Classic WoW Hybrids & the Community’s Failure to Understand Them

When I began playing on a private server in November 2019, I had made the choice to roll a Tauren Druid. In my excitement to play WoW again, I had begun scouring YouTube for information on classes I had not really tried. My first and only 60 in the original game was a Rogue. While I did love my Rogue, I wanted something fresh and different.

I also have this need to play the underdog in any game I play. In WoW, Druids are the least played class, so that became an appeal to me. I then saw some amazing PVP videos of Druids just doing amazing things and I was sold.

Druid it was!

This article discusses, what I feel, is the misunderstanding of the hybrid classes in Classic WoW. They are all too often pigeonholed into healing roles and not accepted as anything but that for end game content. That is unfortunate for hybrid players and also those they are grouping and raiding with.

The Druid

In Classic World of Warcraft, the Druid is the purest hybrid the game has. By purist hybrid I’m referring to the fact that it can play all 3 major roles in the game: Tank, Healer, and DPS (melee and caster).

By contrast, a Shaman is not easily capable of tanking since it lacks a taunt. The same can be said of Paladin for the same reason as the Shaman. However, I do realize Paladin tanks exist and have other means of managing threat. I’m not knocking a Protection Paladin (I think they’er great), just laying out a foundation here – there’s no taunt. Also, a Paladin is not really capable of doing caster DPS.

A Druid in bear form has a taunt and other tools to tank. In cat form, a Druid has the ability to DPS; albeit not at the top of any charts. In caster form, a Druid is capable of healing, not to mention DPS if you want to dive into the Balance talent tree, but that’s another topic.

On top of that, a Druid has travel form for quick movement, and even an aquatic form for normal movement in water without the need for breath.

This all appealed to me and I figured it would be a great all-around class to level up.

My Experience

I quickly learned I was sought after for two roles: tanking and healing. You know what? That was fine with me! Both of those roles were new to me and I enjoyed learning how to perform them well.

As I neared 60 on my Druid, the thing I was asked for 90% of the time was tanking. Most Warriors are setup for DPS, and while capable of tanking 5-man dungeons, they’d just prefer to DPS.

Whatever. Tanking it was!

Now, I didn’t do much raiding to be honest. I played in maybe 6-7 raid groups during my private server experience, but it was immediately clear that my role in a raid was as a healer. If you’ve ever searched online for Druid information on end game you will see the same thing.

I did get to off-tank once in MC when the guild was new to it and gearing up, but as the guild quickly outpaced me in gearing up, my role became to heal when I could make a raid, which wasn’t often as mentioned.

I remember heading to one of the few raids I could attend and the healing coordinator asking me my spec. I told him I was setup as Heart of the Wild (HoTW) spec. Here’s my HoTW build if you’re curious.

I was asked to change my spec to Restoration. I was literally on the flight to the raid at the time and it would require slowing the raid down for me to respec, so it was left at that and I went in there with my HoTW spec.

Now, I was never asked my spec again and never told to respec. I was such an infrequent raider that I don’t think they much cared, which suited me. However, as mentioned, every raid I could make I would heal.

Raid Healing Sucks

Just a quick aside here but raid healing sucks. I never minded dungeon healing all that much. The encounters are smaller, you can see what’s going on, and the healing required isn’t as substantial as in a raid. In a dungeon you can cast a few offensive spells and do some debuffing.

However, raid healing consists of starring at your raid UI and sending a never ending stream of heals out. There’s no looking at what’s going on and seeing the visual splendor of a fun fight. There’s just you watching tiny boxes lose health and healing those tiny boxes.

It is so mind-numbingly boring – at least for me. I understand that’s the case for a lot of classes with raiding, 1-button fights, but at least non-healing classes get to see what’s going on and not be stuck starring at a UI.

End Game Observations

Being on Horde, we had a lot of Shamans in the guild. A lot.

The thing I noticed quickly was they were all Restoration. Meaning, their role in the raid was to heal, and of course drop appropriate totems.

