Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
 
The different faces of dual-spec

I've been playing my latest level 80 in World of Warcraft, the paladin, doing heroics to gear him up. I'm not quite sure what for, but anyway. I spent his first emblems of triumph not on items for him, but on heirlooms for the worgen warlock I'm planning to create in Cataclysm. So by the time he had enough emblems to buy something for himself, I had already found several nice pieces for my healing set as loot drops in places like ToC5 or the Icecrown normal and heroic dungeons. So the plan now is to spend the emblems I earned as a healer for retribution gear instead, because my retribution set is worse than my healing set.

My most advanced character, the priest (gearscore of 5.1k after that ICC raid, if you must know), never had that problem. I took the occasional loot drop "for off spec" when nobody else wanted it, but I don't really need them. Yes, at the same item level the perfect item for a holy priest is slightly different from an item for a shadow priest. But it isn't as if the healing items were actually useless for dps. And in several cases the healing item I have is iLevel 251 or 264, and if I switch those out for a dps caster item of iLevel 200 to 219, I'm actually worse off. Spell hit is "optimal" for a dps caster, but not if you have to give up too much spellpower to get it. So for my priest I can switch spec without switching gear, and still get quite a good result.

My warrior and my paladin both couldn't possibly switch spec without switching gear. When my warrior switches from protection spec to arms spec, he needs to switch gear, because all the defense, evasion, and the tons of stamina, aren't helpful for melee dps. And the spellpower and int plate of my healing paladin is downright useless in retribution spec.

My mage can keep his gear when switching spec, but then he can never switch to a different role, all his possible builds are ranged dps, and need basically the same stats.

That is just the four classes I have level 80 characters in, but those already show that dual-spec doesn't mean the same thing for every possible character class. Some classes only have one role to choose from, some have two, and some have three. And some classes need to collect several sets of gear if they want to switch specs, while others can live with a single set. I'm not sure Blizzard understands the term "class balance" the same way I do.
Comments:
I think it's good that you have to collect several sets of gear.
 
You think hybrids should be able to do any of their roles with 1 set of gear? Doesn't sound balanced to me.
 
What you say is true. It is much easier for a Holy Priest for example, to switch to Disc or Shadow. When switching to Shadow, what needs to change are probably a few gems to get to the hit cap. A Prot Warrior on the other hand, has a more difficult time.

However, if you intend to min/max your characters, I believe all classes have it pretty difficult.

For example, a Holy Priest requires Spellpower/Haste/Int/Spirit whilst a Disc Priest values Spellpower and to a lesser extent Int/Crit/Haste. A Shadowpriest goes all out on spellpower. If i wanted to mix/max my Priest, I would have 3 sets of gears.

Also consider Rogues: Combat goes for Armor Pen whilst Multilate stacks Attack Power (or something like that, I'm not 100% sure).

In Cata, they are removing "stupid" stats like Defence which would allow Warriors to change gear more easily (similar to Druids now). I just wish they would do a similar thing to "Hit" which in my opinion is also another "stupid" stat.
 
When you phrase it as you have, it actually sounds relatively balanced - more versatility requires more gear, with the caveat that some DPS specs cope better with inappropriate gear than others.

Ironically, the proposed changes to Spell Power leather and mail in Cataclysm (spirit->hit conversion for caster DPS druids and shamen) would imbalance the system by allowing those specs to have two roles on their two specs with a single set of gear, while still having that gear be nigh optimal.
 
You think hybrids should be able to do any of their roles with 1 set of gear? Doesn't sound balanced to me.

I didn't say that. I just stated a fact that different classes get very different things out of dual spec, and that isn't balanced.

My priest *is* a hybrid and does all of his roles with just 1 set of gear. Other classes aren't.
 
Some have three? Heck, a druid has four different sets of gear to collect: cat dps, bear tanking, moonkin dps, tree healing. Yeah, some overlap but not huge amounts.
 
I believe that tanking and melee dps gear is going to become more similar in Cataclysm also. I'm thinking that they want to make it easier to switch spec/ role.
 
Quoting Tobold:
My priest *is* a hybrid and does all of his roles with just 1 set of gear. Other classes aren't.

