Friday, March 13, 2009

Will the Last Hybrid Paladin Please Turn Off the Lights?

From the latest patch notes:

Spiritual Attunement: Removed from trainers. It is now available deep in the Protection tree for 2 ranks at 5/10%.

I don't speak for all paladins. In fact, at this point in the game I probably speak for very few of them. I belong to the Hybrid faction of paladins. It's probably because I created my paladin so many years ago, when the class was very different.

The Hybrid faction holds that the paladin should not overspecialize, that the baseline 0/0/0 paladin should be minimally compentent at healing, DPS, or tanking. Not raid-viable, but minimally competent. A Ret paladin should be able to heal a little bit, to tank at least the normal instances and group quests in the proper gear. In a pinch, maybe even play a small part in a raid. A levelling paladin should be able to handle all of these roles, regardless of spec.

I've tanked Tidewalker murlocs as Holy. I've healed as Protection. I've tanked all the normal Wrath instances as Retribution. To me, being able to do all this is an essential part of the paladin identity. I understand the need for specialization in the current game, but being a hybrid--being able to contribute to a role that we are not specced for--is still important to some of us. It's why we chose this class over all the others.

But for this to work, the baseline paladin must have access to all the necessary tools. For healing, we need Flash of Light and Holy Light. For damage we need Judgement and a damage Seal. For tanking we need Righteous Fury and Spiritual Attunement. By themselves, these tools alone will never make us raid-viable or preferred. But they allow us to try.

In the past, Blizzard has understood the Hybrid perspective. They gave us talents like Sheath of Light and Touched by the Light that allow the non-healer specs to heal more effectively. They reworked Fanaticism when the threat reduction was introduced, so that Retribution would still be able to tank.

Holy needs Spiritual Attunement to tank, to fulfill the hybrid nature of the paladin. Retribution at least has a replacement with Judgements of the Wise.

Maybe this doesn't matter in a world of specialists. Maybe dual-specs puts the final nail into the paladin-as-hybrid coffin. But I hope Blizzard reconsiders removing Spiritual Attunement from Holy's reach. I know that Spiritual Attunement is broken for a healing paladin and raid damage. But I think that there are other, better solutions.

My suggestion is to fold Spiritual Attunement into Righteous Fury and add a penalty to keep Holy from using it. Turn it into more of a true tanking stance.
Righteous Fury
24% of base mana
Instant cast
Increases the threat generated by your Holy spells by 90%, but the amount healed by your spells is reduced by 50%. When healed by other friendly targets' spells, the paladin gains an amount of mana equal to 8% of the amount healed. Lasts 30 min.

Alternatively, rather than a 50% reduction in healing power, maybe you could condition Illumination to only work when Righteous Fury is not active, just like Fanaticism. The baseline paladin could still tank if necessary, but the extra threat makes RF unattractive to a dpsing paladin, while the healing penalty makes RF unattractive to the healing paladin.

Even if you don't like my suggestion, I hope that you understand my perspective on the paladin class. It may not be a common perspective anymore, but I think it is still of value.

22 comments:

Revaan said...

The solutions you propose won't fix the problem because the problem isn't Spiritual Attunement. The problems regarding paladins having unlimited mana is Divine Plea and the insanely high crit healing paladins run around with.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. You can't chain pot, so mana-using classes needed ways to get mana in a fight. For paladins, they came up with this cool Divine Plea thing. 25% of your maximum mana back in 15 seconds, how cool is that? Blizzard put a healing penalty on it to help balance its use for holy paladins to keep them from abusing it.

The problem was, the damage tanks take is incredibly easy to heal through. Even with 20% less healing, paladins at the appropriate gear level for an instance could pop Divine Plea on cooldown every cooldown and have no trouble healing their assignment.

Then ccame the 50% penalty, and the spell gained an essence of timing, but still isn't being used as rarely by holy paladins as Blizzard wants. That's because bosses aren't hitting hard enough to justify the kind of trade-offs that Blizzard wants.

On top of holy paladins still being able to tap Divine Plea with little to no need to time it perfectly, there's the fact that holy paladins in raids are typically getting healing crits 1/3 - 1/2 the time. This is getting to be too high to be sustainable. This Blizzard seems to realize because reports are already starting to surface of much less crit on paladin gear from Ulduar.

