Once upon a time, there was a set of classes that could neither use nor equip weapons in their ranged slot. No wands, no guns, bows or crossbows, no throwing knives or axes or anything of the sort was to be found on these characters.
Thematically it seemed appropriate that a Paladin would not carry a gun, that a Druid would not draw a wand, and a Shaman would not string a bow...right?
Well, no, it never made any sense at all.
At the time, all three classes were fairly marginalized and shoehorned into end-game healing and cleansing and buffing. They got cast-off gear and their class sets were all specifically healing sets.
Prior to the advent of the Burning Crusade, however, the change was made to allow these classes to equip certain items in the ranged slot. This became known as the relic slot for them and allowed them to equip Librams, Idols, and Totems.
There was much rejoicing, even if the best Resto Idol was from the Dungeon 2 quest chain and the stats on them were singular. Oddest of all was the fact that so few of them existed.
Time progressed and more relics were introduced to cover the roles, thus removing any concern for this previously unused slot.
Originally the Idol of Brutality provided a reduced Rage cost for bear tanks. Not long after, itemization changes were made and Burning Crusade launched and the Idol found itself in its current state. Speculation and, I believe, CM comments stated that it was to ensure that there were idols worth upgrading to over the next 10 levels.
Unfortunately, nothing has surfaced that really replaces the idol.
I am a Bear tank and I have had this idol since I was 60. I still use this idol. Certainly the Idol of the Wild is an option but the biggest reason to talk about it at all is to discuss what's wrong with hybrid itemization.
Each of the Idols available to Druids give a single bonus to 1 or at most 2 abilities. The Paladin Librams and Shaman Totems are similar.
On the surface this may not seem to be a big deal, but consider what other classes can gain from these slots, even if they never attack with the weapon in question.
It is generally held that the Idol of Brutality is the best general tanking idol available due primarily to the Swipe bonus (swipe threat was nerfed hard not long ago).
Looking just at guns, I found the following items requiring level 70 and having Stamina on them. This list does not include ranged weapons 'of the Champion' or in other flavors.
Jumping out at me are two options. First is the Gyro-Balanced Khorium Destroyer, a weapon with 27 Stamina and a Yellow socket with a Stamina socketing bonus. Almost better is The Boomstick, a weapon with 21 Stamina and 13 Defense! Now, one is expensive and craftable and the other is a Heroic drop that only unlocks with a Druid that has done or is doing the epic flight form quest, but the fact remains that these are options Druid tanks do not have.
Ranged sockets serve as stat blocks and secondary attribute boosters to every class but 3, who make do with boosts to individual abilities more often than not, abilities that are often not necessarily the best choice.
When the Idols sported +50 to Rejuv or -3 Rage pre-Burning Crusade, they were amazing and justified the focused itemization. Now, however, Druid tanks are still hitting raid instances sporting a L60 blue Idol, or worse a quested green one.
It seems a little thing to people not playing the class, but it is a facet that will stare you in the face every time you watch something amazing drop that could go in a ranged slot, you open your character sheet and look at +10 damage to your Swipe and wonder to yourself why you can't at least equip a Windspear Longbow in Monkey, Beast or Champion flavors...anything to fill in the gaps we continue to see in itemization.
I'm still looking for the new tanking idol the nerfs to the Idol of Brutality should have facilitated.