Friday, March 30, 2007

Should Trash Respawn?

There's currently many complaints about the rate of trash respawns in the endgame. So far, it hasn't really been too severe in Karazhan yet, in my experience, but it looks to get a lot worse.

But is it really necessary to have trash respawn in an instance?

(Note that I am not talking about fights like the BWL Suppression Room, where the trash is part of the boss fight. Such trash should respawn if the fight was lost.)

I like trash mobs. It's a necessary part of the instance, and can lead to some interesting fights. Small twists without being a full on boss fight. An instance that was all bosses and no trash just wouldn't feel right to me.

But I don't really see the purpose of having trash respawn. I suppose it slows down progression, but unless the trash is truely excessive, I don't really think that it really affects the cutting edge guilds.

Realistically, trash respawns just make life hard on the lower tier guilds, the ones which aren't as good as the high end guilds. And I'm not sure that slowing down these guilds with trash is really necessary. The boss fight will block them from progressing.

I've disliked respawning trash ever since Scarlet Monastery. If I had a dollar for all the times I've gone through the instance, killed the bosses and been killed while running out, I'd be rich. And that's just silly in my view. Would it have hurt anything if the trash had just stayed dead?

If I recall correctly, trash in Blackwing Lair stayed dead once killed. (Well, sometimes you had to kill the entire group, if the trash was linked, which is an acceptable limitation.) And Blackwing Lair was a good raid dungeon. Did the fact that trash stayed dead make it a weaker dungeon? I'd argue that it made it one of the better dungeons.

Hard trash mobs, interesting trash mobs, linked groups of trash, that's all fine. But once the trash has been dealt with, it should stay dead.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Raid in the Life of Coriel

I read the official paladin forums, and everything with the paladin seems so negative. Healbot or die, basically. And then I go raid with my guild, and I enjoy my role.

Take today's Karazhan raid, for example. There were two pallies in the raid, myself (Protection) and T (Holy). T got to buff Kings, I tossed up the other buffs. I spent most of the raid in my hybrid gear. Both of us melee'd and spot healed on all the trash. I put up Judgement of Light, T put up Judgement of Wisdom. We got to Attumen, and we pretty much did the same thing, both of us melee'ing, healing and keeping Judgements up.

When we did Moroes, I swapped into tanking gear and off-tanked the retribution paladin. After he died, I went back to melee-healing on Moroes, keeping up Judgement of Light and running Seal of Wisdom (no mana in tanking gear :( ) to fuel the spot heals. T was melee'ing Moroes as well (I think he was healing more earlier in the fight). So melee, heal, and watching for Garrotes so I could BoP people.

For Maiden, I switched to healing gear, and we did the standard Blessing of Sacrifice, then keep the tank up. Quick and easy. Just healing and decursing. I like Sacrifice, and I really wish I got to use it more.

Down to the Opera event, where we got Big Bad Wolf. This was the first time I have seen this fight. I tried melee'ing for a bit, but got tired of chasing the Wolf so I mainly healed, and only melee'd in the spaces between Red Riding Hoods. T melee-healed a bit, but spend most of the fight running away as Red Riding Hood. (Seriously, he got the debuff more times than the rest of the raid combined.)

Tomorrow we get to try Curator, which is a new boss for us. I'll probably be mainly healing, as I don't feel like getting chain-lightning-ed to death.

Anyways, it was a good raid. We killed bosses and got epics. I got a [Ribbon of Sacrifice], heh. I also picked up a [Signet of Unshakable Faith]. I actually thought it was a ring at first, and was very confused when I tried to equip it and it disappeared. Thankfully no one else wanted it, so it wasn't wasted.

I melee'd, I healed, I tanked. I got to play a paladin to the full extent of their abilities. To be honest, this is pretty much what I imaged playing a paladin would be like.

Now, maybe my guild is not at the cutting edge of content. But we are progressing steadily, and I am having fun.

Those paladins who are unhappy with standing in the back need to ask themselves why they are standing in the back. Our class actually works fairly well when melee-healing. There are guilds out there which will let you melee, which trust you to know how to play your own character. You may have to look a bit to find them, but it's well worth the effort. You will enjoy playing your paladin once more.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Why Healing Sucks, Part I

Tomas recently posted an article asking "Does Healing Suck?". There are many reasons why many people don't like healing, including social and mechanical reasons. Here are some reasons. I doubt any of these complaints will be fixed by WoW. But perhaps a future game will consider the problems faced by healers. As this will probably get quite long, I'll go one issue at a time.

