Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Way back when, in the ICC days, I wrote about the troubles I faced as a hybrid player. At the time, I was playing a moonkin with a side of resto. You can read that post first if you like, I think a lot of it is still relevant to the problems that hybrids continue to face. It’s not entirely comprehensive, this is more of a personal viewpoint thing.

After my experiences as a hybrid moonkin, I swore that it wouldn’t happen again. When I switched to my mage, I was very “mage for life,” and I poured my efforts into her achievements and her mount and pet collecting. Unfortunately for me, even over nine thousand achievement points isn’t an effective deterrent when it comes to character switching (and it was a big reason why I knew I should never be a contender for something like a legendary weapon – I am too fickle). That is why, at this point in time, I find myself coming back to the same issue – only it’s as a paladin.

Tens and the Hybrid Dependency

It must be tough to design encounters effectively for a ten-person raid. Any raid has a set number of “required” tanks for an encounter, although it can be flexible. Some encounters can be tanked with one less tank or one more tank depending – For instance, we did Heroic Halfus with two tanks and three healers, but I’ve heard of guilds that preferred to do it with three tanks and two healers. It all comes down to what you have available to you. A raid team can only be made stronger by having flexible people willing to change roles when need be, but at what cost? At what point does asking players to switch roles become unreasonable, untenable, or even counter-productive?

The biggest obstacle to this is roster size. The majority of ten-person guilds are smaller (deliberately so). Some guilds will maintain multiple tens teams and perhaps a bigger bench, but by and large we don’t have the luxury of world first guilds that could just bring x number of available moonkins because their abilities trivialize an encounter. Sometimes we can have recourse to people’s alts, but for the most part we just make do with what we have.

The design of encounters in this tier has not been friendly for juggling the number of tanks and healers. As a friend of mine has complained, very often the second tank was expected to switch to DPS because a fight simply didn’t require another. Rhyolith is like this, as is Majordomo. An ongoing issue for us after the heroic nerfs was how many healers does a fight need? Historically, we’ve switched between three and two healers at different times and for different content. ICC was largely two healed up until the point where that wasn’t possible, and the roster was adjusted for three healing. We’ve stayed with the three healing model up to and through Firelands, when especially in later Firelands it becomes evident that three healers aren’t necessary or even possible for quite a few of the fights.

That leaves us with a problem – four active, main-spec healers on our roster and only two spots for healers on most nights (with the exception of Beth’tilac, and perhaps it will become more two healable for us but at the moment it’s more of a three healer thing). What this means is that on any given night, we either have a healer going off-spec DPS, or we bench a healer. I don’t think our healers signed up to raid for just one night a week. The other option is for a healer to switch roles entirely. All of these solutions hang on one question – what is the Dragon Soul going to be requiring in terms of healer and tank balance? We’re trying to plan our roster for the new tier of content but we aren’t sure what we should be aiming for.

The Unhappy Ret

We’re fortunate in that some of our players enjoy tanking and DPSing fairly equally. Our excellent druid is happy to boom it up with his laser beams for some fights, and our paladin tank plays ret without complaint. As a moonkin, I liked to heal (but I didn’t actually like to moonkin). Now I am a main spec healer, and I’ve been finding out that I don’t especially enjoy raiding as retribution. Actually, that’s an understatement. I’ve been doing it so much that I’m starting to loathe it. I’m not really great at it, so it’s stressful. I’ve chased heroic Rhyolith’s legs around for hours. Each week I’ve been Ret for Alysrazor – last week saw me dying to a fire sprinkler just before the fight ended. This week I didn’t die, but my DPS was the lowest by a great margin. When I’m DPSing as ret, I always have a niggling feeling in the back of my head that if I would step out for another (better) DPS, it would make fights easier, and I wouldn’t be holding the group back. I love DPSing. I don’t love ret DPSing. And as was my problem previously as a hybrid, I want to be the absolute best I can at what I’m doing. Off-speccing Ret and DPSing a fight doesn’t allow for that. The only solution would be to DPS even more as ret, which just pigeonholes me into a corner where last week I reached the breaking point and turned to Voss and said: I COULD get better at ret. But I really don’t WANT to.

I could practice art of warring until the cows come home, but ultimately it’s not why I’m playing a paladin. Now this is an entirely personal thing – nobody’s been “making” me play ret, but the fact is that we have all these nights with too many healers, and so somebody’s got to do it – or else healers sit to allow DPS to step in. I realized that I would rather sit than work on H Ragnaros as ret. It’s just that simple. I don’t learn the fight from a healing perspective as ret. I probably will hardly even see what’s going on in the fight itself, because I’m too busy hitting the buttons and hoping my Inquisition uptime is high enough and looking to see what’s procced and what hasn’t and what oh that’s fire it’s burning me ow.

I realize this probably sounds very “I’m taking my ball and going home,” and petulant, and I hope you’ll bear with me there (as I insist and reiterate that this isn’t a problem with my guild or anyone in it). I’ve come to the realization that doing most of the fights in a spec I don’t like instead of a spec I do like has been killing the fun for me. It’s not even, “Oh, I’m lukewarm about this,” I logged off last Wednesday and I was probably the closest I have ever been to saying: I am tired of raiding. It is the opposite of fun for me.

So nobody should have to play a spec or a class or a role they don’t like. I wouldn’t do that to someone else, why would I do it to myself? After taking the weekend while hardly logging into any of my main characters (and enjoying a lovely Thanksgiving, thank you) I realized that I had to make this known to both our other officers and my guild. They aren’t mind readers. It’s certainly not fair to them to stew quietly, getting frustrated with my position until one day I’ve just had enough and I don’t even want to raid any more.

The Hybrid Advantage

I still think that being a hybrid is awesome. Having them on a roster is even better! But you absolutely need to know that the people in the hybrid positions are willing and enjoy doing it. Some people are cut out to be hybrids in both aptitude and attitude. They genuinely have no spec preference. I guess, when it comes to my hybrid roles, I’m not really one of them. I’d rather be a holy paladin. But the way that encounters are designed, it leaves a great big question mark for ten person guilds in particular about each tier. Will their tanks be spending a lot of time DPSing? Will their healers be twiddling their thumbs, or will someone who is DPS need to swap to heals for a fight or two? We just don’t know, although the raid cooldown nature of the tank T13 bonuses seems to suggest that there will be a lot of damage going out. I will be happy to go into the next tier as either a healing paladin or a mage, but I don’t want to go as a ret paladin. Alts tend to slow raiding down so it’s not advantageous to swap from one alt to another depending on role needs. Our raid needs hybrids – the question is, who will they be? We never have been able to find an awesome moonkin; the biggest thing for us right now is that our roster is actually over-full. Only two of our healers are willing to DPS (out of four) and I know the others feel guilty about it. But really, why should they have to DPS? Is it a better model to just start sitting healers for a “real” DPS?

