Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Hybrid Tax - GONE

This post is a continuation of the previous, and second in a series exploring "The Hybrid Tax" and how it shapes the game.

The heralded design philosophy of Wrath of the Lich king was “Bring the Player, not the Class.” This phrase might as well be stamped all over every square inch of the expansion, because I swear I have heard this more than 100 times from the developers over the last two years. This philosophy meant that while each talent spec had its own unique flavor and abilities, its throughput and performance would be roughly on par with other classes performing the same role. In addition to normalizing the classes, the developers took the raid buffs that were before isolated to one class, and gave them to two or more classes so that raid compositions could be more flexible.

The caveat is that the pure DPS classes would be tuned to push out more damage than any hybrid DPS class, simply because a pure DPS class doesn’t have the option of fulfill any other role in a PVE environment. While this gap between pure and hybrid still exists, it is vastly smaller than what it was in previous versions of the game. While this is good in theory, things kind of hit the fan when this gets put into practice.

Tanking and healing classes were normalized as well, but more in the sense that Bears, Tankadins and DKs were given versions of the tools that warriors had a monopoly on previously i.e. damage reduction cooldowns (Shield Wall) and temporary health boost (Last Stand). Healers also were given tools so that they could do their jobs more effectively. Each healing class could tank or raid heal to an extent where previously they were SOL.

Hybrid classes have ultimate flexibility in a PVE environment. If a hybrid class wants to change rolls in PVE, then it is a simple 50g and a visit to the trainer. When WOLK first came out, Dual Specialization did not exist. There was a barrier in place if you wanted to change rolls from DPS to Tank to Healing, albeit a small one. It was a pain in the butt to go to town, unlearn everything, re-talent, setup my action bars, and shift my mindset. On average it took about 10 minutes out of my playing time if I wanted to completely change roles. If a pure DPS class wanted to change roles, then there was a much larger time investment involved leveling up a brand new class, not to mention appropriate gearing so that they could compete in current content, and learning the class mechanics.

The class trainer was probably the most popular kid in town before patch 3.1 hit. If someone was playing at endgame, they were most likely carrying two sets of gear and fulfilling two roles, be it PVP and PVE, or carrying an offspec for PVE. Personally, I was respeccing 4-5 times a night during farming Sunwell due to paladins being overpowered at various roles for each boss.

Dual specialization was a boon to almost everyone who played the game when it was first introduced, but it began chipping away the benefit to being a pure DPS class. Everyone who had 1000g can now have fast access to two different sets of talents and glyphs. If a raid leader had a choice between bringing a hybrid DPS with a helpful offspec and a pure DPS to a raid all other things being equal, the hybrid DPS might present itself as a better option given that there is more flexibility in the roles that a hybrid can fill.

The question then becomes, is that marginal DPS between pure and hybrid DPS enough to tip the scales towards the hybrid DPS for that raid spot given that the Hybrid can perform more than one role in a raid? The short answer, maybe. The hybrid DPS could be a good replacement for a pure DPS in my eyes if one of the following are true:

1) The hybrid is completely competent in both of their specs and gear.

2) The pure DPS in question is on the margin either because of survivability or performance.

The long answer will come in the next post. The answer depends on how you play the game.

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