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To Tree Or Not To Tree

July 4, 2012
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Threads crop up on the official forums now and again asking people why they play the class they do.  When druids respond to these threads, the response is overwhelming – they created a druid because they wanted to play as a cat, a bear, a moonkin … or a tree.  Shapeshifting is, by far, the thing which most defines us as a class and it is also the thing from which resto druids are now largely excluded.  I like my pretty Transmog sets, but I’d take ugly, grumpy, ol’ Tree Form back in a heartbeat.

Some crazy druid said all that about 6 months ago, never expecting that Blizzard might actually bring back an option for perma-tree form through a cosmetic glyph in Mists of Pandaria.  Now, I find myself in that weird position of getting exactly what I wished for … and being thoroughly conflicted about it.  There’s probably some kind of old adage that might have warned me of this, huh?

Pensive tree is pensive.

I’m thrilled that resto druids are getting our option for perma-tree back, and I’m thrilled that it really is an option now.  I’m also really happy that the designers found a way to incorporate it as a purely cosmetic change, since I think that the current version of the ability Tree of Life (or Incarnation, the talent that will give us ToL in Mists) is very well-crafted.  And that was really the key – separating the visual of tree form from its gameplay functions.  This means that resto druids who want to be trees get to be trees, regardless of whether they actually take the Incarnation talent, and resto druids who don’t want to be trees can skip the glyph without having to worry that they’re missing out on healing throughput because of it.  This is a perfect, simple answer to a problem that has divided resto druids basically since Tree of Life was introduced.

It’s a good thing!  A great thing!  So, why do I find myself with no idea what my druid is going to look like when Mists launches?

I never used to identify with my night elf’s caster form during Wrath.  I liked the way she looked, but I hated the night elf idle animation with its annoying bounce-bounce-bouncing, and I had trouble identifying with a character who was taller than most of the others in a raid group (I’m 5’2″ – gnomes are more my speed).  I was in tree form from the moment I logged on until the moment I logged off, save the few seconds it took me to switch back after a wipe.  The Pink Kitty and I used to have a good-natured snicker at druids who spent all their time in caster form and who flew around on actual mounts.  “What, your forms aren’t good enough for you?  You don’t love turning into a giant purple bird?  Sure, have fun on that Frostbrood Vanquisher while I insta-cast flight form.  Oh, and did I mention I can farm nodes and tap quest items without ever dismounting?  And that if a Hordie jumps me in Wintergrasp I can just Shadowmeld and fly away?  Chump.

And then came transmogrification.

There’s really nothing more to say about the deeply personal connection transmogging allows us to feel (or reclaim) with our characters – Narci and Cynwise have already covered that.  What’s funny is that while I like the transmogs I have for both my druids, they aren’t even close to being my favorite outfits among all of my characters (that honor goes to my warlock and my priest).  But even though the mogs pictured above aren’t my favorites, I’ve grown used to them.  I spent the time looking through armor pieces and farming up what I needed to put together an ensemble I was proud of.  I put a lot of time and thought into how those characters look, and why they would wear the things they are.  I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to change that.

This, to me, was the biggest problem with the end of perma-tree in the first place:  Blizzard stripped away our connection to our avatars and we had absolutely no say in the matter.  A lot of druids were happy about the change, but for those who actually liked being trees, it was an extremely dissonant experience.  I logged in after the 4.0 patch hit and I … wasn’t me anymore.  That tall bouncy elf on my screen wasn’t the character I’d been playing the last 2 years – she was a complete stranger.

Now, I find myself in exactly the opposite position.  I spent the 2 years after Wrath getting used to seeing that elf and accepting that she’s who my druid is now.  I never bothered to take the current Glyph of the Treant both because I liked the weirdness of the giant new tree form and – more importantly – because I didn’t want to only get to be me again for 25 seconds at a time.  Somehow, that felt even worse than never getting to see the old tree form at all.

My dilemma with the new glyph is that I’m not sure whether I want to go through that period of disconnect a second time.  While I like to think that using the glyph will be like getting my old character back, I’m not sure it quite works that way.  I got used to being an elf.  I made the elf look more like I wanted her to thanks to transmogging.  She is the avatar I associate with myself now, and old tree form – sad as it makes me to admit it – is not.

I haven’t made my mind up at all yet whether I’ll be using the new glyph in Mists, staying a night elf, or maybe switching back and forth between the two.  As much as I’d like to dive right back into the form that I missed so much, you can’t go home again.  Can you?

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2012 9:09 am

    As a pre-tree form Druid, I will be remaining a Nightelf. I like transmogrification far more than I like ToL.

