Monday, August 19, 2013

What If Paladins Had Stayed Alliance-Only?

I was thinking about the story imbalance between the Horde and the Alliance, and started wondering. What happened to all the Alliance paladins?

In a lot of ways, the story of the Alliance in Warcraft is the story of their paladins. Uther, Turalyon, Arthas, Bolvar Fordragon. But all the major Alliance paladins are gone. The last one is Tirion Fordring, and he is now neutral.

Back in Vanilla, paladins were unique to the Alliance, while shaman were unique to the Horde. I think that class distinction added a great deal of character to the two factions. The paladins symbolized the civilization and law of the Alliance, while the shaman symbolized the wildness and more natural state of the Horde.

But when the two classes were opened up to both sides, I think the Alliance lost more of its identity than the Horde did. For example, the Order of the Silver Hand went neutral, and became the Argent Crusade. However, the Horde gained two paladin orders: the Blood Knights and the Sunwalkers. It seems odd to me that there is no Alliance paladin order, but two different Horde ones. A Horde paladin, Sunwalker Dezco, is playing a major role in the Horde storyline.

I don't think the parallel case of the shaman matches. Alliance shamans are pretty marginal in the lore. There are some in the Earthen Ring. But shamans, especially with Thrall, are still central to the Horde.

Personally, I think the classes should stayed faction-specific. In my mind, the balance issues were not that bad, aside from Blessing of Salvation. Had Blizzard just axed that one ability, I think the imbalance would have been easier to fix.

It's interesting to ponder an alternate timeline where the classes had remained faction-specific, and the mechanical divisions between the factions had been deepened instead of lessened.

For example, in Wrath, Tirion Fordring and the Argent Crusade might have remained Alliance. And this could have been balanced by making Death Knights a Horde-only class. Death Knights were always classic Horde units, and the theme of outcasts banding together fits in well with the Horde. Not to mention the natural relation with the Forsaken.

Then in Mists of Pandaria, Monks could have been an Alliance-only class. In my mind, the quiet, contemplative nature of the monks and pandaren fit in better with the lawful Alliance than the rough-and-tumble Horde.

So in this alternate timeline, we'd have a Horde with Death Knights and Shamans, and an Alliance with Paladins and Monks. The differences between the factions would have been more pronounced. I think this would have made it easier for the writers to craft stories that were unique to each faction.

Of course, I don't think this plan would have been okay with the players though. If the Death Knights had been revealed as a Horde-only class, with no Alliance class in Wrath, the howls of outrage would have been deafening.


  1. Well, aside from the Blessing issue, in Burning Crusade there would have been the problem with roles. Paladins would have had 3 roles vs the 2 Shamans have. That would have given the Alliance a tank option that the Horde lacked.

    Could there have been a solution to that? I'm sure someone could have thought of something, but the lure of just unshackling Paladins and Shamans was too strong I guess.

  2. Your last paragraph hit the major problem - the players would have gone ballistic if a new faction-only class had been revealed in Wrath. If they could have worked two new classes in an expansion, say the Monk became a class added to the Alliance when the secrets of Auchindoun were recovered by the Draenei, there would have been balance. I expect that there still would have been outrage on both sides.

    From a narrowly Alliance perspective this does all make sense. The Alliance is a canvas for the Horde story. It is far more important to add flesh to the Horde bones with Paladin orders and the cultural role of the Shaman than it is to replace structures salvaged from the Alliance to tell the story of Wrath.

  3. This would have been pretty hard on the Horde's randoms, being short a tanking class. Perhaps shamans could have been made into a tanking class through their totems (though those are gone now).

  4. I didn't play a high level Shaman in vanilla, but it was my understanding that they were capable of tanking, something that was lost when the Horde got Pallies. Am I incorrect? Even in Cata, I didn't do too bad as an off-tank Enh Shaman when our Paladin occasionally went down.

  5. You are incorrect. I played a Tauren Shaman starting the day after Vanilla released. At very low levels, I was able to tank some instances. We had some nice aggro generating abilities in Earthshock and Rockbiter. With a shield, I could survive tanking up to and including Wailing Caverns, if I choose the leather pieces carefully.

    After that, however, I stood no chance of surviving as a tank. The upgrade of other classes to plate meant their mitigation was MUCH higher than anything I could get off of chainmail.

    Also, having raided at the time at the MC/BWL/20 man level, I cannot begin to describe how much easier raiding got with the various pally buffs available. The Shaman totems simply did not come close to matching the utility provided by those buffs. It was WAY more than just Salvation that had an impact.

  6. It isn't that Shamans could tank, but that they had a number of tanking tools in the toolkit that could have easily made the transition to a fully realized tanking class, including mechanisms for aggro generation, taunts, damage mitigation, and interrupts.

    It was often commented on at the time that the rockbiter weapon imbue coupled with shield wearing made it seem as if Blizzard wanted shamans to tank.

    As it was they were bad at it, and bad healers as well.