4 Questions to Answer on the Respec Policy

4 Questions to Answer on the Respec Policy

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post detailing the freedom that players had in their own play. Reader Revaan wrote a series of questions that I wanted to answer but I never got around to it until now. I’ll divide that post into two parts: One with a direct Q & A to his questions and the second half with a more detailed thought process.


Revaan: The debating about consequences of respeccing seems to make it clear that every guild should have a policy about respecs. Do you require approval from anyone? If so who?

Matt: Yes and no. Players are free to respec on their own time for PvP or just for general farting around. I impose no conditions on their respecs. When it comes to raids however, they’re required to go back to the original spec they asked to be in when they joined the guild. I’ll elaborate more on this later.

Revaan: Do you have some sort of trial period with the new spec?

Matt: I usually give it a raid. I’ll compare that day’s performance with data from past raids and see if there’s a significant difference. If both specs are about the same, it’s a wash. I’ll let them decide what’s better for their style of play.

Revaan: What if the chosen role is full?

Matt: Tough. It’s first come first serve, usually. If there’s a set amount of tanks and another player wants to go Prot, it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever get a spot unless one of the tanks decides to retire or spontaneously gets their account hacked. But that rarely happens.

(Actually, at the time of this writing, I just found out one of my main tanks had his account compromised. Go figure.)

Revaan: Are they first up if that role opens up or will the guild recruit and you need to compete with applicants?

Matt: Typically no. Players tend to have a certain amount of gear invested in them. For them to change roles like that is a messy undertaking for the guild because not only do we have to find a replacement for the spec they switched from, we also have to gear up that player again. It would be as if we were gearing up two players again instead of one. I would much rather recruit from outside but I will never say never. Situations like these are often resolved in a case by case basis.


I don’t like asking people to re-talent themselves unless I have a very good reason to do so. I prefer to let players come to their own conclusion about what’s best for them.

Here is a list of the 3 goals for the 3 different roles in the game.

  • DPS: To deal an insane amount of damage
  • Heal: To heal or mitigate an insane amount of damage
  • Tanking: To survive an insane amount of damage

Respeccing within the role

Let me give you an example of a case where I approved a respec.

During the infant stages of Conquest when we were working our way through Naxxramas, we picked up a Rogue named Derek. He’s an extremely bright and skilled player. He wanted to try out a new spec because he had reason to believe that he could increase his DPS output.

I don’t know much about Rogues. But I figured I had nothing to lose. I was essentially trading a DPS spec for a DPS spec.

After the raid was done, I pulled up the Patchwerk notes for that day along with notes from previous raids and compared them.

Sure enough, Derek’s performance improved notably. It was partly due to gear and partly his style. But it seemed the spec helped a lot. Alas, from what I’ve been told, this upcoming patch may nerf it. You Rogues probably know what I’m talking about because I don’t know what I’m talking about. All I know is, he respecced and his damage spiked upwards.

Derek did an insane amount of damage before. After the respec, he did an insanely higher amount.

Allow your raiders to innovate and test new specs that allow them to excel at the same role. I had a Warlock (let’s call him Tom) who tried a new spec every raid for the first few weeks because he wasn’t sure what the optimum spec was.

What’s cookie cutter now could become outdated later.

As my former mentor Blori once told me,

There ain’t a problem in the world that can’t be solved without more DPS.

Inform your GM

Let your raid leader know. I guarantee you that they will generally be supportive (the good ones at least). Here’s the process:

Derek: Hey Matt, I’d like to respec.
Matt: Why’s that?
Derek: I think I can do more damage
Matt: Sure, go for it and let me know what you need.
Derek: Don’t forget to log me for Patchwerk so I can compare it to last week.

It’s that simple.

Respeccing roles

This one I am not as receptive as. A raid composition consists of a simple equation:

X healers + Y DPS + Z tanks = Dead boss.

By changing the equation, you risk rendering the problem unsolvable. A great tank does not necessarily make a great healer and you may find yourself short stacked on bosses from time to time.

It is an extremely tough sell to a GM. But that’s when everything is good.

On the other hand, if your raid has a few key role players absent, requesting a respec could end up being favorable.

If I’m short on healers and a DPS hybrid requests to go healing to help alleviate the stress, I am way more likely to approve it.

  1. Keeps the raid in house. I don’t have to outsource my important roles to trade chat.
  2. Solves a problem with little effort: It’s a good reflection on the guild member.

I guess my underlying philosophy towards respeccing can be boiled down to one line:

If it improves the raid group in any way, ask.

Image courtesy of marcello99

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About Matticus

Matticus is the founder of World of Matticus and Plus Heal. Read more of his columns at WoW Insider. League of Legends player. Caffeine enthusiast.


  1. Euripides says:

    I prefer the free market method of managing specs. If our top DPS hunter wants to switch to survival and his DPS falls to 60% of what it was before the respec, he’ll be more likely to get subbed out if we start having trouble. If we don’t run into trouble, then it didn’t cost us anything to indulge him.