If I move to a DPS role it means fewer available DPS positions. We may be doing some more shuffling, with having someone else move to tank and our current tank move to DPS, which would open up a position for me to do that. Overall, though, it’s frustrating. Speaking as someone who loves playing a “pure” DPS, it’s unfortunate that we have nothing to recommend us but our DPS, when the smaller raid size is so favourable for hybrids. Our raid would probably be perfect if we had an ele/resto shaman, a boomkin/resto druid, and plate DPS that was willing and able to tank. We have a fabulous elemental shaman, and he just doesn’t like healing. I can’t blame him! I don’t like melee DPS. I can’t expect him to do something he doesn’t like and probably wouldn’t be good at, and therein lies the problem. Finding 10-15 people with the appropriate specs, personalities, skills and willingness to swap roles is an almost indescribable juggling act. We shouldn’t be unduly penalized for having two mages, or two paladin healers, or whatever. Except that we are. One of the big reasons I am thinking of switching is because two paladin healers for one ten man team is often not just less than ideal, it’s nearly impossible. Neither of us has the raid healing strength to fill that niche. The upcoming changes are working to address that, but it remains that our holy paladin would be better off healing with any of the other three types of healers by his side – not another holy paladin. That’s frustrating, and it’s disappointing to me personally because I love paladin healing.

That’s not really what this is about, though. What it comes down to is that it’s usually better to have a hybrid, but when you’re a hybrid that hates your other spec you aren’t much use as a hybrid, and then what do you do?

I hope you’ll forgive the somewhat ranty nature of the above post. I have put off writing about this because I didn’t want to be too much of a whiner (hence the radio silence for the past two weeks while I quietly seethed). I want to do the best thing for my raid team, but I also want to do the best thing for myself, because if I’m not having fun then my priorities are severely skewed.

Edited to add: Beru over at Falling Leaves and Wings wrote an excellent post this morning about this very problem, from a broader overview and 25s perspective. It behooves you (har) to go check it out!

Comments on: "The Hybrid’s Dilemma: Part II" (47)

  1. Highfive, non-dps player.

    I play only hybrid classes, I have 5 85s, none of them have a dps spec. The only reason I have a regular spot in a raid at all is via being really, really good at the game and having understanding friends. If I didn’t have either of those things I’d never have a raid spot anywhere.

    I disliked how Firelands strongly encouraged bringing 7 dps for multiple fights, but now that the heroics have been nerfed requirements are a bit looser. Unfortunately it works in the other direction too, now that H-Bethtilac is 2-healable (all 7/7H is now 2-healable, in fact) healers may be brought even less. Or not.

    • I never thought I’d actually be the person agreeing, “Yeah, off-spec hate,” but here I am. I think for me it’s really the ranged DPS vs melee thing. It’s seldom beneficial to have an extra melee. The playstyle is so different from what I’m used to. I could get better at it, if I wanted to spend more time doing it, I suppose.

  2. It really is an ongoing problem, for sure. I mean, for both tanks and healers, it’s very easy to take people’s offspecs for granted. Many people simply do not enjoy playing their possible offspecs. Healers don’t play healing classes because they want to DPS, after all.

    Personally, I don’t like having offspecs in different roles. My Priest had a Shadow offspec, but only so he could do the Molten Front dailies, and has since dropped it for a Holy offspec to have broader utility. I used to run dual Frost specs on my Death Knight, with slight differences for different fights, but it became more beneficial to the raid to have a working tanking offspec, so that’s what I now have. I don’t like it, and would never choose it over the other, but I’m willing to do it for the raid. But it’s still unfortunate when you have to play a spec/role other than your preferred one.

    We ran into this ourselves a few weeks back, when we were working on Ragnaros. We brought up the idea of two-healing the fight, but after a bit of discussion we realized it was impossible, because our healers were a Holy Pally, Disc Priest, and Resto Druid. Our Resto Druid had a DPS offspec, but we didn’t want him to switch because that would leave us with two tank healers. And neither of the other healers had a raid-ready DPS spec. So we ended up not ever 2-healing it, but the fact that we weren’t even able to TRY IT disgruntled a few people a little.

    I’m not saying they should have to have great DPS offspecs, because if they don’t like it, they don’t like it. I just regret that there was even disappointment to begin with, that the option of switching to 2-healing was even possible.

    In a way, I don’t wonder if introducing dual speccing was actually a bad thing, because it opened the doors to difficult-to-define problems such as this. I mean, hell, I sometimes feel vaguely guilty on my Hunter when I can’t bring certain buffs or abilities that Survival or Marksman brings, and that’s not even a different raid role. But at the same time, I don’t like those specs, so should I *have* to play them? I never do, but I don’t like feeling like I am letting down the team by not doing so.

    Hopefully Dragon Soul deals with these issues in a cleaner manner than what we’ve been dealing with in T11 and Firelands.

    • Yeah, I remember dual-spec caused a bit of controversy back in the day for that very reason! People didn’t want to be expected to just swap all the time, or there was a lot of conjecture about using specs just for one specific fight or what have you. (My memory on the subject is vague, but I’m sure it happened). I like dual specs for some things – I like being able to have a PvE and PvP spec, or trying different specs as a mage, and I honestly wouldn’t mind doing ret every once in awhile. The problem is when you basically work yourself into obsolescence that it’s very disheartening. As the raid gears up, your job goes away, which is when we started to wonder – did we ever need this job in the first place? I think our tank has been boomkin probably more than he’d like, too. 😐

  3. I can certainly see the frustration, but it’s not something I’ve experienced other than the I didn’t (past tense – I’m actually starting to enjoy ret) like melee dps as my offspec for tanking. But I’m on the other end of the spectrum – I now have two raid ready toons so I can cover all four roles (bear/boomkin, holy/ret) – where scarily my holy paladin is now my most geared role (largely due to doing my first and only FL boss – staghelm and getting the token – shh don’t tell Vid – although I was also sad because kitty staff dropped and I wasn’t on my bear!).

