Rigga Robin Torres asked about adding bonus specs to the classes and I’ve got a response.
Short answer: I don’t think four specs work for all classes, but it could bring more tanks and healers to the table.
Long answer needs a bit of qualification: I know that adding more tanking and healing specs doesn’t necessarily bring more tanks and healers to the table. Adding the death knight, initially with its three tanking specs, didn’t result in a drastic increase in the availability of dependable tanks (“dependable” being the operative phrase; plenty of Wrath DKs didn’t know how to tank because it wasn’t exceptionally clear how to do so).
Adding the monk, which had both a tanking and healing spec, introduced more of those specs to the field, but I think the reason you don’t hear as much about tanking/healing shortages in MoP is because you’ve got more players doing scenarios, which don’t require either, and LFR somewhat takes the work out of finding people to fulfill those roles. So by reducing the overt demand for tanks and healers, Blizzard can give the implication that the shortages aren’t as much of an issue anymore.
So my goal with wanting to get more tanks/healers isn’t about trying to manage a shortage of players in those roles; it’s more about introducing those roles to players who historically haven’t had access to them within their classes. So if you’re a mage, and you like the kit of being a mage, and you’re not interested in rolling anything other than a mage, then having a tank spec available to you might give greater incentive to experiment with tanking, which might lead you to doing it more often, provided you enjoy it.
Death Knight: Necromancy (Ranged Caster DPS)
First blush is going to be “but doesn’t this take away from Unholy’s kit?” To which my response is this: if Unholy capitalizes more on diseases and the more permanent ghoul pet, then there’s room for Necromancy to be a nuke-oriented caster who spawns more temporary pets, like skeletons. As a bonus, this helps to match thematically with Second War Death Knights (who were ranged casters who inexplicably wore plate armor) AND it comes up with a way to employ spellpower plate for a spec other than Holy Paladins.
Druid: SCREW YOU TREEHUGGERS YOU GET NOTHING
Hunter: Sentinel (Tank)
Given a unique kit of traps and the ability to grant bonus abilities to Tenacity pets, the Sentinel tank could also call back to Huntress units from WC3 by using more Glaive-based abilities. Yes, this would probably result in Glaive Toss becoming a spec ability instead of a talent, but that wouldn’t be the first time this has happened. You’d have Sentinel mitigation be dependent on active abilities like Deterrence and perhaps a tricked-up version of Exhiliration. But overall, the Sentinel would be a hunter in melee ducking and weaving around boss attacks, bouncing him off the Tenacious pet, and moving him around the battlefield a lot.
Mage: Force (Tank)
A lot of people like to suggest a healing spec for mages; I’m more interested in having a mage rocking what’s essentially magical power-armor and standing toe-to-toe with the boss. Force mitigation would be based around big absorption, and I could see abilities predicated on “when the shield is depleted, the Mage is teleported ten yards back.” If the Sentinel Hunter’s kit is going to be greater mobility and containing the boss, then the Force Mage’s shtick is going to be “stand in front of the boss but very quickly escape when necessary.”
Monk: Flamecaster (Ranged Caster DPS)
This is more a matter of filling in the blank than anything else, but all three current specs of Monk draw on the functions of one of the four August Celestials. The Red Crane is the odd one out, but a fourth spec that focuses on nukes could be a way to fill the gap.
Not gonna lie, I’m not sure what to do with Paladins. The kit of the whole class involves wearing plate, swinging hammers, and splashing healing everywhere. I could see an argument for a ranged caster spec to use spellpower plate, but I’m not sure how to diversify it from Discipline Priests. And in my book, Holy Paladins should be in the front line so that their armor actually gets put to use, instead of backrowing it with the clothies and trees,
Given that my main is Priest, it really bugs me that I haven’t got a fourth spec idea for them. Giving them a melee spec feels redundant given Monks and Paladins, and giving them a Holy DPS spec would feel like it deflates Atonement and Chastise-oriented play for Disc/Holy Priests.
Rogue: Mockery (Tank)
Evasion tanking should totally be a thing. And if you’re not going to build a Bard class (and I gotta be honest, I can’t think of how they’d work) then having the kit of “mocking your enemies into underestimating you” should totally be a thing that rogues do. Warriors have got Taunt and Mocking Banner, sure, but Rogues really can turn around and shake their asses at an enemy while also being able to dodge and parry attacks. The vocal aspects of the archetypal swashbuckling rogue isn’t something that Combat plays up very much, and out of existing Rogue specs that’s where they ought to be.
Shaman: Preservation (Tank)
Similar to how Monk has got some kit that’s just being left on the table, it always felt like there should have been an Earth-oriented Shaman tree that tanked. Between the existing threat-generating abilities and the kit of being able to drop totems to do virtually anything (especially the MoP redesign of totems being cooldown abilities instead of constant buffs) means that the only reason this hasn’t happened yet is sheer willpower.
Warlock: Brutality (Tank)
Could you build a tanking spec just out of Metamorphosis? You could, but you’d also need to figure out how Demonology stays a ranged DPS spec and a tanking spec at the same time. Unless I’m mistaken, trying to have have one spec do two different roles is what started the fourth-spec discussion to start with. So instead, here’s Brutality: a spec designed not around a warlock harnessing enough knowledge and power to become a demon temporarily, but instead a warlock who infuses himself with enough power to sock a demon (or non-demon boss enemy) in the face and have it leave a mark. If the kit of the WC3 Demon Hunters was that they fought fire with fire by becoming demon-like, the Brutality Warlock would do the same thing by making the right deals and sacrifices to be able to simply shrug off attacks that would kill other clothies.
Warrior: Bravery (Healer)
I know, I know: people have joked at a warrior healing spec using bandages since forever. And people have balked at the idea of the most inherently magic-free class having abilities that are clearly magical in nature. But if you get a little looser on the idea of what Hit Points are, I could totally see a warrior that heals people through morale, or through impressive attacks that show the enemy isn’t unbeatable. And what you’d have is a Warrior wearing spellpower plate swinging sword and/or board into the bad guys and telling her allies “WALK IT OFF DAISY.”
Clearly the problem with some of the tank suggestions I listed is that you don’t currently have tanking armor in that category, meaning armor that capitalizes on Stamina, dodge/parry, that sort of thing. Given some of the overtures Ghostcrawler has been making about how stacking haste is okay (in moderation) for Paladins because it supports active mitigation, I could see a model where you don’t need tanking cloth/mail because primary stats can provide passive mitigation minimums and then secondary stat management becomes what governs your active mitigation. That’s not a perfect solution (it begs the question of why survival stats or even tanking armor should continue to exist) but I think it makes for a good conversation.
So there you go: fourth specs are a thing that can give a bunch of existing classes new functionality, but it would take a lot of work to reinvent how tanking would work for the classes who can’t currently do it. I think it would be a worthwhile effort, but hey, that’s just my mix. ^_^