Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
 
Reasons, tanks, and healers

Gevlon, not the man for social niceties, made what looked very much like an off-topic comment on yesterday's post, asking what I wanted a druid for. One of my readers, in a much nicer way, and by e-mail, politely asked me something very similar: Why was I trying this multi-boxing thing instead of playing a different game? This larger question has several answers, as motives for doing something are not necessarily just one thing. For example one element was the observation that in EVE very many players multi-box, and I wondered why this isn't more widespread in World of Warcraft. And I thought it might make a nice experiment, something new to experience and to write about. I also was intrigued by the idea of a 2-seater flying mount. But getting a druid leveled up was also part of my motives, which brings us back to the first question. Why a druid?

World of Warcraft, like many similar games, has three basic archetypes: Tanks, healers, and damage dealers. As you can see from my first three level 80 characters, I've always been a believer in specializing, so I made a warrior, a priest, and a mage. That is coming from a background of Everquest being the first MMORPG I played for over a year (I played LPMUDs and Ultima Online before, but not as intensively). EQ had a very clear design philosophy on hybrid characters: They sucked mightily, or at least they did 10 years ago when I played EQ. The idea was strikingly simple: For the benefit of being able to take on more than one role, you paid the price of not being quite as good at those roles than a character who only had one of them.

That made sense, because Everquest is a game of forced grouping, and difficult travel. You often grouped with the people you found at the place where you wanted to adventure, you took what you could get, and so even for a group a hybrid had the advantage of flexibility, balanced with the disadvantage of not being quite as powerful as a single-role character. But World of Warcraft developed in a different way: There was a lot of soloing, and groups were often formed in highly populated areas, so people could afford to be picky and take the candidates most likely to succeed in a group. I leveled my priest under holy spec, and my warrior as a tank, which in early WoW was again a choice with clear advantages and disadvantages: I would get into groups easily, but solo slower.

Over the years, subsequently introduced in many patches, the situation in World of Warcraft changed: Dual-spec was introduced, so suddenly my priest and warrior turned into hybrids with a damage-dealer role for soloing. And the game's two three-way classes, paladin and druid, got boosted to be as efficient in tanking as a warrior (sometimes even more so) and as efficient in healing as a priest. I never was, and still am not, very happy with that. I felt I had chosen specialized classes in a conscious decision to go for well defined benefit, and then Blizzard changed the rules and robbed me of those benefits. It wasn't so bad with the priest, but given the choice between a paladin, a druid, and a warrior as a tank, most groups will either take the paladin or the druid. And of course this development was even more unfair to the pure damage dealing classes, like my mage: A damage dealer gained very little from dual-spec, and then had to see some hybrid class outdamage him.

So I grumbled for a bit, as MMORPG players are wont to do, and then decided that if I can't beat them, I'll join them. This also was a consequence of Blizzard taking far too long to make expansions, so half through an expansion I often have my existing characters leveled up to the maximum that I want, and start making alts. The mage was made for that reason during Burning Crusade, and now that I had three characters at level 80 and in full epics, I made two new alts: A druid and a paladin. Both three-way hybrids to benefit from Blizzard's blatant favoring of hybrids over specialists. And I made two alts because Cataclysm had just been announced, and I wanted to play through old Azeroth again with a Horde and an Alliance character once more before these zones changes forever. Last chance to see, so to say.

While that plan initially looked somewhat balanced, the flaws soon became apparent. While the druid was better to play at very low levels, the paladin got a big boost in power at level 16, and by level 20 was a completely overpowered soloing monster. Even without dual-spec yet, he was what players of previous games would call a "tank mage", that mythical character with no flaws at all, being able to deal as much damage as any other class, while simultaneously being able to withstand far more damage than a pure damage-dealer, and being able to heal himself to boot when things got rough. Furthermore after three level 80 Horde characters, and my highest Alliance character being a single level 60, it was more interesting to play the Alliance paladin than the Horde druid. The druid wasn't quite as overpowered as the paladin, as he had to switch forms to get the benefits from his three roles, while the paladin got all benefits in the same form. And the druid didn't get crazy overpowered spells and abilities like the paladin in the lower levels.