This is the angle Tobold is coming from. If players do not min/max, then switching specs for some classes are much easier. Compare the Priest to a Warrior - a Shadowpriest in Holy gear will outperform a Prot Warrior in DPS gear.

However, like I mentioned earlier (and along with some other commentators), if one wishes to min/max, then I believe it is close to equally difficult for all classes.
 
Dual spec has evolved. It was never planned. This also applies to different speccs that play like different classes.
 
One part of the game that is always fun for me is to keep the stats i need uptodate when getting new items. Enough def to be uncrittable for prot, 26 expertise, 8% hit etc. I like to juggle around my gear, thinking what gems and enchantments I need. I have dual specs prot and ret = dual the fun :-)

Alas, more bank space needed.
 
if one wishes to min/max, then I believe it is close to equally difficult for all classes.

All hybrid classes perhaps? Warlocks (and possibly other pures) don't really change between specs.


I didn't say that. I just stated a fact that different classes get very different things out of dual spec, and that isn't balanced.

Yeah some people get to pick which role they fit into and other can't.
 
Green Armadillo said: "Ironically, the proposed changes to Spell Power leather and mail in Cataclysm (spirit->hit conversion for caster DPS druids and shamen) would imbalance the system by allowing those specs to have two roles on their two specs with a single set of gear, while still having that gear be nigh optimal."

If we imagine that someone either tank or heal as their mainspec, and have a dps spec for soloing, this seems to mean that every healer or tank come Cata can make do (not min-max) in their dps set up with small changes (getting rid of a shield comes to mind). Except holy paladins, who with Cataclysm might be the only spec with gear that no one else can use.

From a min-maxing standpoint it would probably be overpowered and unfair (since retribution and protection gear will overlap to some extent with the removal of defense, making an overlap to holy as well might mean 1 gearset = 3 roles), but as someone who wants to heal and then do dailies on the side, it would be sweet :)

(Oh, and add a flying pala mount while you're at it, Blizzard ^^)
 
Perhaps I was wrong...
Ok, you now don't have to choose (or rather, now you can change spec without doing 1 hour of dailies).
But it doesn't seem simpler.
iLevels, gearscore, etc...
I'm still from the day where it was just tier 1, 2, 3......
 
Slightly off-topic:
If a friend was joining the game today, would you advise them to play a pure DPS over a hybrid?

I wouldn't - I can see no advantage for anyone to go pure beyond HM raiders.

As well as easily finding a group, hybrids tend to offer more utility and have more variety in their play time.

The 'hybrid tax' is a bit of a joke. Your DPS will vary more according to encounter gimmicks than the alleged 5% difference.

In the brave new world of 'Raid Finder', will anyone be hitting enrage timers (the only 'raison d'etre' of pure classes)?
 
I just started playing my lock sine 2008 and am finding the gear pretty similar. OTOH, my mage is trying out fire even though with two 251 tier and the rest 264 probably do not have the gear for it.. This requires 156 more hit for fire. So I go from trying to avoid hit at all cost to actually looking for it.

Also magegraf shows that when I am arcane that 1 crit is worth 0.68 spellpower but 1 haste is worth 1.3 SP. While for fire crit is 1.21 SP, haste 1.15. I usually have to change cloak, wrists, boots and trinket when I switch. Not like the 100% swap of a pally but still you have to consciously gear for it.

Another advantage locks have is all the stam on any welfare epics they are trying to get away with wearing benefits them more than most DPS classes.

I really wish there were three specs:e.g., your main spec, your test drive spec and your PvP spec.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
"(...) dual-spec doesn't mean the same thing for every possible character class."

And that's a good thing since we aren't forced to play any class. If one is giving to much trouble to gear up, just play with another. Besides, it's cool to have different gear. Your priest only change his color and he's wearing always the same clothes, which is not very hygienic.

Also, I'm getting tired of this so called "homogenization". I want different classes with different spells and different everything. Not only one or two classes which vary only in the color of the spells.
 
