Friday, May 30, 2008

Paladins Are Special

I don't necessarily mean that in a good way.

Sustained damage requires a resource pool, and balancing resource consumption and damage output is one of the keys to "doing good DPS." Caster classes consume mana to conjure direct damage spells, and have ways of gaining mana back - Warlocks can Life Tap, Mages can use mana gems or cast Evocation, Druids can Innervate, Priests have Vampiric Touch/Embrace and Shadowfiend, etc. Physical damage classes normally use a different mechanic. Rogues have an energy bar, and have talents and abilities that manipulate its regeneration and consumption. Combat Potency and a quick off-hand weapon allow a Rogue to regenerate energy from attacking quickly. Warriors have a rage bar, and talents/abilities that allow for them to manipulate their rage generation/consumption. The faster/harder they hit, the more rage they generate and then the more abilities they can use.

Are you sensing the trend? Most classes that are capable of dealing damage (read: all classes have damage-related talent trees) have ways of manipulating their resource pool, even if it's through a single ability with a cooldown or through talents. The glaring exception is the Retribution Paladin.

Retribution in 25-Man Raids

The Paladin who raids Retribution will be one of several Paladins in a majority of cases, and will therefore have Judgement of Wisdom and Judgement of the Crusader on the target, several blessings on himself, and supporting buffs from other classes. Even with all this taken into account, without chain-chugging potions and either downranking Consecration or cutting it out of the rotation entirely, a Ret Paladin cannot sustain his damage for longer than 2-3 minutes. Even then, the damage output of a Ret Paladin who downranks Consecration versus one who chain-casts max-rank Consecration is not terribly different.

Retribution in Small Groups

In a 5-man group, a Ret Paladin will usually be the only Paladin in the group. Knowing this, he will not get the benefit of Blessing of Wisdom, as he will most likely need to use Blessing of Salvation on himself. He will neither have both JoWisdom and JotCrusader on the target - he will need to choose one, and in the process either sorely limit his group utility (no crit for the group if JotC is withheld) or a provide a useless mana return Judgement for non-mana users (which could be a large percentage of the group in some cases). Without JoWisdom on the target, keeping mana up through many fights is a challenge - and once it's gone, it's gone. A Ret Paladin could chain-chug potions through the instance, I suppose, but not many players that I know need to do that for a normal 5-man instance.

The Reality of the Situation
"Psshh, you're overblowing the issue as usual, Josh. Everyone has mana problems, it's a fact of WoW."

Okay, tough guy, then riddle me this - when a Mage runs low on mana, what does he do? He pops a mana gem. After that? Evocation. After that? Another mana gem. All the while he has a 10k+ mana pool to absorb his spell spam.

When a Warlock runs low, what does he do? He Life Taps and keeps going, or sucks mana from his pet if he's Affliction spec with Dark Pact

When a Rogue runs low on energy, what does he do? He waits 2-4 seconds for enough energy to use another Sinister Strike.

When a Warrior runs low on rage, what does he do? He just waits for the rage to build up from his normal swings, it'll come.

When a Shadow Priest is running on fumes, he can send out his shadowfiend.

What's this all mean? Despite everyone having resource issues, other damage dealers have ways to directly manipulate their resource pool. They can forcibly put resources back into their pool, and they can burn their resources at an accelerated rate on command for an appreciable damage boost. Warriors can burn rage by using Heroic Strike more, and Mages can get a 3-stack of Arcane Blast going and up both their damage and mana consumption, as examples.

This is not true of the Paladin, however. A Retribution Paladin has no talent or ability to put a gob of mana back into his mana pool on command, nor can he burn lots of mana for an appreciable damage boost. Consecration is the only "mana dump" Ret Paladins have, and it results in about a 120 DPS increase if rank 6 is kept going constantly and JotC is on the target. That's a lot of "ifs" for not a lot of increase. The bottom line is that Ret Paladins are completely dependant on outside sources to keep their mana pool in shape. How do I keep my mana flowing in a raid? Mana potions, Mana Spring totem, Blessing of Wisdom, Judgement of Wisdom, Tier 6 2-piece bonus, and Dark Runes/intentionally taking damage for heals. Those are all outside sources, none are abilities activated by me. Even Judgement and Blessing of Wisdom are applied by other Paladins besides myself. If you look at each and every DPS spec, they have a way to actively put resources by the hand-full back into their resource pool through a class ability or talent, usually at no or very little loss to damage. For crimminy's sake, even Enhancement Shaman have their nifty Shamanistic Rage ability, which basically refills their mana pool on a 2 minute cooldown. The Paladin's only choice is to activate Seal of Wisdom and wait, in the process losing 25% of his damage for however long SoW is up.

