Larisa pointed out recently that she rolled a DPS Mage to specialise in DPS, and expected the hybrid classes to sacrifice the raw DPS power to be afforded their hybrid status. I would like to really talk about his from a different perspective though, firstly from a Raiding perspective, then from a Utility perspective, and finally from a Balance perspective. Whats more important though is probably to define what a hybrid is, and what the choices within a hybrid are.
What is a hybrid
Ok, now that I have cleared up what I mean, lets identify the classes by their types:
Pure DPS Specs
Mages - a pure elemental DPS class, focusing on elemental damage in three schools with very high raid utility offered through Sheep, Decursing, Spell Interruption, Intellect buffing, and Resource Provision. Mages take on the role of "Spell Steal" Tank where needed, that is removing beneficial buffs from a target, this role is often the hardest to replace as the damage income assumes the stolen buff.
Warlocks - a pure elemental DPS class, focuses on very situational control through Banish and Enslave Demon, effective use of Pets to improve health or damage and raid-wide damage increases in specific elemental schools. Warlocks are a highly situational control class, and typically take on the role of Fire / Shadow ranged Tank where needed, all fights Warlocks have Tanked have been done by other Tanking classes as well.
Rogue - a pure melee DPS class, very high white-type damage with a focus on poisons and utility through sap, mortal strike effects, and damage evasion. Rogues bring very little raid utility at current, however bring a misdirection effect, and a threat wipe in Wrath.
Hunters - a ranged DPS class focusing on either self DPS improvement, or damage through an associated pet. Provides the fastest and most effective threat wipe, the ability to transfer threat at range, reliable control through trapping and an effective second damage source through their pet.
Healer - DPS Specs
Priests - Priests are a primary healing spec with an AoE healing tree and a single target healing tree (often used for PvP). Priests are the most flexible healers having abilities for all situations. Priest damage specs are very limited due to the raid utility provided through Mana and Health Regeneration linked to damage which would scale too well if damage was set at the level of a pure DPS. Priests provide the only reliable Undead crowd control, and use of mind control to control Humanoid type opponents.
Shamans - Shamans are a dual DPS single healer spec (melee and elemental [nature]). Their specs are very powerful due to baseline buffs brought by the class in Heroism/Bloodlust, Windfury, and Mana / Threat totems. Their healing spec is very sought after as it can provide the utility of the DPS specs while providing automated healing of the most needed targets in a short range. In Wrath Shamans will bring a Sheep like effect.
Tank - DPS Specs
Warriors - Warriors are the main tanking class of World of Warcraft having 100% utility in any situation, and encounters designed to make use of these. Their DPS spec suffers from a lack of threat reduction abilities however in a threat free environment provides the third highest DPS in the game. Warriors provide very high utility (having encounters designed for their abilities) and effective buffs in Thunderclap, Demoralising Shout, Commanding Shout. Warriors have AoE melee capability unlike rogues.
Death Knights - 3 Tanking trees, 3 DPS trees, this Hero class cannot realistically be confined to a single role in any tree. Death Knights I won't realistically cover as they are a new paradigm of hybrid, closest current equivalent would be a Druid.
Healer - DPS - Tank Specs
Paladins - The defined AoE tank in WoW, and the only single target healer. The spec suffers from a lack of baseline abilities and effectiveness gaining utility baseline however a specialisation deep within its tree. Paladins have no control abilities, however bring many utility buffs considered essential to raids.
Druids - Druids are the off-tank class of WoW, coupled with a fluid movement into a reasonable DPS spec and a good healing spec. They provide the 2nd decursing class in the game. Druids provide the main HoT healing class to the game, however the current implementation of Boomkin suffers from high threat and mana problems.
Fluidity of Transition
Of the Hybrids, Druids can move between Tanking/DPS and Healing/Ooming with relative ease, a Shadow Priest can perform as a clutch Healer when needed due to reasonable baseline abilities. Warriors cannot move into a DPS role as a Tank without a change of gear, Paladins cannot move into the other roles without a respec and regearing. So realistically, while hybrids offer flexibility it is primarily in the planning stage, while a truly heroic effort by a hybrid may provide the saving heal or blow the chances of them providing it out of gear or spec is small.