We had Priests of course too and I bet you know what job they did? Yep! Healing!

I remember one Priest who was Shadow spec coming to AQ20 and had to respec for healing. At that point we had 3-4 Druids, more Shamans, but the Priest had to be healing focused.

He was told he could raid next time in Shadow, but we needed the healing for this raid. We already had at least 6 capable healers, but we needed a Priest healing focused.

My observation is glaringly obvious I think. If you’re capable of healing in WoW, then your job is to heal. Period.

The Failure to Understand the Hybrid

Here’s how the dictionary defines a hybrid.

noun 

1. Biology the offspring of two plants or animals of different species or varieties, such as a mule (a hybrid of a donkey and a horse): a hybrid of wheat and rye

2. a thing made by combining two different elements; a mixture: the final text is a hybrid of the stage play and the film.

• a word formed from elements taken from different languages, for example television (tele- from Greek, vision from Latin). 
• (also hybrid car) a car with a gasoline engine and an electric motor, each of which can propel it. 

adjective 

of mixed character; composed of mixed parts: Mexico’s hybrid postconquest culture

• bred as a hybrid from different species or varieties: a hybrid variety | hybrid offspring.

We all know what a hybrid is except when it comes to ClassicWorld of Warcraft. At least for end game content.

There’s a much better understanding of the game now, 16 years after launch, than there ever was during the original. As such, Classic WoW has such a min/max mentality that anything outside that scope is unacceptable.

Why would you play a Feral Druid when everyone knows Restoration is better?

I had chosen to play a hybrid class because I could fill any role required, and I could change that role on the fly as the encounter demanded. If our tank died, then I’d go bear and pick up the mobs. If our healer went down then I’d stop DPSing and keep our tank alive, or maybe even battle rez the healer depending on the situation.

These are the things I loved about playing a Druid. Everything was fluid and situational. I could step into the role needed as needed and damn it was fun!

The problem with end game content is you’re expected to pick one role as a hybrid and that role will almost certainly be healing. If you’re a Druid then you might get to off-tank (maybe). You most certainly won’t be in cat form doing DPS though. Well, you could if you feel like farming Manual Crowd Pummelers, wearing the Wolfshead Helm, and power-shifting cat form.

Shamans and Paladins suffer the same fate as the Druid. All hybrids do.

Hybrid Tax

You’ve probably heard the term “hybrid tax”? The term meaning that any class capable of more than one role will not perform any single role as well as a class designed for that role. The whole “jack of all trades, master of none.” phrase. A Druid in cat form will not out DPS a Rogue. A Druid in bear form won’t match a Warrior tank for damage mitigation and threat management. So forth and so on.

There is more to that phrase though and it’s almost always left off. The full phrase is:

A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.

It doesn’t mean that a Druid, Shaman, or Paladin is the best X, Y, or Z role.

What it means is that having a class capable of multiple roles will often serve the group better than only having classes dedicated to a singular role. The hybrid won’t perform a single role better than those classes dedicated to it, but they will offer a flexibility you wouldn’t otherwise have, and that in turn makes the group stronger.

That moment you relegate a hybrid to a singular role is the moment you weaken the group or raid. That failure to understand the job of a hybrid is the shortcoming of so many.

Having a Role and Being Dedicated to It Are Not the Same

I expect that if I go into a raid as a hybrid class that I’m going to heal. That’s just the reality we live in, like it or not (and I do not). That is the role I’ve been given and that is my job. I will perform my job as well as I can.

However, that does not mean I’m incapable of performing that role if I’m not fully specced into Restoration. Obviously my job would be far easier if specced for healing, and that is indeed a benefit to the raid, I do not deny that.

Yet, what about when an off-tank is needed? If I’m full-on Restoration spec, then I can’t jump into that OT role now. I also can’t DPS in any worthwhile manner if more DPS is needed.

It’s a double-edged sword for sure. Why can’t I off-tank in a healing spec if I expect to heal in a non-optimal healing spec? Good question!

