Friday, September 5, 2014

Niche Roles Gone For Good

I started out the game as a hunter. My role was purely dps, though we had other little niche functions - I actually pulled trash to the tank to keep pulls going quickly, I remember split pulling the fire elementals in the beginning of Molten Core, and bringing Baron Geddon into Garr's room with eyes of the beast.

"Pulling" was something I did on purpose, regularly, even in dungeons when I was with my guild or if I had to save a group from a tank who didn't know how to not pull the whole room. It was always fun in UBRS to pull General Drakkisath into The Beast's room and kite him around while the rest of the group killed his two adds - it made the fight a lot simpler and was well received by my group. This is a role I played that doesn't exist today, and probably a lot of people don't even remember it.

I had two max level alts before TBC came out - my first was a mage, which coincidentally is a class I've never been able to find it in me to level to max again during any other expansion. It was a squishy spell caster, glass cannon, that had the potential to draw a lot of aggro if you weren't careful. We had conjured water, valuable spammable crowd control, and portals. Who didn't want a mage?

But of course I wasn't psyched about being top dog and the class that drew me away from my hunter was actually my druid. I was feral, a hybrid DPS. We already know what that was all about (if not take a glance at my previous post) - unless you were resto nobody wanted you. It wasn't unusual for feral druids to heal, while feral.

After 1.12 all druids had innervate baseline and our old Heart of the Wild talent actually increased our intellect by 20% which while that wasn't nearly as much bonus as resto talents were, healing a dungeon while feral was functional. We had to try harder than a druid who was actually resto, but we were always trying. You couldn't be a feral druid in vanilla if you weren't interested in putting extra effort into doing something more difficult for less reward. That's just who we were. We got flack for it, but it was a simple matter to link healing meters and point out that no one died.

As feral I experienced melee dps, I experienced hybrid play - being able to tank something suddenly in an emergency, offhealing, we were the only class with battle rez (soulstones used to not work after the target was already dead) and our innervate was very valuable. While I wasn't able to dps in many groups as feral, being a druid exposed me to every role there was to play. Before TBC even came out, I had experienced what it was like to be in every position in a group.

I could count the amount of times I tanked on one hand, but once TBC came out, my first alt was a paladin and I spent half of the expansion as protection. There are distinct roles nowadays - every class' specc can perform its function as well as the player can handle, and there is not a huge demand for niche roles - no one is a 'puller' anymore, we don't need a support buffer or hybrid offhealer/offtank. We have melee and ranged dps, healers, and tanks. The only class that is really unique is hunters - they are ranged dps, but they aren't spell casters.

As a druid, I can fill any of those roles. I have plenty of alts and I've played extensively as many speccs for each role. This is why it's so strange for me to hear when someone hasn't ever performed a certain role before. A guildmate who has been playing for a very long time is playing a dps spell caster for the very first time, 10 years into the game's life. While I can pick up any class, choose any specc, and adjust to their playstyle and abilities in a short amount of time, I can only imagine how foreign it is to melee dps to start playing a healer, or a tank to play a spell caster for the first time. It's an entirely different set of rules and responsibilities.

Depending on what you're doing in a group, the debuffs and boss abilities mean different things to you. If you're a raid leader, you tend to know what's going on for every fight, but even when you learn what each ability is in a fight, if it's not relevant to your role and function, it loses meaning for you. The other night I completely forgot to explain the significant differences for healing the Malkorok fight to my friend who was healing because it's not my priority - I told her to step into puddles and avoid arcing smash/breath, but somehow the fact that you have to constantly heal everyone even when they're at max health in order to give them damage shields because they can't take healing managed to slip my mind. That's pretty important for a healer and it's the most significant part of the entire fight, yet it slipped my mind.

I don't think the game will ever be opened up to niche roles again, Blizzard has made sure every role is able to do their job and all offshoots of their job effectively. They are even making it so that DPS don't have high potency healing cooldowns anymore - I won't be able to Tranq in an emergency to save the raid anymore, heck as a balance druid I'm even losing Nature's Swiftness. They could change my class' playstyle entirely (which they are doing) and I'd be less upset about that than I am about losing these off-healing capabilities (which is true).

I enjoyed the hybrid play of druids when I first started and it looks like now, when I choose to be balance, I'm choosing to be a mage of a different name. I have my own survivability (which is also being reduced, but that is another story...) but my ability to help out in a dire situation will be reduced severely. That was the final niche role - DPS that could throw down offhealing for clutch situations. They are removing that, too, and we will all purely be either tanks, healers, or ranged/melee dps.

Some people never got to experience these niche roles when they existed, and yet others have chosen not experience even the major roles that have always existed. In an always evolving game, you expect to lose certain aspects of it. Changing your role can almost change the game entirely for you - and this holds true when Blizzard takes that role away. I look forward to Warlords of Draenor, but with its coming I'm losing another aspect of it that caused me to enjoy the game so much.


  1. I can't bare to play WoW anymore, partially because it made me feel unnecessarily stressed at times haha (failing raids etc.) but mostly because they changed things so quickly after WotLK, I played through the raids in that and then left. I did enjoy Ulduar and even fighting the Lich King but my Holy Paly got nerfed ridiculously in the next expansion. Stick to console games these days though I often miss aspects of old WoW.

    1. I actually had a friend that stopped playing WoW due to holy paladin changes after Cataclysm, so I know what you mean. My class has changed so drastically over the years I'm kind of surprised that I still like it as much as I do.