    Another factor here is raid benefits- our moonkin does awesome DPS, but the mangle ability of a feral DPS druid would magnify the raid DPS of our group comp more than the moonkin aura. Any spec changes have to be evaluated as a whole. Our survival hunter in the first example will now bring replenishment and trueshot aura. Maybe that’s why we didn’t suffer much from his 40% loss of DPS.

  2. What about guild leaders asking a player to respec to fill a role in the raid? Is that fair?

    Darias last blog post..WoW, and the Evolution of MMOs

  3. @Daria – that assumes the person has the want (or ability) to play that spec, and you have an excess of where you’re pulling from. If that’s the case I imagine the guild would pay for it.

    If that’s not the case then you are (essentially) trading one problem for another – which doesn’t solve your problem, just recasts it in a new and interesting light.

  4. This goes back to the principle reason you (I) are here – which is to raid. Some people abhor certain specs (ex-healers usually) and would rather not play as that spec. I for one could care less. If I needed to spec “Teddy Bear” to down a raid boss then I would be there.

    Hell, if I (or any raider not burnt on a spec honestly) needed to respec for every boss fight in Naxx, and the g-bank were willing to pay for it (if I had the money I would), they would gladly respec. It’s a matter of goals. 50g <<< phat lewt and dead dargons.

    Also – if you are wanting to Ninja into a different spec – aggressively gear yourself for that spec (5/10 mans, enchants, etc.) then be prepared for when an opportunity opens up. If you want it bad enough just re-app to the guild as a different spec.

  5. matt, that’s great for DPS – it’s easy to benchmark them. How do you benchmark a disc priest changing their spec? How do you benchmark a prot warrior? I don’t think that tanks or healers really fall into that ability to be measured easily for the most part; you can at best compare healers to similarly-specced healers in a similar raid role and maybe what they did against the same content the prior week, but a lot of it is a crapshoot and based entirely on who they’re with. And that assumes you care at all about the meters for healing, which most of the time you shouldn’t.

    As to tanking…I guess you can look and see how much average damage a tank takes, but again – really RNG dependent, really dependent on who else is in the raid and who is healing you, and really dependent on the encounter.

    I’m curious more than anything, because I’ve seen you post that you have benchmarks for DPS performance before…but that doesn’t seem entirely fair if you don’t have similar benchmarks for tanks and healers.

    Kals last blog post..[General] Titanguard out, content still trivial

  6. Kal: You’re absolutely right. It’s not supposed to be fair. You can’t judge DPS players the same as tanks and healers. You have to whip out a different measuring stick.

    For tanks, you gotta see how they withstand the rigors of a raid. How is their threat generation? Are the alert? Do they go after loose mobs? I can spot a big difference between a freshman tank and a varsity tank fairly quickly.

    For healers, can they keep the tank alive? Are they using the right spells? How is their mana pool holding up? What’s their maximum healing output?

    It becomes much more subjective and much more detailed. Often the process goes on a big longer. But it doesn’t mean its impossible.

  7. If it is possible to have benchmarks for dps (and it usually is, bosses require a certain amount of dps before they enrage, not to mention do other bad things like just kill people), but not possible to have benchmarks for tanks and healers (as mentioned) why would it be unfair?

    My guild is fairly open to respecs at the moment, but we are still early in the raiding curve, there is still some flexibility. As we fill out our roster, there becomes less. We are full on tanks, a friend wanted to join us, he went dps. We have the right amount of healers, enough so that to use all our healers in 10 mans, one of them wll often respec boomkin so all who want to can have a spot. Do we take undergeared folk in for preference respecs? No, but we will help hybrid build more than one gear set that is at least passable with badges, heroics, and 10 mans. We main spec before off spec, but of spec before shard.

    I am a healing priest, we hit the wall on 25 man Instructer ras because our guild had only 2 priests, both holy. So, what did we do? tried to recruit, but for some reason we cant find a shadow priest, so we built healing sets for two hybrinds and hit sets for the other shadow priest and I.

    This sort of thing is and should be very guild dependent. What do players think is expected, what have the leaders said? What does the guild need?

  8. Speaking of respecing for the sake of a guild raid, what are the thoughts about the dual spec system Blizz has been talking about?

    Currently my druid is very geared and ready to tank OR heal Naxx. Don’t have a lot of Naxx gear yet, but I’ve been working very hard in heroics and have all my enchants and stuff ready to go. The problem of course is that not only is it 50 gold to change specs, but at least another 50 for the new glyphs. Then, after raid is done, if you want to change back (I’m not doing dailies in resto spec, sorry) there is the same costs again. So, 200 gold out of the guild bank. I’ve turned my guild down a couple times when they have asked, because I know when they asked they were just trying to pull together enough people for a couple last shots at a boss. 200 gold isn’t worth 4 or 5 wipes and then the raid gets called. Or, I should say, in my opinion my skills aren’t going to have enough of an impact to be worth 200 gold.

    But when dual specs comes out, man, I’ll drop what I’m doing and be there every time. But what about the players that are not geared enough in their chosen offspec to do that? Are you going to let them roll on loot that they may be using when you call them into a raid?

