Memorial Day 2017


This is a game blog, and I studiously try to avoid making it anything else. But each year I post a Memorial Day message, because I used to be a soldier, and some of my brothers and sisters in arms are gone from us forever because they made the greatest sacrifice a human can. I miss them. What follows, with a few edits for currency, is what I posted last year.

This is a long weekend in the U.S., the semi-official start of summer, and in typical American fashion we celebrate it with cookouts and beer and beach time and big sales in the stores. When we all go back to work on Tuesday, it will be with a slightly more laid back attitude because it will be summer and we like to think our grownup selves can in some small way recapture those childhood days when summer vacation was the most glorious freedom we could imagine.

Every year at this time I take a break from my WoW writing to be a bit more serious. Memorial Day is for me one of the most sacred holidays we have. It is a time to remember those who gave everything in service to our nation — the people, young and not-so-young, who sacrificed their tomorrows so that we could have our long carefree summers. Each of them was the most important person in the world to someone, they were fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers and sons and daughters, and their passing left ineradicable sadness in the lives of those who loved them. Some of them died performing truly heroic acts, and some of them died just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but all of them died because they had decided to live a life of service, because duty and honor were not just words but a way of life for them.

Politicians will come out in force this weekend. They will stand in front of masses of red-white-and-blue bunting and speechify about our military “heroes”, and they will wear their stupid little American flag lapel pins to advertise their “patriotism”, and their sound bite phrases about “duty” and “honor” will elicit cheers from their audiences and be replayed on the news shows. I suppose that is all to be expected. But I hope that these politicians — the Representatives and Senators who have the power to declare war and the President who can send our military into harm’s way on a moment’s notice — will privately take a moment to reflect on the unimaginable responsibility they bear. I hope they will be humbled and awed and trembling at the power they have to send Americans to their deaths. When they give their grand speeches, I hope that somewhere in the backs of their minds are images of our national cemeteries, of the long rows of headstones standing in eternal and perfect formation, each with a cross or star or crescent, each a focal point of grief for someone who loved a soldier beyond all imagining.

Somehow, these words, spoken long ago by a President who shouldered the awesome burden of his office with humility and crushing sadness, still seem relevant:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Have a good weekend. Enjoy your cookouts.


Crossing the line in Legion

Blizz’s announcement yesterday that they are effectively making full artifact trait progression not only pointless but impossible got me to thinking. In every expansion I reach a point where I put my main into a “maintenance” mode and move my game into end-of-expansion pursuits — going after achievements I want, playing around with my alts, finding isolated spots and just chilling, spending a lot of time gathering mats while listening to music. At such a point in an expansion, I still do some raiding and gear improvement on my main, but that no longer is the focus of my game.

Last night I realized I have hit that point in Legion. I reached Concordance on my main, and there is no cost benefit to further pursuit of artifact power. As I have no intention of playing any hunter spec except BM, I am not interested in developing any other hunter artifact weapons.

The only reason I have been doing world quests on my main for the last few weeks is for a chance at legendaries and for AP, but those rewards are no longer applicable. I have more legendaries than I can use, so the prospect of getting another no longer motivates me. Blizz’s coy little tricks with artifact traits have rendered AP valueless to me now. I am exalted with all factions, and the rewards for extended rep stink, so rep is not useful to me. I have about 200k order hall resources, over 300 Bloods of Sargeras, close to 3k leather, and way more gold than I can ever spend. Gear rewards from WQs have long since ceased to be of interest to me — I am relatively well geared at ilvl 908 (904 equipped, because of Blizz’s bizarre secondary stat mechanism that makes my 860 and 880 trinkets more useful than the 900+ ones I have). In short, I am done with world quests on my main, other than the odd one here or there. Even emissary quests hold no value for me now.

