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Shifting Perspectives: Why (or why not) to play a troll druid


Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration and balance druids. This week, we complete our lore series with the Darkspear trolls.

The troll article's been the most requested among the lore articles I've been writing. Trolls are such an infrequently played race that I'm at a loss to understand this phenomenon. The only plausible explanations are that existing troll players are among the most fanatical in the game, or that there's a large and eager population of people who've been dying for the chance to have a troll druid while refusing to play a troll of any other class.

By the way, if you're at all interested in how this series has done so far in terms of popularity for the individual races, I'll have a quick look at that next week, before getting into the 4.0.3a guide. As of now, the worgen article has been the most popular, followed closely by the night elves. Tauren are dead last, by a margin of several thousand hits. I'm madly curious to see how the troll article's going to do.

The full series is available here:
  1. Shifting Perspectives: Why (or why not) to play a night elf druid
  2. Shifting Perspectives: Why (or why not) to play a tauren druid
  3. Shifting Perspectives: Why (or why not) to play a worgen druid
  4. Shifting Perspectives: Why (or why not) to play a troll druid


Considering the trolls
Look, mon; dragons are dumb. The elves, they brought the demons to the world, they killed millions and split de world apart, and what do the dragons do? 'Here be your magic tree! Enjoy being immortal!' And trolls? We fight de bugs, we fight Hakkar, we fight de Scourge, we fight da humans and elves -- yeah, dey all invaders, scratchin' and crowin' on land that ain't theirs!

Ysera, maybe, she OK. But you put your trust in da loa. Dragons are stupid, dey play favorites, and you gotta accept we ain't one.
Random facts:
  • Trolls have historically numbered among the least-played races in the game. As of the last data available from August 2010, they clock in at 4 percent of player characters, fighting gnomes and dwarves for the bottom of the population barrel. Some 29.4 percent of troll characters are female, and 70.6 percent are male.
  • It's widely speculated among players that trolls were the first sentient mortal race to have inhabited Azeroth and that elves are descended from a group of trolls who lived around the original Well of Eternity. While this would explain the physical similarity between the two races (particularly the ears), to my knowledge, it hasn't been confirmed by any official source.
  • The Darkspear are a remnant of the now-defunct Gurubashi Empire. While physically the smallest of the jungle trolls (something Blizzard's addressed with the use of the bulked-up troll model for non-Darkspear NPCs), they are widely believed to be the most intelligent.
Why you'd want to play one Trolls, and the Darkspear more particularly, exemplify adaptability. No matter where you go in Azeroth, odds are pretty good that trolls mastered the local flora and fauna before you were even aware they existed. One could argue that they're the most successful and yet overlooked of all Azerothian races, period; there's no environment they haven't shaped, no power they haven't explored, and no evil they haven't confronted -- or, more sadly, created themselves. This is a very old, very smart, and very cunning race with a talent for picking up the skills they need in order to survive. Add to that a useful buffer against physical injury (Regeneration), and it's easy to see how this race expanded so quickly.

It's possible that the Darkspear are the most intelligent of the Horde races (at least until goblins come along, and then it's a dead heat), and Vol'jin's been in Thrall's throne room since day one for a reason. The Darkspear know the territory and the challenges the Horde faces in its efforts to establish a foothold, and they bring an unrepentant sense of pragmatism to the inevitable conflicts. They wouldn't necessarily be the first people to consult if you're interested in drafting rules on war conduct, but they'd be your first port of call if you're interested in winning a fight. For a more concrete example, Varian Wrynn told Thrall to his face that the Alliance was just waiting for a more opportune moment to declare war. That's not a mistake Vol'jin would make. The leader of a tribe that's had to scramble for its own continued existence is more likely to sit back in Grommash Hold, hands steepled in front of him and observe: Telegraphing your intentions to an enemy in advance of your ability to act on them is stupid.

On a more psychological note, the Darkspear are unusually open to new ideas, perhaps the consequence of being one of the smaller and more picked-upon tribes among the Gurubashi. They don't feel obligated to respect the traditions of an empire that made their life miserable, and they're quick to assimilate any practice they deem useful. Having seen shamanism in action with the orcs and tauren, they picked it up in the brief period between Warcraft 3 and World of Warcraft -- and the process didn't stop there.

Come Cataclysm, they can be every class in the game barring the paladin, whose belief system they probably find laughable. There's an all-encompassing force out there emphasizing the spiritual unity of the universe and brotherhood between the races?

"Uh huh," say the trolls.

