Thursday, 30 December 2010

A Druidy Secret Santa

You may have seen other posts around the place this week from the Blog Azeroth Secret Santa. This year's was organised by Ophelie from Bossy Pally and when Santa visited me, I found this post from Gazimoff of Mana Obscura!  Enjoy!

I’ve been wracking my brains trying to come up with something to talk about. There was the idea of new druid forms, but I struggled to get beyond siege engine Mammoths. I was going to try a geeky play on words for Tree before I found out that xkcd had beaten me to it. I contemplated something about Gilneans being Gentleman Druids, all Earl Grey and Eton Mess complete with an image in my head of a bear wearing a top hat and monocle, carefully drinking from a bone china teacup. Pinky finger out of course.

In the end I settled on something I could actually talk about, even if it meant digging through my own Warcraft history. I’ve never played a druid properly (getting to 60 on refer-a-friend then mothballing the character doesn’t count), so I thought I’d talk about my experiences playing alongside them. These days having a druid in the group is great, especially if they’re dishing out Moonkin Aura like some kind of jolly avian Santa. It wasn’t always the case though: my perceptions of the class started off skewed and went downhill from there.

Back in Vanilla I saw druids as a multipurpose swiss army knife, a filler for the cracks and gaps in our raid. With a team of 40 people to organise the arithmetic was simple: each class gets five slots to distribute as they saw fit. Hybrids were largely seen as making up the numbers, occasionally allowing a priest to go shadow or a warrior to bezerk out for a while. The ‘hybrid tax’ seemed to reinforce this view. It looked to me like druids were intended to be inferior to other classes, paying the price for their flexibility in reduced threat generation, damage or healing output.

It’s only natural that this inferiority gave rise to players who went on a crusade to prove this wrong. The raidgroup I was in while we progressed through Molten Core and Blackwing Lair had their share of druids determined to show that they were able to compete with pure role classes. This usually took the form of bear main tanking on progression nights without being properly geared. Needless to say we wiped a lot.

The move into Burning Crusade laid the foundation of the now well-known mantra ‘bring the player not the class’. You can trace the changes from Scholomance and Stratholme class raids through to the rigid 5-man dungeons and 10/25-man raids as the starting point for this. Every class needed to play their given role on an equal footing, be it healing, tanking or dealing damage. It took a while for perceptions to fade but it began to feel like the hybrid tax was on the way out.

As the game has changed so has my attitude to Druids and other hybrids. Dual talent specialisation has made them one of the most useful classes to have in the guild – almost all are either capable tanks or effective healers regardless of their main spec. I think the attitude of druid players has also mellowed into one that’s prepared to be flexible in order to help the guild succeed.

From my cozy DPS bubble, druids seem to be in a great position at the moment. Veterans of the class seem to be reasonably comfortable at 85, while newcomers are trying out the class for the first time with the new Worgen and Troll forms. Levelling changes also mean that a lot of the traditional problems with getting a druid to Outland and beyond have been ironed out. It’s enough to even make me consider giving it another go.

To my inexperienced outsider’s eye, Druids have fought battles with game design and player perception, battles that have changed Warcraft for the better. I can’t say if the druid players of old agree, but the increase of bear tanks and tree healers means that raids are more likely to happen and that LFD queues are shorter. For this and more besides, we all win.

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