Vidyala has a great post up about her return to her mage that will probably leave you hungry for cookies. It will also leave you appreciating her zest and joy in playing her mage, Millya.
I’m really glad to see this post from her. Vid has struggled between the needs of her raid group, her own enjoyment of being a healing paladin and loathing being a DPS paladin, and her affinity for playing a mage.
I’ve received more than one whisper from people saying they’re happy to see my mage again, and that it feels “good” to have me be a mage. It does feel damn good.
Damn, it feels good to play a mage.
Vid and I had a quick twitter conversation when she published her post yesterday, because we’ve been facing similar struggles with character identity, utility, and desire. Who do we want to play? Who do we feel we need to play to satisfy the needs of our respective groups? Who do we really need to play to satisfy them, and ourselves? Two healers, or three? Is Afflock/Afflock ever a viable arena comp? What about HPal/Ret/Aff?
I’m going to quote Vid’s twitter response, because it’s good advice:
You have to play whatever makes you happy. The only time it becomes a problem to play many characters is if it’s a problem for YOU. Only you will know when that is. If deleting some helps, then do it and never look back!
This is basically the same advice I gave her when she was talking about her problems with playing her pally instead of her mage – minus the deleting characters part. I appreciate it when folks throw my own advice back at me.
It’s simple advice – play what makes you happy – and it’s good advice. But it threw me for a bit of a loop yesterday, because it made me look at my characters and wonder which of them actually do that.
THE EXISTENTIAL CRISIS OF THE PURE DPS PLAYER
I have a draft post on CBM with the above title, started just before the CTA satchel was released. The title reads like a #fakewarcrafthesis, but it’s an honest attempt to reconcile some of the problems the holy trinity design creates when you enjoy playing a damage dealer, but outside pressures provide motivation to take on roles you may not enjoy quite as much. It might be your immediate gaming circle (guild, team) needing a certain comp to do well, or it might be broad, gamewide pressure to take on healing and tanking roles (like the CTA satchels provide.)
Paladins and Druids are about twice as popular as Rogues and Warlocks. Some of this can be simply attributed to the class flavors: Paladins and Druids represent two forces for good (one civilized, one natural), while Rogues and Warlocks are pretty much bad guys. But some of it also has to do with class design: Druids can do every role in the game, and Paladins can do almost every role (sans ranged DPS.) They are the holy trinity in a single character.
Rogues and Warlocks, however, do one thing: deal damage, and lots of it. Or in theory it’s deal lots of damage, because it doesn’t really work out that way anymore. Hybrid DPS is on par with Pure DPS in a raid setting. Hybrid PvP DPS is excellent, too, plus they can fill the hugely powerful healer role. Pure DPS classes get three different ways to deal damage, some of which are more powerful in PvE than others, some of which are more powerful in PvP.
But they can never switch roles. There’s no opportunity to say, hey, I like this character, I identify with this character, I want to experience the game through this character, but from a different role. There’s no way to accomodate social needs – say, your guild is down a healer tonight – your arena team needs a healer – hey could you come tank this for us? – without going to a different character. That’s the nature of a pure DPS character. Of the three options you’re given, it’s just three variations on the same theme.
Before I go on and conclude that the pure/hybrid discrepancy is the root cause of all the problems Rogues and Warlocks face, I should point out that Hunters are usually the #3 most popular class, and Shaman are the #3 least popular. So being pure DPS isn’t the only thing going on here, but it’s still a factor to be considered.
The fact remains: hybrid classes offer more flexibility between roles, while pure DPS classes offer more flexibility within a single role. This isn’t set in stone – Priests have two healing trees, Warriors and DKs have two melee DPS trees – but in general, hybrid get to choose roles, while pures get to choose playstyles.
Which brings us back to the original topic of this post: playing what makes you happy.
ACTIONS LOUDER THAN WORDS
I had a conversation with Psynister a long time ago about playing Mages. I may have been waffling about deleting my first Mage twink, to be honest. He said that I was a good, thoroughly competent Mage player, but it never seemed like quite the right class for me.
“It’s because you play Warlocks with style,” he said. “You’re a good Mage. You’re an awesome Warlock.”
It took me a while to absorb what he meant by that. What did he mean by style? Style is joie de vivre, style is letting the world know you’re having fun with what you’re doing. I had that on Cynwise. All the jokes my guild tells about raiding with me are true, and it’s because I had fun being a suicidal warlock. (Most nights, admittedly. There were frustrating nights in there too.) Watching me in combat on her was a glorious thing at my peak. I was a chaos engine. I was a machine of slow, unstoppable fury, of death and destruction and unpredictable fear.
But something happened. Something happened to take that fun away, and I’ll be damned if I know what it was. But I know my warlock-joy (surely, there’s a word in German for this) went away.
How do I know?
Because if my only reason for not playing Cynwise was leaving the endgame, I would have rolled another warlock. I would have rolled several warlocks. I would have gone warlock-crazy.
But I didn’t. I rolled everything *but* a warlock.
- I rolled three warlocks at the start of Cataclysm with the intent of leveling them with each different spec. None of them survived past level 10, and they were all gone before the elephant incident.
