge of and had even been to Kalimdor, the civilized races did not, previously to Warcraft III, send ships in that direction.
So any explanation as to how Rexxar made his way there many years before the Third War would be highly speculative. He either traveled there with rogue ogres – as the faction split from the horde following their defeat in the Second War, and they had access to Goblin-built ships – or tamed a big sea-faring creature, as no-one else in Warcraft lore seems to have such a huge affinity for beasts.
The Hunter Gameplay
Hunters were not a very developed class prior to World of Warcraft. Their appearance in Warcraft and Warcraft II was limited to the Alliance’s Archer unit, and their evolution, the Ranger unit. Alleria, the alternate Hunter Hero, was one of the latter, but even as she was one of the protagonists of the game, she had no remarkable abilities that distinguished her from her Ranger counterparts.
It was only in Warcraft III that the hunter class started to differentiate itself from the common archer unit, starting with sylvanas-windrunner, in Warcraft III dubbed a “Dark Ranger”, and of course, Rexxar himself. This is probably the point at which Rexxar’s career best intersected with the play mechanics of the Hearthstone Hunter Hero, as all of his abilities were based on summoning beasts to do his bidding.
By the launch of World of Warcraft, The Hunter was much better defined as a class. One of it’s central mechanics was the taming of beasts – and indeed, hunters can tame almost every one of the hundreds of different beasts In the game, although the fiercest ones can only be tamed by hunters specializing in Beast Mastery, like Rexxar.
Apart from that, Hunters are one of the most mobile ranged classes in the game, striking with fast and cheap ranged attacks, aiming to maintain a steady, consistent damage output.
While the Marksman hunter benefits from standing still as much as possible, all hunters can easily use most of their attacks and abilities while moving, making them a strong class in Player Versus Player combat and in chaotic fights – not to mention that while the hunter is in combat, his beast companion is actively supporting her and attacking her enemies.
Originally, hunters could also choose to wield melee weapons and be in the thick of the action. In fact, even though all of the Hearthstone’s Hunter Hero weapons are bows or some sort of projectile weapon, Rexxar himself wields dual battle-axes in battle.
As the class matured, many expansions in, the melee play style wasn’t really viable for hunters and the melee weapons were just being used to passively increase character stats (and look cool) so Blizzard decided to remove them.
They are scheduled to make a return with the next World of Warcraft expansion, were the Survival hunter specialization will purportedly become a spear wielding, exclusively melee fighter.
Rexxar, Champion of the Horde
Rexxar made his debut in Warcraft III as the main protagonist of a special, freely downloadable campaign. This campaign is historically relevant not only because it was one of the first forays into the concept of “downloadable content” but also because it was a huge departure from Warcraft’s previous real-time strategy roots, focusing instead on story and leveling up a small band of adventurers, in a much more RPG-centric approach.
It has since been speculated that it was this campaign that went on to inspire the developers at Blizzard into the creation of their worldwide Massively Online Multiplayer phenomenon.
But back to Rexxar’s story: during his wandering in the wilderness of Kalimdor, Rexxar was surprised in finding an orc in the continent. After helping him fend off attacking beasts, he promised the dying messenger that he would fulfill his duty and deliver the report he had for his Warchief.
Rexxar was greeted in Orgrimmar by Thrall, with open arms, and was sufficiently impressed with what the young Warchief had achieved to set aside his disdain for society and take a contributing position within the Horde once more.
He then proceeded to accomplish many tasks for the Warchief and his allies, gathering a band of adventurers to his side as he had many adventures in the barrens and wilderness between the Horde capital of Orgrimmar and the human city-state of Theramore.
Eventually, his travels led him to uncover a plot against the Horde by none other than Admiral Proudmoore himself, Jaina Proudmoore’s father. Through covert guerrilla warfare, the admiral and his forces were on the verge of re-igniting the war between the Alliance and the Horde, against Jaina’s will.
Rexxar’s adventures culminated with the hunter confronting the admiral himself, a fight of which he was the victor, leaving Jaina to mourn her dead father. He later remarked to Thrall that Jaina was indeed a human to be trusted, because despite the pain of losing her father, she had understood that he had been the one to blame for his own death.
After his short but eventful stay at Orgrimmar, Rexxar decided once more that civilization wasn’t for him, and informed Thrall that he would leave. He did, however, pledge his allegiance to the Horde, saying that he would be honored to serve whenever necessary, and the Warchief granted him the honorific title “Champion of the Horde” – a mantle only ever held by a very select handful of people.
