Fitting the Paladin Class to the Image, another Perspective

With his closing post of 2008, Rohan got me thinking for a while about my pallie, currently my main:

Do I really like playing my paladin, or do I just love the paladin archetype?

The paladin archetype, that of a holy warrior, is really, really strong. (…) WoW Paladins are healbots. The design of Flash of Light, coupled with the extreme specialization now in the game, ensures that, now and forever. A low power, high efficiency heal that resets the swing timer has doomed us to a life of spamming heals from the back.(…)Do I like my paladin? Or do I just like the idea of a paladin, a hybrid melee character who healed and blessed her group while dealing retribution with a two-handed hammer? Coriel was that paladin once, will she ever be again?

There used to be (maybe still is, haven’t returned to check lately) among the innumerable self-destructive in-fights of the paladin community the one opposing alliance paladins and horde blood knights (with the exception of re-rollers of course), and while the notion that a belfadin had a less valid viewpoint on the class as it is now has always made me smile, I probably never truly integrated just how deep the cultural gap between the jaded old 2005 alliance pallies and the recent rollers may be.

The paladins of old tend to quickly dismiss all newer ones, in particular blood knights, as people who rolled the class just to healbot, and that this makes them little supportive of other roles than healers. In Rohan’s own view these days there is a sort of resignation (Rohan is perhaps one of the most outspoken advocates of paladins as hybrids) which made me think about how my own perspective differs.

I made my current pallie on the day TBC launched, on a new realm opened that same day. It was my third go at the class, the two previous ones were abandoned in their mid-20ies. My paladin role model back then wasn’t a mental image or the Blizzard class description, it was my alliance guild master, one of the finest paladin players I had seen pre-TBC. And he was holy, a healadin to the core, but still able to hold his own tanking adds in ZG when we lacked a second warrior, pushing the envelope of his build and his class as far as he could. I had spent 18 months in the game hearing about and experiencing first hand what used to be called Retnoobs and Loladins, and back in the day, that was a stigma similar to huntard, a player who has a paladin but doesn’t know how to play it to any effect.

In the meantime, Retribution had become godly (in particular in PvP, since threat wasn’t an issue) and been nerfed back again into raid-unfitness within the space of a bit more than a single month. At the same time, though, patch 2.0 had also introduced (or massively reinforced) protection viability. In late January, therefore, I knew that my path was going to be retribution till 35, then protection until Outlands. Beyond that? I didn’t know then, I expected the class to evolve given the combination of my own sluggish leveling pace and the paladin’s inherent weakness in that same area.

My image of my paladin was thus shaped, on one hand, by an excellent healadin’s example, and on the other hand, nourished by the success stories of protection paladins breaking both the physical and collective mental hurdles to tanking anything the game was throwing at them. Mix in my own prejudice against Retribution and my own successes at both tanking and healing roles, and this pretty much gives you what I am today. I love tanking, and I’m far from burning out on that one, but at the same time I have absolutely no regrets spending a whole semester specced as a healadin for arena mainly and applying that build to instances.

Not having Rohan’s history definitely gives me a different view of the class. I believe also (but without hard facts to back it up) that in general, by being late to the party and having a full picture drawn by our predecessors, the horde paladins have it easier to break out of the strict healbot role and expand it, first to tanking but also, perhaps, to retribution as it is being (at long last) improved and expanded.

Not having 3 years of history of extremely limited purpose, as well as our smaller numbers (many blood knights gave up in their 30ies or 40ies) are two factors removing several psychological and mob-mentality barriers from what we are and what we can do.

Until thinking about Rohan’s own view, though, I did not fully realize that the relative freedom we enjoy is also due because before blood knights, alliance spent two years setting expectations and enduring a continuous disappointment because their own have never been met.

Most ironically, though, where I last met pallies healing and tanking up close and personal in the thick of battle was in… FFXI, the game I abandoned for WoW in June 2005.

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4 Responses to Fitting the Paladin Class to the Image, another Perspective

  1. Pike (6 comments) says:

    I watched the WoW machinima, “Tales of the Past 3″ the other day. They had this huge gigantic showdown between a paladin and Arthas. Good vs. evil at its core. The paladin using the forces of The Light to vanquish evil. I remember thinking “Ya know, if paladins were more like this in WoW… they would be my new favorite (non-hunter) class and I’d roll a bunch of ‘em.”

    As it stands, pallies seem to me as sort of a weird hybrid class having growing pains. Yes I’ve seen good pally tanks, and I’ve seen good pally healers, and heck I’ve seen pretty darn good pally DPS. But you just get the feeling they aren’t reaching the potential of the “true paladin of lore”. Hopefully this is something Blizz looks into in the future… because if they could really pull of the “feel” of a paladin it would be amazing.

    I sort of want to roll another one though… way back when I first started playing WoW (okay it wasn’t “way” back, it was seven months ago =P) I had a paladin as one of my first alts. I got her to level 17 or so and gave up because the class just seemed awkward and unwieldy to me. But I find myself strangely wanting to give it another shot.

  2. Someone (31 comments) says:

    Palies are so hard to level due mainly to lack of ranged abilities (ranged here means you pulling the mob BEFORE the mob actually aggros you from being close to it!), that my previous attempts were also delete mid 20ies. I now have one on the early 20ies that I named after my daughter so I’m not deleting it as yet, but haven’t played it for a while. Trying to find some “courage” to go through a few more boring levels before getting those AoE tanking talents…

    As for Palies they have a harder time being true hybrids than druids: a tank druid can turn into a DPS druid by simply switching gear as most feral talents are good for both situations… They can also backup-heal, especially with HoTs and even have semi-useful CC, so in this regard, Druids have a much easier time being closer to true hybrids than Paladins…

  3. Gwaendar (217 comments) says:

    It’s not just the lack of range which hurts pallies, it’s pure damage output. The performance gap between even a retribution paladin and a hunter became apparent in the mid-20ies for horde and the late 30ies for alliance (the quest weapon making a big difference). It’s probably less stark of a contrast these days, with what 2.3 brings, but where your average level-1 yellow mob takes 6-10 seconds tops to kill on a hunter, the paladin at these levels requires a lucky SoC proc to stay in the 8-12 seconds. Level after level, the gap widens, and these seconds lost add up one by one.
    I don’t use range either when levelling a rogue, but rogue is lightning fast compared to a pallie.

  4. WyldKard (6 comments) says:

    I’ve written a bunch of stuff about the Paladin before, and I still feel that the Protection spec offers the closest experience to the “Paladin of lore”. Quite frankly, AoE grinding, and ending combat with near full health/mana, illustrates not only a Paladin’s fortitude, but also his ability to heal, even if those heals aren’t necessarily directly applied through a single-target cast.