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 are your alts?

As I usually do at the end of an expansion, I have been spending quite a bit of time with my alts. Getting reacquainted with them and in the process learning new things about them, I have to admit, is really one of my favorite activities in this game. If it weren’t for the time factor ( as in I already spend too much time on the game), I could see myself being a multi-account maxed-out number of characters type of player.

As it is, I feel like I can barely manage my current nine characters on my single account:

  • Worgen hunter main, level 100
  • Night elf hunter almost-main, level 100
  • Panda mistweaver monk, level 100
  • Gnome destro lock, level 100
  • Night elf druid I have never been able to settle on a spec for, level 100
  • Human mage (currently arcane) I keep threatening to delete, level 100
  • Human rogue I just rolled and leveled a couple of months ago, level 100
  • Human paladin I just rolled recently, level 30
  • Human priest that has been my banker for several years, level 18

The first four are the ones I feel most comfortable with, the ones I have raided with at various times, the ones I always level first in a new expansion. My night elf hunter was my very first character and my uncontested main until the current expansion, when for unimportant reasons having to do with various guild memberships and raiding activities, my Worgen hunter became my main. I run my Worgen as MM, my Night elf as BM, and I think of my BM as the fun hunter spec — the one I like doing old content on, the one I use to chase achievements, etc. If I had to dump all my characters but one, I would keep my Night elf hunter. Hands down, no contest.

I rolled my Worgen and my Panda when those races became available, just to see if I liked them. I did, obviously, and I have never looked back. I usually like to try new races, classes and specs when they come out, but sometimes it is just a passing fancy with me. I have tried DK twice, both times leveling to whatever the max was at the time, but just cannot make myself like them as a class. I will definitely roll a DH in Legion, but from what I have seen so far it will probably turn out like DK did for me. And — because I am stubborn and bull headed and still immersed in my tantrum — I will not roll a SV hunter. (As I write them, those look very much like Famous Last Words. I give you permission now to laugh in my face if I cave at some point on this…) I am certainly considering rolling a third — Gnome — hunter, though, when they become available.

As for races, I am not big on either Draenei or Dwarves. I have tried both, but I can never get past the aesthetics of hooves and a tail for Draenei, and although I think Dwarves fit the hunter fantasy well, I just don’t like looking at mobile fire plugs every time I log in to them. My only Dwarf, however, was female, so maybe at some point I would do better with a male. (And yes, I realize it is extremely sexist of me to think it fine for a male to be short, squat, and ugly, but not a female. I am not proud of it, but there it is. Sadly, we cannot always escape our cultural biases.)

I have two or three times tried rolling a Horde alt, but I just am not a Horde person. In addition to the ugliness of some of the races, I can’t get past the baseline fantasy of the whole Horde concept. I like my leisure escapism to be clear cut Good-versus-Evil, with me solidly on the side of Good. I get that the Horde are nuanced and conflicted, and have what seems to be a richer and more complex story than Alliance, but honestly I get plenty of nuanced and conflicted in real life thank you very much.

Anyway, back to my alts. I am fascinated by the fact that, as I play them, their individual personalities emerge, each quite different from the others. My Worgen is all business, very intense, competent, and professional. Also tends towards gruffness, gets impatient with frivolity. My Night Elf hunter, on the other hand, has a very laid back and balanced view of things. She is like someone’s really cool granny, who can enjoy being silly with the kids but who also has a strong grip on how to lead the family and who still stays on top of her professional skills. Nothing really fazes her, she takes it all calmly in stride.

My Panda is still figuring out her professional niche, hasn’t quite reached the top of her game yet, and tends to be a little insecure.  She is at heart a caretaker, a healer who dislikes doing harm to others except as necessary in the cause of saving those in her charge. I am not an expert healer on her, but I am respectable, and I find the healing mechanics very quirky and fun. We will see if they will stay that way in Legion.

My Gnome is all spit and fire, who gives off a clear signal of “Don’t f**k with me or I will kick your ass”. I think she is very cute, but I would never let her know that, because — well — she would kick my ass. But I find warlocks to be huge fun to play. If I feel the need to abandon my hunters in Legion, I think my lock will become my main.

I have had both my Druid and my Mage for a long time, but I have never really bonded with either of them. I think part of the problem is that I can’t seem to identify with a single spec for them. My Mage is all over the place on specs every expansion, although fire really is my favorite. I should probably just go with fire no matter what, and maybe then I would develop a bit more continuity and expertise with the class. As for my Druid, I like the idea of Boomkin best, think it is the most fun, but in WoD it has been horrible to play. I keep thinking I should learn to heal on her, because I think Resto Druids are quite powerful healers when played well, but so far I have found it to be a daunting learning curve. Still, I find Druids to be a fascinating class for their abilities to tank, heal, and be both ranged and melee damage dealers — really the most versatile class in the game.