So the paladin took off, and I ended up leveling him all the way to 80, while the druid was still stuck at level 29. I had done lots of groups while leveling with the paladin in tank / damage dual-spec, but changed to heal / damage dual-spec at level 80 because being undergeared matters less for a healer than for a tank. Having thus experienced all three roles of the paladin, I noticed that while there were a lot of advantages to the paladin, it was also simply nice to tank or heal *differently* than my previous characters. Paladin tanking doesn't play the same as warrior tanking. Paladin healing doesn't play the same as priest healing. And that made me think that druid tanking and healing might be interesting too. Especially at level 80 in heroics, where I would have the direct comparison.

But I'm a slow leveler, and the Cataclysm alpha just started, so time is running out. I'm not playing World of Warcraft as intensively any more, I take time to play single-player games or try other MMORPGs to avoid burning out. And I didn't want to get caught short, with my druid not quite 80 yet when the game changes, presumably with patch 4.0 a bit before the actual Cataclysm release. I could use a boost to leveling, and a fresh view, a new method to level up yet another alt. So this is why I'm planning to level the druid, and why I want to do it via dual-boxing. I would like to see how a druid tanks and heals at level 80, compared to the other three-way hybrid, the paladin, and compared to the specialist classes warrior and priest. Triple xp to 60 sound like a good idea to get there, especially since it means playing the game in a different way.
Comments:
The token- and rep-based gearing systems also massively favor hybrids. A huge contributor to my exit from WoW was grinding all those reps to get my rogue main geared to start raiding, and then realizing I had to do them all over again on my warrior and/or priest.

Meanwhile, Druids and Pallies grind once and are then ready to start for all three roles.
 
"..Blizzard taking far too long to make expansions.."

Ain't that the truth. I had two level 60's when TBC landed. I had three level 70's when WotLK landed. And I had five level 80's when I suspended my account last month to wait for Cataclysm.

Assuming this fibonacci sequence continues I'll have eight level 85 characters when expansion #4 is released. ;-)
 
Nice summary of the situation, Tobold.

However, even though druid tanks are very popular now, there is a caveat. I don't have a Death Knight, but of the other three tanking classes there is no doubt that the druid is the one that needs gear more than any other, particularly for the heroics grind (which is ironic, considering that's the way to gear up nowadays). The reason is that the bear only has one really useful aoe attack, and that's Swipe.

Swipe, swipe swipe swipe 'til you're blue in the face. In heroics, everyone expects you to hit a relatively big group and then jump in with dps right away. Swipe doesn't do a huge amount of damage, and it often takes a swipe or two to get the mobs really interested in you. So a fast Blizzard, Volley and Whirlwind combo from the dps can really scatter the bad guys quite fast. So make friends with your Growl button! :)

Of course, with better gear each Swipe hits harder so you'll soon be in better shape. Considering how much gear you got for your paladin I expect you'll have little trouble.

Oh, and if you're doing LW on the druid: make sure you kill a *lot* of skinnable beasts in Northrend!
 
Oh dear, (another) Hybrid vs Pure discussion. A magical place where someone is surely feeling betrayed & frustrated, robbed & disappointed. Bad Blizzard! Unfortunately Tobold, the basis of your (and many similar) complaints rests in a very subjective notion that groups "pick paladin or druid" when given a choice between paladin, druid and warrior. Well, indeed, looking back and comparing to the MC days when only warriors *could* tank, since they were supported by talents, gear and widespread post-EQ myths, yes, the statistic says that warriors will be picked ONLY 1/3rd of the time, while druids and paladins will be picked 2/3rds of the time. (Or even 1/4th if you count in the DKs.) Compared to 1/1 of the "good ol'" MC days, that is a loss for all the those that wanted their own class to be sure of their non-competition place in the game.

