Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 22, 2007
Class balance and melee paladin problems

I got a long mail from a reader who is very upset about the talent spec choices of paladins, which he quoted as being "healbot, ignored and ridiculed". I'm not going to quote the letter in its entire length, as it is a bit ranty, and a bit too creative in spelling and punctuation. But he went to a lot of work collecting quotes and data from the Armoury. Did you know that 96% of the top 20 5v5 arena paladins are healing spec? And that 92% of the paladins who are exalted with Karazhan and have killed Magtheridon are holy? The quotes are from many of the top raiding guilds, who famously use paladins for healing and priests for dps. Now my highest level paladin is level 32, so I'm not an expert, but from all what I read paladins trying to tank with protection spec or deal damage with retribution spec find that they aren't very successful and nobody wants to play with them.

The underlying problem behind that is as old as Everquest: How strong should hybrid classes be? If a paladin would be as good a tank as a warrior, deal as much melee damage as a rogue, and heal as well as a priest, why would anybody want to play a warrior, rogue, or priest who only does one of these things? If you are a jack of all trades by definition you can be master of none of them. While I don't think a paladin should ever be good at dealing damage (covering three roles is just too much), I think the class could be better balanced to be able to replace either a priest or a warrior in a group that can't find one or the other. The reward for not being master of anything should be greater flexibility. Just like a druid is accepted as healer or tank, so should a paladin be able to tank better.

We discussed yesterday how a game's difficulty limits the players' freedom of choice. Certain classes being forced into certain talent specs is a typical example of that. If a raid group needs every last bit of efficiency to succeed, they aren't going to invite somebody who has chosen to concentrate on the weakest part of his class.

Of course having classes in the game that aren't great at dealing damage is a problem for PvP, where damage dealing is more important. Rumor has it that Warhammer Online will try to make all classes be equally good at damage dealing in PvP, although I have doubts that this will work. Even if you'd manage to make all classes equally good in PvP, you'll pay a price for it in PvE. You can't have a set of classes perfectly balanced in two completely different sets of circumstances without making everybody basically the same, which then would be just boring.
From the way I used to play 1st Ed D&D (PnP style), Jack of all Trade type classes were anywhere from 50-75% as effective as their primary class - so paladins and rangers could hold their own against fighters, but a true Fighter would have more levels, therefore more abilities and hitpoints.

Of course in 3rd Ed: all that got changed :/

But anyway, one thing I dislike about WoW is the actual talent tree. What they should have done was have one primary choice being a talent line itself - so Paladin (pure) would be the middle line, and Paladins (tank) and (heal) would be about 75% effective (dependant on gear or talent points spent) of the Warrior or Priest. Paladins themselves, however, would have their own specialised roles to play in WoW, so as to deliberately give the players a penalty on moving away.
I think the problem is that Paladins need a distinct identity. At the moment they're buff- and healbots. Yet my guild tanks Gruul with a paladin, and it works fine.

Paladins need something that they can bring to an entire fight, rather than doing all their 'bringing' in the buffing up phase, then just mashing the heal button (well, I suppose there are two of them). I'd suggest making jugements mean more or something, but I don't really know.
This kinda goes back to yesterdays topic about difficulty. Let me just say that i play a dwarven paladin in different games for way too long time now.

The difference between WoW 1.0 and WoW 2.0 for the majority of players is the pacing of raid encounters, wich went from sloooowwww to what we have now. This little pacing change, combined with the truly bad design of the paladin class' protection and retribution tree, forces this class to where it excels at. This class still is the single most effective healer, only getting beaten by shaman when it comes to heal multiple targets.

What i'm saying is, todays content demands a spot on and truly effective performance in healing, dps and tanking, while in WoW 1.0 you could get away with some classes underperfoming. The way the content is going now, the concept of hybrids is dead. You can not use a class wish does some of this and some of that. You need a focused one, cause the content demands it. Paladins still can do damage, they can tank now and they can heal. It's just that only excel in the healing department and with healers lacking in general you will be forced to heal, if you don't you penalty your team, group or raid.

