Fixing the Forest, Part IV – Symbiosis   23 comments

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been avoiding this post. At first it was because I told myself “I want practical experience with symbiosis before writing about it”, but even as I sit here today I’m trying to think of other things I can do to avoid talking about the big pink elephant in the room that is Symbiosis. I suspect that part of the problem that I’m having with this is that I can see a good number of things being really great for our PvP Resto brethren, but it still doesn’t remove the underwhelmed feeling that I get when I think about the ability for PvE restos.

The Problem: I think the biggest issue I have with symbiosis is that I don’t really feel compelled to utilize it. That is to say that in most circumstances, the things that I gain from the ability just aren’t something that I resort to when the shit hits the fan to make things better. While some of the abilities can potentially be lifesaving for me individually (ice block, ice bound fortitude), I am having a real issue resolving the fact that I feel really indifferent about having to use our staple “new” ability for this expansion. I understand that it’s going to share around some raid utility, which will be more important in smaller raids and groups than larger raids, and that we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water before we see how it works in a raid setting; but to me, the fact that I can completely ignore the ability in my most “oh shit” moments to date and still be just as effective as I was before symbiosis is really hard for me to reconcile.

Let me back track a little and talk about the experiences that I’ve had so far in the beta.

I’ve cast symbiosis in a 5 man setting on every class available in the beta. Right now, with regards to the spell, Monks are in a placeholder status – I gain swim speed and they gain…something equally as pointless. The best targets I’ve found to cast it on are DKs, Mages, Rogues or Hunters – as they all give me some sort of survival ability. However, to date, I’ve failed to use any of the abilities I’ve gained. Part of this is my failure, because similarly to barkskin, part of the onus of utilizing these mitigation abilities is on me – and I’d like to think that if I really needed something, I’d have used it.  But part of the failure, I think, is on the talent itself as well – because even though I’ve had sketchy moments where perhaps those abilities would have been useful to me, I wasn’t compelled, or even encouraged, to utilize them (rather, I just tossed ironbark on myself and kept trucking on), which is a really big problem.

Another part of the problem for me, in a PvE setting, is that the abilities that I gain from shaman, paladins and warriors are almost pointless and need to be adjusted (Spiritwalker’s Grace, Cleanse and Intimidating Roar). And, when push comes to shove, the only time I’ve made what I consider to be “good use” of any of my gained abilities is when I life gripped a tank who just would not give me a minute to drink after pulling half the damn room.

On the other side of the fence, I’m fairly confident that the player on the receiving end of the ability received even less benefit than I did. In fact, I will tell you that I wished the warlock I gave symbiosis to would have made use of the rejuv he got from me rather than lifetapping down to 10% of his health mid-fight. Part of the symbiosis issue for the receiving party, I believe, is that the receiving player didn’t know/realize that they had this new ability available to them – but part of it, I think, is that they were also not compelled to make use of the ability that they received.

Another small problem, that is more of a quality of life problem, is that if I haven’t cast Symbiosis before we enter combat, I’m SoL. I think I understand why this is the case, Blizzard likely doesn’t want symbiosis swapping mid-fight, but it really sucks if you don’t have it up going into the encounter. I’d say that we should have a way to cast it in combat if it’s not active, but the simple work around to that would  be people canceling the buff mid-combat so that they can cast it on a new target. I’m not sure that there will be a fix to this, but it sure does suck if you forget to get it up before the pull (or someone runs out of range at the end of the VERY long cast). Perhaps shortening the cast time or making it instant would help somewhat to make sure it goes up, but still doesn’t solve the problem of missing having it active when combat starts.

One of the other big issues with Symbiosis that I’ve come across so far is when there are multiple druids in a party. I’ve been grouped with both a moonkin and a guardian druid, both of whom also cast symbiosis. The problem that I’m stuck with when this happens is that in both circumstances they both were able to cast it on someone that would give them more gain from symbiosis than I would – even though that particular party would also be the best target in the group for me to give symbiosis. This then meant that I was left giving mine to a target who, literally, gave me nothing to work with in return (such as a paladin) or just not casting it at all. I think that this “problem” might be somewhat alleviated in a 25 man setting, where there are more targets to work with (although I do think it still has the potential to be a giant pain in the ass if you run very druid heavy) – I also think that a 10 man that has more than one druid is going to run into this problem with some frequency.

