Greg Street (Ghostcrawler) talks Paladins

Above: Judgement of Justice in action. Note the gap between the two people.

Earlier today, Bornakk posted a Q&A session with Ghostcrawler on Paladin forums. Some of it was good news, some of it was bad, and some of it was head-scratching. Below is the entire article, with my comments and thoughts italicized in yellow:

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Community Team: In this segment, we will be talking with Greg Street about the paladin class and discussing where this class started and where we feel they are going, as well as covering an assortment of topics relating to itemization, buffs, abilities, and other cool stuff.

Q. Where do paladins fit into the larger scope of things currently and where do you see them going from this point forward?
A. The paladin is an iconic class from fantasy role-playing, and one which Warcraft has been able to put its own stamp all over. Obviously they figure prominently in the lore, up to and including the Lich King himself.

The paladin started out as a defensive buffing class. Early on, buffs were pretty much the entire reason you’d want to group with a paladin. (And if you want to put a fine point on it, it took about all of the paladin’s attention to keep those buffs up).
Truth. If anyone remembers 5 minute Blessings for 40-man raids, then God Bless you.

End-game paladins in vanilla World of Warcraft were pretty much healers, which was disappointing for some players to discover once they reached level 60. As most of our readers probably already know, the paladin class was exclusive to the Alliance. We realized that we kept pushing the paladin and shaman abilities closer and closer together to solve faction imbalance issues, and that process was hurting the classes, so we’d be better off just having paladins and shamans on both sides. In Burning Crusade, paladins gained the ability to tank and could do so quite well in some situations, but were still positioned more in an off-tank role. In Wrath of the Lich King, we finally embraced all three specs of paladins: Protection paladins can tank anything. Retribution paladins are a legitimate dps spec in both PvE and PvP. And of course, paladins could still heal.
Key words here:
"We finally embraced all three specs..." It's pretty insulting to know that they not only didn't take our other two trees seriously, but they did it on purpose. Worse, it took them four years to finally fix it. It's little hints like this that point to an obvious overall bias against Paladins in the earlier years, whether subconscious or not. I'm glad they're solving our problems today.

Q. What is it that makes them unique compared to all other classes?
A. Despite our design changes to share buffs around among more classes, we still kept several abilities unique to the paladin in order to keep a hint of their original role. Thus paladins have everything from their powerful Blessings (not unique - other classes can buff) to their bubbles like Divine Shield, (not unique -other classes have shields) the ability to dispel multiple kinds of debuffs, (not unique - other classes can dispel) and utility abilities like Blessing of Freedom (not unique - it's a trinket) or Hammer of Justice (not unique - other classes can stun). Paladins can wear plate armor in all three roles, which is particularly powerful for a healer (ah! very true!). Finally, the Seal and Judgement system is a unique mechanic that works like no other class.
Now if only we could fix the Seals themselves which have been lame since Vanilla. I'm lookin' at you, Seal of Command.

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Community Team: We’ve received quite a bit of feedback concerning the current itemization for paladin tier-set gear and the importance of other stats over MP5.

Q. Specifically, how do we feel about the healing itemization for paladins thus far? Do we still feel MP5 is as important as other stats such as Int, Crit, Haste, and Spell Power? Are there plans to incorporate more of these other stats in later tiers of paladin healing gear?
A. In Lich King up until now, MP5 has not been as valuable to most paladins as say Int, Crit, or Spell Power, and really it wasn’t intended to be. It is particularly relevant that you are hardly ever choosing between Int and MP5. However, we also think that MP5 became undervalued as a stat and as most of you know, we are buffing it for 3.2. That's good. But it's happening at the cost of cutting our benefit from Crit in half. Furthermore, we think we have allowed paladin mana regen through Int and Crit to get a little out of control. We don’t want to force paladins to care only about MP5, but we also don’t want them viewing it as a total junk stat, like say Agility, either. Crit is just too beneficial to be strictly a regen stat.
The problem with this, though, is that every healing class has a "junk" stat; I don't know many Resto Druids that rely on Crit, and if they had to choose between Crit and Spirit or MP5 or even Haste, Crit takes the backseat. So much like the old days of Spell Damage, Paladins are being forced to itemized a bit too much. In the words of Bilbo,
Sort of stretched, like... butter scraped over too much bread." There's an easier and much more elegant solution...

From the 3.2 PTR testing so far, it seems like some Holy paladins are taking a second look at Haste and MP5 possibly instead of Crit. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, and we will adjust as necessary, but it’s nice to see paladins at least consider the stats now before making a gear decision.