- I rolled several warlocks named Cynwise to visit friends on other servers. They’re all bank alts. One of them quested through the Forsaken zones, and that’s her sole purpose: see those zones. I have no desire to level her past them. (I haven’t even gotten to Silverpine with her yet.)
- I rolled a new Warrior and got her to 70. I got my Priest from 30 to 70. I got my Druid from 54 to 70. I got my DK to 84. I’ve made a lot of twinks: survival hunter, holy pally, arcane mage, sub rogue. I made some PvP leveling toons: a pally, resto shammy, frost mage, feral druid.
- I learned to tank.
- I learned to heal.
- I went from having 1 twink to having 7. Seven. None of those are warlocks.
If I loved the class more than the toon, why did Cynwise not spark a rash of other warlocks when I put her aside? In theory, I should have been able to level them with ease, after all.
I thought that many nights. Why am I not leveling a bunch of warlocks? Why am I plugging away on a warrior, of all things? Why am I reclaiming a druid? Why am I trying to figure out a rogue?
Something happened between me and the warlock class which made me go, I don’t want to do this anymore, endgame or no.
I’d hit the existential crisis of the pure DPS player: what do you do when you don’t like the three playstyles you’ve been given? You can’t just try out a different role, after all. You get to do the same thing, only there are three different ways to do it. You can go Fire, Arcane, or Frost, but you’re still standing in the back pew pewing the boss. You can go Aff, Demo, or Destro, but you’ll never heal the battleground, you’ll never not be the one applying pressure but not KBs, you’ll never not be the Fearbot.
If you want a different role, you have to reroll. That’s what you do.
Vid realized what her guildmates and friends already knew – she loves playing a Mage.
I’m slowly realizing something, too, based on my own behavior over the past few months: I love playing Cynwise, but not playing a Warlock.
I don’t know what to say about that.
I love playing a certain character – an ambitious girl from Northshire who made some bad choices – but not enough to get over my endgame burnout.
My own behavior shows that, no matter what I say, I do not find the warlock class compelling enough to keep on playing it.
Maybe the class was changed in Cataclysm too much. Maybe the 12% nerf really did matter. Maybe the Fel Armor and Soul Siphon changes hit me harder than I admitted to myself. Even now, I have a mental list of all the changes, and I’m like… they’re weren’t that bad, were they? Losing Drain Mana sucked, but you adapted. Right?
Well, if I really adapted, if I really didn’t let it bother me, why am I not playing one now?
I played the class for two years with style and grace, but when I got knocked off my only endgame character, I didn’t try to recreate the fun I was having – I ran straight to every other class but that one.
It’s possible that the reason I’m not playing another warlock is my well-known dislike of doing the same thing again – why I don’t like grinding out PvE content, why I enjoy PvP so much, why I struggle with things like replay value – and I can’t discount that. I really can’t.
But would that be enough to keep me away?
I have to believe that I play what I want to play. If I’m not playing my main, it’s perfectly okay, but god damnit, I have to be honest with myself – I’m not looking at my login screen and going: CYNWISE I CHOOSE YOU.
I still don’t really know what to say about that.
ROLE VERSUS PLAYSTYLE
I am currently playing almost exclusively healing and tanking classes. I rolled a pally a little while ago, and was like… I’m going to take her Ret! She’s got the BoA 2H Axe AND Sword, I’m totally going to DPS it up!
Who am I kidding? I’ll get to level 20 and go, dur, I need to run some dungeons, let’s go Prot, and that will be the end of it. Or I’ll go Holy, and heal all the things in PvP. I might even do both!
I’m discovering that I don’t really want the flexibility of a hybrid. My druid taught me that. My priest taught me that. My warrior taught me that. I tried to dual spec on them and it was a disaster. Dual specialization gives me a chance to do a different role, which is good for the long term – but in the short term, it presents too many options for me to try to learn.
No, it’s not the flexibility of a hybrid that’s drawing me to them; it’s the non-DPS role. Tanking. Healing. I don’t want to DPS on a hybrid, I want to be a tank or a healer.
- When am I happiest on my warriors? Tanking Drek or being the FC in WSG.
- When am I happiest on my druid? Healing the heck out of a battleground.
- When am I happiest on my priest? Healing the heck out of an instance.
Why do I enjoy those roles so much?
Because I feel like I’m playing a critical part – the critical part – in the success or failure of an activity.
Healing a BG is a visceral rush. Standing there and supporting my team, being a beast of a healer and keeping everyone alive? It’s awesome. Does the DPS have to be smart? Sure. But they don’t have to be stellar – they’ve got me covering their back. Don’t be derpy and we’re probably going to win.
Tanking (and healing tanks) is another rush. It’s not that everyone doesn’t have a job to do, but if the tank fails, it’s all over. If I make it difficult on the healer as the tank, then I’ve done my job incorrectly. There’s a pride to being the one to tank Drek, to tank the nightmare pulls of H-MgT well, to be the one where if you don’t do your job right, you wipe.
(I’m a Leo. Maybe warlocks aren’t good fits for Leos, I dunno.)