Which, again, brings me back to my biggest problem with this ability in its current format: the fact that there are times when there is no compelling reason for me to cast symbiosis, or utilize the abilities gain from symbiosis in a given group. And since this is supposed to be our staple ability this expansion, this should not ever be the case.

Potential Solutions:  Blizzard is in a really interesting situation as far as Symbiosis is concerned. I really believe that they are trying to avoid having the Dark Intent problem again – that is to say an ability that will cause wide variances in performance based on whether or not you have the buff (of course, I’m having a really hard time reconciling this with Guardians and other tanks, but I’ll let someone else deal with that particular can of worms). So I do feel that the abilities that we gain likely need to be utility related to meet this goal. And I think that I’m mostly OK with this, provided that the utility I’m given is useful. As such, the solution is to ensure that what we gain is something compelling.

I absolutely think that things like Ice Block, Evasion, Ice Bound Fortitude and Detterence can, and will, be useful in a raid setting. Damage mitigation is always something that can be useful – regardless of your role. I think they will be more useful in certain circumstances than in others, but I strongly suspect that you would always be able to find a time to make use of these abilities in an encounter if you put some effort into it. Druids who were excellent about utilizing bark skin will probably make use of the above abilities effectively.

However, I think that there is a lot of room for improvement with some of the other abilities that we are given. And I think for Symbiosis to be a successful skill, all abilities given should be compelling, so that there is always a choice. Let’s take a look at the remaining abilities that we gain:

  • Paladins – Cleanse. I really want to believe that this is just a placeholder ability right now, as resto druids can already cure/dispel. I think that it is likely Blizzard is still working out what Paladins should share with druids. However, in the event that I am wrong on this front, this is a really weak option for a resto druid and should be evaluated. I know that there was talk about Hand of Sacrifice being the original intent, and that it was canned because they felt it made resto druids unbalanced and/or meant that druids would always opt a paladin as their symbiosis target. If that is the case, why not explore giving druids one of the other hands. Maybe BoP? Or Salv? (is that still even in the game?). Both are less powerful than BoS – but still much more interesting and “useful” than Cleanse.
  • Shaman – Spiritwalker’s Grace. When I first read this, I thought it was a joke. Really. I mean, Druids are already the most mobile healers, why on earth would they need an ability that lets them heal on the move. The answer is that they really don’t. As it stands right now, I don’t see a shaman receiving Symbiosis from a resto druid unless they were the last person available to give it to. I’ve thought and thought about what I’d like to receive in return for selecting a shaman, and I think that my choice would be wind shear. I think having an interrupt would be a really great utility to gain – preventing damage can be almost as powerful as healing it. I’m not sure what implication this would have for PvP, but I’d like to think that it would be viable for both formats.
  • Warrior – Intimidating Shout. This is something that I think PvP Restos are probably OK with, but as a PvE player I just don’t see much viable use for it. Unfortunately, in looking at the warrior arsenal, I can’t really find a much better option. Maybe pummel, for the same reasons I liked the idea of wind shear. Maybe heroic leap, for quick mobility.
  • Warlock – Demonic Portal. You know, I think I’d probably be OK with demonic portal if I got to set my own portal. The fact that my ability to portal is limited to the location the warlock placed his portal really takes most of the steam out of this swap for me. While I’d love to see restos get the life tap option that the guardian see, I think that would imbalance healer mana too much, and would also mean restos would always want a warlock. I think just letting us set our own portal would make this a more viable option.
  • Priests – Life Grip. Ok, I’m not going to lie, I’m all over the life grip payback. While it’s use is limited in a raid setting, I’m OK with this ability transfer from the druid end (pretty sure priests feel that entangling roots is the short end of the stick, at least for PvE).
  • Monks – I’m not really going to address monks right now, since we don’t know what the trade is going to be. I will, however, say that their mana free self heal might be kind of cool (I think it costs them chi?). I know, I know, why would a healer want a self heal? Well, it’s a pretty big fucking heal. And in a high stress situation, I almost always heal myself first, and I’d be all over a fat heal to top me off that didn’t cost me a lick of mana.