Without any real numbers data, nobody can claim anything along the lines of "who gets picked most", neither you, nor I. Just looking at the so-called census numbers wont lead you anywhere since all the classes that can tank can also DPS, and 2 of those can also heal too. Any overall numbers of class played mean nothing without breakdowns of speccs, and even then you would have a hard time proving what exactly happens in tank-chosing opportunities and factoring in the dual-specc further complicates any clear-cut statement.

The biggest question anyone can ask about tanking is: would an overwhelmingly high percent of persons willing to take on the tank role be 1. more likely to tank with only one class to chose from or 2. would they be less likely to choose tanking with only one class to chose from?

My (subjective) feeling is that more choice in play-styles or class flavors means more choice in PERSONS behind the tanking role. More choice, in time, means not only more tanks, but also better players and better game.

Very similar can be said for DPS too. One commenter said that he had to grind reputations all over again... Heirloom enchants anyone? You have no other real reasons to grind anything these days, except for "cosmetics" and perception, and that has nothing to do with raiding, since having "The Exalted" in no way shape or form helps you with raiding. Stop talking about the game you stopped playing 2 years ago :)

With current way of gearing up, any re-rolled alt can be ready for raiding in 14 days without any provable deficiencies (and even less if you join "Undegeared" :)), except the lack of experience. But, as anyone who played a hybrid will tell you, switching from Moonkin to feral dps is on the exactly same level of change difficulty as is switching from a mage to a rogue. The only small advantage would be that the druid maybe had some random feral pieces in his/her bags, but that can be made up in such a small time frame that only the most spoiled and impatient people could actually complain about it.

The game, as it is now, basically allows you to have utmost freedom in choosing your play-style. How is this bad?
 
Tobold, you seem very biased towards the warrior and the priest class, but hey, that's just human :)

You see, Warriors and priests aren't specialists. They are 2-way hybrids: Tank/DPS and Healer/DPS.

On my opinion, the classic WoW model of classes was flawed, not the current one. So-called hybrids were forced to heal if they wanted to raid at all, and especially paladins weren't even half-good at that at the beginning. The only saving grace was blessings and cleanse.

So I have to disagree with you almost totally. 2-Way hybrids did whatever they wanted (especially warriors) while 3-Way ones fell by the wayside. That made me somewhat cynical of WoW developers and a little bitter. Even today I couldn't care less if warriors had bugs or they were underpowered somewhere.... the amount of spoiled primadonna "MT" warriors I encountered during classic WoW was astonishing. They felt SO privileged... and worse yet, THEY WERE. The devs made sure of that.
 
I'm unsure if I understood you properly. Is the answer "I level a druid to be my main, since druid can DPS, tank and heal alone"?
 
You see, Warriors and priests aren't specialists. They are 2-way hybrids: Tank/DPS and Healer/DPS.

As I said, warriors and priests are 2-way hybrids NOW. They weren't really in 2005 when I started them.

And everybody who argues that "hybrids have no advantages" always completely ignores all dps classes. My retribution paladin systematically outdamages any rogue with similar gearscore, PLUS having far better armor and self-heals. How is that not unfair towards rogues?
 
@Gevlon: I don't believe in "mains". I level a druid because it will enable me to tank and heal DIFFERENTLY in heroics. Variation is the spice of life.

Given that nowadays heroics give you gear which enables you to access ANY raid content in the game, why would I even want to concentrate on a single character instead of playing many?
 
Given that nowadays heroics give you gear which enables you to access ANY raid content in the game, why would I even want to concentrate on a single character instead of playing many?

Slippery slope, Tobold! As it turns out, "a little time" times 8 equals "lots of time". Getting them all raid geared is really quite an effort! :)

(Veering off topic here as always – sorry!)
 
As it turns out, "a little time" times 8 equals "lots of time".

Agreed, but 2 years between expansions is a lot of time.

And of course your little time argument brings us back to the hybrid discussion: If I had to start over, with little time, could only play one single character, and wanted to maximize my access to all the different forms of World of Warcraft content, I would definitively play a paladin. Because I could get into any group or guild, fulfilling any role, with no downside.