Why you might not want to play one The Darkspear have been on the short end of the stick for a while, and they've gotten used to approaching problems with a certain sense of moral flexibility. They are consummate survivors, but that's not really a compliment. From their perspective, right and wrong are cute little concepts invented by races growing fat off the land they stole from trolls. If you're fighting for your life, the distinction you make in combat is between things that keep you alive and things that don't. Anything else is a self-serving delusion. It's been a convenient line of thought for them to espouse given the hardships they've experienced, but these days, the Darkspear approach an unprecedented level of prosperity and stability. The closer they get to that point, the more the "Do what it takes" philosophy becomes cruelty for its own sake. They may reassess their approach to combat ... but then again, they may not.

I think it'd be fair to say that this is a resentful race, and that they may well overestimate the quality of the advice they offer given the rapidity of political change in Azeroth these days. Granted, they have a lot to resent; elves of all kinds have forced trolls off their land by the sheer weight of numbers or magic, and the enmity between the two races is doesn't look to abate in the future. Fortunately for Vol'jin and the Darkspear, they don't show too many signs of the traditional trollish refusal to face facts, but in Cataclysm, they find their voice in the Horde being marginalized to an uncomfortable degree. Are they going to counter this, or -- like countless troll empires before them -- will they rage fruitlessly against their declining influence while blaming everyone but themselves?

On a metagame note, trolls have long been plagued by some of the worst racials and most rushed art in the game. Female trolls have only one non-hideous face option (which has resulted in just about every player character looking exactly the same) and still, six years into the game, can't blink. It's long been thought that this was the result of both trolls and gnomes' somewhat late addition to the original game, a situation that Blizzard's moved to address with both races finally getting their own starting areas in Cataclysm. Still, the damage was done.

Allie's take Trolls: The most popular race that nobody plays. Theirs is an old culture with its own share of manufactured disasters, and Vol'jin bitterly resents not having his counsel heeded as Garrosh's influence rises. Trolls ask: Why go looking for trouble that you don't need? Why pick fights you can't win? Do you want to add to the ruins of civilizations all over Azeroth that made these mistakes? They've have had thousands of years to analyze their territorial losses to the elves and humans, and the Darkspear know better than anyone that the Horde isn't approaching potential conflict with the Alliance from a position of strength.

Within the beta, the goblin slums and the Darkspear neighborhood are cheek by jowl; one of the things I've wondered about is how much communication goes on between the two. The Forsaken and the blood elves have never had an extensive presence in Orgrimmar and probably don't care about Garrosh's frankly racist edict, but the Darkspear have had the experience of better treatment under Thrall. Now they're exiled from the main part of the city and, conveniently enough, housed next to another very smart, very cunning race. They may find common ground. If they do, Garrosh will have cause to regret a great many actions.

Racial attributes Troll racials have been a persistent sore point, and they've long been the butt of player jokes. While racials as a whole were improved in the jump to Wrath of the Lich King, troll racials still aren't particularly compelling, particularly if you play a druid.
  • Beast Slaying Situationally useful, but mostly while leveling. You'll be killing a lot of animal mobs on the trek to level 85, but you'll be hard pressed to find them in most raids. However, Magmaw and Chimaeron in Blackwing Descent are both beast-type mobs, so at least two of them will be waiting for you in the Cataclysm endgame.
  • Berserking This one's interesting. Note that it is not, strictly speaking, a haste increase, so it has no impact on the global cooldown or energy generation for cats. Overall, the racial is probably best for moonkin, but it's useful for bears (more white hits results in more rage), passably useful for resto unless you're just spamming instants (which you shouldn't be doing in Cataclysm), and kind of meh for cats, as it doesn't affect the majority of our damage.
  • Bow Specialization Completely useless. You can't equip or use bows.
  • Da Voodoo Shuffle Functionally useless, given that shapeshifting removes snares and roots much faster. Between Leader of the Pack and tiny shapeshifting costs in Cataclysm, even a feral will never run out of mana chain-shifting to escape snares.
  • Regeneration This has been the subject of many a hyena laugh from players. However, it did give the wonderful blog Troll Racials Are Overpowered ("I'm regenerating five HP per second and there's nothing you can do about it") its motto, so it can't all bad.
  • Throwing Specialization Completely useless. You can't equip or use throwing weapons.
Best for? Truthfully, the Horde druids' racials just aren't as good as those enjoyed by their Alliance counterparts. You can't beat Shadowmeld for arena, Quickness is way better than Endurance, and Viciousness outclasses Berserking. Even so, trolls are better for dedicated DPS players than tauren.

Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of druidic truth, beauty and insight. Whether you're a bear, cat, moonkin, tree or stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny, from a look at the disappearance of the bear tank to thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).

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

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