Back in the earliest days of World of Warcraft, every class in the game had three specializations, and had to choose one of them. Some specializations had the same role but different flavours to it (e.g. hunters are pure damage dealers, but with very different playstyles based on whether they choose the beast mastery, marksmanship or survival specs), and others had different roles entirely (e.g. paladins have protection for tanking, holy for healing, and retribution for dishing out damage). Of course, some had been badly broken (shamans before the Burning Crusade expansion being a really good example), but over time, things have been balanced quite well (and even more so when we were able to choose a secondary spec as well in Wrath of the Lich King). However, with the newest Mists of Pandaria expansion, Blizzard realised that with druids, combining melee damage dealing and tanking into one specialization was far too difficult to balance properly, so they split it out, making druids the only class in the game with a fourth spec.
So, we’re currently having a hypothetical discussion on Maintankadin: if all classes currently in the game had a fourth spec, what would that spec be? (The key word is “hypothetical”, because druids were a bit of a fringe case, and it’s unlikely that Blizzard would do this — in fact, I vaguely recall that they explicitly mentioned that this would probably never happen — but hey, it’s great to let minds wander from time to time!)
(Disclaimer: although some of these ideas are my own, not all of them are. Credit to the various posters over at Maintankadin where credit is due.)
What they have: Blood is the tanking spec. Frost and Unholy are damage dealing (in game, we call them “DPS” specs, for “damage per second”) with different attributes: Frost players can either equip two one-handed weapons and dual-wield them for fast melee strikes or a two-handed weapon for slower, harder-hitting strikes, whereas unholy resolves around putting diseases on the target and letting the damage-over-time effects do the dirty work.
What they could get: Pretty much the unanimous suggestion so far is to split Unholy. Unholy also has a “pet” component, where the Death Knight can summon an undead minion to do his master’s bidding, so split this out, flesh it out, and then have a “necromatic spellcaster” spec that would stay at range and decay their enemies with unholy power. (This fits into death knight lore, as the death knight units back in WarCraft 2 would do this.) And hey, it would also mean that there would be another use for intellect plate gear besides holy paladins.
Well, as already mentioned, druids already have four specs: Restoration for healing, Balance for ranged DPS, Feral for melee DPS and Guardian for tanking. And that’s all that I’m going to say about druids.
What they have: the Hunter is a pure ranged damage-dealing class. Beast Mastery puts the emphasis on the hunter’s pet, Marksmanship puts the emphasis on the hunter’s weapons, and Survival puts the emphasis on the hunter’s survival skills (well, doh).
What they could get: There’s two main schools of thought here. The one that I belong to advocates giving the hunter a melee spec. In fact, back in ye olde days, Survival was intended to be a melee spec — this didn’t turn out very well, but if Blizzard put some thought and effort into it, hey, it could work. The other school of thought would be to give them a healing spec, the inspiration coming from Aragon’s healing powers in The Lord Of The Rings — though, personally, I struggle to match this up with existing in-game hunter lore.
What they have: Arcane, Fire and Frost. According to one of my friends who plays a mage, pretty much all mage abilities revolve around (1) blasting your target before it can get to within melee range of you, and (2) getting the hell out of dodge if you failed at doing that. The three specs just do this in different ways.
What they could get: We came up with a very unique healing specialisation (since mages are effectively wizards, it would make sense that they could have some healing capability). They wouldn’t be able to call on nature like a druid, on holy powers like a priest and that sort of thing, but since they’re magical in nature, we came up with the idea of a mage healer that would heal by magically altering time itself. Anyone who’s experienced the hourglass mechanic on Muruzond in the End Time dungeon has an idea of what I’m getting at.
We even fleshed this out further and came up with some example abilities for this:
- Freeze Time: Places an area-of-effect bubble within 20 yards of the caster. All buffs on friendly units will have their time to expire frozen, but will still continue to operate (heals over time would keep on ticking). Very useful raid cooldown.
- Time Capture: Saves the current status of a player that allows the mage to “reset” a player’s buffs/health/mana later in the fight (sort of like a combination of the aforementioned hourglass mechanic and the paladin’s Lay On Hands ability).