Just look at the difference in queueing time for heroics for a tank or healer compared with a dps. It is *really* nice if you can skip to the front of the queue by a simple press of your dual-spec button.
 
Currently I have one lvl 80 character, and it IS a so-called hybrid. It can tank, dps or heal.

Or it *could* if I had gear (and experience) for every purpose, but I don't. My best-quality gear is tanking gear, followed dps gear. I have some odd pieces of healing gear, but that's it.

I've had to divide my badges between the two gearsets. Enchanting and gemming also strain my finances somewhat, since I'm reliant on the only lvl 80 char to make majority of my gold.

If I had TWO different characters (like prot warrior and healer priest pair), then I'd have much more badges and more opportunities to stockpile gold (more professions, more daily quests etc. per day). So I don't find playing a 'hybrid' to give any advantages at all UNLESS you play multiple of them too!

I raid as a tank because that's what my friends want me to do - and I find tanking fun :)
 
Tobold,

How would you feel about making every class a hybrid? You could give rogues, hunters and warlocks a tanking spec, and give mages a healer spec.
 
I really feel like the people advocating Hybrid-power by arguing "freedom of choice" are deluding themselves. You always had a choice, but the choice used to have consequences. If you chose Hybrid you got the advantage of filling multiple roles at the cost of not being as powerful as a specialist (makes sense to me.) But due to excessive player-whining we now have a world where hybrids are completely overpowered because they have the afformentioned advantage but lost the cost! I've said it before and I'll say it again, Player-whining has destroyed World of Warcraft over and over again. Sadly there's nothing better in the MMO genre so we all still play.
 
I might quite be the EVE Evangelist, but... thanks for bringing back EverQuest memories.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Pib1DwGsqE

Wasn't this the best ? God damn, i miss it.
 
Five years ago warriors tanked and all other hybrids healed. The DPS was left for the pure DPS and I was happy to DPS with my mage.

Once Outland every hybrid could tank as well as a warrior or heal as well as a priest while doing similar DPS to a pure DPS class.

So yeah, I also wondered why the heck I would continue playing a pure DPS class (warlock/mage). So since The Lich King I'm playing as a deathknight. I was outDPSing pretty much all pure DPS classes when I raided while wearing plate and being able to tank heroics. Unfair? Yep.

So when Cataclysm hits a Worgen Druid is also on my wish list. I tried out the paladin but it was boring as hell (auto attack and click a button every 10s, how much fun). Cataclysm promises to improve that too so I'll see.

WoW is now in a state where you can finish everything with 25 druids. You can tank, heal, do ranged & melee DPS. Why do we still have to roll anything else?

In any case, the fix is simple. Let pure DPS do 10% more DPS and give them a bit more utilities like CC & raid buffs. It's fine that tanks and healers are all roughly equal, just give the DPS a benefit as they're already off worst.
 
Tobold, the pure fact that *your* paladin is outdpsing "all the rogues" means nothing, so, I see your paladin and raise you at least 3 rogues from my guild who can outdps all the paladins in my guild.

Both our examples mean absolutely nothing, since they are not only biased, but totally irrelevant since they are literally a drop in the ocean of number of people playing.

On a sideways note, maybe you just "clicked" with your paladin better than your mage, maybe you prefer melee than range combat, maybe you prefer not to cast spells.

it is a fallacy to deduce and generalize on a massive scale from very limited data we all individually deal with, one that is on top colored by conscious and unconscious bias we all have.
 
it is a fallacy to deduce and generalize on a massive scale from very limited data we all individually deal with, one that is on top colored by conscious and unconscious bias we all have.

The very fact that it is too close to tell who is better at dealing damage, a paladin or a rogue, tells me quite enough. Because nobody will argue that the rogue is somewhere near the paladin in healing and tanking, so if the two classes are about equal in one thing, and the paladin in much better in the two other, it is obvious which class is better.