I will likely continue to pursue the hunter class mount, and I will raid with my team when the next raid tier comes along, likely getting some better gear in the process, but other than that, I am done with this expansion on my main. In a normal environment, I would try to max out my main’s professions, but Blizz has made that close to impossible with their dice-roll approach and their introduction of the tiered crafting system — the minimal additional benefit from level 3 recipes is not worth the time required to get lucky enough to get them. In any other expansion, this would be the point at which I start crafting high level items to sell on the auction house, but again Blizz has made that too painful to be a meaningful pursuit — the crafted legendaries, which are useless anyway except as stat sticks, require completion of an entire quest line, including certain mythic dungeons, for every legendary you wish to craft. Something in me rebels at that kind of blatant manipulation, and I just refuse to do it.

Even when we get 7.3, I do not anticipate significant changes in my feeling of being done with Legion. Yes, there will be some new quest lines and possibly some spacey stuff people will oooh and aah about, but I do not see the new planet zone in 7.3 as being significantly different from Broken Shore. In fact, my prediction is that it will be Broken Shore remastered — same daily grind, some temporary world bosses, some kind of new currency to grind for, some sort of random space ship bombardment, possibly a new dungeon and raid in the area, etc. I give Blizz credit that they do often come up with creative ideas, but unfortunately once they do, they drive them into the ground, using and reusing them for months or years regardless of how players receive them. Garrisons is a perfect example — players hated them, yet Blizz doubled down on them with patch after patch in WoD and even recycled them as class halls in Legion.

7.3 will be Broken Shore with a different artistic rendering. If I am wrong, I will happily eat my words. But I am not wrong.

The thought that strikes me about reaching my “the expansion is basically over” point is that we are still only 9 months into Legion, earlier by some months than I have reached that point in any other expansion. This seems ridiculous in an expansion widely touted as the “more content than you can handle” expansion, the one Blizz presented as “we heard you loud and clear in WoD and believe us we are not making that mistake again!”

But here’s the thing: I am done with Legion because there is no chance of achieving the normal game goals I set for my main each expansion. No, let me amend that statement: there is no point in pursuing my normal expansion goals any further because their completion relies on a lottery system, and in the case of my weapon, completion is simply not possible. There is almost nothing I can do to work towards those goals in a meaningful way.

Legion, for all its touted “content” and innovation, has revealed its dark side — players may only aspire to the goals Blizz sets for them, and they must pursue those goals in a strictly prescribed manner. Any deviation will almost certainly delay, if not prevent, their attainment. Anyone who does not like this is free to set their goals lower or abandon them altogether. Blizz seems to think quantifiable content is all that is needed to make a game great, and they have sacrificed player options in favor of it. They have lost sight of the fun players have when they can set a goal, work towards it in the way they find challenging or exhilarating, and achieve it. Content is fine, but from my worm’s eye view, being able to chase a dream is better.

As demoralizing as this is, it does not mean I am about to abandon the game. (Yeah, I know, that is sad.) As I have said before, I am someone who actually likes the latter part of expansions, because it is then that I permit myself to just be free to do whatever the heck I want to do, with no thought that I am letting others down because of failure to gear up a main or something. Normally, of course, I go into this end stage of an expansion feeling good because I have met my goals for my main and can now move on. In Legion, the feeling is more acceptance that such achievement is not possible, but move on anyway. Still, the end result is pretty much the same.

Like all metaphorical lines in life, you are usually not aware of the exact moment you step over them. But sooner or later you know for sure that you have crossed them. I have crossed my Legion line.

Let’s talk AP

I don’t normally post on Tuesdays or Thursdays, but today I felt the need to comment. With the reset,  Blizz announced in the latest hotfixes that the cap on artifact knowledge (AK) will now be 40 instead of 50, the level it was set to at the beginning of 7.2. Their reasoning is worth quoting (emphasis mine):

Developers’ Notes: We raised the Knowledge cap from 40 to 50 very late in the 7.2 PTR cycle, out of an abundance of caution: We wanted to ensure that players of all playstyles, as well as alt characters, would view the Concordance trait as accessible. However, between the additional Artifact Power gains added in 7.2 and others that were hotfixed in after the patch released, we’re now well ahead of that mark. Knowledge 40 now seems more than sufficient for players to reach Concordance, and the prospect of months’ worth of additional Knowledge still left to research makes some players feel like their efforts in the interim aren’t meaningful. Therefore, we’re rolling the cap back to 40.