Hybrids essentially cannot move between two disparate roles in a raid without at least a gear change, and if not a full talent change. This is to say that it doesn't matter typically what role you could play, a Tank specced player in Tank gear is not going to be an effective Healer, they may perform reasonably in Healing gear, however they cannot switch in combat. There is a slightly higher overlap between Caster DPS / Healing, and Melee DPS / Tanking options, however typically the effectiveness of these transitions could be placed in the 50-75% effectiveness category, meaning ok as an emergency role, but you wouldn't want to rely on them.
Taking a real example, I fought Illidan recently, specced as protection however geared towards a 4/9-5/9 capable healing gear. Through the fight I kept up a near continuous flash of light spam on the tanks (I don't heal often enough or know the tanks and fight well enough to trust myself to cast cancel), and through a 15 minute fight I had no mana issues. So my ability to perform a 2nd role was useful however I would likely not have left the raid even without this, the fight isn't tight enough to replace me. If I had to be replaced though it would be for a near top dps (even with good retribution gear I cannot sustain 1500 dos) so my ability to fill any role only bought me a slot because the other raid members could keep it up without me. In a fight like Brutallus I would still be swapped out for the small dos gain a pure dps would bring.
The fight was interesting though, the hybrid classes took on one role, and stayed in it throughout, the pure dos classes however were required to provide utility (ranged tanking, parasite control etc) so what did the hybrid status buy any of us other than lower dps, it sure seems like the raid time utility is actually in the hands of the pure classes, since pre-wotlk no non pure has reliable indoor cc. So while it looks at first that we hold the cards, it's much more balanced than it first appears.
Hybrids in vanilla and TBC WoW offered typically less utility than their pure brethren, or so it's believed. Looking at the classes though we see that the pure DPS classes have higher DPS typically (and will in Wrath), but also the majority of active utility. Active utility is typically what counts in a raid, while its possible to provide buffs outside of the raid group, it is not possible to provide control or utility from outside. Hybrids often complain about the lack of control abilities (ever done MgT Heroic with Hybrids, the third fight is officially a nightmare).
Moving into Wrath we will see the DPS and utility grow closer together, that means that the pure DPS classes will still be on top of the DPS charts, however the hybrid classes will not be far behind. This is a vital change really, if its not, with the consolidation of raid buffs your raid starts to look like on of these (assuming TBC damage rankings stay the same):
5 Buffs slots (minimal spanning set if you can't get it in your Tanks / Healers)
5 Buffs slots (minimal spanning set if you can't get it in your Tanks / Healers)
Yup, there is one token Mage (who could stand outside and buff really), no Hunters (Rogues can MD, all Tanks have some form of ranged pickup), etc. In short raids would be optimised for their DPS on progression kills. There are arguments against this, primarily towards gearing (you would be behind in the gearing curve if you stack all of a particular gear type, however assuming thats a non-issue higher DPS > other).
To allow for variation you really need to allow people to be similar enough that player skill has an effect, in TBC the best mages don't stand a chance against a good Warlock because of the DPS difference (10-30% in some cases), the innate difference is too high for player skill to make a difference in close cases. By making the pure classes 100%, and the hybrids 95% its a lot tighter and you get more balanced raids.
Hybrids and Raiding
Hybrids are currently essential to raiding, and will remain so, simply all the Healers are hybrids and so are your Tanks. What changes though typically is the raid composition over an instance, moving between 6 Healers and 10, 1 Tank and 4. By making hybrids effective in these roles, the raid you enter with can be the raid you leave with because of the ability of hybrids to fulfil moving roles. There are still more DPS spaces in a raid than any other role, and the majority of control, threat management and highest damage will still lie with the pure classes, you won't lose the pure DPS slots to a hybrid, what you will lose is the set of slots that would be in danger of being kicked from the raid to let in another Healer.
Hybrids and Utility
They don't have it.
