But WOTLK’s second season to have skipped a beat and gone straight into TBC’s third season. Melee is back with a vengeance and it is usually being healed by a druid. Granted, priests are currently dominating the SK100 but there is more to balance than the best 100 players.
In the middle tier of arena, where most of us play, the rise of the druid is becoming a very real problem. Couple that with the fact that warriors have jumped from season five obscurity to being absolutely everywhere in season six and you could be forgiven for wondering where the mace-stuns are.
Except there is one huge difference, which makes the current druid pandemic even worse. Now druid is even easier to play. They still have the same amount of control, the same ability to tank melee better than any other healer and the same insanely powerful HOTs. But now they don’t need half of it. Why bother to risk taking damage by cycloning someone when you can just HOT yourself in tree form? This has become an all too common question on forums, and one to which the answer is simply 'why, indeed?'
The only thing missing now is a resurgence of warlocks and the warrior/’lock/druid composition. They currently sit second bottom of the SK100 pile, just above the other pet class, hunters. But Blizzard themselves recently admitted that they weren’t happy with warlock representation. Given the developers’ usual heavy-handed approach to class balance we can probably expect them to be topping the same list when 3.2 rolls around.
Now, I expect there are at least a few people reading this who don’t see what all the fuss is about. Mostly they will be druids and warriors, but there may be a few neutrals who accept the idea that class balance is a round-a-bout, constantly in motion.
That’s as maybe, and for what it’s worth, I agree with that theory. But my concern as a writer and as a spectator is that, frankly, it’s unbelievably boring. Say what you like about the strength of RMP, but at least it has a little flair – a little style and excitement. Watching a perfectly coordinated CC chain with blind, sheep and fear is – to borrow somewhat from Matt Rider – like a ballet. It has to be choreographed perfectly, especially against WLD where the druid is almost immune to the mage.
That’s not to say that WLD is entirely without skill, but it doesn’t require nearly as much as even the old incarnation of the same setup. The druid doesn’t need to cast cyclone when they can easily outlast almost any other comp. Indeed, against a cleave team cyclone is more of a risk than a boon. Get caught in hammer of justice in caster form and you can kiss your bark-skinned ass goodbye.
But having less viable options doesn’t necessarily make a class harder to play. This was always the case with warriors, who were traditionally said to have the lowest skill cap in the game. Rather than having to “make do” with a limited arsenal, the arsenal they had was strong enough on its own. It’s like going into a war with only one or two bombs, but if yours are the biggest, you only need two. Less, in such a complicated game as WoW, is very often more.
Undoubtedly there will be some of you now thinking ‘yes, but at the top level a druid who sits in tree form all game will lose to players who utilise their entire skillset.’ But the flaw in that logic is quite clear. If a druid has made it to the top echelons of arena play, he must be doing something right. After all, I already said that the class isn’t completely skill-less.
If you put a class with so many abilities in the hands of a truly capable player, they will utilise cyclone and roots. They will control the opponent’s DPS instead of just tanking them mindlessly. In short, the unused advantages that previously didn’t matter at lower levels do start to matter as your opponent gets better.
Druids, it seems, are as simple or as complicated as you want them to be. Running around in tree form HOT-ing people up works on some levels, and if you want to step it up a notch you can. But the fact is that the notch isn’t strictly needed and while ever that final step remains unnecessary, druids will remain boring to watch.
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