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!

A change of pace

Over the weekend I spent some time on my alts, mainly my alt hunter and my druid. It was a nice change for me. I spent time on my alt hunter mainly to finish her jewelcrafting quest chain and to gather a lot of ore, because I have other alts that would benefit from rings and necks and gems and such. (Shhhhhh, don’t tell Ion Hazzikostas … be vewy vewy quiet!).

I did finish the JC line, although of course that means very little — most of my recipes are level 1, and the mats seem to be quite rare. Also, the mining RNG quests seem to have a rather low probability of dropping, so of course I have not yet gotten them, which means (I think) I cannot yet get any Blood of Sargeras from this gathering profession. Without Bloods, I can’t craft high end items, nor can I even gear up enough to get into LFR.

Not making Bloods BoA is one of the worst decisions in Legion, in my opinion. I have over 200 on my main, for the most part worthless, and my alts are crying for them. This critical mat is what I call a “domino mat” — it has game repercussions far beyond what a single material should have. If you are a crafter, you cannot craft many high end items without it. Even if you have enough to craft the items, you can only craft them at a relatively low levels, because anyone wishing to upgrade a crafted picee of armor must do it on their own, using their own Bloods (20 or more just to get a single item upon to mediocre level). Thus, players wishing to use crafted gear to get up to, oh, say ilvl 850 or so — not exactly a high level in Legion — must have a buttload of Bloods in order to do it. That is assuming you have a character — probably a main — who can crank out obliterum at a high level. (Yes, Ion, guess what, we are now at the point of having a main exist to support  alts. Happy?)

Thus, the soulbound nature of Bloods, along with the requirement that gear must be SB to be upgraded, means crafters cannot make and sell  gear above level 815, and players wishing to upgrade this low level gear must be advanced enough to be able to gather the Bloods to do it — which generally means by the time you are able to upgrade your gear you have long ago stopped needing it. (Similar to that ridiculous class hall gear that requires you to have jumped through enough hoops in order to buy 810-830 level gear — or even to buy the final upgrade to get it to level 840 — that by the time you have grubbed enough to get there you no longer need it.)

Great job, Blizz, really excellent planning. This is like a toy manufacturer making a toddler pull toy, but requiring any child using it to earn their own money to pay for it — by the time they can do that, the pull toy is kind of moot.

Thus, when I decided to gear up and play my druid more, it turned out to be a much longer and more tedious process than it should be at this stage of an expansion. Not only for the reasons cited above, but also because suddenly nearly all the gear-rewarding world quests disappeared. Seriously, I thought well if I can’t upgrade my crafted gear on my druid because of lack of Bloods, at least I can run a bunch of world quests and get some decent gear from them. Nope. Whether by recent stealth nerf design or simply because of bad RNG in the WQ selection engine, there were almost no WQs that awarded gear this weekend. It took me literally until Sunday night, after 3 days of grinding, to get enough gear to qualify for LFR. LFR!!!! This is sad.

However, once I did finally get geared up, I had a lot of fun with my druid. I had leveled her as a boomkin, because I have always kind of liked that somewhat quirky play style, but also because honestly Blizz still has not made the leveling process very healer-friendly. (I am always impressed with people who level their healers as healers.) Anyway, having leveled her up a couple of months ago, I decided to switch main spec to resto.

First I had to get the resto artifact weapon, and I have to say I found this quest line to be pretty engaging. I definitely liked that it was heals-centric and required healing to complete. It was not overly long, but for a non-healer like me it was somewhat challenging. (I let my group die once before I succeeded … oops.) I had enough AP saved up to get my heals artifact up to level 24 in one fell swoop, so that was kind of nice.

Armed with my new artifact and a whopping 826 ilevel, I queued for Emerald Nightmare LFR. It was the first LFR I have done in Legion, and especially considering it was late in the game week, it went quite smoothly. As usual, I was stressed healing, but after it was over I realized I had a lot of fun. I got two pieces of gear that pushed me up to qualify for Trial of Valor, but I didn’t queue for it as it was pretty late. I’ll do it tonight (yeah, I know, Monday night LFR is a bad idea).

Side rant: What is it with Blizz and their apparent need to make support functions as annoying as possible for players? Last night I wanted to try out a few heal rotations, and since I knew there were no target dummies in Dal (!!!), I traveled to the druid class hall, thinking of course there are target dummies there — they have them in every other class hall I have an alt for. Nope. No target dummies in the Dream Grove. This of course is along with the Blizz design “feature” of no mailboxes in class halls, no auction house in Dal (don’t start with me on this, engineers!), and of course as I said no target dummies in Dal. Seriously, Blizz, what is the reason behind these annoyances? And don’t give me some bull hockey mumbo-jumbo pseudo-lore crap. I want to know the real reason! Malevolence? Twisted dev humor? Technical limitations? Laziness? Incompetence?

Late edit: See Sar’s comment below. Apparently the druid class hall has both a mailbox and target dummies! Whoops, well now this is awkward, what can I find to rant about?? Maybe clueless players who can’t find stuff in class halls?

