Last time I talked about why I'm writing this series of articles. To recap, last week we talked about the kind of time investment heroic raiding takes, and for my guild right now, it's an average of 20 weeks in game per week just raiding and preparing for raids by farming up materials for food, Valor, flasks and potions.
That's a significant investment, but time is something we can afford to part with fairly easily - depending on our situation. Heroic hardcore raiding also comes with certain decisions that I don't think are made easily by more casual raiders - such as questions of faction, race and class.
Part 2: Tip the Scales - Race, Faction and Class
I have a fairly long history of race-changing and even an ill-advised bout of faction-changing, but all of those reasons were fairly casual - either I was tired of the model, or I did so for role-play or immersion reasons. That is to say, personal reasons that had no impact on my actual game. But as a raiding character, there are far more important things to consider.
You might imagine that the aesthetics of your race is an important factor in considering what you play - but not so when racial bonuses come into play. I'll get into class-choice later, but each class (and spec) choice does have an ideal race that is most beneficial to play. In my case, as a Paladin, Alliance side, I've got 3 races - Humans, Dwarfs and Draenei - that I can choose from.
The big bonus as Draenei is the bonus 1% Hit. Gift of the Naaru and Shadow Resistance are pretty irrelevant due to how weak they are.
As a human, you get 3 bonus Expertise to using a sword or mace (useless if the best in slot weapon for a particular tier is an axe), in addition to a reputation bonus (good early in the expansion or patches with extensive grinds, useless afterward), and Every Man For Himself (encounter specific, but very powerful when it can be used like on Spirit Kings to break out of Rain of Arrows and very powerful in PvP.)
Dwarfs get that same bonus to Expertise (maces only) as humans, (useless otherwise), and a fair tanking cool-down in Stoneform on a 2 minute CD. The bonus to Archeology and 1% ranged expertise isn't useful for tanks, but might be a factor for Hunters.
As a tank, the Dwarf bonus is pretty damned appealing, except that I play a Paladin which gives me plenty of cool-downs already and I haven't found myself wanting, especially once you factor in external cool-downs. If there was a situation where you did want more cool-downs, here is a choice. Otherwise, the human is the default choice for efficiency simply with regards to how much Expertise it takes to hard-cap that stat. Unless the weapon in a given tier doesn't benefit from the bonus, at which point, Draenei might be best from a purely stat-based perspective and the Dwarf from a cool-down perspective.
Your decision on the race of your character should be based on these factors before anything else. Now, I'm certainly guilty of going after the more visually appealing race, and I play a human because it's a compromise between the hideous but practical Dwarf and the pretty but useless Draenei models.
Still, these aren't terrible by any measure, but what if the racial bonuses are just better if you play the other side?
Right now, the majority consensus seems to be that playing Horde is the way to go if you want to truly min-max to the hilt.
Certain Alliance racials do put up a good fight, as I listed a few above - but there are things on the Red Roster that make min-maxing as a Horde guild far easier and more efficient. Consider the following:
This is the most difficult one for me.
Characters - at the end of the day - are Classes, and Classes in turn, are sub-sets of buffs and abilities, and arranging a raid-team to ensure the proper distribution of abilities and buffs is one of the most vital parts of raid preparation.
It sounds bleak when put this way, doesn't it? Rather cold and technocratic, in a way.
But consider the reality - in Tier 13, I bemoaned the collapse of the paladin tank in heroic progression. Some fights made block-tanking just plain the wrong way of doing things. This was the first time I found myself in a situation where my class just plain couldn't do the heavy lifting necessary for progression. Thankfully we had a Death Knight tank in the guild who picked up the slack, but the point remains - had we been a Warrior/Paladin tanking team, we could have been stuck for a good long while on these bosses.
In order to mitigate these sorts of gating situations, the ideal way to progress is to play the most versatile classes possible and keep a roster of alts at hand to bring in in, should your class face severe nerfs during the course of the expansions, like the great Death Knight nerf of 2009 when Ulduar came out and Death Knights suddenly found themselves bereft of the Dual Wield/Pet/Gargoyle mega-spec.
That was a good day.
Anyway, right now the Paladin class is strong - viable for heroic progression, strong support abilities in the various hands if with a somewhat lackluster raid-wide cool-down. However, the class lacks a vital buff that other tanks bring to the raid - Attack Power. In 10s, this is especially painful and so, I've leveled up a Death Knight to cap and am now in the process of gearing her up as a stand-by in case we do run into the roadblocks of the past. Gearing up in Mists isn't quite as easy as it was in prior expansions, but with LFR and the expected nerfs to Tier 14 when Tier 15 is released, I don't imagine I'll have a hard time catching up.
And if you notice, once again, the decision is based purely on logistics - regardless of one's attachment to a particular class or character. So, having a well-geared alt of a completely different class is one of the best things a hard-core raider can do for their raid team. In the world top ranked guilds, people often maintain a small stable of characters to ensure each fight has the best composition possible, but the idea remains the same. Even relatively in low-ranked hardcore guilds, more people will have at least one or two well-geared alts to bring into raids, just in case.
Next time, we'll talk about where you play and we'll tackle a problem that generates healthy debate in my guild - order of progression.