One of the things that I think could help alleviate the issue with having multiple druids in a raid/group would be to allow multiple druids to cast symbiosis on the same target. The target would still receive only the one benefit, but it would let druids have a little more flexibility with who it is cast on, and solve a metric shit ton of “who is getting what symbiosis”, while letting all druids retain the ability to choose what benefit they’d like to receive from Symbiosis. Keep in mind this is, first and foremost, supposed to be about the druid. Let everyone pick what they want, without limitation.

As for what everyone gains from Symbiosis? I’m going to be honest – I don’t care. I believe that the focus of this ability should be more about the druid than about what the link receives. Whatever they get should just be gravy for them, a nice perk. It shouldn’t be mandatory for them to use. It shouldn’t be game breaking. It shouldn’t give them a massive benefit, such that “class x having symbiosis” becomes mandatory. I’m sure this won’t be a hugely popular opinion, but I pretty firmly believe that this should be paramount in the design of this ability.

I honestly do not know if anything would make me shout from the rooftops about symbiosis, and I think it is kind of unfortunate considering that it is our “new” shiny (and restos have had a serious short of new shiny), but if it is what we have to work with – I want to feel like this is an ability that I have a compelling reason to use. What do you think? Do you like Symbiosis? What, if anything, would you like to see changed?

Posted May 16, 2012 by Beruthiel in Beta, Druid Healing, MoP

23 responses to “Fixing the Forest, Part IV – Symbiosis

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  1. I still don’t believe that Symbiosis is going to go live. So far it looks like the developers have decided to be more responsive than they were in Cata’s beta (or they’re just being forced to be), and the feedback so far has just been so overwhelming “meh”, if not downright negative. Add to that the fact they’re eventually going to realize just how badly they’re shooting themselves in the Balancing Foot and I just can’t see this making it into the finished product.

    • I would hope that you are right, but I fear that it is here to stay :(

      I definitely agree that they are going to have balancing issues galore with this, and it’s going to cause all kinds of problems.

  2. I’ve took a different approach on Symbiosis design at my blog. http://fakegamedesign.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/symbiosis/ I would love some feedback on it!

  3. I believe all your issues raised in “problems” are really solved or non issues in a non pug environment and while yes an ability becoming unused in a pug is not good design, I can think of a ton of different class abilities that also never end up getting used in a pug. But as you said that only applied to the target side of the ability, a druid not making use of their side of symbiosis (for many of the options) is their own problem.

    In a regular group environment I think symbiosis is shaping up to be a rather useful ability, even taking your examples:

    Cleanse would give us the ability to cure disease, where maybe the ret pally or prot pally that sources that ability is not is a good situation to take care of that problem for your strat. Its true that blizz confined all serious debuffs to magic in cat, but maybe disease will make a comeback as a semi serious debuff in encounters? We’ll just have to see.

    While spiritwalker’s grace may be lol for druids while raid healing, single target healing would see a nice benefit from this ability. Rag had a significant need to tank healing on the move, and the things you were able to accomplish on alysrazor show the benefits of being able to cast a bunch of healing touch on the run.

    Intimidating Shout, yeah, kinda meh, but I use psychic scream on my priest healer.

    Demonic Portal; I love this ability on my warlock. Maybe strats can really accommodate shared portal sites, but maybe it would make more sense to set our own.

    Obviously the value of symbiosis is less in 5mans where you can just brute force stuff, or in 25mans where you have far more options on who is assigned to what duty but in 10mans I’m really seeing symbiosis as a really strong tool to solve many of the issues surrounding the inflexibility of your raid complement.

    • I don’t think that anyone is saying that you can’t find uses for Symbiosis, just that it isn’t really useful enough for our big, shiny new uber-ability. It also comes with a lot of meta-baggage and potential for intra-party/raid/pvp-group strife.

      • From some perspectives yeah, but my raid group’s perspective it has the potential to being easily the most powerful single ability in the raid. I’m in a 10 man raid where we pretty much have to run with who shows up, we have hardly a bench to speak of and because of the ability/role combinations we’re stuck with that night we sometimes have to radically change strats or just not attempt some heroics. In my situation which I would claim is pretty widespread (10 man raid with little to no bench) Symbiosis has the potential to be the swiss army knife for raid comp woes, in the same way that hunter pets are the swiss army knife for missing buffs/debuffs in 10 mans.

