As our tour of the proposed changes to character classes that will come with World of Warcraft: Legion comes near an end, we turn to the class I've personally played the least – Druids. I've started one up a few different times, gotten to where they could shift into different forms and then just went back to other characters. But when I got to Warlords of Draenor and they gave me a 90 level boost I decided to use it on a Druid. Now I'm wandering around Nagrand and Tanaan as a big cat and ready to see what things will change to the class I'm just starting to understand.
Druids are extremely unique in the game as they are the only class to have four specs. Guardian, Restoration, Feral and Balance allowing players to experience the world as a tank, healer, melee dps or range dps. You can also spend time as a bear, a cat, a walrus, a raven or a stag… and if you make them a Worgen you can also be a werewolf or a human. That's a whole lot of shapeshifting.
The focus for the designers going into Legion, in their own words, was empowering Balance gameplay, strengthening the cohesion of Guardian abilities and their fantasy themes, and renewing Druids' overall trait of shapeshifting between forms to fulfill distinct functions. So basically make Balance more powerful, tweak Guardian and make shapeshifting more important.
To address the shapeshifting, they are removing Heart of the Wild and giving Druid a series of Affinity talents tied to off-specs. These abilities are supposed to make using your other forms more powerful even when it isn't you main spec. The Balance Affinity increases range of all spells and attacks by 5 yards. Feral Affinity increases movement speed by 15%. Guardian Affinity reduces damage taken by 10% and the Resto Affinity constantly heals the druid or his allies when he's at full health. This allows the Druid to take different shapes depending on the situation and what would work best.
Now looking at the different specs, we'll start with Balance that has always been dependent on watching the user interface and waiting for queues. This forced players to cast spells in a predetermined order… taking the fun out of the game play. To make thing more flexible, they have eliminated the Eclipse bar and replaced it with Astral Power. Now you'll be focused on managing DoTs, building up Astral Power with Lunar Strike and Solar Wrath then using it with Starsurge or Starfall. One of the new spells is Blessing of the Ancients which gives you one of two blessing both geared towards restoring Astral Power.
Feral Druids aren't really going through any changes when it comes to mechanics. The focus here is on giving combat options in the talent trees. Allowing for more customization catering to different playing styles. Mastery is focused on Razor Claws, increasing the bleed damage done by your attacks while on of the talent specific traits is Jagged Wounds, a passive talent that doesn't change the damage your Rip, Rake and Thrash abilities does… but it makes it happen 33% faster.
There are some great themes behind the Guardian Druids but Blizzard felt that the game play failed to deliver on them. These tanks have been focused on dodging attacks which doesn't mesh well with the idea of the big tough bear. So they are de-emphasizing Dodge and focusing more on health, armor mitigation and regeneration. One of the new talents is Rend and Tear, making your Lacerate bleed make the damage your target does to you less while increasing the damage you do to them. Even your Mastery, Nature's Guardian not increases your health and the healing your receive by 40% while also increasing your attack power by 20%.
And finally there are the Restoration Druids which Blizzard was happy with overall, the only place really seeing a change is the Mastery. Harmony now increased your healing by 12% with each heal over time effect you place on a target. The idea is to emphasize heal over time abilities which fits well into the Resto themes. This is also evident in the new talent Flourish which is an instant cast with a 1 minute cooldown. It increase your heal over time effects by 10 seconds to all friendly targets within 60 yards.
The main pick up out of this is Druids should get ready to shapeshift more and the lines between the specs may be blurring just a little.
For more on the proposed changes to Druids, check out this write up by Blizzard.