You may not see huge pew pew numbers but if you truly look at the class with a little more attention to detail, you will find the single most effective support class this game has, by a large margin. Try to learn to love what the class now has, a true demand for in PvE and PvP, something wich was non-existent in WoW 1.0. Everyone who "ridicules" this class, really has no clue about the game. Ask some more advanced players about the value of paladins, you'll be suprised.
An experienced Prot-Paladin is a joy to team with.
Paladin is an extremely complex class; I tink a lot of Paladins don't realise just how versatile they can be.
This class still is the single most effective healer, only getting beaten by shaman when it comes to heal multiple targets

Erm.. disagree? Paladins are the best single target healers. Druids are the best at healing constant leels of damage accross a few people with hots. I don't really know what shamans are best at, but probably off-heals; big but inefficient heals, low level of healing off totems (I could be making that up).

Priests are still the best healers, as they do all of that, plus group healing, plus shields. OR go shadow, get a not-unreasonable amount of group healing and good dps.
Tobold, you misunderstand the heart of the paladin complaints. It's not about doing crazy damage or being able to tank things. Those are merely means to an end.

Paladins are a melee class which does not melee, but rather stands in the back.

And that feels wrong. It would be like telling a hunter not to use his bow.

What we want is to be on the front lines. What we get is standing at range.
As a Tank, I so love Healadins :) Heads and Tails above any other healing-specced class. Why? I love their buffs and I love the fact if I somehow (very rarely mind you)lose aggro on a muli-mob pull somewhere he wont get one shotted.

I have never understood why Blizz put their supposed main healing class of Priests in Cloth.

At least EQ, as messed up as it was, put their Clerics in friggin armor.
It's a problem not just for Paladins. Other classes also only have limited spec options, especially if you do want certain content to participate in.

Throughout history hunters only had 1-2 trees that were raid viable. Similarily for mages, where some trees would dominate what they could do.

Blizzard has buffed hybrids significantly since TBC. Druids got more of a lift than Paladins but Paladins did get core tanking skills that finally made them tank viable.

The main problem with paladins is that I know many people who rolled them thought they'd get a knight in shining armor. What they really got is a heal/tank hybrid. The real problem here is that Paladins a tuned so far into survivability that too much DPS will imbalance PVP... a familiar story I think.

I have a pala and a druid and certainly the druid is a more fun hybrid and the more flexible one as well.

That in turn is similar to the mage vs lock story. Locks used to have less DPS but tons of utility. Now locks caught up, because utility alone isn't enough. Paladins have insane utility, and only now really caught up in terms of healing efficiency.

But the trickiness with hybrids is in fact balancing. If you have equal DPS levels paladins, why roll DPS-only classes? In fact many rogues did feel threatened early on by feral druids, because they had comparable DPS levels. Only with raid gearing this has changed recently.

Hunters and locks got benched for Naxxramas raid stacking, never healers or tanks. So in a sense Paladins as class have higher desirability than other classes.

It's a tricky question. I do think that retri palas should have better DPS butit really doesn't solve the problem. Then they could get a DPS slot in raid, but you'd have to bench another DPS class for it. Who should that be?
It's funny how warriors and priests are better hybrids than the actually hybrid classes. If you spec them for tank/healer or DPS they excel at both. Most hybrid classes only excel at healing and are at 70-80% efficiency at DPS/Tanking.
There are of course paladins who rolled knowing what the WoW paladin is and love that role, but for me personally, the WoW paladin is nothing like the myriad other paladins I have ever played. From 1-59, I had a pleasant paladin experience, but at 60 that started to end. The xpack made it worse. I was exposed to the idea of a paladin from Sierra's Quest for Glory series, further refined my understanding through D&D (pen and paper and computer games), and even the RTS entries of the Warcraft series. The WoW paladin is only superficially similar to these other paladins. Classic paladins have healing abilities, but they are severely limited and not the focus of the class. Honor and self-sacrifice are part of the package too, although those are harder things to work into an MMO where player actions are too unpredictable and go generally unmonitored. But at the crux of paladin complaints is that a paladin is supposed to be a holy warrior, and that is not what 90% of paladins are in WoW.

