The series: [Introduction, and a call for comments, Solo Difficulty vs Group Difficulty, PvE vs PvP, Variety vs Specialization, Solo Performer vs Group Utility, Your role in a PvE raid]
Your ability to solo partially determines the experience you’ll have in groups. If you have an easy time in the leveling game, you are going to have a more difficult experience in the endgame/group game. The following list goes from easy-to-solo to hard-to-solo.
- Hunters are the easiest class to level while playing the solo leveling game, no matter what spec. Pet plus ranged damage is just simple.
- Warlocks are second. Again, a pet class. (I might be wrong on this. Someday I have to fill in my knowledge gap regarding warlocks)
- Rogues and mages are third. Lots of damage is easy grinding.
- Then shamans and druids, because of the damage/healing hybrid nature.
- Until finally you get down to classes that are harder to solo, like paladins, priests, and warriors.
Now, I’m not saying that paladins are hard to solo. All of WoW solo content is easy with every class. It’s just that leveling a pally is harder than leveling a hunter or a warlock. Of course, it’s possible to build a “hard to solo” class like a pally in such a way that when matched against a poorly-played warlock that the pally would come out ahead. Player skill counts for a lot, and that’s true of all the comparisons to come. But given two equal players, there’s no way to correctly spec and play a priest so that they’ll solo as fast or as easily as a correctly spec’ed and played mage.
So why does this matter? Well, classes that are easier to level have that balance come out somewhere. Somewhere inside their decision tree, and this is just an example, Blizzard said “hunters will not have an easy time in raids because they level so easily”.
Now, individual hunters can be great in raids, just as great and useful as other classes. But your typical fully-leveled hunter never had to build a good skill set that a player needs to be a good raider. Four parts pet attack button, four parts Autoshot, one part Mend Pet. Sprinkle Arcane Shot and Multishot to taste. Let simmer for /played. Voila, max level!
Blizzard decided that hunters would have to work harder (shot rotations based on hidden cast times, non-obvious math, and spreadsheet-only derivations regarding weapon choices and haste) to do comparable performance as other classes in their role (damage). If it were easy for a hunter to be competitive in raids, nobody would ever play anything but hunter! They would rule both inside and outside groups.
Now, the solo game doesn’t just come to a screeching halt when you hit L70. There are dailies, reputation grinds, crafting that requires plenty of hard-to-find materials… in fact, much of this is very helpful to generate the resources to give you an edge in performance while participating in the end game. However, the playstyle of all this content is exactly like the solo/levelling game. So for the purposes of this discussion, it’s the same.
When farming motes for primals, everyone groans when the hunter arrives. Nobody has it easier. You don’t find many RMT-farming priests, warriors, or paladins.
On the flip side, the frustration that pallies, priests, and warriors feel while leveling and playing the solo game is more than made up for in their group play. Tanking and healing shines in groups, and this is the big payout.