Dual Specs and Why I Don't Think They'll Suck

A lot of people have posted concerns that dual-speccable hybrids will run the pure DPS classes out of a job; that why would a raid leader take a mage when they can take a druid who can swap between DPS and healing and tanking at will?

Here are a few of the other bloggers’ takes on the subject: Dinaer of Forever a Noob is against dual specs (with a second post on the issue here), Larisa of Pink Pigtail Inn laments not being unique any more, Big Bear Butt feels that pure DPS classes should outstrip hybrids as compensation. Spinksville points out that the issue is with raid design, not hybrids, and Aurik of /Hug posts an anti-rant in support of dual specs. There are doubtless many other posts I’ve missed, too.

I have three opinions on the issue, all of which are basically pro-dual-spec.

Flexibility sucks when you’re the only one who’s flexible.

Remember the ghettoization of some tank classes into “permanent offtank” status?

I know quite a few feral druids who hardly ever got to tank anything in TBC – despite being as dedicated and skillful as any warrior or paladin – because protection warriors and protection paladins did pitiful DPS if they weren’t tanking, whereas bears could cat it up and do okay.

Great for flexibility? Sure, but lousy for actually getting to play what you want. If you’re the only one who’s flexible, you’re the one who always has to pay the price.

The improvement of prot warrior and paladin DPS in WotLK is one step towards fixing this; dual specs are the final nail in the coffin of that ghetto.

Flexibility is necessary to compensate for raid design.

Spinksville made this point in her post on dual specs, but I want to reiterate it because I agree with it.

I’ve read quite a lot of anti-dual-spec posts characterising hybrids as greedy divas who want to be the best at everything. I’m sure there are some greedy diva types out there, but the reason why we want to be able to perform adequately in all our roles? is because we have to.

Look at Naxxramas as an example (assuming you’re not geared to the teeth and running 25-man Naxx in two hours with three healers). Naxxramas requires anywhere from one tank to three or four tanks, depending on the encounter and the strat you use. It requires anywhere from four healers to seven, depending on the encounter and your latency (and gearing level).

If I’m taking three tanks and six or seven healers for Patchwerk and Kel’Thuzad, what are those spare tanks and healers meant to do on Grobbulus and Thaddius, who both only need one tank, four or five healers, and a ton of DPS? Scratch themselves?

No – they either go back to town, respec and reglyph for DPS before Thaddius, and then repeat the process to return to their original spec for Kel’Thuzad (a time consuming and expensive solution), or they put out sub-par DPS on Thaddius and feel obsolete and inadequate.

In other words: in a raiding context the real problem is that raids require very different numbers of tanks and healers between one boss and the next, and respeccing for every second boss is a pain in the ass. Which means that without dual specs, you have a lot of bored tanks and healers not doing much, and getting frustrated and miserable with feeling superfluous. With dual specs we can at least do something, even if it isn’t our role of choice.

Flexibility isn’t everything.

How many raid leaders are honestly, regularly, going to bench a mage for a boomkin, or a rogue for a cat druid, solely because the hybrid can respec?

I really don’t think it’s actually going to harm pure DPSers as much as they fear, for three reasons:

One: This is nothing new.

Hybrids – i.e. everyone who’s not a mage, rogue, warlock or hunter – can already swap between one role and another. All they have to do is swing by a class trainer for the respec, and a Lexicon of Power for the reglyph.

People do this between one PuG and the next, one Arena match and the next, in the middle of raids when necessary. I’ve seen plenty of PuGs with a hybrid in them saying “I can do X or Y, depending on who else we pick up”. I’ve seen plenty of people port back to town and respec between one raid boss and the next because the extra DPS or tank or healer is necessary. And, as far as I know, the pure DPSers are still getting plenty of raid spots in spite of this. In this context, dual-specs just cuts down on waiting-around time, which is in everyone’s interests.

Two: Talents ain’t everything.

There are two points that are oft-repeated, but bear invoking again:

  1. Just because you can spec for it doesn’t mean you have the gear for it.
  2. Just because you can spec for it doesn’t mean you know how to play it.

There’s a lot more to playing a role than just having your talent points in the right place. Any raid leader who has me swap to tank spec in the middle of a raid is going to get a nasty shock, I can tell you. I’ll do it, but it won’t be pretty.

Three: Class balance dictates raid composition.

