In November 2010, before Cataclysm hit, I wrote a series of articles on why (or why not) to play a particular druidic race for theorycrafting, lore, and roleplay purposes. They turned out to be a really big hit with readers, and you can find them here:
- Shifting Perspectives: Why (or why not) to play a night elf druid
- Shifting Perspectives: Why (or why not) to play a tauren druid
- Shifting Perspectives: Why (or why not) to play a worgen druid
- Shifting Perspectives: Why (or why not) to play a troll druid
Within the game, this is who you are as a night elf druid. This is what the world thinks of you, and this is what you think of the world -- or at least, it's one perspective on it.
The defeat of Ragnaros and the successful growth and maintenance of the tree in the Firelands (sudden thought -- does it have a name other than the Sentinel Tree?) is a triumph for the elves, but you've got to wonder how they're handling the fallout from Deathwing's demise. The dragon aspects have inarguably been closest to the night elves out of all the Azerothian races, and they were intimately tied to the growing of Nordrassil, previous elven battles against the Qiraji and demon invasions, and now ... Well, it's pretty heavily implied that they, like the elves, are making their way through the world as mortals. It's got to be a pretty heavy psychological blow to realize that your champions have (probably) been deprived of their greatest powers, and it also means that the night elves almost certainly aren't getting their immortality back.
Having said that, Fandral Staghelm's absence from Teldrassil these days has removed the most persistent source of political infighting, and Malfurion's return has ensured that a power vacuum hasn't developed among the remaining elven druids. If your druid was more inclined toward Staghelm's point of view on the world, you could well be smarting over Tyrande and Malfurion's consolidated control over Darnassus, and so you might be spending a lot of time outside of elven territory as a result.
What does this mean for night elf druids? The night elves have a growing population of battle-hardened and well-traveled druids who've played key roles in Outland, Northrend, Kalimdor, and the Firelands, and that's a pretty interesting turn of events for such a xenophobic and isolationist race. It can be argued that, out of all their population, the druids are by far the most experienced with outside interaction and interest in the world's affairs. They're the core membership of the Cenarion Expedition, D.E.H.T.A., and the Guardians of Hyjal, and they're the people to turn to when the night elves want intelligence on what the other races are up to. That's a very different state of affairs from how we found elven druids in the original Warcraft series, and it might be that the younger druids are coping with this better than their millennia-old brethren.
The elves probably lost a lot of druids to Ragnaros, both in battle and to the Druids of the Flame, and I've always wondered if that points to some growing discontent among the faction, if not outright nihilism. Rather than safeguard a world guaranteed to be theirs for eternity, there are druids who want it destroyed outright. The Legacy of Leyara quest line is a nice hint at some of the undercurrents influencing events and a useful reminder that all politics are personal.
Between territorial losses to the orcs, the certain loss of their immortality, the loss of powerful support from the dragon aspects, and the growing power of the mortal races, it wouldn't be shocking if night elf druids were inwardly questioning what their place is in an increasingly uncertain world. Everything they were ever taught is being upended, and theirs is a culture far more used to micro change than macro. Your druid might be one of the joiners playing a major role in factions that seek to influence events (e.g., Guardians of Hyjal), or you might be someone who's increasingly withdrawn from a world you don't understand.
What do night elf druids think of the pandaren? Their emphasis on balance is likely to appeal to night elves, who have always seen nature as a balancing act -- predators keeping populations in check, forest fires weeding out the weak trees, and floods that nonetheless nurture the land as they recede. You will probably get along with the pandaren very well (that is, until their monks win one of your gear drops).
What is Azeroth's perspective on night elf druids now? "They're arrogant people, you know? Scary if they've been out in the field for a while without much civilizing influence, and they don't seem to care very much about us as long as the forests are healthy. But they're effective, I'll give them that. No one better for adapting to difficult terrain."
Best at tanking The night elves continue to be the best overall druidic race for tanking; it's tough to beat the passive 2% miss granted by Quickness. Shadowmeld is also a huge advantage in Arena, particularly for healers. Then again, resto hasn't fared anywhere near as well this expansion as it historically has.
Neutral points None of the night elves' racial bonuses have an impact on DPS or healing, although Elusiveness is nice for cats.
Shifting Perspectives helps you gear your bear druid, breaks down the facts about haste for trees, and then digs into the restoration mastery. You might also enjoy our look at the disappearance of the bear.