Responsnse to Altosis’ post about raid role switchers.

Altosis posted a nice article about role switching in raids, and what you have to be aware of when thinking about starting a new character. I think his thread was supposed to be about whether to be a hybrid or pure class, however I think there is a greater point than the sort of cliche argument that gets thrown around the WOW forums all the time.

That point I wanted to reemphasize is about how hard it is to maintain the ability of being great at more than one role at a time.

A “role switcher” is someone who might be asked to change between tanking & DPS, or between healing & DPS (you won’t have a spot where you would need to switch between tanking & healing very often, but that would classify, too). A pure DPS player is about the equivalent as a “hybrid” player who picks one spec and dedicates all of their time & energy to being the best they can be at that one role. There’s not much difference between a dedicated DPS druid and a dedicated DPS mage if both work equally hard at gearing up that spec and playing that one dedicated role. The “pure” classes are designed to have a slight DPS edge, but both players are essentially only capable of filling DPS roles in raids.

However, the people that don’t usually have much of a chance of hitting “pure” class DPS are the role-switchers. These role-switchers are also usually the ones that the “pure” DPS classes worry about the most when they whine on the forums, however the role switchers almost never fully take the place of someone who is dedicated to only a damage spec, and focused DPS specs (regardless of class) should always come out top on DPS – assuming they have been in the raids about equivalent amounts of time.

Here’s why:

  1. First, you don’t really want more than 3 role switchers in a raiding group. You are unlikely going to do more than occasionally switch one of your healers between heals & dps, or one of your tanks between tanking & dps. You will also have a lot of confusion if you have to spend an hour deciding what everyone’s spec will be for the night, and then there’s the confusion of the raid leader remembering which person is which role at that point in time. This means that it’s usually a matter of losing a single healing or tanking spot in favor of more damage to beat an enrage timer, rather than losing a DPS spot for more heals or tanks in the current WotLK content…
  2. If everyone is role switching, it’s going to be hard to keep the entire raid geared up for 2 roles, where you have things like people spreading out their tokens to gear up their off-spec instead of their main spec, or spreading their DKP too thin if you allow “greed” bids on off-set gear.
  3. You may also end up with a lot of mediocre DPS/tanks/heals that aren’t specialized at knowing how to do their jobs. As Altosis pointed out, it’s hard to keep track of how to be totally awesome at two specs at the same time. While I can pump out some really great healing, I tend to lag behind on DPS a little, and I feel like I have to work twice as hard for not nearly good enough results.
  4. On a similar note, as someone who is a role switcher, I can say with experience that it puts a lot of pressure on me to be at 100% all the time, and to work at knowing more about gearing & the encounters than most of the other people in my guild, and half the time I don’t know what role I’m going to be filling when I step inside the instance door. So, I have to study twice as hard for new encounters, and I have to be aware of things that effect both healers & DPS classes in different ways.
  5. You can be a hybrid class that only focuses on one role, and is really good at that role. This is the point that everyone always forgets. If you dedicate all your time to one role, then that role will have the best gear, and the best talent behind it. Spreading yourself between roles runs the risk of leading to having lower skill because of less practice with one spec or the other.
  6. If I have to heal & deal damage in the same encounter for some reason, then both my healing & DPS comes in dead last on any meter. Healing as a moonkin means I am blowing a lot of mana for bad healing numbers. This works okay in a serious pinch, but moonkin healing tools are limited enough that there is a severe penalty for trying to do two things at the exact same time – and you’d be better off just starting out as a healer rather than hitting that problem that caused a near-wipe in the first place.

My conclusions: Healers that swap to DPS aren’t likely to be topping the meters. However, if you dedicate all your energy to being a good DPS druid, then you should be a good DPS druid.  Even as someone who spends a LOT of time switching between two druid roles (or more specs, during certain transitional testing phases or research for my guides), I can honestly say that I’m better at healing than DPS, because my main gear set is healing. Healing is where I have my 4-piece set bonuses, and healing is where I get the most practice. While I can do a good job of filling DPS roles, I’m not switching at the expense of the other primary DPS specs (of any class), I’m coming in DPS more towards the middle of the pack – even when I spend hours at a time working out what DPS upgrades I can get to come out to that middle spot. It’s not from lack of effort, but from a limitation in resources. You can be great at one thing at a time in a raid, and you can only be “good” at the rest.

