Hybrid classes are classes which can fill more than one of the core PvE roles: tank, healer, or damage dealer (DPS). Realistically, no character can tank, heal, and dps at the same time, but hybrids are frequently flexible enough to serve in one role or another (no matter what spec they have) if they have collected the gear required to serve that function. ALL classes have at lease one method of fulfilling the DPS role, non-hybrid classes are sometime referred to as “Dedicated DPS” classes.
Definition of a hybrid
There are different views on how many possible functions are needed to consider a class a "hybrid". The most limited definition here would be any class that can fill any of the three roles, given the correct talent spec and/or gear. This definition would only consider paladins and druids as hybrids. Blizzard consider hybrids to be any class that has two or more functions that they can spec for. If the definition is widened in this manner then shamans, warriors, death knights, and priests are added to the list of hybrids.
These classes are considered the truest "hybrids", as each of them can cover the three roles of tanking, damage, and healing.
The druid is a hybrid of a tank, healer, and DPS. Druids are the only class with four distinct play styles because they can DPS both melee (in Cat form) and ranged spells (enhanced by Moonkin form).
- Good innate healing abilities, and often quite effective even when not restoration specced. Feral druids inherently have an expanded mana pool but no mana regeneration enhancements. Balance druids have an expanded mana pool and enhancements to both damage and healing, but less mana regeneration than a restoration druid.
- Arguably, one of the more powerful buffs in the game, Mark of the Wild, providing a good general boost to most classes and specs.
- Shapeshift ability allows druid to serve as a tank (Bear/Dire Bear form) and increases survivability if drawing aggro by accident, can scout (Cat form), and will render a druid immune to Polymorph. The act of shifting will also remove any host of Root and Snare effects from the character.
- Tree of Life Form likely has the most mana efficient heals in the game, and is specifically geared to raid healing.
- Tank abilities viable for raids, optimal for single targets; sub-optimal for a very large number of targets.
- High-level talents in each tree provide a raid healing or DPS aura.
- Rebirth is the only resurrect which can be cast in combat.
- Lightly armored in caster gear, just a little tougher than a cloth wearer in humanoid form. However, Barkskin combined with Dire Bear Form or Moonkin Form may provide enough damage mitigation (and time) for a main tank to re-acquire a mob. If you are in PvP combat, this same switch will often cause players (especially melee dps) to switch targets out of frustration with the greatly increased armor and hit points.
- Druid crowd control is generally weak. Entangling roots affects all types of enemy, but does not prevent enemies from attacking with ranged abilities. Hibernate is only usable on beasts and dragonkin. Cyclone is almost universally effective but only lasts a short time.
The paladin is often incorrectly thought of as a hybrid of a warrior and a priest, but actually a paladin's healing style differs greatly from a priest, and their tanking style from a warrior. Paladin tanks rely on magical Holy damage as the primary source of threat, and functions by the threat "multiplier" of Righteous Fury rather than added threat effects like Sunder Armor. A paladin heals by spamming efficient direct heals, and not by using HoTs or group heals.
- Armored in plate, paladins can take a lot of damage, and are widely regarded as the single hardest class to kill.
- Long-lasting, efficient single-target healers.
- Wide variety of important blessings for all classes.
- Several auras with various beneficial effects for the party.
- One of 3 classes capable of allowing quick recovery from a wipe with their Divine Intervention (the other being warlocks and shaman).
- Able to use Divine Protection and Divine Shield to protect themselves from incoming damage or cast Hand of Protection to protect other players from physical damage.
- Very little in the way of ranged attacks.
- Have relatively few protection against casters, especially those that can silence or use Mana Burn.
The shaman is a hybrid of healer, melee and ranged damage dealer. They can also tank at early levels, but not very effectively.
- A wide variety of totems can be used to buff party members and debuff opponents
- Ability to heal, resurrect and self-resurrect makes them very useful to a party.
- Powerful, instant-cast direct damage Shock spells with secondary effects (movement speed decrease, damage over time, and attack speed decrease)
- Only class capable of solo-recovering a raid via Reincarnation, albeit only once per hour.
- Arguably, one of the best multi-target healing spells in the game, Chain Heal.
- Jack-of-all-trades, but frequently overshadowed by other classes in "pure" roles.
- Not as Mana efficient as non hybrids.
The Priest has the ability to spec and gear for flexible healing through the Holy tree; priests can also spec into DPS through the shadow tree. The Discipline tree, while focused on healing, offers some bonuses to damage dealing abilities as well, and many talents in this tree will encourage the priest to do damage (mainly with Smite) to incease their healing and even passively heal.
- The only class with two distinct healing specs, the priest is a good healer for just about any situation.
- Shadow priests provide good DPS, as well as passive healing with the Vampiric Embrace talent.
- A wide variety of utility and defensive spells, including Mana Burn, Mind Control, Power Word: Shield, help party survivability and effectiveness.
- Several escape and aggro lowering abilities, Psychic Scream, Fade, though psychic scream is not very useful in instances.
- Cloth armor and no pets leave priests more easily damaged than other hybrid classes, though they do have defensive abilities such as Inner Fire and Power Word: Shield.
- In Shadowform (necessary for priest to reach their true DPS potential), has no healing aside from Vampiric Embrace
The warrior can spec into tanking mostly through the Protection tree or into DPS through the Arms and Fury trees.
- Can tank well in most encounters, and arguably are the best off-spec tank.
- Have numerous life-saving abilities when tanking.
- Good countering abilities against fear.
- Highly gear dependent in order to have good performance.
- No effective ranged attack. (Though they have several abilities to help them get in range of the enemy.)
- Vulnerable to snare effects.
The death knight can tank or DPS. Death knights spec for tanking by picking specific talents in their tree of choice, and viable tank specs exist in all three of the death knight talent trees.