Once Monks are added to World of Warcraft when Mists of Pandaria launches there will be 11 classes in the game. Those 11 classes will be: Warriors, Death Knights, Paladins, Druids, Shaman, Priests, Mages, Warlocks, Hunters, Rogues, and at that point in time Monks.
Of those 11 now well over over ½ are considered hybrids being able to fulfil at least two roles. In fact only Hunters, Mages, Warlocks, and Rogues are not hybrid classes. In addition there will be 3 true hybrids, meaning classes that are able to tank, heal, and DPS. They will be Paladins, Druids, and Monks.
There are issues with hybrids though, since they offer so much in one class with no real downside. They create ambiguity about what each class is, and create frustration to those that play single role classes since they do everything equally as well as the non-hybrids do.
Upsides of Hybrids
There is something to be said for hybrid classes, as they are extremely popular, especially among new players. The task of levelling a character from level one all the way to max level is a daunting task for most players. Due to the time and effort it takes many players are drawn to hybrids so that they can level one character and still do multiple things with it. If they get bored DPSing they can heal if they get bored healing they can tank, and they can switch any time they want with relatively little effort.
Another important consideration for players picking a hybrid class is that they can fill multiple PVP roles as well. While I personally do not care for PVP, I know that many players pick their characters simply for their PVP ability. This means they can pick a class that suits their PVP role that they want to fill, and still have a character that is useful in PVE.
As you can see hybrids are extremely popular, with Druids and Paladins #1 + #2 most played characters. Death Knights come in #3 and that can be explained due to the simplicity of getting one to level 85 since you start at level 55.
Another big upside to playing a hybrid class of having so many hybrid classes in a game is that it makes it easy for players to fill any role required whenever they are required to do so. In theory this means that players could join a 5 player group with 4 other random players and be able to complete any dungeon because every player could do something that was needed. While in theory this is true there is a big downside to it that will be discussed later.
The Downsides of Hybrids
While I dont have an issue with hybrids per say, as Druids and Paladins are my two favourite classes, I am really starting to question the fact about seemingly every class being able to do everything. A bit hypocritical I know, but for clarification I use my Paladin just to tank and my Druid as a Boomkin / Healer. While my paladin has a second spec, I honestly can not remember the last time I used it. My Druid is the same way, I view her as a caster, either healing or DPSing and have never tanked or melee DPSed with her (she wouldnt want to break a nail getting in close).
This issue I am have is that more and more everyone is being able to fill all roles, and each class becomes a little bit more like each other. Some may argue that 3 our of 11 is not that big a deal, but it is almost 1/3rd of the classes. That is significant to me.
Also think of the rest of the classes only just over 1/3rd can be considered pure classes, having only one role to fill, and all of them are DPS. If I was playing one of those classes I would be pissed that I had no options yet did the same damage as those that did. That is a whole other ongoing argument though, that classes with specific roles should do better at those roles than classes that can flip back and forth. Like I said though, that is a whole separate argument.
The matter gets even more complicated as some of the semi-hybrid classes (those that can only fill 2 out of the 3 roles) blur the line to pure hybrid. For example consider a warrior or death knight that while not able to fill a healing role can still pump out an ungodly amount of self healing, while doing huge DPS, in many situations. This is especially true in the PVP arena fights where these classes can rule supreme. I remember a time when warriors had to rely on a healer, not be able to do it themselves, therefore they almost fill a healer role, though only for themselves.
Can Hybrids really do it all?
Back to the matter of hybrids being able to do anything that needs to be done. While in theory this is true as mentioned above, in actual fact there are two very significant problems with that statement.
The first problem is that each of spec that a hybrid can fill requires different stats on their gear. In some cases the differences are mine such as haste being better than mastery or vise versa. This can be seen with Shaman in their healer or DPS caster roles, the basic intellect and spirit are find for both, but the gear needs to be optimized for one or the other spec. In other cases such as a feral druid compared to a caster druid the difference is more dramatic so much so that no common gear can be used between the two specs. Feral requires agility gear while casters require intellect gear, using any of the opposite gear is essentially as bad as not having a piece of gear on in that slot.
This means that players that choose to play hybrid classes need to be aware of the differences (subtle or not so subtle) between the types of gear they need for each spec. It also means they need to find and maintain a set of gear for each of those specs including enchants, gems, and reforging, and to carry those sets around with them in case they need them.
The second big issue with hybrids filling multiple roles is that most World of Warcraft players from my experience can not play their primary spec well. You can see this with the multitude of players in the Dragon Soul LFR groups that get put together that have the gear and yet still can not put out even ½ of the required DPS or healing, or have no idea on how to tank. Asking the average player that cant figure out one spec well, to figure out and play two or more even decently is the equivalent of a pipe dream.
Dont get me wrong here, there are players that are very capable of playing multiple classes and multiple specs all very well. Any of the high-end raiders or arena players out there for example play multiple classes and specs all at 100%. Even most normal end game raiders (not LFG raiders, I mean ones that push hard mode content by week 2 or 3) or many arena players that vie for titles each season are able to be at 100% on multiple characters. For the most part though, my guess would be that over 50% of the players our there cant hit 80% on their main character and spec, never mind alternate specs or characters.
Potential disaster looming?
All of this to bring us back to the key point, hybrids in Mists of Pandaria and what to expect. I really hope that Blizzard does the Monk class correctly and makes it different enough from everything else out there so that it really deserves a spot in the game. I want it to succeed.
However, I fear that as Blizzard adds yet another hybrid class, that it is going to further dilute the differences between the classes. I also fear that due to this there will be even more pressure from the players that play non-hybrid classes to allow them to fill some other roles in the game.
If it ever comes to pass that each and every class can do everything in the game it will be an unmitigated disaster. At that point you may as well just let every player have every spell and ability on every character at all times and be done with it. While I can understand people not wanting to be stuck with one thing, the homogenization and hybridization of the classes detracts from the interest of each class individually. It also detracts from our ability to identify and bond with a character as it no longer has any key features that distinguishes it from any other character.
The Messiah has had his rant on hybrid classes, what is your take? Have your say in our comments below.
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