We have also hinted before that we’ve had trouble developing distinct niches for MP5 and Spirit and are considering collapsing those two stats in the future. <-- And there's your better solution. Chances are, the classes that rely on Spirit also get the most use out of MP5. Leave us Paladins out of that and let us be non-AoE healing crit machines. This would be a change with a lot of ramifications though -- we wouldn’t just replace MP5 on gear with Spirit and call it a day.
Obviously. But I can see this happening around the same time they get rid of Spell Power plate gear and have it scale with, say, Strength. Look for this change to occur around the eve of the next expansion.

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Community Team: Paladins provide a slew of powerful buffs and spells that help all classes with tanking, healing and damage-dealing.

Q. How do we feel about raid-wide paladin buffs instead of limiting the buff applications per class, only?
A. We think it works out fine. It’s a different buff mechanic than other classes and helps to ensure that the second or third paladin is still considered valuable instead of letting a single one buff everyone.
Now just get rid of the 10-minute/30-minute nonsense so we can single-buff that hybrid that wants Might instead of Wisdom without having to keep an eye on Pally Power and hear him complain mid-fight. And when you're leveling, you'll just waste mana and put it back on after 9 minutes. It's just an annoyance, and an old, silly idea from half a decade ago. Let it go.

Q. Blessing of Sanctuary is designed around providing buffs for tanks; are there plans to re-work its design to provide added benefits for more than just tanking?
A. No, we want it to be a tanking Blessing. However, we want it to be a superior tanking buff than Kings for the Protection paladin. In the 3.2 patch notes, we indicated that Sanctuary will also provide the same Stam buff as Kings, but will not stack with Kings (though Kings would still provide bonuses to the other stats).
I loved this change and thought it was brilliant. More than buffs and new spells, I love creative changes to current tools that make logical sense and help everyone around. I would, however, take it a step further and completely merge it with Kings, thereby giving everyone in the raid the full benefit of both Blessings, and freeing up your Holy and Ret Paladin for Wisdom and Might, respectively.

Q. Do we feel Flash of Light and the changes in store for it will allow for additional diversification for the existing healing spells available? Aside from Healing Light, (it's Holy Light, but I'll let you slide since you work for Blizzard) Flash of Light, and Holy Shock, are there any plans to provide paladins with other interesting healing spells later down the road?
A. Later down the road most likely, but it won’t be for 3.2 and it won’t be with something that looks like Prayer of Healing or Wild Growth. We do think paladins will have more of a use for Flash of Light now with the extra benefit to Sacred Shield. The changes to Beacon of Light in 3.2 should make paladins an exceptional dual target healer.
Holy is in a fantastic place right now, overall. Minus the face-palming Illumination/MP5 changes, the actual tools we have and the mechanics they employ are borderline genius. Now more than ever you can tell who is a good Holy Paladin and a bad Holy Paladin and every level of skill in between. There's no more Flash of Light spam like in Vanilla and BC, and there's no more Holy Light bombing as it was earlier this expansion. Now you have to make full use of Sacred Shield/FoL HoTs, Beacon of Light placement, HS/FoL combos, and strategic use of Holy Lights and Divine Plea. We may only have three "actual" heals, but the ways you can change them, use them, and expolit them to maximum potential is amazing. I've been playing since 2004, and there's never been a more fun time to be a Paladin than right now.

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Community Team: Now that we’re on the topic of paladin buffs and spells, dps and versatility has been a topic of concern for many players with respect to both PvE and PvP.

Q. All classes vary in dps from one encounter to another; however, some paladins may feel their dps can be less competitive at times in comparison to other classes, more so in straight stationary single-target dps encounters. How do we feel paladins are doing in terms of dps across the board?
A. Retribution dps is too low in PvE in 3.1. Didn't you say that over a month before Ulduar came out? We are buffing it in 3.2 through the new way Seal of Vengeance / Corruption will work. Didn't you say that about Divine Storm and Righteous Vengeance? This Seal is designed to really deliver damage once the paladin gets five stacks up, which will make it the Seal of choice for boss fights. Seal of Command will be used in PvP or PvE for short fights. We expect overall for Corruption / Vengeance to be the “go-to” Seal much of the time, perhaps even in PvP, provided you can keep the buff up.
"Even in PvP..." So five years later, after adding and removing half a dozen Seals and several massive overhauls to the system, GC himself admits Command is still useless. Fabulous. Judges? ...Yes... yes, okay... Okay, I'm getting confirmation... And we have a decision: Just about everyone who's ever played WoW has had a better idea for Command than Blizzard.

