Okay, so before the dual spec system, it was pretty easy to know what your main spec was. In most cases, your main spec was the one that you played all the time in raids. If you did change specs occasionally, you still spent 90% of your time as one spec in a dedicated raiding guild. You had one main spec and you stuck with it.
Now, we have dual specs. This means people can have 2 specs and 2 sets of gear that go along with it – and they can change both their gear and their spec any time they want. When the system first came out, most people still stuck with one primary spec.
As we progressed through Ulduar, we were also introduced us to something else – a bunch of hard mode bosses where most of the hard modes are pure DPS races with low healing requirements. This means that the number of healers needed for hard mode bosses is actually less than the number of healers people brought in to learn the normal mode bosses. This is opposite everything we’d ever known about harder content. Hard almost always meant needing more healers – not less.
So, if the number of needed healers go down and at least some of the healers have a second spec for DPS, what happens to those “flip flop” spots in the raid? It seems like the most willing & best DPS geared healer gets to switch to being more primary DPS. However, if you are switching to primary DPS because your healer spot isn’t needed in that tier of content, are you also switching “main” specs?
The difference between main & off-spec determines what kind of gear you have access to. If your main spec is healing, then you primarily have access to healing gear, and anything with +hit on it is obviously an off-spec item, right? Well, what if you really need to boost up your DPS? Are there select pieces of your off-spec that you should gear up as your main spec? If you are an off-set DPS, then your DPS is pretty much guaranteed to be lower than everyone else, because you are almost always stuck half a tier behind main-spec DPS (since you are taking what they don’t want).
What happens when you basically have two main specs? Do you switch what kind of gear you “need” at some point? Or, do you stick with the “main” set of gear being the healing role you entered with months ago that you hardly do anymore? What if you switched to gearing up a DPS set above your healing set, and then they need you to switch back to primary healing when Icecrown Citadel comes out in the not so distant future? Does it matter, so long as you do well enough in both roles that you still make a good contribution to the raid?
It’s even more tricky with the triumph badges. Trying to gear two sets from triumph badges is really tricky. It takes double the amount of time to get set pieces, and you can’t “greed” the set piece tokens ever at the normal 25-man level because they aren’t class restricted. Do I have to “need” 6 set piece tokens (4 for resto and then 2 for moonkin?) or, do I fill in some pieces with the 10-man version that doesn’t take raid tokens?
Sometimes, these decisions are all more complicated, and they’re things you can’t just plug into a spreadsheet and have it pop out the right answer for you. So, I haven’t been rolling either need or greed on pieces coming out of the 25-man Trial of Champions raid dungeon. I picked up a cloak that was better than my Naxx-level cloak, and it was something that I’ll use in both sets of gear because of how big of an upgrade it was for either set.
Beyond that, I think my next step is really to sit down and create a “wish list” for the current content I have access to. This is different than a “best in slot” list, because a wish list is basically a list of things I have access to for either spec (so things like – no cloth pieces for now if DPS is my off-spec). That means I can sit down with a spreadsheet (mostly Rawr), and weigh the value of different gear options.
Even in the Trial of Champions, we haven’t needed more than 6 healers for any of the fights. And, as Bellweather points out, we don’t really even need more than 3 or 4 healers for the Val’kyr fight on 25-man normal, with how little damage should be done to the raid. If you are taking a healing group of 8 or so people, and having to tell 2 or 3 of them that they can’t heal on a regular basis, you end up with a lot of people switching around to DPS specs some of the time (depending on attendance).
It’s actually a lot harder to be a “restokin” even with dual specs, since it makes gearing up mean making really hard decisions when you start getting into newer content. It’s easy for farmed content, since you can pick up pretty much anything you want since you are basically saving it from being DE’d and using it for the betterment of the guild.
However, even if it’s twice as hard to be a role switcher, having that sort of flexibility can make someone a really great asset to the raid (as long as it isn’t everyone in the raid trying to role switch all the time), and it means your guild isn’t having to put their regulars on standby just because there are too many healers online that night.