Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Fallout

One of the more curious side effects of the 2.3 patch is we're now seeing a lot of Paladins who originally rolled their character with the idea of being a true front line fighter now re-speccing from Holy to Ret. I've seen a few stories on the forums, heard a few say that they're going to re-spec on my server, and even gotten a couple of e-mails with questions from former Holy Pallies who are now trying to make Ret work for them. And the switch is, of course, always from Holy to Ret.

What interests me most about this is the transition pains of a game that has now come to rely on having those healers available. While druids and priests have really started to outshine us in healing these days, we're still tops at keeping up single targets, and best healer or not, so many of the healers for many guilds are Holy Paladins, and there are clearly Paladins who want to live their original vision for the class, the Uther Lightbringer ass-kicking.

I'm curious as to how many healers are eventually going to be lost for many guilds who rely on those healers. I assume most will stay Holy, for the sake of progression and filling your guild's niche, but there's going to be some lean times for a lot of guilds, and I don't think a lot of guilds have been saying to themselves, "Man, we have so many healers!"

I suppose ultimately we'll see how it pans out. Perhaps this is all overblown in my mind, but the number of Paladins I've heard say they're re-speccing has surprised me. If it does play out in this fashion, I'll probably have a comment or two on the short-sightedness of this game's design that shows up at times. Really, making a healer out of a class every Warcraft player would've assumed to be a melee character? When you do get around to patching it up to making that melee playstyle not just viable, but vividly and clearly viable to the majority of the players, you end up taking out a huge chunk of the healers that you designed your game around. Tsk.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

New header

As my good friend and guildmate created an awesome forum signature for me, I thought I might update my header. I still need to do some width adjustment on it, as you can see, but I figured I'd put it up for now. Let me know what you think! If its too cheesy, I'll do something else with it, but I thought it was a pretty cool touch.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It's all about the buffs.

Let me regale you with a short story of my last two raid events - Zul'Aman Monday night, and Gruul's Lair on a learning run with another guild on Friday.

In Gruul's Lair, I was in a group where the only notable buff was Leader of the Pack. We ran with only 2 Paladins, me and a Holy Pally, so my only 2 buffs were Salv and Wisdom.

I ran about 500-550 DPS for the total run, tops. A lot of running was a factor, as Gruul's involves getting chased off your boss fights, but it was still weak and I was frustrated at my performance.

Last night, I helped out on our last attempt of the cat boss. I was in a group with a feral druid, an Enhancement shammy (though no WF - agi was used for the druid), a fury warrior and a rogue. This time I had Kings, Might, Salv, Battle Shout, totems, Unleashed Rage, and LotP.

870 DPS.

I even used pots and and weightstones in Gruul's that I didn't touch for the ZA attempt. If I'd used my consumables, and gotten Improved WF outta the shammy, 1k DPS would have been no sweat.

So remember, it's ALL about the buffs. Running in a group with little buffing to help your damage will leave you languishing at the bottom. Running in a group with a absolute pile of buffs will have you rocking the charts from beginning to end.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Macros! Rotations!

Okay, really only one of each. In the previous post, someone mentioned the macro they used for Judgments. I've personally never really used a macro outside of old-school Decursive and targetting macros for various mobs in raid situations, so I confess to a bit of ignorance in the matter. So I tried it on our 4-man Heroic UB run the other night...

I like it.

The basic trick is:

/cast Judgement
/cast Seal of Command

Type that in for your macro and set it to your judgment button, and, with some caution, you'll never fail to have Seal of Command up for every proc - you can even cast it right before a swing with no worries.

The caution? Make bloody sure you don't hit the button while you're in GCD, or if you do, you have to click Seal of Command yourself. I'm still getting the feel of it, but I certainly see the potential it offers.

Using this macro and therefore lightening my button presses, I've found I'm generally able to fall into a steady rotation, which is more or less CS, Judge, CS, Rank 1 Consecrate, CS, Judge, Repeat. The 6-second CS adds a lot more activity, but I'm not feeling squeezed, and have still found time for Consecrate without getting screwed too much by the GCD. Things are looking up for our class!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Six Second Crusader Strike and You

So with the long-awaited CD reduction on Crusader Strike, a problem I first faced in ZG back in pre-BC 2.0 is this - how do you deal with adding such a frequent swing to your rotation?

Very carefully.

First task: Get a swing timer. A good one, anything on Curse with a decent rating should do. You must make sure never to let SoC not be up during a swing, and you'll be spamming a lot more attacks so be careful about this.

Second: Plan it out. I don't necessarily advocate finding "The Exact Rotation", where you know exactly what to do every second. I like a little ambiguity in my combat style, but the fundamentals of it are good to keep in mind. Falling into a steady pace isn't a bad idea at all, and at least understanding what you need to do to maximize your DPS is a good idea.

