On Flexibility, Emotional Attachment and Mister Spock. With Ice Cream!

"Thus, flexibility, as displayed by water, is a sign of life. Rigidity, its opposite, is an indicator of death." - Anthony Lawlor, A Home For The Soul
Those of you who follow this blog closely and spend just a little too much time obsessing over it (and you know who you are) may have noticed that there has been a distinct lack of Paladin related posts around here recently. In fact, looking back at my archives the last post that talked about Paladins specifically was way back in July.

There is a good reason for this: I'm not raiding with my Paladin any longer.


You know, I started this post with the best of intentions: A short, to-the-point post about what I've been up to in WoW and why I'm not posting about or playing my Paladin. Half-way through it turned into something completely different. I guess you and I will both find out what the hell I'm talking about when we get to the end because I have no idea where this is going any more than you do. Maybe there will be Ice Cream and Whisky. Goodness, that would be nice, wouldn't it?

SHAMAN: The new Battle Medic? At least this one's actually a Dwarf.

With Dragon Soul on the PTR, I was approached by our Guild Master who asked me a question that took me by surprise: Would I be willing to switch my raiding main in order to help with raid healing? It turns out that our guild is so full of main-spec Holy Paladins that it is a little bit like a large, overfilled doughnut—taking a bite of which will get Holy Paladin goop all over your shirt. And that shit is hard to get out.

In the interests of trying to avoid a 10-man raid with three Holy Paladin healers—which would strain just about anybody's tolerance for egocentrics in a raid, I imagine—I switched my Raiding Main to my (then) newly 85 Restoration Shaman.

My GM's reasoning was pretty straightforward: Dragon Soul looked to be a very raid healing intensive series of fights and even with the strength of the 4.3 Holy Radiance changes it seemed as if our normal Paladin/Paladin/Priest setup wouldn't be ideal. This was made especially clear when we found that some of the fights would require only two healers, and neither Paladin had a DPS off-spec. My Shaman provided my GM with a different option.

So, the week before Dragon Soul opened I was running through Firelands, healing on my Shaman. I admit, it felt odd at first. Even though I had levelled her completely through dungeons I was woefully unprepared to take her on a raid. My understanding of the subtleties of the class were at a very basic level, my UI was not set up properly and her gear was, shall we say, eclectic; an odd mix of items cobbled together from every possible source and not powerful enough to even qualify her for the new Looking For Raid feature.

She's nicely geared now, although there are still some problem spots due to some very bad loot luck in Dragon Soul. I'm not sure why, but in our raids the only Tier Token that ever drops is Vanquisher tokens—we literally had a new Death Knight alt get his 4 piece in a single night, and the only reason he got each token was because all the other Vanquisher eligible players already had theirs. Meanwhile, I, along with a lot of other people in my raid group, are organizing strange voodoo rituals to influence the gods to drop something—anything that we can use. Now, I know that no one really cares about other people's loot problems, but that night made me want to roll a Druid just so I could actually get a drop.

THE SPOCK PRINCIPLE: The Needs of the Many, blah blah blah

Imagine, if you will, a dwarf lying on a brown leather couch, a worried expression showing through his beard and his armour poking holes in the leather and setting it smouldering because the shoulder piece is on fire, which for some inexplicable reason is perfectly normal. Next to him, seated at a comfortable armchair is a bald man with a white goatee neatly trimmed into a point and a notepad on his lap. He leans over towards the dwarf, and in a thick German accent asks, "Und how doez ziz make you feel?"

A long time ago I wrote an article entitled What Makes a Main?, in which it I talked about the emotional connection to a character as the fundamental element that determines which character would be a person's "Main Character". While that criteria certainly wouldn't apply to everyone (there are people who change their mains constantly due to many different factors, for instance), but it is absolutely true of me. My Holy Paladin is my main because I am emotionally invested in him, both in terms of character as well as the play-style and mythos of the Paladin. My Paladin just feels right.

So when Mylindara asked me to switch for the good of the raid, I felt a little conflicted. From a dispassionate point of view he made a lot of sense because even while temporarily undergeared, my Shaman brought something to the raid that we were lacking. Emotionally, however, my main is still my Paladin, and is the character that I am most interested in playing and progressing. Not only that, but I enjoy healing on the Paladin more than the Shaman.

So the real question that I, or anyone in a similar situation must ask themselves is: When does the needs of the group trump the desires of the individual? Should we always be selfless in order to help the group, or is it alright to say "No" so we can play the game the way we want to? Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one when the ultimate goal of the game is individual entertainment? What would Spock do?

FLEXIBILITY: When is it okay to take one for the team?

I think the answer greatly depends on what type of player a person is. I believe that there are two extremes to this question where the answer is obvious and unchanging, and then there is a vast grey area in between where a large percentage of the player base sits.

The Activity-Centric people amongst us will look at this question as absurd because min-maxing every aspect of an encounter is fundamental to their play-style. Changing their character to bring that one extra buff or cooldown to the raid in order to gain any advantage—regardless of how small—is far more important than the attachment to a certain character or class. For them the emotional need is to progress at a personal level, and which character they do it on is only a secondary consideration; a tool used to achieve the desired end.

