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Career Overview: The Shadow Warrior

Keith Cross Posted:
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Career Overview: The Shadow Warrior

News Manager Keith Cross recently had the opportunity to speak with Adam Gershowitz, Associate Art Director on Warhammer Online about Shadow Warriors, elite warriors of the High Elves who walk the line between dark and light in their quest for vengeance against the enemies of Elfkind. Adam was also kind enough to send over specific information about the Shadow Warrior's specific abilities, strategic maneuvers, stances, and examples of what a few rounds of combat might look like.  

During the age when the Elven Kingdom of Ulthuan was split by civil war, and the soil of Nagarythe was spattered with the blood of brothers for Malekith’s treasons, an elite line of warriors was born: the Shadow Warriors.

In the time of relative peace between the first chaos invasion, and the war which sundered the Elves into the High Elves loyal to the Phoenix King, and the Dark Elves who followed Malekith the Witch King, these warriors called Malekith’s homeland of Nagarythe their home. They agreed with Malekith’s view that the Elven people were growing soft and complacent, and that the elves needed to stay strong and warlike to face the growing threat of Chaos and destruction, but they disagreed with his policy of murdering the Phoenix King based on flimsy accusations and transparent desires for the throne. Armed with the warlike mindset and methods of the Dark Elves, and the sense of justice and morals of the High Elves, they took up arms against Malekith’s corruption. Since that time they have become the harsh justice of the High Elves, fighting the dirty fights which make others balk, taking vengeance on the enemies of elfkind, and walking a line in the moral shadows between dark and light.

During the Age of Reckoning, the timeframe of Warhammer Online, the Shadow Warriors continue in their traditional role. I recently had the chance to talk to Adam Gershowitz, Associate Art Director for Combat and Careers on WAR about the Shadow Warrior, and their role in the game’s culture as well as their role in terms of game mechanics. He described the shadow warrior as “the brooding antihero type” and half joking as “Legolas if he were a 16 year old goth teen” in terms of the Shadow Warrior’s martial prowess with bow and blade, and his bleak world view. (Except at the end of a hard day of battle the Shadow Warrior would have a bit more than a light smudge of dirt on his cheek.)

Adam went on to describe how the other High Elves look upon the Shadow Warrior as “almost a necessary evil.” Despite their proven loyalty to the Phoenix King, they put other Elves off because of their affinity for vengeance, and because their “sense of justice outweighs their sense of morality”. They are respected but not entirely loved by their own kind. Their kin regard them “as powerful tools” in the wars against the ancient enemies of the Elves.

While the Elves have a love hate relationship with the Shadow Warriors, there are others who take a kinder view, a mysterious race called the play testers. Adam informed me that the Shadow Warrior is the current favorite among play testers. And why wouldn’t they be? Back-story alone is enough to put them on the A list. When Adam started talking about their role in the game from a game mechanic point of view, the reasons for their popularity became more apparent. The Shadow Warrior is designed to be deadly at all ranges. They are snipers, skirmishers, and toe to toe melee combatants all rolled into one.

The draw back of the Shadow Warrior is that they aren’t the best at what they do. Meaning that if a Shadow Warrior and a Bright Wizard were to stand side by side and hurl death at their foes from long range, the Bright Wizard do the most damage every time, well, almost every time, but we’ll get into that later (see Vengeance of Nagarythe). Assuming this hypothetical foe is a few degrees more intelligent than a lobotomized greenskin, they’ll close in on the Bright Wizard and hit them at close range where the Wizard is vulnerable. This is where the Shadow Warrior shines, as they are just as good at close range as they are at long. In fact, the shadow warrior is just as good at medium range and harassment (or run and gun) tactics, so the foe might not even make it across the field of battle to experience close range combat.

The Shadow Warrior is really designed for players who enjoy playing well rounded and versatile classes. They’re for players who don’t care about being the best at this or that, but enjoy the challenge of having a broad range of talents, and strategically applying the right combination for skills to diverse situations on the fly. Strategy is meant to be a big part of the Shadow Warrior’s appeal. A common mantra among MMO developers is ‘easy to get into, difficult to master’ and this was the philosophy in mind when they developed the Shadow Warrior.