For example, timing can become a serious constraint: Hitting your Judgment at the wrong time means you have to recast SoC right when your CS is up from cooldown, wasting a couple of seconds. Not a big deal, of course, but do that enough times and it can really start to impact your ability to maximize your damage. Or perhaps you CS right after a judgment, and don't have enough time to recast SoC before your next swing. These are the problems that get in the way, and why you should have at least priorities on what gets precedence over other skills.

So what do you need to do? That is, what are the actions you must absolutely take?
Crusader Strike on the Cooldown, every time.
Have Seal of Command (or Blood for the BEs) up for every melee swing.

This is, of course, leaving out Judgments. These are still important, and the skills on older and newer librams available to us gives us the challenge of timing them right. For example, Libram of Avengement that jacks your crit rating up for 5 seconds. You want this for at least one SoC swing and one Crusader Strike, so your best bet is to get a melee swing in, Judge/Recast SoC (1.5 seconds GCD) and follow it up with a Crusader Strike that's just off cooldown. Nothing ever gets timed THAT well, of course, but that's the idea.

Judgments are a tertiary part of our damage, behind auto attack and Crusader Strike, but they have potential, especially with Avengement and the upcoming libram from Heroic Badges, and mean that you want to use a Judgment just before your other swings. Thus, it's ok to sit on the Judgment cooldown, since if you save it for when CS is nearly ready it can add a good chance for that CS to really count.

There are people who have worked out the Super Mega Perfect Combat Rotation for Retribution Paladins, and I'll probably quote some of their work if I can get a good solid quote sometime, but for now just keep in mind that Judgments should never be used if they'll in any way affect your Crusader Strike or swing timer. And, again, get a swing timer mod. Seriously.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wow that was a long post

Figured I would boil my last post down some. Essentially, I broke down our problems that prevent hybridization: the constant attention that must be paid to our combat system these days, especially with 6 sec Crusader Strike coming up, the hit-it-and-forget it buffing system we now have, and the relative unimportance of our auras were my basic notes I touched.

My suggestion to fix our class to make us melee-oriented hybrids is to break down our combat system, make it simpler and reduce the time and global cooldowns we deal with in maximizing our damage. That, alongside offering instant cast, short duration buffs we can offer every 15 seconds to a group and making our auras oriented to different groups (an AP buff, one, a healing one, mana regen, etc) will allow us to get into the group we prefer, whether it be the buffed to hell-and-back melee group, or the shadow priest group for regen.

We can't do anything while we're banging our head on GCDs, and heals are limited due to the fact that auto attack is so important. If we want to see some offhealing thrown in, a new healing spell with an instant cast and a low mana cost (and a 5-sec CD to make sure that all it is is an offheal) we could see some real hybridization going on.

Long story short, I'd like to see variety in the class, and I don't want it to be just melee, or healing style, or tanking. In my opinion, our variety should be in how we support our group, and giving us the time and the tools to do it would be what makes the class interesting.

Of course, that might suck for soloing, so my suggestion is have self-buff only skills that would share the CD with our group buffs. Boost our personal skills when we don't have anyone else around and all that.

Beta Pallies

This discussion of hybridization of the class got me thinking about the past, one which I was a part of for a good while. It's an interesting path that Blizzard has taken with the class.

Ignoring the whole "the original team left and the remaining one bastardized the class" as it's part conspiracy theory, part bitter resentment and a whole hell of a lot of impossible to prove, let's discuss what we were, and what that gave for us.

First off, I'm ignoring the Forsaken-as-undead thing. It was great and fun, but class/race balance being the obsession that it is, was hard to continue to work with for Blizzard. It's gone for a reason, and let's accept that. I want to discuss our skills, and what they provided.

Second off, I'm going from memory and a quick visit of a few beta-era impressions to remind me of some basic things. I played a Paladin to roughly 42, and stopped roughly a few weeks after we first got our lvl 40 free mount (the quest, I might add, has not changed since they first implemented it. Not even a single letter). This is not a thorough guide, but rather an opportunity to expound on the strengths of an alternative combat system.

Paladins in Beta had a completely different combat system. Our blessings did not exist, and most of them were present in the use of auras, with only Devo, Ret and the Resist Auras left over from that original time. For example, Aura of Might, which increased the entire party's attack power for a decent amount. Auras for healing (out of combat only) and mana regen (maybe OOC only, don't remember) were also available, and the Paladin switched Auras frequently, as each benefited a specific group.

Second, Seals were not part of our combat system, but our buffing system. Seals still lasted 30 seconds, but provided a buff to the class we cast them on - we had a buff to massively increase attack power against undead, a buff to increase threat caused by the targeted player, a buff to reduce threat in the same way. These buffs were quick instant casts (one seal per player per Pally) that provided a nice benefit to the target. I believe, however, BoP existed in its current form, though don't quote me on that.

