This post has been last updated on July 14th 2011.
Note: When I’m talking about having two main specs I’m talking mainly about specs which covers two different roles like tank, healer and dps. While the following still hold true for someone having two healing specs for example, the difficulties encountered are much less when it comes to gear.
Mostly everyone who plays WoW now has a main spec and an off spec. You have that main spec that you excel at and you have the offspec to mess around with when you want a change of pace or you bring it when your guild is really desperate to fill a critical role. But there’s some of us, who play both spec to their full potential and will switch role at the drop of a hat. In essence, we have two main specs and no offspecs. This primer is here to answer some of the questions you may have about the play style and help you out with the biggest issue of the style, gear.
Why do it?
Two main specs is twice the gear, twice the rotations, twice the knowledge and twice a lot of others things. Not only is it a lot more work to maintain two specs in their top operating conditions but you’re also slowing down your progress on both specs. Just because you’re trying to be twice as useful doesn’t mean twice the gear drops or that you’ll get double the gear from your guild.
Some do it out of necessity like I did when I stumbled into the play style. In Wotlk we had to pug often and one of our tanks had flaky attendance. When he showed up I was dps and when not I was tanking which usually meant I was tank every other week. This became a strong selling point when I applied to a hardcore guild who was looking for a dps with a strong tank offspec. Being able to both dps and tank meant my spot was pretty much assured in the hardcore guild which bring us to the second reason for doing dual mainspec, being indispensable.
A player with two working specs who is actually skilled at both specs is incredibly valuable to a raid. Not only is it easier to include him in the raid since you can use both his specs at anytime depending on the specifics of the fight. If he’s your offtank you can switch him to dps when the boss requires only a single tank and get a real dps and not a tank’s offspec which does about the same dps as his tank spec anyway.
Finally, going dual main specs helps keep things fresh and interesting. This is why I’m still doing it even though I don’t really need to with Eff. Seeing a boss from a new angle can make him really interesting again even if you’ve killed it 10 times before.
Learn the class, not the role
Forget specs and play styles for a moment. Being able to truly dual specs comes down to a real understanding of each and every one of your abilities and how they mesh together in different situations. Because you’re going to be switching back and forth between roles, you need to know how your abilities interacts with each of your specs. Most theorycraft is written with a specific spec in mind and goes along the lines of “You’re a fire mage, here’s what you use”. So the first reflex when going dual speccing is to learn two sets of theorycraft, one for each spec.
Ultimately, this is where you’ll end up but I found out it speeds the learning process a lot if you go about it thinking of your class as a whole instead of splitting it around specs. The real advantage though is that by doing it that way you’ll learn how to use both specs at the same time. For example, a shadow/healing priest will know wich healing spells he can use while in shadow form, when to drop out of shadowform and what do to heal. In a fight, this priest could very well go holy for 15 seconds to help the team through a heavy damage phase. Or it could be a tank finding a way to boost his dps to help during a burn phase.
Gear, the biggest roadblock
Gearing two main specs is double the gear and can be more than double the effort too. You have to maintain two set of gears at the same level as the rest of the raiders. In a progression environment where everyone is after all the gear, it gets even worse. Time of course, is the great equalizer but you may run frequently into situations where your playing catchup with your gear. Worst case scenario is that you fall so far behind on a spec that it becomes unusable.
So how do you overcome the gearing issue? If you have deep pockets and lots of time, grinding the hell out of heroics, getting all the crafted items and buying overpriced BoE will certainly help you a lot. In fact, you’re going to have to spend a lot of gold and time even if you aim for a more reasonable approach. It does take more effort to gear up two specs and there’s no way around that.
The general idea is to plan your choices and work in steps. Reputation gear should be the first priority. While grinding that rep in heroics, you’ll also get Valor points which are the key to the whole balancing aspect. You want to be playing a sort of gear “Whack-a-mole” game where you fill your biggest gear hole with Valor gear. Be smart and take into account probable drops from the content you downing. For example, if Magmaw drops your best in slot headpiece for your healer set and you farm him every week, you might want to put off buying that valor head for later and prioritize other pieces you are less likely to see. Also, Valor point might be better spent on the spec you have the most competition for in raid.
Of course, your plan to dual main spec will be impacted heavily by your raid loot policies which brings me to my next point.
Talk about your plan with your guild
When going dual main spec, especially in a raid progression oriented guild, choosing to slow down progression on two specs, needing more gear might conflict with the raid leader plan for progression or with established guild policies about alts and loot. I’ve been doing the dual main spec in a few guilds and we handled the situation differently in every guild. Some will allow you to roll as if having two main specs, some will actively help you out and others will let you fend for yourself and treat the whole situation as a normal offspec. You might even be disallowed from having two main specs and asked to focus exclusively on one spec.
So talk to your raid leader, guild leader, officers, guildies. Make it clear for everyone on what you want to do and ask for how they want to handle it. It’s hard to talk about loot in any guild without being accused of loot whoring so be tactful in how you approach the guild. Your goal here should be to prevent future loot issues that might arise, not how to get more loot. If your guild choose to help you by giving you priority over offspec loot or to allow you to consider both specs as mains, all the better! Settle what is considered your offspec/mainspec and how it will play out in loot decisions. Often, you’ll be surprised by how accommodating guilds can be since two strong main spec are often a huge help to the raid.
Remember that is an ongoing process that doesn’t stop with that initial discussion. Over time, priorities and needs may change and you may have to reconsider your approach. Very strong competition for a class of gear might also create conflict between you and the people who have a single mainspec and may resent you from stepping on their “turf”.
There is a secret to all of this and it’s not be greedy. If you have your piece of loot for the night, let the mainspecs get the new drop even if the rules would allow you to get it. If the super tank trinket that everyone has been wanting for months drops, and tank is the spec you use less often, let the others have it. Skip on sidegrades if you can. In short, let everyone else get loot too and don’t game two specs as an excuse to get more loot. On the other hand, don’t let yourself be bullied out of loot, don’t get into a mentality where you have two offspecs. The greed rule applies both way and you need gear too to progress. Whatever system your guild use, if you’re at the top of the list, it means you’re allowed to get something.
For the TL:DR crowd, don’t be greedy and talk with your guild and all should be fine.
And with that I hope you enjoyed this little primer!