Saturday, January 21, 2006

Threat and Aggro

There was an extremely good post about threat and aggro on the WoW forums a couple days ago. Unfortunately, I can't find the post now, which is a real pity.

Update: Gitr found the post that I was referencing. Comments below have been corrected.

The poster undertook a series of experiments to quantify "threat" in WoW, and the post detailed his results. The main conclusions of his experiments were as follows:

  1. Threat is cumulative: You accumulate threat throughout the entire fight. The longer the fight, the higher the threat totals are.

  2. 10% Barrier:To take aggro from someone, you must do 10% more threat than them. For example, if a mage has 100 threat, you need to do 110 threat before the mob switches to attack you. This means that the person with aggro may not be the person with the highest threat level. The barrier increases to 30% for a character at range.

  3. Taunt: In addition to forcing the mob to attack you, taunt is a "threat-shortcut". When you taunt, it permanently gives you the threat level of the person with aggro. It also recalculates aggro for the mob, most likely giving the warrior aggro permanently.

In particular, the way Taunt works is interesting, especially on long fights. Taunt is essential for pulling a mob off someone, because it gives you a huge gain in threat in a very short time. However, paladins don't have a taunt, making it very hard for them to take over tanking a mob.

For example, consider a druid, priest, and off-tank warrior. The druid is tanking and generates 2000 threat, the priest is healing and has 1000 threat. The OT warrior has 250. The druid gets crit hard and dies. The mob attacks the priest. The OT taunts, and now has a threat level of 1000 and aggro from the mob.

Now consider the same scenario with a paladin as off-tank. The mob attacks the priest. The paladin is at 250 threat, and needs to get 850 more before the mob turns away from the priest. Odds are the priest is going down.

(Of course, a paladin would probably toss Blessing of Protection on the priest, causing the mob to turn it's attention to the paladin and giving the priest and paladin 10s to fix the situation. But BoP has a 5min cooldown, making it a bit unreliable.)

So a paladin needs to get as much threat on a mob as possible, because she lacks the instant threat gain of Taunt. Because paladin healing is fairly low-threat, the more a paladin heals, the worse her position becomes if she is suddenly called on to tank. Of course, the more a paladin heals, the less likely it is that the warrior will die and she need to tank. Trade-offs are what make life interesting.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lightforge Helm!

I went on a guild raid of Scholomance, last night. This was a highly successful raid, and I netted my [Lightforge Helm] from Darkmaster Gandling. I'm now up to 5/8 Lightforge, and the helm was the last piece I really wanted.

Update: When it rains, it pours. I played a game of Alterac Valley and hit Honored reputation with Stormpike. I picked up the [Stormpike Sage's Pendant] and [Stormpike Plate Girdle].

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I hate Warsong Gulch

Maybe hate is too strong a word. But I find Warsong Gulch to be a demoralizing affair. More than any other battleground, it seems designed to expose the paladin's weaknesses. Unfortunately, ever since the introduction of multiple queues, it is the most played battleground on Bronzebeard.

WSG is all about mobility. And the paladin has no speed to outrun or catch people, and no snares to slow them down, and no ranged weapons to hurt them at a distance. Seeing a tauren druid or shaman drop down, grab the flag, warstomp, and shift to travel form and run away while you are stunned is soul-destroying. Paladins really have only one snare, Hammer of Justice, which we can use once a minute. A second pally snare, Repentance, is a 31-point Retribution talent which does not work on animal forms. This is terribly unfortunate given that animal travel forms (druid and shaman) are the preferred Horde flag carriers.

Paladins on offense is equally hard. Since you have no speed, you cannot keep up with the flag carrier. If you start a heal, given that it is 2.5s long, odds are the person you are healing will be out of range before the heal finishes. If you are the flag carrier, you're so slow that you are easily caught. You can't move while healing, meaning you have to stay still for 2.5s to get a decent heal off. Finally, you can't use your bubbles or you drop the flag.

There's no real role for paladins in WSG that I can see. The best paladin role, that of battlefield healer, doesn't work as well when the point of battle moves faster than your heal. It works in Arathi Basin, as the points of battle are fixed and so people are almost always within range of a heal.

I switched enchants on my [Mirah's Song] from Fiery (chance of +40 fire damage) to Icy (chance of slowing) in order to shore up this weakness. So far, I'm not too sure if it's working. It doesn't seem to be proccing all that much. I'll play a few more games to see if it is an effective strategy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Quick thoughts on Pursuit of Justice

Testing by various paladins reveals that the Pursuit of Justice talent (8% to movement speed) stacks with mounted movement enhancements, but does not stack with ground movement enhancements. So PoJ is a weaker talent than a lot of the other talents, given that you can just put a speed enchant on your boots and get most of the effect.

However, there may be some areas where the increase to mount speed is useful. For example, in Arathi Basin, I notice that the Alliance almost always caps the Stables before the Horde caps the Farm. Yet the Horde almost always gets to, and often caps, the Blacksmith before the Alliance arrives. I'm not sure why this is--perhaps the route from Horde base to flag is slightly shorter. Regardless, a paladin with PoJ might be able to arrive at the flag fast enough to stop the Horde from capping. As well, there might be some advantage in Alterac Valley, as a paladin at the base will be able to get to the front lines faster.

Of course, the stacking with mounted movement might be unintended, and fixed by Blizzard in an upcoming patch.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Patch 1.9

Patch 1.9 was introduced yesterday. This was the "paladin patch", where paladins were reviewed and given some changes. I feel that, for the most part, this patch just added polish to the paladin in its current form. The talent trees were tightened up, and a few abilities were switched around. Paladin tanking was made a bit easier to use with the Righteous Fury buff. Judgement of Command was changed to add a little more damage. On the whole, the patch was probably a good one for paladins (though I do feel sad about the changes to Holy Shield). It did not, however, address the fundamental dissatisfaction with paladins in raids.