Q. Exorcism will be usable in both PvE and PvP once more which is great; aside from allowing this ability to be used against other players, what were the reasons to go down this route in redesigning this attack?
A. Exorcism never did a ton of damage to players, but it was an instant attack which meant paladins could use it while closing with an enemy. It was essentially just free damage and never a decision of any kind. With a 15-second cooldown. The new approach to the spell prevents it from being used while closing, and also makes Retribution paladins have to pay a little more attention to their combat rotation -- you want to use Exorcism when Art of War procs, and generally not at other times.
Again, another brilliant change. Even though it's a nerf, so to speak, it not only allowed Exo back into our "rotation", but they let it stay within the boundaries of not being a long range opener. Plus, they gave some strategy to Art of War. My only problem with that is, with Resilience being a specific counter to Crits (as well as all damage in 3.2), Art of War is going to proc less and less and the seasons go on. Having an entire attack and heal reliant on Crit isn't wise. It's like the Holy conundrum.

We understand this is a small adjustment to Protection paladins, which is why we improved Hand of Reckoning. The 3.2 patch will be pretty good for paladin tanks overall so hopefully they will forgive us.
We'll be fine. Thank you for the constant love in Wrath.

Q. Consecration seems to utilize a sizable portion of mana per application of this spell; do we have plans on making this a bit more mana-efficient?
A. We think the mana cost is appropriate. Retribution and Protection paladins have enough ways to earn mana back that it doesn’t seem to be slowing them down much.
True. Although I've never been quite okay with Consecration being part of our "rotation". I'd be much happier if it was a Protection-only spell and Holy Wrath worked on all targets for those AoE moments. Or something like that.

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Community Team: Specifically with the various spells and abilities that paladins have in a PvP encounter, there have been questions concerning regarding survivability and utility, let’s get into some of these.

Q. Do we feel Divine Shield is fine in its current rendition versus other abilities such as Shattering Throw and Mass dispel?
A. Divine Shield is just a very powerful spell, so game-changing that we thought it needed a counter. The problem is that only one class has access to Mass Dispel, which we feel makes priests too much of a “hard counter” to paladins. We understand that classes will to some extent always have other classes they are better or worse against, but we want to avoid extremes. Shattering Throw is an attempt to let someone other than a priest have the chance to break the bubble. We implemented the ability as a ranged attack to help discourage warrior “tunnel vision” in just always unleashing all their attacks on the same target rather than having to switch targets on occasion.
When Mass Dispel came out, I was really upset. Mainly because, back then, Divine Shield was the one and only way a Paladin could survive in Arena. We had the lowest Resilience on our gear out of every other class, and all of our heals were cast times that could be infinitely interrupted. You would get rushed, be forced to pop your bubble after 4 seconds, get instantly Mass Dispelled, and then burned. It was completely unfair to introduce a counter to us when we had no way of surviving outside of that move (against smart teams, anyway). Nowadays, Paladins aren't so reliant on others to stay alive as they used to be - ironic as it was. With instant heals and new talents, often times our "bubble" isn't even really needed. So giving Warriors Shattering Throw isn't a big deal. Chances are, if he has to use ST, his team's probably done for soon anyway.

Q. Will it be possible to prevent Avenging Wrath from being dispelled as well? This ability is the means to allow for on-demand maximum dps output for a brief period of time and only affects the paladin.
A. It’s possible but not probable. Really this is symptomatic of a larger problem, which is that the dispel game has become too important in PvP. True. If the other team has a dispeller, then abilities like Avenging Wrath get totally shut down. If the other team lacks a dispeller, then they may be in trouble. This leads to junk buffs and inconsistencies on which abilities can be dispelled or not. We are going to redo the entire system, though not for 3.2. One direction to take dispelling is to give magic dispel to all the healers (since 90% of player spells are magical), but to prevent offensive dispelling of any kind, or at least prevent dispels for “your-class-is-supposed-to-have-this buff” like Arcane Int or Fort.
The sad part is, on the offensive dispelling front, this subject matters the least to Paladins in comparison to other healers. That's because Cleanse, as fantastic as it looks on paper, swallows up a global cooldown, can only be used on a single target, chooses a random effect, and only removes one at a time. And in an era of stacking DoTs and Debuffs (sometimes up to 5 or more), it's simply a waste of time and mana to even bother Cleansing at all. Cleanse needs to be improved or, like Ghostcrawler mentioned, redo the entire system so that there's less pressure and value on dispelling - which is horribly imbalanced from class to class - and put more emphasis on the "deal with it and let 'em play" mentality. Hopefully Avenging Wrath will constitute as a "leave it alone" spell.

Q. Do we have plans to introduce a stand-alone interrupt ability for paladins?
A: We would like to add this kind of utility to paladins. Huzzah! First we have to get the burst damage under control so that Ret paladins are not winning PvP encounters by blowing players up. When we accomplish that, we’ll look at finally giving them more tools.
Patch 3.1 just called. He says you have a short f@%king memory.

