Hunters. Whether you like her methods or not, you can't deny that Sylvanas is one badass marksman.
One of the cooler things about WoW is how major NPCs and characters sort of serve as representatives and role models for their respective classes. It's pretty fun for Mages to run across other famous examples of their ilk such as Jaina or Khadgar, and I know I immediately loved Sylvanas because she was a badass Hunter, even if she does eschew using a pet. :( (Although maybe Varimathras filled that role. I guess she didn't feed him and he got angry. OLD SCHOOL, BABY.)
Continuing on, Thrall is THE Shaman role model, of course, and there's been plenty of Shaman love with all the Earthen Ring lore in Cataclysm. Similarly, Druids got a ton of nice exposure in Mount Hyjal, which is ALL DRUIDS, ALL THE TIME. I think players of these classes should be happy for a long time with the love Blizzard showed them this expansion.
Death Knights. Darion Mograine is the DK class incarnate. Tragic, angry, full of angst and anguish.
Though they've been quiet lately, Death Knights certainly had a lot of great moments in Wrath, and have a decent assortment of revered figures such as Darion, Koltira and Thassarian. Rogues got some fun time in Twilight Highlands hanging out with master backstabbers Matthias Shaw and Garona, and Warriors could, I suppose, look up to Varian Wrynn and Garrosh if they weren't such colossal meatheads. (Actually, there's no shortage of awesome warriors, such as Varok Saurfang and Muradin Bronzebeard.)
And PALADINS. Don't even get me started on PALADINS. They have always been prominent, but Wrath of the Lich King was basically a giant Paladin wankfest, so yeah, they've definitely enjoyed their time in the spotlight.
Mages. Rhonin is a tool, but Jaina would burn me to cinders and Khadgar is boring looking, so...
Now, not every class has a noble hero to look up to. Take Warlocks, for example! There are no faction leaders or major Warlock NPCs whom you can hang out with or take pretty screenshots alongside. In fact, pretty much every famous Warlock is renowned for being horrific villains and monsters. Then again, they're WARLOCKS, so maybe this makes sense. After all, someone like Gul'dan might have been cruel, vicious, greedy and selfish, but isn't that what ever young warlock dreams of, growing up? Admirable or not, it can't be argued that there's some pretty well-known Warlocks in WoW's history.
But isn't there another class? One that's been around since Vanilla, one that fulfills one of the most traditional, classic RPG party roles? One that, due to being the only class in the game with not one but TWO support specs, has been described as the backbone of a decent group?
Where are all the Priests?
Now sure, there are some noteworthy Priests in the game. Prophet Velen is one, and so is Tyrande, both major characters. But are they really serving as role models for the class? When I think "Mage" I think of Jaina, because we've seen her teleport mass groups, freeze a room full of people - do all kinds of wicked Mage stuff, basically. But when I think "Priest" I think of Velen not because of what he's done, but...because there's really no one else.
Velen would actually be a perfect Priest role model. He's concerned about his people's welfare, his allies, and basically every living creature - he's pretty much the epitome of a healer. He's also incredibly in touch with the Light, perhaps more so than any other creature besides the Naaru, and he obviously has the charisma and leadership necessary to hold his tired people together over their many years of hardships. Hell, he could even handle the Shadow side of things, what with his close connection to the Naaru and their "Light cannot exist in the absence of Shadow" mantra.
Of course, most players would never know this about him, since all he does nowadays is sit about in the Exodar watching dust collect on their talking chandelier.
It's a terrible shame Velen's been so woefully underused in WoW. He really hasn't done much to make people go "I play a Priest because Velen is my hero!" Granted, he did some cool stuff in Burning Crusade, such as using M'uru's spark to reignite the Sunwell, but that always seemed to me like a Velen act, not a PRIEST act, if that makes any sense. I mean, it's not like he did it using Flash Heal and Penance. He was able to do it because, well, he's Velen.
Tyrande, on the other hand, is some weird, confusing amalgamation of a Priest and a Hunter. She's technically a High Priestess, but she wields a bow at all times (seriously, every piece of art with her, she's got one), uses Hunter and Druid(!) abilities in combat but not a single Priest spell, and used to ride around wearing decidedly un-Priest-like armor. Bizarrely, she also sometimes wears a glaive on her arm, though I think it's just for show. Still though - A GLAIVE.
To me, Tyrande just doesn't FEEL like a Priest.
Tyrande the "High Priestess" and Malfurion. She look like any Priest you've ever seen?
You might point out that hey, Thrall also breaks the game rules - he wears plate armor! This is technically true, but there's a big difference. First, you'd only know it was plate if you know the lore. His armor is just a texture - it's not like the programmers took what type of armor his class can wear into consideration when setting his armor and toughness, nor does it ever arise when fighting him. Tyrande, however, definitely puts her bow to good use while fighting off assailants.
Secondly, Thrall ACTS like his class. He talks to the spirits, he visits the Throne of the Elements in Nagrand, he calls upon his elemental allies to help him during the Battle for the Undercity...because of what we see him do in-game, there is no doubt that he is a Shaman. Tyrande really doesn't utilize her Priestly powers, other than one quest where she and some other Priestesses call upon Elune to cleanse the corrupted spirit of Eranikus. Do you think many Priest players think to themselves "Man, I'm so glad to be a Priest like Tyrande. I mean, one time, she healed something."