In closing, I asked Adam if there were any other careers in WAR that shared the philosophies, either morally or in game design, of the Shadow Warrior. In terms of game design he mentioned the Squig Herder as an example of another career with diverse skills that requires players to change tactics and adapt quickly, and he pointed to the Witch Hunter as an example of someone who would use dark methods to defeat a darker foe. The most intriguing example was that of the Orcs. One could argue that Shadow Warriors can easily be regarded as evil for their rage and viciousness in battle, but they are not truly evil for their motives are just. While Orcs are regarded as evil for similar reasons, but their motives may not be truly evil, as Orcs fight mostly because they like fighting. Of course, this is Warhammer, so good and evil takes a back seat to order and destruction, where good and evil exist on both sides. I guess the moral of the story is: shades of grey are fun to play.

Adam was also kind enough to send over specific information about the Shadow Warrior's specific abilities, strategic maneuvers, stances, and examples of what a few rounds of combat might look like.

Mechanic Name – Strategic Maneuvers

Mechanic Type – Stances

Strategic Maneuvers allow the shadow warrior to change “Modes” to account for the every changing battlefield. This gives them a very broad range of responses to both Ranged attackers and Melee. The Maneuvers are classified into 3 types, each type unlocks different abilities that can be used, and some abilities are available for use in multiple stances

  • Scouting – Abilities focusing on the bow and attacking from a stationary position at range
  • Skirmish – Abilities focusing on the bow and attacking from short range and staying mobile for hit and run attacks
  • Assault – Abilities focusing on melee combat both offensively (doing damage) and defensively (Disengaging from a fight)

After changing maneuvers there is a short period of time where you cannot change maneuvers again. This is to avoid “Stance Dancing” and make the player think about which maneuvers they want to use and when.

Ability Examples


Usable at any time

  • Eagle Eye – Deals high Damage when target is farther then 60ft away, deals low damage if they are closer then 60 feet

Must have Scout Maneuver active to use

  • Fell The Weak – Deals extremely high damage to targets below 20% health, if Vengeance is active then also reduces healing on your target by 50% for 5s


Usable at any time

  • Broad head Arrow – Causes an ailment on your opponent that deals Damage over time

Must have Skirmish Maneuver active to use

  • Eye Shot – A precise high shot that wounds the player (Ailment) lowering their imitative making it more likely that they will be critically hit


Usable at any time

  • Swift Strikes - Moderate damage attack that will also snare an Ailing opponent slowing their movement speed down

Must have Assault Maneuver active to use

  • Brutal Assault – Backstab that deals very high damage to your opponent, if Vengeance is active then this ability does not require you to be behind your target.


Vengeance of Nagarythe – Increases your auto attack damage (ranged & melee) by 50% for 30seconds, increases the effectiveness of certain abilities

Combat Flow

Assault Combo

  1. Shadow warrior starts the fight running towards his opponent in Skirmish Maneuver
  2. Shadow warrior uses Broad head Arrow to cause an ailment on his opponent
  3. Shadow warrior uses an Eye Shot as he closes the distance to lower opponent’s initiative and increase his critical hit chance
  4. Shadow warrior uses Swift Strikes to snare his Ailing opponent to keep them from running
  5. Shadow warrior switches to an Assault Maneuver
  6. Shadow warrior activates Vengeance of Nagarythe as he reaches melee range
  7. Shadow warrior finishes off his opponent with a Vengeance of Nagarythe assisted Brutal Assault!

Sniper Combo

  1. Shadow Warrior starts the fight at long range in Scout Maneuver
  2. Shadow Warrior uses Eagle Eye shots to damage opponent from long range
  3. As his opponent closes the Shadow warrior changes to Assault Maneuver
  4. Shadow warrior uses a Eye Shot to cause an ailment on his target
  5. Shadow Warrior snares his ailing opponent with Swift Strikes
  6. Shadow warrior falls back to long range shooting a Broad head arrow as he does
  7. Shadow warrior activates Vengeance of Nagarythe as he reaches long range
  8. Shadow warrior switches back to Scout Maneuver to finish off his opponent with Fell the Weak.


Keith Cross