The growing rift in WoW between hybrids and non-hybrids

The ideal with character classes in MMOs is that there should be a wide enough choice that every player can find one that they like, and then use that character to pursue all of the in-game goals which appeal to them. They might involve different mechanics, different lore, a different look and feel, different levels of complexity, or different roles, but there should be something for everyone.

But what happens when some choices start to seem objectively better than others? Well, those should get fixed in some kind of balance patch. But what if the advantage is so core to the game design that it’s never going to be changed?

With the dungeon finder tool, players are finding (to no ones surprise) that if they queue as tanks or healers, they get into instances much more quickly. It’s widely held that the main shortage is on the tanking side, and that fits with my experience also. So the pure dps classes will have a longer wait, and hybrids can choose whether they prefer a dps role with a longer wait, or the hassle of gearing and learning to play a different role that will get them into instances more quickly.

The game isn’t just dungeons (and once everyone is geared up, it won’t really matter how long they have to wait), but they are at the forefront of people’s minds at the moment. So I’ll be surprised if the majority of new alts created right now are not druids and paladins (the two classes which can have options to tank, or heal, or dps). Suddenly, role flexibility is the new black. Then there will probably be a lot of other new hybrids, less flexible than the paladins and druids, but still able to either heal or tank as well as dps.

This is not only a good thing but also the only real solution to dps queue times. When these new alts come down the levelling pipeline, it will inject a bunch of new tanks and healers into the dungeon finder. But still, now that role flexibility has become so useful and marketable, it isn’t fair that some classes are restricted to one role.

One thing to bear in mind though, when you’re done being jealous of non-existant tanking queue times  – there has always been an oversupply of tanks who wanted to raid. That’s going to get worse, when everyone and their dog has a geared up tanking alt. Established groups will discover that if they lose a tank, it’s easier to ask an existing member to hop onto an alt or offspec rather than recruit a stranger to a role that traditionally required a strong commitment to the raid group.

What do you think? If you are considering a new alt, would you pick a non-hybrid right now?

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36 thoughts on “The growing rift in WoW between hybrids and non-hybrids

  1. The good thing about being a pure DPS class is that you’re disposable. Only if you hit an enrage timer it can be said that the wipe was unambiguously your fault. The success or failure of the group is not directly your responsibility, and thus there’s little pressure.

    The bad thing about being a pure DPS class is that you’re disposable. There’s ten guys just like you waiting for your spot, and nobody wants you specifically in a group. You’re just an another face in the crowd, and can be replaced at a moment’s notice. You’re only as good as your e-peen meter shows that you are.

  2. Well, a good dps is really really valuable. But you can also do that as a hybrid (to some extent). I think the ranged dps classes have the strongest niche of the pure dps — warlocks, mages, and hunters do seem ahead of the hybrids in that area.

    It is also probably easier to get a raid spot as dps than as a tank.

    • This marks rogues as the ultimate losers. Their stun and CC abilities are not that much in demand anymore.

      I guess they are still useful for kicking bosses, aren’t they?

      Warriors suffer perhaps the most from the tanking-related problem that raids don’t need more than 1-2 tanks. Maybe Ghostcrawler’s mantra “Bring the player, not the class” needs to be changed?

      Rather… “Bring the player, not the role”.
      I think this is when the trinity bites the playerbase in the arse. You just cannot get rid of the Tank-DPS-Heal mechanic.

      Someone noticed a while ago, in EQ it was Tank-CC-Heal. CC classes were DPS classes, but not as much needed as Tank and Heal as core. I wish they would bring back CC to WoW.

      • I guess they are still useful for kicking bosses, aren’t they?

        We also look good.

        Rogues, as a pure DPS-class, have always been called the “losers”. CC hasn’t really been important during WotLK, and sap was always the worst one (compared to repeatable CCs). Yet, I’ve never noticed that – I’ve had no problems getting into raids/groups.

