In World of Warcraft: Legion, the new Demon Hunter Hero class will only have two specs: one for tanking and one for DPS. I wondered if this might signal that all WoW Classes were going down to two specs. They did prune many abilities going into WoD. Is pruning specs next?
WoW currently has 11 classes with 3 specs each. You could argue that Druids actually have 4. That's 33 or 34 specs to add new abilities for Legion and balance for PVE and PVP. That's a ton of work. Now you add two more. We've already seen they have problems with the existing set of specs to the point that they nerfed one of the Warlock specs TO THE GROUND because it was so much better than the others it felt like the only right choice and said 'We don't want you playing that spec'. I think it was Demonology but don't quote me on that. Warlocks are my least favorite class in the game.
The designers also struggle to make each spec unique, especially the pure DPS. An Assassination Rogue kills stuff with daggers and poison. A Subtlety Rogue kills stuff with poisons and dagger and ... subtlety? With less specs they have more room to make each distinct.
Taking each class to two specs gives you only 24 specs to create new abilities for and balance. That's more manageable, but how would get you there?
The first thing I'd do is separate out the support classes (Tanks and Healers) from the pure DPS classes. In WoW, your pure DPS classes are Hunter, Rogue, Mage, Warlock, Your support classes are Shaman, Monk, Paladin, Priest, Warrior, Death Knight, Druid. The way I would do it is give every class a solo focused spec and a group focused spec. For the support classes, the support spec is the group spec and the DPS spec is the solo spec. For the pure DPS, I'd make one spec better at soloing and one better for groups.
Druid (Feral / Resto)
Each armor type is represented from Cloth to Plate. Shaman and Priest were obvious choices for healers since they are Heal/DPS hybrids. As an old time WoW player, I found Windfury too iconic to let Enhancement go. Discipline is something of a unique healing style so I kept that over Holy. I'll talk about Druids in the Tanks.
Warrior (Protection / Fury)
Death Knight (Blood / Frost)
Druid (Feral / Resto)
Demon Hunter (Tank spec name / DPS spec name)
The Tanks break down to either Plate or Leather. Death Knight, Demon Hunter and Warrior were obvious choices as Tank/DPS hybrids. I didn't want to have Paladin and Warrior both as tanks because they are a similar sword and board archetype. I went with Druid as the fourth tank because Feral lets me cheat them a DPS spec and keep their healing Resto spec.
Druids are the biggest challenge because all their forms are so iconic and they really have four different specs (Bear, Cat, Moonkin, Tree). You can keep Bear and Cat by keeping Feral but I wouldn't envy the person who had to decide between Moonkin and Tree, but in the end I decided that Boomkin and Cat were redundant DPS forms and went with Cat.
Hunter (Beast Mastery / Marksmanship)
Rogue (Assassination / Combat)
Mage (Frost / Fire)
Warlock (Demonology / Destruction)
Frost, Demonology and Beast Mastery are all pet assisted DPS specs so it made sense to make them more solo focused. Assassination sounds like something you'd do alone. I don't know Rogues well so I'm spit-balling that one.
The biggest impediment is that players think of themselves more as their spec than their class. Brewmaster Monks think of themselves more as Brewmasters than Monks. There are Beast Mastery Hunters who probably wouldn't play anymore if Beast Mastery was gone.
I realize this will probably never happen but it was a fun thinking exercise nonetheless.