Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The End of the Hybrid Tax

Happy Maintenance Day!
Today I bring you a proposal, a proposal to end the Hybrid Tax.
Let's get some definitions out of the way so we know what we're talking about. First let's talk about what a Hybrid is. In World of Warcraft there are 4 Pure classes: The Hunter, The Warlock, The Rogue, and The Mage. Your other 6 classes (Paladin, Priest, Druid, Shaman, Warrior, and Death Knight) are all Hybrids because they can spec into Talent Treess that allow them to fulfill the role of Tank or Healer for a 5 man party or Raid.
What is the Hybrid Tax? It's the basic idea that the Pures should have the potential to do more damage because they don't have the option to offer their raid a support role like Tank or Healer with a quick respec. Damage is all they can bring. The thinking of the Developers is that if they allowed Hybrid DPSers to do as much potential DPS as Pures, few people would make the choice to play a Pure class. I can tell you anecdotally from leveling alts that I see a ton of hybrids (Paladins, Druids, and Shamans) and few Pures leveling up.
There are two issues with Wrath of the Lich King, and I believe both could be addressed in part by eliminating the Hybrid Tax. Let me briefly describe them both, and then posit how ending the Hybrid Tax could help to mitigate or eliminate the issues.
It seems that despite the Developers desire to give the Pures 3 distinct damage dealing talent trees, there is always one tree that lags behind the others. Beast Mastery Hunters, Frost Mages, Subtlety Rogues and Demonology Warlocks know this all too well. Although to be fair, Demonology provides a really nice buff to the raid, but the design of balancing around lower DPS to compensate for good buffs went away in Burning Crusade.
One tree will always do more damage in theory than the others. But let’s take Hunters for an example. The difference between Marksman and Survival is small and which Tree does more damage is relatively gear dependent. Beast Mastery trails both and by a significant margin.
The Developers seem to be able to provide two relatively balanced damage dealing trees, but the third appears to be somewhat problematic.
The second issue is one of flexibility. We all know there is a lack of Tanks and Healers for groups. This has been a great boon to a Tank who can get a near instant queue, and healers who get very short ques. DPS meanwhile have to endure very long queues by comparison. Though it should be noted that groups are forming with the LFD tool much faster than they ever have before. This disparity of wait times has caused some Hybrids who are main spec DPS to switch over to their Tanking or Healing spec to get groups and farm their Emblems faster. This is a great advantage to those classes. The Pures simply don't have the option.
So how does eliminating the Hybrid Tax help fix the issues with the lack of flexibility, creating groups or the difficulty in balancing 3 distinct damage dealing trees?
When everyone's super, no one will be.
My proposal to end the Hybrid Tax is to make every one a Hybrid. In Cataclysm, each Pure class has one of its trees redesigned to allow that Hybrid to take on the Tanking or Healing role.
Already, we see enterprising Hunters pushing the limits of their class and using their Tenacity pets to Tank. If you search on YouTube, you will find videos of a Hunter tanking Wrath of the Lich King heroics up to and including Halls of Lightning. The Developers could give Hunters a “Righteous Fury” type Aspect, call it Aspect of the Turtle, that would increase threat generated and reduce damage done to the Pet.
Mages are masters of Magic so it doesn't seem like a huge stretch to me that they could learn to funnel their magic into healing instead of damage. Perhaps the Developers could combine Fire and Frost into a FrostFire tree and then make a new Sun tree. They could even write in Lore about a reignited Sunwell and the return of the quel'dorei being the source of the Mages healing magics.
Warlocks are good at draining life away from enemies. Why not have that life then redirected to one of your team mates. The Devs could also take one of their less used Pets and give it a Beast Master type treatment and make them capable tanks. They could join Paladins and Druids as the Triple Threat hybrids, able to spec into Tanking, Healing or DPS.
Rogues have joked for years about 'Evasion Tanking'. Why not codify that into the game itself. Give them a threat poison; call it Aggravating Poison, to increase their threat. The Developers could design them as heavy avoidance tanks, sort of like the initial design of Death Knights.
The elimination of the Defense minimum means that it would have little impact on gear. You wouldn't need Defense Mail or Leather. All Tanks in Cataclysm will be Crit Immune through talents like Druids are today.
I don't want to get into too many specifics as I'm confident the Developers are much better at game design than your humble author.
With Rogues, Hunters, Mages and Locks able to spec into Healing and Tanking, you will reduce the number of damage dealing trees you need to balace to a maximum of two per class. You will drastically increase the number of Tanks and Healers available to groups and everyone will experience shorter wait times. They can spend more time having fun than waiting around Dalaran for a group. And since everyone would be a Hybrid, there is no need for the Hybrid Tax to exist any longer.
So what do you think? Would the game be better with 10 Hybrid Classes?


Anonymous said...

Boo I say, boo. Too often people's answers (not just yours) is to make everything the same. Why not just do away with the different classes altogether and create one big giant mega-class that does everything and that everybody must play? Instead of character names we could be designated numbers and we could run around in identical gear slaying homogeneous mobs all the while cheering that we have finally realized utopia after crushing that little thing in life that makes things interesting called uniqueness.

No thanks.

Anonymous said...

