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!

Perspective

There is a mini-storm going on in the Legion beta forums right now, regarding a recent and sudden (that is, no warning) change in max camera level permitted in Legion. Essentially, Blizz rather abruptly disallowed players to use the “/console CameraDistanceMaxFactor 4” command that gave a huge boost to camera zoom levels in the game. Instead, they are limiting camera zoom range to the default UI slider, a smaller range than the max CVar hardcap unlocked by the console command.

As might be expected, there is huge wailing and gnashing of teeth over this from some corners of the playerverse. I admit I have for some time had my camera set to allow for zooming out to max, although in practice I rarely used it. I am sure the max zoom was very useful to some players and I take them at their word that the change will adversely affect their play. But overall my impression of this little flap is that in any practical sense it is very small potatoes, people pole vaulting over mouse turds.

I will resist the temptation to make this into an allegory about how Blizz does not think the big picture is important, and since it is not important to them, they wish to forbid the rest of us from seeing it …

Still, the camera discussion is kind of a useful segue into a larger consideration of perspective in the game. Some things that occurred over the weekend gave me pause to try and sort out a reasoned approach to this game going forward for me.

First, I spent some more time on the beta, continuing to level my BM hunter, starting a MM hunter, and getting my resto druid to Broken Isles and through the initial artifact quest line. I was struck by the vast difference in my perception of these two experiences. My overwhelming impression of playing my hunters was one of sadness for the demolition of a class that was once awesome to play but will no longer exist as soon as the pre-patch goes live.

Contrast this to my impression of playing my druid, which was one of pleasant surprise for the improvements made to the leveling abilities. As a disclaimer, I did not try any group healing on this alt, and I am not skilled enough at druid healing anyway to be able to detect any but the most obvious of healing changes. But I found the added damage abilities afforded by the Balance affinity talent to be surprisingly effective, to the point that I believe leveling as resto might be possible. In addition, I felt like the class hall area was in complete harmony with what I believe to be the druid “fantasy”. I actually felt, once I had reached the Dreamgrove, that my druid had come home. It all just fit. This is not at all what I felt when my hunter reached the hunter class hall — it was just another location, a place to transact some business, a place with no real connection to any previous hunter lore in the game, a place invented for Legion because well hunters have to go somewhere and Blizz couldn’t be bothered enough to actually put any thought or design into it when they had already put so much thought into how best to destroy the class.

I know that sounded bitter and it was. It leads me to my second thought-provoking weekend experience. Bendak over at Eyes of the Beast posted his thoughts on the state of BM hunters in Legion — and Blizz’s steadfast refusal to address major shortfalls — and it was a stinging indictment, tinged with wistfulness for what might have been, as well as with an air of resignation and pessimism for the spec. Ever since I discovered hunter blogs, I have looked to Bendak to point out that pony in what I would invariably see as a barn filled with poop. As I have written before, he is a hunter’s hunter, someone who looks to the big picture to help hunters see the positive aspects of expansion changes. When Bendak holds out little hope for the one remaining spec that most closely resembles the class many of us fell in love with years ago, well that pretty much seals it in my opinion. If Blizz refuses to seriously consider the legitimate concerns of this respected hunter, then there is zero chance that anything will improve for hunters in Legion. What you see in the beta and in the PTR is what you will get. Please adjust your camera to limit your field of view.

The last thing that happened over the weekend was that I finally pre-purchased Legion. I know this sounds crazy, given what I have just written, but I tried to apply a “/console CameraDistanceMaxFactor 4” command to my view of my relationship to the game. What I saw when I did this — and it really is no surprise to me — is that some parts of Legion will be fun and engaging, and I am just not ready yet to give it up, despite my rants and criticism of it. (I write those things because I care about the game, if I didn’t care, I would not devote hours to it and writing about it every week.) I will remain disappointed –and yes, furious with Blizz — over what I and many others see as the complete destruction of the hunter class, but I will hold out hope that the next expansion or possibly even a Legion patch will see some improvement. That may not happen, of course, and Blizz’s betrayal of hunters will remain a heavy weight on the “leave the game” side of the scale for me. It’s just that so far, anyway, it has not tipped it.

Blizz continues to make it more and more difficult to control your personal view and perspective on the game, but if you squint a bit you find it is still possible.