When did druids become popular?

Allison Robert on WoWinsider posted about the warcraft realms stats that have druids not being dead last (where I remember them always being). I think I’ve lost track of how popular druids were. I still assumed we were near the bottom, since I stopped paying attention to those numbers, I was always used to being the underdog…

The druid class seems to have turned “flavor of the month” somewhere between the 1.8 patch and Burning Crusade, which seems like it was forever ago, but even then we weren’t super popular for a long time. Druids now are no where near the popularity level of paladins and death knights in the stats listed in the wowinsider post. Given Warcraft Realm’s likely margin of error, I figure we’re basically tied for third with hunters and warriors.

I think what brought druids up from second to last to tied for third sis that we can fill all 4 possible roles in a raid. This wasn’t always true. When we were just healers and leveling sucked, we had low population numbers. When leveling finally became fun, and they fixed the feral and balance trees, druids became a fun class to play.

I’ll help out Allison with a brief history of the druid class (as I see it) & how our popularity has changed over time.

Before patch 1.8druids had to level up as resto, had to play resto for instances, and had to heal the majority of the time. Tanking was possible as a resto druid in “tank” gear.

Between 1.8 and 2.0, we were in a bit of a transition phase. Feral & balance were starting to be a little better, and moonkin form came out (giving balance and end-tier talent worth picking up). However, the “hybrid penalty” was still in effect, where we couldn’t do anything quite as well as the “pure” classes at level 60. Mostly, the people who tried to go moonkin really were OOMkin, and I got mocked almost non-stop when I spec’d into moonkin.

Burning Crusade - During Beta testing, we got to play with an overpowered version of Mangle that got toned down. However, mangle (along with other new feral talents) really helped feral to become much better spec (decent tanking with decent damage in the same spec!). Resto got lifebloom and really came into it’s own for healing, and became really popular as a PvP Arena spec for a while. Moonkin got a bunch of good fixes for level 70, and became very group-friendly, even if their DPS numbers were low (they put the Boom in Boomkin). I personally gave up raiding on my druid for a while in Burning Crusade and leveled up a shaman healer (on alliance side) to spam chain heal & top healing meters. So, in general, I think the class in Burning Crusade was popular, but it just didn’t have the right tool set for each spec to really feel worthwhile in every situation.

WotLK - When they first gave away all the moonkin buffs to other classes, I almost cried because I was scared that moonkin would never get raid spots again. Fortunately, with the death of unique buffs we also saw the death of the hybrid penalty. Moonkin & cat druids now have at least some chance of topping damage meters at some point. Feral tanking is definitely good and accepted. Druid healing has a ton of spells to use and interesting dynamics in raid instances. We can fill any role just about as well as any class, and we can have two specs (yay dualspec system!). Being able to spec both moonkin and resto has been a ton of fun for me, and I bet a lot of other people leveled up their druids to 80 so that they could fill multiple roles with the same class.

Also, there are a LOT of people now with multiple 80s, that make the numbers really hard to interpret. You can have an 80 DK and never actually play it. It could be that some classes were fun to level up to 80, and then got put on the backburner in favor of what their “main” is.

7 Comments

  1. Posted May 15, 2009 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I started playing the game just as patch 1.9 was hitting live servers, so I don’t really know anything from before then, but I can see Druids just slowly amping up in popularity from that point on. I leveled feral, and swapped to resto to raid heal when I got to 60 (and luckily I liked it). When TBC came out, feral tanking was the flavor of the month. Almost every druid I knew went to feral. People saw how fun it could be and rolled druids, and now it does seem that everyone I know has a druid alt.

  2. smfea
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I started playing WoW last summer, and started with a dwarf hunter. Got to 70 a few weeks before WOTLK came out, then hit 80 about two weeks later. I’m a good hunter, but the class was just… meh. I started a number of other classes and nothing really caught my attention until I tried a druid. My main is my druid now, I hit 80 on him a couple months ago, and the class is just so much more fun to play. Dual-spec moonkin/tree.

    My hunter runs the cooking daily in Dalaran once a day, that’s about it… so perhaps I’m skewing the hunter:druid ratio a little since he does get played, for about five minutes, once a day. The rest of the time I’m on my druid. :)

  3. Lavata
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I skew all of the data with my alt-o-holicism.

    I use to usually play my druid but since there are enough other druids I have been focusing on my warrior for the most part. Since I broke down and purchased Dual-Spec on my 72 priest I will be playing that character a lot in the coming weeks and the push to 80.

    With an 80 Warrior, Druid, Shaman and Mage I have no idea how that skews the polls and data gathering algorithms.

  4. muriel / blackhand
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I’m an old druid and back in the day I knew all the druids on the server, if only in passing. We hit FoTM status in TBC because of the increasing viability of bear tanks, coupled with the fact that resto owned in PVP. Lots of people rolled druid alts to play with with, is what I’ve noticed and heard from talking to people. When Wrath came out those alts became mains ^^

  5. Viscount
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I rolled my Druid back when my guild was suffering from a healer shortage in BC days, and I decided to power level one so we would have people who could be healers that would stick with the guild (the officers were mainly dps in those days of my guild, and not healers or tanks like most guild and like it is now)
    I picked a druid because we didnt have any druid healers in the guild at that time, and didnt know how good (or bad) they were. Also I was very good at an affliction warlock and I figured dots and hots would be what I was good at. I got him to 70 in about 5 weeks and after a month of being a noob healer, I learned the ropes and quickly became one of my guilds better healers to the point where I couldnt bring my main and they wanted my alt for progression.
    He is now a backseat character which I enjoy playing at 80 but I went back to my Hunter main.

  6. Posted May 15, 2009 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    I’ve noticed it’s much harder now to get a raid spot as a resto druid on my server. Every raiding guild has a huge influx of druids, especially trees. What we seem to be missing out on is competent feral druids, believe it or not, or at least ones who are spec’d as tanks.

  7. Posted May 16, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I think that the introduction of Dual Specializations has and will continue to boost the popularity of Druids and other hybrids. Being able to switch between any combination of heals/dps, tank/dps, or heals/tank without so much as a trip to a faction city makes being a “jack of all trades” all the more appealing.

    Also, trees are really good right now even in spite of the spirit nerf. Actually, they are REALLY REALLY good.