If you participate in any kind of PvE in WoW then you've probably heard, if not taken a part in it yourself, of the Hybrid vs Pure debate. Sticky situations between Hybrids and Pures are not new to WoW, or even the RPG genre. In most games, there's always one class that's more powerful than another just because it is so hard to strike a perfect balance. While the debate is not new, the current incarnation is. It all began when Blizzard unveiled their new plans for balancing classes in WotLK. They summed it up with an easy to remember phrase, "bring the player, not the class." In other words, the idea is that you aren't forced to stack specific classes in your raid just because you need that class's buffs.
The argument stems from the difference between a Hybrid class and a Pure class. Hybrid classes are those that can perform multiple roles in a raid setting. There are only three roles in the game according to Blizzard: Tanking, Healing, DPS'ing. Pure classes on the other hand can only perform one of the three roles. So with that in mind, the only Pure classes are Warlocks, Rogues, Mages, and Hunters. Everyone else is a Hybrid.
Recently, Blizzard released a new statement. You can view the original here, but basically what's said is that Hybrid classes have more options in a raid environment, and so they deserve to do less damage than a Pure class. A Pure class can only do one thing: DPS, while a Hybrid can respec into healing or tanking. The specific example used involved a situation where a raid was forming, but not enough healers showed up, and so the Retribution Paladin is asked to go Holy, while the Rogue is asked to not come at all.
Needs to be Angry?
Obviously these statements by Blizzard riled up a lot of players. The Pure DPS classes want to do more damage than Hybrids because they feel that they do not bring as much utility to the raid. Pure classes also feel that if they ever did less damage than a Hybrid class, that they would then never be brought to a raid. Most importantly to many players though is that if a Pure class wishes to play as a different style, either healing or tanking, then they would have to level a completely new class.
Hybrids are even more upset, because it turns out that Blizzard agrees with the Pures. The main problem with Blizzard's most recent post, plus example, is that they assume that a Hybrid has the ability and the desire to change their role in a raid environment. Blizzard fails to understand that when you are in a raid, you do not automatically get three times the loot that a pure class would get, you are generally still limited to one set of main gear. Also, a raid guild usually has steady healers and steady tanks. If there was a situation where a healer or a tank could not come and there were no substitutes, then a Retribution Paladin could go Holy or Protection, and if they did, that would free up a DPS slot for another Pure. But, with this new method of Hybrids always dealing less damage than Pures, your raid would not have a Retribution Paladin that could respec Holy or Protection, they would already be Holy or Protection.
Both sides are pretty angry. The current concept from Blizzard is to give Pure classes an on average 5% DPS increase over any Hybrid who is talented to DPS. This 5% hasn't been completely balanced yet though, and currently there's no word on when it will become balanced. As it is right now, there's one or two Hybrid classes putting out more damage than Pure classes, and there's quite a few Hybrid classes who do such low single target damage that many players are questioning why they are even in the raid. Some Hybrid classes of course are right where they're supposed to be.
There are many arguments as to the pluses and minuses of each side, both Pures and Hybrids. The Hybrids are arguing that they deserve equal DPS, while the Pures are arguing that they deserve to have more. One of the most popular arguments revolves around Utility. Utility is the idea that Hybrids make up for their lower DPS because of the added benefits they bring to the raid, such as Kings from a Paladin, or 3% spell hit from a Shadow Priest or Boomkin. Like most arguments in the debate, this one isn't perfect. While it is true that a single hybrid brought to the raid for a specific raid buff is worth more than the mild 5% loss in DPS, there is zero incentive for the raid to ever bring a second hybrid of the same type. This issue is compounded when most Hybrid specific buffs are brought by the class, rather than the role of the class in the raid. As all Tanks and Healers are Hybrids, most Hybrid's buffs are covered before DPS talented Hybrids ever even make it into the raid. This was a quality argument in The Burning Crusade, but in Wrath of the Lich King it hits a rather large wall. Pures now bring utility just like Hybrids. Basically all raid wide buffs have gone through the act of homogenization. Very few pieces of utility still remain within each class. Shadow Priests are probably one of the best examples. They bring nothing to the raid that is not brought by other classes, not a single buff, but they still suffer a damage tax just like all the other Hybrids.
