DPS Disadvantage

Playing a pure DPS class is quickly proving to be a major disadvantage in this expansion than a class who can tank or heal. I am just noticing this now because I traditionally haven’t mained a pure DPS class. The game has been moving this way over the years with only 1/3 of the classes unable to tank or heal. The thing is, there really isn’t any reason for it outside of design planning and effort by Blizzard.

The crux of the issue is that Tank and Healing classes are in high demand. I can get into any group I qualify for basically instantly whereas pure DPS classes have to wait up to 40 minutes for the same activity. This is mostly based off of math – there are three DPS classes for a typical event (5 man) to one tank and one healer. The Custom queue is full of 0/0/3 (tank/healing/damage) groups just waiting to be blessed by the presence of a “necessary” character. The thing is, pure damage characters are fun and have great fantasy flavour with the archetypes. It is also a class segment that has less responsibility and quite frankly, less impact. A great tank or healer can carry a group through an activity – since there are fewer of them, their impact is far more noticeable. If you have two damage classes doing great damage and one doing poor (along with average tanking and healing) you will still be successful. A top end damage class still can only move the average so far since it is blended along with two other damage classes as well as the damage a tank does. Smart things such as interrupts is where a good damage class can really shine.

What to do? First off, is to acknowledge the terrible design decision that there are pure damage classes to begin with. Every class should either have a healing or tanking option. The second, is to acknowledge the equally terrible design decision to have some classes that can tank AND heal, while some have neither option. Better design would be to have every class with a damage and a heal OR tanking option, (not necessarily both). Historically you aren’t going to be able to take away those options without a pissed off player base, but still, no reason why you can’t add more options to the other classes. They figured this out with the Demon Hunter by only giving them one extra option.

Let’s look at what the classes offer (T=Tank, H=Heal, R=Ranged DPS, M=Meelee DPS. Double letters means double the specialization in that style)

  • Death Knight: T, M, M
  • Demon Hunter: T, M
  • Druid: T, H, R, M
  • Hunter: R, R, M
  • Mage: R, R, R
  • Monk: T, H, M
  • Paladin: T, H, M
  • Priest: H, H, R
  • Rogue: M, M, M
  • Shaman: H, R, M
  • Warlock: R, R, R
  • Warrior, T, M, M

12 classes, with the following specialization breakdowns:

  • Tanking:6
  • Healing:6
  • Ranged:11
  • Melee:13

First off – just noticed how it doesn’t quite balance (should have one less melee and one  more Ranged, for “balance” purposes) – still, there is double the amount of “non-essential” classes vs “essential” (12 to 24) and that breaks out to a 1:1:4 ratio. This creates a natural bottleneck on those required classes. Instead of breaking current classes a simple solution would be to add either a healing or a tanking specialization for every class that doesn’t currently have one of those options and remove double specs  (so if you do melee DPS, only do one kind.) Some ideas that don’t totally break immersion:

  • Death Knight loses a melee spec (-1 melee)
  • Warrior loses a melee spec (-1 melee)
  • Hunter: Tanking via a Pet, replacing the new Survival specialization. (-1 melee spec)
  • Mage:  Healing via arcane magic (-1 ranged spec)
  • Rogue: Tanking via avoidance / parry,  (-2 melee spec)
  • Warlock: Healing using Demon energy (-2 range spec)

Check out that math. 8 tanks, 8 healers, 8 ranged, 8 melee. Equal amounts (16 to16, 1:1:2 ratio) instead of double the amount of DPS classes. Should be easier to balance out a 5 man group. 10s and 20s wouldn’t be so bad either, because classes have more options to fill those required spots.

This change would give people more options. The way loot works now in Legion is perfect – you *pick* what spec you get loot for. So even if you love dps, and want to improve that loot, then simply choose it. If you refuse to tank or heal this doesn’t change anything for you, stick to your dps spec and enjoy the game you want. The other benefits of this kind of cleanup is that now you are only balancing 32 specializations  instead of 36, a ~10% reduction in developer class balance work.

I do realize a change like this is highly unlikely. It is never too late to change and it would be an interesting move. I know for a fact it would help my game play and would give me options to support the greater community (via tanking or healing) if I could do it without having to switch to a different character. Blizzard made some major changes similar to this already this year (look at the hunter changes) so it isn’t completely out of the ordinary. It would take some guts, some good planning and some good research.

It would also require a new expansion.

See, win / win.


  1. Asmiroth

    You mean, RIFT? Even FF14 has this issue in part, as gear isn’t as shareable between the various classes as it is within WoW.