I did a small amount of druid healing in LFR and a few random instances in WoD, but it was nothing to write home about. Before I queued last night, I got some quick pointers from one of our guild’s top druid healers, and that was very helpful. As it turned out, no one died — well except for a couple who died from trash because they stupidly outran the raid. I was pretty low on the healing charts, but I was always in with the actual healing group not the also-healers like Spriests and Pallies, and anyway I don’t give healing numbers much notice. I did do a lot of overhealing, but our raid healer explained that is pretty much unavoidable with druids, and he gets a lot of good natured grief over it in our raids.

It seems like Blizz pretty much left resto druids alone as they worked over many of the other classes. I suppose those of you out there who main a resto druid might disagree, but from my untrained perspective I did not notice a huge difference between what I did in WoD and what I did last night in Legion. I think I like the druid healing style because it reminds me of what all hunters used to be — highly mobile, with quite a few extra tricks in their bag. Also, I find it refreshing once in a while to get away from the kill-kill-kill mentality of damage dealers. There is a certain satisfaction in helping out your group members in such a direct way. (But I still find it stressful while doing it.)

Anyway, I enjoyed my sojourn into druid healyland over the weekend. I expect I will be spending more time pursuing this as Legion wears on.

Preparing alts for Legion

I have not written much about Legion so far, and I probably won’t do so until we have some hard data from the beta, instead of just Blizz promises and datamined info. I see a lot of potential in the expansion, along with two or three almost certain major disasters, but as I said I will wait until we get some beta experiences.

However, even not knowing what Legion will feel like to play, I am doing some fairly intensive alt prep, the purpose of which is to give me options should everything turn to doodoo for my beloved hunters.

The first thing I did was prune my staff. Yes, I had to delete a couple of alts take some alts to a farm where they can run and play in the sunshine forever. Let’s face it, I have never done well with my shammie, not in any spec, even though I eked out a level 90 for her in Mists. I never got the hang of totems, they seemed usually ineffective and always annoying. No one spec appealed to me, consequently I changed specs too frequently to become even passably proficient at any of them. So goodby, shammie.

My brewmaster monk was really just an experiment, I got him to level 50, tanked a few low level dungeons along the way. Thus far, he seemed really OP and honestly was kind of fun to play, but I don’t see myself tanking at a high level. If I change my mind, I can always go with my level 100 monk, blending in with all the incompetent new DH tanks — Legion will have so many bad tanks at the beginning, one bad brewmaster will hardly be noticeable!

My one horde alt — well, I am just not a horde player. I don’t enjoy it. I maintain a certain game fantasy in my head, and the basis of that is Good vs. Evil, with me on the side of Good. All you horde players out there, don’t bash me please. I get the concept of nuanced kinda-good-kinda-bad horde, I just get enough nuanced complexities  in my real life and like my games to be very binary in their distinctions.

After the Great Purge, I am left with: 2 hunters, one monk, a mage, a druid, a warlock, and a rogue. Plus a low level bank alt. All but the bank alt are level 100, with varying levels of gear. Getting rid of the alts I never play will give me the option of adding a DH and a gnome hunter in Legion, with a couple spare slots just in case.  (I have never really been able to deal with alts on multiple servers, so I limit myself to the server limit or below.)

The other big thing I am doing to prepare alts for Legion is spending time on them. The purpose is to gear them up a bit, but also to increase my proficiency on them. So I am taking them out into the world, getting them into Tanaan, doing the required (and useless) proving grounds, running some dungeons and LFRs with them, doing some Tanaan dailies and weekly bonus events.

I do this because it is fun, but in this case also because honestly I am auditioning them for just-in-case Legion promotion to main. I am very pessimistic about the future of hunters as I know and love them, and it may not be possible for me to continue with a hunter  main. Sad, but a realistic possibility.

My original backup plan had been to have my mistweaver as my main, but the hints about Legion MW changes so far are not encouraging. I have always liked the unique, quirky MW style of healing, but it appears that all the uniqueness is getting the axe in Legion, and MWs will become a rather vanilla ranged healer, with little to distinguish them from priests, shammies, and the like. Just another herd healer. I still hold out hope that MW healing will be fun, but I am preparing for it not to be.

My current best candidates for mainhood in Legion are my destro warlock and my resto/boomie druid. I have only recently started to dip a toe into druid healing, and I have to say I am liking it so far, although I have been careful to not put myself into real crunch healing situations. The hardest part is getting the hang of anticipating damage rather than reacting to it, but I am learning.

It also sounds like Blizz might be fixing some of the worst aspects of boomkins in Legion, so a resto main spec/ boomkin off spec may be very viable.

As for the warlock, not much to say there. Destro seems to have gotten very few changes for Legion, so that to me means they will continue to be fun to play. Although unless they get some ability to do damage on the move, they will never be as fun as they were in Mists.

I am having fun with my rogue, but I don’t see me maining as melee. If I wanted to do that, I would probably swallow my pride and go back to SV hunter, but I don’t see that happening either. The mage? Ya, probably not, given my struggles with that class, but of course stranger things have happened.

So that’s it. My Legion preps so far are aimed at giving me options with my alts. I find I am no longer satisfied with just having a Plan B, I need Plans C, D, and at least E as well! As they say, Blizz, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

I am trying to be ready this time for whatever Legion may bring.

 

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.