Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Pre-Legion Class Review: Paladins

I think I might not wind up doing every class for this review series - rather than kind of guess at those classes I don't play all that much, I figure I should focus on the classes that I really know, and there's no class I've played more than the Paladin.

Silver Soldier Fighting For Tomorrow:

Even though Paladins pair really well with the undead, and played a big role in Wrath of the Lich King, there's really no better foe for Paladins to face than the Burning Legion. As far as we know, the oldest Paladin order is the Vindicators, who, of course, had the Legion as their primary foe for 25,000 years.

Unlike most other classes, we have a very strong sense of what our class order and class hall will be. There will be a secret vault beneath Light's Hope Chapel that will serve as the headquarters of the newly reformed Knights of the Silver Hand - the original human paladin order created to counter the warlock magic of the Old Horde.

While the two original Paladin races, Humans and Dwarves, have always been connected to the Silver Hand, essentially every additional race to the class has had its own, fairly unique order. The Blood Knights were originally very different - drawing their power from a Naaru in a manner that made them more like Warlocks than Paladins. But after they revolted against Kael'thas' betrayal and with the re-ignition of the Sunwell, the Blood Elf paladins are actually quite similar to their Alliance counterparts.

But while the Knights of the Silver Hand was founded only about thirty years earlier, the Draenei Vindicators have been around for twenty-five millennia, and they're probably some of the most experienced demon-fighters in the universe. I think the main justification for not having a primarily Draenei-themed class order is that the Draenei remain a fairly small minority on Azeroth (lore-wise,) after suffering through the genocide at the hands of the Horde.

If the Blood Knights used to be more akin to Warlocks, the Tauren Sunwalkers derive their path to Paladin-hood through druidism - building upon the Night Elf style of druidism with its emphasis on the moon, and balancing that with a reverence for the sun.

I don't think any other class has its racial variations quite so delineated as Paladins, so it stands to reason that there should be some effort to consolidate the various strains into this new Silver Hand. My human paladin is going to have no problem running a version that is essentially just like the old one, but if I get my tauren alt paladin up to that level, it would be a little strange if there weren't at least some reference to An'she in the Chapel.

We haven't gotten any confirmation of the Protection and Holy artifacts beyond a single, un-marked screenshot of a one-handed mace. It seems likely that both of these artifact sets will be a one-handed weapon and a shield, though Blizzard might make the bold decision to have Holy use a two-handed mace, similar to the war-hammers that Uther and Arthas used in Warcraft III. Protection obviously needs a shield to function, but for Holy, it's just a convenient off-hand item. There have been two-handed intellect maces before, and this would fit with the class look, though I do imagine that most healadins are used to using a shield.

The fact that Ashbringer is the Retribution artifact does not bode well for Tirion Fordring. While they said that some of these weapons would be lost by their current owners because of death or despair, I just don't see Tirion giving in to despair - this is the guy who called upon the power of the light to escape a magical ice prison after Arthas instantly killed everyone he had been fighting.

We know for a fact that Lady Liadrin will be one of the Paladin champion NPCs. There are plenty of human paladins to choose from - from bigger lore figures like Turalyon to less famous but still recognizable figures like Duthorian Rall and Gryan Stoutmantle. Oddly, despite having been in-game from the beginning, there aren't a lot of good dwarf paladin NPCs to choose from. There's a good pairing of Gidwin Goldbraids and Taerenar Sunstrike - the likable young dwarf and blood elf childhood friends with whom you quest through Eastern Plaguelands. Vindicator Maraad had been the iconic Draenei Paladin, but he's dead. However, in his place we have Yrel - a popular figure, but the question there is whether she'd be willing to leave her home universe to come fight for us (though it'd only be equitable.) On the tauren side, we have Sunwalker Dezco, a big figure in Pandaria, or possibly the founder of the Sunwalkers, Aponi Brightmane.

Phew. On to the specs.

Holy Rollers:

Right, here's my big Paladin blindspot. I've tried out Holy once or twice - recently doing a Blackrock Depths run on a low-level alt - but I've really never done much healing in general, and always had a kind of special distaste for healing on a Paladin (in the early days, Paladin players had to kind of fight to be taken seriously as anything other than a healer, so I kind of resented people assuming I'd heal. Obviously that's not much of an issue these days, basically since Wrath.)

Protecting the Innocent:

Right, now here's my strong suit. Honestly, I think Protection plays about as well as it ever has. I don't quite know where the balance issues are at the moment, but gameplay-wise, protection is in great shape - we're tough enough that we don't have to panic in the early part of the pull before we get our first Shield of the Righteous up, and there's enough of a choice when dealing with Shield versus Word of Glory that you do have interesting decisions to make while tanking.

Earlier in Warlords I did find that my threat was always being outstripped by Warrior tanks, but that could have been a combination of having a less powerful weapon or overtuned Warrior damage. There are certainly some talent tiers where there's a clear winner or a clear loser, and so it might be good to tweak those a bit, but overall, I'm pretty happy with Protection Paladins, and have been... well, basically since Burning Crusade, when they worked almost entirely differently. This is my comfort zone, so I guess all I can say: don't fix what ain't broke.

Retributing 'dem Demons:

Actually, though I risk turning this into a big paladin love-fest, I've got to say I also love Retribution at the moment. To be fair, I might love it less if I discovered that Final Verdict was no longer a viable talent (I haven't actually paid much attention to Ret balancing, as I really only play the spec solo.) Replacing Inqusition with a Divine Storm proc totally speaks to my tastes in a rotation (I also always hated the name Inquisition, as it makes my Paladin out to an intolerant fundamentalist, not the superman-like Lawful Good with an emphasis on the "good" hero that he is.)

The one thing I might throw in there is allowing Ret to have Consecration back. It'd be nice for them to get an un-targeted AoE ability - though I realize that they already have a lot of good AoE tools.

Bringing the Light:

Paladins have, I think, been in pretty good shape. I know there are some who are nostalgic for a time before Holy Power, but we're now at a point where that's been a core to the class gameplay for about as long as it wasn't. Those who really remember how things were before Holy Power remember how amorphous the class felt. Anyway, I think that we can safely assume that it's staying. Let's hope for some really cool-looking tier gear and look forward to battling an endless army of demons - show them the power of the Light!

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