WI Community Blog Topic: Should all classes get a fourth spec?

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Using an older CBT as the basis of my next post, I’m going to be tackling the subject of fourth specs, and whether or not the game really needs them or not. Druids were the first to get this treatment when their Feral spec was split into two – Feral and Guardian – at the start of Mists of Pandaria. Although it was a much needed change, especially with the Mists talent model, it would seem this paved the way for every other class to get a sense of entitlement and have a desire to create an entirely new specialisation for them, set with new abilities and everything.

At least in the case of Druids, the Guardian and Feral specs already had their abilities fleshed out – all that was needed was a snip of abilities from cat form for Guardian, and a snip of abilities from bear form for Feral, and the two specs were pretty much good to go. What all the other classes that are asking for a fourth spec are looking at, are complete new sets of abilities for them to use in a potential new role. I’ve toyed around with the idea in the past, but overall, is adding 10 new specs into the game going to be viable for balance concerns?

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Possible Spec Ideas

This image was “leaked” a few weeks back, though it is very likely to have a FAKE stamp all over it, though the icons do bring up some interesting options for what could end up happening. Here we can see potential specs such as:

  • Warriors: Dragon Roar image – Who knows what that could be? Could it be the buffing spec that Blizzard hinted at not long ago, becoming a morale-boosting spec that shouts at his allies to just “Walk it off”? Perhaps they could take a page from Dota 2’s Dragon Knight and become a plated elemental Warrior?
  • Mages: Blood Horror image – Hints very heavily toward a Blood Mage spec. Could it be the tanking spec that Mages have been asking for since they first set foot into Gruul’s Lair in TBC? A casting tank would be an interesting niche for sure, though my ideal 4th spec for Mages would have been them manipulating time to reverse wounds to heal, but oh well.
  • Rogues: Honor Among Thieves image – Quite hard to determine what this could be, to tell the truth. It’s something that Subtlety already has… Perhaps it’s another buffer spec?
  • Druids: Guardian – already ingame.
  • Hunters: Premeditation – Seems fairly Stalker-ish, perhaps an extension of their Camouflage and become a pet-less, ranged Rogue, essentially.
  • Shaman: Earth Shock – The long awaited tank spec for Shamans, waiting even longer than Mages as the only class to be able to wear shields and not use them to block attacks.
  • Priest: I can’t quite place where I’ve seen this icon before, and I have no idea what it could represent for the Priest class as a whole.
  • Warlock: Here we have an icon of a winged demon – perhaps they could split Demonology and this spec up, like they did with Ferals in 5.0 to give them their own tanking spec, and remove Dark Apotheosis glyph?
  • Paladin: Hey look, something that resembles something Holy! This time with a sword in the middle instead of a hammer – we could see an extension of BC and LK’s Shockadin spec. Either that or we could see a second melee spec that focuses on dual wield instead of 2h.
  • Death Knight: Purple skull! Necromancy spec? Although Unholy already covers this very well with its mastery of ghouls and minions of undeath, we could see Warcraft II’s Death Knights become more of a reality with this specialisation.
  • Monk: With feathers, and the only celestial not represented among Monks being Chi-ji, this has to be the icon  the Cranedancer specialisation. What that entails could be anything, as Chi-ji has been represented as the celestial for healers, while Yu-lon is the ranged caster (whereas now the Serpent is for Mistweavers). If it were the case, we might see some name changes for the spells of Mistweavers and Yu-lon gains some ranged caster spells.

These do all seem very interesting, and with the ~70 developers gained from TITAN, we might be able to see the workforce placed into them to actually make them a reality. Plus, in previous expansions the main focus has always been on the new class or the new race, with the occasional class receiving overhauling mechanics – but nothing to the extent of an entirely new specialisation to play around with.

Well with the exception of Druids, anyway. But as already mentioned Druids did already have 4 “specs” to choose from, with their Feral spec having two very different choices to have, but as a result were very cookie-cutter, unless playing in a hybrid role between the two.

It would certainly be very fun to have this sort of love to the characters we already have at level 90 (or if this was a case for a future expansion, 95 or 100, etc) so that the classes we like the mechanics of gets a new role to play in. Warlocks or Mages may enjoy their DPS, and if they don’t want to tank they’re not forced into it when their favourite spec is suddenly a tanking spec (much to the outcry of DKs back in Cata). However for those pure DPS specs they may finally get the option to have shorter queues in LFD/R, or may find themselves with viable offspecs for 10man raiding guilds instead of just choosing whichever spec pulls the most numbers for a certain encounter.

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Balance Concerns

As already mentioned, the main drawback for all classes getting 4 specs to choose from, is not that everyone has to learn a new spec they might not be interested in, but the fact that if everyone is getting a new spec, that’s up to 10 new specs that have the be balanced. I don’t know what side of the game you guys have been playing, but both on a PvP and PvE level just the 34 specs are trouble enough to balance, with some specs doing more than double other specs in equal gear levels, or certain specs just being unviable in PvP due to burst that dominates today’s games.

Another drawback would be the crappy guilds that are out there, that suddenly see “Hey, Mages now have a tanking spec – Mage go tank for us or we’ll replace you with a Mage that can tank”. I know that such guild/raid leaders should be kept away from, but they do exist – in some circumstances even when racing for realm/region/world firsts.

Would we get the Death Knight syndrome, where suddenly we have specs that aren’t very well tested (as 6 million testers are always going to be more thorough than a few hundred thousand) being completely OP and starting at a high level, should the end of expansion present us with plenty of people at level cap? Or end up with jokes of classes that become homogenised so much that they’re just new names and new colours to the same abilities? We can already see this with all healers having similar heal kits, all tanks having similar tanking cooldowns – what use is there to just extending that to other classes?

I can only imagine how a Frost Mage with Blood “general class” defensives would work out in PvP…

How it could work

So we already know that adding 10 new specs isn’t really viable to add at once – but won’t we have 10 new specs sometime down the road anyway, with new classes in new expansions? We could stagger the 4th specs for classes, basing them off roles that do need the new specs, for example the first expansion could see the pure DPS classes gaining non-DPS specialisations, then following that the other 6 could follow in one or two expansions following, perhaps leaving Death Knights and Monks for last, as they’re still the newer classes, as well as Paladins who can do all 3 roles regardless.

Of course, many people will complain that THEIR class has to wait up to 6 years down the line before they get to see their 4th specs, so that would be an issue to overcome – though in honesty using the defense of the idea behind it being to add new roles to existing classes, it should have great favour to give the Pures something to do first, followed by Warriors/Priests/Shamans, before Paladins/DKs/Monks get their look into it. Perhaps with a larger development force we could see new specs in patch cycles, rather than expansion cycles – as long as it doesn’t happen mid-season/tier, then it should be fine to work through. It’s more likely we’d see that kind of thing happen on an expansion-by-expansion basis however, as it is quite a major change usually reserved for that. Though we did get talent overhauls in Vanilla, come to think of it…

Leave your comments below about whether or not you think other classes should share the Druid Master Race’s uniqueness of having four specs!

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