"Please don't shoot me"
The other extreme is the Character-Centric people. These folks form an incredibly strong emotional attachment to their characters, and asking them to switch their Main Character—or even to change their character's hair-style—is like asking them to shoot a puppy. It'll break their heart and the aftermath will be very messy to clean up. Not to mention that I like puppies, and well, shooting them is just wrong. I mean, look at those eyes.

The vast majority of us, I think, fall somewhere in the middle. I have always considered myself more of the activity-centric type, but again, if I am to be truly honest with all of you, I tend to let myself get attached to my characters quite a bit and was a little bit annoyed when I was asked to not bring my preferred character to the main raids. There is a constant battle raging between the two sides when I'm making the decisions as to what to play.

In the end I made the change and the raid team is the better for it, I think. We have a good core of raiding healers now, with a lot more flexibility than we would have had otherwise. I may not be playing the character I would like, but the decision was right because the activity, in this case, was more important than my personal need to play the character.

And I suppose that's the fundamental answer to the question of when it's okay to make a personal sacrifice for the team, and the answer is a lot more simple than the length of this post would suggest. Simply put, if the goal is more important than which character accomplishes it, make the change and be happy about it.

Now, as I'm writing this I'm thinking to myself, "Damn, you've really outdone yourself in stating the blindingly obvious. Should we do a section talking about the different ways water is wet? Way to spend 1400 words talking drivel, dumbass".

It is a pretty straight-forward concept, but I think that everyone is going to approach it differently and everyone is going to have a different reaction to being asked to change the way they like to play the game. It all depends on the balance between the activity and the character within a person.

For me, the activity of seeing our raid progress smoothly won the day over my own desires to play the Paladin. So for now at least, the Battle Medic is a Shaman.

Have you ever been asked to play a class or role that you didn't prefer so your group could move forward? How would you react? What sort of balance to you have?


Oh yes, Ice Cream and Whisky. Excellent.

There ya go. Ice Cream and Whisky all in one.
It doesn't get much better than that.


  1. An interesting discussion point, to be sure. I'm very much character centric - my hunter is my main, it's the toon I achievement hunt on, and the one I gear up first. BUT…. I also acknowledge that my Death Knight (Blood/Frost) has been invaluable since my guild hasn't been able to keep a tanking bench, so I make every effort to keep her adequately geared at all times, just in case the raid needs it.

    I'm a bit blessed/cursed, though, in that I'm our raid leader. I can very much say that we'll recruit for anything that's missing (or try to) to avoid having to have folks make that kind of decision, but with the inevitable "this means we will rotate people, so we have some resilience in the group" discussions.

    1. Asking someone to switch roles or characters is something that every raid leader will have to deal with at some point. Raid composition is a tricky thing, and having the flexibility of a decently geared alt is a blessing. I hope that it works out for you and your raid.

  2. My husband and I tend to be both character AND activity centric people. He loves his pally and only wants to play her as prot. I am a resto druid to my soul. I have other healing alts and I'll do it, but tell me I can't do it on my resto druid and I'll die a little inside.

    Good post! I love the way your thoughts come out!

    1. Thanks! This post ended up being very much a stream-of-consciousness type post. I honestly had no idea where it was going. It ended up a bit silly, but I like how it reads. :)

  3. Probably the most awkward moment of the T12>T13 transition was explaining to the guild that the mage who was already on the third stage of the quest towards our second Dragonwrath was switching mains to his Rogue to soak up the daggers. Thankfully the raid took it well.

    1. Yeah, we had a similar thing happen. The Shadow Priest that we were working on getting the legendary switched to a Mage just before Dragon Soul hit. I don't think he even got the staff. Oh well.

  4. Great post Fannon, I did like and relate to your Spock principle but I the most I will go to taking one for the team is to switch spec. I can't level an alt.. it's too hard...

    1. I have a hard time levelling alts as well. I have a pile of them, mostly all ridiculously low levels, and only two max level characters (although I do have an 84 that is inching towards the finish line).

      I started the Shaman when Cataclysm launched and levelled her up exclusively through the dungeon finder in my spare time. It was nice because I could do a dungeon in 15 or 20 minutes whenever I could spare it and there was no pressure to dedicate any serious amount of time to her. The levels just flew by and before I knew it she was in Vashj'ir and clubbing Naga to death. Dungeon Running is an excellent way to level a character when you don't want to spend a lot of time doing it. It's not complicated either; my Shaman spent 60 levels standing next to the Shaman trainer in Stormwind just waiting for the queue to pop. :) Give it a try!

  5. Ah, Fannon. I have to be honest, reading this makes me a little sad (and answers my question during our five man about your shaman). Don't get me wrong! I think it's great that you are doing this for your guild (and I've done similar in the past, as you know) but I can't help but read between your lines and know the place you are coming from. I felt that way when I was staring at a giant moonkin ass (instead of a mage) and later, similarly when I was flailing around as a ret (instead of a mage). These switches always led to me going back to playing my beloved character again, and it sounds like that's what you want to do as well. So I think it's very noble of you, but I'm sorry you aren't playing Fannon and I hope you get to do so again. Alts can be fun and all, but it's tough for them to really and truly displace a main unless you were unhappy with the main in the first place!