- Reverse Time: A channelled heal that “reverses” all damage received in the last X seconds (say a tank takes hits for 50K, 100K, 80K over 5 seconds, Reverse Time would heal for 80K, 100K, 50K over 5 seconds, which could be sped up with haste).
Of course, this is so unique and radical that it’s impossibly likely that we’ll see this in the game — the effort to design and balance this would be immense. But it’s still fun to think about.
What they have: Brewmaster for avoidance-based tanking, Mistweaver for healing (with a bit of melee thrown in), Windwalker for melee DPS.
What they could get: a caster DPS spec. Quite possibly with a healing component, but more focus around doing damage (damage done would heal you, but it would be supplementary healing and wouldn’t replace someone else dedicated to healing). Pretty much the inverse of Mistweaver.
What they have: Protection for tanking (this is what I play as!), Holy for healing, Retribution for melee DPS (this is what I try — and fail — at playing as when I’m not tanking!).
What they could have: A caster based DPS spec. Back in the pre-Cataclysm era where players could mix and match from different specializations, some adventurous players actually tried this (bringing about the “shockadin” concept) — of course, it was a “jack of both trades, master of none” character build and never officially supported, but apparently was loads of fun. And of course, it adds another use for intellect plate to the game. This is another idea that’s pretty much unanimous.
What they have: two healing specs, Holy and Discipline. Both have totally different styles: Holy is more “traditional” healing, while Discipline focuses on damage absorbtion. The third spec, Shadow, is a damage-over-time spec.
What they could have: a second DPS spec, but more around “smite DPS” than damage over time. It’s kind of already in the game with Atonement, but making it into a full-blown spec on its own would give the damage-dealing priest a choice in how to deal damage.
What they have: Assassination, Combat and Subtlety. All themed around being extremely sneaky with regards to killing their target before their target knows that they’re dead.
What they could have: since rogues are sneaky, slippery and sly little buggers, give them a ranged “Sniper” spec (they could “borrow” weapons from hunters in sneaky, slippery and sly ways — and by that, I mean they’d give the hunters some loot competition). I pity the poor Blizzard employee who has to balance this for player vs. player though.
What they have: Elemental for caster DPS, Enhancement for melee DPS, Restoration for healing.
What they could have: since shamans can equip shields (along with paladins and warriors), they could conceivably have a tank spec. As in the case of the “shockadin” I mentioned earlier, this was something that adventurous players tried back in the day, and it would be great to see this officially supported. Once again, we have almost unanimous agreement on this.
have do: destroy their opponents with use of the Dark Arts. That’s pretty much all I know about warlocks.
What they could have: since warlocks can summon demons and have a connection with the demonic side of things, here’s an idea — have a tank spec where the warlock can transform into a demon himself.
However, there’s one problem with this, and it comes from a lore perspective. There are characters that can temporarily metamorphosize into a demon, but those are Demon Hunters, not warlocks (Illidan being the most famous example). And quite honestly, I think that we’ll be having a massive showdown with the Burning Legion in a future expansion (after all, Sargeras is still out there somewhere, and Wrathion seems to know that some massive event along these lines is on its way), and when that expansion hits, Demon Hunters would become a separate playable class.
It’s still nice to think about though, particularly that I haven’t seen any better ideas and can’t think up any myself. Mind you, what I know about warlocks is dangerous, so maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t think too hard about this one.
What they have: Protection for tanking, Arms and Fury for the “RAWR, I HULK SMASH PUNY
GOD OPPONENT WITH WEAPONS!” brigade.
What they could have: There’s two ideas there. One would be to give them a second tank spec (much like priests have two healing specs) — only, while Protection focuses on damage avoidance, this second tank spec would be based on mitigating damage by regeneration effects and sheer bloody-mindedness. We’ve seen these concepts in Dungeons and Dragons over the years: the barbarian dumping armour and relying on sheer hit points, the frenzied berserker that just won’t die as long as he’s raging… something like that.
Alternatively, Fury has two distinct playstyles within the specialisation: Titan’s Grip for dual-wielding two handers, and “single-minded fury”, for, you know, being that frenzied berserker in a damage-dealing role. It can (and has) been argued that warriors already do have four specs, but they’ve been too pre-occupied with aforementioned hulk smashing to have realised it just yet…