All specs of all classes are masters of one thing at a time. You have to pick that thing and stick to it. Your dualspecs allow you some flexibility, but that flexibility always comes at a cost. I’m a role switcher, but I can get away with it because I spend a LOT of time studying the druid class, raid encounters, and gear lists. Even after all my hard work (way above and beyond the effort it takes to just maintain one spec), I’m still not going to be the master of everything at the same time.

13 Comments

  1. Wintersdark
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    Well, while pure classes have a very small “technical” dps advantage, in reality *noone* truely maximizes their dps. Who is ahead or behind – pure or hybrid – will depend on player skill assuming relatively equal gear.

    It annoys me to no end how much people ignore player skill in dps numbers. Raid fights are complicated beasts, and are nothing like target dummies. It’s almost a taboo topic, though. People like to point at their gear, or class, or hybrid/pure as an excuse why someone else is better than them. Noone wants to take responsibility.

    Hybrid vs. Pure? Even if you go with 5% as your magic number, that’s a whopping 350dps at the 7000dps overall mark. It’s insignificant when compared to the dps lost running about, or whatever else.

    Skill accounts for more even than gear until there’s more than a tier gap between players.

    Now, that being said, I do agree completely. To be very good at something, you need to focus on that. There’s really no difference between a player running a hybrid and one running two seperate toons aside from convenience. You need different specs, different gear, different playing skills. Being a “pure class” is *not* a disadvantage, nor is role shifting directly an advantage.

    The ability comes along with the expectation that you will when needed, and this often leads to players fulfilling roles they don’t particularly want to do.

    I play a feral tank/feral dps druid. I heal too, respeccing the old fashion way to do it when required. I maintain 3 full sets of pve gear – tanking, dpsing, and healing; with variant pieces(particularly for tanking). It takes a tremendous amount of effort to maintain all of that. Personally, I’d rather only do the kitty thing, but I tank or heal whenever it’s required to get a group going.

    The most common complaint I hear? “Oh noes! Why would a group take lowly pure-dps me, instead of a hybrid who can tank or heal as well?”

    People bring the player, not the class first for a group, because you know ahead of time how many tanks/healers you need, and those numbers won’t change. A hybrid may be invited to a group to heal, but no dps is losing their spot because of that. There’s no advantage in bringing extra hybrids to fill DPS spots “just in case”, you bring whoever will do their job best.

    I’ve not once EVER seen a pure dps player lose his spot to a hybrid just because the hybrid was a role switcher. Not once. Ever. I’ve seen players lose spots because they were horribly bad, but never just because they were a pure, not a hybrid.

  2. Posted September 15, 2009 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    because of my guild’s highly unreliable RL schedules, we actually favour the “role switchers” in our raids. we usually have 3-4 druids, 2-3 paladins, and 2-3 shaman, all that are capable of filling an alternative role.

    our solution for taking the time to figure out who is what for the night, is we have a “declared” main spec. and you -will- fill that role unless otherwise noted. example, i’m a main spec resto with moonkin as a dual spec. every raid i go to, i’m expected to be resto, and should expect to be resto. however, in the rare occasion we have too many healers signed up, i’m an option to be moonkin. and we rotate who gets to “switch roles” for the night where applicable.

    we’ve never had an issue with a “pure” dps losing a slot to a switcher… hell, we usually have -just- enough to fill our raids let alone worry about that. but in the event that we have more than the required amount signed up, we also rotate who raids. if i sit you one day, you will raid the next day, no exceptions (or to the best of my ability to make the group work).

    – Poras

  3. Posted September 15, 2009 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    i should also note with my above post… if it comes down to a raid slot being a “pure” dps or an over-flow healer switchign to dps, the “pure” dps will get to go, and i’ll sit the healer based upon our guild’s rules and regulations going back to the rotation thing. but like i said, rarely will we get over-booked for a raid.

