These days many hybrid classes are expected to bring a viable off-spec to the raid just in case, on the off chance it is needed, they can fill in for the evening. Currently I raid as a Restokin (named after the old wacky build some players used with Moonkin in their healing spec) and it has served me quite well. I know other resto druids who have feral tank as their off-spec, holy paladins with a tank or DPS off-spec, and so on. I am not going to get into the argument of PURE vs. HYBRID as it tends to be an unreasonably touchy subject for the PURE classes, but more a discussion on what you need to be prepared for as a Hybrid and why it is something to look into should you not have a solid off-spec currently.
Increase Your Value!
To use a real world example: In this economy with downsizing a growing threat in many fields of business you need to be proficient in more than one skill to remain effective. If you work in a company and specialize in only one task such as running a certain machine (be it a lathe, mill center, assembly line controls, or computer database) then you are entirely subject to the whim of the economy which is going to fluctuate from month to month. If something happens that greatly reduces the need for work within your particular area of expertise and there is little you can offer elsewhere you run the risk of being fired or cut back in hours. If you bring additional areas of expertise then you can better adapt to the ebb and flow of the workload by assisting other departments or work centers. You will hear people making the argument “What If I am the best at what I do compared to everyone else?” While you may or may not be that good, it is always going to be beneficial to be multitalented. If the difference between you and the next guy isn’t as significant as you might think in your head the company might cut you all back equally.
I purposefully left this vague because the analogy fits a raiding team really well. We have even seen “economy shifts” like this within the current expansion such as the great Healer recession of 2009 during Ulduar. There were some bosses where we only needed to field four healers and if you didn’t have a competent damage dealing spec/level then you had a greater chance of sitting. While you may think that you are a fabulous healer and as such should never need to worry about a second spec, what if there was another healer who was 90-95% as good as you who could also put out 85-95% the DPS level of the mains in your raid when needed. That sounds pretty attractive does it not?
What Do You Need To Know?
Healing a fight can be vastly different than being a damage dealer in the fight. There are certain aspects of an encounter that you, as a healer, are forced to pay more attention to and similarly there are aspects of the fight that DPS are trained to focus in on that you might not have ever concerned yourself with as a healer. Everyone is responsible for the core mechanics of any given fight however healers will inevitably spend a lot of time predicting damage, staring at GRID, and trying to plan ahead while DPS players are switching targets, moving in and out of range, and managing their rotations. If the healer’s off-spec is melee or vice versa they may be forced to look at the fight from an entirely different point of view and it may require some acclimating. If a healer is trying to DPS a complex fight with a LOT of movement and target swapping for the first time it certainly may impact their ability to manage the rotation for that class. I’ll be honest the first time I ever DPS’d Professor Putricide back in the day I was extremely worried about avoiding everything that was going on and struggled put out the damage that was expected of me.
Reading strategies and forums posts that outline tips and tricks for certain encounters is a great way to minimize any awkward transition into a new role. You really want to be prepared ahead of time just in case you do get asked to switch for an encounter. I know I have made the mistake on occasion of sending a tell to the caster class lead as I’m swapping specs “So, um, anything I need to know for this?”. If you come to the raid prepared with the correct consumables for your off-spec and a full understanding of how to perform in each encounter then you will have a much higher level of confidence and level of play. The same research effort applies to the appropriate theorycrafting for your particular off-spec. There are more often than not some pretty excellent resources dedicated entirely to your particular brand of off-spec as well as some rather helpful posts over at Elitist-Jerks. Personally I love to lurk over at The Moonkin Repository and Shadowpriest.com for lots of great information when there is something I need to know. You’re expected to know the stat priorities for your spec, the haste/crit caps if applicable, as well as the best enchants and gems to use in each colored slot just as any full time raid DPS or Tank would.
This is probably the hardest topic to discuss as not everyone handles it quite the same way. Currently my guild’s loot policy can be roughly summed up as the following: If an item is for your main spec you bid on it (rank taken into account, purely DKP based system) and if an item is for off-spec you may roll for it but you cannot win it over someone bidding. If you roll for an item (for off-spec or pvp) you are not charged DKP. To be fair this is applied to non-Hybrid classes when applicable. If a Rogue that is primarily combat has an interest in a dagger, they can roll off-spec for it and if a caster wants a piece that is only optimized well for their non primary spec they can roll as well. Checks and balances must exist as well though, if a player changes their primary spec and starts to use that item regularly in raid they are then charged for it.
Off-specs are generally going to lag ½ to 1 full tier behind that of the average raider in the role you are dipping into. For example, most of our casters are in a mixture of ilevel 264/277 gear trending more towards 277. My moonkin set is almost all ilevel 264 with a handful of 277 items like Heroic Nibelung etc. You are hard pressed to ever truly close that gap unless your group has reached a saturation point gear wise (generally at the end of a tier or expansion) at which point you may find yourself very close in gear to the main raiders.
If you are anything like me you take your performance very seriously. It is not a matter of elitism or arrogance, but merely a desire to always perform at the highest level I am capable of. Skilled healers feel bad when someone dies if there was something they could have done about it, or perhaps even worse if it was specifically our charge to begin with. When you are asked to take on a role that has a clear metric of output/performance such as DPS it can be disheartening if you find yourself much lower on the totem pole than you would like. No one enjoys feeling like they are holding the group back or gimping the raid DPS somehow. What you need to realize is that as long as you are working hard and living up to the level of performance your gear will allow no one is going to think any less of you. As each tier of progression continues through its lifespan, the gap between you and the main raiders will get better I promise. During early to mid ICC25 I remember my boomkin set was mostly ilevel 245 gear with a smattering of ToGC heroic gear while most of the guild’s casters were 258/264. Was I going to compete? Probably not as well as I’d have liked but I definitely held my own. The goal has to be to perform at the highest level possible, making up for that inherent setback your gear will create. It all comes down to knowing your off-spec inside and out and mastering it.
Long story short don’t let any of the frustrations of swapping specs in your raid get to you. All you can do is put together a properly gemmed functional set of gear and perform to the level that is expected of you. Your mastery of the class, eagerness to success, and awareness of your surroundings will get you quite far I assure you. If your guild doesn’t have a loot policy that is conducive to you putting together a second spec but would still prefer that you have one to help out in raids, then I think you need to talk to them about it. Don’t let anyone’s complaints about how it might be unfair that you get items for free bother you too much because ultimately it is for the betterment of the guild.
I will give you fair warning though, trinkets will forever be the bane of your off-spec set. They always seem to be in such short supply and by the time people have the normal version they’ll want to upgrade to the heroic one. ‘Tis a battle you will rarely win my friend.