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?