Why am I ranting about this? Because this is my main concern about everything Ret Paladin. The lack of interactivity of the seal system has been hashed out by others. The fact that some of our core Ret abilities are still not scaling with our attributes and are spell-hit based is bothersome, but not enough so to merit a ton of attention. The mana pool issue really grinds my gears, and is pervasive through the entirety of the game - raiding, normal instances, solo, and PvP. My question to you and to Blizzard: Why are Paladins so special when it comes to resource regeneration?


Suicidal Zebra said...

I have to say that this issue isn't unique to Ret Paladins, Holy Paladins also suffer from the exact same issue and is a reason why many stack Mp5 over Spell Crit (the other being that it is cheaper budget-wise). To a lesser extent so do so Hunters, and whilst I can't recall if AotV mana regen is hugely significant (i.e. beyond that of BoW), I do know that it is a great concern for them. On the flip-side, JoW roxors their soxors.

This of course really comes out of Mana being a broken mechanic for Melee, in fact it's tacitly acknowledged by Blizzard in that DK's have a unique power mechanic and Prot Paladin's mana pool has been fudged into a pseudo-rage pool which can still be mana-burnt. Shaman were pretty much always casters, and Enhancement was thrown a huge amount of scaling mana-regen in the form of Shamanistic Rage to compensate. It's only now, with active damage abilities that we're all starting to clue up on how important mana is for a DPSing Paladin.

On a similar note, Mana Burn is an immense problem which needs addressing, and I feel that they need some form of protection from that mechanic, both for PvE and PvP. But... I don't think they are going to change it. In many ways they will probably utilise it to reinforce the concept of DK's being the premier anti-caster tank.

The problem is, I just don't know what Blizzard would be willing to do about this state of affairs. I have the feeling that they want Paladin mana starvation to be downside for the class as a whole (similar to lack of armour, waiting for energy or... erm... what's the downside to rage again?), meaning that we will continue to have to synergise well with other classes in order to fight for over 5 minutes. This is all very well and good in raids, but absolute balls for 10-mans where arguably a Ret Paladin is weakest. If they were to boost our personal mana regen it would probably be through a significant buff to SoW, to the extent that it procs on every hit and regens 5% of total mana per hit. There are many more interesting ways to boost Paladin Regen for both Holy and Ret, but Blizzard have painted themselves into a corner in limiting the mechanics available to Paladins to such an extent that I just don't see them doing it in a way which doesn't compromise their damage or healing to a non-negligible extent.

Josh said...

Yes, Holy Paladins suffer from the same problem, however they have a 10k mana pool and a few extra tools to manage their mana. I've never heard of a Holy Paladin complaining about his mana consumption in a 5-man, to boot. I sure as heck never felt the same about my mana in 5-mans as Holy as I do as Ret.

Hunters don't have ways to actively regenerate their mana beyond AotV, but as you mentioned, JoW restores chunks to them. They get double the benefit from it compared to any other class. One of my guild's BM Hunters mentioned the other day to me that he doesn't have to use mana potions when I'm in the raid keeping Judgements up. And he's a balls-to-the-wall type of guy, he's pumping out the arrows like no tomorrow. Compare that to me, who has to chain-chug mana just to keep ahead of the consumption curve with full raid buffs and Judgements.

The problem isn't isolated to Ret Paladins, but it is most glaring when considered in a Ret Paladin light. Your points about Blizzard tacitly acknowledging the problem with regard to Spiritual Attunement, Shamanistic Rage, and the Death Knight's runic power system are right on - it's frustrating that there was nothing in the deal for Retribution like Shamanistic Rage.

Just so it's known, I don't mean for this to be perceived as a QQ post, more of a call to attention of a glaring weakness.