Tobold's Blog
Monday, November 24, 2008
Cruel experiment

While thinking some more about questions of class balance, I came up with an interesting thought experiment: Imagine you took 30 equally skilled players at the start of WotLK, 3 players of each class, with the 3 players of each class each choosing a different talent tree, and putting all talent points into that. So you have one frost mage, one arcane mage, one fire mage, one arms warrior, one fury warrior, one protection warrior, and so on. You level all of these characters to 70, and equip them with equal item levels of gear. And then you start a race: Each player plays the same amount of time per day, lets say 4 hours, has free choice of whether he wants to solo or group (but only with some of the other 29, no power-leveling), and we'll check which character reaches level 80 first, and which character reaches it last.

What I was saying in Saturday's post was not that my holy priest was impossible to level. But I'm pretty sure that in our little thought experiment the holy priest and some other healing specs would be among the last to reach level 80.

Now we come to the cruel part of the experiment: The 30 players form a guild, and *YOU* are the guild master and chief raid leader. Which 10 of them do you take on a 10-man raid? Which 5 of them do you *not* take on a 25-man raid? You should choose the raid composition in terms of maximum efficiency, so what classes and specs are in, and which are out? I'm not posting my list, because that would be a bit too cruel, and I'd get too many angry letters. But feel free to post your two lists of which 10 talent branches would together make the best 10-man raid, and which 5 specs you would need least.

Whether you post your list or not, you might come up with the surprising conclusion that some builds who finished the leveling part of the thought experiment last would nevertheless be the first when it comes to raid invites. Which probably explains why people play those builds at all. And of course I didn't specify which raid dungeon we would be going to, because if the raid dungeon would be sufficiently easy, your selection wouldn't matter so much. Which, some would say, is one of the big advantages of having easier raids: You don't have to select your friends by their character class and talent build any more.
I don't think levelling speed would be a great factor in picking a raiding team. I think it would be fair to say that a fast leveller doesn't necessarily make a good raider and vice versa.
After raiding and leading in 40/20, 25/10 raids I can tell you right away, that I never *need* a specific spec. I *need* a specific role, and as long as those roles are filled up, the raid can be successfull.

Usually, it always went like this:
- tank, offtank
- DPS AoE, Heavy DPS on one target
- Interrupt spells (usually one person is enough)
- Crowd control (usually one person is enough)
- "Spam healer" (quick heals) or "Buffer healer", "massive healer" (output big heal).

One person can sometimes fit in more than one role, but you have to be sure that in every encounter you deal with, you have one person in each role.

(In bigger raids, you will also have other roles like "melee healer".)

I never had a perfect group... it doesn't exist for me. Each time I had my so "perfect" setup, it didn't worked out all that well. True, you can have a perfect group for 1 encounter, but in a raid, it's usually 4 or 5 encounters in a row.
Hmm 10 man list
Prot warrior
Prot Paladin
Holy priest
Holy Paladin
Resto Shaman
Ret paladin
DPS death knight
Arcane Mage
Beastmaster Hunter

Note: paladins are OP and bring best raid buffs

5 I would leave

2 rogues
1 hunter (survival)
destro loc
fury warrior

5th to leave is pretty hard to pick for me. Note rogues suck, they don't even bring OP dps to the raid like ret/DK's do.
I look forward to WotLK raiding, and seeing how much the ideal of "bring the player, not the class" has really been implemented.

I ran a lot of Kara PUGs back in the day (post 2.3, pre 3.0), and the ideal composition was pretty narrow. Wanted a priest to shackle, tank, OT, 2 healers, a warlock to banish and AoE, a class or two that could interrupt Julianne's heals, etc. etc.

I PUGed Gruul's twice after 3.0, and while I wouldn't say it had strict requirements for composition, the difference between the two groups was stark. The first group was apparently well-formed and one-shotted both boss fights, despite someone body-pulling on the HKM fight and people just trying to roll with it (probably would have been a wipe pre-3.0). Whoever built the second group had no business doing so - there were only 3 healers, no warlocks to banish demons, and no mage tank. I can understand forgetting the mage tank, if one isn't an experienced group leader, but how do you not make a point of getting enough healers? I generally start a group I'm building with the healers, because they are the hardest to find. We didn't even know the group was built that way until we had cleared the trash and were starting assignments for HKM. At that point they came up with a sophisticated Vent/ready check scheme to decide who to replace. My wife (one of the 3 healers) and I (one of the top DPSers in the group) took that opportunity to vamoose.

I understand that Sunwell groups were very mage-heavy to CC all the humanoid trash, as well.