  4. Avoria
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I’m also asked to dps (moonkin) on some encounters rather than heal and its been a rather depressing experience so far.

    I know the rotations and I have an idea of what gear I need and I know how to spec for it. I still end up dead last on dps (at least I’m above the tanks tho!).

    Hoping some tier bonuses will help that but honestly not sure gear alone will bump me up 2k dps :P

    I was happy to volunteer for it when the GLs asked so we could have more dps for the encounters that don’t really need as much healing. I wish I hadn’t though, I am confident as a healer and suck balls as a dps. Its why I dropped my warlock for a healer a couple years ago. ;)

  5. Posted September 15, 2009 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I am one of those rare breeds of role switchers: the healer/tank. I used to try to DPS with my tank spec and gear, but my numbers were abysmal, so I gave up on that. Because I mostly do 5-man heroics, being a tank/healer is actually really nice, since it allows for more flexibility in grouping. I also have a pretty nice (for heroics and 10-man Naxx, at least) set of gear for each spec, and after I can upgrade my one low-level green trinket, my healing gear should be Ulduar worthy.

    How I started on this path as a story itself. I’ve been feral for as long as I can remember. What drew me to feral was that is was the only spec in the game that could allow me to be useful to a group (as a tank) without sacrificing my solo utility. I stayed feral as Wrath was released and focused first and foremost on getting my tank set going. I tanked for a while, but always had trouble getting a healer for my groups.

    When dual specs were announce, I immediately began working on a healing set, made entirely of reputation-rewards and BoE items, crafted or otherwise, with the exception of my trinkets, which I got from Howling Fjord quests I never finished. When dual specs were released, I made my second spec resto and went about calculating which abilities were most mana efficient with my spec. (I did this the hard way, mind you, by calculating the total healing and dividing it by the mana cost.) I then read the healing guides on this site, and decided to start in an instance I was already familiar with: Heroic Violet Hold.

    The only experience I had had healing was when I had a resto phase back in the days of BC. I ran Kara as a healer, but the two other healers pretty much carried me through, so I didn’t learn that much. However, to my surprise, when I entered VH, I was actually able to heal the group really well. The second time I ran VH as a healer, I actually got complements on my healing. It was a good moment for me.

    Since then, I have found healing to be more fun than tanking, and it also makes getting a group easy. However, after dual specs were released, the healer shortage on my server became a tank shortage, and luckily for me, I never got rid of my tank set. Since my feral spec is made for both solo-ing and tanking, I still sometimes put on the old tank gear for the odd heroic here and there. I guess that technically makes me a role switcher, but healing is where I am most comfortable.

  6. Megami
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Well said. Even though I healed on my druid from MC all the way through the beginning of Karazhan (where I picked up enough pieces to be a cloth Moonkin), healing has changed a lot. Even within that time period, too.

    When I first started my trek as a Balance druid I felt a lot of guilt because my dps was low. Don’t get me wrong though, I had picked up Enchanting for the ring enchants, researched the best rotations, gems and mods… but the balance tree back then still wasn’t that great. I knew that I could be a great healer but instead I felt I was a struggling DPS wanna-be. Luckily my guild had excellent healers and wasn’t that hardcore and never pressured me to respec.

    With WotLK and dual specs, I used my dual spec as feral to mess around in lower instances for a bit, I switched it to resto now that Conquest badges drop from all of the heroics. Even though I hadn’t done it in years, I considered myself a very attentive and well, good healer. My first heroic was Halls of Lightning. Had some rough spots but only a couple deaths.

    Then 10 man ToC… wow what a wake-up call. I was in 80% Balance gear (the kind with hit and no spirit :P). I didn’t die myself, but I didn’t fully understand each encounter from a healer’s perspective. As a dps, your job is usually very simple. Luckily I had two other very strong healers in that 10 man but I felt uncomfortable almost the whole time. If you die when you’re a DPS, it doesn’t affect the group *that* much if the group is strong… but if you’re only one of a few healers it’s an awful thing. That being said, healing that place was intense, and fun!