Holy paladins have long gotten more mana back from Illumination than from mana per 5 seconds or Spiritual Attunement, but current gear is boosting this up to imbalanced levels.

Conversely, when does Spiritual Attunement help paladins? When we take damage that someone else heals. When does that happen? When the holy paladin is tanking (with a large portion of threat gained more than likely through healing aggro), or through splash damage.

Remembering that Spiritual Attunement only applies to effective healing, so to get the fully benefit of a heal from someone else, splash damage would have to be higher than Blizzard has indicated it wanted raids to have to deal with. So right off the back we're actually getting a partial effect.

Looking at our 2 main healing spells, Flash of Light and Holy Light, Flash of Light costs 307 mana and Holy Light costs 1102 mana. So, for Spiritual Attunement to give us the mana for 1 Flash of Light, I need to receive 3070 effective healing from somewhere else. For Holy Light, that number becomes 11020 effective healing from someone else. If this is happening a lot, then odds are I'm taking too much damage and am wasting the raid healers' mana that they could use to help with a tank or to patch up some DPS.

Long comment short, spiritual attunement isn't the problem, and removing it isn't going to slow paladins down much. Reducing the crit levels on gear (which Blizzard seems to be doing) and increasing the damage done by bosses (and thus the difficulty healing through them) will keep us from popping Divine Plea as much during fights. That will go much further to balance holy paladins than killing spiritual attunement.

Rohan said...

While that's probably true, Revaan, SA does cause a Holy paladin's mana to vary greatly with the amount of raid damage in the specific fight.

For example, if you have two 10-min fights, but one has no raid damage, and the other has heavy raid damage, the paladin will have significantly more available mana in the second fight.

That large variance makes paladin mana hard to predict. It's similar reasoning to the nerf to Spirit and the FSR. Removing SA makes paladin mana usage much more predictable, and that will aid in balancing.

Removing SA from healing paladins is the right call, even it doesn't entirely solve the Holy paladin problem. It allows Blizzard to establish a baseline for paladin healing that isn't affected by how much raid damage is being tossed around. Then they can tweak the other knobs up and down as they need to.

Suicidal Zebra said...

I wonder what the reaction of the crowd would be if warriors had to spec deep Arms/Fury to get Rage from damage done and deep Prot to get Rage from damage taken.

Unfortunately the current lack of hybridity, especially for Holy, stems from a series of poor design decisions starting from the Vanilla Beta which has had a series of fixes bootstrapped to the class centred around the power mechanics (mana) and combat systems. The rule of unintended consequences apply and these compromises inevitably unbalance another role.

Since TBC I've been content with the small victories: seeing each spec become at least moderately viable in either end-game PvE or PvP. Hybridity, though a laudable goal, became all but impossible as fundamentally required mechanics were shunted to deeper talents.

With Dual-specs coming the desire to create the potential for multi-role specs will be gone for designers. It also side-steps a whole raft of uncomfortable design decisions in the future. The multi-role Paladin Hybrid is dead, long live the Specialist.

Audrid said...

On the contrary, it wouldn't be ideal either if paladins were able to function well in all three roles without requiring a respec.

Basically, if paladins were able to spec such that they could serve effectively in all roles with only a change in gear, it would be imbalanced compared to other classes who wouldn't be able to. If they were able to function, but not at optimal levels, there would be no incentive for people to pick them over a non-hybrid.

I do think that hybridity goes away as trees get deeper - fights will be balanced around the talents available in the deeper trees, not the talents available to hybrid specs.

Dave Riley said...

Except that Blizzard in fact said that they wanted ANY tanking class, regardless of spec, to be able to tank a normal instance and ANY healing class, regardless of spec, to be able to heal a normal instance.

Life gets less interesting when you lose these little bits. Your change to RF is okay, Rohan, but it removes things like a holy paladin pulling the adds on Sarth. Not to mention it nigh-on ruins the point of Seal of Blood. This change, like many I've seen across all classes, is something I hope gets revoked before patch day.

Klepsacovic said...

Truly hybrid paladins died a long time ago. Now we're three types of specialists which if the content is easy enough can do what we're not specced for. Maybe it was inevitable; we'd have to either become tied for best in all roles or we'd just be second forever, and therefor worthless, because everything is designed for full tanks, healers, and DPS, not hybrids. The stats are all different, there's very little overlap anymore. Sure, there are some converters like sheathe and for other classes SP is pretty dual purpose, but even still, DPS, healing, and tanking don't mix much anymore.

