We've all heard it before. Pure DPS classes have it so easy! They only have to worry about one set of gear (excluding PVP gear) while the poor hybrid classes have to carry two or three sets! They also only have to collect gear with their primary stat and DPS secondary stats, while hybrids have to worry about multiple primary stats, tanking/non-tanking secondary stats, etc. AND they even only have to collect ONE set of always-hard-to-obtain tier gear! What a life of luxury the Pure DPS player lives!
Well, I hate to [Shattering Throw] your bubble, but it's not quite so simple.
Oh, it's true that a Mage (for example) only has to worry about gear with Intellect on it. Her desired drops are very clear-cut: no Strength, no Spirit, no Dodge, no Expertise, nada. And yeah, there's only one set of tier Mage gear.
However, what many people do not understand is that this Mage still needs a second set of gear to play her offspec, just like a hybrid class.
Why? Because Frost =/= Fire =/= Arcane.
With the implementation of reforging, suddenly we were given endless new options when it comes to optimizing our equipment. Got a chestpiece packed with Mastery, but Mastery is your worst stat? No problem! We'll just reforge a chunk of that Mastery to juicy Crit instead.
But what if your offspec values its secondary stats differently? What if your offspec hates Crit but loves Mastery?
Do you see where the problem is?
It's not something people really think about, when dual-specced DPS classes switch specs. Most players simply assume that, in terms of gear, Rogue spec = Rogue spec. But in reality, most DPS specs value secondary stats quite differently. Even worse, some specs not only have different values, but completely different cap requirements (Hit, Expertise, Crit, etc). Some lucky class/spec combos might have the same stat weights, yes, but others are vastly different, some to the point of having a secondary stat that is essential in one spec and near-worthless in the other.
For example? Let's look at my Death Knight, who is dual-specced Frost / Unholy.
DW Frost requires reaching the melee Hit (8%) and Expertise (26) caps, which is 601 Hit and 781 Expertise. (601 Hit is only 5% hit, but the spec gets a free 3% from talents.) Frost prioritizes secondary stats as Haste > Mastery > Crit.
Unholy, on the other hand, requires reaching the 8% Hit cap without that bonus 3%, which means they need 961 Hit. Their stat priorities are Haste > Crit > Mastery.
Right away, there's a disparity with the amount of Hit I need in my two specs. And notice the lack of Expertise? That is because Expertise is actually the worst stat for Unholy (not counting obvious wrong stats like Spirit or Parry). The perfect Unholy setup would see a big fat zero in the Expertise column.
So even though these are both DPS specs, the only way I could use the same gear for both specs is if I was willing to be quite subpar at one of them. If I gear for Frost, then when I switch to Unholy I don't have enough Hit and have boatloads of pointless Expertise. But if I gear for Unholy, then my Frost spec has too much hit and not enough Expertise!
How big of a deal is this? Well, it's a total of 1141 wasted or missing stat points (360 Hit + 781 Expertise). This would basically be like playing completely ungemmed and unenchanted! To anyone serious about their DPS and performing at a high level, this is completely unacceptable.
Keep in mind these are just the stats related to my basic melee caps - I haven't even gotten into how Frost hates Crit, but Unholy quite likes it. That's yet another factor that will result in one of your specs underperforming.
Want another example? Frost Mages have a special Crit Cap requirement of 33.33% due to one of their talents, something neither Arcane nor Fire have to worry about. Or if you want to look at a really dizzying example, check out the Rogue stat priorities:
Assassination: 8% Melee Hit > 17% Spell Hit > Mastery > Haste > Expertise > Crit
Combat: 8% Melee Hit > 26 Expertise > Haste > 17% Spell Hit > Mastery > Crit
Subtlety: 8% Melee Hit > Haste > 26 Expertise > Crit > 17% Spell Hit > Mastery
Those stats are all over the place! There's no way a dual-specced Rogue could have a single set of gear that properly follows each spec's priorities.
You might be asking, um hello, isn't this what reforging is for? Tidying up your stats and min/maxing for optimal results? And the answer is yes!...sort of. Sure, I can reforge and adjust my stats and end up using the same gear for both specs - at the cost of hundreds of gold every time I wanted to switch. Literally! I checked, and it costs me about 250 gold to reforge from Frost to Unholy stats.
But even putting the steep financial cost aside, the most significant drawback to this reforging requirement is that I can't do it mid-raid. Let's say I wanted to be Frost on Warmaster Blackhorn so we could have Chilblains for the Twilight Sappers, but then wanted to be Unholy for Madness of Deathwing so we could have Anti-Magic Zone.
What am I supposed to do - delay the rest of the raid while I hearth and reforge?
Imagine how frustrating and annoying that would be, to both myself and my teammates, when all I want to do is utilize both my specs so I can best benefit the group. You know - the whole POINT of dual speccing!