I tried out the paladin but it was boring as hell (auto attack and click a button every 10s, how much fun).

You didn't try long enough. The abilities that the paladin gets at levels 16 and 20 turn him from a boring auto-attacker into a character with enough buttons to click on, and an absolutely overpowered damage output.

Just compare the taunt spells of the paladin and the warrior: The warrior taunt is absolutely useless in solo play, and does nothing but the basic aggro management in group play. The paladin's taunt does all that PLUS hits the mob for a large amount of damage, so you can use it in solo play for pulling with great effect. WHY?
 
Just look at the difference in queueing time for heroics for a tank or healer compared with a dps. It is *really* nice if you can skip to the front of the queue by a simple press of your dual-spec button.

True that, very true. But the DF doesn't reject you just because you're a warrior either, so there's no real discrimination going on at that level.

If I had to choose one only, I'd probably take the druid. Paladin tanking is just too easy!
 
You should try Eve some time ! Oh wait ...
 
Tobold "As I said, warriors and priests are 2-way hybrids NOW. They weren't really in 2005 when I started them."

Yes they were.

I was in the top raid guild on our server and one of our top 5 dps was a shadow priest, another was a Fury warrior.

What's more in addition to dps they could do a reasonable job off-tanking or off-healing without changing gear.
 
* in the Warrior's case without changing gear other than to pull out a shield
 
If rogues in equal gear don`t out dps you, then they need to learn how to itemize their gear right and how to press their buttons right. Rogues will out dos anyone if gear us equal and the player knows how to play.
The only hybrid close to the dps of a pure class is a fury warrior. That is because of rage scaling and the way it scales hugely with buffs and gear. Even then it isn't where a rogue is.
I see a lot of hybrids that only dps. Why should the ne punished if they don't want to tank/heal even though they COULD.
?
 
The problem with the classic pure tank, pure healer, and gimpy hybrid system is that it leads to an awful game. This is because there are NEVER enough tanks and healers. Leveling a pure tank or healer is awful. Playing a pure tank or healer solo to farm or grind is awful.

Thank god blizzard finally made it so you could have fun playing solo and also have enough of the right class composition to do competitive end game raids.

I've always been a druid player. We were over-powered as tanks in TBC so that's what I used to play. Unfortunatley in Wrath we lost some ground and I switched to resto. Resto is fun for raiding, but it absolutely stunk for everything else and I pretty much stopped playing my druid for anything other than raids until duel spec's came out.
 
The problem with the classic pure tank, pure healer, and gimpy hybrid system is that it leads to an awful game. This is because there are NEVER enough tanks and healers. Leveling a pure tank or healer is awful. Playing a pure tank or healer solo to farm or grind is awful.

Thank god blizzard finally made it so you could have fun playing solo and also have enough of the right class composition to do competitive end game raids.

I've always been a druid player. We were over-powered as tanks in TBC so that's what I used to play. Unfortunatley in Wrath we lost some ground and I switched to resto. Resto is fun for raiding, but it absolutely stunk for everything else and I pretty much stopped playing my druid for anything other than raids until duel spec's came out.
 
This may not be true of the Pally, but hybrids really don't see much of a benefit...have you ever seen a bear tank put out heals? Sweet sweet sub 1% ticks of rejuv. You ever see a mookin try to tank? It'll last a half a GCD longer than a Warlock or a Mage.

While I do agree that dual-spec gives them a slight invite advantage, it is less than most people try to put forth. Folks are still looking for a variety of passive and castable buffs, and debuffs.

Sometimes people forget how much of an advantage the little things like curses, bleed modifiers, etc. give you.

Assuming two raids with equal skill and gear, one all class, one varied, the varied raid will have much higher DPS, mitigation, HPS, and the like.

Very few classes should be concerned...

Healers can't complain, because every healer can dual spec to DPS as well.

Tanks can't complain, then can all spec DPS as well.

And DPS SHOULDN'T complain, because they bring their unique buff/debuff to the table, and cap out at high DPS levels well before the hybrid.

