So, 3.1 and Ulduar are coming, and Ulduar will be available in both 10 and 25 man raid versions. So far, so good. 3.1 also includes the much-vaunted arrival of dual character specs. Other than the obvious, new content and more versatility for your favourite characters, there’s nothing here to get excited about before it all actually arrives, right?
Well… wrong. Let’s just take a look at what this all actually implies. First, dual specs.
The Man With Two Brains
I’ve been on the PTR and had a try with dual specialisation and it’s incredibly well implemented. You set up your character the way you want, then visit your trainer and buy a second spec for 1000g. Nothing happens immediately, other than your wallet becoming a lot lighter. However, take a look at your talent page and you’ll notice a new, blank tab. At the top of this tab is a button to make this talent spec your active one. Press this button and five or so seconds later, you have an empty mana pool, a fresh talent screen and a bunch of empty Glyph slots. Pick your new spec as usual, reglyph as appropriate and train new skills as required. From that moment on, all it takes to switch between your two new talent trees is to press the “Make this my current spec” button. It even saves the positions of your casting bars! Since swapping specs drains your mana pool, if you’re a class with a blue bar you probably won’t be doing this in combat, but that’s the only real limitation. So far so good.
So what are you going to actually use your second spec for? As a pure dps class, the choices are fairly limited. You can have your raiding spec and your pvp spec, for example. Or a raiding spec and a grinding spec. Whatever floats your boat, really. The important thing is that the gear you equip between each spec isn’t really going to differ in most respects. It’s all still going to be dps gear. The choice isn’t nearly as clear cut for classes that can fill more than one role in a raid, with Shamans, Druids and Paladins being the most extreme examples. For many, the choices will still be fairly straighforward, and simply having the ability to make these choices will be a major relief to raid selection officers.
The Replacement Killers
Right now, current raid content is a major pain in the arse from a selection point of view. You have Naxxramas which you can comfortably handle with two Main Tanks, a couple of offtanks, five or six healers and the rest dps. For Malygos, one Main Tank, five or six healers and the rest dps. For Sartharion with three drakes up, four Tanks, one of whom better have a LOT of health or some seriously useful cooldowns, five or six healers, the rest dps.
What do you do if you’re doing Sartharion and Malygos on the same night? One requires one tank, the other requires four. You’ve already cleared all of Naxx the previous evening, there’s nothing left to kill. Sartharion and Malygos are all that’s left. How do you pick tanks for that without having to swap people out or send people to respec mid-raid? There are solutions, but they depend on what tanking classes you have to play with. The point is, with dual specs, there is no problem. Three of your tanks switch spec to do dps on the way to Malygos and the problem is solved.
None of this affects us right now, however. What is going to affect us right now is the potential loot drama when people realise that they actually need to gear up for their dps spec when they’re not tanking or their healing spec when they’re not dpsing, or whatever. Handled properly, this won’t be an issue. Ignore the problem and it’s going to bite you in the arse.
First, we need to recognise the fact that dual specs are here to stay and unless you take full advantage of them you are gimping your raid. Fact. End of discussion. Secondly we need to recognise, and impress this fact upon our raid groups, that the people who are going to be expected to switch specs and perform different roles at will in Ulduar and beyond are entitled to a fair shot at the loot which they’re going to need to achieve this role. This means no crying from the rogues and dps warriors when the Prot warriors and paladins start rolling on Fury and Retribution gear. And no crying from the mages, boomkin and warlocks when the Holy Priests start rolling on +hit caster gear.
There Will Be Blood
Depending on how you manage your loot allocation systems, this is going to be a big problem, or a small problem. We use a dkp system with no minimum bids. We can bid whatever we want for whatever we want. Sure, that Holy Priest can bid on all the dps caster gear, but when his healing turns to crap because he has no actual healing gear, he’ll get booted from the raid for not pulling his weight (and being an asshat). The system balances itself, all that the dkp really determines is who gets the good loot first. At this stage of the game, there are very few items left in current raid content that anyone actually needs. Sure, there is plenty of stuff that people might actually want, but that’s an entirely different matter. I may want The Turning Tide from Kel’thuzad, and the next time it drops I’ll probably get it, but I can live without it because I already have Life and Death and the very first drop in Ulduar will be better.