Hybrids will get more in Wrath, however at current raid time utility is essentially held by the pure classes, no hybrid Sheeps (Shackle is a rarely used ability, and like Banish very situational), no hybrid can Misdirect, or provide the reliable threat wipes of a Hunter, Mage or Rogue. Simply the utility most people look at, that of changing your role, or buffing isn't what makes or breaks a raid, its what you can do inside the raid that counts. While its nice to say "but you can bring salvation", a level 30 buff bot sitting outside can do the same role.
Hybrids and Balance
There are issues with giving hybrids good dps, good roles, good everything, but typically its a matter of flavour. What we need to make sure is that classes are taken and that trees are viable. How often have you seen a Retribution Paladin taken to a raid as a first choice DPS on a fight other than Brutallus? The answer is likely never (or the Paladin gave favours to someone), their DPS isn't competitive, their raid utility can be replaced by non-DPS Paladins, they have nothing to really sell themselves to make up that 400+ DPS difference between themselves and the Warlock you could have brought.
Looking purely at damage as the indicator of worth is pointless, into the future we are likely to see more fights where its not just a DPS race, but a control, Healing, and even survival fight combined, we can't just rely on being really high on damage to win, we need to make use of all the abilities on our toolbars, and yes pure classes still have a lot of unique functionality.
Taking this leads to my next point, if hybrids can't do their roles, hybrids have been lied to.
Hybrids and Being Lied Too
Lets face it, most Paladins level to 60, maybe 70 as Retribution (you can get into Protection at 40 for Holy shield, or go the painful route as Holy, but Ret/Ret->Prot are the fastest routes). You do good damage, you Tank as DPS (no one builds much threat at those levels), you perform like it says on the box, three talent trees, 1 way of DPSing, 1 Tanking and 1 Healing, and you chose to DPS. You turned down the variety of the Warlock, the stylistic choice of DoTs and drain Tanking, the power of the Felguard and pets, and the raw destructive crits, you turned down the bond with your newly trained Pet, the infinite trapping cycle and the buffs of the Hunter, you have that 1 way to DPS.
Then your reached the max level, your gear was good, but only in your DPS tree, you did competitive damage and learned your class well... and then your went to Karazhan, and the pure classes out DPS'd you, the utility you brought was non-existent beyond the buffs, and people told you to go Holy or stop raiding. Yes you could become a Healer, but you wanted to be a DPS, you wanted to have a big two handed sword, to hit stuff with Holy Fury and be the scourge of the Undead... but by having access to a Healing tree you can't do the DPS of a DPS class, and your Healing is restricted to a single target less your DPS spec take it...
Hybrids have to be viable in all their roles, and they need the talents to encourage them to stay in a single tree for the most part, in Wrath we will likely see many different builds, but all viable or focusing on a strange combination. We will see many complaints from people about a DPS spec Healing, but that is what is needed, WoW is a rather flat game at the moment, a single Healer change for a Boss requires you to remove another class or respec, if instead we had roles like the Warrior Priest of W:AoR we might see that need to force someone out reduced, instead of a raid being:
3 Tank classes
7 Healing classes
15 DPS classes
it might be:
3 Tank classes (harder to trade out, and lower representation than expected)
5 Healing classes
4 Replenishment / DPS Healer builds
13 DPS slots
So now we reduced the effective DPS roles, but there are more overall DPS slots because we can share the Healing and DPS roles more effectively.
QQ: You can Respec, I Reroll
This is really the only complaint that I can see that actually holds water, however by going a hybrid spec I lose the ability to change my type of DPS role, I can't get the difference in my Paladin that I can on my Warlock, I don't get the same feeling on my Priest that I do on my Mage, the classes all feel different and play differently, Hybrids lose some of the options that others take for granted by being a hybrid. It is really hard to explain it, my Warlock has three different DPS specs, my Paladin has one, of course my Warlock can't Tank or Heal, but then I didn't roll her to Tank or Heal, when I am on my Warlock people want me to DPS, and I do it well. When I am on my Paladin people expect me to be able and have the gear to fulfil other roles, and to be there to let them play what they want.
If nothing I have said has made sense, then for no other reason than the grief of "Are you Holy?", "No, Protection", "Wanna Heal Heroic Shattered Halls?", equality should be given. Being a pure class means people don't have the same expectations of you that a non-traditional hybrid role does.