Just so we’re clear — Blizz claims they rolled back the cap out of concern that we would feel like we were doing an endless grind for something we might never attain.

Yes, they actually wrote that. With no apparent sense of irony, much less shame.

First, let’s translate their concern into what I suspect is really going on: Blizz has noticed a decline in the number of players chasing artifact power through world quests and mythic instances. They theorized, possibly correctly, that these players were instead stacking AK so that when they did start chasing AP again they could accumulate it faster. That is, if now it takes you a week of world quests and the odd instance or raid to get that next trait that costs 300 million or 600 million AP, or whatever level you are at, why not instead just keep working on AK and get to the point where you can get that next trait doing just one or two WQs?

If you are reaching your saturation point with Legion anyway and would just as soon spend less time playing, this strategy seems like one way to make that happen. All you have to do is use your mobile app to keep hitting your AK research button on time, take a break from WoW, and when you come back you can easily catch up on your AP and artifact traits with just a few world quests.

This, of course, hits Blizz where it hurts: the Monthly Active User metric. Clearly, they had to do something about this threat to their bottom line. And the solution is to cap AK so that players cannot stay away for very long and still be able to catch up.

See, in my fantasy world, Blizz would admit this and we would move on. Instead, they tell us how concerned they are about us having to grind endlessly for something we might perceive as unattainable. When in fact what they are concerned about is that some players might actually have found a way to ease the endless grind for artifact power and traits. That grind, of course, is not only good according to Blizz, but is one of the finest features of Legion.

Puh-leeze. Once again, Blizz has demonstrated, with this specious explanation, their total contempt for their player base, their corporate opinion that we are all a bunch of idiots who will believe anything they say.

For the record, I don’t really give a rat’s ass about the rate at which I accumulate AP once I get my Concordance trait, because I don’t care if I get another tiny increase in artifact power or not. Ever. The implementation of endless artifact traits and endless AP to attain them is hands down the worst part of Legion, and for Blizz to claim that clicking a button to increase the rate at which we accumulate AP is a horrible grind they must save us from would be laughable if it were not so vastly hypocritical. I am insulted not by Blizz’s action but rather by their ridiculous lie about why they are doing it.


Alt weekend

I had a busy weekend in WoW. Nothing spectacular, just found myself with some windfall time on my hands and decided to spend it playing. As there is nothing much left for me to do with my main except grind out AP, I turned to my two most developed alts — balance druid and destro warlock. It was an interesting study in comparisons and contrasts.

Both are ranged dps, which is my solid role preference in WoW. I do have a couple of melee dps and healer alts, and they provide a nice break sometimes, but I always come back to ranged dps as my niche play style. Having said that, there are further distinctions among ranged dps, but the one that makes the greatest difference to me is mobility. Hunters used to be the most mobile of all ranged classes, and even after huge mobility nerfs to them in Legion at least BM hunters probably retain that distinction. So I am coming from that background as my baseline for determining “mobility”.

As I wrote last week, I have spent quite a bit of time lately developing my balance druid, and I am enjoying it. Her ilvl is around 890, but in all honesty she still has pretty crummy gear. Two legendaries, but one is just the crafted stat stick, worthless except as an ilvl booster, in my opinion. No tier gear, no BiS trinkets.

I was invited to a couple of mythics and mythic+ runs on her over the weekend. Pity runs, if I am truthful, but my guild is pretty good that way. Also, several of my guildies are building up alts now, too, so we end up taking turns running mains in order to carry some alts every now and then. My boomie dps was dismal, of course, but I was encouraged that it was not always bottom of the dps pile — there were moments of decent play.

The one thing that still dogs me with balance druid play is the extreme slowness of it.  Cast times just seem excruciating to me, like I could start the cast, go make a sandwich and get back just as it was finishing. I suppose this is an indirect reflection of my crummy gear — I have not even come close to really stacking the haste I need. The Icy Veins class guide goes so far as to rank haste and mastery above the primary stat of int (!) One of the consequences of this horrible slow play style is that I tend to overuse my instant casts — kill pace while soloing and even in mythic dungeons is such that there often is not enough time to get off a casted spell before the mobs die. So instant casts are frequently the only viable ones. Also, my muscle memory is hunter-honed, so I have a twitchy tendency to just interrupt a long cast in favor of an instant one. A lot. I am hoping I can get over this as my gear improves and I slap myself upside of my head often enough.

