There seem to be a lot of people here saying forcing specs is a bad thing and I don't really tend to agree. In saying that there is usually a fair bit of room to move in most classes and some require more specific specs than others.
There is simply no room for a "suicide spec" shammy in any serious raid group, nor can your entire priest roster consist of Shadow priests or your warrior group consist of 6 MS guys in DPS gear. There IS a point where a line must be drawn. Your example with the mage is a bit more debatable because you are almost at the point now where Fire becomes the more viable spec anyway. Personally I'd be happy to let that one slide but be more worried about the guy's attitude rather than his spec.
I would never advocate a set of rules where you say everyone must spec a certain way but there are minimum requirements I see as necessary for some if not most classes if your raid is half serious. As a Shammy I'd say NS is an absolute must and Purification is almost in that boat too. Our raid group personally doesn't force exact specs but we have booted a number of people who have refused to play ball in regard to specs.
The issue of raid specs really come's back to player's attitudes. Using a Shaman as an example, someone who is taking up a raid spot as a healer but who is unwilling to spec to add 10% onto their healing (Purification) is not helping your raid as much as they could be, nor is raiding the main focus of their gameplay. Maybe they have different goals to you and the majority of your raid and aren't prepared to sacrifice their PVP "leetness" to help the raid. It is this kind of attitude that you need to work out where you stand with. Do you want to min/max your raid or are you happy with people maintaining less raid geared specs and possibly slowing raid progressions as a result?
It's really a question only you and your raid leadership group can answer.
if you are in a serious raiding guild you kinda need to force specs as much as possible.. attrition is something to worry about but progressing in naxx with a guild full of hemo rogues, AP mages, shadow priests and oomkin is beyond painful.
A serious raiding guild won't be full of players who would be hemo rogues, AP mages, shadow priests or oomkins if they were allowed to. That's a casual raiding guild with a leader who's trying to make the guild do something it doesn't really want to do.
Take the people who do their jobs best. If that fire mages has consumables for every fight and farmed for Talisman of Ascendence, etc, take him instead of the ice mage who keeps mysteriously disconnecting before lab packs.
Make people compete for their raid spots based on their effectiveness if that's what your guild is about. Some guilds assign spots based on attendence, senority, or whatever. But if you're going to judge based on specs, make sure you remember why you want people to take those specs in the first place.
You can certainly force specs. There is a time and a place for it, and hopefully your leadership is bright enough to realize when that is.
Rebirth doesn't force specs, because there are other optimizations we could make (and choose not to) before we would be at the point where forcing specs was correct. We have a fair number of very bright people in guild, and they'd call us on it if we started forcing specs before forcing the other optimizations that would make a much larger impact. That said, there are a lot of insecure and, frankly, quite terrible players/leaders in world of warcraft. What they choose to do to their guildmates and themselves is their own business, and they might even be in a guild where noone will call them on it. If you want an honest opinion, I would say the majority of guilds that force spec do not perform encounter analysis sufficient to understand why a spec is useful in an encounter, nor do they prepare for the average fight correctly, nor do they consider the merits of changing the raid distribution. In short, most guilds that force specs do so by rote, and can't really explain the reasoning behind their decision processes.
Before I would consider forcing specs, I would be certain the following were all done:
Each player had equivalent skill - the skill-less wonders are far more detrimental to your raid than the skillful but sub-optimally specced members. This is a long, and somewhat luck-dependant, process.
Each player made good gear decisions from the point of view of the raid. This probably means community loot council in each class.
Each player has equivalent attendance - the sunny-day raiding crew hurts your progress far more than a sub-optimal but dedicated member.
Each player is prepared, they bring consumables, in great numbers, they turn on their /combatlog, they understand what the plan for the encounter is, they communicate. Having members that put in 10% of the pre-fight effort is far more detrimental to your raid's progress than the sub-optimally specced members.
The raid is correctly configured. While it's nice to say "No shadow priests here" in a 18 healer raid, I'd certainly hope some of those healers are dpsing. If they aren't, why did you fill slots 15-18 with pure healbots who will spend the majority of their time doing nothing.
The raid's configuration is dynamicly updated during the raid to configure it for the next boss/trash. Ouro isn't rogue heaven, c'thun isn't 19 mellee guy, emps likes healers, huhuran doesn't. In naxx - noth likes mellee, heigan likes ranged, patchwerk likes healers, grob doesn't need healing. etc.