I'm sure WotLK will still demand a balance between tanks/dps/healers, but it will be interesting to see how the rest plays out. I'm guessing there will still be fights that will either be impossible or much more difficult without, say, a warlock.
My 10 man raid:

-Tank Prot Pally.
-Off Tank Feral Druid w/ both kitty(dps) and bear(tank) sets.
-Holy Paladin.
-Holy Paladin.
-Combat Rogue.
-Fire Mage.
-Destruction Warlock.
-Enhancement Shammy.
-Unholy Deathknight.
-Shadow Priest, who is ready to off heal if needed.

What 5 wouldn't take?
-Blood Deathknight, unholy does more damage, self healing is really not needed in a raid.
-Frost Deathknight, there are better tanks out there.
-Sub rogue, get your pvp out of here.
-Hunter, any hunter sucks they are subpar dps inho.
-Elemental Shammy, I would rather have a mage.

So I'd take up 3/10 spots w/ paladins. Mainly the reasoning is that I feel Tankadins are currently the best tanks. They also do a good amount of damage as a tank and more dps never hurts. Drood off tanks are great. Droods get both dps and tanking with in the same talent tree and all they need to do is adjust their gear to be effecive at either. Two paladin's healing is really only because of their 51 point talent "Beacon of light". Each holy pally will apply beacon of light to the other holy pally, thus if the healer starts to take a beacon they are almost gaurenteed a heal. The rest of the line up is just random DPS, with the exception of the shadow priest who will off heal if any aoe healing is needed.
The other cruel part is you're probably going to leave more than 5 specs behind in your 25 man raid to make room for more than 4 healers.

Leveling my priest as full disc and flying through the levels thanks to the change to spellpower in WoTLK. Any spec priest can solo quest at rapid speed if they pick up spirit tap and even though I don't have it in my build my downtime is minimal with shadowfiend and hymn of hope. The differences in leveling speed / solo ability have been dimished to the point of almost not existing, which is something that really has appealed to me and Blizzard should be commended for. Only class/spec I would have leveling speed concerns about is holy paladins.

Only specs I can think of that aren't really well suited for raiding are disc priests (with heavy investment in PW:shield), demo warlocks, sub rogues, deep frost mages, and possibly frost/unholy death knights. Not familiar enough with DK's to know how raid viable those specs are at 80, or DK tanking in general which is why I listed frost.
I don't feel like I've seen enough in the 3.0, WotLK world to pick the 5 non-starters yet. Some initial thoughts:

Disc Priest - can still heal, so there's no reason to put them on this list, even though Holy would be preferable.

Rogues - before 3.0, I never saw acceptable DPS from any tree but combat, and every non-combat rogue I ever saw was subtlety. I hear that has changed, but I haven't seen it yet.

DKs - I'm curious to see whether DKs are indeed like Feral druids - they will major in either dps or tanking, but with a good gear swap can do decently at the other. A feral druid was definitely my favorite OT in the BC era for this reason.

Mages - I'm not sure I've ever seen an arcane mage. I've seen frost and fire both do good DPS.

Warlocks - I don't know the different trees, but I've seen warlocks do great DPS, and they bring a lot of utility.

I think my suspension of disbelief just isn't there for this experiment. Most of the good players I know will pick a spec that raids well, and there are good choices for every class. Some players will not take a good spec almost no matter what, and won't do well even if they do.
Tobold wrote: "The 30 players form a guild, and *YOU* are the guild master and chief raid leader. .... Which 5 of them do you *not* take on a 25-man raid?"

One of your commenters made an excellent point, which I'm repeating for emphasis. There are only 5 healing specs in those 30 players, and that is not enough healers for a 25-man raid. You will need to leave 6 or 7 of your guild players on the bench, and recruit even more healers.

(Yes, I view this "healer shortage" as a dumb mutual failure of Blizzard's class design teams and encounter design teams. If every class and every spec is equally popular and equally played - then your guild will not have enough healers to run 10- or 25-man raids. You'll have to push people into healing if you want to raid.)
my 10:

9 death knights
1 resto something
My 25-man raid:

I need to strong-arm at least two dps hybrids into re-speccing to a healing hybrid. There's a lot of flexibility in how you do this step, I'd first try to force my caster dps to re-spec for healing. Let's make the Shadow priest go Holy, and the Elemental Shaman go Restoration. Now our raid has seven healers.

For DPS, I'd bench one each of rogue, mage, warlock, and hunter (but make sure to bring a Survival hunter for Replenishment). That's only four benched so far, so between warriors and death knights I have to bench one more. Let's arbitrarily bench the Blood death knight.

