Today started like any other. I woke up, came to work, sat down to read some WoW news, sort through my feedreader – you know, all that good “must do before I can actually work” stuff. And during that process, I came across something that made me make the following comment on Twitter:
I’ve been a druid for almost seven years, and nothing makes me consider a “reroll” more than statements like this: “where the Druid would need to switch between healing and DPS”. I don’t understand what is so wrong with just wanting to heal? Why this constant feel that this “hybrid” theory be pushed on us?
Ok, that was actually more like three tweets, but I’ll just let you imagine that there were breakpoints every 140 letters. Anyhow, this comment started conversation between Derwent, Jarre and myself. Honestly, we probably would have been better served to have hooked up in gchat or vent and just pow-wowed, because let’s be honest – trying to have a meaningful conversation in 140 characters is borderline painful. Anyhow, the three of us spent some time discussing (read: bitching, moaning and doomsdaying) about the (very early and nowhere near finalized) direction Blizzard seems to be pushing druids with Mists of Pandaria.
Before I go any further I feel it is important to stop here, remind everyone that both Derwent and Jarre are very intelligent individuals – and I think I tend to use the bit of mush between my ears from time to time. We are all well aware that nothing is final. We are all well aware that everything can change. No one is screaming that the world is ending, the sky is falling or that we are running out and cancelling our WoW subscriptions. However, from time to time, intelligent people with similar interests get together to have intelligent conversations about things. And in most circles, this is considered healthy. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with three intelligent people analyzing the direction of our class, even if it is with a healthy dose of speculation.
Ok, now that I’ve got that out-of-the-way, let’s continue with where I was going shall we?
The Beru’s Notes Version of the Problem
Let me see if I can succinctly (har har) break down the basic concerns that are arising in the Resto Druid community right now – based solely from what we’ve seen of the druid talent tree changes.
- As a druid, shifting tends to prohibit your ability to perform your primary spec’s function (i.e. you can’t heal as a cat, you can’t tank as a caster, you can’t moonfire spam as a bear).
- Many of the talents that have been shared with us revolve around gaining some “utility” function when the druid is shifted – often into cat or bear form (enhanced run speed, bear hug, etc).
- Because of problem A above, many of the new “fun” things being introduced prohibit a PvE oriented druid from being able to continue to perform their prime task (healing, spamming moonfire) while taking advantage of the new talents and abilities. This is somewhat unique to the druid class.
- As such, Resto druids and Moonkin are left with some pretty shitty feral influenced talent options that, unless there is a huge change in the raiding paradigm in MoP, means that roughly half of our already limited talents are seemingly of little, or no, benefit. And which it’s hard not to see as a very heavy-handed effort by Blizzard to make caster druids shift…without solving the base problem of sacrificing specialization and performance in the process.
Now, that’s a pretty condensed picture of the argument – but I think it captures the crux of where druids are growing increasingly frustrated. I feel at this point, I should state something very clearly: I do not have a problem with shifting, I have a problem with losing all of my functionality as a result.
There is, of course, the other beef that I have with being forced into DPSing as a healer when all I really want to do is make the green bars go right, dammit! But that’s really a tertiary topic, and I’ve ranted on that before, so for now I’ll leave it be and move on. I do, however, reserve the right to come back and bitch about this at a later date. Just so we are clear.
Non-Druids Entering Into The Fray.
So, moving along, after our somewhat lengthy (druids are for spamming twitter feeds?) conversation on twitter, the three of us had kind of riled ourselves out, and were sitting back pruning our branches when Alex Ziebart jumps in and starts questioning why druids always seem to get their knickers in a twist over this whole shifting thing. This, of course, brought others out of the woodwork, and all of a sudden we have all kinds of people with little or no serious PvE druid experience opining that druids should just grow a pair and be thankful for the diversity (I may have taken some liberty with that paraphrasing).
However, it was the following commentary made by Alex that, to me, really illustrates that a lot of people who aren’t intimately familiar with druids really don’t “get it” when it comes to the shifting frustrations:
I wish Blizzard had *more* hybrid gameplay, across all of the classes. Not less. Druids should be the hybrid ideal but none of them want it. As a paladin, it bugs me that paladins are *less* hybridy every expansion. We can’t clutch heal, but we used to be able to do that.
Let me start out with a statement: Hybrid gameplay should not frustrate the basic fundamentals of a spec’s gameplay, but should rather supplement it in interesting ways.
In Alex’s statement above, he laments that, as a tank, he no longer really has any healing worth a damn to offer his raid team. And I get that, to an extent. I mean, he certainly retains SOME small part of his hybrid role – he has LoH, a life saving ability, but I get that he’d like to be able to toss out a few clutch heals in tough times, that while less effective would have the ability to make a difference. And all of that can be done while continuing to tank, or in the case of more active healing, could be done while tanking.
But let’s take a more in-depth look at it…and put Alex in a druid’s shoes.
If Alex were a druid, and a tank, there would never have been the option to toss out clutch heal while actively tanking. Because for a druid to maintain their fundamental ability to tank, they must be in feral form. To shift out of feral form while actively tanking a raid boss has a 98% chance of leaving your raid with one dead tank. There was no “hybrid” option there. Sure, the druid has the option to heal, but they lose all of their functionality as a tank to exercise that option to shift. They can no longer perform their prime role.
When push comes to shove, I find myself asking is that really “hybrid”? I mean, really, when did “hybrid” and “shifting” become synonymous terms? Why can’t I be a hybrid while still retaining the core abilities that permit me to perform my role?
I mean, if we put Alex into my shoes as a druid, the minute he want to help pinch heal the raid he’d be flattened as a tank. Let’s stay with paladins. What if every time a Holy Paladin wanted to use a more base ability – say hammer of justice – they became locked out of their healing spells for 10 seconds. Because a resto druid who wants to stun a mob can’t heal for roughly that amount of time when they shift to bear, generate rage, and then bash. Why do I get penalized from performing as a healer to have the same functionality? Is it all because I have the ability to shift? Somehow that just seems faulty.
Shifting is something that I should feel encouraged to do as a druid to enhance my gameplay. It shouldn’t be something I feel penalized for doing. And right now, and from everything we’ve seen in MoP, druids are still penalized for shifting by losing the primary function of their chosen spec. That doesn’t make “shifting” fun to me, it doesn’t make it viable in a PvE setting where you are the only healer asked to lock yourself out of healing for purported “utility” and it sure as hell doesn’t make me feel like any kind of viable “hybrid”. It makes me feel like I’m being forced to be some vestige of feral, when my preference is the peaceful way of the grove.
And that, my friends, is why druids and so upset. It’s not because we are “hybrids” and don’t want to be. It’s not because we don’t want to shift. But it’s because we are the only class inherently penalized for embracing what we are and what Blizzard wants us to be: Shapeshifters.