Some hybrid player choose a particular path and dedicate themselves to it, and more power to them. With my Shaman I was going down Enhancement purely for a melee DPS build because that’s the part of a Shaman I enjoyed. I was effectively weakening my hybrid nature to pursue my interest. Could I heal? Sure, but it wouldn’t have been pretty.

I’ll come back to this idea later.

Still. There are those, as I did with my Druid, who leave their talent spec as something that’s a mix, a hybrid spec for their hybrid class to get the most out of that flexibility.

To me this is the epitome of the hybrid classes. To not specialize so much in any one area that you incapable of performing other roles.

As I mentioned with my Shaman though, I went straight into Enhancement and that’s all I really cared about. I already had my Druid at the time who could fill any role (barring caster DPS), so hammering through a specialization on the Shaman seemed fun to me.

I never did reach 60 on that Shaman, but do you think I’d have gotten into raids as an Enhancement Shaman? If your guess is no, then you are correct!

See, a Warrior or Rogue is the better melee DPS choice because they aren’t hybrids and so their ability in that role is better. This is true. I cannot deny that.

Yet, can that Warrior or Rogue resurrect your raid if things go sideways? Resurrection doesn’t require a special talent spec. Even as Enhancement, I would have been able to step back and heal up the healers if it came to it. Effectively? No, but you don’t need 100% effectiveness in desperate times. You simply need the option.

A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.

The mentality is that the hybrid should only be specialized into the role that the dedicated classes can’t perform, IE: healing. A Shaman doesn’t melee DPS, Warriors and Rogues do. A Druid doesn’t do ranged magic DPS, a Mage and Warlock do. What can’t those classes do? Heal. That’s your job!

Of course the game has Priests. The only dedicated healing class. Naturally a Priest could go Shadow for DPS, and that’s cool with me. I’m simple stating that a Priest is not a hybrid class in game terms and is singularly focused unlike a Paladin, Shaman, or Druid.

If the game only has 1 dedicated healing class, and multiples of everything else, then it stands to reason the hybrid would focus on healing to accommodate the lack of healers in game, right?

Again, I just feel that’s a shortsighted view of classes that can offer so much more.

Conclusion

The reality is I could go on and on about this and probably just talk in circles, and that’s not something anybody enjoys reading.

At the end of the day what I’m saying is that maybe having a Ret Paladin in a DPS role in your raid might not be optimal, but that’s a Paladin in your raid you may not otherwise have had. That Paladin can change his/her role in the group on the fly and potentially save a disaster. That Paladin still offers auras and blessings and will always compliment any group.

The same is true of any of the Classic WoW hybrid classes. I think the best way to summarize it is that people need to be optimistic, see the glass as half full, and not pessimistic and see the glass as half empty when it comes to hybrids.

Odds are that even specialized, that hybrid class is never going to outperform any focused class in any role (exceptions apply). So, why should the hybrid be forced into non-optimal healing instead of non-optimal DPS or tanking?

I do not doubt that someone could come here, read this, and tell me how I’m wrong. Probably even back it up with data. That’s fine. I do not care.

What I care about is playing my class the way I want to play my class. I want to have fun in a video game in the way I find enjoyable. I do not need someone to dictate to me how I should play my class. I will not relinquish my enjoyment for the benefit of others. Period.

At the end of the day, what does a group or raid lose by letting someone play the way they enjoy, regardless of class?

Non-optimal groups and raids are still capable of getting the job done. Maybe it takes 10-20 more minutes to clear Molten Core because you’ve got 2 Enhancement Shamans doing DPS instead of 2 Rogues/Warriors. So what? Is the 20 minutes you lost in that raid worth more than my enjoyment of the game? No.

I understand anyone who does end game content on the regular will not agree with me. It’s not them I’m writing this article for though. I’m writing this for those of you out there who enjoy hybrid classes and feel disappointment in the expectation everyone else has of you.

Play your class the way you want and just enjoy yourself. It’s your time you’re investing into WoW so make the most of it.

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