Will You Be Dual Spec-tacular?

Duality by vladstudio
Duality by vladstudio

Less than two weeks out from the Wrath of the Lich King release, I find that one of the upcoming changes I am most excited about will hit not with the expansion itself, but with an upcoming content patch. At some future point, many of us–particularly hybrid classes–will have the flexibility we’ve always dreamed of. The promise is that each character will be able to maintain two stored specs and switch between them easily. You won’t be switching during combat (imagine the exploits) but in a complicated dungeon, for one fight you could be the healer, and the very next you could be the tank or even (gasp!) dps.

There is every chance that this change will revolutionize gameplay, particularly for healers. Most of us would jump at the chance to heal for a 25-person raid and then tear through our daily quests as a long-feathered, wide-hipped, booty-shaking, snuffle-hooting Owlbeast. I know I would. However, I’m even more interested in the long-term effects of dual spec capability on the raid environment.

Of course, even with Matticus’ fascinating insights into raiding Naxx on the Beta, we still don’t have quite enough information to make fully-fledged (get it, a feather joke) healing strategies. However, that doesn’t mean that my evil little tree-brain isn’t working. As the healing lead for my guild, the following is my diabolical plan to take the fullest possible advantage of dual specs.

1. All healers will maintain a raid-viable dps spec and a raid-viable healing spec.
2. All healers will take appropriate dps gear at the off-spec dkp price and appropriate healing gear at the on-spec price.
3. All healers will practice both play styles in a raid environment.

Why is this plan such a winner? Read on to find out how the dual spec system will save your raid–and the world!–from much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

1. I can adjust the number of healers for each fight.

Based on what I’ve read on Matticus and elsewhere, it seems that Wrath of the Lich King raid encounters require, on the whole, less healers than Black Temple or Sunwell. My guild–and probably many others–recruited its healing corps with the latter two instances in mind. At the moment, we have at least 12 healers who raid on a semi-regular basis. Our healer retention has been excellent, and many of these players have switched part or full-time to alts for raiding in order to keep their spots. However, even with this partial solution, we sometimes have 10 great healers sign up to raid. My solution for Wrath? I’m not about to force people to respec dps or to reroll warlocks and enhancement shammies. Instead, we’ll share the dps and healing roles, and everyone will get to play what they want at least some of the time. In addition, I don’t fully trust the developers not to put in some fights that require 5 healers and others that require 8 in the same instance. With dual specs in place, it will just be too tempting.

2. My healers will become better players.

Yes, this belongs to the category of what I like to refer to as “L2P Raiding Solutions.” It’s going to be hard to switch from doing what Ghostcrawler referred to as “playing the UI, not the game,” to actually targeting a boss or, even more incredibly, assisting off a designated player. I look forward to this process. I need to go through the learning as much or more than anybody. An expansion, as I see it, is a great opportunity to get better at the game, and I know there’s going to be a learning curve. By, let’s say, next February, I want to be that player that people trust to do whichever task, dps or healing, is most necessary. Those players already exist, but I’ve had too much tunnel-vision to be one myself.

3. No one will feel stuck.

Sometimes all of us need a little change, a little breath of fresh air. I think that dual specs are going to help ward off healer burnout, and to demonstrate that, I’m going to resort to a very mundane metaphor. Let’s compare two real life humans–Level 30 Scholars, let’s say, and for the sake of argument, we’ll call them Sydera and Briolante. Now, Syd owns about 10 pairs of shoes she can wear to work, and she never wears the same pair twice in a row. Brio wears the same pair of admittedly very nice dress shoes every day. At the end of six months, whose footwear is in better shape? Variety is the spice of many things, my friends. If I know that I can cast gigantic Starfires on one of the bosses on a given evening, all the while hooting to myself in owlish glee, I’m likely to heal for the rest of them with good grace. Many healers feel victimized and put upon–our job is rather stressful, and blame sticks to us like cat hair on cashmere. What a nice relief it will be to sometimes focus on the boss instead of the little boxes on my Grid!

Dual Specs are Wonderful! But Why Do We Have Them?