    Having that flexibility is needed for me because it gives me the greatest chance of being able to get a raid off the ground – which is my sticking point. The same attitude found me healing more than tanking in ICC – but I didn’t mind because I was in the ‘dabbling’ raiding level. We’ll see if Raid Finder changes my perceptions on that… and maybe then I’ll actually focus on one role.

    However as the raid leader and GM of my guild – I completely agree with the ‘come out and say what you want to do’ attitude. There are those (like me) that enjoy playing all the roles and will happily switch (ok maybe I’m just fickle and can’t dedicate to one) – but we have others in the guild that prefer one role over another – even if they are a hybrid. I’ll honor that – as it stands we are pugging for extra members for raids so we have the flexibility from that – we aren’t going to be sitting anyone.

    I’m guessing that having your mage ready to fill into dps spots isn’t really a viable solution (particularly given the catch up that is going to be required)?

    • She could step in right now, we just have a pretty firm “no alts” policy, and if I circumvent that just for myself then it steps into the territory of abusing the power that I have. Like you, I usually have at least one other raid ready alt at any given time, simply because I like to gear up characters, it’s fun for me! We did an alt Firelands run the other week that I healed on my druid. It’s another thing I have to be wary about – recognizing that just because I CAN play different characters doesn’t mean I SHOULD. I could be a boomkin tomorrow but I really don’t enjoy boomkin raiding (ICC taught me that) so I am not even putting it forth as an option.

      There really is no “one-size fits all” approach to this dilemma for any guild. If your guild is better off with having some flexibility to swap characters, that’s awesome! For us, we don’t like to distribute the loot among other characters and feel that generally alts (since we run a 15 person roster we usually have enough people) just slow us down a bit. The important thing is what’s right for each group. 😀

  4. “Alts tend to slow raiding down so it’s not advantageous to swap from one alt to another depending on role needs.”

    I’m not really understanding why you can’t bring the Mage to the DPS fights and the Paladin to the healing fights?

    • Because for one, it would give Voss an aneurysm. 😉 More specifically, though, we don’t endorse the switching of alts in the guild, for a number of reasons. One, it complicates loot distribution and spreads the drops thinner among more characters. Two, it slows down the raid and takes up time to have one person drop group, log off, log back in, etc. Not a lot of time, but we raid nine hours a week and we’re trying to see hardmode content so every minute is pretty precious. I’d be willing to keep Vid on standby for if we happened to need an extra healer, but not being regularly in the raid she wouldn’t get valor points or gear drops and would ultimately end up being behind the “main” raid members. I did come in and heal H V&T in the last tier (when Vid was not my main character) when there were absolutely no other potential healers available, but it’s definitely a last resort kind of thing.

  5. After dealing with H. Rag, I’m definitely understand these feelings. We have three permanent healers on our roster with a couple of players who are able and willing to swap to healing as needed. For most fights that we’ve downed to 2 heals, I’m the choice for going to boomchicken. Don’t get me wrong, I really like lazors and solar beams coming out of the sky, but it’s also extremely frustrating to spend an entire tier polishing a really good healing set only to find yourself switched to your secondary role just as content becomes pretty darn difficult. Add to that the need to switch back to a healing position on the fly if one of the other main spec healers is out, and it’s enough to make me scream.

    Healing and DPS are quite different roles. I haven’t played a druid for very long, so I’m already on the edge of my comfort level just playing the class. Add in the switches and I feel like a total failure some nights. It doesn’t help that our bear regularly outdoes my dps, and I have serious angst over the whole dual-spec idea. To be honest, if it wasn’t for the awesome damage that boom shrooms provide, I’d be begging to be replaced! (And I have asked to have a “real” dps come in for me.)

    On the other hand, I understand that this flexibility is a necessary evil especially in 10-man settings. Not many players have the option to stick with one spec even if they perform the same role in the raid. That being said, sometimes you just have to accept that some players are never going to be comfortable switching from role to role. One of our healers doesn’t even have a DPS spec (to my knowledge). In many cases, the strengths of druid/paladin vs. paladin/shaman would be advisable, but we make it work because she’s the *right* player for our team.

    I’m sure your team will be willing to work around your current frustrations especially since you were flexible enough to switch classes entirely in order to strengthen your roster! If you’re willing to accept other players limitations, there’s no reason they won’t work with yours!

    • It’s something I’m not sure other “hybrids” can get! When I switch from one role to another (especially, I’m finding, as a melee DPS, but this is definitely something I touched on in my original hybrid post) I feel almost viscerally disoriented. It’s like DPS and healing use two completely different parts of my brain and when one has been engaged I have to grind it to a halt, fire up the other one and abruptly go full-throttle. It doesn’t really work well, or at least I think the jarring aspect of it might be part of why it’s so dissatisfying to me. I was healing last night until we got to Domo and my heart sank as I realized that – I would have to go DPS now, and it abruptly killed my mood. I know that sounds dramatic but that’s very much how it felt! I’m getting a similar frustration from your comment. (It was the “scream” that tipped it off!)

      It’s also frustrating to gear your main spec and then not even use it. In my case, of course, there is absolutely no crossover. Though I’ve been spending VP on ret upgrades for some time now, anyway.

  6. I really do feel your pain. I recently had to switch my offspec from kitty to moonkin, and I am not a fan of it. This is because we are hurting for ranged and being melee-heavy isn’t ideal on a lot of those fights. I changed my offspec because I wanted to help the raid, so that we’d have additional ranged when we decide to go from three to two healers. But like yourself, I don’t love it either. I would rather be healing in my resto druid main spec, and be feral for my offspec.

    Because our third healer didn’t show up tonight, we were forced to attempt heroic encounters and Ragnaros with just two healers, me and a priest (holy/disc). While the option to switch out a healer for extra dps does make the encounters go quicker, as long as people stay out of the bad and do what they are supposed to do. My stress went up through the roof as I juggled two tanks on Ragnaros on my side and two other dps. It wasn’t easy, but definitely doable, while the rest of the raid went about their business like usual.

    Personally, I feel this only puts additional stress on the healing role when we have to shuffle around to make an ideal raid composition for a specific fight, taking one additonal dps. The dps do not feel the additional stress, as the fights remain the same for them. Tanks? Nah. Healers? Most definitely.

