Monday, February 25, 2008

What is a Hybrid; or, Why its called Living Shard of the Wildheart

First off, just let me say this: I am in FULL support of my healing brethren in their fight against the Lifebloom nerf. Having gone through similar PvP-induced raid nerfs in the 2.0.10 patch nearly a year ago, I hope that Blizzard wakes up and finds some way to prevent this nerf from totally screwing over the raiders (Like they did for feral tanks by giving Mangle a threat multiplier, and making lacerate generate threat against bleed-immune mobs). However, I feel there is a TON of coverage of the LB nerf from Resto4Life and the rest of the druid blogging community, so I'm going to leave the actual discussion about it to them. Keep on fighting the good fight!

Instead, what I want to talk about today, at least initially, is the concept of a hybrid, and how it fits (or doesn't fit) with the druid class. At first look, druids are THE hybrid class of the game. We're the only class that can perform all 4 of the primary roles found in the game: Tanking, Healing, Melee DPS, and Ranged DPS. By comparison, warriors can tank and do melee DPS, priests can heal and do ranged DPS, Paladins can tank, do melee DPS, and heal, and shamans can heal, do melee DPS, and do ranged DPS. However, while these classes, to varying degrees, are in fact hybrids, the individual MEMBERS of these classes, I contend, are not. In my opinion, to consider a character hybrid, they have to be equally good in multiple roles at the same time, something that no class can do without at least a change of gear, and for most roles a change of spec, as well.

Ask any responsible hybrid class player how many sets of gear they have, and they will have at least 2 full sets of gear: A tanking or healing set, and a DPS set of some sort (for grinding if nothing else). If they only have one set of gear, they're either not playing their class to the fullest, or they're still levelling up (and even when levelling, many hybrids carry multiple gear sets for instance running). I personally have three primary gear sets that I carry with me at all times: my tanking gear, my cat DPS gear (which only shares a few pieces with the tanking gear, namely my T4 gear), and my healing gear. I also maintain a set of caster DPS gear, and have plenty of other gear for use on specific encounters (Resist gear, various trinkets, high stam set, etcetera).

If I were a hybrid, I would have one set of gear, and that set would perform equally well in all roles. Sure, I could put together a set of gear that is, in fact, hybridized, but I would never wear it. When asked to a group, a hybrid is asked to perform a specific role, be it tanking, healing, or DPS, and that one role alone. Sure, there may be times when a hybrid is asked to perform a secondary role, such as offtanking or offhealing, but in those cases, they know of it beforehand, and change into gear appropriate for that new role. We dont wear hybrid sets, because while a hybrid set can let us perform better in roles we may fill 10% of the time, its at a huge cost to our effictiveness the other 90% of the time.

Now, look at any hybrid player's spec. See many 20/20/21 specs out there? Didn't think so. Thats because, while an individual class may be capable of performing multiple roles, since a person will only be filling one role at a time, it is best to complement that one role with a spec which matches the role. A priest who heals most of the time is going to avoid the shadow tree in favor of holy and discipline. A druid who sits back and casts balance spells isn't going to go into the feral tree, they're going to dig deep in balance, and then pick up some complimentary caster talents in the restoration tree to round it out. This is why when people are looking to fill out a group, they dont generally ask "Want to heal our Blood Furnace run?" Instead, they ask "Are you Resto?" or "Are you Holy?". Sure, its possible to have a feral druid or shadow priest heal your run well, but your odds are MUCH better if you get a tree or a holy priest, and with how bad PuGs usually are, group leaders want to stack the deck in their favor as much as possible.

Why do I bring all of this up? Well, this past saturday, Prophecy hit another milestone, killing off Hydross the Unstable in our third night of attempts. And sure enough, to commemorate our victory, Hydross dropped what is known to be one of the crappiest druid items known to man: the Living Root of the Wildheart. A trinket that at first looks like it might be a decent item, giving the wearer 4070 armor in bearform, 64 strength in cat form, 209 spell damage in moonkin form, 326 healing in tree form, or 175 damage/heal in caster form. But when you realize that those bonuses only happen when the trinket "procs", and that the trinket has a whopping 3% proc rate, you start to realize that in any one form, the thing is pretty crappy and unreliable.