Don't forget that for a hybrid to see this advantage, they need to spend 1000g on dual spec, twice as much on emblems, and twice as many lockouts(assuming they are even allowed to roll off spec).

p.s. Druids can perform 4 roles. Well 3 and ½ :P
 
And oh yeah, I absolutley cannot stand hearing a pure dps class complain about how it's unfair that hybrids dont' have to wait as long in the random dungeon que.

If it wasn't for the hybrids, those pure dps classes would be waiting about ten times longer in the que. Have people already forgotten how hard finding a tank or healer for dungeons used to be before duel specs? Was the great tank shortage of TBC really that long ago? Was the healer shortage at the beginning of wrath really that long ago?

We used to have to tolerate absolutely TERRIBLE tanks and healers back in the day.
 
Speaking of the dungeon finder, since hamster brought it up, I find that hybrids make instances run smoother. For example, when the Warrior tank disconnected in a SM:Cathedral run I was in last month, I offered to pop my druid into Bear form (instead of cat) and go ahead and tank the rest of the dungeon. We were more than halfway through, and instead of the group disbanding, we pushed ahead and four-manned it. I tanked, and the other druid that was healing occasionally popped into cat form to help out while the shaman kept an eye out to offheal as necessary. If we had only been comprised of "pure" DPSers and a healer, we'd have been stuck.

That flexibility doesn't just benefit me as a druid player, it's a benefit to the other players who just want to keep playing. It's also a *responsibility* that I shoulder as a hybrid player, since I may need to step into those different shoes at times. If anything, hybridization makes the game more tactically interesting, rather than being a hard-baked combat trinity with no wiggle room. It sucks to be stuck without a specific class to fill a combat role in the trinity. Hybrids patch that gap.

If anything, I'd go further in that direction, and let *any* class tank, heal or DPS, as close to "at the drop of a hat" as possible.
 
Is fun to heal as a druid although i'm talking from TBC here...

You'll use that double spec a lot though, for you can't kill a critter in healing spec..
 
I just want to note that, technically speaking, druids are 4-way, thus I find that if you are going to have only one character it gives you the greatest flavor of the game. I played my druid quite a lot a few years ago. When I started up a warlock alt I understood the ranged nuking. When playing a rogue I immediately understood the combo point / energy playstyle. Ditto for healing, ditto for tanking.

If you're going to have multiple characters, choose whatever you want, you've probably experienced every playstyle anyhow.

/ramble
 
Also, IMO, what helped healer leveling greater than dual spec was the change from +heal to +spellpower.

I remember doing Ogri'la (sp) quests and I blew my mind how awesome my resto druid was at killing things. That, IMO, was a bigger change for healers than dual spec.
 
The fallacy with this whole hybrid/choice/overpowered arguments back and forth is that every class plays differently. If you enjoy Priest healing then the fact your paladin can tank offspec doesn't mean anything. Likewise, if you enjoy paladin healing then the fact he can tank off-spec means very little too.

I've met people that ROLLED classes because they felt they could do more and thus were more useful but I have never met anyone that stayed in a class they just didn't enjoy using at all simply because of the versatility.

I mean you said it yourself. Your reason for playing Druid was to try out the different style. If you enjoy warrior tanking more you won't play your druid tank more. If you enjoy your priest healing more the same is true. Mage, DPS, etc.

I guess the one argument you can make is that is with more possible roles you have a much greater chance of enjoying one at the level cap than you do as a random pure DPS class because you have 3 different playstyles that could randomly hit the way you like to play. But that still isn't very good because pure DPS have 3 specs that play differently as well.
 
"The abilities that the paladin gets at levels 16 and 20 turn him from a boring auto-attacker into a character with enough buttons to click on, and an absolutely overpowered damage output."

Yes, I didn't get passed level 10 because it was so boring. It might be fun from level 20 on but it should be just as much fun to get to level 20. And I'm glad to see that Blizzard will fix this in the next expansion. I'll give the paladin/druid class another go then and see which one I prefer.
 
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