So our problem with the class is not that we have limited spec options. It's that our best option has virtually nothing in common with the concept of a paladin. People always bring up paladin survivability and DPS when these discussions come up (looking at you Abel), but I think I speak for the dissatisfied paladins when I say we don't give a damn about DPS. GSH already said it once, and I'll repeat it. What we want is is for our usefulness to come from being in melee, and for that usefulness to be patently obvious to others. Holy paladins only stand in the back because their healing effectively kills their melee utility, so why should they bother? It makes me downright sad that shadow priest are filling a niche that paladins should occupy by rights: healing through fighting. Again, I'm NOT asking for high DPS. I'm asking for healing, for utility, through DPS, and I'm positive Blizzard could have tuned things so that paladins were still the bottom rung of the DPS ladder while providing more benefits in melee.

If I could tear down the paladin class and rebuild it, I would start by taking away the two healing spells with cast times. I would replace them with instant cast HoTs and shields. There'd have to be some tuning to balance it, but I don't really know why that wouldn't work. I would improve the utility of our seals for healing the paladin's party. Judgment of light should work like Vampiric Embrace, only balanced for our lower damage. We have that, and there is NO reason for a paladin to sit back. I'm sure dedicated holy paladins would be upset, but after months of being told "it's fine, l2p" by fellow paladins, I'm feeling surprisingly non-charitable.

It's a fact that prior to TBC, I could at least level and play 5 mans as a melee hybrid. I had a lot of fun doing that. I meleed. I backup healed when we had a bad pull or the main healer was low on mana. I off tanked easily. I saved my healer with a well placed blessing of protection, and prevent ed total wipes with divine intervention. I had two 6 second stuns on humanoids as ret/holy, which actually worked as a form of CC in a pinch. When I used all my tools, people noticed and I never had trouble finding a spot in a group. I stopped being able to get groups once BC came out. I think our strengths were always our intangibles, but raid encounters aren't designed to take advantage of those, and BC basically took WoW 1.0's endgame as its jumping off point. You don't get a group invite anymore based on being Mr. Intangibles.

So I specced protection for the expansion. It's just closer to what I want to do as a paladin, although I still miss being crazy swiss army knife man. Tanking creates the same type of limitations as being a main healer--I can't afford to throw up heals while I'm getting hit, so I'm losing half my identity. But we're definitely viable as tanks. There are even now a lot of unbelievers (I guess not surprising if those percentages are correct, many players probably just haven't encountered a prot paladin), but I end up showing them just how good paladin tanks are, so there's still satisfaction to be had as a paladin. But I just still feel that the class has taken a wrong turn since BC came out.
Tell that pally that if he wanted to play a warrior he should have rolled a god damn warrior.

Ditto for shadow priests who want to play like a mage. And druids who want to play like whatever worthless crap they morph into when they aren't healing.
Paladins are healers, period. If you don't like it reroll. It's never going to change. Or keep crying, I don't really give a damn. I have a mage and have a blast every day.
I believe that Warhammer's model is to make classes (and they have a lot of them) distinct by making them highly specialized. The Bright Wizards aren't mages; they're fire mages, and just fire mages. While it's a potential solution to one problem, I worry that it causes another in that classes may be somewhat inflexible.
Well, the solution seems to me to be giving ret a little more utility; you can't really give it more damage because of PVP balance. Prot seems to be perfectly competitive as a tank now that crushing blows were removed from a lot of bosses.

Really I think this is a problem with talent trees not playing well with hybrids; as long as each one pushes you in the direction of doing one thing really well you are likely to wind up just doing one thing in the endgame.