After roaming around the wastelands of the Desolace region during the early years of World of Warcraft, and helping Horde players face the mighty mistress of the black dragonflight, onyxia, Rexxar eventually departed for Outland, crossing once again the Dark Portal into the lands that had once been Draenor.
There, amid a slowly shattering world, is where players met him last, as he attempted to salvage what little was left of his people, the Mok’Nathal clan, and make peace with his father, who still bears him a grudge for defecting to the armies of the original Horde all those years ago. It is also by this point that he is accompanied by the boar huffer and the wyvern leokk.
Apart from that, World of Warcraft players can meet up and adventure with Rexxar’s past self while time-traveling in the current WoW storyline, Warlords of Draenor.
It’s a Trap: Hunter Secrets
While traps today are not such an important part of the hunter class as they were back in the early years of World of Warcraft, they are still a unique and important concept among the MMo’s classes. Though this is a case where the mechanics shine a lot brighter in the context of a card game like Hearthstone.
Notable cases are explosive-trap, whose World of Warcraft analogue does area-of-effect damage when stepped on, and freezing-trap, used in World of Warcraft as crowd control, disabling a single threatening enemy in a group, to pick off later, once the situation is under control.
misdirection is also worth mentioning, as it is possibly one of the most often used hunter spells in World of Warcraft, even though the mechanics don’t translate well into Hearthstone. It is used by hunters, who usually lack the resilience of other combat classes, to draw the attention of an enemy away from them and to another unit, usually a player with a tank role or the hunter’s pet. And annoying gnome mages also make for good targets.
Hunter’s Mark: Punch Here First
hunters-mark has been a staple of the class since the early days of World of Warcraft. Originally it was mostly used exactly as that – a marker that allowed players to focus on a priority target within a larger group of enemies.
That function has since been replaced by general markers available to anyone within the WoW user interface, but the spell endured, “revealing vulnerabilities” in the target, making it more susceptible to ranged attacks. Sadly, the spell was unceremoniously removed as part of the streamlining of the classes in the latest expansion, “Warlords of Draenor” and so, the Hearthstone card is all that remains of its legacy.
As masters of the ranged attack, it’s no wonder a big part of the hunter’s spell repertoire revolves around shooting at things.
arcane-shot is the most often used hunter spell in World of Warcraft, tying the three hunter specializations – Beast Mastery, Marksmanship, and Survival – together.
explosive-shot is currently the trademark attack of the Survival hunter, though at this point in time it leaves a damage-over-time effect, as opposed to hitting multiple targets.
As for the famous steady-shot, it’s mostly used in World of Warcraft, and exclusively by Marksmanship hunters, to replenish energy reserves in order to use other abilities. So it sadly has very little to do with the notorious face-damage machine that is the Hunter’s hero power.
Companionship is Magic
The defining characteristic of the hunter class is their ability to tame and enlist the services of a huge variety of wild creatures, with their own skills and abilities.
call-pet is the name of the spell that every hunter uses to summon his chosen companion, but of course the most known pet summoning spell in Hearthstone is animal-companion, on account of it almost always offering good value.
animal-companion does not really represent a World of Warcraft spell, but more of a concept from WoW: that of the hunter’s chosen and favored pet. The card is especially tied into Rexxar’s story, as the possible summonable minions are all companions of his: misha, the bear he met soon after a rogue warlock of the Stormreaver clan killed his wolf companion, and huffer and leokk, respectively a boar and a wyvern from Outlands.
It’s a bit of a fail on Blizzard’s part to keep these unchanged when playing as the alternate Hunter hero, Alleria. While the ranger was more of a marksman and certainly did not have Rexxar’s affinity for beasts – though the monument in her honor that can be found by the gates of the human capital of Stormwind depicts her with an eagle or some other kind of hunting bird – it makes little sense to have Rexxar’s pets come to her aid.
Of course, any Beastmaster hunter worth its salt knows that the purpose for having huge, aggressive beasts around is to be able to command them to bite a chunk out of your opponents, and kill-command shares that function between both World of Warcraft and Hearthstone, commanding whatever pet is around to deal massive damage.
Conclusion and Future of the Hunter Hero
The Hearthstone hunter is already very much in line with the World of Warcraft hunter mythos, and both the default Hero and the alternate Hero are solid characters with a well-defined lore background. Even the hero’s status as mostly oriented towards aggro play is faithful to its origins and current state in the MMO.
That said, the next World of Warcraft expansion will bring melee weapons back to the hunters, so it might be interesting to see how that will affect future Hearthstone cards.
What do you think? What changes would Blizzard make to bring the Hunter more in-line with the fantasy of the survivalist tracker, and perhaps more suited to control play styles? Share your opinion in the comments!