    • July 4, 2012 3:31 pm

      It certainly does give us way more options. Did you have a similar feeling of disconnect with your night elf when ToL was first introduced?

    • July 4, 2012 3:44 pm

      Yep, I went boomkin for a while. I hated it, it was ugly and just didn’t feel right.

  2. July 4, 2012 9:35 am

    I’ll do both, probably.

    I was pretty upset when they took tree form away. Like you, I couldn’t relate to my actual character. It’s pretty hard to relate to a giant pixelated cow woman, and I am also short ;) I missed my amazing dancing tree and hearing things like “stack up on the tree!” during fights. But even before transmog was introduced, I started to feel a connection with that druid that made me wonder how much I really missed tree form in the end.

    I think maybe it’s because I didn’t choose a druid because I liked the idea of shapeshifting. Druid was my first toon, before I even really knew anything about WoW. I just always like druids in fantasy lore. I spent my childhood playing in the woods and pretending to be some sort of nature magic using person, so it really seemed to be the class that fit. And I think playing my druid in her humanoid form allows for me to connect my character better with that. In fact, since the change, I’ve been able to write stories about my druid (I RP and write fiction along with raiding), which I never was able to do before. I think maybe it’s because she feels like more of a real person, rather than just a crazy tree that dances all the time.

    So it will be nice to have the option to switch back and forth. That’s why I like the new glyph. It’s not mandatory, and so it’s my decision when to use it. I can decide which version of my druid I want to be.

    • July 4, 2012 3:38 pm

      “And I think playing my druid in her humanoid form allows for me to connect my character better with that.”

      Yes, absolutely! I did RP my druid during Wrath, and that was some of the only time she spent out of form (in fact, I really never RPed her in form at all, unlike a lot of druid RPers.) But because my RP time with her looked very different from when I did anything PvE or PvP-related with her, it was almost as if I was looking at 2 different characters. It meant that RP Tzufit and raid healing Tzufit didn’t have much in common in my head.

      One of the things the removal of perma-tree form did was allow me to reconcile those 2 characters. I don’t RP anymore, but I see more of the character I created for my druid in the healer night elf who runs around Dragon Soul now. Like you, I suppose I will probably take the glyph (which just gives you an extra shapeshifting button – it’s not as if you automatically have to be a tree 100% of the time) so I can choose how to look and when.

  3. July 4, 2012 10:48 am

    I too am used to my caster form. It is how I see myself now and I love my mogs too much.

    • July 4, 2012 3:40 pm

      I’m really curious as to how many druids will end up using it vs. not. I’d guess that for all the people who were sad to see it go, maybe a lot of them have had a change of heart like you and I did thanks to transmogging.

  4. Hiraun permalink
    July 5, 2012 2:27 am

    I raided as resto druid on Horde and resto shaman on Alliance with Horde always being the prefered raid. When my Horde raid fell apart over christmas I didn’t bother with looking for a new group to raid with. After 1 1/2 years it still annoyed me to no end that I had to be in caster form all the time, that I could see my gear. It took the joy out of playing my tauren druid.

    Seeing the plans for shaman for MoP I’m kind of afraid seeing the same thing happening again.

  5. July 5, 2012 11:17 am

    I was one of those who didn’t care either way if I stayed as a tree or was in caster form. My druid was originally a night elf. I faction changed her to a tauren during wrath. The tree form kept her as a more familiar character than the femtaur I was stuck looking at but it wasn’t a make or break issue.

    I know that part of the reason I haven’t touched my druid much this expansion has been the playstyle change. I wasn’t fond of it. But after reading your post it makes me wonder if losing my tree form was part of it.

    My main right now is a warlock. In MoP I am facing the reality of not enjoying her anymore. This has me thinking about going back to my druid. With this glyph I just might pick her back up again.

  6. July 7, 2012 10:44 am

    It sounds like I’m in the minority here, but as soon as my scribe has access to Glyph of the Treant I’m switching to permatree and not looking back…and I play Balance. :)

    I love tree form. I love running around as an overgrown broccoli floret waving my arms around and treedancing. I’m beyond excited for Mists for just that reason.

  7. July 18, 2012 1:51 pm

    I remember being so impossibly excited when I was finally able to turn into a tree. I loved (and still do!) the way they looked and, of course, the dance. On the flip side, I’m really enjoying my transmog set. Still, I’ll probably glyph it for nostalgia’s sake. Truth be told, I’m a tad more thrilled to be an orca instead of a demented “seal.”

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