As for WAR, it seems to me from reading hands-on impressions that each faction has a tank, melee dps, ranged dps, and dps/healer. The tank and healer are likely to be less heavily differentiated from the dps groups, but each one is likely to be a different flavor as an above poster mentioned. Hopefully mythic will sacrifice pve balance for pvp balance, but historically they simply haven't been great at any balance. We'll see...
As far as complaining about certain *specs* not being PVP viable, I can certainly understand where the complaints come from.

But at least be glad that one spec of your class is arena viable (Holy for pallies, MS for warriors). Certain classes like druids are not arena viable, no matter the spec.
Holy Paladins are the best single target healers. Add their buffs and versatility and they are imperative to raids.

Protection Paladins can tank many mobs far better than a tank. If you don't agree look for a good prot Pala on your server and go hunting with him. While he tanks 15 mobs you can nuke them down and he won't loose aggro. In healing gear he also makes a good support healer if only MT's will tank a boss for example.

Each one have their role and they fullfill it. Use them for that and each hybrid has their place.

The former poster asked what Shamis are good about in healing: group healing. They excel at that and can heal each group in a raid very effectvely. Add their totems and you have fun (mana regeneration is awesome for other healers in their group)
I play a reckoning pally. It is alot of fun. For instances and PuG play my class makes groups that normally wouldnt stand a chance, work well. ie a ramparts group that was 2 warlocks and 2 hunters and me. I healed, and tanked as they PEW PEWed.

HOLY specc'ed pallies benefit the most from the gear that is available. There honestly is no retribution-spec gear that is the best, mix of green and perhaps some epics might do the trick but it not as simple to trick out a retrib pally as a holy pally would be.

My suggestions for making pallys not so lame is to give them more of a melee leadership role. IE.. a seal that when put on the mob stacks up damage/aggro for each hit that the mob does on a non-pally class(sort of a righteous defense seal). And if that does pull the aggro back ontu the pally he gets another new seal that makes a temporary bubble whenever the mob crits on him. (sort of like a divine shield seal, with a cooldown of every 5 seconds).

These two seals would bring pallys back into a holy warrior style of gameplay. However there are many other ways to fix the lame pally builds available..

One simple ways to make paladin better would be different talent tree skills. The holy tree has the least amount of useless talents and also ironically has the most of the very useful pally talents as well (lights grace why pallys make great healers). If they for example swapped Lights grace (25 point deep skill) for Improved retribution aura (honestly, most worthless talent in the game) then you could see more hybrid and happier pallies. I might even suggest removing all their passive abilities that are gained from talents, and put them as core paladin skills that every paladin can learn and to replace the talents with active abilities that seperate what type of utility a paladin can bring.

And for whoever said the holy pallys are 90% of the pallies,
its pretty close. More like 75%, which is still rediculas.


"Anonymous said...
Tell that pally that if he wanted to play a warrior he should have rolled a god damn warrior.

Ditto for shadow priests who want to play like a mage. And druids who want to play like whatever worthless crap they morph into when they aren't healing.

22/6/07 16:36

Anonymous said...
Paladins are healers, period. If you don't like it reroll. It's never going to change. Or keep crying, I don't really give a damn. I have a mage and have a blast every day."

ok, thanks for your intelligent and completely unbias opinion you definately are unlike moron-infest posters that plague the wow forums. Infact it is great to hear you can manage to play such a kiddy class so well that you enjoy it everyday. Maybe you will see the light and play something challenging like a paladin.
"If a paladin would be as good a tank as a warrior, deal as much melee damage as a rogue, and heal as well as a priest, why would anybody want to play a warrior, rogue, or priest who only does one of these things? If you are a jack of all trades by definition you can be master of none of them. While I don't think a paladin should ever be good at dealing damage (covering three roles is just too much)..."

Can you say "druid"?
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