Issue #1: A healer interacts with the interface, not the game.

WoW has this really pretty game, with interestingly designed monsters. Too bad a healer doesn't see any of it. All a healer sees are the raid's health bars. When I was healbotting, I honestly could not tell you what the bosses looked like.

Now, a healer still has to pay attention to the battlefield, but they have to split that attention with the health bars. And really, all you watch for are the little cues that tell you you have to run somewhere to avoid some random effect.

If you pressed Ctrl-Z and the interface dropped away, could you still play the game? If you were a tank or dps, you could. You wouldn't be as effective, and you'd probably hear a lot of "Need more rage", but you could still play. Could a healer do the same thing? No, of course not!

It's telling that one of the major reasons that I use the sRaidframes UI is that the UI will show me when someone is out of range. By making me interact with the game less, I become a better healer.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Revisting the Fifth Man

In one of my very first posts, I wrote about how I believe that paladins were not part of the typical MMO triad of tank-healer-dps, and that they were something else: a fifth-man class. And that the ideal 5-man group was: tank, healer, dps, dps, fifth-man.

I no longer think this is case in The Burning Crusade.

Indeed, I think that the ideal party has become: tank, healer, dps, dps, dps.

There are three reasons that I am now leaning towards this. First, healing in most TBC instances seems to have become easier. Perhaps it is the increased stamina, perhaps it's just the way the fights are set up, but it seems much easier to heal than in WoW 1.0.

Second, there seems to be a greater emphasis on crowd control, with several pulls consisting of five or more mobs, something which was very rare in WoW 1.0. Crowd control is mostly the province of the dps classes. Having three dps classes gives you three options of crowd control, which makes a lot of the fights easier.

Third, and most importantly, a lot of fights are timed, or require you to kill adds quickly. I generally find that there are many fights where you need one dps class killing adds, and two dps on the boss. A paladin just cannot deal with the adds fast enough. Example fights include Grandmaster Vorpil in Shadow Labyrinth, Kargath Bladefist in Shattered Halls, and the entire instance of Black Morass.

Yes, it's probably possible to do these instances with 2x dps and a fifth-man, especially if they are geared, but it seems to me that 3x dps is a superior makeup.

I feel rather sad, because I really liked playing the fifth-man role, and I used to feel like an essential part of the group, providing the right solution at the right time. But now--if I'm in a fifth-man slot--I can't help but notice how much easier it would be if I was replaced by a dps character.

There are a lot of ramifications to this change. The changes to healing, and new Holy tree make paladins a lot more viable as main-healers, as do the changes to Protection for tanking. However, I'm not what the Retribution tree can do. Can they take a dps slot?

For the sake of argument, pretend that Retribution's damage matches a "real" dps class. Even then, they have no crowd control. Add to that the fact that their damage does not match an equally-geared dps class, especially if they do some healing, and it's no wonder that Retribution paladins are looked down on.

Shadow priests, in contrast, are acceptable because their damage does match that of the dps classes, they provide a *lot* of addition utility in health and mana regen, and they have crowd control in the form of Shackle.

With the passing of the paladin as fifth-man concept, I think that the Retribution tree has lost its way. Holy and Protection have been strengthened and drop into the healer and tank roles, but Retribution doesn't really have a purpose in 5-man content anymore.

Oddly enough, I would say that Retribution is a decent spec for raiding, because there is--in my Karazhan experience--a lot more room to act as a fifth-man, and crowd control becomes much less important. Additionally, the utility that Retribution does possess (Sanctified Crusader, Improved Sanctity Aura) becomes more and more powerful as the size of the group increases.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Playstyle with a Flying Mount

It's interesting how my playstyle has changed ever since I got my flying mount. I'm still questing in Shadowmoon Valley, but how I approach my quests has greatly changed.

Before, I used to run to the quest area, fight my way to the quest target, kill them or recover the item, and fight my way back out. As a paladin, you really don't have any tricks to avoid any of this. It's a very straightforward process.

Now with a flying mount, it's very different.

Step 1: Aerial Recon - Scout out the location and find the quest mob.
Step 2: Paradrop in - Hover directly above the quest mob and dismount so you fall to the ground right there.
Step 3: Kill the target, get the quest item.
Step 4: Jump out - mount up and take off.

