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Shifting Perspectives: 5 observations, part 2

Allison Robert

Observation #3:
Druids are still extremely unsuited to healing undergeared players.

If you've ever wondered why druid/warrior took off the way it did in BC 2v2, here's your answer -- healing a well-geared plate class (or, for that matter, the BC era's SL/SL warlock) is an ideal circumstance for a HoT-based healer. We heal slowly and over time, which is perfectly suited to the rate at which a well-geared plate class takes damage.

HoT's don't pair anywhere near as well with low-resilience gear (i.e. burst-a-plenty), and this includes you if you are the undergeared player, so don't drive yourself crazy trying to heal what is, in many ways, the unhealable. While you can improve this eventually by PvPing for better gear, you'll still encounter no end of undergeared, low-HP, and low-resilience teammates while healing BG's. Cold as this sounds, druid healers aren't likely to make a giant difference to the survivability of someone who's losing 1/3 to 1/4 of their health which each swipe that pesky MS warrior takes at them, and in a group situation you're probably better off devoting your GCD's elsewhere. Otherwise, you can expect to burn both your Nature's Swiftness/Healing Touch combo and Swiftmend on someone who's not going to survive the brawl no matter what you do.

I've been able to get around this in certain situations by LOSing an enemy and frantically spamming Nourish on undergeared DPS, but this generally won't work in Arathi Basin, Eye of the Storm, and Strand of the Ancients (Strand, by the way, is a lot of fun). The landscapes here are just too open, and a druid who has to spam Nourish to keep a partner alive is easy bait for another attacker.

Observation #4: Certain classes will make your life a living hell

There are certain classes who, regardless of the degree of success they may encounter in arena, have a wide array of skills that are well-suited to stomping battleground opponents. Retribution paladins (have I mentioned this before?), hunters, and warlocks have made my enemies list, but it's really the first one you have to worry about. While any given well-geared and played toon can harass you effectively, you usually have a fighting chance, even if it's only in the form of blowing through tons of mana to make a strategic retreat. Warriors do a ton of damage, but you can outrange Bladestorm. Keep shifting out of Frost Nova to avoid the worst burst from mages. Death knights can (and should) be kited; you should have a Nature's Grasp up in the seconds before you know a Death Grip is imminent, which you can usually provoke by running away even if you don't need to. You can (try to) break the cycle of a rogue stunlock with a well-timed trinket, although a well-geared one will (as always) kill you before you come out of it. Frankly, out of all the classes, druids have it easiest when it comes to escaping a fight gone south, and you should preserve at least a portion of your mana pool for this purpose if you can.

But the piqued side of me wonders if Blizzard's tried to shore up hunter arena performance to the point where these players are small gods without the constraints and LOS issues imposed by arena, with a huge array of abilities and CC's to be used on short cooldowns. Warlocks -- when did warlocks get such horrifying burst? When did that happen?

But both of them pale in comparison to Retribution pallys, who seem to have a ready answer for any effort we make to escape or survive. Not only is their damage massive and unhappily dependent on burst that chews through HoT's, but between that miserable stun, Judgment of Justice, and Hand of Freedom, there are few ways to avoid or escape them as a druid. I think this would be a lesser problem than it actually is if we weren't firmly in the age of the Overplayed-adin -- I have yet to zone into a battleground facing fewer than 3 retadins anywhere other than Warsong Gulch -- and below a certain gear level you should not bank on a surviving an HoJ. Right now the only way for me to escape a Retribution pally is to see him before he sees me and get a Roots or Cyclone off while I book it, or to start in stealth and never leave.

Versus most classes I still feel like I've got a fighting chance if I play well, though I'll admit this is less true of well-geared warriors and rogues. But I had yet to encounter the level of frustration I have had versus the average indifferently-geared lawladin of Wrath. Better gear has lessened their burst, but their array of toys is custom-built to wreck druids with little effort on their part.

The subject of battleground gods and the various factors that contribute to them is going to come up again shortly on the site, consequence of a recent team discussion here, so watch for an upcoming take on matters in Blood Sport. In the meantime, I'll leave you with Armory Data Mining's collection of data on class performance in battlegrounds.

Observation #5: Battleground achievements aren't well-suited to healers.

Battleground PvP basically encourages irresponsible play. The best honor doesn't come from playing defense, from being a healer who gets targeted and mowed down first, or from being or defending a flag runner -- it comes from ignoring the battleground objectives, letting someone else be the sucker who takes care of them, and fighting in the middle or on the roads. After experimenting with this for a little bit, I wasn't happy to discover that, despite Blizzard's addition of 50% increased honor from kills that occur near a node, I am usually down 100-300 honor in a given match if I defend rather than heal the pack of idiots picking fights with each other away from the objectives. Put very plainly, you are punished for playing to the battleground's aims.

But that's pretty much always been the case. I could deal with this if it weren't for the fact that most achievements -- and more particularly those that are required for for the meta Battlemaster -- are pretty bad for how healers get through BG's. Trying to outrange enemy DPS while keeping players in the thick of the fight healed isn't conducive to assaulting or defending a node, and I keep wondering how the hell I'm going to get something like Persistent Defender or Alterac Valley All-Star. I'm not going to be the first to click a flag when the flag carrier dies next to the warrior who just killed him, and I'm not likely to capture or recapture a node when I can't kill anyone who's there defending it. Add to this the inherent nature of being a healer -- the enemy players will, if they have half a brain in their heads, always target and kill you first -- and this is a knotty problem.

The simplest solution to this is to respec and not heal, but that just compounds the healer shortage in BG's. Well, we'll see. Future reports to come with a few hundred more +resilience under my belt and, with luck, one successful encounter with a pally.

Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty, and insight concerning the druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a Bear, Cat, Moonkin, Tree, or -- for some unaccountable reason -- stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny on druid changes in patch 3.2, questions and answers on new Bear and Cat forms, and thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).

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