Another problem with this dilemma is that utilizing both specs is one of the only ways a pure DPS class (or someone who is dual-specced DPS, such as my DK) can bring additional benefit to a raid group. A hybrid character can fill in as a tank or healer, but my DK, or a Rogue, or a Mage? All we can do is DPS. As a result, we want to be able to help out in other ways, such as providing the various buffs/debuffs/etc. available in our different specs, such as Chilblains/Anti-Magic Zone, as mentioned above.
But how are we supposed to do that when it requires holding up 9 (or 24) other players?
The only real solution is doing exactly what any hybrid character has to do to play their offspec - collect and prepare a second set of gear. However, this is harder than it sounds, because quite honestly, it looks really, really bad.
Let's say my Death Knight is in LFR as Frost, and I roll on the DPS plate belt from Hagara, when I already have that exact belt equipped. Do I have a legitimate use for it? Absolutely, I need it so I can have one belt for Frost and one for Unholy. But try explaining that to the furious players in the group who only see a greedy jerk stealing "their" gear, by needing on a piece that he already has equipped. Go ahead, try to tell them about the dual spec demands and stat priorities and all that.
I'll save you the trouble. You will never be able to explain. No one listens or cares that you need that belt for your offspec so you can be your best at both specs. They just rage, froth at the mouth, accuse you of being an asshole and slam their Vote to Kick buttons as fast as they can.
It's not just an LFR situation, either. If I already have the 397 Hagara belt as Frost, and it drops again during my guild run, and my Warrior tank would like to need on it for his DPS offspec? Do you have any idea how selfish it feels (and looks) if I also rolled need on it for MY offspec, considering I already have it? I mean, it's actually equal priority for both of us - we both legitimately need it for our offspec. But it comes across as extremely greedy and selfish. And in one sense, I COULD use the one I already have for Unholy. It would cost me gold and it would be a pain in the ass to do during raid time, but I COULD use it, while he simply could not since he doesn't actually own the belt.
Now obviously, it's a little different in a guild situation. I have no doubt that, after explaining just why I needed the belt, my tank guildie would be fine with me rolling on it. But you try doing this and winning the belt, and not feeling like an absolute boor for being so greedy. It's silly, since you really do need it, but the feeling of shame is unavoidable.
And that's why I've been finding it so difficult to consider my Frost/Unholy DK truly dual-specced during Dragon Soul. If I can't switch specs on the fly, and if switching costs me hundreds of gold and requires a bunch of tinkering back in town, then why even bother being dual-specced to begin with?
Now at this point, you might be saying, oh my god shut up already, just DPS at 100% capacity in Frost and at 75% capacity in Unholy and quit whining!
Well, if that's what you think, we clearly have different definitions of what it means to be a serious DPS player.
If you don't raid competitively and don't really care about your DPS, then that's fine. I REPEAT - THAT IS FINE. This post isn't really addressed at you. Don't be mad or insulted by this, it's just aimed at a different player demographic! You play your part of the game and I'll play mine.
But serious DPS players? They do not strive to be "good enough." They don't aim to be "adequate."
There is always room for improvement.
Unlike healers or tanks, for whom success CAN be measured in such terms, the pursuit of excellence is a never-ending quest for a DPS player. I'm not saying healers or tanks aren't as committed or don't spend as much time fine-tuning their performance. That's absurd. But their criteria (Did everyone live? How was my overhealing? My cooldown usage? How much damage did I take?) are a) harder to numerically measure, and b) often at least partially out of their hands. It's simply a different situation.
But for a DPS, your performance is right there as a number, staring you in the face, challenging you to surpass it the next time.
Now, I'm not talking about ignoring crucial mechanics to pad your numbers, or blowing up the boss 0.5 seconds into the fight, pulling aggro and dying, or other characteristics of terrible players. I mean, come on. We're talking about serious players, not baddies. Doing all the right things and taking care of your specific responsibilities - interrupting, using defensive cooldowns, clicking the Lightwell - these are all things that go without saying. Without question, they are absolutely just as important as the number flashing on Recount at the end of the fight.
I liken it to writing a test. Things like killing adds and avoiding unnecessary damage? These are the no-brainers that any decent player will do. They're like writing your name on the test or meeting a word requirement - things that are just expected.
But your actual DPS results? That's your grade, the number you take home afterward as a summary of how well you performed. It's why you're there, so why would you settle for anything other than your best? If you're not doing everything in your power to push out your optimal numbers, you're slacking and letting down the rest of your raid team. We've all had those 1% or 0% wipes - playing with suboptimal stats could absolutely be the difference in such cases between a heartbreaking wipe and a triumphant kill.
Don't get me wrong - I'll screw around in solo play as an ungemmed Ret Paladin or horrible Boomkin, because well, whatever. But when I'm in a raid? When 9 other people are counting on me? No way. It's my best or nothing.
Of course, collecting and gemming/enchanting two full sets of near-identical gear is time-consuming, expensive, and is a lot of extra work. It's not for everyone, and that's okay. But for a player who wants to be able to bring two different specs to their raid, and who is unwilling to accept suboptimal performance? Getting that offspec gear is your only real solution.
It's just frustrating that gearing your offspec makes you look like such a jerk.