Friday, February 6, 2009

Druid Trends: A hybrid ill-wind?

I read a lot of druid blogs. It's partly because I play one. It's partly because I'm married to one. It's partly my friendships with Flyv & Karthis. From these relationships & my copious amounts of free-time, I've drawn some observations about the state of Druids and mainly ferals.

There is currently an excessive amount of QQ about "hybrids," specifically druids. There's the post on Tobold's blog about Hybrid Envy that set off an interesting back & forth with Karthis. Or read the comments section below today's WoW insider post about Druid Changes in 3.1. These are not isolated events. I think they represent a potential ill-wind for druids.

First the arguments against druids & their flaws as I currently see them.

There are so many druids right now. They are clearly broken!

This is the same argument that has been made against hunters for years. I also play a hunter. Hunters are not - except for early 3.0 Hunters with Volley & Gorilla pets - broken. Hunters are simply easy to pick up & great in solo PvE environment. They make awesome alts. Hunters have just as many flaws & stereotypes as any other classes.

The reason why druids are so plentiful is their broad-ranging appeal. More than any other class, druid can be tailored to the play-style and interests of the individual player. The perfect example is my house, where my wife & I both play druids. We are night & day in our approach to the game.

Yes, if you put 4 druids in a room and ask them their "role" you will get about 5 answers: trees, boomkins, bears, cats & off-tank. Yes, I think there's a distinction to be made in relation to a bear, cat or off-tank. It's all about skills, preferences & talent specs.

Druids can do too much! Nerf them!

I can't play a tree. I'm an even worse boomkin. My "hybrid" flexibility comes into play when I'm able to battle-res someone, or hot myself up. But a feral's ability to do these things are extremely limited. I don't have int on my gear. My mana-pool is insanely small. I need that mana to shape shift. I'm not wasting it on being your back-up healer.

Feral Druids are too good! Nerf them!

Actually, Feral druids might actually agree with this assessment to a certain extent. That's not a concession, however. No, feral druids just don't want to all be pigeon-holed back into the "off-tank" role all over again. Some of us want to be main tanks or pure DPS. The fact remains that the lines are blurred a little right now. That doesn't mean there should be a nerf but rather a refinement.

Druids and Hybrids are so versatile why bring anything else on a raid? Nerf all Hybrids!

This is one of the stupidest arguments I've heard yet. First off, what kind of bazaaro-world guild are these people running in that they have 25 raid-worthy druids, shaman & paladins? Secondly, how fucking boring would that be? On a lark? Sure! Every night? WTF!

I treat hybrids as a "value-added" element to a raid or 5-man. There are also trade-offs. If I've got a dps'er who's dropping back to heal, then I'm missing their dps. If I've got a healer tanking, I'm fucked! Show me a raid leader who honestly fills more than 2 to 3 slots based on "hybrid flexibility" and I'll show you a moron. Raid leaders will take the best players in the slots they need. Nerf'ing a hybrid because it's not fair for other classes is tantamount to calling for hybrids to be dropped from raiding.

All this brings me back to my other observations. See what you think.

- Blizzard has been deliberately moving Bears to more talent-dependent specs by removing armor bonuses and "forcing" us to have specific talents to compensate. A druid without these key talents can't gear their way out of a problem.

- Blizzard has been deliberately moving all ferals to more rogue-like gear. This makes feral gear drops easier, but has reduced the number of unique options available to us. Gear itemization & enchantment decisions will further move ferals into DPS vs Mitigation.

- Blizzard has made statements about increasing cat dps. Cat swipe was added to bring druids in line with other classes. The next step will probably be a boost to a cat-specific talent. This will further widen (not shrink) the divide between cats & bears.

- Blizzard wants to lower mana regeneration (specifically for healing classes.) The interesting side-effect will be on all hybrids. In Pre-Wrath, a lot of druid gear had broad stats. Ferals didn't want int & spirit but we got them. That's gone. A reduction in mana-regen on an already mana-starved hybrid makes them less versatile.

- Dual Specs are coming. This will be great for transitioning between solo pve/pvp and group/raid environments. The restrictions will be big. It won't be something that raids can exploit. Why is this important?

Put it all together. To balance out a druid imbalance (real or perceived) Blizzard will make our "limited" hybrid effectiveness even more so. The difference between a tanking druid & a Feral DPS druid could become more like the difference between a Protection & Fury Warrior. Only unlike the two warriors, these druids would be using the same talent tree & be dressed in the same gear. Yet one would be a marginal tank & the other a marginal DPS. It's completely opposite what Blizzard claimed they wanted from Wrath, but it's becoming more and more likely.

Is any of this a bad thing? I'm not sure. I'm a 5-man tank. If I got back into raiding full-time, I would probably want to be an off-tank. If the wind really is blowing in the direction I'm seeing, then it wouldn't change the way I do things. In some ways it would be a "fair & just" response to the QQ'ing out there.

1 comment:

Nord said...

There are way too many people in this game who just need to STFU. Since day one, I've been hearing all this crap about how unbalanced this or that class is, usually because someone sucked at PvP and got spanked by one. Arena has in some ways made this worse, since in battlegrounds, I often find it much too chaotic to notice who it is that's killed me and what class they are.

That's not say that there aren't balance issues between classes or specs. There's always going to be some tweaking, buffing, and nerfing going on. That's the nature of a dynamic game like this. But my hope is that Blizz pays a lot more attention to its professional play-testers than to the whining of 12-year olds who think their e-peen isn't big enough.

Druids and hybrids are fine. Sure, like any class, they could probably use a little fine tuning. But they're hardly out-of-balance right now. (And this is coming from someone who generally plays "pure" classes. Stofnar is the exception, not the rule for me.)