      • “I don’t think that anyone is saying that you can’t find uses for Symbiosis, just that it isn’t really useful enough for our big, shiny new uber-ability. It also comes with a lot of meta-baggage and potential for intra-party/raid/pvp-group strife.”

        Exactly!

        While I can appreciate that 10 man raid leaders may be happy about some of the added “utility” it is bringing their raid – I sort of think that this fact alone is part of the problem. And if you only have one druid in your raid, and think that your symbiosis is going anywhere but your tank, based on how strong it is for all of the tanks, I would respectfully suggest that you are mistaken. I really don’t think it’s going to be a “swiss army knife” of anything other than class balancing issues and orginizational headaches.

  4. Here’s my theory about Symbiosis, which may or may not be completely BS…

    You’re a resto druid. You’ve always been a resto druid. You know the class like the back of your hand and practically wrote the book on how to play it. When you’re in a dungeon/raid situation, you *know* what you’re doing, and you’ve been doing it so long that your keybinds and spells are now just completely instinctual. Now suddenly you’ve got this new Symbiosis doohickey to play with, and every time you use it it’s with a different class/spec and you get a new ability…but you’re not at all used to that. You’re a resto druid! You don’t have Intimidating Roar, for pete’s sake. Why would you reach for it?

    TL;DR Yeah, some of the spell choices for Symbiosis are kind of dumb, but the larger problem is that it’s a shiny new toy to play with and it’s either going to take some getting used to or fail miserably.

    • But it really isn’t a shiny new toy is it? I mean nothing that it is doing it unique, and everything we have is dependant on having someone else to “give” me my “shiny”. The best abilities are additional personal mitigation cooldowns, and the worst abilities for resto are borderline pointless. Not a single one of them gives me a boost to my main role (which actually happens for guardians), which makes it fairly disappointing. I know that there are balancing problems galore, which is probably why we have the nature of the abilities that we have, but I will admit that it seems a little unfair that the bears get some truly fun shit while I’m stuck with barkskin of a different color :)

  5. Re: Spiritwalker’s Grace. The only potential upside would be a mobile Tranquility, maybe? (I don’t know Spiritwalker’s limitations, but having that raid CD be mobile could be interesting.)

    Re: Warriors. GIANT TREE HEROIC LEAPING. Enough said.

    • Eh, even with a mobile tranquility it’s unfortunately still really lackluster I’m afraid. Assuming that they retain the cooldowns that the original abilities have, SWG and Tranq would line up nicely – but I’d still take a mitigation cooldown over this.

      Oh man, I didn’t even think about leaping as a GIANT TREE OF DOOM!

  6. Since hearing about Symbiosis I have wanted Heroic leap one of my favourite abilities

  7. I know a couple of raid leaders who are excited about Symbiosis, they both run well organized 10 man raids so they are looking forward to the additional cooldowns Symbiosis will bring for their tanks. Not really all that concerned about how it affects the non-tanking druids or any other class.

    Hand of Salvation is still in the game and I use it pretty frequently on my paladin for over-enthusiastic DPS (we all run into those regularly). I would rather have that or Rebuke than Cleanse (the devs have said the only debuff they balance around these days is magic). I am really not happy about losing Skull Bash, I used that all the time as resto. Wind Shear would be acceptable for similar reasons (and far better than Spiritwalker’s Grace which would probably just get macroed to Tranq for funsies).

    The idea of having Heroic Leap does make me grin a bit :D Intimidating shout is very meh considering we can choose Disorienting Roar as a level 75 talent.

    Another way of looking at is from the other classes, I honestly don’t know what I’ll do when I’m on one of my other classes in a group and a druid chooses me to cast Symbiosis on. Some of my classes have no free keybinds so I may not even put whatever random (and possibly useless) ability I get on my bar. That’s not fun, I’m all about using every ability I have so ignoring stuff is lame.