My lock also has crummy gear — even worse than my druid — right now hanging around 830 ilvl. Zero legendaries, not even a crafted one yet. But here’s the strange thing: even at a 60-ilvl difference, the lock feels much more powerful than the druid. I am relatively fearless at engaging mobs and elites with my lock, whereas with my druid I am super-cautious, almost always waiting for other players to show up before engaging anything higher than around 5 million health.

Some of that, I think, is because when I solo with my lock I run with a tank pet. Not only does this give me some breathing room when casting, but it is also the play style I have learned with my hunter since my earliest days of playing. So I am used to it.

But beyond the familiarity of using a pet, the lock play style — even though it is primarily a casted class — seems much more lively and engaging to me than balance druid. It seems mobile, whereas my druid does not. I am not sure why. Both balance druid and destro lock have casted spells as their primary power and some instant casts for setup or dots. Both require a certain rotational sequence to achieve high damage, and if that sequence is interrupted by the need to move, it suffers a bit. (Less so if you are skilled, more so if you play like I do.) Yet I find destro lock play not only more enjoyable than balance druid play but also more effective. Yes, destro lock has big casted spells, but the cast times seem reasonable, not M-A-D-D-E-N-I-N-G-L-Y S-L-O-O-O-O-O-W-W-W-W like for boomies.

The difference reminds me of the difference between BM hunters pre- and post-Legion. There is some major shift in play style, in class/spec philosophy. Prior to WoD, hunter development was guided by someone who understood the whole hunter “feel”. Starting in WoD, this was no longer the case, and hunter development seemed to be only about numbers no matter how awful the feel. It seems, from my very parochial view, that there is a similar lack of feel for balance druid play style, whereas those developers working on locks still retain it. Even though balance druid and destro lock have the same basic damage mechanics, one is horribly clunky in its implementation and one is lively and fun.

This, to me, perfectly describes Blizz’s problems with class development — they just do not get it for several classes, nor apparently do they care to, but for the ones they do get, it works out nicely. 

Last week I thought that my balance druid would become my primary alt as Legion progresses, but now I am not so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I am still having fun with it, but a weekend with my lock is starting to change my mind. (Yes, I am fickle. Sue me.) The one thing that has thus far soured me on my lock in Legion is — and I know this sounds stupid — the class hall. I have never been a fan of the dark, fire-and-brimstone-with-overtones-of-torture-and-anguish environments Blizz seems to love, and this dismal environment is only compounded by what I think is a horrible layout for the class hall. I am getting more familiar with it now, but I still wander around a lot looking for stuff. Honestly, a big reason I have not played my lock much so far in Legion is because I dreaded having to do business in that class hall.

At any rate, it was a fun and relaxing weekend. And my little kick-ass gnome warlock is back!

Summer is nigh

We are in a kind of dry period in WoW news these days. That’s neither good nor bad, it just is. We are still at least a couple of weeks away from 7.2.5, I think, and then a couple more weeks away from the next raid tier. It’s the normal ebb and flow of game development. To be honest, I am just as happy with no New Thing To Discuss — these days the world seems to be spinning so out of control that it is nice to have at least one space where things remain constant and un-newsworthy, at least for a while.

Still, no real news is tough on us bloggers. It means we have to rely on our creative juices to come up with interesting topics instead of taking the lazy way and nattering on about whatever new announcements are topical. Creativity is something that waxes and wanes, I have found, and unfortunately mine now seems on the waning side just when waxing would be helpful.

In addition to being between major patches, we are also on the cusp of the summer season, typically a time in WoW when players have a ton of other relaxation and entertainment options, and activity slows down pretty noticeably. I don’t know if summer will have an effect on 7.2.5 or the new raid, but my hunch is it might make the patch last a bit longer, since quite a few people will just be playing less and thus take longer to get their class mount or complete whatever level of raiding they do (if any).