I’d like to spend a few moments speculating about the underlying reasoning behind the dual spec change. It goes against many of the trends laid in place during Classic WoW and BC. First, WoW has always made players pay for flexibility. As we all know, the Vanilla WoW design for hybrids could be summed up by the hackneyed refrain “jack of all trades and master of none.” Moreover, gold costs for respecs–used more by hybrids than other classes–used to climb to obscene levels in Classic.

In BC, the fate of hybrids improved somewhat. Aside from a few broken specs (notably Moonkin and Retribution Paladin), hybrids became raid viable, but also just as limited to one role as any “pure” class. Respecs were of course possible, and in BC they top out at 50 gold, which still cannot be considered a reasonable price for mid-raid respecs.

Maybe it’s my own selfish featherbrain, but I think that the changes we’re seeing to how respeccing works–which is basically the removal of the penalty for changing your mind–have a lot to do with the perceived fun of playing hybrids–bringing us closer to the jack of all trades model again. I think this change might even have more to do with healers than other classes. We know that, my own freakishly healer-heavy guild aside, healers are often in short supply. For Wrath, Ghostcrawler has laid out the possibility that raid healing might be overhauled entirely, just as was done with tanking. The idea, in general terms, is to make raiding “more fun.”

What is more fun, in the developers’ minds? Based on the druid class changes for 3.0, I can take a guess. Despite what some healers find entertaining, Blizzard doesn’t want us to be tied too closely to timers or set-in-stone rotations. Pre-3.0, I used to cast something–usually an instant, and many times Lifebloom–every time the GCD was up. This means that I can spare about half an eyeball for the raid environment, and I haven’t even seen many raid bosses. I spend too much time looking at Grid with one eye and the ground–for nasty AoE effects–with the other. To a certain extent, this is necessary for proper focus–I’m not sure that Briolante spends much time gazing longingly on, say, Archimonde’s face either, even though he’s up there tanking. Here’s a quote: “Demon crotches get old after a while.” The developers want play to be variable, engaging, movement heavy, and reactive rather than proactive. As a druid healer at the moment, I feel that I’m supposed to entirely change my playstyle, and old habits–like maintaining Lifebloom rotations–die hard.

At least dual specs are actually fun! Many times, the developers seem to design away from fun by putting arbitrary limitations on things–the recently removed movement speed reduction for trees comes to mind, as does the prohibition on flying in Northrend until level 77. It is my hope that, whatever they do to healing, the dual spec possibility keeps me from entirely losing my mind, or, should I say, my feathers.

39 thoughts on “Will You Be Dual Spec-tacular?”

  1. This will possibly be the best idea they could have ever had. I just recently switchback to resto on my newb shammy and my lvling went from 2 lvls a week from casual play as enhance to 2 weeks a lvl as resto…

  2. I had always thought the dual spec idea was put in for tanks. Even moreso than Healers the number of tanks needed changes dramatically from trash to boss and from boss to boss. Tanks who aren’t tanking feel pretty useless and are sometimes even swapped out for ‘real’ DPS.

    With Dual Specs, any Tank that isn’t tanking can switch to DPS spec and actually put out competitive dps. Designers no longer have to design around the idea that you have a couple of tanks doing Prot level DPS, but can assume you’ve got the required number of tanks (1 to 3 usually) and healers and the rest are DPS.

    honorshammers last blog post..It’s A Bonus

  3. I’ll be a very happy dual-spec druid. I love healing in groups. I like it better than DPS or tanking and I’ve done it all. But I really hate solo-ing as a healer and I play solo a lot. This dual spec thing may be the thing that gets me into instances more often finally.

  4. As someone who is going from being a raiding shadow priest at 70 to a raiding holy priest at 80, I am SO looking forward to dual-specs. I was not looking forward to having to respec to do dailies or farm or quest, so dual specs will save me an enormous amount of money.

    Karlas last blog post..re-evaluating my strategy

  5. When exactly are dual specs being implemented though? For me that would be the difference between playing my hunter and resto druid through Northrend. Levelling as a healing spec – painful.