    Hybrids are great for versatility, but it comes at a cost. You would be right in letting your officers know you’d rather play your holy paladin and sit out when additional dps is needed. My raid also has had to come to agreement over this, we will be rotating bench time, including the healers so that it isn’t just the dps that’s being benched. One of the solution we’ve come up with so far, we made a spreadsheet for all the fights on regular and heroic. Everyone filled in where they can sit out on a fight or want to do a fight for a specific piece of loot/achieve. I would suggest doing this so perhaps you can find middle ground with shuffling around your roster.

    Ranty or not, you are justified in your feelings. Good luck!

    • Yes, we recently made a similar list so that we know who needs loot from what boss – we don’t tend to do this at the beginning of a tier simply because it’s too onerous to constantly be swapping people, but we’re doing more of it as we strive to get specific pieces of gear for different folks.

      The biggest trouble for me is that as the guild leader I am really wary of being seen to (or actually giving) myself special treatment over and above what we’d allow for another raider. It seems like I ought to be the most flexible, and it’s really taken a lot for me to admit that in this, I just can’t be. I feel like I’ve somehow let everybody down.

      • That’s good you made a list. This is actually the first time I’ve experienced making the spreadsheet with a raid group late into this expansion, actually. We didn’t in wrath because things were more clear cut (another tally point towards Beru’s point about inconsistencies in raid groups in her recent post).

        It’s quite understandable how you feel since you are the guild leader. However, it’s a game you also play to enjoy. If you are willing to make the same sacrifices for the raid group, the others should be willing to do the same, or at least acknowledge that and try to meet you somewhere in the middle. Else, that resentment you have brewing in you will eventually cause you to burn out completely and stop raiding. Guild leader or not, you have every right to enjoy the game just as much as your raiders do and I know you would be reasonable in approaching them about it.

        Delicate situation though!

  7. Yeah, I hear you – it really sucks.

    Our own solution was that we three-heal and two-tank whenever possible; so the only fight that gives us trouble roosterwise is major domo staghelm. We’re not doing heric modes yet, though, so I dunno if that’ll stay possible.

    Our current problem is quite different in the moment: Due to real life our tank rooster is down to exactly one person: me, the current raidleader. Our dps are the ones that have to switch – luckely I cajoled our two dk to pick up blood, a shadow priest got disc and our druid healer is a real good bear.

    So each raid night we play spec jenga (what raiders have we, who switched last time, who can/is willing to switch this time) but the raids are going ahead.

    But we ran into another problem:

    • Erh, we didn’t, asides from our highly volatile roster – don’t know where that last sentence came from. o.O

      • That’s a shame, because I was really looking forward to the conclusion of the cliffhanger!

        “Everything was great! BUT THEN…”

        What happened then, Carina?! 😉

  8. Ret is, well, Ret. It’s definitely the “neediest” of the DPS rotations I’ve come across so far. It’s not button heavy, but if you miss a button, your DPS drops like a rock. In a very real sense, Ret was much better off in the “what button procced now — hit that button!” world of Wrath, because you could hit interrupts and do other things without sacrificing DPS so much. (Yes, even in 5-mans you notice it.)

    I’m sure you’ll settle on what’s best.

    • I think we can sort it out. Ret and I, we just aren’t a marriage made in heaven. I have no basis for comparison, because I didn’t play it at all prior to this expansion.

  9. I had a close friend who played a Shaman in ICC. She wanted to play Enh, but she also happened to be a skilled healer; when she healed, our raids succeeded. So she primarily played Resto, until such time as she wasn’t needed fir healing.

    It made her miserable. Her husband even leveled a healer and geared it solely so that when the call came out for Healers, his wife wouldn’t have to do it. If I had been playing a hybrid, I would have stepped in as well – after a few months, DPSing the bosses as a lock got boring – but I was playing a pure DPS class.

    The problem isn’t just limited to hybrids – I think you saw that with your struggles on your Mage – but it’s more acute on one, and the current 10s environment exacerbates the problem. Should you play a role you don’t like just to keep bringing the same toon to the raid? Should you sit from raiding because the tanks are geared enough to require fewer healers?

    In a BG, it’s often said that those who can heal, should. Healers can turn the tables on random BGs, and even a mediocre healer is better than no healer at all.

    I disagree with this common wisdom.

    Players should play the spec they are best at and enjoy. I would rather PvP with an awesome Ret than a sucky Holy. I would rather fight alongside someone having fun as a Feral than a miserable Tree.

    For a fight or two?


    But long term, is it healthy for the group? Is it healthy for the player?

    I’d argue not. Are there short-term benefits? Sure. But for long term enthusiasm and morale, playing specs you don’t enjoy is bad.

    You should try specs and see if you like them – I became surprisingly fond of Demo after trying it for the good of the raid in ICC – but continuing to play them when you don’t like them is folly. I wager you would have more fun, AND contribute more DPS, if you swapped to your (relatively undergeared) mage instead of Ret.

    Honestly, Vid – I think you owe it to yourself to either switch to a DPS character you enjoy playing, go in with a non-optimal raid comp, or just sit for the night. Gear up or level up an alt, or take the night off. Or (when 4.3 hits) run the LFR. Or go run Arenas to get that sweet S11 Pally gear for mogging!

    Best of luck, whatever you decide! 🙂

    • Thanks, Cyn, I think you’re absolutely right. And I know I could do more DPS as a mage. I am sure of it! Even slightly undergeared. I just never want to impose myself on the raid, but more importantly it goes against the spirit of the “no alts in raid” policy we have in place for good reason. So if I’m going to mage it up, that’s got to be the full-time commitment (and I’m okay with that, and I think that so far my guildies are okay with it, too!) Otherwise, I think it’s true that I would be much less cranky to just sit out those fights.

      Did your shaman friend ever play enhancement?

      • Very, very occasionally. We had some excellent melee DPS (DKs, especially) who got geared up first who did amazing AoE damage; gearing became a problem, even though Enh was listed as her MS in all our signup sheets.

        She doesn’t play WoW anymore. She’s happier, but she doesn’t play.

        I saw the “no alts in prog raids” rule up in the comments above, and it’s made me wonder about that rule. I know why guilds put it in place – so the raid as a unit gets the most out of each gear upgrade, and so that people without alts don’t feel like they are competing with other raider’s alts for loot – but there’s also an efficiency argument to be made against it.

        If you’re switching out a healer for a DPS to make a fight easier, you’re basically saying that either 1) if you can burn faster you don’t need the heals (but you don’t overgear the instance) or 2) the fight has been trivialized (you overgear the instance) and the extra DPS is a convenience.