Our combat system was basic, and kind of boring, but it was nice and decently interactive (less so compared to our modern system, thanks to the advent of a useful JoC and the new CS). You had Crusader Strike, and Holy Strike. Crusader Strike did only a little damage, but every application increased Holy damage done to the target by a certain amount and stacked to 5 times. I believe at 42 it was 30 per appication, up to 150 total. Fully spammable, its only weakness was poor mana efficiency, as it generally did less damage than it cost to cast. Thus on trash mobs you'd usually only use 2 or 3, and then follow up with your real weapon, Holy Strike.

Holy Strike was on a 10 sec cooldown, and did instant Holy damage of your weapon damage, plus a set amount, plus however much Crusader Strike debuffed them for. It gave a Pally flexibility. You had the choice of leading off with this, which did a solid amount of damage without any CSs up, or waiting til you stacked a few Crusader Strikes first. It wasn't a lot, but it at least gave you something to think about, and since a huge chunk of your damage came from Holy Strike and Crusader Strike (you had no skills that added damage per swing whatsoever, so auto attack was auto attack), you were left free to think about other things, and quick in-fight decisions were easily available. Drop the threat seal on your tank to give him some early aggro (or on yourself - you regularly tanked), drop the threat redux on the crazy mage. Switch auras to help the rogue out, switch again to get the mage some mana regen.

We were a melee class. We'd throw out heals in support here and there, but I never heard of any Paladin who tried to heal an instance. It was probably do-able, but who would want to take a class like this out of the thick of things? That's where we shined.

This is what made us a hybrid. We could tank pretty well, and would do it, but our tanking buff was just as easily thrown on a warrior. Our goal was to be upfront, buffing people, dropping the strikes and throwing out the occasional heal. Our combat system used primarily instant strikes, which meant between them if we threw out a couple of heals we'd only lose the occasional auto attack, not miss out on the SoC proc that would drop a big hit on the mob.

We have an actual combat system now, what with Crusader Strike, Judgement/Seal, Consecrate, etc. It's not nearly as interactive as a Rogue or Warrior's but it requires enough interaction that we can't ignore it, and using GCDs in the middle of the fight will hurt your damage when you're trying to maximize it.

I believe two things come out of Beta that we need to reconsider - the combat system and the auras. All of this is probably too complex, but I think if it were at least considered on some level the era of the hybrid could return.

Regarding the combat system, if we could reduce the attention paid to our melee swings without reducing our damage, we can use some of our spare time to be hybrid-y. Waiting 8 seconds between your Holy Strikes? Throw a quick heal before your next Crusader Strike. Toss out a few seals to give the tank some breathing room.

People seem to want to be able to heal while fighting - you see the occasional request to make Vengeance improve healing, for SA to improve healing, etc. But we cannot divert attention away from our combat system without weakening our ability to fight, and thus to improve our hybrid abilities, I'd like to see a more simplified combat system, and an increase to the interactivity of buffing. Dropping blessings for a system not unlike the beta seal system would make for some interesting options, assuming you prevent micromanaging each Pally that way (I'm thinking 15 sec cooldown between casting a Seal, and/or 1 minute active seals that buff a group rather than a player).

Second, the reason some Paladins find it hard to get into the melee group in a raid and score the buffs that make our damage hurt (Windfury Totem, Leader of the Pack, Battle Shout, Trueshot Aura, etc) is that what we offer we can offer from any group. The 2% increased damage is a start, but no one will drop you in the group just for that. Our old aura system, where the only way that rogue gets his 200 AP bonus is if you're in his group, would've ensured it. These days Holy Prot and Ret are viable in raids, and it's hardly unheard of to have at least one of each in a run. Devo will be available to the tank, Holy can provide a mana regen aura and Ret could thus offer an AP boost to everyone. Making Auras more valuable would help us dictate our position in the raid, especially if we can spec to improve them based on our talent tree.

I believe the advent of the Blessing system is what first chased us away from our original position. The combat system didn't help, but Blessings turned us into buffbots. While things are better now, with the advent of first 15 and now 30 minute greater blessings, it's still a turn away from the old, on-the-fly buffing system, and means our buffing is purely passive. Kings wore off, so recast. Salv wore off, so recast. Blah.

To condense my long post, I believe the following fundamental shift will create an interactive supporting class whose job is to be on the front lines, while improving the skills of everyone around them, the way a great leader should. And what, other than a great leader, should a Paladin be?

The change: simplified combat system retaining the equivalent damage currently available. Reduce reliance on auto attack and allow the Paladin to fill his time working on other tasks.

Eliminate Blessings and implement a new short-term buff system that allows a Paladin to toss out new buffs to a different group every 15-20 seconds, with some variety (increased mana regen, healing regen, increase threat, reduced threat, etc).

Improve Auras to the point that they dictate which group the Paladin should be in.

I believe if they could took a good hard look at Paladins and implement something along these lines, we can be a good old fashioned melee-focused hybrid with real group utility.