This is probably misuse of the word, but it seems ironic that dual-specs can ultimately kill hybrids, since why does prot need to heal when in five seconds you can be holy? And yet, this may ultimately make hybrids overpowered; since we need to be competitive to get spots, why bring a pure when a hybrid is close enough as 2-3 times as flexible?

This nerf is simply uncreative, it fixes the problem of holy getting too much variable regen, but in the process it hurts all leveling paladins, including leveling prot paladins.

RJ said...

While I believe that you have a dream that's just a bit lofty, the fact that SA was moved to deep Prot doesn't really change anything so much. Holy and Ret can still off-tank with reasonable effectiveness without it (Ret using JotW and Holy using their enormous mana pool and regen). They just won't be quite as effective, but the change only helps things in the long run since Blizzard will be able to better model mana recovery.

Valkure said...

As a hybrid player (druid/shaman/priest so far) I loved reading this post. Because I agreed with the sad direction "hybrids" are being given by the devs, and you wrote this so well, without an ounce of real "QQ" for finger pointing by others. An excellent ideal, for sure.

Micah said...

As a retadin, I am okay with the changes provided they tweak JotW. The signs point to this being the route they are taking.

I do understand what you mean though. There is one way they could meet both goals. Spiritual Attunement could stay baseline but have it scale with Defense. Zero defense on your gear means zero mana from SA. Ret and Holy would not stack Defense on their gear to raid (or if they did mana wouldn't do them much good anyway.)

Klepsacovic said...

@RJ Holy regen is based on heal crits and mana/5; they have neither when tanking in tanking gear. Divine plea doesn't regen anywhere near enough either. Ret might get by with JotW, but holy will have no regen except SoW.

Revaan said...

The unpredictability with Spiritual Attunement comes from not being able to guarantee that a paladin isn't being healed by someone else.

However, Blizzard does have research from raid fights, they know about what percentage of effective healing paladins receive comes from outside sources and what percentage comes from the paladin himself/herself. Blizzard also knows about how much raid damage should be going out in any given fight (again, basing on averages). Multiply the average damage by the percent of heals paladins get from outside sources, divide by 10 you have a reasonable estimation of Spiritual Attunement's contribution, and you can tune from there.

My personal vote is to remove Divine Plea entirely, leave retribution paladins Judgments of the Wise (maybe even buff it some), and change the talented Spiritual Attunement to a talent that reads more like

"Spiritual Attunement now restores 20/30% of effective healing received".

That way, protection paladins get a mana regeneration buff, retribution paladins still have plenty of mana, and holy paladins lose their "unlimited mana" button.

The Renaissance Man said...

Folding SA into Righteous Fury would be a good idea, but the nerf to healing is not needed. The threat increase on Holy Spells alone is enough to get any Holy Paladin thinking of using it to boost mana regen murdered in a very ugly fashion. That 22K Holy Light crit would generate 40K threat. That would pull Sapphiron off the tank very quickly if it were spammed.

Revaan said...

Righteous Fury would have to generate a lot more threat for that to happen. Paladins have the lowest aggro coefficient on healing of any of the classes. The 2 times paladins pull aggro from a tank healing with Righteous Fury up are when adds spawn mid-fight or if the paladin gets a critical heal at the very beginning of the fight when the tank's initial aggro-gaining abilities fail.

The sheer volume of aggro generated by tanks today, even spamming Holy Lights repeatedly won't pull aggro from anything but an add the tank isn't paying much attention to, and even that's a serious off chance of happening.

In modern raiding, there are only a couple of fights where having Righteous Fury up is a problem, Gluth (if you're not helping heal the kiters), and Instructor Razuvious (because the tanks can't do too much damage to the adds to generate a lot of threat).

Rohan said...

Renaissance Man, that's not true.

I have Imp Righteous Fury (6% dmg reduction) and I use it as Holy on all fights in Naxx except Gluth.

The threat increase is not enough to keep Holy from using RF. Indeed, often times it's beneficial, as new adds head for the paladin healer and can be predictably picked up by the tanks.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, we're not a Hybrid class.

We're three classes in one.

Warriors can slap on a sword and board and OT in a pinch, just like Druids can change form and DKs can switch auras and such.

