I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but the shared topic on Blog Azeroth is asking about what we think are the best changes that have happened to WoW in the last 5 years.
You can see the posts from other people on the Twisted Nether site.
I haven't been playing all 5 years. In fact, I started playing around time the An'quiraj was added to the game (Early 2006, or Patch 1.9 for those of you scoring at home).
My main toon has always been my Paladin, so I wanted to concentrate on the best Paladin changes over my time of playing World of Warcraft.
But before I do, I want to talk about what I feel is the absolute best change made to World of Warcraft in the entire time that I've been playing, the 10 and 25 man Raid Split.
Before, you would get to certain point in the end game where you found a wall. Here and no further. No new content for you unless you move on up to the 'Big Leagues' of 25 man raiding. It put people like myself, who wanted to raid in a precarious situation. Did we stay with our smaller guild or do we abandon our online friends and move on to a 25 man guild. 10 mans removed that barrier. Sure I have to give up access to some nice loot, but I can get gear that is sufficient for raiding 10 mans from earlier 10 mans. I don't have to have that gear to advance so it's not a big deal to not be able to get it.
Now I know some people really enjoy 25 mans. They love the synergy of all the classes, and they feel the fights are more epic with more people. Those people are in 25 man raid guilds and having a blast, and that's great.
Some 25 man raiders tend to look down on the 10 man crowd as 'ezmode' and I wish they didn't. I've found that doing 10 mans with 10 man and Emblem gear is a challenge in and of itself, especially Hard Modes. But it's not like I'm going to change their minds. To be honest, if someone doesn't have Devolve under their name, I'm really not all that concerned about their opinion of me or my raid team. So Trade Chat Guy can keep on spouting off all he wants.
Now that we've talked about the meta game, let's get down to Paladins.
Tank, Heal, or DPS
In my mind the best Paladin change that has been made in the last 5 years was making all three Paladin trees competitive for end game raiding. While I'm happy for my Ret brothers, I'm most happy about the Tanking changes.
Back in Vanilla, there was only spec for end game Paladins in PVE or PVP, and that was Holy. Then with Burning Crusade, the Developers started opening up Prot and Ret a little bit. Paladin tanks were the masters of AoE Tanking and creative guilds discovered ways to employ a Paladin tank on some gimmick encounters to make them easier. Anyone remember Morogrim Tidewalker, High Astromancer Solarian, and all of Mt. Hyjal's trash?
We were given tools like Spiritual Atunement, and Avenger's Shield. Then in Wrath, they embrace true tank equality. Paladins were brought up to date with appropriate cool downs, a working Ardent Defender and a real taunt.
Paladins are now the equal of any tank capable class in the game. Ret is accepted as competitive melee DPS. Holy is still viewed as a great Healer with two different yet effective specs, Critadin and Bubble Boy. Paladins have more choices than ever in pursuing the role they choose, not the one they are pigeon holed into.
The original design of the Paladin in a raid enviroment was a pure buffer. Our job was to go around to each player in the 40 man raid and buff them with Wisdom, Kings, Might, etc. Blessing only lasted 5 minutes so just about the time you got through the whole raid, the first people you buffed were about to run out and you'd start the whole process over again. While that design looked 'on paper' it didn't turn out to be much fun. So we got Greater Blessing which hit everyone of a particular class and lasted 15 minutes. Then the durations were further increased to 10 minutes base and 30 minutes for Greater. This freed up Paladins to do their chosen role and not worry about being a buffbot.
The redesign of the Seal and Judgment system vastly improved combat for the Paladin class. It used to be that we only had one Judgment spell and what it did depended on what Seal you had active. Also when you cast Judgment, it would consume your Seal, so Paladins got into a Seal, Judge, Seal rotation. By decoupling the Seal and the Judgment, you could Judge for mana with Judgment of Wisdom and do damage with Seal of Vengeance. That would have been impossible with the old system.
Even with a better Seal and Judgment system, there was still plenty of downtime. You spent a lot of time as a Paladin watching your toon waiting for your Judgment cooldown to come back up. So the Developers gave Paladins more buttons to push. Ret got a true strike with Crusader Strike. Prot would eventually get Hammer of the Righteous. Holy and Prot both use Shield of Righteousness. Combat as a Paladin is much more interactive. The days of autoattack and afk until dead are long gone.
Vengeance and Corruption For All
Once upon a time, Paladins had Faction specific spells. Only the Alliance had Vengeance, while the Horde had Blood. Of course, these spells were different and were better for different uses. Vengeance was a fantastic Tanking spell while Blood was a fantastic melee dps spell. So Alliance Rets and Horde Prots were always frustrated by 'their' spell being unavailable to them.
So what about you? What do you think were the best changes to Paladins over the first 5 years of WoW?
(I reserve the right to edit and extend this entry if you remind of something really cool that I forgot.)