        Then again, my rogue was a gnome. Gnome rules all, which could explain why people just couldn’t say no to my character. So small and stabby…

      • I don’t think rogues are losers. Their dps is top notch and a raid that needs more dps isn’t going to turn one away. They’re certainly not underpowered or unwanted, but they are less flexible than DKs, dps warriors, melee shamans or cat druids.

        Having said that, I don’t really see much advantage to picking a rogue over a death knight or feral druid if you were rerolling a new melee class. They both have good utility/ interrupts, can fire off good AE on demand, and have an interesting energy/ rune based mechanic. Just DKs can also choose to tank if they want.

      • For 5 man heroics in TBC sap was always my favorite form of CC. I took a rogue over a mage anytime. Rogues where the only class who could CC pre-fight.

        With a mage you either do a sheep pull, which means you get a dead mage (remember, TBC heroics were something else then WotLK heroics) or you did a tank pull and the sheep was in your consecrate/TC/swipe area.

        Yes, a sheep with a good mage was very powerfull. But even the most retarded rogue was able to sneak up onto a mob and sap it pre-fight.

  3. This was always my beef with dual specs. That classes were not hybrids, but actually role-shifters. Specialists that now could on the fly switch from tank to dps or healer. Or all three in one package, the once lol’d at Paladin comes to mind.

    Why focus on one part of the trinity if you can have it all in one package?

    That always creates THIS situation: Hybrid could do everything, but sucks at everything -> FAIL. Or gets pidgeonholed into the healer in heavy plate, which was one of the reasons why I did not like playing my Paladin in the first months after WoW released anymore. This was in the days when picking Retribution made people laugh so much at you that circus clowns got jealous.

    Mage, Hunter, Warlock, Rogue – three flavours of DPS. Mages are still vending machines and portal makers, no longer needed that much. Soulstones are nice, but not really that needed anymore either. Rogues got shafted in WOTLK. My friend Steve played one and he did not like to have to compete in DPS with the DK tank. And neither did my Firestorm spamming Warlock! :(

    CC is dead, as are unique buffs. “Bring the player, not the class” was a great idea and great motto of Ghostcrawler. Yet he still managed to make some classes more equal than others! Dual speccing plus the new LFG plus all the many other changes really created the situation that DK’s and Paladins became overplayed classes according to armory scans.

    I must also say that having the ability to potentially switch from one style (DPS/Heal/Tank) to another sounds much more fun than having 3 different flavors of DPS.

    Get away from the trinity – hardly possible in WoW, it is too much build around it. But new MMOs either have 1.) to get rid of it or 2.) go extremely for hybrid class types – every class being able to do at least two of the three roles of the trinity very well or 3.) go “hardcore trinity” – you know from the very beginning you are going to be straight DPS, Tank or Healer.

    While Guild Wars never truly had tanking, many classes could provide something similar to it. But one thing was quite dominated by the primary healer class: Monks could sometimes be replaced by Soul Reaping powered Necromancer/Monks, in a few cases Ritualists, but if things got really serious or Guild vs Guild was going to happen, they were the ONLY class who was always wanted, always needed.

    This is a question of balance – the % of hybrids is growing and growing in WoW. They were always more versatile, buffing them in various underpowered roles they could take would have been enough. I blame dual speccing and taking away unique buffs/abilities from various purely dps oriented classes, plus the dead of CC.

  4. Maybe some classes have more flexibility than others but that hardly matters. If you are a good and dependable player (good, not mediocre) than your raid will love you, no matter what class you play. Good players are scarce enough that you don’t want to lose a single one of them, rogue or not.

    Maybe a raid could ask someone to switch to his twink and become the new MT, but most of the time said player will simply refuse. Most players do have reasons why they play one character as their main and others as their twink. I have four twinks on 80, but I would NEVER make one of them my main. They are fun enough for a quick random-instance, but I would never want to specialise in one of them. Maybe you could pester this player into switching by showing him that its the only chance to make sure the raid doesn’t break, but you will gain an MT that is unhappy from the very start, which is not a too stable ground to build your raid on.