    Wonder what the impact would be at the tail end though – I mean, what would motivate a ‘Lock to heal, other than queue times? It’s a conscious decision to roll a DPS-only class after all. But at least the option would be there…

    1. bhagpuss

      During my six months in Rift I noticed that a design that meant anyone *could* tank or heal also meant that people who didn’t want to do either were often expected to do one or the other regardless of their own preference. Arguments over who was going to swap Souls for the good of the group were relatively common.

      I think there’s a very good reason why most games have an over-abundance of DPS classes and I doubt it can be fixed by altering the balance of classes on offer. Tanking and healing simply requires a willingness to accept responsibility and most players don’t log into a video game to feel responsible.

  2. Isey

    I don’t think I am an outlier, I am a pretty common guy =)

    Last night I had a 40 minute queue, 40 minute dungeon run, and 60 minutes of questing after. I didn’t queue a second time for the sole fact I knew I wouldn’t have time to complete a second dungeon. 140 minutes of gaming, one five man.

    Now, if I could have tanked or healed on my rogue, I definitely would have done two other dungeons in that time frame. Three 5 mans completed in the same gaming time.

    I would have tripled the enjoyment of other dps classes waiting in a queue (plus opening up a slot) during that same time frame.

    The possibility definitely wouldn’t make queue times longer, that’s for sure. I am sure there has to be other players out there like me (hopefully) making that situtation even more prevalent. This should allow everyone to have less time waiting and more time playing.

    I mean, in theory, anyway.

  3. C. T. Murphy

    World of Warcraft is lost. To me, the key for future MMOs is not having a dedicated DPS class. Damage is a byproduct of your role, even if that means healers can now hurt people too.

    And yeah, that means that there is no longer a “relaxed” spec, but it also means you aren’t playing a role that 9/10 gets carried by someone who probably felt forced to tank or heal in the first place. Its a lose-lose-lose either way, but at least with everyone having to pull their weigh, the suffering is spread thinner.

    1. Isey (Post author)

      I miss your boundless positiviy and enthusiasm Murf! =) Kidding aside, yeah, its about time those DPS slackers did something except stand in stuff…

  4. Dublin

    Well, you could play a druid or paladin if you want all those options open to you. Not saying this is the best option, but it is there.

    I think you have hit the nail on the head with your observations though

    1. Pure damage classes tend to be more fun
    2. Damage classes tend to have great fantasy flavour
    3. Damage classes have less responsibility
    4. Damage classes work together as a team, with high achievers helping to carry the less competent members

    That would sell me on a class – no doubt!

    Now, I think that adding so more options to those classes without healing or tanking specs is a good idea. I believe the homogenization of classes and the direction of dungeon/group activity design has created even more of a problem with DPS specs by taking away or trivializing the abilities that might have made them more relevant to groups or gave them specific responsibilities. I remember the days when in raids CC’ers and Interrupters were assigned tasks alongside the healers and tanks and carrying them out could make the difference between failure and success. Even removing of debuffs was allocated to some ‘DPS’ classes as a priority..

    So I believe it isn’t necessarily class design that created this problem but content design. By removing any reason for DPS classes to do anything except damage this is the situation that you end up with. Of course what followed is class redesign around this direction and the problem became compounded.

    Some more creative class design would help alleviate this to a degree. Design classes around other functions other than pure damage, tanking and healing. Debuffing, cleansing, off-tanking, kiting, crowd control, buffing, stuns, distractions, and so on.

    Adding some tanking and healing to other classes is a great idea as well of course. I love the idea of a tanking mage or priest, as Rift did. My warlock off-tanks in some group situations as it is using life-drain and healing the demon tank-pets. In fact my Affliction ‘lock survives situations every other class I have tends to die in.

    The problem with taking away some of the damage specs for classes is that you then take away some of their flavour, and I don’t believe this is the best approach. This feels like punishing players for having too much fun, because their desire to play these fun classes is interfering with our chances to get into dungeon groups and have our own fun. Redistributing the responsibilities in groups seems to me a fairer way of handling the problem.

    As Bhagpuss has said, making tank/healer role a part of every class does open up the possibility that players would be expected to take that role, and I think many people take DPS classes to avoid them. So I can’t see that it would make any difference, or worse it would just make a whole lot of people anxious every time they queue up and choose not to tank or heal.

    1. Isey (Post author)

      I don’t disagree but I do believe the “fear” of making people feel expected to take a role will be outstripped by people who are actually ready and willing to do that role – in the class they want to. More options cannot be a bad thing. Really, people don’t even talk right now at all (I try, I try) so if you queue up as DPS you get that automatically anyway. There won’t be anyone standing around arguing what role to take because groups aren’t formed that way anymore. Except in guild, which you would expect would be fine anyway =)


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