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Shifting Perspectives: A brief history of time

Every Tuesday, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting Druids and those who group with them. This week, we plagiarize from Stephen Hawking, jack a WABAC Machine, and begin a joyride through the evolution of the Druid class.

Dear Blizzard,

There are too many bosses to write about in Ulduar. I find this vexing. Please eliminate 5.

Sincerely,

Sleepless in Silithus


Salutations, Druids. As is probably obvious, we're going to take a detour out of Ulduar class strategy this week, because I'm going to shoot myself if I have to write about another boss I haven't been able to smack around since the PTR. We'll be back for Freya, Thorim, and assorted vaguely Norse-sounding entitites wishing to destroy the world for some unspecified reason but they drop phat lewtz so who cares next week.

Anyway, one of the things that's fascinated me about the Druid class since Burning Crusade is the growth in its popularity. Historically we have never been among the more commonly-played classes, and for a wide swathe of classic WoW and BC, were actually the least-played class or within the bottom 3. While there are various reasons for this (and I could devote a column to how this probably happened), Druids became more popular as time went on, and an increasing number of people began to play the class without knowing just how far it's come.

A little time spent reading through Wowwiki's list of the game's patches makes for interesting reading. A little more than 5 years ago, Druids could Feign Death, the Feral 31-point talent was Improved Pounce, and Moonkin form wasn't even in a gleam in a designer's eye.

After finishing up our look at class strats in Ulduar, I'd like to continue looking at how the Druid class has changed from fall 2004 to present. When you look at the patch history on Wowwiki or nose around the net, it's shocking. It's like looking at a completely different class -- and, for all intents and purposes, it was.

THE BETA DRUID

Being a heavily abridged historye of ye Druid race in Old Tymes
, when the world was yonge and draggones roamed ye raids Deep Breathing much less than theye woold do in ye future, notwithstanding protests to ye contrarye by the gamye developer.

When World of Warcraft entered its alpha phase in 2003, this was what the character creation screen was like, and the picture to the right is -- yes! -- the alpha Tauren. Night Elves were pretty much the same as you'll see them today.

13 April 2004 -- Patch 0.6: The Druid class becomes available in the World of Warcraft beta. It is the second-to-last character class to do so, making its debut at the same time as hearthstones, attack power, and guilds.

A snapshot of the class as it began:
  • Bear Form's armor bonus is 65%.
  • Dire Bear's bonus is 125%.
  • Cat Form's attack speed is the same as the bear's and there is no Ferocious Bite.
  • Growl costs rage.
  • There is no Druid resurrection ability (in-combat or out-of-combat).
  • Shapeshifting is on a 10-second cooldown, cancels anything you may have buffed, and does not provide immunity to Polymorph (although Polymorph didn't -- I think -- even exist at that point. Mages had a spell called Sleep in its place).
  • Travel Form can be used indoors.
For all those of you out there who want to know exactly how old the current Druid forms are (absent the moonkin, Tree of Life, and flight forms, obviously), here you go: 5 years, 4 months, and 29 days.

15 June 2004 -- Patch 0.7: PvP is introduced to WoW alongside the mail system, so players are able to send letters to people telling them how much they suck. This is a primitive version of the official forums. Regrettably for all those of us with compulsive personalities, noncombat pets also make their debut. Druids, like most other classes, see a number of core abilities tweaked, mostly in the form of reducing rage/mana/energy costs, but nothing overly exciting.

7 July 2004 -- Patch 0.8: A few Cat abilities are renamed to be less weird. Plainsrunning is introduced for Tauren and results in the proliferation of Olympic cows.

17 August 2004 -- Patch 0.9: Hunters are added to the game. In a move that has curious parallels to present-day concerns, the Druid's Cat ability Play Dead is axed and given to Hunters in the form of Feign Death. Entangling Roots is changed from breaking on damage it causes to itself to damage caused by anything else, up to and including a nearby sneeze. Feral forms and the act of shapeshifting are heavily tweaked, with shapeshifting being reduced to a 1.5 second cooldown and mana regeneration now made possible in forms. On that note, I cannot begin to imagine the nightmare it would be to play a feral Druid today if that were still true.

8 September 2004 -- Patch 0.10: Druid talents become available. While this older list of Druid talents isn't a 100% correct list of what went live in September 2004, it's still broadly accurate. It does, however, exclude the hilarious Weapon Balance talent in the Restoration tree that increases the damage you deal with melee weapons in caster form by 10%.

Balance and Feral are, to be charitable, extremely weak (or at least, functionally so, given existing itemization when the game went live). Restoration is considered less so, but in comparison to the present, is still nowhere near the sheer healing, damage, or threat firepower of which a modern Druid is now capable.

The Balance 31-point talent is Hurricane on a 1-minute cooldown.

The Feral 31-point talent is...well, from what I can see there are 2 seventh-tier talents. You have your pick of Improved Pounce (giving a 50%/100% to add an additional combo point to your target, and giving rise to this fake-but-funny talent build in late 2006) and/or Primal Instinct (reducing shapeshifting costs by 25%), which most Druids now recognize as a version of the modern Natural Shapeshifter talent in the second tier of the Restoration tree.

The Restoration 31-point talent is Innervate on a 6-minute cooldown. Innervate, in conjunction with Nature's Swiftness and the relative lack of non-healing leather in classic WoW, is so invaluable at this stage that it seals the early fate of the Balance and Feral trees.

11 October 2004 -- Patch 0.12: This is where the beta Druid -- or at least a core ability -- began to be a whisper of its present self. Shapeshifting now breaks all root and snare effects -- possibly the single greatest strength that all Druids have in PvP combat. That screaming match you had with a Mage in the forums during Season 3 can trace its origins to this moment. Hibernate is now in the game, as are a beefier Bear and Dire Bear form.

7 November 2004 -- Patch 1.1.0: 1.1.0 is the last big patch before the classic game ships. The major addition to the class is the still-recognizable combat resurrection, Rebirth. Cats are also given some respite from falling damage in the form of Feline Grace, which remains in the game and is trainable at level 40. Later ranks of Mark of the Wild are changed to require reagents (there is no Gift of the Wild yet).

Filed under: Druid, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives, Analysis / Opinion, Features, Humor, Classes

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