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]
If your class can do many things, don’t expect to be unqualified best at any of them.
There are three roles: tank, healer, damage (dps). But really, every class can do damage–you have to be able to put out some kind of damage in order to play the solo game. So it’s really two specialized roles, plus the common role that everyone has. Some classes specialize completely in that common role: hunters, rogues, mages, warlocks. The rest can do multiple things, and this article concerns them.
Now, every class can’t do everything in the game (except druids). That’s part of what makes groups fun. With the correct mix of characters, you can accomplish goals that a group of identical characters couldn’t do alone.
That variety in gameplay that you enjoy in the solo game, the ability to kill mobs and heal and be tough… that entire skill set doesn’t directly translate to your endgame experience. Generally, each of those roles opens up to various niches for you in raids.
- Paladins can heal, tank, and dps. They’ve got all the bases covered! However, each role is not complete and universal coverage of that role. Pallies heal single targets extremely well, but struggle with being stunned and group damage. Pallies tank large groups of mobs extremely well, but struggle at times with raid bosses and caster bosses. Pallies dps well in PvP, but struggle with the continuous high level of damage needed for PvE.
- Rogues do one thing: damage. When built correctly, they can damage in any situation in the game, caster or melee, PvP or PvE. They damage well. They have to, because they don’t tank or heal.
- Priests can heal or damage. Priests are great healers. However, even when they choose to spec and play a damage role, their damage rarely compares with pure damage classes, either in PvP or PvE.
While the best guilds will value a good hybrid player (the druid who can tank or dps, the pally who can tank or offheal), there simply aren’t that many hybrid positions available in raids. Most of the time, you have to excel at one thing, which means largely sacrificing that versatility and embracing your class’s niche. You have to learn to kick butt as much as possible in the one thing you choose to be excellent at.
Here’s where I lift a toast to every restoration druid who has ever received the raid or instance direction:
“The tank’s dead! Tree-man! Go bear form and pick up that boss!”
Tree-man is sitting there thinking,
“I’m wearing a mix of leather and cloth healing gear. The warlock has more health than I do, and I have a pally salvation buff. I do have a tanking set of gear, but it’s trapped in my bag because we’re in combat.
“Bear form is not a Superman cape!”
But Treeman switches anyway, because he’s built for restoration and hardly ever gets to rawr in groups. It’s a more fun way to die.