Don’t Panic, Druids! Grab Your Towels.
We will do what druids always do: adapt.
Keep this in mind, druid friends, over the next few months as we see floods of information on our new Mists of Pandaria abilities, followed by long periods of drought. Nearly all of us in the druid community have been through this before, yet despite that it’s easy to get caught up in the predictions that MoP is going to break our class.
I urge you to remember that we are not even in the alpha, let alone the beta phase of testing on this new expansion. Everything, literally everything we have heard at this point is subject to change at the whim of the developers. Beyond this, remember that there is always a significant shift in play style between one expansion and the next. If you’d told me at the end of Wrath that, as a Boomkin, I would need to spend 3 GCDs to put down a couple of mushrooms, and then another GCD to explode them for maximum impact during periods of AoE damage, I’d have called you crazy. Remember that we do not have the full picture right now to contextualize everything we are hearing about our new abilities and talents. We simply don’t know exactly what our rotations will look like come MoP, so we can’t make broad generalizations about how much HPS or DPS we are losing in exchange for added utility.
During the developer Q&A yesterday on class design and balance, fellow druid @Bellajtok asked a fantastic question:
Q: A lot people are worried that with druids being able to do well at our other roles, we’ll see the return of the “hybrid tax”. It’s the same old story: if we can perform any role when needed, raids will stack us, unless we don’t do as well in our specific roles, in which case we’re bad at what we most want to do. What assurance can we get that we won’t have this problem?
A: We are very interested in opening opportunities for more hybrid gameplay in druids, as you can see in the level 90 talent tier, while still allowing an option for players who want to never do anything outside their role. We don’t intend for that added hybridization to be offset by any sort of DPS nerf. While DPSing, a druid’s DPS will be entirely competitive with other DPS. We hope to see druids that do things like, “DPS in Cat Form most of the fight, but during one phase, when healing is super difficult, pop out of Cat, hit Heart of the Wild, Tranquility, and spam heals on the raid to help top everyone off, then go back to Cat and resume DPSing.” In that sort of the situation, the Cat will have spent less time DPSing than other DPSers, but his/her DPS while DPSing would have been competitive, and in exchange helped save the raid when healers were falling behind. You can probably think of many situations where this would be useful in raid content, or in some 5man content, and frequently in PvP. To clarify a bit further on how the druids will perform at their off-roles: Ferals and Guardians will have Nurturing Instinct, which increases spell power based on Agility, and Balance and Restoration will have Killer Instinct, which increases attack power based on Intellect. They will have a smaller toolbox of spells for their off-role, but the strength of those spells will be competitive, when under the effects of those hybrid talents.
It’s been amazing to watch this discussion unfolding on the official forums around this answer . There are as many people worrying that the added utility of hybrid classes will make pures completely undesirable in any raid setting as there are hybrids shouting that this is a return to the hybrid tax. Why the confusion? Why are there people making two exactly opposite arguments in reaction to the same information? Because we don’t really know anything yet! Not only are we in the dark regarding our 5.0 rotations, we also have absolutely no idea what boss mechanics will look like in MoP 5 mans or raid encounters.
As for the question of druids (or any class, for that matter) being benched in preference of either pures who do more damage or hybrids who bring more utility, I have a few questions for you. Are you in a guild that has ever achieved a world-first kill? Are you part of a raiding team that usually clears not only the normal mode, but also the heroic mode, of the newest raid when it has been out for a month or less? If your answer is “yes,” feel free to stop reading now, the rest won’t pertain to you.
For those of you still reading, congratulations! You, like me, are probably part of a causal raiding guild just like the vast majority of WoW’s raiding player base. We are the 95%. Our guilds are never in danger of getting anywhere close to a world-first kill, and unless you’re on a very low population server like me you’re probably not in much danger of getting a server-first kill either. We clear the content at a slower pace, and often don’t make it into heroic modes until a round of nerfs has been handed out, if our particular raid team has any interest in heroic raiding at all. The thing about casual raiding guilds – they are casual. They do not bench players based upon things like ideal class composition because things like druid stacking on heroic Nefarian are only necessary for guilds pushing for a world-first kill. “Necessary” is even the wrong word for us; druid stacking was never “necessary” to kill heroic Nefarian – it was necessary in order to kill him first. If your casual raiding guild is benching specific classes in favor of others, then it is taking itself way too seriously. The closest we have come in recent tiers to “needing” any specific class on a certain fight is needing classes who can deal with Magma Traps on Ragnaros – and even then we have several classes who can get away with popping a trap once or twice during a fight if there isn’t a mage or priest who can reliably take all of them. If you are one of the many, many players who belongs to a casual raiding team, then you have nothing to worry about. Casual raiding teams actually DO bring the player, not the class.
Keep this lack of context in mind with everything you read and see over the months that lead up to MoP’s release (whenever that will be). It’s not worth it to spend so much energy and emotion on this debate when we don’t have all the information yet. (This is why, coincidentally, you haven’t seen any talk of druid talents from me yet – I have no intention of writing up a guide that I’ll only have to change a dozen more times between now and when 5.0 actually goes live. Speculation is fun. But, to me, at this point in MoP’s development it’s just not worth the effort.) Keep your chins and beaks and snouts up, druids.
And hold on to those towels.