        In the first option, you’re taking a calculated risk as a raid – bring enough DPS so we can down the boss before our healers go OOM and our tanks go splat. In that case, don’t you have an obligation to bring the best DPS you can to the fight? Alt or not, whomever can put out the highest numbers wins, right?

        In the second option, you can get through with your current roster of tanks and heals, but you’re choosing to sit a healer for speed. It’s easier to put more DPS on it, it’s faster. You’re asking people to play specs they don’t like in return for a little bit of convenience, a faster run. That doesn’t seem very fair when it’s put like that. The run would be successful no matter what; why change specs at all?

        And yet, the “no alts in the main raid” rule is a good one.

        Do you HAVE to swap out the healers on these fights? Since alt-swapping sounds like a no-go, I guess that’s where I’d start.

  10. I can understand your frustration. I’m having a similar thought process – but from the other side of the field. I play a pure dps class and as we’re having issues with our roster being difficult a lot, and often missing a tank or a healer – I sometimes wish I had chosen a hybrid class instead. It really bothers me when I can’t offer to fill the role that we’re missing (without switching to an alt, which we don’t generally allow if we can avoid it).

    But it’s different for everyone. Some people are quite happy to fill more than one role (me being one of them), while others are more comfortable in a specific role. And that’s fine. Everyone should play the way they feel most comfortable and enjoy. I can’t help but think that you’d always do a better job doing something you enjoy.

    Which begs the question for me if I should give up and eventually switch to a hybrid.

    I hope that it all works out for you!

  11. All the comments seem to be well thought out and from venerable people in the community, so I won’t do too much overlap here. My main is Ret/Prot and I was… less than enthusiastic about switching from tanking to dpsing when I joined this guild. I have since come to enjoy the meter of Ret. (As a side note, setting up a power aura that makes the Wilhelm scream whenever you’re in combat and Inquisition is off really helps your uptime!) I also raid as a resto/moonkin and an arcane mage. I enjoy the flexibility of my hybrids, but it can be a bit frustrating. You’ve got the extra baggage of being a GM, though, so you’ve got to think about what’s best for your team. I would say just do what you enjoy because if you’re not enjoying it then you might as well stop.

    It seems like you and your raiding roster need to have a come to jesus moment about the direction of your lineup. It’s likely there are other raiders who feel the same way, but just don’t want to say anything for fear of losing their raiding slot.

    • That’s a really good point – by publicly addressing your own concerns, you open the door for your raiders to do the same.

      My GM is a pally tank who refuses to raid heal. He’ll PvP heal, but not raid heal. It’s a good example to set – define your own boundaries and stick to them.

      • Yeah, and it’s really awkward that 4.3 is around the corner and could be a whole new kettle of fish. I think the toughest part about your situation, Vid, is being in the leadership. As a leader, you need to set examples, all your actions are scrutinized or admired or damned; you’re always in the spotlight. (I was GM in a MUD for a thorough stretch there and one thing I’ve learned about the human condition is that we never truly get out of high school. :P)

        This is both a blessing and a curse. You’ll show your team that it’s okay to have doubts and concerns and that it’s important to address them AS A TEAM. How many people do you have ‘benched’ right now? If I remember correctly (stalker mode!), didn’t you switch to your paladin because of a lack of healers on your roster? If that is no longer the case, then why not just sub back in as a full-time dps on your mage? Sure, you like to heal, but it seems like you’re deepsing more than healing, anyway. It shouldn’t be too difficult to gear up a mage with firelands drops, anyway. If you’re on normal modes then 359-365 ilevel should be sufficient, especially if the rest of the raid is geared well enough.

        Just do you. Talk to your team, see where everyone’s at. It doesn’t even have to be a public discussion yet. PM your healers and determine their comfort level. Maybe one of them wants to full-time dps, instead? Or perhaps they can handle losing you as a full-time healer. I would say the most important thing, though, is finding out what your team feels is fair.

  12. I believe no one, regardless of rank within a guild, should be required/expected to play a class/spec they dislike. The leaders should set the example to the rest of the guild to some extent, as it gives players a a greater confidence that they can make their preferences known without adverse consequences if they know the principle is supported at the top. As long as people accept they may have to be swapped at times due to raid composition needs, it works out. In my experience, leaders tend to take on being accommodating to the raid and putting aside their personal preferences, and while this is an admirable sentiment and is a product of their dedication to their guild, if a leader isn’t enjoying themselves over time it becomes noticable. I don’t think any member of a guild expects their leaders to be unhappy in their play time and would respect a desire to play what they enjoy.

    I find the shifting role requirements of the raids very frustrating, and have for several expacs. In some cases we have raiders with tank/healer specs, which means either I can’t include them unless there’s a tank/dps to go with them, or one of the healers then has to swap into a dps spec and one tank heal for single tank fights. It’s messy and horrible and it means people are not in their comfort zone and feel bad if they ‘let the raid down’.

    I hate shadow dps with a passion, I did it during wrath for raid flexibility and because healer numbers were never quite secure enough for me to move back to my lock permanently. This expac I have a disc/holy set up so I can’t dps. My GM knows why and he knows that if it ever came down to being make or break, I’d set up a shadow spec and do it again. But for now we have the flexibility elsewhere to let me just heal and he’s happy to go with that.

    I prefer leaving mains in raids in offspec roles vs bringing in alts because of the loot issue. We had people swapping to different toons in BC to get raids up and running, to see the thing they really wanted on their main drop and they miss out. Plus if you spent a lot of time on the alt, your main starts to have a gear gap due to not being there for drops. Some people see all their toons equally, others feel that missing gear a great deal. I think that option is really down to the attitude toward loot of both the individual and the raid group.

  13. Goodness, I can so very sympathize with you right now. My guild has four healers, two resto druids, a holy paladin, and me the resto shaman. And my biggest fear is coming true: They’re noticing how much more effective a resto druid/resto druid/holy paladin combo is over having me heal, and as we get further into hard modes, it’s becoming more a resto druid/holy paladin kind of deal.

    Thankfully, one of the druids knows how much I prefer to heal over dps, and she’s graciously gone feral for many fights. But I can’t help feeling guilty when I know that fight includes raid healing with a spread-out raid; I can’t compete with the utility she would have provided. This has taken so much fun out of raiding for me, because I LOVE to heal but hate feeling like my preference is gimping the rest of the group for certain encounters. I’ve even taken to offering to sit out entire raid weeks. =/

    Here’s to hoping 4.3 brings much-needed changes for us!

