This is a guest post by Mimetir, an oversized owl of a raid leader on The Venture Co (EU). You can find her twitter feed at http://twitter.com/juddr.
I understood little about the game back when I was a young whippersnapper of a hammer-wielding paladin but I did know that those rather unfriendly zombies were hitting my party real hard now and I’d better cast that flashy light spell because no-one else did anything similar. Nowadays my boomkin suspects her claws are actually roots given the amount of times she’s dropped out of form to heal at a critical point. On the rare occasions my guild’s feral gets to DPS, he often finds himself bearing up and growling things off of the clothies. Even so, I regularly hear players bemoan that the hybrid classes are forgetting their utility and simply focusing on their single, chosen role. These comments usually come after an unsuccessful event or fight; a little help in healing from the paladin might have given the edge, or if the cat had just engaged bear’s-behind mode to help the overwhelmed tank out for a few seconds… A hybrid forgetting their flexibility just like a warlock forgetting to soulstone a healer. It’s something so integral to their class that they should do it automatically.
Hybrid classes allow a player to perform any and all of the three roles a group may require. Need a tank, DPS or healer? I can do all of those, says your paladin, druid or shaman. Admittedly the shaman can only tank under certain circumstances such as pre-60 instances, but this flexibility is something which makes these classes very popular choices for groups and also for players. Data shows that many players choose the paladin class, second only to the death knight – no surprise given the surge of DK mains when WotLK hit.
Still, some players are not able or willing to play a class to its full hybrid potential. I think there are three types of hybrid players:
- Those who are able to play different roles or specs for a sustained length of time – these are more common since the availability of dual spec
- Those who are able to respond to a situation by switching into another playstyle and back out at the drop of a hat
- Those who cannot or refuse to do either of these things and focus on one task.
I’ve said that a hybrid should know their class’ utility backwards – but should they? If hybrid players are a minority now this suggests that they are a dying breed. WoW is a lot easier to play than its previous incarnations, quibble as you like over the finer points. Perhaps gameplay no longer requires sharp hybrids with an eye always on utilizing their out-of-spec abilities. Mayhap the game has made facerolling, overpowered roles the hero of the day and has sidelined hybrid utility as a luxury addition to a raid. That would certainly explain why there seem to be less active hybrid players out there: Look, we are indeed all just DPS. Do you, as a raid leader or officer, notice more if your hybrid classes or your top DPS dies early on?
Raid setup is a lot more flexible nowadays and most encounters can be downed by any combination of characters. I have heard that level 60 raid setup required a lot more thought and arguably a different approach from the player to what they could contribute with their class. I often wonder whether a willingness to change roles at the drop of a hat is a long-term satisfying playstyle for hybrid classes. The cons spring to mind immediately. Two healers just went down; you the boomkin needs to heal, while the feral waits for an opportune moment to combat resurrect the tree. There goes your rotation. There goes your proc and DPS concentration. There goes the raid’s moonkin aura; the new order of the day is the stress of switching mental gears and trying to find your healing spells in order to keep the raid up. Your place on the DPS meter – sixth of ten. Yet again. Nevermind.
That shouldn’t matter of course – you have just saved the raid from a potential wipe: congrats, have a pat on the feathery back. Now get back to eclipsing.
Having a pivotal role in averting a wipe can be hugely satisfying. I would bet, though, that many hybrids find it wearisome to keep doing so. Speccing into a particular role means that you enjoy doing that and intend to do your best at it. A player constantly carrying the hybrid "millstone" may find that they don’t meet their own spec specific targets or feel that they are achieving their best. It can also be argued that WoW is a more competitive place than it used to be and many players no longer look deeper at performance than your DPS done during a fight, no mind that you spent half of it healing. That, too, can lead to friction in a group and for some players a disinclination to perform hybrid tasks or play that character at all – these are things which should be watched by both the player themselves and a prudent raid leader.
That said I believe that successful hybrids are still prized raid members. if you can perform whatever is needed without a moment’s notice then you may get a reputation as reliable and a quick thinker – attributes likely to get you a spot in the raid as much as the top DPSer of your guild. And wearisome though the millstone may be, it’s there as a reminder that you’re playing one of the most situationally flexible classes in WoW and that there are always new tricks to learn for a jack of all trades. What do you think? Do hybrid players play their classes as well as they could? Do you as a hybrid enjoy being pulled from pillar to post? Do your hybrid raiders matter more as flexible players or solid DPSers?