Friday, December 30, 2005

Paladins in Raids, Part I

Continuing on from my previous post about the role of paladins, I'd like to examine the role of paladins in raids, and why this is a source of dissatisfaction for many paladins today. Two caveats, though. First, I'm not an experienced endgame raider, I have not gone into Molten Core. Rather these observations come from trends observed in non-epic raids, forum posts, and conversations with other paladins. Second, I make the assumption that the paladin is designed for a "5th-man" role, and not one of the three standard roles (tank, healer, dps).

There are two problems, both related to each other, at the heart of paladin dissatisfaction in raids. First, the increase in numbers eliminates the need for the 5th-man role. Second, and more importantly, the paladin's role in raids does not match the player's vision of her character.

To see the first point, lets take the standard 5-man party of tank, healer, dps, dps, and 5th-man. If we expand it to ten people we get 2 tanks, 2 healers, 4 dps, and 2 5th-man. However, the point of a 5th-man is to provide redundancy to the tanks and healers. So instead of taking 2 5th-man, let's take 1 tank and 1 healer. Each can provide redundancy for their respective groups much better than a 5th-man. Boom, we've just eliminated the paladin's role, the one that it was designed for. The ideal raid now consists of 3 tanks, 3 healers and 4 dps.

But that's not all. The need for tanking does not scale with additional numbers. The entire point of a tank is to funnel all damage taken by the group to a single point. Then the healers funnel all healing to the same point. In the ideal raid a single person, the Main Tank, would take all of the damage and receive all of the healing. (In practice, of course, it is much messier, but the ideal is still valid.) So in our 10-man raid, we don't really need the third tank, as the second should provide enough redundancy. Instead we replace the 3rd tank with another dps or healer. (Usually dps, as healers are rare). So the ideal 10-man group is now 2 tanks, 3.5 healers (usually ends up as 3 healers), and 4.5 dps (ends up as 5 dps).[1]

Here's where real life comes into play. There are a lot of paladins and shamans. There are few priests. Of necessity, paladins and shamans are forced into the healer slots in raids. It is important to note that the healer role is not the role that paladins were designed for. The role they were designed for, 5th-man, simply does not exist in raids.

Now why do paladins chafe at being forced into the healing role? Why don't shamans raise the same level of complaints? The answer, I believe, lies in player psychology, and the nature of paladin healing. Another post for another time.

[1] If you extrapolate these numbers out to a 40-man raid, you'd see that they come very close to a raid that has 5 of each of the 8 character classes (counting all paladins and druids as healers). Hopefully, this is an indication that I am on the right track.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Boring Day

Bronzebeard now has server queues of upwards of 250 people. Quite sad, really.

I didn't accomplish a whole lot today. I helped some guildmates with a quest and completed another quest dealing with the aftermath of some Sunken Temple quests. Unfortunately, the next quest in the chain is in Blackrock Spire, so that's the end of that chain for a while. I tried to queue up for some PvP, but the wait times were just too long.

Oh well, tomorrow is the first of our endgame guild runs. Hopefully that will go well, and it will become a regular affair. Ideally, I'm hoping for enough people to raid the Undead side of Stratholme. It is New Years Eve in Australia, so we may not get a lot of people though.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What is a Paladin?

If you look on the Blizzard paladin class forums, you'll see a lot of unhappy paladins. They feel that we are unable to tank, or do damage, or even heal effectively. They feel that in the endgame the paladin is reduced to a mediocre "buffbot", who's sole purpose is to provide buffs to other classes who do the real work.

There is some truth to these complaints.

However, I think that the problem with paladins goes deeper than this. The paladin class is not underpowered, in my view. The problem is that it is designed for a different game than the one that exists. The paladin class is designed for levels 1-59 5-man PvE. It simply has not made a successful transition into PvP or raiding.

To see my point, remove the paladin and shaman, and take a look at the other classes in WoW. There is a lot of symmetry in place. We have one tanking class (warrior), one healing class (priest), four DPS classes (mage, warlock, rogue, hunter), and one "replacement" hybrid class (druid). The reason I call the druid a replacement hybrid is because they can replace any other class, but not the same time. If you don't have a warrior, substitute a druid. If you don't have a priest, substitute a druid.

It's reasonably clear that Blizzard intends a 5-man party to have one healer, one tank, and some DPS. But where does the paladin and shaman fit in this scheme? In my opinion, they are meant to be a "5th-man" class. Like the druid, they are a hybrid class. Unlike the druid, they cannot fully replace the warrior or priest. However, in my experience, the combination of "tank, healer, 5th-man" is stronger than either "tank, tank, healer" or "tank, healer, healer". They do this by providing necessary redundancy to both tank and healer, at the same time. They cannot replace the first tank or healer, but they can replace the second tank or healer.

So, in summary, the ideal 5-man party is "tank, healer, dps, dps, 5th-man". The paladin and shaman are designed as 5th-man classes, and are not intended to replace any of the other three roles.

In my experience, Blizzard has nailed the mark here. Playing my Paladin in a 5-man instance is a complete blast, and is a ton of fun.

The problem is that the game has expanded to more than 5-man instances. More thoughts on this to come later.

Introductory Post

This is going to be a World of Warcraft blog. My main character is a 60 Paladin named Coriel. I play on the Bronzebeard server.

This blog is going to be interesting to do, given that Coriel is already 60. I haven't yet started endgame content like Zul'Gurub or Molten Core, so hopefully this blog will chronicle my journey into endgame.

Here's hoping that this is a successful experiment.