Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Respecs: Bad for (the Raiding) Business

Respeccing is a fact of life in WoW. There are very few people who have not, at one time or another, gone to our class trainer and clicked that unlearn talents button, paid our money, and seen our spec return to whence it came. At the very least, most people have spent a gold on fixing some misclicks made while levelling, or to switch from their levelling spec to an endgame spec of choice. In this respect, the respec is a valuable tool to all players. But there is a price to pay for the infinite availability of respecs (aside from gold; Lets face it, 50 gold is chump change in Outland), and that price is paid most heavily by the raiding guilds.

Now, to be fair, there are some great advantages to be reaped, even by the raiding guilds. Respecs allow raiders to switch from a grinding-oriented DPS spec into a more raid-focussed one, by dropping raid-unworthy talents like Spirit Tap, Wand Specialization, or Improved Voidwalker, to pick up more raid-focused talents (well, ok, Spirit Tap is a bad example, as the only other alternative is actually even LESS useful in raids, generally speaking). It also allows healers and tanks to use a DPS spec to level, and then switch to healing/tanking once they hit the level cap (At least warrior tanks, Prot pallys and feral druids are great at levelling).

It also allows for flexibility when a particular character encounters a fight for which their spec of choice might be a disadvantage. Warlocks, for example, might choose to spec affliction when learning the Gruul encounter to improve their DPS on such a high mobility fight. On hydross, however, they may decide to spec full-on destruction due to the problems that any form of damage over time can cause on transitions. And when you get to Leotheras? Better have someone specced SL/SL to tank demon form!

However, especially early on in Prophecy's raiding, respecs tended to be more of a curse than a blessing. Our number one problem, which has thankfully become less so as time goes on, has been healers respeccing to DPS roles. Oh, sure, it usually starts out as a "oh, just let me go feral this week, I'll switch back next time", or "I just want to see how I do on the meters as Ret". But for a long time, it seemed like any time any of our healers got a taste of damage-dealing, they were lost to it forever. Strangely, we never had that problem with tanks, but that may just be a part of the masochistic mindset we have.

Even DPSers respeccing, though, can be problematic. First of all, even when switching from one DPS spec to another, a character's gear will generally be subpar for their new playstyle. An affliction warlock's gear doesn't have the crit required to make Destruction really pay off, and a beast master hunter wont have NEARLY the agility of an equivalently geared survival hunter. But, even if a player has gone through the effort ahead of time to collect appropriate gear for their new spec, they aren't going to be on top of their game until they get used to the new spec. The affliction->destruction warlock is likely to pull threat more often due to his newfound burst threat from his shadowbolts, and that BM hunter is going to have to get used to a more involved shot rotation, for example.

Possibly the biggest hassle, however, isn't something the individual player has to deal with, but instead goes up the chain of command to the person in charge of filling the guild's roster. You cant just take 3 of each class blindly from a guild and call that a raid, you have to look at each person's chosen role, both the holy trinity positions of Healer/Tank/DPS, and the more specific benefits any particular spec brings to a raid. That hunter from before might have the gear, and the skill, to play a successful survivalist, but if the guild is already bringing two SV hunters to every raid, and he was the only person able to give the physical DPS group Ferocious Inspiration, it doesn't matter if he is the best survival hunter in the world, he is gimping the raid.

Personally, I have offered on many occasions to respec to full restoration to help the guild when we've been short on healers. And on all but one occasion, I've been turned down, or made to respec back to feral after one raid. The biggest reason my guild is so reluctant to let me heal is that they've come to rely on me as one of the most reliable tanks they have. By respeccing to heal, even though I have solid (though not optimized for resto spec) healing gear and a decent (if somewhat rusty) knowledge of the role, I would be leaving a hole in the guild's roster that is hard, if not impossible, to fill.

So remember, next time you're thinking about a major respec to your raiding characters: Its not just about your personal performance in raids, but about how well your unique skill set works with the rest of your raid. 25 FotM characters does not generally lead to a balanced, functional raid group.


Anonymous said...

Agreed'd Its also got to depend on the goal - and even risking a Pug - or Friend of Friend. They would need to be UBER desperate - Eg 24 people would have to walk away from a run if I wasnt to respec for me to do it again. ( damnn being flexible.. )

I feel uncomfortable playing Holy as a Priest - I didnt level in that spec or spend countless hours playing so that I was familar with all the little tricks and advantages for all circumstances. I would rather heal while in Shadow Spec then respec.

Matford, Nagrand said...

I think respec's are fine if they're done in consultation with the guild leadership.

Like many guilds starting raiding content we have too many tanks, not enough healers and just about enough dps for two Kara teams. At the time I came to the guild I focused on shadow because the leadership felt that was what was needed.

What's better for the guild though? For me to step up to the plate, pay the 30 gold and help the second Kara team get off the ground, or stay firmly purple and hang around the meeting stone because yet again we couldn't get enough healers?

Sure, it's a short term fix but IMO it's better to get those regular Kara runs happening and recruit either another dps or a healer and progress. I'm good at healing and I'm good at returning mana to the party so whichever role is more needed at the time, it's fine by me and far preferable to raiding with an alt.

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