So while your Rogues may be screaming because the Holy Paladin just outbid them on the best in slot dps ring they’re been waiting months for, well… tough luck. The Holy Paladin now has just as legitimate a need for that ring as you do, and you blew all your dkp on half a dozen swords, daggers and maces that you didn’t actually need. Unlucky, bub. You snooze, you lose, etc…
Of course, this is now, when most people don’t really need that much gear from current content. When you get into Ulduar itself and the very first drop is a spellpower +hit dagger which every mage, warlock, holy priest, discipline priest, shadow priest, restoration druid, balance druid, feral druid, elemental shaman, enhancement shaman and restoration shaman starts rolling on, THAT is the true test of how mature your raid is.
There will be drama. How you handle it is up to you, but prepare for it now and handle it delicately.
The other issue that really only struck me last night is to do with 10 man raids in Ulduar. Now if you’re a member of a smaller guild that only raids 10 mans anyway, this really doesn’t concern you. If on the other hand, you’re a 25 man raider, start paying attention.
Not all 25 man raiding guilds practice this approach, but most do, and that’s to run 10 man raids alongside their 25 man raids. You can have two or three 10 man raids running in the same raid schedule as your 25 man raid, it’s how most raids gear up alts and reserve players, for example. It’s also a way of checking out the 25 man boss fights in a slightly more forgiving environment. If you’re a current 25 man raider, dripping in ilevel 213 gear (and better), 10 man Ulduar is going to offer you nothing more than a change of scenery.
10 man Ulduar gear is almost all ilevel 213, same as current 25 man raid loot, with the exceptions being the gear that drops from the later bosses in the same way that Kel’thuzad drops better quality gear in both versions of Naxx. The badge tokens that drop in there are the current 25 man Badges of Valor, and there isn’t a single item of Badge of Valor loot that I need, either. To put this another way, there is no reason whatsoever for me to raid Ulduar 10 on my raiding toon, since the only gear upgrades for me are in Ulduar 25, and I’ll be getting all the change of scenery I want in Ulduar 25 anyway. “But you can do new achievements!” some poor unfortunate replied to me on Teamspeak last night. I’ll spare the blushes of my more delicate readers and not relate exactly where I told him he could stick his achievements. Regular readers of my blog will already know how I feel about chasing the carrot on the end of the stick that is Blizzard’s raid achievement system.
The Wild Bunch
In short, if you’re currently running 10man raids alongside your 25 man raids, this particular penny is likely to drop amongst your own 10 man raid group sooner or later. From our own bitter experience, you really need to announce now where your 10 man raids are going in 3.1. and lead them accordingly. If you’re going to blow through the content with 25 man raid characters and chase the achievements, make it known that this is what you intend to do and recruit your raid to suit. If all you want is to gear up alts in Ulduar 10, announce this too and select accordingly. Fail to prepare for this shift in perspective and expectations and you will stumble. You can expect your current 10 man raids to lose and gain members prior to 3.1 as you make your intentions known and people gravitate to the raids that best suit their interests. This is natural, and infinitely better than being on your third week of farming Ulduar 10 content with half the raid not signing up anymore because this wasn’t what they had in mind. Speaking personally, I intend to continue raiding 25 man with my Mage, Calli, and find an Ulduar 10 raid group that doesn’t care about achievements and just wants to blow through the content and get it on farm as soon as possible for my Priest, Aluriel. Gorn, my warrior has already got his Ulduar 10 content farming raid place booked, too.
It’s all about deciding what you want and preparing the best way to get it with a group of like-minded players. The key word here is “preparing”. 3.1 isn’t that far way and it will change things on many different levels. Don’t let yourselves be stuck in a place you don’t want to be doing things you don’t want to do. That way lies frustration and burnout.
It’s supposed to be fun, after all.