My Rogue and Pally are experiments in melee classes for me. I rolled the rogue mainly to have someone to open lock boxes for my characters, and because I need one final profession to have them all. I find it to be an interesting class to play, but I am pretty bad at it still, and I get anxious when I have to just wait for  power build-ups and spells to become available. (I am a mad button pusher…)  My Pally is my only plate wearer, and is too low level yet for me to decide much about the class.

Well, this has been a longer and more rambling post than I intended. Possibly it reflects my scattershot, unfocused approach to the game these days. I’d be interested to hear how others view their alts.

Gathering thoughts

Last night I decided to ditch tailoring on my mage and replace it with herbalism. I have not bothered to level her to 700 tailoring in WoD, as my warlock is also a tailor. True, she did have some low level patterns the lock doesn’t have, but nothing that I can’t buy on the AH or get a guildie to make if I need one for some transmog. Besides, I can pick up most of them later on my lock, which might be kind of a fun project.

I mainly use the mage for inscription, so switching to herbalism as the other profession makes more sense anyway. My other herbalist is my druid, but I am still struggling with her. She is level 91, just recently arrived on Draenor, and a boomkin. Boomkins have been kind a red headed stepchild for Blizz the last couple of expansions, they just can’t seem to figure out the right class balance for them. I was finally getting the hang of the whole moon/sun power thing in Mists, then Blizz radically changed it in WoD, and I am very far from comfortable with it. My hat is off to any of you who play a boomkin well.

To be honest, I am thinking of deleting the druid. (Please don’t say anything to her, though!) She was my second character after my hunter, so she has been around for a long time. I have kept her mainly out of sentimental reasons, but also because I was drawn to the possibilities of four specs in one alt. But it turns out that I really stink at druid healing, and after many many tries I have decided that I don’t like melee dps. Which leaves boomkin and tank. I am interested in learning to tank, but honestly I don’t know how to start. With zero tank experience, it seems impossible to just jump in at level 90+. I could never do that to any group I would be in. I should probably roll a new druid and start tanking every low level instance I can get into, just to learn a bit about the role. Then I would have enough of a foundation to ask for pointers from some of our awesome raid team tanks. Something to think about, I guess, as I continue to look for new fun in what has become an annoying current game …

Of course, the other reason to have a druid as a gatherer was that she had a terrific advantage farming herbs. Some of the most relaxing time I ever spent in this game was chilling out in guild chat while I flew my herb routes in Uldum. I loved that zone, I loved the sere majesty of the sand juxtaposed with oases and ruins. I loved being a bird, swooping and soaring alternately over the windswept sand and the wild anarchy of the river deltas. I would gather herbs for a couple of hours, enjoy the company of my guild mates, then make very decent gold selling herbs and essences in the auction house.

But those days are gone now — WoD has not been kind to guilds, and swooping and soaring have been declared “non-immersive” by Bliss’s arrogant elitist devs. I thought I was having fun back then, but as Watcher has patiently explained time after time, I really wasn’t. Silly me.

Sorry, I digress. So for all these reasons I re-rolled herbalism as my second profession on my mage. This meant that I was starting at level one. With the gathering catch-up mechanism, I could have jumped right in gathering in Draenor, but I chose not to. Herbs are not that plentiful, it would take A LOT of them to level up, and of course it is super annoying to gather them in Draenor. So I progressed from zone to zone to gather level-appropriate herbs. It went fast, and after spending a few hours at it I was close to 600 when I logged off for the night.

I had a good time doing it. It was kind of a nostalgia trip, really. I started out in Elwynn Forest, couldn’t remember the last time I spent any time there! While leveling I visited other forgotten zones like Western Plaguelands, Swamp of Sorrows, Hillsbrad Foothills, Thousand Needles, the old Terrokar Forest, zones in Northrend, Hyjal, Deepholm, and Pandaria. It was great! Before logging off I stopped in to spend the night in my cozy little farmhouse on Sunsong Ranch, with the ever-bubbling stewpot and the comfy bed.

I flew everywhere, it was glorious! At first I used my Sky Golem, but decided — in spite of the advantage it confers — that I get slightly nauseous with its herky-jerky loop-de-loop flying gait. So I used my trusty Headless Horseman mount, still my favorite after all this time. It’s small enough to not obscure the herb you are gathering, and it is graceful whether flying or on the ground. And it’s very cool looking. What else could I ask for?

Unfortunately, I am at the point where I will be forced to complete leveling now in Draenor. I am not looking forward to it.

But I had a terrific time last night. And no matter what Ion Hazzikostas says, it sure seemed like fun to me.