12 April 2010

The utility paradox

Why bring a shadow priest? I play in mid-range casual guilds and have never had to justify my spot beyond personal, competent performance (or lack of). But if you're a top-end raider, this question matters.

that's why the recent Cataclysm news is a cause for anxiety. Shadow priests (and boomkins) are losing a key debuff (misery), and replenishment is being toned down, but the hybrid tax, which keeps theoretical peak hybrid dps a short way below that of the 'pure' classes, is still very much a reality.

The fewer reasons you have to pick a specific class, the more you are going to pick purely on dps potential. So what happens if shadow priests have nothing unique or significant to add, but do five per cent less damage than a mage?

Blizzard's raid philosophy of 'bring the player, not the class' rightly demands that no one class or spec should be invaluable to a raid. This is both a pragmatic decision (10-man raids just can't fill every hole) and an idealistic one (it shouldn't matter what classes you and your mates rolled when you go raiding).

So here then is the paradox: in attempting to ensure hybrids are not special snowflakes that raids can't do without, Blizzard is in danger of ensuring raids only take pure dps.

You could argue five per cent isn't a lot. Perhaps you could even make that up in skill and gear at some levels of raiding, but then the same is also true in reverse. And to be sure, the tax on hybrid dps is lower now than at any time in WoW's history — but so too is the range of tools and buffs that hybrids bring. As Euripedes eloquently observes, utility is no longer the sole preserve of hybrids.

The only remaining argument for maintaining a hybrid tax is the base flexibility of the classes to switch between dps and healing or tanking, but this is a misleading argument. I think to suggest that raids take hybrids over pure dps for their ability to rescue raids at a clutch is rather far from the norm. Even then, if the damage playing field was completely even, I would argue that most raids would chose the utility that pure classes bring over the theoretical flexibility of a hybrid.

The more I look at it, the more the hybrid tax seems counterintuitive to, even incompatible with, the 'bring the player not the class' philosophy. Is it time the tax was finally dropped?


Leigh said...

Great post as always and certainly food for thought.

I raid ICC10 heroic with mates and they really value a shadow priest because of VE and my 2 hymns. Single target DPS I am up there with the rest of them because we are a caster stacked group, although I consistently get blown away by an arcane mage and a boomkim that is on roughly the same level as me. The rogue we bring would hammer us if he had raid buffs though :P

When I give them a choice of bringing me or my elemental shammy they always pick my shammy. The shammy does 2k less DPS (because of gear difference) but the buffs in the form of totems + heroism and no healing tax (i.e. dont have to drop shadowform) means he is a more attractive option then a high DPS spriest.

So my justification for a raid spot in heroic ICC largely comes down to me helping out the healers and the fact my priest outgears my shammy for DPS races. As soon as the shammy is on gear parity with my priest I can't see a reason for them bringing my priest other then the fact we are all mates and we raid for a laugh.

This is particularly true if the hybrid tax was dropped, would you rather bring a 10k DPS shammy or a 10k DPS priest? It's a no brainer at the mo.

Destyvirago said...

I remember reading that in Cataclysm we will no longer just AoE down the trash as has been the normal for Wotlk.
Look forward to more complicated trash pulls that require CC to handle.
And guess what? The pure dps classes are pretty much the masters of CC. So that is one point where the hybrid classes lose out big in Cataclysm.

Ama said...

I have only one thing to say to this. As a person who has 2 mains - a shadow priest and a rogue - I am often asked to bring my shadow priest for progression as the swing healer.

On those days I can't bring my rogue, who brings nothing but high DPS. No (even nerfed) replen, no emergency heals, no buffs...

I think your place in raids in safe, fret not.

Ken said...


I heard there would be less aoe in cat too, which is why I was confused by the news of a new Druid tanking aoe.

As for cc, wotlk actually improved hybrid cc, but of course you wouldn't know it in a group where no one ccs anymore.

Cassandri said...

I always think of it like this:

Pures can slack off 5% more than hybrids in a raid fight with noone the wiser.

If you love playing a Mage equally as much as you love playing a Shadow Priest, I would suggest you play a pure > hybrid.

I can think of many scenarios when the boss just didn't quite go down and you wiped at 1% or 2%. 5% hybrid tax still matters.

Plus, pure DPS classes bring amazing utility buffs too.