Monday, October 20, 2008

Retribution Paladins: Fair and Balanced

I apologize for the somewhat misleading title, but you gotta admit, it made you click the link.

So I tried my hand as a Retribution Paladin this weekend. I had heard all the complaints about how overpowered Retribution was at the moment, so I thought I would get some first hand experience for myself.

Let me give you a little bit of background so you can see the world through my eyes.

My Ret gear is pretty decent (S4 Gloves, S3 Helm, Legs, Chest, S2 Mace, S1 Shoulders with various other PVE pieces thrown in). I am not a very good PVPer. Pre-patch, I was hovering in the 1400 braket in a 2v2 with a Shadowstep Rogue. However, I have been playing as Ret on Beta so I was already familiar with the new tools Retribution has received.

After extensive playing time this weekend, I have come to the conclusion that I agree with Blizzard that Retribution needs adjusting.

I do not make video games for a living so I don’t have any good ideas on what to change to bring Ret back into line, but I can share with you my observations on the issues faced by the design team right now.

The Bubble
For 12 seconds, the Retribution Paladin can become un-CC-able, un-Snare-able, un-Slow-able, and pretty much un-Stop-able. Assuming the Retribution Paladin has successfully put up the Judgement of Justice debuff on his target, and has taken the talent Pursuit of Justice, it also means that his target can not out run him.

This used to be counter balanced by several factors, all of which have been removed.

First of all, in order to get the Judgment of Justice debuff on his target, the Paladin had to use one global cooldown to Seal Justice, then Judge. This put his Judgment spell on an 8 second cooldown. Then he used another global cooldown to reseal Command.

With the changes to the Seal and Judgment system, the Paladin can put Judgment of Justice on his target by simply judging. The seal is not consumed so he doesn’t miss out on any potential Seal of Command proc.

But the well played Paladin should have already debuffed his target long before the Bubble Burst would be used. What other counterbalances to the Bubble have been changed.

The chief counterbalance to the Bubble was that it slowed your swing timer by half. Most Retribution Paladins use a 3.5 to 3.8 second weapon. Slowing it down under the Bubble, would make a 7 to 7.6 second swing, meaning at most you’d get one swing under the Bubble and one shot at procing Seal of Command. Instant Strikes completely negate the swing slow penalty. But prior to the patch, Ret had only one instant strike and that was Crusader Strike on the 6 second cooldown.

The patch added a second instant strike in Divine Storm, and allowed this instant strike a chance to proc Seal of Command. Then a Glyph was added that greatly increased the chance for Seal of Command to proc.

In addition, the Bubble also debuffs the Paladin with Forebearance for 3 minutes, which prevents him from using his ‘other Bubble’ the melee only Hand of Protection. Until Patch 3.0, Forebearance also prevented the Paladin from using Avenging Wrath aka ‘popping his wings’. Avenging Wrath gives the Paladin a 20% damage increase.

As a Paladin, I detest being balanced around the Bubble. It has such a long cooldown (5 minutes) that we find ourselves without it, much more often than we find ourselves with it.

If you create a balance situation where the target of the Paladin has a much better chance surviving those 12 seconds under the Bubble, then it will likely be much harder for the Paladin to have success the majority of time when he does not have the Bubble.

But 12 seconds is an eternity in PVP, especially small group PVP like the 2v2 Arenas I did this weekend. 2v2 can easily turn on which team creates a 2v1 scenario.

Basically the Arena match came down which team had a Ret Paladin. We didn’t lose a single match to a team that didn’t have a Ret Paladin.

If both teams had a Ret, then it came down to which Ret Paladin had better gear to burst the other Ret down.

In Battlegrounds, it’s less noticeable because you can catch team up on the Paladin. Even if he kills one or two targets under the Bubble, you can still outnumber him.

Priests still have the ability to remove the Bubble, but I have noticed it happening less often now than it did pre-Patch.

Stunned Targets
Ret Paladins have an array of talents and Glyphs that increase damage against stunned targets. Taken individually, they don’t seem like a big deal, but put all together and it adds a great deal of burst.

How Did Blizzard Let This Go Live

Because of the nature of PTR and Beta servers, you don’t always have your friends or Arena teammates, so I don’t think people did as much with Arenas in the PTR and Beta. As a reminder, the effect is much less pronounced in Battlegrounds.

Blizzard Reponds
So what does Blizzard have in store to try to rein the situation in:

Hotfixed in and Live now:

Divine Storm moved from holy to physical damage - essentially damage is cut from anything between 50 and 30%, depending on your armor value.

Repentance now "blinds" you for 6 seconds instead of 10. Live now.

Coming in the next Patch 3.0.3 which is due before November 1st.Art of War used to increase critical strike damage by 20% for Divine Storm, Crusader Strike and Judgements - this will be changed to a flat 8% damage increase on crit and noncrit damage. Righteous Vengeance used to add 25% extra critical damage to Divine Storm and Judgement. It will be removed and turned into a 40% dot (ticking for 10% every 2 seconds for 8 seconds, similar to Deep Wounds). Glyph of Crusader Strike won't add damage on stunned targets anymore.
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