The first chapter of Class Compendium has come out today, barely making it into this month’s issue of Dragon magazine. I am mildly disappointed, not for any lack of quality in the material itself, but because I half expected it to have more ambitious goals. The article consists on a reprinting of the Warlord class, as originally seen on the first Player’s Handbook, but reformatted to match the new style introduced in the Essentials books, and incorporating all existing errata, and a lot of clarifications. The number of functional changes has been kept to a minimum, though, and this is the point where I have been let down.
To be fair, even without mechanical changes of note (apart from a much needed rewriting of Commander’s Strike for clarity purposes, and the redesign of a couple of daily powers), the article holds more value than I had imagined. The Essentials format takes up a lot of space, but it does read much better than the dreaded Walls of Powers in the original 4E books. There is quite a lot of added flavor, which some will consider filler, but at the very least is quality, well written filler. And although the effects of most powers remain unchanged, their text has been extensively revised and polished, becoming much more clear and formal. Putting my old PHB next to this article, it is now evident how rough the writing of power description was in the early 4E days, so this is definitely an improvement. Also, even though the Warlord has suffered relatively little errata, it is nice to have a reference text where you know that everything is up to date - previously, we had to resort to the online Compendium, which is handy, but a bit cumbersome if you intend to read the whole class.
Now, the only question remaining is, was the Warlord unchanged because it’s the overall policy of the book, or because the class is that good? The answer is relevant because some of the other classes and builds compiled in Class Compendium are in greater need of functional updates, such as the Wizard (which should see its encounter powers overhauled to match the miss effects introduced in Heroes of the Fallen Lands), and the much maligned Strength Cleric (which suffers from a remarkable lack of options). And here, I must admit that Warlords were in pretty good shape, to begin with. There are very few things that really stand out as wrong (including the Battle Captain paragon path), and a couple of lesser updates that I’d like to see but are far from vital (such as changing Knight’s Move and similar utilities from ranged to close burst powers). So it is perfectly possible that other classes will see more changes, because they deserve them more. We will see...
By the way, it is probably a mistake that will get fixed at some point, but at the time of writing this, this article can be freely downloaded, despite the fact that is marked as subscriber content. My guess is that the intention was for the actual errata (which is compiled as a separate sheet) to be offered for free, while the article itself remained behind the paywall. At any rate, if you are not a DDI subscriber, you could do worse than downloading it and checking it out, while there is time.