Originally this post was going to be on Raiding and not Main Tanking, or worse sitting out and never getting to Tank, but with recent changes (where we aren't raiding at all, [wtb raiding guild btw]) I thought I would try and shoe horn in two different topics into one post.
Apathy and side-content
Firstly I shall deal with the latter, once again its Summer, an expansion is near, and other games are being released, the coming patch (3.02 likely released in 4-6 weeks, 2-4 weeks ahead of WoTLK) has really gotten people down. There is such a general air of apathy on servers, people no longer interested in raiding and trying to down MH, BT or even Sunwell to an extent due to the coming releases making them pointless from a gear perspective. This is such a major downer for those of us that still want to see Mr Stormrage, to go kill the Eredar Prince (well get him to 10% and watch some wisps claim our kill), and to go challenge an Eredar in a glowing hole.
So what is going on, there are clearly still people that care, but of the guilds I have been in recently all 3 have essentially shattered due to raiding, a lack of focus and a lack of interest. Its no longer enough to simply see the content, to want to have "finished" the game and seen the credits scroll by, there seems to be a thought that our gear is what makes the game fun, not playing with the people. Its strange though, we have 60 accounts in our guild at the moment, we struggle to get 25 online, and struggle more with Healers (I even respecced to go Heal Lurker!), yet everyone says they want to see the inside of BT again.
Its a strong division, the statement "I want to raid, I want to down Illidan", compared to the reality of "I didn't see the spout", these are all people that have seen the inside of BT, who were downing 5/9 easily, and then this apathy wave hit, the focus gone and people walking into spouts (we eventually killed Lurker on the 9th try when my motivational speech convinces 24 of the 25 people to step into the water).
So what is it that drives this apathy, I know its not really about the gear, if we could get Sunwell gear we could use it in Naxx (as is being done on the Beta servers), so its clearly not the obsolescence problem because that doesn't exist. What it seems to me is that people have grown bored of the game a little, while the expansion was far away, working towards the "end" was a challenge, something to do, now the content, the wipes and the hardships are not the "end" but rather a side step, something that will be pugged by people wanting to see "old school" raids. There isn't even a Heroic Mode on these dungeons, there is nothing that will allow us to go back at 80 and feel the same challenge we felt at 70, and that is what I feel is killing the game at the moment, people seeing the "end" moving, and no longer wanting to wipe and farm to get into what will be a side step once they reach Tier 8+.
Its a bit like Karazhan is, if it hadn't been the first step on the road it would likely have been bypassed by so many who wanted to do 25 man instances, the bigger prize and "lesser" content is no longer fun, its not somewhere people want to step. Zul'aman seems to hold interest because of the mystic it still has, the bears, the timed runs and the challenge (despite being cleared in under 30 mins by Nihlium). Black Temple holds less of this, the guilds are seeing people start to see it like Karazhan or Black Rock, its a step on the ladder, but its going sideways rather than up.
You promised us tank talk:
Of course this ties into my original post idea, not Tanking content. I am a Tank, I like to Tank, I want to Tank (and if that is not enough Tanks in one sentence then Tanks a lot but no Tanks). Yet so often Tanks are asked to step aside, a raid needing 3-4 Tanks to clear the trash, yet only a single Tank for the Boss seems like the worst idea ever, it promotes the idea of Tanks being different (in my mind all Tanks should be Main Tank capable, viable and competitive in 80-90% of cases), of replacing members of your raid to fit the content, rather than raiding with friends and the content working with a consistent group.
There is a large furore on the Beta forums at the moment, Retribution Paladins (on critical hit) get an instant Flash of Light, which can apply a HoT (on a critical hit). This is seen as massively overpowering, its a DPS class that can Heal! Yet isn't this the way classes need to be, to even out the 3->1 Tank, the 6->12 Healers, the 29,000 raid DPS to kill Brutallus, making people flexible and their roles flexible would make raiding with a small consistent group much easier, and more fun. Looking at the Tanking classes, at the moment Warriors are the MT, Paladins Tank trash (typically) and Druids get to go Kitty a lot, really there is 1 Tank class amongst 3 classes that can Tank.
Again there is a lot of complaint on the Beta forums, giving all tanks an equal shot and slightly different ways to do it is homogenising them, they will be too similar. Yet no one seems to consider that Warriors already have a tool for every fight, and that without giving those tools to the other classes as well (possibly spread differently, different implementations, different mechanics, but the same fundamental issues covered to ensure that any Tank can fill any role and not need to have another class babysitting it). To make Tanks all have a chance (and at least 2 classes have trees titled Protection) we need the abilities to do it.
These are related how?
That is precisely the point, raiding and raiders are taking a slight step back, some people are stopping and letting apathy win, others want to carry on. By making the classes more interchangeable, by letting us integrate Healing DPS clases into the game we could easily cover the situations where we lack healers by stacking more hybrids (or asking them to respec, since they would have had more practice in their offspec since it would be part of their main rotations).
Taking Paladins since I know them, our ideal should be:
Pure Holy - Main Tank Healer, Light Splash Healer
Holy / Ret - Crit Healer, HoT based, Single Target
Holy / Prot - Prot / Holy - Off Tank
Protection - Main Tank, AoE niche, Raid Utility
Prot / Ret - Off Tank spec (more dps, less raw tanking capability)
Ret / Prot - DPS Off Tank (lots of dps, can tank if really needed)
Ret / Holy - Shockadin
Retribution - Melee DPS, with light healing woven through
The DPS tree in a caster hybrid should not be to the exclusion of their core features, letting Retribution throw small heals when it does good at its main task (DPS) lets the raid gain some utility and reduces the need for additional Healers, giving more classes this ability and making it more flexible would in my mind help a lot.
The key to letting us raid is flexibility, design the content, and let the classes easily form a spanning set of buffs, classes and abilities, then let flavour and play style decide your class, not whether you bring 0.0001% extra DPS, or have a unique ability that means only you can Tank a boss.
(Note: Illidan is going to stop Shearing in 3.0.2, without this only Paladins could Tank him till overgeared, yet nothing similar is happening to Reliquery of Souls, Mother Sharaz or similar, you need balance and to allow multiple classes to perform a role, if you make it too tight you squeeze out players from a role they should be able to perform).