Utility is stated by many Pures as the reason to keep the Hybrid DPS lower. From the Hybrids, to the Pures, is a different argument focused on the depth of each class. The concept is that a Pure class has three different ways in which they can deal damage, three different talent trees all devoted to the same thing. So with all these options, Pure classes are naturally more flexible than Hybrids when it comes to DPS. Whereas Hybrids usually only have one or two damage dealing talent trees, so no matter what, they will always perform their role in the same way. While statements of this argument are true, they are not conclusive. The talent trees of the pure classes all revolve around dealing damage, but they make the player do it in the same way each time. A mage will always be a ranged caster, and a rogue will always be a melee, dual wielding, damage dealer. Changing from one talent tree to another for a Pure does not offer any added depth to their game play.
Needs to be Angry?
Options. What are options? According to the recent post by Blizzard that was linked earlier in this article, the real reason they've decided to give Hybrids a 5% damage tax is because they have the option to not go to a raid as a damage dealer. The reason many people thought Hybrids were getting a damage tax was because they had the limited ability to perform a secondary role while also DPSing. Apparently that just wasn't true. This is probably one of the worst arguments possible, and it's disheartening to hear it coming from Blizzard.
A Pure class can only deal damage when in a raid, so if the raid is full on damage, then they won't get to go. A Hybrid class can perform either tanking or healing, or maybe both, so if the raid is full on damage, then supposedly they can be brought to fill in a different role. The problem is that the scenario isn't reality. No guild starts a raid and then complains they don't have enough tanks or healers. They start a raid, get tanks and healers, and then get DPS. Most guilds have healers and tanks that are committed healers and tanks. Both of those play styles require a lot of time investment in order to gear up properly, as well as learn the mechanics of different fights. When a Hybrid DPS is recruited into a guild, they aren't usually brought because they will be asked to tank or heal, they are brought because they deal damage, just like all the other damage dealers. So when the raid is full on tanks and healers, and there's only one spot left for DPS, Blizzard feels that the Pure class deserves to get it, while the Hybrid has to sit out.
The numbers: This is an often brought up, but quickly disproved argument that both sides of the debate can twist to their own ends. The idea is that because there are six Hybrid classes, and four Pure classes, the raid should be divided up evenly with around 14 Hybrids and 11 Pures brought to the raid. Hybrids will use this argument claiming that they need more DPS slots, because only Hybrids can tank or heal, and that there should he an even number of Hybrid DPS compared to Pure DPS. Pures will use this argument claiming that because Hybrids have rights to the Tanking and Healing, that they should deserve the rights to DPS and that there should be incentive to bring more Pure DPS than Hybrid DPS. So this argument can go either way. So basically both sides are saying the same thing, but drawing conclusions favorable to themselves.
The last popular argument that was thrown around fairly often, until Blizzard denounced it, was that Hybrids should be penalized on the number of roles they can perform, to make it fair not just for the Pures, but also for other Hybrids. Using a tiered system, the Pures would deal the most damage. The next tier would consist of Hybrids that can only fulfill two roles in a raid, Warriors, DK's, Shamans, and Priests would all have a 5% damage tax. The final tier would take a 10% damage tax, consisting of Druids and Paladins, because they have the option to both tank and heal. It makes as much logical sense as the damage tax due to options method Blizzard has already applied, but Blizzard started they felt that 10% would be too much.
Some Say it Just Doesn't Matter
Despite the major amount of debate, and all of the long heated arguments players have with each other, there's another sect of people that just don't care. Their reasons for this belief vary, but the end result is always the same. Some of them believe that Blizzard will fix any class that is considered unworthy in a raid setting. That the class will gain buffs, and that a player will not drag the rest of the raid down even on progression fights despite a little less damage output. Others believe that the entire idea of a 5% damage tax is just some silly PR thrown together by Blizzard. It is impossible to balance all 10 classes so that Pures are 5% above all of the Hybrids. The amount of time and effort that would take is unimaginable. Not to mention that different raid bosses provide different settings for the play styles of each class. While Feral Druids are known for putting out their best damage on stationary solo targets because of the plethora of debuffs they have to apply to really get their rotation going, Mages are known for their ability to do incredibly burst when it's called and still maintain high steady DPS to a single target the rest of the time. Retribution Paladins on the other hand are best known for fighting bosses with adds because of their high AoE output, but their single target boss DPS suffers quite a bit. Sometimes it really does just not matter. It is important that Hybrid and Pure damage dealers are not excluded from a raid, but at the same time, 5% is impossible to balance around, and players should realize this. Hopefully Blizzard will return to their original idea of WotLK and stick by it a bit better in the future. Bring the player, not the class.