Very commando-style gameplay. It's interesting because there are a lot of design implications for this playstyle. For example, I'm probably going to miss any quests that start between the base and my target. I'm just not going to see them.

I'm also going to kill a lot less mobs. Before you could count on having to kill many mobs while getting to the target, and that has implications on how much gold and xp I will get (or would have gotten if I was still levelling).

I mean, it's not a "bad" playstyle. A lot of the fun factor in having a flying mount comes from being able to do things like this. And I think Blizzard realizes this. There's a couple of quests in Shadowmoon Valley that seem specifically designed for this playstyle (Setting Up The Bomb, in particular).

But at the same time, I think it has a lot of future implications for how Blizzard is going to design expansions. Blizzard is, in a lot of ways, masters of "directed" gameplay. You get a quest to go to X, and on your way you get a quest to go to Y, and Blizzard carefully leads you around the world, allowing you to experience everything. I think we're going to see fewer quest NPCs wandering the roads of the world, and more quests at the various quest hubs.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tanking in Karazhan

I respecced to 20/41/0 today. Not a full tanking build, but something that should allow me to heal decently and act as an off-tank if we need an extra tank.

Well, it turned out that we only had one warrior in the raid tonight, so I got to off-tank! It was a lot of fun. I off-tanked trash until we got to the Maiden, where I swapped into healing gear and healed that fight.

Next we went to Moroes. Moroes is an interesting fight. One of the things about Moroes is that he will gouge the tank and go after the person with the second-highest threat. So we have two tanks building threat on Moroes.

Because a lot of paladin threat is based on Holy Shield, we decided to make me the main tank for this fight, and the warrior would build secondary threat and offtank the adds.

So I got to main-tank Moroes!

I did pretty well, I think, especially considering my gear level (go, go 467 defense!). I held Moroes, and lasted until he Enraged, at which point he promptly killed me. But the warrior held him for the rest of the fight, and the raid killed him.

It was a really good raid. I healed, melee'd, off-tanked trash, and even main-tanked a boss. Hopefully I wasn't too much of a stress for the healers.

As well, this was probably the first time one of our guild paladins has really tanked anything, and I think the warrior officer was happy with how I did. Hopefully, I'll be used as an off-tank in future fights. Either way, it's one more option for our raid, and more options are always good.

Now I just have to figure out how to get to 490 defense. I'm actually collecting 3 sets of gear at this point, and it gets quite difficult when you are presented with a choice of one really good tanking item, or one really good healing item.

I also need to get better at watching my health and using trinkets and consumables appropriately.

Back to Raiding

I finally finished my Karazhan key and joined my guild for a Kara run last night.

About the keying processing, I really like Black Morass. It's an inventive and fun instance. It is not, however, an instance that you can really do with a random pick-up group. It's ideal for a group of five friends to just go and practice, to fine-tune their strategy until they are successful. But when you are doing Black Morass in a pickup group, people leave your group after one try, new people join, it's just a big pain.

Anyways, back to Kara. It was good being back in a raid. I've really missed hitting mobs, and was actually very tired of healbotting. I think my Holy spec is a little extreme though, and I'm switching to a Holy/Protection mixture.

I'm seriously considering a Retribution spec, but my warriors love Kings, and I haven't really been able to make a Retribution build that incorporates Kings and enough healing to satisfy me. Given that I'm often the only paladin in a 10-man, having Kings is a necessity. I may go Retribution when we start trying the 25-mans, though.

Karazhan itself is a pretty nice instance, so far. I haven't seen very much of it. We killed Attumen the Huntsmen, and then wiped a lot on Moroes. Good times. The instance itself is an interesting place, less like a dungeon, and more like an actual house (albeit a very big house).

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Retribution Talent Idea

Actually, the post below gave me an idea for a Retribution talent:

Spirit and Steel (5 points)
Requires 20 points in Retribution Talents
Gives you a 4/8/12/16/20% bonus to Physical and Holy damage you deal for 8 sec after you cast Holy Light or Flash of Light.
Gives you a 4/8/12/16/20% bonus to the amount healed by your Holy Light or Flash of Light for 8 sec after you deal a damaging melee attack.

