Each week, Jason Lotito contributes Hybrid Theory, a new column on hybrid classes in World of Warcraft.
Healing has long been the widely accepted, much debated, raiding role of most hybrids. Most of the discussions regarding hybrid viability in end-game raiding are on helping hybrids in non-healing areas. This leads to a lot of discussion on the class boards that revolve around making other trees equally viable, or at least making them as desirable as the healing role. The outside audience generally views hybrids as healers first. Sure, the concept of a protection paladin, a feral druid, and a enhancement shaman enter the discussion on occasion, but at the end of the day, the popular opinion is if you have healing spells, you are healing.
This very attitude has long dictated many hybrids specs. For many hybrids, the desire to see end-game dominated their desire to play what is known as an off-spec build. These players bit the bullet and went the healing route. This isn't to suggest all players chose their healing spec because of outside pressure. Many healers really did want to heal and enjoy the art of healing.
Regardless, the attitude of many hybrids is to look down at those who spec for healing regardless of the reasons. Who's to blame them though? Often these players are playing an off-spec themselves. The retribution paladin or the "Boomkin" have been on the receiving end of these attacks for a long time, and all too often it's the healers making these very attacks.
When these healing hybrids attack their off-spec brethren it's usually to the call of "being useless on raids." These healers' views are a direct reflection of the popular opinion regarding hybrids. Unfortunately, this is all too often the truth. Consider the gear and the role the hybrids have generally played since the start of raiding. It's not mystery as to why the healing focused talent trees of hybrids are the most well-balanced and most complete. And because of Blizzard's long time support of these roles, it's hard to get past the simple fact that these healers have been tried and tested. This leaves us with human nature: people are afraid of change.
Of course attacking the spec of a player isn't just toward off-specs. Off-spec hybrids toss mean-spirited barbs at the healers as well. Names such as "healbot" and "sell-out" are all too common in these threads. The argument goes: no hybrid would choose to be a healer; instead, they are a healer because they were forced into the spec.
Finally, the last time of attack comes from self-professed "true hybrids." These players feel that any hybrid players who focuses on a single aspect of their character is turning away from their hybrid nature and instead should play one of the "pure classes." Never mind that the only true pure classes are DPS oriented. The debate of whether priests and warriors are hybrids due to their multi-role nature is still a hot one.
In each of these cases, the attacker merely discounts the other's argument because of his spec. After all, what does a holy paladin know about tanking or DPS? Or what does a feral druid know about healing?
These types of arguments have only recently taken off. Most blame Armory as the culprit. Granted, you can't blame Armory for providing simple information and it's not the only thing to blame. The expansion brought with it the hope of finding raiding roles outside of simply healing. What we tend to forget is because all of this is new to Blizzard it's going to take them time to get it right.
In the end, hybrids need to realize that attacking one another isn't the right answer. Sure, we don't want our chosen spec to suffer because another spec received a buff. But I really don't believe many people want to see the nerf bat hit any hybrid talent tree. Keep this in mind when you are debating back and forth on the forums. That guy asking for a buff to Retribution just wants to play that very real aspect of the paladin class.
I say "very real" because regardless of what people might think, there is a whole tree that contains useful talents that exists that is rarely used; in fact, retribution paladins are often laughed at and mocked on the forums (and yes, I readily admit I've done this as well). But in truth it's for no good reason at all.
Is it wrong that a hybrid actually want to play their class? Shamans have an elemental tree, druids have a balance tree, paladins have a retribution tree -- is it so wrong that they actually want to use it? Fundamentally, is it wrong that they want to play their class the way Blizzard intended them to be played?
To further illustrate this, next week I'd like to present some tips on how to actually gain acceptance from your raid and raid leader with a traditionally off-spec role. So, if you're a hybrid who is raiding with a non-healing spec, post your story below in the comments and tell me what you did to get that role. What steps would you recommend other people take if they want to raid as an off-spec? I have some ideas I'll be using, but I'd really like to hear from you.
During the day, Jason Lotito browses the WoW forums. But by night, he takes the form of Endure, a level 70 paladin, and faces off against the toughest bosses Blizzard has to offer with his guild at his side. He's previously played a shaman to 60 and raided Horde for a while, and is currently leveling a druid just to see what all the fuss is about.