The fights are being analysed well - /combatlog and some smart people. If you are not analyzing your own fights, you don't need to force specs, you need to learn to play.
There's more, but that's the basic checklist. There are very few guilds that would gain more from forcing specs than from improving one of the above areas. If you judge your guild to be one of them, feel free to force specs. Speaking for myself, I'd find any guild-leader that told me to spec in his proscribed way without all of the above being taken care of, to be somewhat hypocritical. Your milage may vary. The core value to take away from this is - you want to play with players that are smart enough to perform this type of analysis, one of the requirements for dealing with smart people is to not make stupid decisions and try to enforce them. Forcing specs as a "holy-grail" to increasing raid performance is usually a stupid decision, and most of the smart gamers you want to game with will pick up on it.
First star to the right, and straight on till morning.
I disagree with forcing specs unless you are forced too because of a fight. Spending another week on an encounter is better than burnout, but you may also be running a 100% completely different guild than me. Most of my players are semi-casual, and like to do what they want in their spare time, fuck, I believe I'm the ONLY Combat Rogue in my guild (or at least the only active one). Most of my players are intelligent and know what spec suites them. The majority of my priests are Disc/Holy, most Warriors are 31/5/15 or deep Prot, ironically most of my DPS classes are off-specs :/ Burnout and drama really does not happen in my guild which is nice.
With TBC rolling around soon, I don't expect people to even have "optimal" specs anymore, fuck I'll probably be some variant of Assasination/Combat.
One thing about forcing specs though, is the fact that you basically cannot have any strengths that certain builds do have, even if they are minor and situational. Example: Lightwell, as stupid and gimmicky as it is, still has great uses on certain fights.
Edit: I force jobs though, forgot to mention that. Shadow Priests heal, unless they have the judgement to put up Shadow Vulnerability, Druids heal unless they are called out to have Feral Gear on to back-up tank because we're short on Warriors (never happened unless we're in ZG or something). We have Moonkin Druids who do damage on trash but they know they heal.
We basically do the same, though in our case it's ended up with around 75% of the raiders having specced optimally for raiding. Largely due to class competition. Nothing encourages 'optimal raiding' specs like some healthy competition.
We do have a few folks with less than 'optimal raiding' specs, but they still hold their own well, and they know that the job that they'll most likely be doing throughout most of the raid isn't going to be what they're specced for.
We've cleared AQ and got 5 bosses down in Naxx, so it seems to work. ;)
If your players are serious about raiding then it shouldn't be necessary to force specs. If you are in a raid guild with enforced specs and you removed that rule, how many of your priests would immediately go shadow and stay that way for longer than a fortnight (i.e. after they've had long enough to test their new freedom)?
My experience of free spec raid guilds is that you only get 1-2 people per class wanting to play off-specs for any real period of time, and that 1-2 off-specs per class is actually a valuable thing to have. The "forced specs will be required for instance X" argument has come up for every raid instance that Blizzard has released, and so far I'm not aware of an encounter that can't be defeated while you have a handful of off-spec characters in the raid.
If your entire healing roster decided to spec shadow/feral/enhance then I could see it being a problem, but I'm not convinced that eliminating those last 1 or 2 ferals or shadow priests who provide a little flexibility and still perform respectably actually achieves anything.
A further question. I don't think forcing specs is a good idea. Saying "you spec this way or you're out!" But how do you feel about restricting loot based on spec?
The guild I'm in has been around for about 18 months and one thing I've always seen as a problem is people (ok, warriors specifically) speccing as say, a tank and then expecting or bidding on DPS loot or vice versa.
I'm currently trying to get our warriors to pick a spec (one they like, nothing is forced here) and position themselves as either a tank (31 points in prot type spec - prio on Dreadnaught, Styleen's, so on) a Hybrid (31/5/15 type spec - prio on Conq's, off set tank pieces and 2Hers ususally) or DPS (17/34 type spec - DPS plate and most 1Hers in a system we've agreed with the Rogues).
Is it acceptable to link people's looting rights to their spec? If you want prio on dreadnaught, you spec 31 point prot, if you want prio on 1hers with rogues, you spec fury DPS? Or am I some kind of micro-Hitler?