    Marcs last blog post..A WotLK Desktop

  6. Dual specs will also shine for PvE vs PvP, which means that those of us intending to use double PvE specs should take aspirin before PvP sessions.

    If dual specs are as painless as has been hinted, I’m not sure I’ll be leveling my mage or rogue — at least not soon.

  7. I have 4 70s right now. 2 are healers and 2 dps. I could care less about dual specs on my DPS, but I’m sooooo very excited about it for my healers! I love the idea of having a dps spec and a healing spec. It will be wonderful for those times when different encounters require a different number of healers. It will also be very nice for when I am soloing to be able to switch to a dps spec. I cannot wait for this change!

  8. Once I get my 70 priest to level 80, it’ll be a question of holy for PVE versus discipline for PVP, for me. I never cared for being a shadow priest so that’s an easy one.

    The thing I do like is that my 70 boomkin druid (never anything else since lv 1) will have the opportunity to be both boomkin and a healer, which, granted, she’s never done before…but seeing that I already know what it’s like to heal, I think I’ll be able to learn quickly. I’ll be able to have two healers available to the guild as needed.

    And for my level 50 shaman? Spec one enhancement, spec two elemental. πŸ™‚

    Yes…I like hybrids.

  9. I’m still not all that excited about this change. Its my mentality, I suppose.

    I play x character to do tanking, y character for healing, z character for DPS, etc. I like them that way. I’m not a roleplayer, but I like “getting into character” in the sense of the style and feel they give with how they play. I abhor tanking on my Druid, but I love it on my Warrior. I hate healing on my Shaman, but I love it on my Druid. I’ve never even tried DPS on my Warrior, but its major good times on the Shammy.

    I can see the idea for those who feel hamstrung by costs of respeccing. I’ve never been there, myself. When I play, I play to do what I feel that character does best. Its never been too bothersome for me to solo as a tank or a healer, and I’ve never spent respec gold to do it. Takes maybe 2-4 seconds longer to kill the average mob, but I usually have a lot more “uptime” doing it, since I either lose less health, or replace it far more efficiently.

    Your plan sounds nice, but I foresee potential conflict. Some people hate doing anything other than healing, and if they can’t raid as a healer, they’d rather PvP. Same thing goes for DPS, and for tanks. Assuming that isn’t a prob, non-hybrid players are gonna be pretty darn peeved at having to compete with both your healing AND your DPS spec every day for loot.

    Not just yours, but every other hybrid in the raid. Its not too huge when your healing and DPS specs have similar gear requirements, thanks to the change to spellpower, but what about when the offspec for DPS is melee. Maybe the other resto druid wants to kitty pew-pew. Maybe the Shammy wants to Enhance you. What option does a Pally have other than Ret for DPS? Or would they be forced to roll Prot instead, and help with tanking? And those that are in the role “full-time” so to speak, are forced to have you roll against them for loot, or accept that the next time you’re up as DPS, your performance will stagnate, and the raid may sufffer as a result.

    Its the same fight that’s played out in bad PuGs all the time-
    Player #1- “I’m gonna roll need on that.”
    Player #2- “But that’s a item, you are .”
    P1- I’ll be tomorrow.
    P2- But you aren’t today. Today I am the .
    P1- Its a bigger upgrade for me than for you, for .
    P2- Right, but I’m the 1 doing the role, and its still an upgrade. If you wanna be next run, then you can roll on it if it drops…
    -and so on.

    I’m not saying its unavoidable, just that I can foresee a lot of loot drama from it, and it really isn’t fair to anyone who isn’t playing a hybrid class, in my thinking. I really don’t even think it is especially fair to require it of other hybrid class players, either. If they would like to do it, ok, but otherwise they can use that side spec in the way that they like best. After all, the full-timer gets to go PvP if he can’t go with the raid, why can’t they? It just seems a bit…heavy handed…to tell others how to use that second spec.

  10. hmmmm some words were omitted from my post. “specific group role” and “different group role” should fill in the blanks of the conversation.

  11. Yggdrasil, are you on Smolderthorn by chance? Your screen name looks so familiar to me.

    If you are, I swear I’ve talked to you before, perhaps done a premade BG even. My priest is Allindra and my druid is Rivellana.