Prot and Ret healing is useless.

Ret and Holy tanking will get you get one-shot.

And Prot and Holy DPS is inconsequential.

Whether you like it or not, even Priests are more of a hybrid class than we are. Stop trying to play us like we are and you'll find yourself having more fun and being more effective.

Kring said...

> Increases the threat generated by
> your Holy spells by 90%, but the
> amount healed by your spells is
> reduced by 50%.

Lay on Hands as Prot?

Besides that, I agree. :-)

Ashimbo said...

Don't forget that changing Righteous Fury to cut our heals in half would be a pvp nerf. When I pvp as ret or holy, I keep righteous fury up as a trash debuff. Having it cut down on my healing would be a pretty big nerf.

Having spiritual attunement scale with defense is probably the best idea I've heard. It allows holy and ret pallies to slap on tanking gear and still funtion well enough in that particular role.

I do hope they introduce a form another form of mana regen for ret, because having most of my mana regen from one single judgement could spell doom if that judgment misses or otherwise fails to hit the target.

Joshua said...

That suggestion for Righteous Fury...makes a lot of sense actually.

Celton said...

I don't think removing Spiritual Attument from Holy is a problem at all. A Holy Paladin should have plenty of mana to tank with in any instance where he can actually effectively tank (ie, non-heroics). I always tank as Holy in my healing gear, not in tanking gear, to keep my Spell Power up and keep my mana pool. Holy doesn't get any benefits from tanking gear. A Holy Paladin shouldn't be tanking a heroic or a raid. There's so many tanks in the game now and so few healers that this should rarely be an issue anyway.

Algorython said...

@anon
Really? I must be doing it wrong. I routinely run heroics as dps, heals, or tank, depending on what my group needs. I just grab the appropriate gear bag from the bank and go. Furthermore, in Naxx, I've run up on stage and switched from the big hammer to the little hammer and shield when the "real" healers failed the Heigan dance, and I frequently round up packs of trash that slip past the tanks and haul them back to said tanks before they can squish the squishies. If I'm in a raid that's light on heals but okay on dps, I'll sometimes just spend a whole fight in healing gear or I'll keep the Ret gear on and focus on judging Light and helping with heals and cleanses. It feels pretty hybrid to me.

@rohan
I admit I'm feeling a little bummed right now because I can already blow all of my mana pretty easily in fights against undead, but it seems completely pointless to bemoan the death of Ret and/or hybrids when they've stated that they intend to buff Ret damage while so far announcing only the nerf. Clearly, we know at most half the story right now.

Hana said...

I tanked every non-heroic in TBC as holy, at level, and I've holy tanked UK and Nexus (again at level). Tanking as holy is still viable at present, but I had a lot more downtime than other tanks because I would have to stop and drink after every couple of pulls (no more downranking Consecrate like I did back in TBC). Removing spiritual attunement will just exascerbate what downtime there is and make the non-prot tank more likely to run out of mana.

I was very proud of being able to tank as holy. I tanked Magister's Terrace multiple times, even on one occasion replacing a properly specced tank because he wasn't able to tank as well I did. As a hybrid I feel that there should be some baseline where I can do a minimal amount of tanking/healing/dpsing no matter what spec I am and losing Spiritual Attunement just bothers the heck out of me. I liked it when my healer would tell me to go ahead and pull more so he could heal me for more mana back. That just won't happen anymore.

Aeonus said...

Hybrid Paladins are really not viable anymore. One of the reason's WoW was created in the first place was due to the overwhelming popularity of hybrid classes in the original EverQuest.

In my opinion, to go hybrid as a paladin is weakening yourself in all three roles. Rather than a party/raidgroup seeing you as an impressive dps, healer or tank (now that all 3 specs are viable in endgame thankyou blizzard <3) they will maybe view you as a weak tank in one instance, or a handicapping dps in another, which gives a bad name to all paladins.

Now that dual specs are coming out, hybrids should be happy, as they can spec to do two jobs equally well rather than being forced into one role.

The point of speccing is to be able to maximise your effectivness, not to spread out your talents like jam on toast (that metaphor doesnt work). The Deathknight is currently the only viable exception to the no hybrid rule, and if you read the DK patch notes, Blizzard are aiming to move players away from doing this by forcing them out of the unholy tree.

Blizz hate hybrids, and it seems they always will.