    Maybe some classes can switch to tank and avoid queueing issues, but the fact remains that few do because most players simply don’t want to tank. Even if you offer them advantages like this, they simply refuse. If you suck as a DD it doesn’t matter much, there are at least two others who can fill in for you. If you suck as a healer you will have some dead (and unhappy) DDs and your tank will have to push some more buttons, but you will manage most of the time. If you suck as a tank your every mistake will be clearly visible to the complete rest of the group. Your healer will have a harder time healing you, your DDs will pull Aggro every other second and you simply can’t escape the realisation that you are a bad player. As a nontank you can be blissful ignorant about that fact and will get better gradually, maybe even without noticing. To get better as a tank you have to suffer from your own lack of skill and break through walls in an desperate efford to get good enough. It requires a special mindset to do that and not everyone is made for it.

    The possibility to fill in for other roles is nice, but not a dominant factor to determine what class to play. My main is a healing priest. I do have a shadow-offspec, but I rarely use it and I gain no joy from playing it. One of my twinks is a mage. I leveled him because I enjoy the way they deal damage. I don’t miss any ability to tank in him, I didn’t level him to do that. What good does it do if I get faster into a group when I am never allowed to play in the style I enjoy?

    • Actually my experience is that most raids have at least one player who would love to tank, but usually gets asked to dps and only tanks on occasion. That’s the player you’d ask to step up to a MT role.

  5. You may end up with more people rolling hybrid classes, but I find it unlikely that DPS queue times will go down. Right now, I see plenty of hybrids DPSing in the 5 mans I do. As Kiseran said, most people just don’t want to tank. This includes people who are geared enough and skilled enough to do so. The majority of plate dps in my raid has a tank offspec, with gear and whatnot, but they seem to only tank in 5 mans to get reduced queue times. They just like DPSing more.

  6. “it isn’t fair that some classes are restricted to one role”

    I don’t agree with this, Spinks.

    For many players if the option was identical except for

    - your class can heal and will sometimes get lumbered with this chore. In return you will get groups quicker when you can be bothered to heal

    - your class doesn’t need to bother with healing or tanking. Boring responsible stuff is someone else’s job

    many players would pick the second option.

    People still solo and dps classes are still better at soloing pve content on the whole. People still pvp and dps tend to be better at killing other players (which is the fun part of pvp for most people). And some people just want to kill things.

    I bet if you go to one of the starter areas you will see plenty of dps classes.

    • These options mostly apply in a raiding environment or maybe long term leveling partnerships. For normal daily fun nobody can force me to off-spec heal or ad hoc dual-spec.

      • I’ll give you Death Knight but Holy Paladins and Prot Pallies make terrible soloers.

        Also the raid gear that dpsers get helps them solo. Raid tank and healing gear generally doesn’t help with most soloing.

        Anyway I just wanted to make the point that some people prefer being restricted to having one option to play in a way they really like. When the raid leader says “we need you to heal tonight” it’s pretty depressing for a shadow priest or boomkin.

  7. I’m a bit jealous on hybrids. All items/achievements I possess, I EARNED myself, in my main spec. On SOME items/achievements those selfdeclared off-spec tanks and off-spec healers have, I just think, they GOT them, playing their (easier?) main-spec. I don’t begrudge any main-spec-item they earn main-specced.
    Tanking HoR(h), I struggled alot, but it wouldn’t have come to my mind to switch to my just-one-tank-needed-raid-dps-spec to get through.
    For me, choosing and playing hybrids is a question of style and identity. But not all players got one or the other.

    • The problem with making pets viable tanks is that you need to get out of the proverbial fire on not one, but two characters. And what if you need to move the tanked mob? Pet AI simply isn’t smart enough for some encounters. Hunters can take direct control of their pets, but at the expense of losing control of their character in that duration, with the risks that entails.

      The solution I can see to this is giving said classes a talent that allows direct control of the pet while taking the main character out of the fight entirely, also buffing the pet up to the level of a viable tank. This could be based on the stats of its owner.

