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!

Who took the boom out of Boomkin?

Last night, just for variety, I decided to resume leveling my poor mistreated Balance Druid. She has been sitting at level 91 in the bare camping-out version of a garrison since sometime around February. I got her to Draenor then just left her alone, poor thing.

I have a sad history of similar behavior with this alt. She was actually my very first alt, rolled about the time my main hunter got to maybe level 60. I was fascinated by the possibilities of a hybrid class, imagining rapid switching among all the various specs. I thought it would be great fun to be able to do either ranged or melee damage, to heal, or to tank whenever I felt like it.

HAHAHAHAHA!

I was very shortly disabused of this fantasy. First, I realized I could only have two specs at a time, so already the possibilities were cut in half. Then the practical challenge of lugging around two sets of gear became clear to me. Not to mention the cumbersome re-equipping I had to do to switch specs — this was before I discovered Outfitter and other helpful addons. Not being a fan of melee play style, I settled on Balance and Resto as my two specs. My final realization of the challenges inherent in hybrids came when I blithely decided — some time around level 50 — to run a few dungeons as Resto.

Disastrous. With a capital D. I was unceremoniously kicked from three dungeons in a row. Within like the first three minutes in each. I can’t blame them, I would have kicked me too. I would have had to improve a huge amount to reach the level of “stink.” I had no idea how to heal a group, much less any clue about Resto healing. I was so traumatized by the experience that I have not attempted Resto healing since.

In fact, I had such a bad taste in my mouth over the whole idea of a Druid, that I made her my bank alt and left her parked in the Trade District in Stormwind for over a year. (To this day I don’t know why I did not just delete her as an alt, I guess because back then a level 50 character still represented a lot of time and effort, and I was cautious about throwing away several months of work.)

Finally, in Cata, I brought her out of exile, leveled her to max, got her some decent gear, and spent many happy hours flying herb routes in Uldum. I made decent gold with her combo of herbalism and alchemy, and I was able to do respectable DPS as Balance in LFR and a few guild raids. I did pretty much the same thing with her in Mists.

Once I got the hang of the slightly weird sun/moon thing, I kind of liked the rotation, and I really loved the self heals, the various traveling forms for Druids, and the awesome cat prowl mode for those times when you just don’t want to be noticed. It all made leveling and soloing pretty fun, although it was never as powerful as hunter leveling and soloing.

So last night I was expecting a bit of rustiness but also some leveling fun. I updated a few keybinds, checked my talents and glyphs, did a quick review of rotation recommendations on IcyVeins, and set off. Boy, was I in for a shock.

First, even though Blizz’s intent in changing the power schema for Boomkins had been to simplify it, I found it monumentally confusing, far more complex than the old style. In no way did it seem ” easy to learn, hard to master” which Blizz claims is their guiding philosophy for classes and specs. I am sure I will figure it out with study, new Weakauras, and a lot of practice, but it really does seem unnecessarily complex as a power mechanism.

But even more of a surprise than the power method was the long — as in geologic time scale — casting times for your basic rotation. As best as I could figure out, after setting your DoTs, you essentially alternate between 2-second and 3-second casts, with a chance of an instant proccing sometimes.

Do you have any idea how excruciatingly long a 3-second cast is? It feels like you can cast it, get up and go to the bathroom, duck down to the kitchen and make yourself a sandwich, and get back just in time to cast it again. Back to back long casts as a basic rotation just feels wrong to me. Especially when virtually every mob you ever encounter seems to have unlimited instant casts and no cooldown times for anything. (Why is that, by the way? Why is there one set of WoW physics rules for the mages you play, for example, and an entirely different set for the mages you have to kill?)

So last night I was out fighting mobs, and I would basically just stand there casting for forever while several of them would be unleashing continuous attacks on me.

Me:

(First cast)

One one thousand,

Two one thousand

Zap

(New cast)

One one thousand

Two one thousand

Three one thousand

Zap

Mobs:

Zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap zap

I am sure most of my unease with my Druid is due to being spoiled by the awesomeness of playing a hunter as my main, along with my obvious lack of facility with the Boomkin spec. I actually appreciate complexity in a class — it takes time to get good at it, but once you do, there is nothing more fun than hitting your cooldowns and rotational interactions perfectly, time after time, especially in a rapidly changing environment. It’s a satisfying and mesmerizing rhythm when you get it right.

Or maybe I should give Resto healing another try.