(Of course, she may have healed Eranikus' spirit simply because she had already murdered enough innocent people in Moonglade for one lifetime. But I digress.)
So besides Velen and Tyrande, who are some other Priests of note? Well, the list is sparse. Anduin Wrynn is a pretty rad Priest, and one that I could definitely see people looking up to...in time. Right now, he's not a role model, he's the cute kid people like to hang out with. He definitely has the makings of a virtuous, admirable leader (displayed to great effect in the Shattering novel), but he's not on the level of a Jaina or Thrall in terms of representing his class. He's a good person, yeah. But he's not a great PRIEST...yet.
Eventually Anduin will be a great Priest, but for now he OH DAMMIT ANOTHER PRIEST WITH A BOW
There is also Archbishop Benedictus, leader of the Cathedral of Light in Stormwind. Apparently he's an important dude, though he doesn't do much in-game. There was speculation before Cataclysm that he was going to betray the Alliance and be revealed as a Twilight Cultist, but this storyline never happened. It's almost a shame - it would have made him more interesting. Instead, he's kinda just there hanging out, doling out a few low-level quests and adding to the ambiance.
Horde-side? Well...the Twilight Highlands finale sees you fight alongside Garona, Zaela and Lady Cozwynn, a Forsaken Priest. (All three of them are female characters, actually. It was fun to see an all-female Tank-Healer-DPS team go to work.) But she only really does anything Priesty in that final quest, and there's no other info about her.
There's also the Troll Priest Zabra Hexx, who was a minor character in the Ashbringer comic series. He read books in the Scarlet Monastery and learned the ways of the Light, which saved his life when the Knights of the Silver Hand found him. Alexandros Mograine spared his life, a favor Zabra repaid later on by helping Alexandros' son Darion. He's had a few items named after him - Zabra's Misplaced Staff and the Tier 9 Priest armor set - but has never appeared in-game.
Annnnnd that's basically it! Considering the Light is such a major focus and power source, it's a little odd that all the storylines surrounding it always have to do with Paladins and not Priests. As far as I know, it's the same Light, so why the unbalance? Maybe Blizzard just likes the Holy Justice, Taste My Divine Wrath feel more when there's huge hammers being swung about? Or maybe Paladins are just OP.
I actually think Blizzard missed a GREAT opportunity to address this inequality, and bring Priests (in general) back into the picture as important cultural fixtures. During the Elemental Invasion, when regular civilians were being swayed by apocalyptic prophets and the world seemed like it was about to end, I kept waiting for the Priests to step in and calm the panicked masses. After all, who do you turn to in times of severe self-doubt, depression and stress? You look to your spiritual leaders, that's who.
Velen would have been PERFECT for this job. He should have been there in Stormwind, addressing worried audiences in the Cathedral of Light alongside his fellow Priests. Not only does he have the wisdom and tranquil nature to comfort fearful citizens, he also has countless years of experience as the heart and soul of his people. After being relentlessly chased by the Burning Legion for years, and after enduring incredible tragedies such as the events that took place on Draenor, I'm sure Velen has a LOT of experience dealing with sorrow, anxiety and fear.
Plus, how awesome would it be to see gentle, warm Velen go HOLY FIRE WRATH on some evil spirits or cultists who tried to break into the church? If I was a new player and I saw this cool grandfatherly figure telling us that everything was going to be fine, and then eradicating evil ghosts with the divine power of the Light, I think I'd be sold. THAT would be a Priest I could look up to.
As for the Horde? Well, on the PTR right now, Vol'jin has secretly sent ambassadors to Stormwind to warn them about the resurgence of the Zandalari Trolls. What better peacekeeper could Vol'jin send than Zabra Hexx? He's intelligent, non-violent, and most importantly, he follows the exact same religious ideologies and beliefs as Stormwind's now-revitalized Church of the Holy Light.
THIS IS NOT THE RIGHT TYPE OF TROLL DIPLOMACY!
Furthermore, I haven't gone onto the PTR to check this out for myself, but I have to imagine not many Stormwind officials would believe or trust Vol'jin's emissaries. They're lucky not to have been killed on sight, honestly - the two factions ARE basically at war, after all. I'm sure Varian suspects all kinds of Horde trickery, that this is all some sort of evil plan by Garrosh, etc. But if Zabra were there, he and high-ranking Church dignitaries - such as Archbishop Benedictus - could undoubtedly put aside their social doubts and stigmas to communicate as peers, equal followers and faithful believers in the Light.
Varian might not be inclined to listen to a Troll, but when it's one of the most venerable, faithful people in the entire city? Someone that quite likely is Anduin's teacher and mentor? That might be another story.
In any case, Priests have really gotten shafted so far in WoW. There's hope on the distant horizon with Anduin, but I'd love to see some memorable, strong Priest characters show up soon and make an impact. The Light comes up so often in lore and quests, it'd be really nice if Blizzard acknowledged that hey, Paladins aren't the only Light-wielders in town.
Fordring can have all the glory from slaying the Lich King, Varian can have his fancy statue; that's all fine. We're a humble sort, we're fine being at the back and not basking in the limelight. But how about just a few cool Priest characters we can proudly adore? Is that too much to ask?