    Because of my lack of knowledge of the encounters and not being familiar with my hotbars and what I should do in those “Oh, shit!” moments I contributed more than my fair share to a couple wipes. Granted I had never done a lot of those encounters, but I have an all new respect for healers now. The differences between a bad, okay and great healer is immense. Adding new gear doesn’t close the gap like it does with dps classes.

    I’ve since healed a lot more heroics and I feel better about how I’m doing. I learned the hard way that just because I can switch roles, doesn’t mean I will be good at it right away. :P

  7. Arielle
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I too find myself as a role switcher in my raids. My mitigation and EH is fairly similar to that of my raid’s Prot Paladin. However my DPS far outstrips his – by a substantial amount. So on 1 tank fights I find myself DPSing usually (unless it’s a really wierd movement fight that he hasn’t had much practice with).

    As for handling gear, I typically give our Rogue first crack at the leather. My gear is clearly good enough (as we managed to kill Boss X) to pass up on first drops, so it’s not really a big deal.

    We only really have one other role switcher, a DPS/Healer (either a Priest or Druid).

    For the Druid, she just gets all of the spellpower leather, because we don’t have any other druids that can use the gear.

    The Priest gets equal rights to gear, based on what role he filled for any given fight. So if he DPSed one boss, then he gets equal access to DPS gear for that boss. Etc.

    It’s a fairly simple system that is made easy to administer because of the maturity level of my raid group. Everyone is only really interested in killing things, and wants the group to improve as much as possible with each new piece of gear.

  8. Hrbek
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    I think a few of the points made here and by Altrosis are problematic and only hold true if taken in the context of people’s anecdotal experience rather than what is actually possible.

    Leaving the philosophical notion of “pure classes should do more dps” aside, it is not actually the case that the four ‘pure’ dps classes have the same top end damage potential. Nor is it true that current game mechanics favors all pure dps classes over dps hybrids. Nor is it true that all dedicated hybrid dps specs are on equal footing. These are all stated design goals – but have not been implemented to the extent that people should be accepting them as true. There is ample evidence (both in the form of extensive mathematical modeling and in data from combat logs) that given the same gear and the same skill all classes/specs are unfortunately not created equal.

    My main role in raids is to heal. I maintain a feral dps set and off-spec for fights that require fewer healers and more dps. I also have a tanking set so I can tank heroics, 10 mans, vault or whatever on non-raid nights. The game has been simplified and streamlined to such a great extent during this expansion that it should not be some great burden for a healer to perform at or near the top of their potential when they are required to raid in their secondary spec. With emblems of conquest dropping everywhere and the ease of non-heroic ToC it shouldn’t be too big a challenge for any hybrid to maintain two great sets of gear.

    I prefer playing ranged dps to melee – but feral dps is outstanding at the moment (even after the minor nerfs of 3.2) and competes with or exceeds the ‘pure’ classes in most fights. I personally think that is poorly tuned game design, but the math is what it is and it is left to the player to adapt to it. I think it is inaccurate to think that because you have a “main spec” for the purposes of your raid roster that you should accept performing at a lower level in your second spec.

  9. Posted September 15, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Hrbek, there is another dimension that you are missing and ignoring when you say that it is not hard to gather off-spec gear.

    Time

    The question really comes down to how much time farming, instances, gear, what have you is expected of the average raider for average comparisons.

    The lower the amount of time spend gathering gear outside of normal progression the more difficult the acquisition of that gear becomes.

    So say for example 30 minute heroic run 5 times a week. 25 badges a week at that point, not counting the raid drop, say another 25 badges. Total 50 badges a week. Now each piece of extra gear costs between 20 and 75 badges. So a nice round 50 for sake of argument. That is one piece of off spec gear extra. At that rate 16 weeks to gear up every slot.

    You are still looking at a good 4 weeks to completely gear up a second spec if you factor in a few extra pieces you can grab that people don’t need for their mains anymore.