Every healing and tanking class is a hybrid, because they all have at least a second role (DPS) if not a third. As such, it makes much more sense to build your healer and tanking corps around the idea of them respeccing to DPS when they’re not needed in their primary role, rather than building your DPS corps around the idea that they’ll occasionally have to respec to heal or tank.

Honestly, I would be really surprised if, after 3.1, pure DPSers are regularly getting bumped for hybrids on the grounds that the hybrids can dual spec on the fly. If having the extra tank, or the extra healing, is that important to your raid group then you probably need to recruit another tank or healer.

What it boils down to is: having extra healing or extra tanking – and having DPS who can respec to provide it – is only situationally useful. Having extra DPS – and having healers and tanks who can contribute to that when they’re not needed – is always useful.

16 thoughts on “Dual Specs and Why I Don't Think They'll Suck”

  1. “1. Just because you can spec for it doesn’t mean you have the gear for it.
    2. Just because you can spec for it doesn’t mean you know how to play it.”


    As of right now, I would be the worst tank ever. Sure, I can look like a bear if I want to, and sure, I can slap on some stam/agi gear, and put my key bindings in the right place, but throw me in front of a big bad thing and I guarantee you that I will just mash buttons.

    Which might work for a while. But throw in some adds I need to pick up, or obstacles I have to dodge, and I guarantee you I will fail.

    Granted, if you give me a few more chances, I think I’d be able to get it. Would I enjoy it? Not as much as healing.

    Just because we’re hybrids, doesn’t mean that we’re good at all of our specs, or want to play all of them. Currently in our guild, we have three different druid class leaders, because each spec is so different. *Rarely* do I see druids speccing back and forth. I see it in Paladins quite often, but with druids, not so much. So believe me Mr. Warrior Tank, I’m not going to stop healing all of a sudden and start to bear swipe at your face and laugh at you as I tank large mobs. It’s just not gonna happen.

  2. Good points!

    I play a paladin because I want to heal as a paladin. I like their healing style. I don’t tank EVER. And I don’t like to DPS in groups. I’ll have a main spec of healing for raids and an off spec of ret for doing dailies. I don’t want to ever be anything but holy in raids.

  3. My concern is less that I will be asked to spec swap, than that I will have the ‘wrong’ second spec. My main role is holy paladin, I have been collecting prot gear, but not ret. I am trying to get tank experiance running heroics with all the offspec gear I’ve collected, and been getting to a moderate level of competancy. I therefor plan to make my specs holy & prot. But I’m concerned this will be rather useless in a raid.
    I can’t really think of any raid situation where, +1 tank/-1 healer makes alot of sense. Usually, when you need more thanks, you need more healers to heal the extra tanks. At which point, my ability to swap from healing to tanking is rather useless unless we have a bunch of healer/dps hybrids to replace me with in my heal role.

    Will not having a dps spec make me ‘that guy’?

  4. Monte – Speaking as a Main Tank Prot Paladin, at least in my guild, having a duel speck of Healing / Prot would be a welcomed thing, especially if you specked as an Off Tank with the new Off Tank talents that are being introduced.

    But much depends on the guild you run with. Talk with the raid leaders and see what they see as missing in raid makeup. Work with your class leads and tank / healing leads.

    If you don’t have those type of things in your guild, then don’t worry about. Use your off speck for fun. Cause while in a Raid it is about the team, if you are not having fun, why bother?

  5. You have hit one of the finer points of this, and one of my little peeves about the discussion.

    “If I’m taking three tanks and six or seven healers for Patchwerk and Kel’Thuzad, what are those spare tanks and healers meant to do on Grobbulus and Thaddius, who both only need one tank, four or five healers, and a ton of DPS? Scratch themselves?”

    Actually, yes. Or do something else useful.

    Think back to Karazhan. When you got to Shade of Aran, which required no tanks at all, what did you do? In all the times I ran Kara, not once did the tank respec or switch out. He stayed in the fight, pulled out his 2h sword, did whatever dps he could, and maybe got in an interrupt or two. It would have been different if we were a leading progression guild, but we weren’t.

    What was so bad about that? The boss went down just fine, and we appreciated whatever contribution the dpsing tank could provide.

    Think back to Maiden of Virtue. As a rogue, I spent a heck of a lot of that fight outside melee range bandaging or doing minimal ranged dps to avoid her consecrate effect. Was that the end of the world? The boss died, so what was the problem?