Interestingly, what I have observed is that while game activity tends to slow down, trade chat ramps up in the summer. I chalk this up to children on summer vacation quickly being in the “I’m BOOOOOOOORED” mode and turning to WoW trade chat as a way to pretend they are sophisticated and worldly, usually by showing off their dirty word vocabulary or exercising their freedom from supervision by being rude to everyone they can. It’s usually the time I just turn the channel off. However, I am not sure that will be necessary this summer — Blizz’s now year-old policy of taking swift incremental action against reported bad behavior seems to have worked miracles, at least on my server. Trade chat has actually become almost civilized again, the trolls have pretty much disappeared, the vile spewing of hatred has abated, and there is even *gasp* quite a lot of actual trade going on. Amazing. This is one of the best quality of life improvements we have had from Blizz.

Most of the people in my guild are using this breather to tidy up loose ends in the game. Our raid team is very slowly working on a few Mythic bosses once a week, people are grinding out their daily AP on their mains then working on one or two of their favorite alts, and there seems time again to spend soloing old dungeons for mounts or profession patterns or transmog sets.

The Mythic+ group is frantically running as many as they can in order to get three chests while that is still an option. I guess anyone who is interested already knows about the changes to M+ loot and keystones in 7.2.5. (If you don’t, Wowhead has a summary here.)

I am not big into running M+ instances. I usually run one or two a week with a guild group, mainly to get the weekly chest on reset day and maybe some extra AP. But I am not really absorbed in them like some people are. So I am pretty neutral on the changes. The one thing I will note is that Blizz seems to be fixing a problem they themselves deliberately set up, and they are fixing it, once again, cheaply and at the expense of players.

The current loot setup for M+ is that if you beat the time by a lot, each player gets to loot 2 or sometimes 3 chests at the end instead of just one. The change will be that no matter how much you beat the timer by, there will be just one chest at the end, and instead of per-person loot chances there will be 2 or 3 pieces of loot to be randomly awarded. It’s a pretty big change, but here’s the real crux of it: people who currently run a lot of 3-chest M+ instances don’t do it for the loot, they do it simply to increase the number of boxes they are opening. The popular belief — borne out by quite a bit of anecdotal reporting — is that there is a significantly higher chance of getting a legendary from a box than there is from, say, a world boss or some other kind of drop. Thus, the more boxes you open the higher your chances of getting a legendary. By restricting all M+ runs to one  box instead of three, Blizz is in effect putting a bandaid fix on a problem they deliberately created by having what is apparently a different legendary RNG for boxes than for other drops.

The other aspect of this is that Blizz is still in cleanup mode from their original terrible Legion legendary design. They continue to apply surface fix after surface fix, yet the whole legendary system is still a mess. The 7.2.5 legendaries that grant a talent will only add to the problem, especially if simultaneously with the introduction of these powerful legendaries Blizz reduces the lottery chances of obtaining them. Stupid. Lazy. I don’t know how else to put it.

So, on a no-news day I have managed close to 1000 words. This ability to fabricate a lot of filler when I have nothing to say may portend a future in politics for me. (No! 😖)  I am so impressed with myself that I am going to start my weekend with a cold beer on the porch on this hot almost-summer day. If you have the weekend off, enjoy.

Gadgeteers and purists

Last night as I launched a new sim on my Balance druid, it occurred to me that I rely a lot on third party sites and addons to play this game. I mean, really, a lot. Here is a sample, off the top of my head:

  • Over 20 addons — DBM, GTFO, ArkInventory, Weakauras, Bartender4, Healbot for my healers, Shadowed Unit Frames, Pawn, Tradeskill Master, Skada, World Quest Tracker, TomTom, Paste — to name a few.
  • Wowhead — my go-to site for guidance on where to find patterns and recipes, mats needed for crafting, various Legion guides, gear info, transmog ideas, and quest info. The latter is especially important to me. If I run into a problem with a quest, I immediately turn to Wowhead for solutions to whatever is stopping me. I am not worried about “spoilers”, I am just interested in finishing the quest and moving on, and I derive no satisfaction from figuring it out on my own after beating my head on a rock for hours or days. Thank goodness for the Wowhead users who unselfishly post their insights into quests as soon as they get them figured out.
  • Icy-Veins — I use this for class/spec info as well as for quick and dirty raid guidance. When I am coming back to an alt I have not played in a while, it is always my first stop to brush up on rotations, talent builds, and the order of stat importance. In Legion, I use this site to make my way through artifact traits and to get their list of BiS legendaries. The class/spec guides are always up to date and are written by world class players. I can’t imagine trying to figure out a rotation on my own for every alt by evaluating the various spell and talent and artifact interactions.
  • Sims. I use SimC on my own computer, and I also use web sites like Beotorch and recently Raidbots to run quick sims for importing into my Pawn addon. I know sims are only partially useful, but honestly I do not know of a better way to evaluate the complex factors in gear these days. (It would be interesting, I think, to compare the results for a player using all these complicated methods to select gear and talents versus selecting solely on the basis of ilevel increases and gut feeling for talents. I wonder if there would actually be much difference?)
  • Quest guides. I confess I use a quest guide to speed my way through leveling and also through dailies, profession quest lines, class hall quests, artifact quests, and even long achievement chains. (I am not going to say the one I use because it is a paid service and I do not want to plug a commercial product.)

There are probably a few more outside resources I use, but those are the ones that come to mind immediately. As I said, it’s a lot.

I know there are purists out there who are horrified by a list like this. I respect that point of view. Intellectually, I am even drawn to it, but realistically I am far too impatient to actually try to deal with a Blizz-only interface.

The native game UI itself, to me, is clunky, un-intuitive, and not responsive to player preferences. This opinion is reinforced every time I log in to the PTR and have to set up the Blizz-only interface. It just does not work for me, from the lack of raid frame options to the multiple-bar action bar setup and separate keybind interface, to the horrible bag space viewer, to the inability to set up reasonably-located spell cues and proc notices.

Additionally, the game flow — especially in Legion — seems confusing to me, possibly even deliberately vague. Blizz sometimes thinks they are running a puzzle game, not an adventure MMO, and they love to obfuscate in the name of “challenge”. Sometimes, for example, quests follow logically from one to the next, but equally as often you have to search for the next series without knowing whether or not it is a line you are interested in or where it might lead. And the “secret” quests — they are not my cup of tea. If I wanted to figure out puzzles, I would be playing a different game than WoW. I honestly cannot imagine a new player figuring all this out for themselves with zero outside help.

So I tend to go a bit overboard in third party assistance. I know this. I wish it were not necessary for my enjoyment of the game, but it is. In an ideal world, Blizz would provide a wide range of player options, permitting an approach like mine as well as the purist one. But even I know that is not really possible — they seem to have all they can do to keep the game from imploding without adding in a lot of complicating player-option code.

To be fair, periodically they co-opt some third party ideas and try to bring them into the native interface, but to my eye they usually do it badly. For example, there is the in-game Dungeon Journal now, a Blizz version of third party raid and instance explanations. It’s okay, but it falls short of most outside ones, in my opinion. The bag-sorting algorithm introduced in WoD is a slight improvement over what we had before, but it does not come close to the categorizing and display options in an addon like ArkInventory. I could give a lot more examples, but you get the idea.

Anyway, I do not think I would continue to play this game if I could not use third party resources to the extent I do. I like gadgets and gizmos and convenience and efficiency too much to give them up. Those of you who are purists, I salute you — try not to judge me, I am weak!

Being Boomkin

One of the nicer consequences of finally being able to fly in Legion is the gift of time. My very unscientific personal experience so far is that I can do approximately twice as much now in the same amount of time than I could do without flying. I am talking about activities like world quests, profession leveling and mat gathering, and of course the 7.2 Broken Shore dailies.

I have taken advantage of the extra time to pay some real attention to my druid. Back about a year ago, when it seemed possible that I would actually give up my beloved hunter in the face of what I perceived to be the total Blizz sellout of the hunter class, my first choice for a new main was my druid. I have always been fascinated by this class — the only one to offer every role in the game including both melee and ranged DPS — but I have never really gone beyond dipping a toe into it. When I first rolled my druid — years ago, as my second alt in the game — I did it as Resto. I got kicked from my first dungeon for being terribad and was so put off by the whole thing that it was years before I ventured into another instance with my druid. Mind you, the group was completely justified in kicking me. I had not grasped the whole steady-stream HoT method of healing and was trying to just react to health hits. The disaster was predictable, and one further consequence was that I came to think of druid Resto healing as very difficult.