    1. I admit I thought about you and your decision to return to your mage when I was writing this. You definitely lean more towards the character-side than I.

      I have made no secret amongst my guildmates that I would prefer to play my paladin, but when the shit is flinging from the fan-blades, it's more important to keep the raid progressing rather than scrambling for healer diversity.

      That being said, I hope to get back to my Paladin soon.

  6. I am sorry Fannon but my main is my main and defines who I am as I play. Alts are simply a diversion because my main is who will raid and do the content etc. I agree with Vid that although noble, if you are truly character-centric, you won't be happy.


    1. The balance will be unique in every player. Some folks are going to lean strongly to one side. I know some extreme examples of both (one of my guildies has had 4 mains since I met him, for example).

  7. This is exactly what I went through. I was a holy pally and am now on a shaman as well. I'm not healing anymore, though. I'm elemental.

    It's a hard thing, watching your main collect dust. Watching tokens that your main could use be trashed because no one else needs them. It took me a long time to be ok with it. I am doing my new job well, and I know that, but Miz is where my heart lies, and I wonder how long I can be satisfied with her watching from the shadows.

    I am dedicated to my guild, and I love my raid team. I'm not the only one who has had to do this for raid make up. (Example: The guild leader is on his druid alt instead of his warrior main.) I think the only reason it was so hard for me to accept is because there are people who won't adapt to the raid needs, and it feels very unfair to those of us who do. I love them, and they are my friends, but for a while I was considering quitting simply because it just wasn't fun anymore.

    I think I started rambling somewhere in there. Oh well. In summary: I am ok with it now, but I know those feelings, and I know how much they can really suck. Dedication is a double-edged sword.

    1. It's especially hard because it seems that since I started raiding with the shaman a metric tonne of Intellect plate has dropped. However, with two other Holy Paladins in the raid nothing really goes to waste.

      Some people wouldn't make the decision that you and I did in order to help the raid. It's not because their obstinate, unhelpful or uncaring, it's because they can't. Their balance, being strongly character-oriented, simply won't let them. And they can feel insulted or bullied if they are even asked to change. Believe me, I know; I went through those same feelings when I was asked, and I put in a great deal of thought in as to how I felt about it.

      On the other hand, a good raid leader will make it a request and not a command. I was not told to go Shaman, I was asked. And as much as he feels like I made him out to be the bad guy in this post, Mylindara did exactly the right thing for the raid and for the guild by asking me, and I would have done exactly the same thing in his place.

    2. Exactly.

      I knew that it was the best thing for us. It was admittedly hard to accept, but I still knew that, and so did he. And really, I can't be that upset when there are *3* of us (him included) that are doing it.

      I know one day Miz will get her time to shine again. I can be content with that, and the knowledge that not only am I contributing, I am definitely adding to our overall success rate.

  8. I get around this issue with a time based strategy. I have no time for a second max-level character so I only have my Holy Paladin. Yes, I am rather attached.

    On the other hand, I am very focused on the activity (healing) I enjoy and am willing to change anything to better suit an encounter. I've never tried a Ret spec, even on PTR. Healing is what I do and I don't have the time to spend on other characters when I could be spending it on optimizing my paladin.

    1. lol, having no other alternatives will certainly insulate you from this problem. :)

  9. Hi Fannon:

    Great post! This actually happened to me too, except I also volunteered. I raided with my rogue as my main and I loved her right down to her bones. But after Cataclysm hit, my raid team struggled with keeping a 25 man together due to attendance and we were always short on healers. After downsizing to two ten man raids for T11, the main team still needed a healer.

    I volunteered to try out on my druid, and started playing her regularly. My rogue still raided, but she was no longer my priority. I wanted to help the team so we could raid and have fun. But in the long run, I eventually didn't have the time to play my rogue as much as I used to. It tore my heart apart seeing her gear fall behind (she's still in a lot of T11 gear!) and I miss playing her.

    My druid is still my main, as much as I love my druid, I'd rather play my rogue if I could. I'm not especially motivated in taking her through the grind of getting raid-ready if I ever wanted to raid on my rogue again. I just don't have the luxury of time any more to continue maintaining a main and a geared alt, so... there's just my druid now. This is just one of those tragic endings with a character for a player, such as myself :(

    When I volunteered my druid, I wasn't trying to be a hero, I just wanted the raid team to keep raiding. We were cancelling raids because we couldn't find a healer. I think if I was actually asked to switch to my druid, I would have said yes!

    I'm envious of people who were able to switch to their rogues to get the legendary daggers in Dragon Soul :P

  10. I had a similar experience, albeit from the other side, back during wrath. After spending weeks being asked to tank heal on my holy priest (yes, I know, I still cringe) I started gearing up my holy paladin. I did (and still do) enjoy Holy priest healing the best of all 5 flavors (they seem the most complete), but I wasn't being asked to be a complete healer, I was asked to do something specific and for that particular job Holy Pallies ruled the roost. I ended up having quite a lot of fun after the initial adjustment.