    • My best friend (and healing partner) plays a resto shaman and she tears her hair out over some of the fights and how much throughput I put out compared to her (I’m a resto druid). My heart hurts for her frustration. And for yours.

      She knows we won’t sit her because she’s an awesome player and we love her. But she feels bad when she’s not putting out the numbers that a priest/druid/pally could.

  14. Dude, I hear ya. That’s why I think the alt I love playing the most lately and have progressed the most is my warlock. There is no choice in the matter – I’m DPSing or I’m not going. That’s it.

    On Innana I have a decked out Tank set. And a decked out Retribution set. And a decked out Healing set. One of my specs always stays Prot but I move back and forth between Holy and Retribution.

    I think I’m weak in Holy but I don’t suck that bad. As long as we aren’t trying to 2 heal or on progression content, I can hold my own. I can put out reasonable damage as Ret – middle of the pack or near the top depending on RNG (but that’s a different story about why Ret is so weird).

    But at the end of the day, I know that if I’m tanking, I can execute the best job. I don’t mind healing or DPSing by any measure, and I’ll do whatever I need to for the raid to succeed… but yes, having to be good at 3-specs and maintain the gear for all 3 specs while making sure I’m having fun is…. daunting.

  15. @Redbeard: Ret was not better off in WotLK. It’s a much better spec now than it has ever been before, from a point of view of a mainspec dps. Macros and G15 keyboards should not be doing better dps than a person can hope to. The spec is clunky, and requires that you pay attention, but every spec and every role SHOULD require that you pay attention.

    Vidalya, as someone who made the swap to Ret recently (from prot, although I was holy before *that*), I can say that, in my experience, it gets easier. My first few weeks, practicing all the time, were miserable. I did weak dps for a ret pally, even factoring for my gear. I had played melee on and off for 7 years, but it felt different, and I was uncomfortable. Not only did I have to plan around a somewhat rigid rotation of my regular abilities, but had to be ready to change my plan at any given moment based on a proc, and react in one of a half dozen different ways.

    Every proc or error could throw off the next set of abilities, and I’d end up panicking, accidentally refreshing Inquisition at 19 seconds, or finding myself out of melee range because I was staring at my timers and procs, or eating needless damage/dying, because I couldn’t handle my positioning, my cooldowns, my procs, my rotation, and look for lava waves or lava lines or whatever was ready to kill me.

    I was terrified that I had taken for granted that I could learn a new spec and do well.

    And then things started getting easier. Once I had a firm grasp on Inquisition, and using DP procs became reflexive, everything else fell into place. I started dying less, taking less damage, doing more damage, and most importantly, stopped panicking and started enjoying the spec. It’s been 3 months now, and I love playing ret.

    That being said, you seem to have a pretty strong sense that it’s just not for you. And that’s okay. Not every spec is for every person. Your job as a raider is to set yourself up for success, and by doing the best you can to play an offspec to keep things balanced, you have done the best you should be expected to do. Your job as a person is to set yourself up to have fun, and if you hate the spec, you shouldn’t be forced, or feel forced, to stick with it longer than you’re comfortable doing.

    Kurn was asking around yesterday for stories about burnout. You’re already the GM. The responsibilities involved in a position of leadership in a raid guild are immense, and *usually* undesirable. To then take away some of the fun by not even playing the way you want to play is only going to turn the heat up to 11.

    It’s good that you realized how you feel about the situation, and let it out, rather than letting it stew. A big part of the problem is completely out of your hands. Changing the number of tanks and healers between encounters in the same tier is a practice that needs to stop. It’s simply not possible to take a set number of tanks and healers, and progress through the instance without changing your roster, and that is a major flaw. I can see how it would be very hard on a 10m to not only need to adjust for when people are absent, but also to have to rotate specs as well.

    I wish I had a solution in mind. It might best to rotate who is playing their offspec each week, so that the burn is shared and spread out, rather than placed entirely on one person. Hopefully you figure out a solution. But remember, if you stop having fun, you’ll stop playing, and the guild will be losing you anyways. Better to step back, sit out, or find an alternative way to be able to play the way you want to, than to leave entirely.

    • I think we’ll agree to disagree. In Wrath, Ret wasn’t as button heavy but the design was such that Ret was the ‘everyman’ of the Paladin specs: it could tank or heal in emergencies, all the while holding a steady yet pedestrian level of DPS. Cata’s Ret design cleaned up some things –like the Auras and Judgements– and gave Ret the ability to have higher burst damage. The price of that was to diminish the “emergency tank/heals” role and institute a rotation designed around maximizing that burst potential.

      Compared to some other DPS specs –I’m most familiar with Mage and Warlock– Ret is much ‘gamey-ier’ than the other two and much less forgiving.

      I don’t think Ret is bad by any stretch, especially since my two faction mains are both Ret, but I’m more disappointed in the change in design philosophy.

      • I’d agree about the utility aspect. Being able to help out with healing, or spec into Aura Mastery, etc, were wonderful features that have been minimized or removed. But from a pure dps perspective, mashing every key from 1-6 as fast as you can should not be the most effective method of dpsing, and that is what I meant by saying it has improved, though that change came with the addition of additional flaws.

        But, that’s my opinion. I should have said I disagreed, rather than phrasing it as if you were emphatically wrong. To each his/her own!

      • I’ll disagree as well – but mainly because I’m comparing it to other melee dps – and in that boat they are pretty similar (my experience is arms/fury/kitty at max level, I haven’t played dk, or shaman in cata, and my rogue is looking similar to kitty – but is only lvl 30). The main difference comparing them to ranged dps is that you aren’t always pressing buttons (I’m largely going off Boomkin for my ranged experience) – and I think that gives them a different feel and I find means you’re having to watch cooldowns a lot more closely and you can’t just queue up the next attack straight away. That said the more I play melee the more I’ve realised that it is less about mashing buttons as quickly as possible (kitty in particular, I still can’t get used to pooling energy), but using that breathing space to adjust positioning, not stand in the bad etc. And I’m starting to realise that is also true for Ret – you have time to use the procs – the only point where it is a ‘must press now’ situation is Divine Purpose proccing at max holy power.