  8. I think your post illuminates, but stops short of the fact that Blizzard’s design is one that is in conflict with itself–at least for tanks (and healers).

    There are not enough tanks for 5 mans, but there aren’t enough openings in 25 mans for tanks to soak up the 20% tank population that 5/10s push for.

    I like to think of myself as a reasonably competent and aware tank, able to play at the highest levels of the game–and yet, I haven’t seen ICC yet because the last thing most raid groups need is a tank.

    Until demand for tanks is the same between 5-10-25 there will always be a tank shortage. 25s, at best, leave a 40% under utilization rate, tank wise.

  9. I always liked my druid for its versatility. I definitely had the most fun playing that class. It really helped with burnout of playing the same boring way every time.

    If only Pallies were good at release. It was my first 60, and a week later I rolled a priest. At the time I loved being able to play Shadow, and heal. It was great for PvP. My Pally made me cry in PvP. I couldn’t kill anyone, but no one could kill me either. It wasn’t fun.

  10. I’ve noticed a stange trend on the Trade channel: “Looking for a Tank to do Randoms with”. This is, it seems, the new black. :)

  11. I don’t think it’s unfair. Anyone who did any research before picking their class knew going in that they’d have a harder time getting groups if they went DPS-only. It’s not like Blizzard said “Surprise! With patch 3.3, Rogue, Hunters, Mages, and Warlocks can no longer tank or heal” – most people have been at max-level for a while and have had a general idea that finding groups would be a bit more challenging as DPS since they were level 30. They picked their character knowing what roles he was capable of, and I see nothing unfair about that.

    In other news, I tanked for the first time yesterday (heal/DPS on my main). My level 72 paladin wound up with all the Nexus quests in his log, so I figured I may as well LFD my way in there. Holy crap do I have a lot to learn. Thankfully I got paired with an awesome healer so we made it through.

  12. I would guess over Druids and Palys that DK’s are the choice. That leg up over the first 50 levels is the key.

    However come Cata’ yeah i think you’re right. For me it wont be about gettibng groups it will be about wasted effort. If i level a rogue or mage to 80/85 and then dont like it/it gets nerfed then I’m shafted. With a hybrid it’s a respec and a quick gear grind. And if badge gear stats with the t10 model thats easy work. That said I have a shammy (ranged/Resto), ‘lock (ranged) and near 80 DK (Melee/Tank) so what I roll at Cata will be whatever is fun to do the new starting areas on. Maybe I should roll a healer capable alt so that if resto’s get nerfed I can swap mains. Gevlons rule of two of any one role keeps the nerf bat at bay may apply.

  13. Don’t forget that you need ONE tank, ONE healer, and THREE dps for a random Heroic/Dungeon. It won’t take long for the numbers to even out as people rapidly level tanks/healers to fill the demand.

    My priest alt finally hit 70 last weekend, so I’m ready to poorly heal as many randoms as I want. And if anyone says a WORD, I will ask the Tank to kick them. Absolute power corrupts absolutly. I absolutely dream of being corrupt.

    And in time people’s main toons will be so geared that doing randoms will be a waste of time for many of them.

    • Have you seen the Frost Emblem prices on Tier gear and Badge gear? It’ll be some time before people don’t need EoF for their main spec, and even longer before they stop needing it for their off-spec (if any).

    • Being kicked from a PuG is not the end of the world. You probably find a new group faster than what it would take you to sit through a bad pug.

      Wait time on my server is 15 minutes. A fast instance takes 10-20 minutes. It’s faster to leave a slow group in POS and just try again 15 minutes later. :-)

      And invite times for heal go up since they introduced the tool. Only tanks get real instant invites. And healers and dd are replaced instantly by the tool if they leave/get kicked.

  14. My main is a Ret Pal. I can sit for 20 minutes or longer waiting to get into a 5 man right now. (Velen, US)

    I switch to tank, and I’m in a group in less than 5 seconds. I assume things are similar for Healers.