  9. I’ve never been in a guild that cares about respeccing within a role. If a DPS spec wants to try a DPS spec, they’re free to do so. Now if their damage dips we might question them, but really…we don’t care!

    Now respeccing out of a role? You can do it if you want…but if you’re, say, healer going DPS, then you’ll be fighting for slots more. And raids might not happen if we can’t replace you as a healer. BoO’s always been more of a “do what makes you happy and we’ll cope” type group, though. Pixels r NOT srs bzns. FUN is srs bzns.

    I first raided with my current guild as a tank. A burned out healer novice tank. We ended up with a few too many tanks come Wrath, so I offered to go back holy. I could go back prot if I wanted to…

    …but I kind of like raiding every week, and would feel guilty if we couldn’t raid due to lack of a healer. Or if they got a shitty pug. Y’know?

    Stiil, it’s a game. If respeccing will keep a good player around…well, that’s what we’d rather have!

    Ambrosines last blog post..Spirit Vs Mp5

  10. @Copey: But what about the players that are not geared enough in their chosen offspec to do that? Are you going to let them roll on loot that they may be using when you call them into a raid?

    If they’re not geared enough, then they stay in the role or spec at which they are most effective. If that means staying Resto, it means staying Resto. Loot that main specs need will be prioritized to main spec players first. If no player needs it, it’ll be opened up for off spec. The rules haven’t changed.

    The integrity of progression raids cannot be compromised. Farm raids are a different story.

  11. Matt, I guess I’m not clarifying myself well enough. I’m saying – how do you tell the difference when a tank respecs right now? With DPS it is easy and objective. With tanks…how do you gauge whether their spec is adequate, better, or worse?

    As an example, I’ve recently respecced to get more cat talents. It should cost me a small amount of threat, but nothing special – maybe on the order of 3-4%. In the current content, this is meaningless. For the progression we have (Sarth3D), it’s meaningless. However, I can’t imagine actually asking my GM for permission to do this, and even if I did I can’t imagine how they would go about evaluating whether or not it was reasonable.

    That’s the sort of thing I’m asking. I’m not asking whether or not changing specs from DPS to tanking (or vice versa) is rateable; clearly you can rate whether a healer is good or bad, whether a tank is good or bad. I’m asking how you can tell whether a spec change from one tanking spec to another or one healing spec to another is good or bad. I’m genuinely curious.

    Kals last blog post..[General] Titanguard out, content still trivial

  12. @Kal: Not much you can do there under then look at how they perform under their new spec. If a spec change is meaningless, then there isn’t any point to changing. At the same time, if it’s not going to have a meaningful impact, if you want to switch to it, then go for it. I think you may have took the post a bit too literally. You don’t have to ask for permission to invest 2 points from one talent into a different one. I’m referring to significant talent changes like from Frost to Fire or something (as a Mage example).

    I’m a results oriented player. If someone wants to invest a few points into something else, and their performance doesn’t suffer OR increase, then that’s their call to make.

    Like as a Priest, if I were to go deep Holy and pick up Test of Faith (6% increase if targets are under 50% health) versus Serendipity (more mana back based on overheal), I might go Test of Faith first. But if I run out of mana more often, I may invest the full into Serendipity, for example. While there is generally some GM oversight involved. We can’t babysit every player down to the wire. I expect my players to do what’s best for them and for the raid in general.

    In any case, for me it’s difficult to tell whether Frost is better than Blood. As long as DKs do what they can to survive and deal enough hate to hold threat, I’m happy. A 2% difference in threat isn’t going to be a problem UNTIL it becomes paramount that it’s a problem. That’s when I start asking questions.

  13. It’s one of those things, If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But having recently having to have asked a few people to respecc, I understand the need. I hate asking someone to respecc, or telling someone no on a respecc, but if there is a glaring gaping flaw that’s causing you to bash your head against the wall, I don’t really see an alternative.

    I agree though, minor spec changes like 2 points here and there aren’t a big deal, but when you have 24 other people looking to progress and not flail on a boss all night long any major changes are definitely something that should be O.K.ed or at least talked about with your raid leaders. Like if your guild’s top Resto Shaman all of a sudden wants to go pew pew, that’s something that should be O.K.ed by the people who are in charge of making things run smoothly.

    Last thing you want is a holy priest showing up to the raid “SURPRISE!!!! I’M SHADOW!!!!!!!” (which in vanilla wow we had happen one naxx run *sigh*)

    Lodurs last blog post..New Guest Post!

  14. Great subject and post Matt. I have been following your site for a few weeks now and you and your crew always have ineresting subjects that I really want to read.

    Keep up the great work!!!

    I think the best situation for the guild would be what you outlined about a raid short of a healer, etc. And a guildy steps up and doesn’t mind respeccing to help the raid progress through the content on that night. That is a win-win situation.

    Worse case scenario is when you have a healer (and usually they are limited) that wants to dps. Most guilds have dps waiting in line to get into a raid where healers are less abundant. I would want to aviod thi one in most cases.


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