        As Antigen wrote in his last wow insider post – some of the ret problems come down to bad RNG – it seems to be either feast or famine for the procs. Fury is a pretty similar setup, but they can work around bad RNG (in terms of Enrage uptime) in that they can force an Enrage with a 30 sec cooldown – slightly different mechanics because Enrage is a buff (that enages Raging Blow) but I think that would help ret in the slow periods – but can’t see exactly how it could work for ret.

      • As Antigen wrote in his last wow insider post – some of the ret problems come down to bad RNG – it seems to be either feast or famine for the procs.

        Absolutely, Gameldar.

        Art of War in particular is a lot more finicky than it used to be, and even over a year since 4.0.1 dropped I still catch myself anticipating an Art of War proc that doesn’t materialize.

        I’d really like them to tinker with the CD on Hammer of Wrath, since that seems to have the most interference with the normal rotation.

  16. I dealt with similar issues in BC and Wrath, though I’m pretty sure I created both situations.

    I was a huge altaholic (much to the dismay of my GM) and always wanted to be the person to play the class that our guild needed most. The problem with this, of course, is that this changes frequently.

    After taking a short break from the game I came back and rolled a mage on a different server. I eventually ended up back in my original guild on the mage and prepared for cataclysm. Since then I’ve honestly been mostly uninterested in playing anything but my mage even though I have a class or two that our group could really benefit from. It really comes down to what I wanted to play most; playing anything else is a quick path to burnout.

    I personally think you should switch back to your mage. Not only because mages are the best class EVER but because it really seems to be what you want to play. I think it’s great that you were willing to fill in the gaps in your raid group (as well you should since you’re the GM!) but I would be amazed if your guild mates had a problem with you wanting to go back to what you were playing originally now that your roster seems to be back in order. It’s not like you’re changing your main every tier.

    You certainly aren’t doing yourself or your guild any favors if you allow yourself to head down that path to burnout.

  17. There is already lots of good advice that i would echo in the previous comments so I’ll just toss in my opinion on what I think I would do in your shoes for whatever that might be worth.

    I would switch back to your Mage and continue to keep your Paladin as raid ready as you can. With the upcoming LFR and the ongoing valor point system that Blizzard has put in place, it has never been easier to keep an alt “raid ready” than it will be next tier.

    We also have a pretty firm “No Alts in Raids” policy in our group. That being said, every once in awhile, you’re going to come up short a healer or a tank (the likelihood of coming up short a dps seems drastically smaller). Your options at that point are to either have someone switch to an offspec, bring in a PuG, or have someone switch to an alt. We have several people (like Avaris) who keep multiple healer and tank alts available in case we ever find ourselves in a bind. You can always PuG a dps if you had to, I wouldn’t ever want to try and PuG a healer or tank for hardmode content though (actually, in all honesty, we usually end up just 9manning stuff in lieu of bringing a PuG). The only time we ever break our “No Alts” rule is when its a choice between calling the raid or bringing in an alt.

    It sounds to me, especially after following your blog for the last year or so, that you genuinely love playing your mage. It sounded like a non-negligible portion of your decision to switch to your pally was “for the good of the team.” I would think that you would be more or less providing the same benefit to your raid if you switch back to your mage and just keep your pally as ready as possible for those rare circumstances that she is *needed*. When the topic of No Alts in our raids comes up, I always tell everyone in our group that they are welcome to also keep one of their alts raid ready as well and if they are ever needed that they would have an equal chance at bringing them to the raid. In reality though, the type of person willing to truly keep an alt up to our standards of “raid ready” is extremely rare. The small handful of people that manage to accomplish this spend a ton of time and gold/resources each tier to keep their alts valor capped each week, outfitted in all of the available crafted/purchased BoEs, and spend enough time on them to be able to perform up to the same standards as the rest of our raid. That’s a whole lot of work for the remote chance that they will be needed in a raid one day (possibly ~once per tier, if even that)

    Finally, for our group at least, whenever we are recruiting someone new, we put a lot of value on trying to find those people you described that fit into the category of willing and able to switch specs as needed. That isn’t a helpful short term solution, but something to keep in mind in the long term.

  18. Ret is my mainspec, and I find it absolutely unplayable without a few addons. Some way to move holy power to right underneath my character is incredibly useful, I use ICEhud, but xperl or a half dozen others can do the same. Tell Me When is absolutely essential to me, I have it set to put a large inquisition icon with a timer right underneath the holy power. Another addon I find useful is Dominos to move all my ability bars into a block at the bottom of my screen. This way I can easily watch my feet to make sure I’m not standing in bad, watch my holy power and watch my inquisition buff and watch my abilities all at the same time without having to look at the four corners of my screen, all the info you need to play is center stage.

    Whenever I hear somebody say they’re terrible at ret, i suspect it’s becuase the default UI takes all the info you need to play the class and spreads it to the four winds, it’s impossible to keep track without addons.

    • I complained about the default UI setup while in the Cata beta – that was from a prot perspective – but it was essentially the same issue – in the default UI you were required to be looking at the top left for your holy power, top right for spell procs and down at your action bar for abilities coming off cooldown (this was before Crusader Strike was a 3 sec cooldown). How I was working around that in beta was moving the player and target frame down to below my character – I think they’ve incorporated the movement of the frames into the default UI now but I was doing it via some macros that enable the movement – which emulates how I have my player/target frames set up with suf as well – it puts holy power central.

      Apart from that I have a power aura for Inquisition that is huge so I can’t ignore it – and pay attention to the built-in power auras and Mike’s scroll combat text to know what I should be hitting – but I was noticing this morning as I was doing my dailies that it is all falling into place now after 3 weeks of returning to playing ret again – as long as I keep my regular crusader strike, and inquisition up I know what button I should be pressing next. Admittedly I’ve only been playing ret in ZA/ZG and those are so comfortable now I can predict what will be happening next which gives me the space – I’m not sure exactly how I’ll operator in a raid where I’m not so familiar with the fights.

