Friday, June 26, 2015

A Day in the Past: Vanilla Feral

Back in the day, when Androgyn might have looked sorta like this...

rough estimate. this was awhile ago man.

 Or more accurately, usually like this...

(mouth breathing sounds)

Most of our enemies were dragons and undead, we didn't have flying mounts, and only 1% of the playerbase even saw our most difficult raids. It was a simpler time, when the world was new and
"of the Boar" was for some reason a stat combination that appeared on gear on purpose.

yeah we're doing this

I reminisce a lot. I can't help it. Nostalgia is one of my most frequent post tags. Well, I'm doing it again, and this time I'm going to do it with purpose. I've written about parts of the following personal history before - it was actually my ninth post on this blog. This time it has a little more of a narrowed focus and specific purpose. I'm going to do two things that I really like - I'm going to reminisce, and I'm going to tell stories about my reminiscences.

Welcome to A Day in the Past, my new series about Warcraft back in the day. Specifically, my Warcraft life. If you're a stick in the mud about that dreaded nostalgia, feel free to read my post about what it is and why it's totally normal and okay!

Now, on with the show!

I leveled Androgyn to about 12 before my hunter was even 60. 1.8, which overhauled druid talents and skills, piqued my interest into druids and I picked her back up. I leveled her to 60 as feral and I stayed feral when I got there. I was in love. I was determined to main swap by the time I had leveled her to 60, but because of complications due to my guild's rules, I was unable to until a mere month before we stopped raiding entirely - long enough to get just a handful of epics before the first expansion release.

But let's back up. As a vanilla era hybrid, I was basically subhuman. We didn't have paladins on horde side, but in my personal experience, feral druids were basically the most subhuman hybrid. Balance druids were not even a thing - balance was just the talent tree you put the rest of your points into when you went resto. Shaman were better than us on all hybrid fronts, though still had their own struggles, while shadow priests were accepted far more frequently than ferals. Warriors were the class every hybrid had a grudge against - they were somehow the best tanks while their DPS specs were simultaneously treated as pure.

Actually playing as feral in a group, except in extremely limited cases with your closest and most trusted friends and guildies, was simply a line you did not cross. I was not alone in my strife and I recall the very character names of the druids in my life who shared my struggle - four of us total, myself included. We collected the very best available feral gear we could - to the dismay and explosively angry reactions of every rogue, hunter, and warrior ever - we soloed and farmed as feral, conquered elite mobs and group quests with our wide array of healing, kiting, and tanking abilities, but were forced to don our resto kit of shame for group activities.

and it was always better than our feral gear

We had to wait for our feral gear. Items that were amazing for us were always "someone else's". Even if an item was mathematically per stat a better item for us, it was never ours. I was used to this kind of behavior from others since I had been playing a hunter beforehand. Take a rogue losing his mind because my hunter won Cape of the Black Baron over him as a pure DPS class and multiply that by tenfold, and for every single piece of gear.

Even when no one was there that could use it, simply rolling need on that item would frequently illicit unnecessary comments and abuse by party members. According to some players, I shouldn't even roll on a shadowcraft cap even when the other four members of the group are all clothies. I was warned against wearing my uncontested, rightfully won gear in public lest someone think I ninja'd it. Disenchanting an item was seen as a better option than letting us actually have it. Even our partners in the melee hybrid life, shaman, had somehow managed to achieve a higher spot on the socially perceived gear entitlement list. You had to have tenacity and patience to be a feral druid.

well this wasn't added until wotlk

Due to our treatment by the majority of the playerbase, my druid friends and I would form our own groups. We would purposefully exclude rogues and pile on the mages as best we could - we had to do what we had to do, since no one else would let us get gear. We would take turns carrying the healing side of the group so that one of us could DPS without worrying about the healing not being good enough - bad heals in a group would often cause even our own guildmates to persuade us to put on our resto gear. It was still tough - people would leave groups just because a druid was feral dpsing. Even when UBRS was a 15 man raid and Stratholme and Scholomance were 10 mans, a single feral in the group would scare off more people than an afk auto-following mage. Being feral was bad for business.

Once in awhile, when the stars were just right, we would have a "good enough group" to allow one or more of us the rare and glorious privilege of DPSing in a guild raid. Usually in 20 man off-night content, or heavy carries by overgeared main raiders in old content, though our most glorious feral freedom fighter was periodically given the succulent taste of DPSing in actual current raiding content - of course, only when it was already on farm. He was last in line for all of the gorgeous feral epics that dropped from real raid bosses, but he managed to collect quite a set. Of course, he still had to spend regular DKP for these items. Of course he did. 

since we're doing the nostalgia thing anyway

We knew we were capable, and our patience and determination to prove ourselves showed in our action. When allowed to DPS in ZG and AQ20, I all but topped the meters, falling behind only the main raiding fully geared DPS carriers, who were the reason I was granted the kindness to even so much as dare to burden my group with my childish and irresponsible dreams of pretending to be a real DPS. But even tangible evidence was not enough to prove a thing to our high and mighty pure classed and specced guildies - when we beat other people, we "were just really good at getting the right gear." When we were beaten by pures who overgeared us, it was because we were subhuman impure scum.

(Flashback fades into present day.)

Despite the struggles, I thoroughly enjoyed being a feral druid in vanilla. Having to work hard to be strong and capable is something I enjoy in a game, and being a vanilla feral had plenty of that. Feral felt a lot like finding a way to make something that was "broken" work correctly. It was a very accomplished feeling to solo hard mobs through practiced utilization of all of your most niche abilities, to beat another player who was your "hard counter", to be better than someone who was "taking the easy way." Those kinds of feelings are all but entirely gone in Warcraft today.

stop right there. that's for another day

A friend convinced me to go balance after my guild stopped raiding prior to TBC release, and I did. I grew attached, and I would watch in the future as ferals became more and more viable while I still managed to be the underdog spec. Balance was always powerful in the right hands, but it wasn't until this very expansion that we've managed to reach a place where we are socially accepted as a legitimate DPS class - which includes the honor of having even the worst of players manage to play our spec successfully. I've been dismissed by other players simply because I was balance as early as post-Siege Mists, and more than twice within the last year. This is post-hybrid tax era Warcraft and there were still people who were "surprised" to see a balance druid at the top of the meter.

Of course, I'd be lying if I didn't say I get a certain kind of enjoyment from being underestimated, only to blow people out of the water.

It's almost lost its fun, now that starfall is one of the most powerful spells in the entire game and there are more balance druids managing to operate at successful levels than ever before. We're coming to the end of underdog specs in entirety - it seems like every dog has had its day at this point.

This has been a day in the past as a vanilla feral druid. Stay tuned for more posts in the series, where this crotchety old veteran relives tales of the days of old.


No comments:

Post a Comment