There are certain things in the game that scream: “THIS IS WORLD OF WARCRAFT!” Each class has their own special thing that people think of when they picture the class in their head. Some have changed over time, being iconic when the game came out and all but vanished now. Some have emerged over time, starting as a thought and finally being realized.
One good thing is that I couldn’t think of one specific ability that is recognizable for the entire game. There are a few front-runners, but there are many that define each class. Blizzard has done a great job of making each class very individual (with a few exceptions), and you know who you are playing by what you can do.
Shamans get two picks from me: Frost Shock and Bloodlust. Sorry Alliance, but it will always be Bloodlust and not Heroism. In Vanilla PvP, Frost Shock was one of the biggest abilities that the Horde had in their arsenal, as it was a good snare on a short cooldown that did a decent amount of damage. There used to be an addon that would have an audio file of “FROST SHOOOOOCK!” when it was used. Bloodlust, including the roaring-murloc-style sound, is such a great feeling. The very first time it was used in game for my character gave me goosebumps.
(The above is my son being a good PvP Shaman in training)
Druids are pretty straight forward, being that their forms truly define who they are. Not as much as previously, with the removal of a permanent Tree Form, but I believe that Bear Form & Cat Form are truly iconic (and of course the laser chicken). There’s no mistaking what you’re fighting when you have a cat tearing up your face. Being able to be a warrior, rogue, mage, and priest all in one is a nice feeling.
To me, the Warrior’s signature ability was mainly visible in Vanilla as it was before big nerfs. Mortal Strike was a high damage move that also caused the target to receive 50% less healing as a debuff. This was in place for a very long time until it was nerfed to be only 10% less healing, as it was very overpowered for PvP. Many tanks were Arms spec in Vanilla mainly for this ability, so mobs that healed themselves could be mitigated. Close second is Titan’s Grip – being able to wield two two-handed weapons is just awesome.
Rogues are mainly known for one thing: their stuns. They have close to fifty thousand of them (or so it would seem at time in PvP), and used well they can completely lock out someone for a good period of time. By the time the stuns wear off, the target’s health is low enough that they’re as good as dead.
Warlocks also have two great abilities to cause grief to people: Fear and Death Coil. Both mainly in Vanilla again, but the combination of the two spells were great to keep a player or a mob out of the way for a good period of time. The only problem with PvE use of them is that they have a very good chance to pull approximately one thousand other mobs who are close by.
Mages have two things that I believe is their signature, which is Polymorph and the ability to blow stuff up. Polymorph’s history goes back to the early RTS games, and thankfully stays in the game today as a great crowd control device. Being able to have different animals other than sheep is nice for groups or raids with multiple mages, but the sheep is still awesome. Plus, mages can blow stuff up, including Living Bomb. How can you go wrong?
Hunters are definitely known for having their pets and their traps. The removal of Eyes of the Beast, allowing direct control over the pet, is definitely a big loss – it was also the way our guild pulled Baron Geddon in Molten Core back in Vanilla. When pets had their happiness system or needing to tame specific pets to learn specific abilities, or basically how pets were before they were all made generic are what truly defined hunters for a very long time. The traps have become a lot better, as rather than having to place them where the character is, they are now able to be launched to a location without having to sacrifice yourself. Coming close behind is feign death, which is also useful in real life.
I had a difficult time coming up with a specific priest signature ability. Eventually I decided on Shadowform and the ability to be a very flexible healer. Unfortunately with all the specific heals that a priest has, there are too many to narrow down to one signature one, apart from Greater Heal. Bread and butter healing. Shadowform is very different in the fact that it gave priests a way to do very good damage and still be a priest at heart.
Death Knights are pretty easy, as Death Grip is one of the first things that a player uses after rolling one. Being able to yank someone right to you, also acting as a taunt, is a tank’s best friend. Plus, a lot of fun in PvP. Army of the Dead is a close contender, as there are few things more awesome than an army of ghouls rampaging on your behalf.
The Paladin signature ability was the easiest one to come up with. Divine Shield, or the infamous “Bubble”. Unfortunately not being able to last long enough for a full bubble-hearth, it still has the reputation that it definitely deserves.
In conclusion, each class has things that truly make them feel unique. Even the Druid, which “borrows” the styles of other classes, still makes the playstyle their own. Even though they use rage like a warrior, they are not warriors (parrying with their faces takes skill).
As a signature ability for the game? I don’t think there needs to be one. The closest “iconic” one that I can think of would have to be Bloodlust. It is synonymous with the Orc culture, and every time I hear the sound effect I can’t help but think of the Warcraft series.