    So, in fact, the problem with dual spec is not really with hybrids, although they stand to have the most fun with it. The problem might be with every player needing to be an integral part of every single fight. Everyone has to be a shining star.

    How can Blizzard possibly design raid encounters around that sense of entitlement? On-demand dual spec is just a band-aid for that effect, and risks imbalancing raids even more than they already are.

    Others say that I am being unreasonable. Why would I argue against more dps and better raid composition? Well, we’ve done fine without it so far. Blizz adding it mid-stream like this, and then saying that they aren’t going to consider it when designing raids, just seems like appeasement to me.

    Its not hybrid vs pure dps at all. Its just my belief that traditional raid roles and a strong class identity are an important part of what makes this game fun for me. That’s my opinion, and its not shared by the majority. That’s fine with me.

  6. Speaking as a hybrid who does pitiful DPS when not specced for it, it _does_ get disheartening. I would argue that it _is_ bad design to make encounters that consistently discriminate against a portion of a balanced raid force. I’m glad you didn’t mind standing on the outskirts of consecration doing nothing, but I’m sure many others _did_ find that frustrating, boring or just plain un-fun.
    I think all boss fights should be fun for everyone, to a greater or lesser degree – it’s not a sense of entitlement, as you describe it (or at least I hope it’s not); it’s simply the feeling that “contributing” by sitting on the sidelines isn’t particularly satisfying. I never said everyone has to be a shining star all the time, but I do feel that yes, every player should be able to make a meaningful contribution to every fight.

  7. I don’t think pure DPS classes in guilds will have a problem… but I do think if pure DPS classes are trying to find a guild, for instance, it will be harder. Applicant 1 is a well-geared boomkin, applicant 2 is a mage. If the guild doesn’t desperately need a mage in particular (eg. for Int buff and food), they’d probably pick up the boomkin – in case they ever need a backup healer.

  8. Some of those fights that really don’t need more tanks or healers also need higher dps (Thaddius, for example). It’s not just about people wanting to be a shining star or special snowflake (and, really, I think that characterization is unfair). It’s about better performance as a raid.

    But pure dps classes aren’t in danger. There will never be a fight that needs 10 tanks and 15 healers. You will generally need 14+ dps on any given fight, which means you really only need a few healers and tanks who can swap back and forth, and you almost certainly wouldn’t need more than a few dps who could swap over to tanking and healing as needed.

  9. And also, is it really fun for people to dps in a tank or healer spec? Or have to pay 100 extra gold to swap around? And never mind the possibility of being needed on an early boss, not needed on interim bosses, and needed again on later bosses?

  10. Im pretty sure I read Ghost Crawler say somewhere that they were designing so that all things being equal DPS only classes like Rogues and Mages would do slightly more DPS than hybrids (wish I could remember where the quote was).

    Other than loot distribution and a few ‘challenging’ guildies I think dual specs is going to be awesome.

    Gobble gobble.

  11. I think I would rather, as a Holy Paladin, just be in a healer/dps cross than switch from battle to battle. I just don’t like the idea of having to gear up twice -and- learn all different play styles. Pure DPS classes aren’t expected to learn how to heal or how to tank, so why should I, as a healer, be expected to learn how to DPS as well?
    I mean, I love to help out my Guild – and I probably will bring more “offspec” gear as I get it, since otherwise such drops would just be sharded… And if I can afford dual spec, I might as well, since my DPS when put into Ret would be much better than Holy’s DPS, but my DPS would still suck compared to a dedicated Ret Paladin, since I don’t know how Ret works well and don’t enjoy it.
    See, I enjoy tanking and healing, and I’ve found that we tend to have enough tanks, so I specced into Holy and have loved it so far (yay). However, if I wanted to dual spec, I’d probably do Holy/Prot, rather than Holy/Ret. Why? I like Prot for farming, due to its massive AoE + mitigation combo. Plus then I could pick up either of the “key roles” when doing heroics/etc.
    The all-DPS classes have no choice but to DPS, so why should I work hard to take their slots away from those things? :)
    I dunno, I’m just musing, I suppose. But I worry that I’ll get boo’d by my Guild for going Holy/Prot, since it’s rare for a group to want an extra tank and not an extra healer, but more often that a tank or healer can be dropped for extra DPS, and I don’t want to DPS.