    However this once again assumes that the raid is filled with a constant set of people. So if you add turnover in a raid back into the equation you can then double the period to 2 months for an off set, after everyone in the initial set has grabbed what the need for main spec. That could take anywhere between 1.5 and 3 months after the release of new content.

    So how much time is expected for the average raider to spend both in normal raids and then the extra stuff.

  10. Arielle
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Malchome. Time is a huge deterrent to fully gearing out more than 1 set of gear.

    It’s relatively easy to get 1 set of gear for your chosen role.

    Getting a 2nd is much harder because you are stuck with “cast-off” pieces in the most part until those that have first dibs on the gear you need get all of their pieces. So while it will happen eventually, it will take a long, long, long time.

  11. Hrbek
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    My experience has been the opposite. The sheer number of bosses in Ulduar and the length of time the content has been available before tier 9 was released means that we have been gearing off-specs and sharding gear for quite a while. Even a fairly casual raid can clear all or most of Ulduar each week on a light schedule – which should mean lots of main spec and off spec gear for everyone in the raid. My guild is fairly casual and raids 3 times a week, I play only sporadically the rest of the week and I have not found it difficult to maintain a resto, kitty and bear set that are all very strong.

    ToC may be a different story with the limited number of bosses of the limited number of trophies available to a raid that isn’t able to clear heroic.

    Regardless, the gear issue is only one point I was trying to make. What I find more difficult to hear are people parroting Blizzard’s claim that “pure classes are designed to do more dps than hybrid classes” and that people should settle for mediocre play in their off-spec because to do otherwise is somehow too difficult.

  12. Soule
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    I might have an unusual twist on this. I play a resto/moonkin Druid. Because of my work schedule I never get to raid with my guild. So I find myself pugging Ulduar and ToC. I started out my level 80 Druid career as resto. I have a holy pally and a resto shaman so that seemed to make sense. I have now picked up a good balance set (4T8) and a good resto set (working on 2T9/2T8). Being a role switcher lets me fill roles in PUGS really well. The downside is many people assume if I come in as resto, that my DPS will suck and vice versa. I find a good part of the raid I spend going “no seriously, I can go DPS if we need it”

    The Story:

    Ulduar10 XT Hard mode. We had a Priest, Shaman and a Paladin healing. After the first two pulls I was #2 on the DPS meter. We decided because we were melee heavy and they were lagging a bit, that the shaman would go enhancement and I would heal. That worked well. The rest of the instance the Shaman and I flipped around (or both went DPS). This worked great till our attempt at Iron Council and the whoops happened. I was going to heal and the shaman dps for interrupts. We pulled and after about 45 seconds I hear in vent ” Do we have 4 healers?”. We did.

    So if you a role switcher, make sure you know your role.

  13. Megami
    Posted September 16, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Oh man, the huge amount of time it takes to be a multi-role hybrid. I think among the highest tier of raiding guilds it’s pretty much expected for a hybrid to be able do 2 more of the following- dps/tank/heal/off-tank.

    I know of many guilds who will not take a dps warrior if he doesn’t have a tank set and is good at both. Ine a recent recruitment thread, another guild wanted a “Resto/Balance/Feral Druid” with the gear and ability to play all 3 specs. =/ I don’t know who in the world has the time to properly gear, gem and enchant 3 solid sets of gear much less learn the play style and mechanics of the spec.

    I love my druid but pure dps classes have it so much easier. I think they have to do a bit more to stand out, just as we do… but when you’re a pure dps class designed do do high damage than that’s already an advantage in itself. I’m not familiar with how other balance druids do, as I’ve only ever raided as the sole moonkin in my guild, and usually the only one in pugs too. But if there is an undergeared warlock or hunter, he could still do 1-2k more damage than me, even if I technically outgear him.

    I love the versatility druids provide as a solo class. But as a druid raider it’s like it forces me to farm more and play more than others. I don’t know of any progression guilds that will take a “pure dps druid”. I’ve been working on my heal set, but I have to compete with the main spec healers, and all of the other hybrid healers going for their off-spec too. =/