I remember when there was a meme going around about a year or so ago, how tanks should get special privileges because they were so damn important, and both healers and DPS responded with outrage. Everyone’s important in a 5-man, came the cry. And they’re right – if you have a really skilled, geared DPS, they can make the run really easy for an undergeared tank. Not a bad tank – DPS can’t save you from them – but an undergeared yet competent tank, certainly.
And there’s the rub. If you have a derp DPS but a good tank/healer combo, you’re going to be fine for most content. (Not trolloics, perhaps, though that could be changing now. Not raids. Myabe raids? I dunno, to be honest.)
If you have a derp tank? You’re screwed.
It’s funny: PvP never entered that discussion. I wanted to weigh in at the time, but it didn’t seem appropriate, because the dynamics are different. Very different.
Standard RBG comp is 4 healers, 1 FC/melee DPS offspec, 5 DPS (at least 1 frost mage, sub rogue, defensive peeler – hunter/frost mage – another melee, and then an open slot). Healers are usually 1 of each type, except for TP/WSG, where if you can get 4 priests for LG you can do some real damage.
You need a rogue. You need a frost mage, maybe 2. You … well, you can bring a warlock, but they’re not essential.
You might need a tank to be the FC, but it depends on the battleground.
You need healers. You need 2-4 healers, period. 4 healers, especially healers with offensive capabilities, are really your best bet.
You need a higher amount of healers in an RBG than in any other aspect of the game. In a patch when raids are ditching healers and tanks to squeeze more DPS in, PvP still requires healing and dispels. It still requires a FC.
Random battlegrounds are a little different, certainly less rigid, but the same idea applies. The closer your random pug comp gets to the 4 heals / 1 FC / 5 DPS standard, the more likely you are to win. It’s not a magic formula – a good 10 DPS team could beat them, remember Gnomey’s post on it? – but I’ll be damned if it’s not a good rule of thumb.
So when I queue up as heals, I feel like I’m giving my team a better chance to win than when I queue up as DPS. When I queue up as a tank for AV, I feel like I’m giving them a better chance to win.
Would I play my warlock if she could heal instead of do three flavors of DPS? Maybe.
But then she wouldn’t be a warlock anymore.
I hate this line of thinking.
I feel like this whole discussion becomes circular very quickly, like my thoughts have gotten trapped trying to solve an unsolveable question. Which role is more important is the wrong question, especially if you want to play what you like. What role do I want to play is probaby the right one, but it is informed by feelings of utility, which then leads to which role is more generically useful and then you go right back to which role is more important?
You need all the roles filled in a BG. You need all of them filled with good players.
Good players – who enjoy what they’re doing.
I think a desire to be useful can be detrimental to having fun.
THE JOY OF PLAY
You have to play whatever makes you happy.
That was my advice to Vidyala, and her advice right back to me, and it’s now my advice to you, and to myself. It’s simple advice, but hard to know how to enact.
Vid returned to her Mage because she loves the character, she loves the class, and she loves the role she plays in the activity she does. Her move to a healer was prompted both by enjoying the class and character (come on, just read Pugging Pally, it’s obvious that she loves Vid too) but also out of a desire to be useful to her raid. She picked the best option to be useful to her guild and raid, and that worked out. But once the utility ended, she was left going… I don’t really want to be raiding on Vid, I want to be raiding as a mage, and not just any mage, but to raid on Millya.
And she switched back.
I respect the hell out of her for having the courage to do that. For choosing to play what makes her happy over useful.
That’s how you have fun. That’s how you keep playing. That’s how you avoid burnout, how you play with joy.
Play with style.
I’m trying to find that joy again. Sometimes I find it for a little bit, but nothing defining, nothing that makes me go, yeah, let’s do THIS.
I might be able to find the hexerfreude again, if I could get over my aversion to the endgame. But there are two variables there – class (warlock) and activity (endgame PvP). Leveling another character up to try to address the endgame issues seems more logical, but daunting. Leveling a warlock might work, but … I don’t want to. I know I don’t.
I’ve mentioned trying some healing PvP in Arena next season; I don’t know if that’s what I really want or not, but it might be worth a try. I might unlock and level up my Druid… or my Warrior… or my DK… Or maybe the lowbie PvP alts – mage, shammy, pally?
The priest is probably staying where she is. I’m pretty sure about that.
I don’t know. I hate not knowing, but I don’t know what to do next.
I’d like this story to end like Vid’s – wayward warlock rediscovers his love of the class, returns in force with vigor and pwnage, film at 11. I think Warlocks need champions, need people to publically stand up and say, this class is awesome, because it is.
But it’s a hard class to play, and I’ve lost the spark. I probably lost the spark before I’d quit the endgame and just didn’t notice it, but I’m only now coming to terms with it. I’m only now sitting here going… I really just don’t want to do that anymore.
Maybe I’ll find it again with Cynwise, but trying to find it there right now feels … wrong. It’s the easy answer, the one that says, this is who you were, this is who you should always be. But the easy answer doesn’t feel right anymore.
Realizing that I need to reinvent myself is the first step.
We’ll have to see what comes next.