Bears have had a rough year. Cats...not so much so. Cats may actually be more popular in raids than their tanking brethren at this point, which shocks and terrifies me. There are things in life that you grow to enjoy with a certain lazy comfort, satisfied that they will never change:
1. Your parents will always love you.
2. That sweater doesn't look good on anyone but your sister.
3. You will never be on time with a column.
5. Blizzard will make placating noises about changing ugly moonkin and tree models but won't actually do it. (/crosses fingers)
So now I find myself in the position of having to question truths #1 and #2, although I derive some comfort from the fact that #3 will probably remain a constant.
The early part of the year for bears was spent tanking 3-drake Sartharion and HOLY S$&T CURTIS DID YOU SEE THAT? DID YOU SEE HOW MUCH I JUST GOT HIT FOR? Mother of God! Sturm und drang! Post no bills! That was a one-shot, wasn't it? The raid usually ran out of cooldowns while learning the fight, and with Shadron and Vesperon both up the bear invariably became a crispy critter on the next Flame Breath and over vent you heard a loud WHAM signaling the end of your raid progression, which coincidentally sounds a great deal like your raid leader throwing his headset at the bookcase and dislodging a copy of Why Bad Things Happen To Good Raiders ("Chapter Two: Developing the Flexibility to Kiss Your Ass Good-bye When the Disc Priest Lags"). Blizzard seems inordinately fond of giant, world-ending blows these days, against which Barkskin is a pathetic but necessary joke. I will concede to the rest of the glowering tank population that our effective health advantage grants us a hugely overpowered ability to die with less +overkill, and I will apologize for all those times in which I lorded it over the other tanks on our way back from the graveyard.
Apart from that, it became apparent that the population of bears over the course of the year was notso hotso. As to why:
- Were they hibernating?
- Were they being poached for their newly-improved skins?
- Were they (oh dear) just not that much fun to play anymore, with the "rotation" in 5-mans reduced to frantic Swipe and Maul spam to stay ahead of AoE-crazed DPS?
- Were they irritating to gear up, with half the raid rolling on melee leather while plate +defense gear was being sharded right and left?
- Or did people just hate playing a static model with stale animations?
Or -- more disturbing -- were druids being forced out of tank slots because everything with a brain stem and the ability to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide has a plate class these days? I can't exclude myself from this; I went back to level my Protection warrior (the Ur-Tank on which the bear was based) recently and was unsettled to discover that they really are a lot more interactive and fun these days. And Shockwave? Goddamn. I love Shockwave like a Brooklyn hipster loves not working. A small voice that has wormed its way into the back of my head lately has very quietly pointed out -- I am having more fun tanking on the leveling warrior in blues than the raid-geared bear. Blizzard may have succeeded a little too well with respect to making plate classes a cornucopia of rainbows and win this expansion, and I hope that some of the Protection warrior's dynamism finds its way to the bear.
As I swirl the dregs of my cough syrup in the little plastic dosage cup here and watch it cling to the sides (gotta aerate), I reflect on a few uncomfortable realities. I finish 2009 not looking very much like a druid out of form, with the knowledge that any melee leather I get in Icecrown is going to make my main look even worse than she already does, and with the equally certain knowledge that we will probably never see another beautiful Feral staff in the game again. We've lost our armor, we've lost our gear, we've lost our weapons, and right now a top-of-the-line feral druid looks like the malformed child of a geist and a Venus flytrap sporting whatever weapon the hunters didn't want because they can use the very cool-looking Quel'dalar.
Wait. I lost Twin's Pact to a hunter with Quel'dalar too.
Sudden but not particularly random thought -- I really miss Stanchion.
However, the hated version of Tauren cat form is finally out of the game (though not its airborne cousin, the wyvern), and that alone is enough to make 2009 a solid step in the right direction, and Blizzard a company populated by good and kind people who merit respect for finally putting the axe on that...that thing.
And because I would be remiss in not including this in any discussion of the 2009 Feral experience:
JOHN F^%*$ING MADDEN.