This weeks's Wow Insider Community Blog Topic is - Should all classes get 4 specs?
So here's my long-winded answer
The idea of adding a fourth spec to classes has been floating around since it was decided to pull the tanking spec out of the druid's feral tree and give it it's own tree called guardian. And I really don't like it. With druids it made sense because they already had the in-game presence of four specs. It wasn't really adding another spec so much as finally freeing up the feral tree from that tanking influence. It was very much coming.
When death knights were created Blizzard tried an experiment where every tree could do everything. And they decided it was a mess. To be successful at tanking the dps became too strong with their defenses and to be successful dps the tanks became too powerful. But it wasn't an entirely new experiment. The druid feral tree has long been supporting two different roles. But it wasn't always doing it well.
While I didn't play in vanilla I've heard from enough sources to be confident in saying that the original bear and cat specs weren't very good. Unless you were resto you weren't going to raid. I'm sure there were exceptions. There always seems to be exceptions. In BC, specs were given some love and allowed to be useful. Although some classes and specs were more valuable then others. From what I understand bears could tank but weren't quite as good as warriors and pallys because they didn't have access to as much gear with defense and they lacked two of the defensive stats. I also heard that feral cats just could not produce the dps values that rogues could so were less desirable to bring along as dps. Wrath took the progress BC made and continued to work to make all specs viable. It was in Wrath that I really started to play.
In Wrath cats were either really freaking good or they just sucked. It depended on how well you could master the madness that was the cat rotation. Bears on the other hand were a mindless spam of swipe and maul with some mangles and one bleed to watch. But they made good tanks. And it was possible, with careful allocations of talents to be a really good cat and when the shit hit the fan to turn into a perfectly capable tank. But they weren't the only ones who could. Death knights were able to as well. I think if the experiment had worked there might have been some experimenting to make other specs open to two roles.
But it didn't work. So Blizzard fixed the biggest mess first. The death knight. They took a look at what they had and decided that blood tanks were the preferred spec for tanks that were working on heroic Lich King. I'll admit I might be wrong about that since I didn't play a death knight back then and could barely keep abreast of all the stuff that was happening with druids. But I do remember seeing a lot of blood tanks for raids and a lot of frost ones for dungeons. But for whatever their reason they choose blood for the tanking tree. And began to make sure that each spec could support one role and do that well. It did mean there were a lot of changes to death knights but it was a good thing. Before that change death knights saw a constant round of nerfs and changes ever patch to try and address balancing issues. Time that might have been spent working on other issues. Such as frost mages.
While it was a cool idea to have every tree support tanking and dps it was just took too much time and effort to try and bring things inline. So in Cata the druids were the only class with a spec that covered two roles again. And it was still possible to make a dps that could tank well if not as well as other tanks or to make a tank that could dps well if not as well as other dps. It put feral druids in a rather odd spot. Some loved being a bearcat. I'll admit that I tanked quite a few dungeons in my dps spec just because I forgot to change it. But was that really fair?
I think it with the changes in mind for Mists it would have been much harder to prevent ferals from being bearcats if not impossible. One click would change someone from dps to tank. While the gear wouldn't change there's not much of a difference between bear and cat stats to put a giant damper on switching roles. Some players might even gear and gem to make the transition easier. But it would make druids really unique. While there's nothing wrong with unique there has to be some basics that all roles share. And there's no other class that's both tank and dps in one role. And for those who like bear but can't cat for the life of them it would make finding a tanking spot a little more difficult because they're neglecting half of their new role. And for those who just like to dps they might find themselves pigeonholed into being a tank because their spec supports it. Now that's a rather grim view of it and probably hyperbole. But to be the best feral you would need to have some idea how to use your other side.
But why should druids get 4 specs when the rest get 3? Because they always have had 4 specs. Nothing new was created. They didn't build this spec from the ground up. And would creating 10 new specs from the ground up be worth the time and effort? And how would they decide which ideas to run with. The biggest call I've seen for is to take pure dps classes and give them abilities to tank and heal. But people aren't quite agreed on what they want. There are those who would like hunters to be able to tank and they want it to be like beast mastery. I suppose that's simple enough but how do you make it so that they don't feel the same. Do hunters actually tank or do they use their pet to take damage? If so doesn't that make it just the computer tanking? I know that's a little rough but have you ever tanked dungeons on a hunter or warlock? I've done so and fairly recently. I've also gotten whispers that my minion was doing a better job then the previous or new tank that we get. But it's not difficult. You send pet to attack and just sit back and dps. Maybe though out a pet mend if the healer is slacking. But your not engaged in the tanking.
There have been calls to change one spec into tanking or healing specs. Such as turning affliction locks into healers rather like the green drake in Occulus. We all know how much we love Occulus. But the idea sounds cool of stealing life from bosses and giving it to everyone else. If you want to try that idea gather a bunch of level 79s in questing greens and go do Occulus and take the green drake. Then forget to reapply the dot. Or be late with it and have to spend time rebuilding that stack. It sucks. And I'd hate to try to be a healer in pvp. Sure you can steal a lot of health but I can image you'd get your butt interrupted, stunned, and silenced if you tried to channel your healing on anyone. But you would have your stacks keeping you alive. Unless you don't get much from stealing health from players. Afterall things have to be balanced.
But what about the people who love those specs as they are? Would that mean loosing what they love about the class forever? Yes, yes, I can now hear angry frost tank and blood dps death knights screaming at me from the background. For every person who loves it there will probably be a person who hates it. And hate lingers a lot longer then love.
So build something new entirely from scratch then! 10 brand new spanking spec would be awesome right? But I can't see Blizzard putting that much time into creating and balancing that. They already decided that creating a new class is difficult enough and that's just 3 specs. So do they just introduce a few at a time then? Who goes first and how do you keep the rest of the world from nerdraging that their class wasn't first? It'd really just be easier to create a new class. Look! New shiny class! Horray! And keep working at fixing and balancing the older classes.
That reminds me, which class do you think will get overhauled for the next expansion? In Cata it was Pallys and in Mists it was Warlocks. So do you think another class will get an overhual? And if, so, which one?