Let me speak plainly about Blizzard's view of hybrids, for a moment. Blizzard's development team is comprised of ex-Everquest developers, so their view on any type of balance in the game goes back to the "holy trinity." That is, their mindset is one of "if your class has multiple varying roles you can play, then it will have zero roles desirable to a group." The general idea from Everquest was one of "min/maxing" for success and balance. They took a game that follows the original RPS (rock-paper-scissors) ideology, morphed it for an MMORPG such that RPS became healer-tank-damage. In doing this, they essentially made the game function as the class one choses determines how they play the game. This makes some sense in that if a person choses to play a priest, they should come in with the understanding that they are playing a healing class.

Without going much more into the history of Everquest (which I have limited knowledge of, never having played it myself), let me say that this same strategy was utilized in the design of World of Warcraft. However, in order to be bigger and better than WoW's predecessors, it had to have more classes to choose from with a variety of play styles. Thus, the 9 classes of WoW were born, each with 3 different styles to chose from. Originally, though the creators will never admit to it, those three different play syles were purposefully designed as: a grinding specialization, a primary raid specialization, and a primary pvp specialization. Admittedly, the designers originally had not thought of PvP specs in their design. Rather, they had a utility tree to coincide with the other two trees.

This is all well and good, except that many players pick their character based on what their friends tell them about the class or what they see others playing. For instance, if someone tells their friend how fast and fun leveling is as a shadow priest, then someone might pick up the game with the misunderstanding that a priest could be played solely as a shadow specialization, even when the leveling is done. In fact, this is exactly what happened with many players. They decided to cling to their leveling specializations in the "end-game" striving to play how they wanted. Sadly, this was unintended by the developers, but for one reason or another they decided to condone it. Eventually, the developers even decided to give gear and specific roles in raids to these "offspecs" so that players could play how they wanted.

This gap is completely warranted by the simple fact that I succumbed to my ADHD and wandered away from this page. Without getting too poetic about it (and yes, I know I am not the best writer in the world), Blizzard has developed a game of "mix/maxing." In order to succeed, you can play however you wish, however, in order to excel, one must play the way Blizzard wants that class to play. "Want to play a druid in pvp? Fine, but you have to heal otherwise you will be mediocre at best." The same is true of priests and shamangs, etc etc. The list is not that long, but it is a complete slap in the face that Blizzard would allow someone to deliberately debilitate their ability to destroy in player confrontations.

This leads me nicely into the discussion of scaling. The biggest problem with "end-game" pvp is that once there is a "best" gear category, the game either becomes stale, or there is better gear added in a latter patch. The latter situation is one that Blizzard has decided to take up. So, a rogue will have a full set of end-game gear, play with it for a while, then Blizzard will announce that a new set of end-game gear is coming out which is better in every way to the last set. To keep the content fresh, the weapons do more damage, the armor has more stat point allocation which makes the rogue do more damage, there is more stat points added (read: resilience in TBC and armor penetration in the latest patches), and finally, there is some armor added.

What's wrong with this? Well, the classes that rely on certain stats scaling versus others simply do not keep up with the rest. For instance, that same rogue will upgrade his weapons when the next "end-game" gear sets are released, which will improve his damage output by 50 damage per swing (as an example... not as exact data) against a mob with no armor. A casting class will improve their spell damage by 50 per averaged cast (the tick of a dot, the damage of a 1.5 second cast spell, etc). However, the rogue also gets some more stats, such as armor penetration, and haste rating, etc, which will make their damage output scale faster than the expected 50 damage per swing. Similarly, casters will get some spell haste rating, but there is no stat equal to armor penetration, and they do not get additional armor to compensate against armor penetration.

Back in the 60s days, shadow priests were one of the best dueling classes because they had a relatively high armor value coupled with a 15% physical damage reduction and damage abilities that would continue doing damage even if the priest were running away from their opponent. Now, their armor is the lowest, which provides essentially no physical damage reduction, except by shadow form which amounted to a shield in the hands of a paladin or a shamang. So, now that we are nearing season 4 in arena, the shadow priests are falling behing in terms of scaling because their survivability no longer scales with gear, and their opponent's ability to do damage through their mitigation is still scaling.

Very sad times... similarly, ferals are scaling poorly too, but they are so lacking in abilities that the similarities tend to end there. Shadow priests have a silence and an AoE fear, both can be used in small-scale pvp to control a target for a good duration of time. Ferals have cyclone, which forces them to leave their primary damage form to control a target, and it costs mana to get back into form. Feral needs reduced mana on shapeshifting, a snare, and a fear (a la warriors) before they will be arena viable. Hopefully, Wrath of the Lich King will help in these avenues.