The resulting raid would look like this:
My 10
MT - Prot Warrior (On paper I'd pick Prot Pally with the sanc blessing, but currently the ret nerfs have hurt Prot's threat)
OT - Frost DK (Seems stronger than Druid in cases where the OT isn't taking enough damage to keep rage->threat up)
H1 - Holy Pally (bless might/wis, beacon to heal both tanks at once)
H2 - Holy Priest (sta buff, AoE heals)
H3 - Rest Druid (6% Heal aura, Mark of the Wild)
D1 - Ret Pally (bless kings, mana return, cc, 3% haste & 2% dmg aura, +crit debuff)
D2 - BM Hunter (3% dmg buff, doesn't stack with ret through, still sounds like BM is top boss DPS or close to it)
D3 - Arc Mage (slow, int buff, cc, last I heard arcane is really strong dps at the moment)
D4 - Enc Shaman (windfury, other totems.)
D5 - Unholy DK (I haven't realy read up much on their abilities, but it sounds like unholy has great dps)

The 5 I'd leave for a 30 man:
1. Subtely Rogue - pvp
2. Assassination Rogue - I hear they can be good dps, but rogues just seem weak in today's paradigm with no aoe, no buffs, and the only debuff costing dps
3. Marks BM (Last I heard BM is still the best raid dps spec for hunters. The survival hunter at least is giving you the mana return buff)
4. Arms Warrior (one dps warrior is enough. Not sure, but I think Fury is currently better for raid dps?)
5. Blood DK (the self-healing perks seem superfolous for raiding)

The first 5 healers are easy enough. But under the rules, the trick is who do you make heal from what is left? I think it'd have to be the Prot & Ret Pally in Holy gear, and the Boomkin since they at least have some talents in their trees that help healing. Though, I'm not that familiar with shaman talent trees. The Prot Warrior, Feral, and Frost DK should be enough tankage, though there's the Unholy DK if you need another one leaning more towards AoE.

Just my picks to join in on the fun :-)

The Blood DK isnt just a self healer, his blood aura gives healing to the entire raid.
Leveling, right Now the fastest would be

Deathknight (blood)
Warlock (destro)
Paladin (Ret)


Paladin (holy)
Priest (holy)
Shaman (resto)

As a T6 disc priest I have leveled effectively, and I am feeling the spellpower changes. But I only need get on my undergeared BM hunter who rips through through mobs/quests at 3 times the speed to understand the difference between effective and fast.

As for Disc vs Holy I think people will be surprised that I truly believe the Disc priest will see more raiding then Holy. Holy will come up with some big heals/saves but the survivability and lower mana regen will cause issues.
Jacob, you should switch the balance druid with the enhancement shammy. Much more beneficial for the raid :P
Which probably explains why people play those builds at all.

Not really. One word. Respec.

As for the thought experiment, in a couple of words, it doesn't matter. It would have mattered if this was vanilla WoW or TBC. But this is WotLK.
I would bring 10 Gnome healers.... oh, wait...

Sorry, I forgot Blizzard didn't give Gnomes healing classes so they wouldn't rule the world ^^
If you HAVE to take 10 chars of diff single specc'd classes I'd go
Prot Pally
Feral Druid (Bear for off tank, Cat when off tank isnt needed)
Holy Priest
Resto Shaman
Boomkin Druid
Fire Mage
Destro Lock
Blood Deathknight (+healing and buffs to whole raid group are nice)
Ret Pally
Some kind of hunter I guess for the last spot, either BM or Survival

5 Specs left behind
Arms warrior (Blood knights make them obsolete)
Fury warrior (see above)
Enhancement Shaman (again, see #1)
Subtlety Rogue (geared towards pvp)
Marksmanship Hunter (Again, Pvp)
I agree with other commenters above: get 2 of the hybrids to respec healing, for a total of 7 healers.

Of the remaining 18, it doesn't matter much as long as the new raid-wide buffs are covered.
"I don't think levelling speed would be a great factor in picking a raiding team. I think it would be fair to say that a fast leveller doesn't necessarily make a good raider and vice versa."


For the 10-man, I would build around healers, then tanks, then crowd control. The rest would be filled with DPS. I'll only consider builds if the raid was challenging enough to require greater min-maxing.
2 tanks, 3 healers, 5 dps. No pvp specs, otherwise I don't see a problem what class fills what spot. That's casual raiding for you.
But if you're taking 1 of each spec as your pool, you're only going to have 5 healers in your 25-player raid. You will need to double-up on some specs, which means that you will leave more than 5 specs on the sidelines in the 25 group. It's an interesting piece of the thought-experiment.

Also, I think the idea of a Disc priest and a Holy priest leveling is off the mark. Given a priest wants to be able to heal instances, and unless that priest can level entirely by healing instances (which I think it a bad idea because you'll want instance quests that have prereqs), they ought to level with a holy/disc hybrid "lolsmite" build. A lolsmite priest has passable single target DPS, good mana regen, and can still heal instances without putting massive strain on the tank. Similarly, I imagine a resto druid leveling build would actually have more points in Balance than in resto, since that hybrid build can similarly heal well.
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