Ever since the Druid class preview came out last week, there's been a common, recurring theme among my fellow Druid bloggers, especially those of the leafy variety. The loss of their Tree of Life form as a permanent I-do-my-job-in-this-form form is not sitting well with them.
(As a quick aside, has anyone seen a tree the looks less alive than that form? I mean it's a tree and it's obviously "alive" in a way most trees aren't. So it's not exactly false advertising. But for the love of Cenarius, get some foliage on those things! Adam and Eve had more leaves on their bodies.)
Allison Robert wrote a very good post over on WoW.com about why both sides (Blizzard and the players) are correct in how they feel about the removal of the tree form. If you haven't read it, I suggest you go check it out.
The Tree and Moonkin forms were added in BC because they were specs that lacked what many view as the core characteristic of the Druid class: shifted forms. Ferals got these cool, useful Bear and Cat forms (although prior to and through much of BC they were neither cool nor useful...discuss) but the specs that were far more common lost out on those.
So suddenly they were able to shapeshift into meaningful and fun things, as well. Like the Feral forms, they came with some penalties (namely the loss of a huge chunk of abilities) and some bonuses. But there's still a major difference. The bonuses are passive. There's nothing you can actually do in those forms that you can't do in caster form (unless I'm missing something, in which case this entire post is blown).
When a druid goes Cat, he suddenly has access to about 18 abilities (give or take, depending on spec) that he can't use in caster form. Same with Bear. A Feral's forms are not just a skin change and a passive buff to existing abilities. They mean something.
That's something that the Tree and Moonkin forms need. But to do that--that is to give them such a wide array of unique tools to use--the devs would have to take those tools away from the other specs. The direct translation would be that only Trees can cast healing spells and only Doom Chickens can cast offensive spells. And you have to be in those respective forms to actually cast those spells.
This would gimp the Druid class significantly for every spec and I think every single druid would be up in arms over it. Rightly so.
Now I understand that there's heals only deeply specced Resto druids have access to. Same with spells and Balance druids. But they're still able to cast those spells at any time, regardless of form. I can't Mangle as a NElf.
So Blizz's plan is make the Tree form part of a cooldown ability. When used, the Druid gains the Tree form and uber-heals for a short period of time. After the uproar, GC conceded that they could do something like put a minor glyph into the game that Resto druids could equip to make their tree form permanent.
Incidentally, how would that work? Would they never be in caster form, able to show off their armor and weapons, unless they took out the glyph? Would I, as a Feral, have access to that--since it would be a glyph--and be able to run around in a tree form? I think that would upset some people. Even me. I use trees to sharpen my claws. Being one would feel weird.
How would Mages feel if the devs said "We're going to make Blizzard look more like falling snow than huge ice shards, unless you use it with this other cooldown ability. But we'll put in a glyph to always make it look like the cool version if you want to use that." (Bad example maybe, but you get the idea...changing something that's kind of iconic for the class and then letting them glyph it back the old way.)
And while we're at it, why is it only the Tree form getting the axe (ha!), when the Moonkin form is no different from a mechanics standpoint?
But then we get back to the heart of the issue. Once the passive (mastery) buffs are given for just speccing down a certain tree, regardless of form, Trees and Moonkins have a vanity form. But you know what? That's okay. Because shapeshifting is still what Druids are all about. And when you see a Tree or a Moonkin running around the city or in your raid, you instantly know what they're there to do. Don't take that away from them.
Karmaze over at I Be A Tree had the right idea, I think. Let Restos keep their tree form. Bake it into one of the other deep Resto talents. Even if it is just a skin. And then have the new cooldown "Transform [the druid] into a freakin huge blooming Tree of Life...And when I say freakin huge that’s what I mean...With leaves. And maybe fruit." (Quoted from Karm.)
A tree. With leaves. Go figure.
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