    Given the recent trend I’ve seen (and written about) in the reduction of player skill in tank & heals, is largely due to people like me, swapping to off-spec, off gear, and off-experience, in order to actually be able to play, and not just do laps around Dal.

    Maybe my perceived reduction in talent of many Puggers is due to better players moving on, and the “dregs” staying behind, but I don’t think that explains everything.

    As for being fair/unfair? Well, most hybrids seem to struggle to keep up with “pure” classes, so hybrid players definitely have a trade-off, at least to some degree. Also, hybrids have been around for quite a while.

    True, the Dual Spec option has simplified things a bunch, but many raiders dealt with “dual spec” issue back in the day by stocking up on glyphs and paying the relearn fee.

  15. I do the daily heroic on my warlock and shaman every day. The warlock is my main.

    I have to wait about 11 minutes on my warlock when I queue alone. And I normally enjoy the run.

    I run 10 man raids with my shaman as enhancement. I queue the shaman as heal/DD and get into a heroic within minutes as heal. I have selfbuffed something like 2.5k +heal which is not great but way to much for all heroics. I hate these runs because they are boring. I have nothing to do besides putting a riptide on the 40k hp tank every 30 seconds. That is so boring. I would prefer to play mine sweeper or solitair if they would give me two EoF.

    From time to time I get a mad tank who pulls everything. I love them because I get something to heal. Sometimes I even have to use an instant.

    I think the grass for hybrids only looks greener on their side.

  16. It’s silly to play a class you don’t enjoy just to keep your options open. The whole, “There’s a glut of XYZ and too few ABC” only makes sense in the pug scene. If you’re a good player, look for a good guild, and I guarantee someone has a slot for what you enjoy playing.

    I don’t have Blizzard’s data laying around, but I’d bet that paladins and druids aren’t wildly above everyone else just because they’re hybrids.

  17. Take a look at your guild, and you probably will see that the majority of people are playing hybrids (Paladins, Druids, Shamen), or classes that can dps/heal or dps/tank (Priests, DKs).

    Why even bother with a pure dps class anymore, unless raiding is your only interest.

    I would love to see dps classes given an alternative healing/tanking spec in Cataclysm; Warlocks as demon tanks, Mages with a healing spec – why not?.

  18. For a little data behind claims:
    Current breakdown of class distribution, at 80
    *Pures:*
    Mage: 9% (–1%)
    Rogues: 7% (-3%)
    Locks: 8% (-2%)
    Hunters: 10% (0%)
    *Hybrids*
    DK: 14% (+4%)
    Druid: 10% (0%)
    Pally: 13% (+3%)
    Shammy: 9% (-1%)
    Priest: 9% (-1%)
    Warriors: 10% (0%)

    So, at 80, only one pure class is “even” and the others are below “even”.

    Dk’s are highest (no surprise… they start at 55 with sweet gear)

    Looking at “new” toons (from 10-15) we see a different trend:
    *Pures:*
    Mage and Rogues right on (0%)
    Locks a pinch low (-1%)
    Hunters highest at 16% (+5%)
    *Hybrids*
    Warriors druids and pallies a bit high (+1%)
    Priest and shammies really low (-3%)

    So at least for *new* (level 10-15) toons, people seem to favor hunter most (???) and priests and shammies are hated, and everyone else is close to equal.

    Not sure why people seem to be making new pures… I agree there seems to be little reason for a pure class (anyone want some of my mages gobs and gobs of spare badges?) when wait times are longer, you get less gear, and your dps is the exact same as the hybrids when they dps is beyond me.

    Pvp can be the only explanation I can think of. Thats why I made a rogue.

    http://www.warcraftrealms.com/census/

    • Interesting.

      It’s tricky to get much data out of the census because (IIRC) it doesn’t differentiate between active characters and ones that have been abandoned. Once you get to 31-40 though, paladins have caught up with hunters (maybe a lot of those hunters are battleground alts?).

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