The truth of a paladin is that whenever you cast a healing spell, your damage-per-second goes down. And whenever you swing your weapon, your healing-per-second decreases. And it is this trade-off that causes most of the problems for paladins who want to melee.

This talent offsets that loss. Healing feeds damage, and damage feeds healing, which is how it should be for a paladin.

You could tweak the numbers, or even make them dependant on each other. The amount of extra healing could be determined by the amount of damage done by the last melee attack, and vice versa (though you'd have to be careful about getting into a positive feedback loop). But I think this might be a decent way of getting to the Vampiric Embrace ideal, without directly copying VE.

Edit: Clarified the dependancy idea. Also changed it to a five point talent and reduced the duration slightly.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Vampiric Embrace

I think I found where all the priests and druids went. I joined a group for Tempest Keep - Arcatraz. We had one priest and two druids. Guess who ended up main-healing?

It was still a good and successful run. And I got to play with a Shadow priest for the first time in TBC. Shadow priests really complement Holy Paladins, to an almost rediculous degree. All that extra mana fueled my larger heals, and the group healing through Vampiric Embrace took care of all the splash damage that makes paladin healing hard.

In many ways, Shadow priests are the one hybrid that Blizzard really got right. Unlike a paladin, a Shadow priest does not choose between healing and doing damage. They heal by doing damage. Vampiric Embrace is the critical talent that makes the Shadow priest work. And the amount healed is linked to the amount of damage done, which gives large incentive to maximize damage capabilities.

What a lot of paladins really want is our own Vampiric Embrace. (Angelic Embrace, maybe. Though Blizzard would probably call it something silly like Embrace of the Naaru.) Imagine a Retribution talent where you healed your party for a certain percentage of the damage that you do. That is the precise solution that would make many Retribution paladins happy, because it gives the extra, obvious purpose to their meleeing. We are a melee hybrid, and so we should support by meleeing.

Judgement of Light does not work as well as Vampiric Embrace because JoL is independent of the paladin. There is no support incentive for the Retribution paladin to maximize his damage in the same manner as the Shadow priest.

This solution to the paladin role is fairly obvious, and I think that is the reason that Blizzard has been resisting this. It's really too close to Vampiric Embrace, and I think that Blizzard does not want to just copy themselves. But I think all their other attempts have not truely restored the paladin class to the melee zone for the large majority of players.

But so long as casting a heal reduces your dps (which it does, as time spent casting takes away from time spent meleeing), I think paladins will always have this tension between being allowed on the front lines or being forced to healbot.

Thoughts on Holy

I bit the bullet and went Holy. 47/14/0, to be precise. It started off as 41/14/0, and then I couldn't figure out where to put the remaining points, so I decided to try out Blessed Life. Not sure if Blessed Life is really helping, but it seems good enough. The build is pretty good for healing, I find.

Since then I've main-healed Sethekk Halls, Durnholde, and Shadow Labyrinth. I think this was a good decision, if only because I haven't seen a priest or druid yet. As far as healing difficulty goes, I think the increased health available in TBC has really helped the paladin healer. You seem to have a lot more time to react, to cast Holy Light. Before TBC, I almost never cast Holy Light, as the target would usually die before the cast finished. But now, thanks to the 2 second Holy Light talent and the increased health, it's actually a useful spell again.

Speaking of talents, the 41-point Holy talent, Divine Illumination, is very strong. It's not a stylish 41-pointer, like Crusader Strike or Avenger's Shield, but it is incredibly useful. I try to pop it often, at around the 70% mana mark, and then go to town with Holy Light. Indeed, I think that builds that only put 40 points into Holy are shortchanging themselves if they want to be healers.

Of course, paladin healing is very group dependent. I had an awesome group for Shadow Labyrinth, probably the best pick-up group I've been in, and that made it much easier to heal. With a worse group, I could easily see Shadow Labyrinth being hard to heal.

The other advantage of being the only healer is that you get all the healing loot that drops. I've picked up four or so blues for my healing set. Sadly, I'm wearing a bit of cloth, leather, and mail, but hopefully I will replace them eventually.

(As an aside, you gotta love tells that begin, "Are you happy with your current guild?" Heh, I guess they liked my healing in Shadow Labyrinth. If I did take them up on the offer, it would probably be a big shock for them when I started meleeing in the raids. ;) )

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Debating going Holy

For some reason, I am having a terrible time getting groups for instances lately. In particular, it is really hard to find a primary healer. I'm not sure what's going on with them, but I'm considering switching to Holy, so I can at least try to be the primary healer in a 5-man.