It possibly made paladins a bit better in PvP, though to a large extent this depends on whether Pursuit of Justice (8% bonuse to movement speed) is working properly or not. It is currently stacking with other permanent speed enhancements like Mithril Spurs, even though the tooltip says it does not. (It is not stacking with temporary speed enchancers like potions.) If it does stack with the permanent enhancements, PoJ is an awesome talent, and will help paladins in PvP significantly. If it's a bug, and is fixed/nerfed, then paladins are more or less the same in PvP as they were before the patch. (I'll still take it as I'm lazy and don't want to waste time juggling trinkets).

Prior to this patch, Coriel was specced Holy/Protection (27/24/0). I had all the healing talents, Holy Shield and Improved Blessing of Salvation. It was a very PvE, healing/support, 1H+shield focused build.

Post-patch, I'm going Retribution (18/0/33), mostly for a change of pace. The new build is pretty good, especially for soloing. I can kill things a bit faster than I could before, though I have less survivability when attacked by multiple enemies. Retribution is a very mana-efficient tree, even with judging Command fairly often.

It's an interesting exercise, trying to determine what the paladin talent trees represent. For example, the priest trees (Holy/Discipline/Shadow) are for healing, metamagic, and damage respectively. The purpose of other class trees are also fairly obivious or easy to figure out. The paladin trees (Holy/Protection/Retribution), in contrast, are the source of much debate. The conventional view is that they are healing/tanking/dps, the three main MMO roles. Ellia, a notorious forum poster/troll/devil's advocate, maintains that they are spellcasting/1H+shield/2H. Personally, I think they break down as follows: Holy = doing stuff with mana; Protection = doing stuff when people are hitting you; and Retribution = doing stuff without mana.

I'm not really sure if this is a useful breakdown for paladins, but you have to work with the tools you are given.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Paladins in Raids, Part II

Previously, I have discussed the intended role of the paladin (5th-man) and how that role disappears in a raid setting, forcing the paladin into the healing role. Now, why then are paladins so unhappy at being forced to heal? I think the answer has to do with how players view their characters.

We all have a mental image of our characters. This image is forged by culture, by the class description, and by our play experiences. I think that a player is happiest when the actions her character takes matches the image in her mind (and the loot she gets furthers that image). A rogue is happiest when she is sneaking around or stabbing people people in the back. A hunter is happiest when she is shooting enemies from range. If the rogue was forced to shoot people with a bow, or the hunter melee, they would be less happy. They would still do what they had to do to be effective, but they would be less happy.

This image also extends to loot. Loot that enhances the mental image is the most valued. Rogues go crazy over epic daggers, but aren't that interested in epic guns. But it's vice versa for hunters.

The mental image of the paladin strongly involves wearing plate and hitting things with giant hammers (possibly swords, depending on the player). A situation where the paladin gets to hit something with a giant hammer makes the player of the paladin happy. This is a simple concept, but it's reinforced in all sorts of ways, from our culture's image of paladins, from Dungeons & Dragons, from the Blizzard class description, from game mechanics, and most importantly, from the play experience from levels 1-59. From levels 1-59, paladins are in melee hitting things with giant hammers. It is said that levels 20-30--when we get [Verigan's Fist], a paladin quest reward 2H hammer--are the best levels of a paladin's career. (I still have my [Verigan's Fist] in my bank. I even enchanted it with Demonslaying!)

The fundamental problem with raids is that there isn't enough hitting things with giant hammers.

In fact, most paladins who heal spend most raids out of the melee zone and in the ranged zone. Which is just crazy from the image point of view. Paladins don't even have ranged weapons! But from a pure efficiency standpoint, the paladin should be in the ranged zone. A paladin's healing in raids usually consists of constantly casting Flash of Light, which is low power but highly mana efficient. When you are constantly casting a spell, there's no point in being in the melee zone, as you will never get a chance to actually attack, and you leave yourself more vulnerable to interrupts or damage.

Healing Paladins also wear cloth, leather and mail gear to enhance their healing, as this type of gear tends to be better for healing than plate. Plate armor and survivability only truely matter if you are being attacked.

The paladin's self-image relies on being in the melee zone, wearing plate, and hitting things. The paladin's role in raids requires them to be in the ranged zone, wearing cloth, and not hitting things for maximum efficiency. This difference between image and reality is the source of the paladin's unhappiness.

Some raiding guilds even go so far as to deny paladins loot that enhances the image (such as powerful 2H weapons meant for melee) , and force them to only take loot which enhances the reality (healing gear). From a point-of-view that emphasizes the strict efficiency of the raid, this is a good idea. It makes your healers better. For the paladin player's image, it's another setback.

A lot of suggestions by paladins on the forums have this disconnect at the heart. They cry, "Give us more dps", and think "If we did a lot of damage, we would have a reason to be in the melee zone". Or "Give us a taunt" for "If we could tank better, we would have a reason to be in the melee zone". And of course Blizzard cannot give paladins these things, as they would then be overpowered or eclipse warriors.

Now why then does the shaman not raise as many complaints? Shamans are a spellcasting class, and are more comfortable being in the ranged zone. As well, the cultural connotations of the shaman lend themselves more to the primary healing role. There is not as great a conflict between the shaman image and the shaman reality. In fact, the class that probably has the second greatest disconnect between image and reality is the feral druid. For a feral druid, shapechanging is an essential part of the character's image. Being forced into one shape for all of the raid deviates from the player's image, making them slightly unhappy.