The one useful role this trinket could potentially play is as a hybrid item. However, as we already mentioned, hybrid gear isn't really useful, as a druid will always wear the appropriate gear for every fight, and there really aren't many fights where druids will be asked to fill a hybrid role (Ironically, the Hydross fight itself was one such occasion, as I tanked adds until they were dead, then shifted to cat form to contribute more DPS on hydross until the next add phase . . . too bad the armor from the living root is completely useless against elemental damage, eh?). And even if you WERE to switch roles a lot, that would just increase the chance that the root would proc 4000 armor right before you switch to caster form to do some offhealing. . . wasting the proc entirely. And of course, procs at the end of a fight would be wasted as well.

Ultimately, there are some people who claim that the proc rate of the root, while small, keeps the buff up enough to make the trinket worthwhile to a single form. I find this hard to believe, though. For example, lets say you're a tree druid spamming lifebloom at every single cooldown. This means that for every cast of lifebloom, the buff will be up if any one of the last 9 casts procced the trinket (10 if you have absolute perfect timing, maybe). This gives your odds of the buff being up at just shy of 24% (not 27%, since double procs simply refresh the timer instead of giving you twice the buff). Averaging out the value of the trinket, then, we get .24*326 = 78.24 bonus healing on average.

Looking at the other forms, we get 50.16 spelldamage in moonkin form when spamming wrath and moonfire (Same math as lifebloom spam), 28.16 strength in cat form (assuming 3 auto attacks and one special every 3 seconds, 44% uptime), 1493 armor in bear form (6 autoattacks/mauls and 10 instant attacks every 15 seconds, 36.7% uptime), and 42 damage/healing in caster form for what its worth.

When you look at the averages here, the trinket looks *okay*, but remember, we're assuming absolute maximum effect, while reality will be much lower on 95% of situations. For example, I'd only get about half benefit from the armor in bearform due to the fact that I'm only about 2k armor shy of the cap, and if we're assuming an average 750 armor, I'll equip my Mark of Tyranny and get just over 1k armor all the time instead. And my hat goes off to the moonkin who can sustain wrath spam through an entire bossfight (though if you're that advanced, why are you using this trinket for 50 spelldamage, when Darkmoon Card: Crusade gives you 80, and Icon of the Silver Crescent gives you an average of 69, and the proc is useable as controlled burst damage. And that 78 bonus healing in tree form? Pick up an Essence of the Martyr for an average of 134 bonus healing (again, with a controllable proc for burst healing) from badges, and then tell me the 78 from the Root, under ideal circumstances mind you, is worthy of a T5 item drop.

So, the trinket is subpar for single role druids, and while it may be better for druids in hybrid gear, with a hybrid spec, pulling a hybrid role, those druids dont exist in raiding. On the plus side, the LRotWH isn't alone in the unwanted hybrid gear club, though it is the shining star of the group. See also: Idol of the Raven Goddess (Which, despite its hybrid nature, can actually be decent in a 25-man raid setting when a full group can make use of a druid's auras. . . alas, by that time you have better idols though), Dungeon Set 3 (Properly socketed, and with its 2-piece bonus, at least somewhat decent as stop-gap healing gear), and the old hybrid epics from heroic dungeons that were visually the rest of the Dungeon Set (oh, but blizzard changed those into good feral pieces, since nobody used the hybrid gear).

Oh, and I forgot to mention. . . I won the trinket. Not that I plan on using the thing, I just hate to see items from a guild first kill get sharded. In my bank it will sit, at least for now. Eventually, either the trinket will be made useful like what happened with the heroic epics, or, much more likely, I'll get sick of having no bank space and vendor it, making it infinitely more useful than it was by using the proceeds to buy a stack of Mad Alchemist Potions for myself.


Idahoe said...

Fortunately, we do have a hybrid spec- Feral, which easily allows DPS and tanking with a simple switch in gear. I'm not sure that any other hybrid class has this sort of luxury.

Karellen said...

Feral Druids can heal non-heroic 70 instances with the right gear, too, since we're specced for Intensity and the shortened Healing Touch casting time. My healing set doesn't even have a belt or bracers and I can heal anything at 70 just fine with my tanking spec.

SuraBear said...

Key word in both comments: Gear. We can DPS and tank . . . with a switch in gear. We can heal heroics . . . with a switch in gear. Both of which I do. Neither of which would I ever use the Living Shard for.

PS: I also heal heroic instances as feral, and I rarely, if ever actually use Healing Touch. Lifebloom Stacks, Rejuvenation, and Regrowth for burst heals works incredibly well, and is very efficient (I usually dont even have to drink during heroics more than 3-4 times, though I do occasionally burn my innervate).

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