So my plan for this week's column was to talk about how balance currently looks in the beta (short version: pretty good), but judging by a quick scan through the beta forums, that's not what druids want to talk about. It's Symbiosis, all the way down ... and judging by the discussion, most people don't like what they're seeing. Allison's already written about it once before, but the topic's grown enough to where it deserves another treatment. (My blog contains a full breakdown of what each class currently gets and receives from the ability, along with more in-depth recommendations and strategy.)
I'll be blunt: I still love the unique concept of Symbiosis, and I think most of the criticism is shortsighted. I do have quibbles about some of the specific abilities. Overall, though, I think that the concept works and will provide access to some entertaining abilities we haven't had previously.
To be fair, however, let's look at some of the more common arguments against Symbiosis and attempt to deconstruct them. One important thing to note: Many of the abilities gained/given from Symbiosis are modified from their original forms, so read tooltips carefully (and realize that many are not updated). The Symbiosis version of Mirror Image, for example, is much weaker than the version used by mages.
All these abilities are useless!
By far, the complaint that the abilities selected are useless is most common. I have sympathy for this; if ferals could get Adrenaline Rush or balance could get Molten Armor, for example, it'd make the decision pretty easy for the druid. Unfortunately, being able to grab effective abilities like that would mean that the rest of our abilities would be tuned around having that ability. What do you do when your symbiote has to work late and can't make your 10-man raid? What happens if there are two druids and only one of the desired class? You're suddenly doing worse, through no fault of your own.
The same problem also exists in reverse. If we gave out abilities that increased other people's DPS/HPS, then we have the Dark Intent problem again, where other classes expect to get it and balance their rotation and gearing around it. When you have to work late, suddenly they're bummed. (Resto druids and shadow priests were the prime examples of this. When I was raiding as resto, I had two reforging profiles based on whether I was going to get DI that night or not, as getting to the correct haste breakpoint was critical.) It's not for nothing that DI is being changed to a raid-wide buff in Mists. Of course, you can avoid the cookie-cutter choice problem by getting and giving a straight-up buff to everyone -- but then it's not unique anymore. It's Feral Magic, which is also being removed.
All that said, I think some of the abilities are a bit too strong. I'd like to see tanks not get survivability cooldowns. Even though they are fairly weak, an extra 10% damage reduction CD can make a huge difference to progression, enough so that raid leaders will likely decree its use. My suggestion? Give all the tanks Wild Charge, but each tank class gets a different animal version of it, and they (briefly) assume that appearance when they use the ability, just for fun. Bring back PANZERKIN!
Also, I'm not going to address PvP in detail, but druids just became much more helpful in RBGs and Arenas. Balance druids with Hammer of Justice? Feral druids with Dispersion? Resto druids with Demonic Circle and Wild Charge? Good luck catching that combo!
It's too complicated!
I agree that the system's too complicated. The tooltip system is simply incapable of providing all the necessary information. Luckily, it's almost a certainty that someone will create an addon that lists the combinations and aids in managing multiple available Symbiosis effects for raid leaders. (DruidPower!) For what it's worth, I don't see the micromanagement of Symbiosis as being all that critical. If you're in a progression guild that already has gear and consumable standards (and checks logs to enforce them), then you're likely going to micromanage this as well. For the other 99% of us, the throughput benefits are so minimal that management time is better spent somewhere else.
It's really not that bad. If you're into analysis like I am, you'll have lots of fun with it coming up with crazy, oddball strategies. ("Hmm, our tanks keep dying during the soft enrage ... Let's give our Rogue Growl so he can Evasion tank for a few seconds, while I use his Cloak of Shadows to help me stay alive. Or, our tank could use some help with add kiting; he can get Ice Trap from a hunter while slightly helping his DPS with Dash, which reduces his Aspect of the Fox time.")
If you don't want to strategize that much, however, than simply learn which specs have abilities that help you the most, and Symbiosis with them. For feral, I'm already looking forward to Soul Swap (for add fights) or Dispersion, and balance will like Intervene (for movement purposes) or Unending Resolve. Say it with me: Dead druids don't do DPS. Of course, if you're a caster druid and intent on simply messing with your raid, there's always Misdirect/Leap of Faith.
This doesn't address fundamental issues!
This doesn't address fundamental issues, true, but you're comparing apples to oranges. I agree -- ferals still have a host of issues, balance still has problems with movement, and guardians are just half-baked at the moment. (Resto, at least, looks to be doing pretty good.) The team that designs new abilities is not necessarily the team that does balancing, though. Continue directing your feedback to the appropriate threads on the beta forum, and things will get sorted out by release -- or at least by the first patch, if we're not all playing monks by then.
Looking for the latest and greatest in feral cat druid guides? Shifting Perspectives has the answers! Check out our guide to soloing instances and raids, as well as our top gear recommendations and feral guides to the Siege of Wyrmrest Temple and the Fall of Deathwing.