Thursday, March 22, 2007

Revisting the Fifth Man

In one of my very first posts, I wrote about how I believe that paladins were not part of the typical MMO triad of tank-healer-dps, and that they were something else: a fifth-man class. And that the ideal 5-man group was: tank, healer, dps, dps, fifth-man.

I no longer think this is case in The Burning Crusade.

Indeed, I think that the ideal party has become: tank, healer, dps, dps, dps.

There are three reasons that I am now leaning towards this. First, healing in most TBC instances seems to have become easier. Perhaps it is the increased stamina, perhaps it's just the way the fights are set up, but it seems much easier to heal than in WoW 1.0.

Second, there seems to be a greater emphasis on crowd control, with several pulls consisting of five or more mobs, something which was very rare in WoW 1.0. Crowd control is mostly the province of the dps classes. Having three dps classes gives you three options of crowd control, which makes a lot of the fights easier.

Third, and most importantly, a lot of fights are timed, or require you to kill adds quickly. I generally find that there are many fights where you need one dps class killing adds, and two dps on the boss. A paladin just cannot deal with the adds fast enough. Example fights include Grandmaster Vorpil in Shadow Labyrinth, Kargath Bladefist in Shattered Halls, and the entire instance of Black Morass.

Yes, it's probably possible to do these instances with 2x dps and a fifth-man, especially if they are geared, but it seems to me that 3x dps is a superior makeup.

I feel rather sad, because I really liked playing the fifth-man role, and I used to feel like an essential part of the group, providing the right solution at the right time. But now--if I'm in a fifth-man slot--I can't help but notice how much easier it would be if I was replaced by a dps character.

There are a lot of ramifications to this change. The changes to healing, and new Holy tree make paladins a lot more viable as main-healers, as do the changes to Protection for tanking. However, I'm not what the Retribution tree can do. Can they take a dps slot?

For the sake of argument, pretend that Retribution's damage matches a "real" dps class. Even then, they have no crowd control. Add to that the fact that their damage does not match an equally-geared dps class, especially if they do some healing, and it's no wonder that Retribution paladins are looked down on.

Shadow priests, in contrast, are acceptable because their damage does match that of the dps classes, they provide a *lot* of addition utility in health and mana regen, and they have crowd control in the form of Shackle.

With the passing of the paladin as fifth-man concept, I think that the Retribution tree has lost its way. Holy and Protection have been strengthened and drop into the healer and tank roles, but Retribution doesn't really have a purpose in 5-man content anymore.

Oddly enough, I would say that Retribution is a decent spec for raiding, because there is--in my Karazhan experience--a lot more room to act as a fifth-man, and crowd control becomes much less important. Additionally, the utility that Retribution does possess (Sanctified Crusader, Improved Sanctity Aura) becomes more and more powerful as the size of the group increases.


  1. My thoughts are that most of the high level dps classes are still pretty squishy.

    Nothing wrong with swapping a bit of dps for a lot more survivability and the ability to grab aggro if it goes pear shaped and the tank dies.

    My dps gear has a/c around 10500 and my tank gear has around 11100.....takes a bit of hitting in the non-heroic 5-mans to knock me over...especially if I'm after the tank has died.

    Kashinboner - 70 Pally
    Kashman - 58 Hunter
    Shinbone - 41 Warlock

  2. Having said that.....quite often we will have a guild 5-man run with a combination of the following 7 people:

    70 Ret Pally (me)
    70 Prot Pally
    70 Lock (uber-dps)
    70 Mage (uber-uber-dps)
    69 Resto Druid
    68 Prot Pally
    65 Prot/Arms Warrior

    Runs with the three pallies, lock and mage are the best fun.....12 buffs on each is not uncommon.

    Suffice it to say, we're not a raid guild, but isn't it all about having fun while killing fings?

    Kashinboner - 70 Pally

  3. An extra priest also brings extra crowd control++ in the form of Mind Control.

    Steamvaults is one of my favorite instances for this; the Red Aura in Botanica is pretty nifty too.

  4. I can see your point in some instances boss fights. Sometimes the "5th man" is less useful than another dps. But on other bosses, like say the 1st Mechanar boss, a rogue is surprisingly useless. In the BC these fights are better designed so that you cannot have "the ultimate" group for every single fight. I love this as it provides a challenge, and requires actual skill and thinking.

    Anyhow this is coming from a rogue, not just a some biased pally fan. Hybrids, and the "5th man" are more needed than ever in my opinion because the mobs and bosses are so diverse. When you have only 5 people to deal with ever changing configurations, it is very valuable to have a person who can switch out to do a couple of different tasks. For pallys that is tanking, healing, or gimped dps (which can even provide some value).

    Oh and pallys do have crowd control capabilities. Tanking is the best crowd control.

  5. Tanking is the best crowd control.

    No, I'm pretty sure that Polymorph is better. In fact, I might even go so far as saying that tanking is the worst form of crowd control (at least from a healing point of view).

    One thing that many people--especially dps--don't seem to realize is that having one tank per mob is bad thing in 5-man instances. It's too hard to heal efficiently. You want your one tank to have all the non-CC'd mobs on her, while the dps focus fires one of them. This makes healing much easier. The only time you should actually off-tank something is if having several mobs on the tank will kill her before the healer can react. (Or if positioning is important.)

    I'm not saying that instances are now impossible with an extra paladin. I just think an extra paladin is sub-optimal, when it used to be optimal.

  6. Got to agree with GSH, you really only want one tank holding all non-CC'd mobs in a 5 man, especially if you have a Shaman or Paladin healing, due to the lack of group heals/HoTs.

    It's actually something I wrote about recently on my blog.

    I do agree that playing my Paladin seems less and less appealing, especially since there are so many other classes now that bring the same/comparable utility and a higher damage output.

