The time has come (the Allie said)
To talk of many things.
Of Roots and Bash and Travel Form,
And Strength (which scales with Kings).
Why Tauren cat form sucks so hard,
And whether trees have wings!
And, yes, before anyone asks, I'm tripping on too much cough syrup and ibuprofen after receiving a belated viral Christmas gift from a relative. So I'll just put this out there right now; this column's probably on the weird side. I took a long look at all three Druid specs over 2008 and saw a few sad things, a few happy things, a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants, and now I'm channeling the famous Mary Tyler Moore episode "Chuckles Bites the Dust," and that has to stop because I do not believe Mary Tyler Moore ever played a Druid.
If you're completely uninterested in reading an account of any spec that's not your own -- although that would make me weep into my little cup of generic label cough syrup -- here's a set of quick links to each:
For most of its history, balance has been the feathery lightweight of the Druid class. In classic WoW, there was very little gear to support it outside of Genesis. Even if you managed the ultra-rare feat of raiding as balance (and, post-patch 1.8, a moonkin), the spec was neither designed nor itemized to compete with either the mana efficiency or damage output of pure classes. No matter how well you played or how many pots you chugged, we were very unlikely to be competing seriously with the top damage dealers, and no amount of sacrificing goats to Gozer was going to change that.
Enter Burning Crusade. Moonkin mana efficiency, itemization, and damage all became significantly better in the expansion (I leveled as balance and was shocked and delighted to see leather with +spell damage among the early quest rewards in Hellfire Peninsula), and it was in that context that a European player (who did have extensive raiding experience as a moonkin in the classic endgame) made this video in the BC beta. But a year into BC in January 2008, moonkin were still having problems. Was their damage good? Yes. Was the spec fun to play? Well, I thought so, although Ghostcrawler confessed he didn't get much from playing with balance on his druid, and thought the spec needed work.
Were you likely to win a raid slot over a pure DPS in a min-max guild, or be a tank's first DPS choice for the giant hellish pulls in Shattered Halls or Shadow Lab? Probably not. The spec was vastly improved and much better itemized, but we were deliberately designed to play second banana to mages and warlocks in the interests of "balancing" us as a hybrid class. Class balance, by the way, consists of buffing and nerfing classes in proportion until a roughly equal level of crying from everyone has been achieved, so to be fair, we were hardly the only people unable to sheep, or fear, or sheep something and then fear it.
Patch 3.0.2 was, I would argue, an even more radical change for the spec than the launch of Burning Crusade. All of the lovely, lovely talents and abilities players had been running around with on the Wrath beta went live. Still better mana efficiency, no cooldown on Hurricane, insane raid buffs in the form of Earth and Moon and Improved Moonkin Form, the ability to root indoors, an interrupt/knockback in the form of Typhoon, and skyrocketing individual DPS have made moonkin unequivocally viable in both PvE and PvP. Moonkin are now a plurality among other Druids in my 5-man groups. There are always 2 in my 25-man raids, one of whom is (ye gods) a rerolled Warlock. Heavy balance builds are moving up the arena rankings. It's madness! Total madness! The dead are rising from their graves! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living tog -- wait. Raise Dead is a Death Knight spell. Well, even so.
If you'd asked me about moonkin in January 2008, I would have replied that I saw them as the Druid spec with the most to gain by far. Well, slap my ass and call me Sally (which, as it so happens, is the name of a popular hot sauce). At least from my perspective, my fellow Druids, we are in the Age of the Moonkin.
So raise a toast to your newfound damage, forget the auld lang syne, and git awae wi' ye, ye bonnie beastie, and say a wee prayer for yer poor moroselike feral an' resto comrades.
Wow, that's some good cough syrup. Think I'll have some more.