If it isn’t clear, I really like my monk. He’s been able to tri-spec since MoP, and each expansion I’ve done a fair share of each. Up until Legion, I was mostly DPS. Due to the way weapon power/AP worked in Legion though, I needed to pick a main spec and level only that. That’s when tanking became my main.
At the start of any expansion, most specs are fairly equal. Gear levels are similar, skills are similar, experience is similar. Pre-Legion, the difference between specs was related completely to item level. You certainly had different weapons, and likely spec-specific trinkets too.
Legion’s AP system had 2 impacts. One, your main spec generally had better runes for it’s weapon, meaning it had a higher ilvl. Not a large amount but enough. Second, the AP invested in a weapon had a dramatic impact on playstyle. Catch up mechanics didn’t really start to have an impact until 7.2… and even then. It wasn’t much fun having to focus solely on AP for a 2nd spec, let alone a third. And honestly, a well invested tank could take on every and any WQ in Legion. DPS were not going to solo elites with the same ease… and certainly not healers.
Battle for Azeroth
Where once we had weapons with AP, and a set of spec-specific trinkets, now we have weapons, azerite gear (3 slots) and trinkets (2 slots) as differentiators.
Example. My tank has a i290 weapon. Bad luck rolls or what have you, but the rest of the gear is pretty much in the i320 range. Fine. My DPS weapons are in the 280s, even worse luck there. My healing weapon though – that’s i276. I did find a i355 BoE, but I sold that for 700k.
Trinkets so far seem overly simplified, in that they trigger/on use a stat buff rather than an effect. For my monk, this works out pretty well since the stat weights are all pretty close – basically anything but haste.
Azerite gear though, less fun. I mentioned in an earlier post that there are clearly optimal skills provided by azerite gear. In particular for Tank & Healing specs, since you are focused on a particular task. DPS have a lot more flexibility, though certainly numerically superior options. In nearly all cases, you will get an item upgrade that is not useful for your spec regardless of item level. Or maybe you will, and your azerite level is actually too low to unlock the 2nd/3rd skill just yet and it sits in the bag. It’s not a lot of fun to track.
This is the rough spot. I like to DPS, Windwalker is a lot of fun. In organized groups this can be a nice release since it’s so damn simple to do – avoid the fire, interrupt when you need. But you are often in the role of just making things go slightly faster.
Healers have a stressful role of just keeping everyone alive, and prioritizing the work. Good healers keep everyone alive. Great ones manage to do some DPS while healing. They are the “oh crap” button on bad pulls. Feels like continually spinning plates.
Tanks are tougher still. They need to know the full route, all the spawns, which packs are skipable, and how to position enemies to avoid patrols. Ok, well maybe not need so much as expected. Then there’s the basic ability to play a tank in a smart fashion. Avoiding fire is often a challenge, and quick movement is key. Interrupting is essential. Understanding your cooldowns and when not to use them. You need to be in-sync with your healer too. It is not a passive playstyle.
In most other MMOs, I end up playing a tank or healer. For most of them, tanking is easier as the UI modifications required for efficient healing only seem to work in WoW. SWTOR, Wildstar, FF14. (Mind you, healing in Wildstar is like having 2 simultaneous heart attacks). I can play solo or in a group with relative ease, all in a tank spec.
This really is the clincher for me.
Group play without timers, I’m good on any spec.
For unorganized gameplay and I’m time locked to a shorter session, then queue times are a massive driver. I do not want to wait 45 minutes to run a dungeon. As a tank, I can instant-queue, and run 2 of them in that time frame. Healer is quite similar. I’ve done the waiting game in previous expansions (and too much of it in EQ). I’m over that.
It’s Still Early
We’re in week 3 of a 2 year expansion. I have more than enough time to focus on the other 2 specs and clearly they will be getting more love than my mage. Any long-term alts I do have are going to have tank specs. The fun bits of the game are just more fun as a tank.