There are different ways to "force" specs.
If you are in a raid minded guild hopefully your members will force themself to spec useful pve specs. If not they dont really belong there. You can call it forcing specs if you want. But in the end if they dont want to spec anything decent, why bother.
Also, there is quite a difference between saying, "you need to spec frost" or saying "you need to spec exactly this and this build". There are plenty of room for personal influence in each tree (at least for mages) even if you want a raid spec. In the end mages cant really complain, we got lots of freedom in specs compared to many other classes.
Also, there is a serious difference between having useles pve builds or slightly suboptimal pve builds.
I have a 10/38/3 fire spec, and sure, I might probably get a minor boost in raid utility by taking 7 points from fire and get a bit mana regen from arcane instead. (and thus having what is pretty much the standard fire raiding build). But still, the difference between those 2 buids are very small, and it can surely still be called a raid build. (its hard to make really useless raid builds for mages, it had to be some elementalist build or heavy arcane).
Your raiders should have a feeling about which general specs which benefit the raid most, and then have some freedom to make an actual spec from that, which can have differences from player to player based on their preferences.
If they cant see the reasons behind that, they might not really fit in.
My guild doesn't force specs persay, but there is a fair amount of competition between members of each class that leads to players min/maxing their PvE specs to beat their fellow class members on the DPS meters or to hit that 6k Gheal crit. I feel this is the one of the better ways around the forced spec dilemma. All our Priests are Holy, only 1 of our Druids is Feral and our Paladins are all Healbot specced because they don't want to be the one that fails their healing assignment on raid night.
Our Mages/Rogues/Hunters will spec however they have to to push the most DPS in a raid environment because of this competition between them all. We're currently in late Naxx and spec has never been an issue because the competition between classes provides that incentive that people need to accept their PvE spec.
We have members specced whatever they want to, although there are "strongly recommended talents" for some classes, like 15% casting regen for Druids and Priests. It's as Anias said- there are far less obtrusive things you can do to your raid corps than disrupt their talent selection.
It's always so nice when you have those off-spec healers selflessly passing on healer loot to the pure healing specs... then they bitch and moan when they don't get the DPS gear they want. That's something I've seen in my experience with shadowmages, but hey, I haven't seen too many so maybe it's not always that way(I'd hope not). Passing up healer loot just gimps you even further to the point where you've found yourself at the end of BWL without a 3 piece Trans bonus, or going into Naxx with ~400+healing and being Shadow to boot. Yeah, you can heal fine in a DPS spec, but why gimp yourself and the raid doing so?
By not taking good healing gear you're gimping yourself and making things more difficult for the other 39 people. As a result though I would hope that healers that did that would be allowed shots at DPS gear (2.5 comes to mind, maybe Mish'undaire or Mantle of the Blackwing Cabal if you're feeling particularly frisky and your DPS classes aren't stuck in Tier 1). I had a shadowmage once try to pass on Trans boots even when everyone else in the raid had them, and he still refused to take them even after being told that because he thought it would adversely affect his chances at getting DPS gear.
Seriously though, if you've been raiding this long, it's highly likely you'll be doing so into the forseeable future and EVENTUALLY you'll get that DPS stuff you crave so badly (our priests were able to get Oracle as of a few weeks ago for example).
There shouldnt need to be "forced" specs. If you appreciate your position in the raid and appreciate the opportunity you have to experience end game content, you should take it upon yourself to be the best you can. Either you want to be there or you dont, you may as well spec to make yourself better at the job you're meant to do.
What im saying is spec shouldnt need to be forced, it should be the personal responsibility of the player to understand a particular spec is more beneficial to the raid. Raiding isnt about playing how you want to play, join a guild for 5 mans and pvp if you want to be a useless moonkin or shadow priest. Raiding, naxx especially, requires you to fill a particular role, and until its on farm you have certain standards to adhere to. Why make everyone elses job more difficult because you arent happy with the requirements of your class in a raid setting? There are ofcourse people who are just good at their class and spec makes little differene in their ability to perform well, however there are also others who are the complete opposite. Their performance is notably lower when an offspec and they want all the dps loot as equal priority. In that case im sure there may be someone on the bench who can do their job better and can sub in for the good of the raid.
Maybe thats just me talking as a warlock where spec makes little to no impact on my ability to pvp/grind/whatever.