  12. I think dual spec will rock, and the pure DPS classes will be just fine. Those hybrids that are going to use it already had their offspec gear anyway, they’ll just be more suited for their secondary role.

    Like our enhancement shammy equipping resto gear on 4H for example, he’ll love having resto as his secondary spec. Does that mean that I have to be worried about him encroaching on my resto ‘turf’? Nah.

    I might have an elemental spec as my secondary myself, does that mean the rest of the caster DPS should be worried? Nah. Our elemental shamans are chart toppers, and unless I invest a huge amount of time in a perfectly balanced gear setup, the appropriate rotations and the like, all it means that I will do 70% of their damage instead of 30-40% in my resto spec. But I’ll miss my riptide. I tried it last week, ran VoA as DPS … was elemental for about four hours, and then went back to my beloved resto spec.

    If anything, it’ll encourage a bit more experimentation, or better optimization for roles we already like to play. I might go with a PvP healing spec for example on my shaman. I’ll get a pure DPS spec on my death knight, and my druid and paladin are totally going to get a secondary spec the second they hit 40, so I can have a leveling/DPS spec, with an optimized healing spec for instances and the like.

    Bring it on :)

  13. Yes I’m on the rant side as well when it comes to dual specs. I don’t think the sky will turn black and all undeads will start wearing pink panties, nonetheless I’m think blizzard could have thought of a better, more balanced implementation.

    On Ghetto off-tanking:
    I’m not sure in that regard dual specs will only bring changes for the good. In your normal raiding night more often than not the druid will still go kitty kitty. As easy as switching spec will be, it will still require a channeled spell and some mats. And yes people are lazy. For non-druid tanks on the other hand I see really pressure incoming to get a decent dps set. A boss will die with a warrior in prot gear/spec dps’ing as well, but many guilds will prefer a warrior in dps gear/spec for a progression fight. And in that progression fight the bear migh even be tanking, which would be a good thing. Nonetheless, while having a second gear set once was a nice addition it will now become a requierement in many raiding guilds.

    On raid design:
    As I remember Blizzard said that they do not design encounters around people taking advantage of dual specs. So on progression fights, some people will change spec, some people might be switched out for an additional dps, that’s nothing new. On farm content tanks and healers will still often do bad dps in their main spec. The problem I see is, that A LOT of tanks/healers will soon have an offspec that they earlier didn’t have. And even casual guilds will more likely than not get to new bosses with the near optimal lineup. That is not bad, but raid content now is easy. And always having the perfect lineup won’t make raids more challenging.

    On pure DPS classes:
    I agree switching spec is nothing new. But there are two things that don’t let me agree with you:
    1. 50 gold isn’t much. But it’s something and with it comes annoying action bar arranging/reglyphing etc. And people, myself included, are lazy. So this is no minor change, a huge amount of hybrids will now really start collecting a second gear set and even get a lot of practice in it, considering how easy switching spec is.
    2. WotLK brings an insane amount of loot, from raids and badges. Even your tier set can be completed with emblem gear. In BC it was sometimes pretty challenging to get decent gear for a second spec, now I get a full T7 set just for sticking around.

  14. “If I’m taking three tanks and six or seven healers for Patchwerk and Kel’Thuzad, what are those spare tanks and healers meant to do on Grobbulus and Thaddius, who both only need one tank, four or five healers, and a ton of DPS? Scratch themselves?

    No – they either go back to town, respec and reglyph for DPS before Thaddius, and then repeat the process to return to their original spec for Kel’Thuzad (a time consuming and expensive solution), or they put out sub-par DPS on Thaddius and feel obsolete and inadequate.”

    This is exactly my situation right now. We run four tanks in our Naxx 25-man, and I’m usually #4. Now we do switch up so all of us get to maintank and offtank a few fights and nobody is completely frozen out. But on the other bosses, I’m standing there putting out comparatively lame DPS with nothing really to contribute unless the other tanks die and I’m needed to step in.

    So I’m looking forward to dual-spec so (assuming the mechanic isn’t totally ridiculous) I can swap back and forth a couple times a raid between my amazing studly protness and, say, an Arms raid-support bleedbot spec. For that, I’ll lug around another set of gear, I’ve done it before.

    The irony is, I have no desire to dual-spec on any of my other characters, including two hunters, a blood DK, and a feral druid. The only one I’m going to get a dual spec for, at least at first, is Linedan, my “pure” prot warrior.

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