Thursday, July 17, 2008

Druid 101 - A primer

Druid Role
Wouldn’t you know that starting alphabetically gives us one of the only classes which has up to four possible roles. Druids can do it all. They just need to (usually) only do one of those things at a time.

The druid is the rare class that can tank, heal, provide damage from range and provide damage from melee. Of these four roles, only two of them share a talent tree. And for both tanking and melee damage production, different selections may be made within the tree.

The best advice there is for druids is plan ahead by knowing what you want to “be when you grow up.” That way you can be practicing and honing your skills as you level. The only caveat here is I would not ever level as restoration unless I was paired with another player - it would just be too slow.

Possible Druid Trees
The Balance tree contains mostly skills for providing ranged magical damage. This tree contains such bombs as a debuff that causes enemies to hit less often, casting time reductions, access to a new form (with its own aura) and the summoning of three short-lived combat pets to help out.

The Feral tree contains, amazingly enough, mostly attacks and things that help with tanking and DPSing. This tree covers both the melee damage and tanking roles, so your choices in this tree will differ slightly based on what you want to do.

The Restoration tree has mostly healing goodness in it. Of the four one-point talents, one is actually most used for feral. The other three however, allow instant cast nature spells, heals that consume a heal-over-time for instant healing, and the slow-moving tree for increased healing.

Druid Defining Skills
When you’re looking for someone to bring you back to life in the middle of combat a druid is your only choice. The downside is this ability has a longish cool-down (20 minutes); once it’s been used, it’ll be a fair amount of time before it can be used again.

Innervate allows a druid to give a raid member, party member or themselves, a short buff that radically increases mana regeneration rates. Again, this has a cool-down (6 minutes), so it’ll have to be used strategically.

What other class can change their form altogether? The answer is only one (Shaman) and only to a single form. Druids, by the end game, will have at least six forms. They’ll have seven if specced deeply enough into balance for moonkin form or restoration for tree of life form. And we even pick up one more if we’ve completed the epic flight form quest.
For healing, druids are considered the HOTtest. In fact, most druid heals only work over time. Of the other healing classes, only the priest has a HOT. HOT healing is a druid skill.

What makes you a good Druid
As cool as some of your class-defining skills are, a good druid saves them. In fact, many end-game players consider those cool-downs to belong to the raid instead of to the druid. Most druids won’t innervate or battle resurrect unless instructed to by the raid leader.

As a true hybrid, druids can often fulfill a role where no other class can. Need your tank to turn into a damage guy or even off-healer? Druids can do this. If your tank dies and you need a damage dealer to step up and take a few hits for the team, you better hope you have a druid. Need a little extra healing from one of your casters? Druids come through with flying colors.

Little-Used Druid Skills that you must master
While druids don’t have a lot of crowd control, they can put both dragonkin and beasts to sleep by using the Hibernate skill. There are so few dragonkin in WoW and BC that the druid crowd-control is nearly forgotten many times. But think of hounds, bats, or rays for beasts, and you’ll see that druid CC is still alive.

Druid Skills You Should Always Use
For a long time Mark of the Wild (and of course the big sister Gift of the Wild) were considered the most awesome buffs in the game. They are still pretty awesome

Additionally for characters who are meant to keep an enemies attention (tanks, either others or themselves in bear form), druids should cast thorns. Thorns returns a little damage to an attacker, microscopically increasing threat.

Emergency Druid Skills
Barkskin is a self-buff that prevents spell pushback and is usable in all sorts of normally incapacitating states (stunned, feared, frozen, etc.) As an emergency, a druid can cast Barkskin and for twelve seconds do some uninterrupted casting.

In the case where an entire party needs some emergency healing, druids can cast an area heal in the form of Tranquility. Druids should be aware, however, that like all area healing spells, Tranquility can generate a lot of threat.

Advanced Druid Skills
If things go so far wrong, the druid has a number of escape mechanisms. Entangling Roots (currently usable only outside) can hold an enemy in place while the druid withdraws. Quick form changes (to travel form or cat form plus dash) can help you escape on land. If you need to get past water, aquatic form can be a boon as well. Just be aware of using water as an escape with aquatic creatures. Naga can swim faster than you do.

If you’re casting and run out of mana, swapping to a feral form allows your mana to regenerate as you continue to dish out damage.

Stereotypes with which Druids Live
The stereotypes for druids have actually gotten a lot better with the Burning Crusade. Prior to the 2.0 patch in preparation for BC, the only really raid viable tree for druids was restoration. With 2.0 and the BC, both feral and balance became more realistic. However, some bad itemization for balance led to the balance druids (Boomkins) being called Out-of-Mana-kins or OOMKins.

While not truly a stereotype, a druid that goes deeply enough into any of the three skill trees to get a “form” will rarely see any changes in gear as they advance. Players just beginning a druid should expect to see the same model for their character for a very long time.

Again, not strictly a stereotype of druids, only Night Elves (Alliance) and Tauren (Horde) can be druids. Thus you should like one of those two races before considering a druid.

Finally, there is the perception that as a feral or resto druid, you’re not good enough at tanking or healing to serve in that role for a five man instance. Your ability to perform that role is much more about your skill as a druid rather than an inherent weakness in either of those areas of the class. This stereotype is likely left over from pre-BC where these statements were truer.

Professional Considerations for the Druid
As wearers of leather, many druids go for leatherworking and skinning. There is a specialization tree in leatherworking that will increase either melee damage or spell damage & healing. . Leatherworking also allows the creation of armor kits which can increase armor on four locations. At high skill levels, these armor kits can increase elemental resistances, increase mana regeneration and even attack power.

Alchemy (and its companion herbalism) is also a popular choice for any character. Tauren druids also get a racial bonus to herbalism.


K said...

Crowd Control - Cyclone. Cannot be recast atop itself, but with a timer mod, you can cast it so it casts as soon as the other one goes off. Has a very short time (6 sec iirc), so - not great, but better than nothing sometimes.

Spells - Faerie Fire - reduces armor of target and doesn't allow them to go invisible.

Tank Tip - for large groups of mobs that you need to get threat on - Barkskin + Hurricane. Make sure the healer is ready, since you have to be in nelf form for this to work and your armor isn't that great.

Tank Tip - Just before a boss fight, pop Barkskin, Lifebloom and Rejuvination/Renew on yourself. Barkskin reduces damage taken, Lifebloom and Rejuv/Renew will up your threat as you take the HoT's, and hopefully keep it off your healer until you sink good aggro.

... 6 forms? Bear, Seal, Cat, Cheetah, Flight are the basic five. Feral druids won't get more than that. Balance and Resto will get 6 forms. 7 if they get a separate form for epic flight (that overwrites basic flight button, the way Dire Bear overwrites Bear).

Maybe blizz will give us new skins for Dire Bear. ><

Absitively & Posolutely said...

K also forgot the part of how awesome it is to be in cat form and tanking Curator!