I like that idea a lot. i have a mage that i hate to dps with but that was my 1st ever toon i made and took her all the way to level cap. since then ive had 6 other toons at cap now but i always have to do everything 1st with my mage since she is my baby but i hate playing her. So having her heal will bring back life to her that i miss from playing my paladin or shaman or other hybrids.

Zaph said...

I think your idea is a good one. It may involve a bit more balancing between classes to get it right, but then that's always an ongoing issue anyway. While we would temporarily see an influx of tanks and healers that don't know what they're doing, I think that would change quickly as people learned. The biggest advantage to it that I see is that the pure dps classes would actually experience what it takes to tank and heal and perhaps start to understand that it's not always the tank's or healer's fault when a wipe happens! It might even change how they perform as dps in a group.

Argon said...

In the LK era, the "hybrid tax" doesn't seem to be much of a factor in realistic scenarios. Differences in player skill are more important, and the different classes aren't even balanced against each other as it is. Therefore I think the design nightmare of adding 2 more healers and 2 more tanks wouldn't be worth it.

Honors Code said...


I understand where you are coming from. I believe that the Developers could keep that uniqueness in a Hunter Tank or Mage Healer.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me like most people who play a "pure" class (as well as most hybrids) only want to dps anyway. Giving them the ability to tank or heal will not make more tanks and healers, at least not by very much.

Rhabella said...

I love this post. The other thing you forgot to point out concerning evasion tanking is rogues leather could then be itemized with high avoidance and stamina over AP that would allow for 2 classes to to use leather to tank. I don't necessarily agree with the idea as a whole, because I the pures, locks specifically, hold a special place in my heart. I hit on the abolishment of the hybrid tax, btu don't know that I agree with more tanks and healers. Tanks have proved to be problematic enough with regard to balancing and effective yet unique cooldowns. More classes would only continue to water down the abilities that many of the tanks are already facing. How many times do we have to hear that we have a last stand on steroids?


Lakini said...

The hybrid tax is fine if the implement it correctly. Warriors and dks don't pay it, the other hybrids pay too much.

As far as the queues go I have decided is better to wait and do 5k dps than heal a group that has 3 players that can barely pull 5k dps combined, it goes faster.

Criven said...

@Anon, my raid main is pure dps. I spend most of my game time these days playing my prot/holy paladin.

I'd imagine there's plenty of "pure" dps who are a lot like me but don't have the 80 alt to spec for tanking.

What's my main Again? said...

This has a bigger implication then what you are presenting. Sure this idea works well to quicken the queue times in 5 mans... but look at the impact this would have on raiding. Right now in a 25 you typically have 3 tanks 7 healers and 15 dps.

What are you going to do when you have 6 classes going for those 3 tanking roles? Then another 6 for the 7 healing classes?

Designing encounters to facilitate more tanks is difficult to create and balance. Blizz often talks about how difficult it has been to balance the DK to fill the roles they designated for the class... adding more classes to try and balance would be far too difficult.

A world where certain classes could be lightweight tanks such as shamans during Vanilla and tenacity pets for hunter is a possibility. But they would have to be only viable for just 5 mans... which would lead to the issues that prot pallies had for years.

Eric said...

Your idea has one big flaw; the fact that most people don't like tanking or healing. There are more tanks and healers than ever and yet still impossible to find. Only four of the five classes in WoW can't either heal or tank. Pure classes are the minority. In fact, the pure classes are the least played classes in WoW.

It would make more sense for Blizzard to simply find a way to make tanking and healing a more attracting and entertaining role to fill. Simply stuffing more tanks and healers into the game doesn't fix the problem. Looking at the past two expansions is proof enough of that fact.

Honors Code said...


That's already the case. There are few Raid Tank spots, and I think that's part of the reason you don't see as many tanks. Balance would be a challenge, no doubt of that.


I think that's a core issue. Tanking and Healing aren't viewed by most people as being as 'fun' as DPS. I wonder why that is. I feel another blog post coming on, lol.

Tegoelf said...

I agree there is an issue here. tanks on my server have started playing "darlan roulette" jumping off of the city and queueing. Normally they only die when the dps have gone afk in the wait. As a tank I think it would be fun to be able to tank, at least 5 mans on those other classes, but I don't think you would catch that many of the dps as new tanks, they just dont enjoy it. Finally while i sympathize with the dps a little, I love my instant queue's don't take those away from me =)

tengen said...

It's a cute idea, very nice read, and actually sounds like it could be feasible for mages, hunters, and kinda for warlocks, but evasion tanking is what got us Sunwell Radience and Chill of the Throne. I don't think Bliz wants to bring it back on purpose in cataclysm. And evasion tanking only works on physical damage, they wouldn't have the health to stand up to magic hits. Making more taking classes would cause the game to relive the death knight encounter-specific superiority that plagued early wrath. The hunter pet tank and mage/warlock healing is an interesting idea though. Would be more interesting as a "creative use of game mechanics" (kind of like making a disc priest dps-viable with penance) rather than an endorsed philosophy though.

Jamsindahouse said...

I agree with your view.
Not only would it allow new players to try different aspects it would allow the people who have got a bit bored of just a dps role to try someting new.

It would see an increase in tanks and healers as people would log just to try it (the quality of the healing and tank may suffer while people learn)

The Hunter could be done quite easily with the introduction of a pet made for tanking (like the turtle in Wailing Caverns) and some slight changes to the beast mastery spec.