  19. […] going through the same pains that Beruthiel has been – and in her eloquent post, she talks about just how damn sick of it she is –“I’ve come to the realization that doing most of the fights in a spec I don’t like instead […]

  20. WARNING: wall of text of doom below.

    Oh how I feel your pain. >__>

    I’m in casual, 10 people normal modes raiding guild (we do 2 days a week, total 6 hours).
    I had to be away from the guild for a few months while my fiancé and me were moving houses, and when I came back they had abviously more people into their ranks, including healers.
    There was a bit of a “too many healers” situation, which we decided to overcome by taking turns at healing (my suggestion). All of a sudden I had to learn to dps… I’ve always been a healer ever since I started playing 6 years ago: Druid for the first year, Holy Priest after that.
    I was forced to learn how to play Shadow during WotLK because it just wasn’t possible to do quests otherwise (no people to help a healer in the hope she’ll come with them in dungeons anymore :p). However, questing is very different from raiding…

    Not only do I rarely go over the 12k mark (average iLvl 372, mind you), I honestly don’t have the money nor the willingness to spend thousands and thousands on gold on aquiring optimal off-spec gear, gemming and enchanting it. I still did my very best (spending most of my savings) because I believe in team effort and I want to be an useful asset to my guild, but I still do way much less damage than I should be doing with that gear, spec etc., no matter how much I practice.
    The only reasonable explanation to me is that happens because I JUST. HATE. SHADOW. DPS. And no, I don’t have the time to gear an alt, and honestly I don’t want to. I love my space goat. I want to raid with her, not with my troll hunter (which ironically, does amazing dps at dps even though she goes BM :p).

    However, the rest of the guildies doesn’t seem to care, so everything should be good and dandy shuoldn’t it? Alas, no such luck.
    See, in the opinion of 2 of the 4 “council” leaders of the guild (and definitely the most hardcore among our roster), I should really try and switch to Disco because it’s s (supposedly) so much better in FL. T___T
    I tried Disco. I honest-to-the-Naaruu loathe it even more than I hate Shadow. I can’t stand playing in it.

    Now the question is: why should I?

    I play to have fun.
    I play to relax, to socialize with likeable, even loveable people and to work as a team to overcome a challenge. Working as a team, however, doesn’t mean to me I should do it at the expense of having fun at all. It’s not a job. I don’t get paid to do it.
    I’d rather be benched, or even never raiding anymore than to do something that makes me hate a game I love.

    It has not come to that of course.
    Luckily for me, the people in my guild really are both nice, respectful individuals and they don’t want to lose me as a player or as a guildie, not to mention another officer doesn’t care one way or the other and the last one is fiercely opposed to me switching if I don’t want to) so I get to play Holy on my “healing weeks”.
    I still get the occasional gentle “suggestion” from time to time, either from one of the officers of from new recruits that don’t know yet where I stand.
    I resist the pressure. I kindly explain to my point of view and move on.

    …But still deep down, I have to admit, I hold my breath in wait for patch 4.3, when Holy will be buffed and 3 healers should be “the norm” again.

  21. Since Posterous doesn’t seem to do trackbacks, I’d be remiss in not letting Vid know that this post led to one of my own.

    I saw on Twitter that you decided to go back to raiding on your Mage, Vid. I think that’s a good choice, actually – it’s unfortunate that the content is forcing you to change toons, but it’s better to change between two you love, not one you love and one you hate.

    (Yeah, I consider different specs different toons. Is that strange?)

  22. I’m a bit late replying to this one, but there was so much you said that I agreed on. Up until recently, I was the only healer with a dps spec in our raid team,( and I only have a dps spec to make my dailies quicker, no other reason). So, I got lumbered with playing as ret on Alysrazor. Oh, how I hated it!
    I have decent gear, decent spec, and decent stats, yet when I play ret, my dps is worse than my Warlock alt’s, and she hasn’t even cleared Zul Gurub!
    Besides feeling guilty for being so useless, which is what I am as ret, I just don’t want to play melee dps in raids. Even if my output had been good, I still would have preferred someone else doing the dps, and me doing the healing. I’m a healer, I levelled as a healer before dual specs came out, and that’s what I want to play.
    Luckily for me, we have a new healer in the team, and he is happy to switch to dps when required, so I have got out of it. I so sympathise with you.

  23. I’m in a different place then you are. We only have 2 main spec healers and 1 dps who will heal in a pinch. Our main spec healers are myself (resto druid) and my best friend (resto shaman). Our offspec healer is a shadow priest who plays disc as needed. When we had a full roster and were still needing to 3 heal things, the three of us would heal the hell out of everything.

    However, people ended up leaving the guild and/or quitting the game. As a result, we ended up 2 people shy and the only people would could pug in was a holy pally (with no offset) and a frost dk. For a while that worked fine. Our priest could go back to shadow and kick some serious ass, and the 3 of us would heal all the things.

    Right up until the nerfs.

    The nerfs hit and our raidleader (my husband) asked me to talk to my friend about 2 healing things. The two of us got all excited about it, having a chance to 2 heal in Firelands together, just like the old days of 2 healing Naxx, Ulduar, ToC and ICC. And then raid time came and we had to pug in the holy pally.

    Oh crap! One of us would have to go dps. Well, I have a decent boomkin set, which I’m okay at and it’s hit capped. My shaman buddy just switched her offspec to enhancement so she wasn’t familiar with it, nor was she hit capped. So I boomed. For somewhere between 2-4 weeks.

    Then we picked up some more dps and stopped having to pug those extra positions. So, now my friend and I are happily two healing all the things.

    Except that now, when we’re short on people, we’ve been bringing in a prot pally (that has no offspec) so on the single tank fights, both our ‘main tanks’ have to go dps. That isn’t a big deal for our warrior, he has an equally good dps set. But my husband (a prot pally) has an offset that is ret pvp and he only has pvp gear for it. (It’s really fun to watch my husband dps in pvp gear on Staghelm and Baleroc!)

    I know that we wouldn’t be able to raid without our hybrids. I just wish things weren’t so uncertain about the future of our raids!!

  24. I hear you! Because our 10-man has so many pure dps, I find myself switching between 3 specs (I have to go to town to respec and reglyph in between): kitty (my best and high dps spec, moonkin (because some fights just screw you over for having too many melee), and bear (we take turns switching for 2 tank fights). I don’t mind helping out our group, but I find myself wishing a lot that there were a tri-spec, and not just a dual-spec.

  25. […] mood. For awhile now, I’ve been labouring under an indecisive funk. I wrote all about how I felt playing retribution all the time. I’d even planned to write a “Thanksgiving” Warcraft post that never materialized […]

  26. […] “there is no dual spec in SWTOR” I breathe a heavy sigh of relief. Bioware solved the hybrid’s dilemma by eliminating single-role classes, which makes sense if you just don’t want to deal with the […]

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