    • See, I think it’s a bit of mistake for how powerful Symbiosis is looking for tanks. Because it starts becoming a balancing problem for raids with no druids (or only one druid in a 25 man), and starts to looking more like DI. I know that some 10 mans are happy for the added utility it brings, and I get that, but I think it is also a very tricky line that is being walked and if Blizzard is not very careful they are going to open up a pandora’s box that they cannot hope to contain or close again.

      On that note, if it is so good for tanks, why can’t non-guardian druids get some useful, active, non-mitigation abilities that will enhance their ability to perform their main role as well?

      I do hope that we see some changes with a few of the talents to make them more useful/desireable :)

  8. Although I agree with everything you have written, I also think the situation applies to several classes. I mean, look at the warlock, monk, and paladin level 87 abilities. Might they be situationally useful in raids? Sure, just like Symbiosis for caster druids might be as well. In the end though it adds to other aspects of the game. Raiding caster druids can just put this out of their mind as something useful (kind of like how cats and bears got nothing from the level 85 data ability: shrooms). Us caster druids have to get our new expansion toy jollies elsewhere than our level 90 talents or level 87 abilities. Moonkin can enjoy Celestial alignment; restos, iron bark.

    • heh.

      After two expansions (and almost four years!) it would just be nice to have something to get excited about with regards to my class :)

      With regards to Monk/Paladin/Warlock – Monks are new in and of themselves, but both Paladins (healing) and Warlocks are getting pretty big overhauls to the class, which means that they are getting some new, fun things to play around with as a whole. I remember reading about some of the paladin changes when they were coming out and being a touch jealous!

  9. you don’t have to explain Beru. It’s quite obvious to me that the dev team does not actually have an active resto druid on the team. Symbiosis is just a dumb gimmick. Abilities received are useless and I would never use them. Not to mention the fact that this does nothing for the solo player. I’m just left scratching my head.

    • I wouldn’t say that all of the abilities are useless. The mitigation abilities will most certainly be useful in many situations – even if they aren’t really what we’d like to see :)

  10. Wind Shear would be extremely overpowered on a resto druid in pvp. It’s off the global cooldown, so you can cast it during a gcd. Giving a ranged interrupt like that to a class that has tons of instant casts would enable resto druids to shut down the opposing team’s healer while healing normally.

    • I’m not great at PvP – but I have been spending some time in arenas lately via the Arena Pass, and I can difinitively say that I am using a lot more than just my instant cast heals. In fact, I think Regrowth is probably one of my top heals in this venue. Add that to the fact that you have very little that you can do as a resto druid if you don’t anticipate where damage is going to go (spam RG and pray if NS and SM are down), leads me to think that it probably wouldn’t be as over powered in PvP as you might think.

  11. Rallying Cry from warriors would be nice, but probably OP. It’s not bloody likely to happen.

    Rallying Cry
    3 min cooldown
    Temporarily grants you and all party or raid members within 30 yards 20% of maximum health for 10 sec. After the effect expires, the health is lost.

    I use it on my Arms warrior all the time in LFR.

    I agree that so far it looks like this talent is going to be either a nightmare to balance or not worth using.

    Algorython/Howlinwolf
  12. i’m kinda tired of the symbiosis qq. druids everywhere moaning, other classes moaning about what they get and the pvp crowd up in arms because it is TOO powerful.
    druids have yelled for ages about holes in our toolkits.
    restos wanted more raid utility. now we have ironbark and this
    resto’s wanted to be less squishy. now we have this.
    other resto’s wanted other stuff. now we have this.
    blizz are basically saying fine we will fix one problem but you can choose which problem is fixed.
    ferals get target switching fixed (soul swap or redirect)
    dps druids get aggro drop (play dead, mirror images).
    will we need this every fight? i doubt it.
    will this be awesome used well in many raid encounters? yes.
    will it be amazing in pvp? oh yes.
    i am looking forward to the experiment where i discover if i can teleport with the flag :).
    this is without doubt the most interesting and creative spell blizz have ever made. it looks to me as if they have balanced it ok and whether we use it to it’s utmost is entirely down to us. be excited guys. be creative and learn to enjoy the huge versatilty blizz are giving our most versatile of classes this expac.
    peace out
    silvetica.

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