To Tree Or Not To Tree
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?
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?