It's actually closer between disco and shadow, my combination. The way Blizz has done the itemization, even throwing away the hit, I'm usually better off with a dps caster piece than a "healing" piece with tons of SPI and MP5 on it. So I'm a healing priest with almost 200 plus hit... on my purely healing set. (I have a hit capped set also, with the "if it is going to be sharded anyways" pieces.)
 
I'm not sure Blizzard understands the term "class balance" the same way I do.

Exactly. The tradeoffs that once existed for certain classes no longer exist.

The most glaring example is that a Druid can fill four roles -- and can do them just as well as the primary. Tree (Healer), Cat (Melee DPS), Boomkin (Range DPS), Bear (Tank).

That was unfair BEFORE Dual-Spec. Now with Dual-Spec, they get to choose any combination of the two and can flip between them at no cost.

But wait.. They need (4) sets of gear! OK. So that means that Druids pretty much roll on everything.
 
Have to admit, as a holy priest (GS5400ish) I have NO shadow gear but if I pop into shadow spec I can easily pull 4k dps in my healing gear, without trying and without any hit. I dont do it often (dont really like dpsing) but am constantly surprised when I do.
 
I recently discovered this blog, and read back a couple weeks... I quite enjoy the writing.

On dual specs... Back before they were available it wasn't an issue... you chose a tree and you went with it. Also, things like spell power and hit rating didn't exist... it came down to simple stats. So if it was cloth and had int/spi it was good for whatever spec your priest went. If it was mail/plate and had strength/stamina it was good for your warrior either way. With the invention of all these new sub-stats and Blizzard's attempt to give us more options by allowing dual specs, they essentially took that part of balance out of the game... with the trade off that you have more options.
 
I don't think having more spec options improves the player. Trying to progression raid well with 2 different specs, much less 2 specs which don't resemble each other (tank/heal, DPS/tank, etc) is going to gimp your min/max. Nor do I see that as "in demand" in any guild.

Learn to play a pure class (or one type of a hybrid class) that you enjoy for progression. Then play around with other/hybrid classes to see what you like.

And off-spec for PvP. Enjoy the damn game.

Playing at a high level with 2 classes in WoW just seems like a silly waste of time.

Or maybe I'm just too casual with my measley 15-20 hours a week.
 
@Bristal: The flexibility to be able to add another healer, tank or DPS based on the actual encounter is very valuable to a raid.

A Warrior or DK who can flip from the second off-tank to DPS is far more valuable than a Rogue who can only do one thing.

Nowadays, the only reason to have a balanced Raid Composition is Gear Rot. So if a class specific item drops it doesn't go to waste.

Even here, however, the hybrids can make a claim on lots of different types of gear for "off-spec" if that class isn't available.

Blizzard has consistently been removing the tradeoffs. Even traditional Rogue "weapons" are useful to other classes like the Druid Cat.

The so-called 'pure' DPS classes (Hunter/Mage/Warlock/Rogue) are the ones that are really getting hurt by Dual-Spec (at least from a PvE perspective).
 
I don't understand your argument here Tobold.

You suggest that Priests have the ability to dual spec Shadow/Healing Spec and use the same gear to be nearly as effective in both roles (or at least moreso than say a Warrior would using his Defense gear as Fury).

This is false. If your primary role is a healer, and you have geared your priest appropriately, then your dps as Shadow in the same gear will be quite poor in comparison to any comparably geared/skilled player who primarily plays as Shadow. The difference in effectiveness at your DPS role will be comparable to the Prot Warrior moonlighting as Fury in his Prot gear.

Why? Your aforementioned hit. A healer will have little if any hit. If you were to raid as Shadow with effectively 3% hit rating, your potential dps would be significantly less than a hit capped, T9/Triumph badge gear equipped Shadow Priest of equal skill. Missed spells are not only wasted GCDs and mana, but they can also have knock-on effects. Use an ability the refreshes a debuff/DoT on the target? Better hope that ability hits to refresh that debuff/DoT or you now have two spells to recast and one more wasted GCD.

Perhaps the loss in DPS potential is less severe for the every-now-and-again Shadow Priest than it would be for a Ret Paladin or Fury Warrior. However, it's in the same ballpark and if you doubt that, try it sometime.
 
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