    Just curious…and you make good points about the spec thing. Hopefully people would realize that they should only be rolling on gear for back up specs after everyone has rolled for primary specs. That’s what my guild does right now.

  12. LOL…

    I’ve definitely seen the name (another druid) on my server before. I guess there must be more than one. πŸ˜›

  13. Nope, that isn’t me. I like my privacy, and I’m a hair on the paranoid side, so that moniker isn’t actually a character name of mine. πŸ˜‰ “Yggdrasil” is actually the World Tree of Norse mythology, so it wouldn’t surprise me if another Resto Druid player used it.

    The loot thing could be ironed out pretty quickly by a mature group, but even then it would ask for a lot of concessions from players that they wouldn’t necessarily need to do in another raid or guild. Which means that people start leaving, or stop playing, which is bad when you are in the business of raiding. Then it becomes the business of “trying to raid”. Ultimately, with the dual spec system, there is no “off spec”, particularly if you are using both to raid with. Both are fully developed specs, you have both specs all the time, and both are providing a role within the raid.

    Presumably, if you are raiding as both, you’d use your DKP\brownie points\what-have-you equally on items that compliment both. The problem there is, if you aren’t getting more DKP/brownie points/etc. than everyone else, you end up with 2 specs that are suboptimally geared, and therefore less desirable to do either role by default. If you are, other people get frustrated, since they are putting forth the same time and effort. The last, and most likely, option is that you only invest in getting upgrades for 1 spec or the other. Over time, as the encounters become tougher, you are forced into using that spec because it is the most efficient way for the raid to use you, and the other spec is too undergeared to contribute in a meaningful fashion anymore. This could be offset to a degree by craftables, and by extra runs of “farm” content, but these take time or resources a guild or raid may be disinterested in investing, particularly if they have a solid raid group already.

    I can certainly see Syd’s perspective. Maximizing the potential usage of individual raiders is great, its awesome to not have to bench a friend because you have too many of what they do, and it would honestly probably work very well for her guild, I just don’t think it would necessarily work for all, and I definitely don’t see it as a panacea for all the troubles of a raid in general.

  14. Does anyone actually know when Bliz is planning to release the saved dual-specs?

    If it’s sooner rather than later, it could play a part in if I choose to level my priest first or level my druid and dual-spec her balance/resto.

  15. @Veneratio: Two tank specs? Just wow. I love the dedication.

    Also: starstruck moment–the famous Veneratio reads my posts! πŸ™‚

  16. I love your three point diabolical plan but what criteria are you using to differentiate healer and dps gear in point 2?

    >2. All healers will take appropriate dps gear at the off-spec dkp price and appropriate healing gear at the on-spec price.

    Im assuming +Hit will be the deciding factor in cases where its not so obvious.

  17. No…it’s not this patch, the new patch notes for today were up on MMO Champion, already looked over them.

  18. @ Thunder

    The difference between healer and dps gear goes a little deeper than +hit. Check out Resto4life–Graylo of Gray Matter wrote a great post there explaining all about it. It’s partly subjective, however, and rather dependent on class and a person’s existing gear set.

    For my guild, what I’m going to do is start a thread about it and go through the loot table and make some recommendations for healing and dps for certain classes. Then, as always happens, the guildies will have at it and refine my list for me.

  19. @ Vene- I’m actually pretty conflicted on that very point for my Warrior. An off tank spec that emphasizes rage efficiency and DPS, or have a Fury /Arms DPS spec that I’d probably neglect completely. As I said, I play the Warrior to tank, and really for no other reason.

  20. Dual-speccing would allow a healing corp to balance the number of AoE and single target healers. Particularly for 10-man raids with a smaller player pool. Resto Shaman is away, your Disc priest goes Holy.

    Similarly for tanks.

  21. I thought that I read they will be free…that’s the focus of having two “saved” specs so that you can save yourself respec costs.

  22. I found out about it first from mmo-champion.com. They don’t have a search feature for their old blog posts, unfortunately, but the information comes from a blue post a few weeks back–right around the time of Blizzcon, I think.


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