Q. With the slew of options to either "jump into" or "jump out of" PvP encounters for either offensive or defensive purposes many classes receive, do we have any plans to incorporate special abilities for paladins to either help them escape tough situations or quickly get into pvp battle (i.e. Deathgrip, Typhoon, Summoning Circle, Disengage, etc.)? It seems paladins are the only class without a short cool-down ability on the same scale.
A. Players are pretty good at detecting problems, but for solutions they tend to just look around at what other classes have that is working for them. Homogenization is something we fight as much as we can, which is the reason not every class has Death Grip and not every class has Charge. Judgment of Justice is intended to be the gap-closer for paladins. Whoa, wait... did you just say that? If it becomes a huge liability, we’ll evaluate, but at the moment paladins are doing extremely well in PvP without it.
Hold on, back up. "Judgement of Justice is intended to be THE gap-closer for Paladins"? Are we talking about the same Judgement of Justice
here? The one with a 10 yard range? The one that, uh, "limits" an enemy's speed to 100%? Here's a tip from Paladin Schmaladin to GC and the Devs: When you're within 10 yards of someone, consider the gap already closed. JoJ does nothing. A gap-closer is intended to be used to catch players who are far away - too far for any of your attacks to reach; this includes Exorcism's 30 yard range. Second, if someone is still running at 100% speed, the gap is not closing, even with 2/2 Pursuit of Justice.

Look, if you need to catch up to someone, PoJ is going to take you a full 30 seconds to catch up to them; in Arena, this is a lifetime. Maybe two. However, many classes can increase their speed to run away from you faster than PoJ's incremental gains would ever help (Sprint and Blink come to mind). The only way to stop them from using their moves and spells that increase their speed? Judgement of Justice, of course. BUT YOU CAN'T USE IT ON THEM BECAUSE IT ONLY HAS A 10 YARD RANGE! And even if you DID cast it on them, they're still running at 100% speed!

If this is a gap-closer, then I'm Ferarro 8.

Q. Ranged attacks are extremely limited for paladins and are not considered a primary form of dps. However, players feel they would like an ability that will aid them in bridging the gap between melee vs. ranged. Do we have any plans to implement something to this extent?
A. We’ve already changed the “no ranged attacks” philosophy on paladins already and don’t feel the need to continue making them better at range.
Nice to know there was an unseen philosophy against Paladins having ranged attacks that we never knew about. Not that I mind. Makes you wonder what other invisible boundaries that have against us, though.

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Community Team: We’re on our last set of questions here, so let’s switch it up a tad and talk a bit about Librams and aesthetics.

Q. Do we have plans to incorporate a larger variety of Librams?
A. We try and make sure the three main paladin roles have their Librams covered. As these are special items that no other class can use, we have to make sure we don’t drop them too often in PvE encounters, but we have no problem putting more on badge vendors. Usually it’s just a matter of time because a new tier of content, like the Call of the Crusade patch, already involves making literally over a thousand new items.
How about not making the best PvE Librams available via PvP? That would be a marvelous start on it's own.

Q. Do we have plans to incorporate Librams as a more prominent aspect of the paladin class? Also, can we expect to see Librams as a physical aesthetic item on the paladin? Much like the quiver is for the hunter (except only the hunter can see their own quiver mounted on their back).
A. This is something players suggest a lot, and honestly something we’d like to do. Good to hear they at least enjoy the idea. It’s a pretty iconic image from Warcraft, especially Warcraft III, to have the paladin toting around their libram. Someone at BlizzCon last year asked if they could beat on people with it. This is a big task to put on the art team though so we would want to make sure we do it right. I'll do it for free. The same answer would apply to shaman totems and hunter quivers. On the other hand... On the other hand, it took a long time to finally update the druid cat and bear art so don’t look for this in 3.2.
Sounds like 2013 is gonna be great!

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Joking aside, it's good to hear from GC and the crew, regardless of how generic some of the answers were. There's some hope on the horizon about new dispelling mechanics, Prot love, and the iconic Libram visual. However, things like Seal of Command, the continuing problem with Ret DPS, and the heartbreaking comment about Judgement of Justice certainly raises some red flags. 3.2 isn't going to be the big issue; it's going to be the consecutive patches that come after it which tweak, improve and fix the changes that are going to be important. Seriously, the new Beacon of Light change is OP and SoComm is still WTF. I can't imagine that going on for much longer, but Blizzard's surprised me before. Hopefully Illumination and Block Value get rebuffed again.

And where's my damn pony.



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