  7. GSH,
    You're so right usually, it's shocking me how wrong you are this time :)
    The paladin, post BC, has become the top class for PvE content in my opinion. She can heal, tank *and* DPS.

    Oh, you don't believe me about the DPS? I was in BM over 10 times, 2 of which were successful - one time for my key and the other for some guildies. Both good times we used a paladin as the person handling the adds, I swear he took them down faster than runs I did with a rogue handling the adds and with *much* more mana efficiency then a mage (me :)) handling them.

    Healing? It's a secret no longer that the world's top guilds - Death & Taxes, and Nihilum - use *paladins* as main healers and all priests in shadow-form.

    Tanking - you yourself posted positive experiences with pala tanking, even in Karazhan! My experience has been the same, when my paladin friend tanks, he rocks. AND he's holy specced! :)

  8. I've got to say as far as Ret goes it seems most groups would rather have a "pure" DPS class that has more utility or CC. An easy way to fix this... (and I've always wondered why it wasn't this way from the begining) would be to make Repentance last LONGER... like 20-30 seconds.

  9. solidstate, I think you are reading more into my post than I intended.

    Pre-TBC, I was most effective when someone else was the tank or healer. I supported them both as a fifth-man.

    Post-TBC, I am most effective when I am the tank or healer. I am least effective when I am not either of those two roles.

    It's a change of roles. I just happen to like the old role a lot. I like the new one as well, it's just different.

    I disagree with you about Retribution though. Yes, if you are geared you can meet the damage requirements, but a DPS class will do the same job at a much lower gear level, and add some crowd control to boot.

    As proudfoot says, making Repentance a proper CC move would help out Retribution a lot.

  10. I've got the reason why Repentance is not a "proper" CC's because we wear plate.

    Consider all the other CC moves and who puts them on...."squishies" or at best a mail wearing hunter.

    Imagine the howls of indignation of the CC classes if a plate wearer had as valid a CC move as them.

    To my thinking, those six seconds are priceless if a baddie is whaling on your you time to use Righteous Defence and grab the aggro....shout out to the healer...."Got two...start healing" and you're ready to rock and roll.

    Used it many times.....fits into the ethos of "Defender of the Weak" as well.

    Kashinboner - 70 Pally

  11. Not a bad idea that.....maybe I should make a macro to do exactly that....:)

    Soz for multiple posts, but the perceived weakness of retri pallies is something I am passionate about.

  12. I've got the reason why Repentance is not a "proper" CC's because we wear plate.

    Consider all the other CC moves and who puts them on...."squishies" or at best a mail wearing hunter. -MB

    A 20 second repentance with a 1 min CD is nowhere near as good as sheep. It's about on the level with Sap except that a rogue could most likely kill another target in the 45 seconds of sap. In a group situation it would make ret paladins alot more useful... and thats a good thing because of the percived weakness of Ret.

  13. When it comes to non-heroics, a ret paladin just tanking with a 2h is the best imo, as long as you have a decent healer, you can do a lot of damage and hold aggro at the same time. For heroics though, a non-prot/non-feral tank certainly can't handle the blows from mobs. So for those, I will agree that a paladin as a fifth man or dps won't quite cut it.

    I do like the idea of making Repentance last longer. I don't think the cloth wearing classes would have a huge issue with it. I just had an interesting idea. What if it lasted longer on targets with lower health, for instance targets at full health would only be incapacitated for six or fewer seconds, and targets below 20% life would be affected for 15 to 20 or so. This is just a thought, maybe good, maybe not. But I do agree for the most part that ret paladins lack something, and I don't think just increasing our damage is the answer.

    Actually, going back to a topic a couple weeks ago, I think the answer might be to increase a ret paladin's healing capacity through meleeing, and maybe vice versa. One idea is to make a talent (or non-talented ability) that increases healing done when melee damage is dealt, and vice versa, for an amount of time or a number of charges.

  14. Your bang on the money with your 5th man observation and i don't bother going unless i am main healer as my lack of dps as a utility player just slows the dungeon down and makes it more difficult.
    However if you switch on Heroic its back to business as usual with a Pali being vital second healer. Im really enjoying the heroic instances as each class has to be on the ball and it fine tunes you all. Agro time is essential (non heroic this is not the case).

  15. Tanking is in fact the best CC, not because it is the most efficient (it is certainly not), but because it is intelligent and adaptable.

    One of the best changes in BC is more interesting mob and boss fights. The off tank is the intelligent crowd control making pulls go smoothly by tying up loose ends.

  16. Don't be too disheartened the 5th man role is absolutely necessary in Heroics having the option of an off healer and or off tank is mandatory on even some trash pulls. I help run a medium core guild and often run with our MT and one of our better restro Druids and as a 50/11/0 Holy Paladin they’ll have me every time to help out with that elusive 5th man role.

    For example the 3 trash pulls before the last boss in H-Underbog hit our half Kara geared Tank for between 7-9K white damage. Even with parry/dodge/miss and block you need two dedicated healers on the Tank to defeat these pulls.

    To support that of the 9 playable classes nearly half (4) are in some way or another (depending on spec) a support healer class - so it isn’t unfair of blizzard to make content that requires Tank/Healer/dps/dps/support

    We also make BM look like childs play with a Paladin (me) on the adds. However instead of tasked with killing them my primary role is just to Off tank them all in the same spot. I typically kill half of them by the time the Rift Lord is dead and the two dps classes just finish them off on the way to the next boss. Its actually a very easy role as a Paladin and we have run BW up to 3 times in a row (after the druids pants drop) without a hiccup using this method.

    Stefion 70 Paladin

  17. last time i checked anything that is polymorphed can be tanked, not everything that can be tanked can be polymorphed