I don't really like primary healing as a paladin, though. I love it as my priest, because I feel in control of the situation. I usually have time to pick and choose my healing spells, and it's like I always have the right tool for the right job as a priest.

I never have that same feeling of control when I'm main-healing on my paladin. I'm just praying that my Flash of Light/Holy Light spam is greater than the incoming damage. Either it is, and we survive the fight, or it isn't, and we don't. It's very nerve-racking, personally.

It's a bit annoying, because I think that the paladin is better suited to a 5th-man role, than as the primary healer. But what can one do? If there are no primary healers, I'll have to become one, or I'll never get an instance group off the ground.

To any Holy Paladins, what are your experiences main-healing the level 70 5-man instances, without a secondary healer? Is it doable, does it require significant gear, or are there some instances where you simply cannot primary-heal?

It's actually kind of frustrating. I haven't even been able to complete Mana Tombs yet, let alone any of the higher instances.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Thoughts on the Forbearance Nerf

For the upcoming patch, Blizzard was planning on making the Forbearance debuff (gained when you use Divine Shield, Avenging Wrath, or Blessing of Protection) give a -15% penalty to damage. They withdrew the nerf in the face of the large outcry.

I'm not too thrilled with the nerf, as it does hit paladins hard, but I do see the problem. Using BoP on a mage, who gets 12s to freely nuke a melee class, is insanely powerful, especially in Arenas where it is to the first death. So that could stand to be nerfed. But by hitting Forbearance, you hurt paladins--who already have the lowest DPS--even more. Especially when you consider that the debuff lasts 3 to 5 times longer than the ability you used. It's really over-kill, and I think that a more targetted nerf would be more appropriate.

Here's what I would suggest:

1. Blessing of Protection grants the Forbearance debuff, which gives -20% to all damage and healing spells.

2. Avenging Wrath and Divine Shield do NOT grant Forbearance.

3. Avenging Wrath and Diving Shield share the same cooldown. You can't use both of them back to back, or at the same time.

I think this restores some balance to the situation. It returns Blessing of Protection to an emergency cast, and does not allow multiple paladins to chain BoP. A paladin can now chain BoP and Divine Shield, but her healing and damage will be significantly reduced for a full minute. A heavy price, in my opinion.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Paladin Burst Damage Philosophy

One of the Blizzard CMs recently posted something about how Blizzard was looking at toning down paladin burst damage. And of course, the paladin boards erupted in outrage.

Now, I don't know if paladin burst damage needs to be toned down. It may be excessive, or it may be fine. But I think there is a deeper problem at the heart of this issue. One that will not be solved by the devs nerfing a specific skill.

For some reason, whenever paladins get abilities, they almost always get powerful abilities with long cooldowns. It's like that is Blizzard's first instinct when it comes to paladins. The problem with this design, is that you can line up all your cooldown skills and use them in a row to a huge effect. The paladin sees the 90% of the time they are without these skills, and considers them underpowered. The person who was on the receiving end the other 10% of the time is unhappy, and considers paladins overpowered.

Take the Crusader Strike nerf. CS used to have a 6s cooldown. That was deemed overpowered. Rather than reduce the damage, Blizzard chose to increase the cooldown to 10s. Thus the problem with burst damage remains.

Almost all of the paladin abilities are like that. Very powerful, but with long cooldowns. If anything, the paladin needs less powerful abilities, but usable more often. It would tone down our burst damage potential, and would also make playing a paladin a bit more interactive.

Pickup Group Weirdness

I was trying to do Mana Tombs yesterday. I finally got a halfway decent group consisting of a hunter, a priest, a druid, and a paladin (me). The group leader goes to look for a fifth. This is what I see in General chat:

[Group Leader]: LF1M Healer

Apparently, I was Protection, the priest was Shadow, and the druid Feral. And 3 of us wasn't good enough for the leader. Honestly, that's just crazy.


Finally hit 70 today in Blade's Edge Mountains. I ended up doing the entire run using rested XP. I haven't seen most of Blade's Edge, Netherstorm, or Shadowmoon yet.

I did run down to Shadowmoon and picked up my white gryphon. Pretty cool, even if I have almost no gold yet.

Now, I just have to get keyed for Kazarahan.