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Don’t Panic, Druids! Grab Your Towels.

November 10, 2011
by

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.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2011 1:05 pm

    I’m starting to get really excited about the Druid changes. I fell in love with the class back in vanilla when you could tank 5 mans as resto purely by switching gear. I used to love beating melee in duels, dpsing them down in bearform and I was heartbroken when feral charge was put out of reach by resto builds (damn you arenas). If Blizzard manage to get even a percent of that utility and fun back, I’ll be happy.

    • November 10, 2011 3:50 pm

      I’m getting excited about it as well. One of my favorite things to do when I’m first learning a new fight is finding out how using my other forms can be helpful to me. Ragnaros was great for this, with applications for bear form + enrage + bash, and either cat or bear form to use stampeding roar. What I do like about what I see in the form-based utility talents so far is that when you use the talent, it automatically pops you into the form you need, so you’re not wasting a GCD just on switching.

      You mentioned arenas, and I think it’s going to be interesting to see what implications this has for druid PvP. I’ve already seen posts on the forums complaining that we’ll end up being way too effective. But, again, TOO EARLY to tell. 😛

    • November 14, 2011 5:00 pm

      The problem is with the pre-alpha version of the talents: there are some where Blizzard has executed them correctly and some where they haven’t. Just because they put the words “hybrid” and “utility” when describing talents doesn’t make them either good or balanced versus other classes just because you throw around key-words. Each individual talent still has to be looked at very carefully, and we have to make sure that the implementation of talents works such that four specs can pick six talents each to help them in pvp (arena, BGs, world PvP) and PvE (leveling, solo questing, 3-man skirmishes, 5-man instances, 10-man raiding, and 25-man raiding). Did Blizzard get it all right the first time? No, of course not. That’s why we have to give feedback about which talents do/don’t work starting as early as possible to help shape the class design direction so that you can have useful utility without the type of quality of life issues that has plagued the class for many years.

  2. November 10, 2011 7:27 pm

    “‘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.”

    If I could agree 120%, I would.

    (rambly venting ahead! I’m sorry in advance.)
    It is good to worry about things close to your heart. If a certain thing about your class gives you the [insert cuddly term peripherily connected to fear here], it is a good thing to try to point out to the developers why this is bothering you.

    However (this is where the rambling starts, neatly marked by the word ‘however’), some really overdo these things. I get that druids don’t want to feel forced to shift. But where in the talents presented (non-final and all) do you feel compelled to switch into any form where you wouldn’t now? As a follow-up, why then do you think there could be a hybrid tax in the future where there is none now?

    Your healing as a cat will suck, just like your healing does now. They only give you one tool to NOT SUCK COMPLETELY outside your chosen role FOR A FEW SECONDS. I don’t see that upsetting anything, and it certainly does not warrant any worries of a hybrid tax.

    • November 10, 2011 7:45 pm

      Rambly venting is fine! I love rambly venting!

      I agree – it *is* good to worry about things close to your heart, and to express your concerns to the developers. It just seems as if so many players are taking what’s been said with a level of gravity that expects these talent trees to be released tomorrow as-is. Obviously that’s not the case.

      The bit I don’t understand, is exactly what you’ve pointed out – no one is forced to take the Heart of the Wild talent, which is the primary source of contention. There are two other options in the level 90 tier. Personally, I think all three options are pretty “meh” right now, but you won’t see me saying too much about it because I completely doubt they’ll stay that way. 😛

    • November 10, 2011 8:04 pm

      Aren’t they supposed to be “meh” aynway? At least if “meh” means that it doesn’t help you very much in your primary role.

      Basically, it’s the same thing across the board. I’ve heard so many mages complain how their talents are just about “utility crap” when warlocks get some damage cooldowns (omnipotent pets and all). They don’t see that firstly warlocks don’t have anything akin to a damage cooldown (if you don’t count Metamorphosis which is becoming a core mechanism of Demonology — a bit like Eclipse for moonkin…just a bit) while all mage specs do. It’s just leveling the playing field and giving the warlocks the same choice when to burst more that mages presently have. Secondly, do mages think warlocks will be competitive without any of those damage talents? Come on, people, just think. It’s like (crass example!) wanting to have a wheelchair as a perfectly healthy kid just because the other kid that can’t use their legs have one.

    • November 10, 2011 11:03 pm

      Yep, you’re right again, and this was what I was on the fence about when in came to the new talent trees in the first place. Equalizing choices means the choices can’t be as meaningful. And while I think destroying pass/fail talent choices is an awesome thing, it means that we’re going to be left with a system like what’s been proposed so far.

      Poor warlocks. I didn’t even know they were still a playable class. 😛

    • November 14, 2011 5:14 pm

      There is still a lot of balancing work Blizzard will have to do for the classes. I’ve never seen the first draft of a set of talents go live as-is. So, by the time the talents actually go live, they will probably be really awesome for all the classes. If they aren’t right in 5.0, there’s always 5.0. 😉

  3. November 11, 2011 8:07 pm

    I vote for more graphics like this one.

    • November 11, 2011 8:08 pm

      My paint skills are mind-boggling, I know.

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