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Skill Mastery: Symbiosis -- why you should be nice to druids

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I don't know what class you play. I don't know if you're any good at it. If you're looking for gold, I can tell you I don't have any. But what I do have is a very particular skill -- a skill I have acquired at level 87 after a long career of pleading with Blizzard for relevance. This skill makes me a nightmare for people like you. If you let the contents of your action bar go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you. I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will take everything you hold dear.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Symbiosis -- or as we like to call it around these parts, the reason you need to be nice to druids in Mists of Pandaria.

Or as we also like to call it, the endless, numb suckhole where raid balance goes to die.

Symbiosis at a glance

Symbiosis is a level 87 ability that allows a druid player to link with any friendly non-druid target, giving them one of your abilities and you one of theirs. What each player gets will depend on their spec at the time. Symbiosis can only be cast out of combat, so you won't be able to switch it for maximum effect in order to respond to fight conditions.

It doesn't make much sense to write anything about Symbiosis without covering what target players will get (and give) when a druid slaps it on you, so let's tackle that first. Fair warning: Most of the Symbiosis skills are not identical swaps. You'll see some cooldown and mechanic changes, so read the tooltips carefully. As an example, the Growl that rogues get from druids is completely unlike the simple taunt that it is in bear form.

Death knights

DKs get: DKs give: Druids

Casting Symbiosis on a fellow druid is incest, and incest is wrong.

Hunters

Hunters get: Hunters give: Mages

Mages get: Mages give: Monks

Monks get: What monks give to druids is unknown at this time.

Paladins

Paladins get: Paladins give: Priests

Priests get: Priests give: Rogues

Rogues get: Rogues give: Shaman

Shaman get: Shaman give: Warlocks

Warlocks get: Warlocks give: Warriors

Warriors get: Warriors give: Cool, right?

Now, there are a few things that are pretty obvious straight off. Most (though not all) of the swapped abilities are purely for utility and won't result in a damage increase for the receiving player. (Some players will be tempted to dismiss Symbiosis as a result, but this is a good way to head off any balance problems before they start.) Ideally, each fight will see the druid evaluating which exchange will be most beneficial for the group or raid on the basis of fight conditions, preferably before someone ninja-pulls the boss and renders the decision moot.

However, the availability of another set of cooldowns for tanks is going to be awfully tempting for raid leaders, particularly if you're pushing heroic content. My guess is that Symbiosis will mostly be used for that purpose until we start encountering fights where the raid really needs another Stampeding Roar or Anti-Magic Shell.

As for PvP, this may make a few class combinations in Arena viable, or it may not. Many of the swapped abilities are penalized with serious cooldowns or reduced effectiveness, and so they can't necessarily be relied upon to be game-changers. Of particular note here is that the restoration druid gets access to a number of survivability cooldowns, which is interesting as they're coming off their weakest expansion yet in Arena.

Otherwise, there are obviously a few swaps with the current list that aren't all that compelling or are outright problematic, but it's beta, and none of this has been extensively tested yet. Stay tuned, folks.

A few stray observations
  1. Blizzard seems intent on giving all caster DPSers barring elemental shaman a potential druidic heal.
  2. It's somewhat unfortunate that the druid's level 87 ability is completely useless while soloing.
  3. Being able to stealth as a restoration shaman in group with, say, a druid, two rogues, and a hunter could make 5-mans very quick.

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Mists of Pandaria

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