Thus, when I leveled my druid in Mists I switched to Balance, mainly because I have always been most comfortable with ranged damage dealing. I had Resto as my secondary spec but really did not do much with it. I enjoyed Balance in Mists, and I came to really value the sheer versatility of the druid class, especially its wide array of defensive spells. I did level my druid in WoD, but I hated the Balance play style in that expansion — to say it was slow is a real understatement, especially given what at the time was a fantastically flexible and fast-paced SV hunter style that I had as my main. Still, I remained intrigued by the class, and I even ran a few alt run raids as Resto.

With my background of dithering between Balance and Resto on my druid, I was intrigued when Legion came along and introduced the attunement talent. As I am not really by nature a melee damage dealer, and I have never tanked, I was of course drawn to the Balance-Resto attunements. I got both artifact weapons and intended to  play as Resto, but I found the damage options — even with Balance attunement — to be far too puny for realistic soloing (world quests, etc.), at least for my taste. So I reversed and opted for Balance with Resto attunement.

After I first hit 110, I considered just dropping the whole idea, because my boomie seemed very squishy and almost as slow as in WoD. It was frustrating to play. But as I have geared up and gotten into my 7.2 artifact traits, I am finding it more palatable. It also doesn’t hurt that I have actually done some study of How to Boomkin (finally understand that whole solar-lunar power thing) and spent considerable time with target dummies and live target dummies (aka LFR). I am still not what I would call well geared at 880 ilevel, and of my two equipped legendaries, one is the mostly useless crafted one — good really only as a stat stick with 3 gem slots — but I can see the potential if I can manage to get to maybe somewhere around ilevel 900 or so. (This may depend on the good will of my guildies in carrying me on some Mythics.)

I am a bit slow on getting artifact traits because I am trying to keep my Resto artifact within 2-3 traits of my main spec Balance one. And most of the time I have to play my druid comes on the weekend, so it is not exactly a fast process even now with flying. (This is not good for LFR runs, though, as of course the weekend ones tend to be worse than the Tuesday or Wednesday ones.) My goal is to be a useful ranged DPS for our alt raids when we start them up, and to be a reliable fallback healer if needed. Also, I am hedging my bets for the next expansion — if Blizz once again really screws hunters, I want to be positioned to go with another main if necessary.

Probably the most tedious and annoying aspect of gearing up my druid is the whole class hall and profession chase. (It took me weeks to even find my way around the druid class hall, although now that I am comfortable with it I find it to be vastly superior to the hunter one.) I still am confused by what seems to be an endless number of quest lines and achievements necessary to get your champions, your third relic slot, your artifact research 7.2 addon, your class hall research, and so forth. I think I have gotten most of the important ones now on my druid, but I have not even begun to think about artifact appearance quests. (This is a holdover from my BM hunter, where I pay almost no attention to them because they are pretty bad and don’t even affect Hati.)

I have finally gotten level 2 on all my alchemy flasks, but I am not sure I will get the level 3’s just because of the hundreds of flasks you have to craft in order to get the rare RNG drop of the next level for each. And I am still working on my last herbalism level 2 — just can’t seem to get that dreamleaf quest to drop for me.

But overall, I feel like I am on my way to being able to play a decent Boomkin, and to be able to make myself useful as a healer as well. Balance seems solidly in the middle of the pack in terms of DPS charts, I doubt if there is any chance it will be a sought-after spec for top raiders in Legion, but I am fine with that. I only intend to do alt raiding with it anyway. And really, I am having fun with it, which of course I tend to forget is the point of this whole game.

When you think about it, what could be more fun than turning into a tree and healing your friends, and then turn around and start killing monsters as a giant chicken? And in between, turn yourself into a cat for quick getaways or a bear for maximum protection or a raven for soaring? It just doesn’t get much better than this!