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.


  1. Hey its Mirin, Interesting stuff, just a side note, I know its picky but not all rogues like daggers, my own rogue prefers to slash people with sharp swords and there are those who like to wack people with maces....just me.

  2. Heh. Well, I was generalizing a bit. The point stands that if you weren't allowed to use daggers/maces/swords, you would be unhappy, as that is part of your self-image.

  3. I'd use my BARE HANDS!!! Arrrgh!!!

    Yeah, though, I think you do have a point. Part of why we play certain classes is to use the stereotypical stuff that goes along with it.

    In your favor, though, Frostbolt mentioned in his blog that his "team’s paladins did an awesome job: believe it or not, they tanked lots of mobs, and did pretty well" on their latest Molten Core run. Check it out at:

  4. I wish more Shaman played the way you describe. Most of them are trying to do as much damage as possible by casting Windfury on a very big hammer or axe. Some Shaman blow all their mana on 'leet DPS', and can't even heal themselves. The 'spellcaster' shammies make up the minority of the total shaman population on most realms, but they are the ones that like to raid.

    I am not a big fan of raiding in Molten Core. The zone is poorly designed, and all classes are limited in what they are allowed to do. Walking around and hitting 2 or 3 buttons for 5 hours isn't my idea of a fun time (good thing all those purple loots drop). The newer raid content provides more variety from the tank 'n' heal MC content.

  5. As a Shaman in Molten Core I take on the role of Healer. I'm the #1 healer on every raid I've been on. (Last night I beat 6 Priests and 2 Druids.)

    In Zul'Gurub I further cleanse poisons and in Stratholme disease.

    I've passed on DPS drops in Molten Core. Some big hammer dropped last night that I had no interest in. One of the guild Shamans did roll on it. One of the guild Shamans, not on the MC run, never has been, made the statement that any talent spec will heal equally well. He's all about DPS. And we've had DPS Shaman along on our raids.

    Truth is they fall below the Hunters, Rogues, Mages, and Warriors on the damage output chart. In other words we'd all have been better of if they'd been healing. We'd be better off still if they were specc'd to heal as well. But we don't want to tell them how to play. Freedom isn't free, as they say.

    When the loot drops I hope for gear that will increase my mana pool, my mana regen, and my healing. I hope I'm a welcome addition to the raids and I think I am.

    Yes, Shaman are a "Healer" class and we do it well. That's our image too. Medicine Men of the tribe. (I'm also an Herbalist/Alchemist and that's a good fit.)

    Paladins should be a "Fighter" class. Decked out in plate mail and carrying massive weapons, hello? They aren't?

    I've played both, Shaman to 60 and Paladin to 25 and I must say Shaman still feels more offensive in nature. However my 60 Shaman has run into 60 Paladin's, and the Paladin's aren't slouches. (Does any Paladin ever NOT stun on first contact??? - Warstomp for you Pally Man! And stop with the bubbles and the insta-heals! :)

    Here's a thought: Something that would have no effect on the PvP aspect of the game, and thus of little concern to the Paladin's enemies, would simply be to give Paladin's some of the taunts that the Warrior has to keep and hold aggro.

    Paladin's should be the front line troops of the Light. The Warrior's the ragged berserkers that follow.

    Imagewise Paladin's should be the Main Tanks. Warriors should be the free-moving Rangers of the group. In our world it's the opposite. (If the Paladin's heals only healed himself? He'd definitely be the tank.)

  6. This is some very in-depth and intelligent analysis of not only the strengths and efficiencies of Paladins, but the fun-factor of this class.

    If I were Blizzard, I would at least want to hear your opinion, as it is thorough and balanced.

    You should try contacting Blizzard, as a "Mr. Smith" for all Pallys everywhere.

  7. I think you are right for the most part, but as a side note not all paladins are unhappy when they heal. Personally I do enjoy whacking things with a big hammer when I can, but I've come to learn my place. I can be either tank, dps or healer thanks to the spec (21 holy, 30 ret) I've currently chosen and it seems to work the best for me. At times I have out-dpsed hunters and mages and also out-healed priests and druids. I think paladins in the right gear (which can be plate) can be very effective off healers especially with the Libram of Divinity. So my point is more people need to come to terms with what is required of them rather than trying to force Blizzard to change our class.

  8. Paladins should be natural leaders of raids than any other class because as a hybrid who can melee, cast a spell, cleanse, heal, we own a skill of almost every class.

    I get tired of listening to Mage raid leaders thinking Pallys can only heal/cleanse and they should not do tanking period.

    I don't care about tanking but pallys can off-tank when necessary as I demonstrated I tanked Thekal when all the warriors were dead and my armor level of 7400 is nothing to sneeze at.

    For raid roles, we should be the commanders in the field doing the healing, cleansing, buffing of the troops and jump in when we have to in order to save the raid.

  9. I have levelled my ret pally to 45. I am now in the "soul searching" process of where do I belong. I agree that my image is that of melee, but am forced to heal, which I do as a backup. In reality, the 5th man is the perfect description of what I perceive and do. I heal, tank, buff and keep people alive. That is what I like to do and I belive my guild appreciates me for it. Thanks for helping me to percieve and adjust to my role.

  10. I love the fact that the paladin can damage, tank or heal. I like having that choice, that is the reason i picked the paladin as my main. The only thing i don't like is paying 50 gold to re spec for av weekends. I currently am looking at getting both healing sets for raids and damage sets for pvp. So pretty much what i am saying is i would like it if they made re spec'ing free and a single set that accommodates all the paladins needs.