Paladins Are Boring
Is there a more boring class in WoW than paladins?
This question has been fermenting in my mind for quite some time now, and it’s a rather depressing one as someone who has had a paladin “main” for damn near a decade. It isn’t a “grass is always greener” issue either, or even a “Retribution brings nothing that a Holy paladin couldn’t” issue. The issue is just straight-up soggy cardboard class design.
I am primarily speaking towards Retribution, as that is what I level and play as most of the time. And it’s mind-numbingly boring. Judgment, Crusader Strike, Exorcism… wait for procs. Sometimes a long string of connected procs appears, and I pretend like I’m having fun for 20 seconds. It never works though, because none of my attacks feels like it has any weight behind it. Part of that could be because every special attack sounds like I’m squeezing water out of a sponge.
Then you get to paladin abilities. Avenging Wrath was the peak of Retribution design, or any paladin design, really – everything else has been downhill. Every button on my bar is defensive. And not like “cool defensive cooldown,” just straight boring damage reduction most of the time.
- Hammer of Justice. “Trinket this and win” button.
- Word of Glory. An “I LOSE” button.
- Lay on Hands. Full heal. Neat.
- Divine Shield. Aka Bubble-Hearth.
- Cleanse. Okay?
- Divine Protection. Damage reduction, wheee.
- Hand of Protection. Ghetto Divine Shield.
- Hand of Freedom. “Dispel me” disco ball.
- Emancipate. For when Hand of Freedom is dispelled.
- Avenging Wrath. The one legit ability.
- Hand of Sacrifice. Soooo useful, Blizzard, thanks.
The talent tree is also incredibly sad:
- Tier 1: Remember when paladins were actually mobile? Now they aren’t!
- Tier 2: Remember when Retribution had PvP utility? Now they don’t!
- Tier 3: Remember when there was a cool interaction between Sacred Shield & Flash of Light?
- Tier 4: Straight-up useless.
- Tier 5: Want a cooldown for your cooldowns, or proc for your procs?
- Tier 6: Have another button that you press once and forget to press again.
- Tier 7: YOUR ULTIMATE ABILITY IS… hey, let’s make Divine Storm not suck.
Glyphs? Just look at them. They’re total garbage. Damage reduction or more healing. Wait, wait… one of them increases the damage on ONE ability, but only for the second mob you hit. Which is just fucking fantastic, exactly what I was looking for. Where’s the glyph that completely changes your leveling rotation, like the priest’s Glyph of Mind Harvest?
Find me a more boring class for leveling, for farming, for PvP. When I get on my Death Knight alt, it’s like 10 years of the hopes and dreams of paladins everywhere, condensed in playable form. “Here’s damage reduction… and a stun break/stun immunity!” “Here’s spell damage reduction… and CC immunity!” Look at Tier 7 talents for DKs. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
…they are all goddamn abilities from the Lich King! That feels amazing and gets you pumpped to hit max level. Where is that cool Uther or Tirion feeling in paladin talents? Nowhere. Total garbage.
When I play my warrior, I feel excited because I’ll basically be able to Charge every mob. When I play my DK, I feel excited because I can Death Grip every mob. When I play my rogue, I feel excited because I can fucking teleport behind every mob (seriously, Cloak & Dagger is amazing for leveling). When I play my druid, I feel excited because I’m playing a nuanced class that some designer actually gave two shits about because whoa, look at all the things I can do.
The more I think about it, the more it feels like the paladin class was transplanted from another game entirely. It doesn’t fit WoW anymore, assuming it ever did. The niche it fulfills is “all these buttons are for other people” when the game has been about all the cool individual things you can do for the last three expansions. In fact, every other class has so many individual things they can do that they don’t need paladin assistance anymore.
I haven’t felt excited about paladins since Wrath, really. Not because there were moments when Retribution was overtuned – although it was glorious for a while there – but because it felt like there was actually nuance to the gameplay. Hand of Freedom broke stuns. If you cast Flash of Light on yourself when the 6-second shield from Sacred Shield was up, it was almost always a crit. There was some interplay between abilities back then.
Paladins need an(other) overhaul. Or, at least Retribution does. There’s nothing retributive about them. Too many of the Ret abilities serve no function to the paladin him/herself nor hinder enemies in any way. Again, if that’s supposed to be the paladin schtick, it’s a dumb one for the way the game is currently designed.
Want some suggestions? Invert the Hand spells for Retribution for starters. Hand of Freedom becomes Hand of Confinement for enemies. Hand of Protection becomes Hand of Sequestoring, e.g. same exact effect except castable on enemies. Hand of Sacrifice becomes Hand of Punishment, where 30% of the damage you take is dealt to that enemy. Hell, how about inverting Divine Shield to Divine Retribution, so that instead of being immune to everything you simply reflect incoming attacks/spells?
The devs wouldn’t need to give Retribution all these abilities either. Make us choose, if you like. Have it be talent, or gylph, or (sigh) cooldown. Make it so that if you take Hand of Confinement, you can’t cast Hand of Freedom anymore. Something, anything.
I originally chose to play a paladin in WoW because I always found them conceptually interesting as a class in D&D, but disliked the Lawful Good limitations. Being a frontline fighter killing things with a sword of light was cool. And that concept can still be cool. Remember Seal of Blood? Conceptually cool.
Tirion. Uther. The Ashbringer. Did you feel anything from those names, and if so, were those feelings at all comparible to the feeling evoked from WoW paladins? From where I’m sitting, whatever class Tirion and Uther actually belong to, it sure as hell ain’t paladin.
Posted on May 13, 2015, in WoW and tagged Game Design, Other Class Envy, Paladin, Soggy Cardboard, Talents. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.
So… tell me how you really feel.
This made me chuckle, thanks!
I haven’t played Paladin in a long time, but the biggest problem I always had was remembering the abilities by name. The names all sound like phrases from ancient tomes, and while that’s cool and fits the lore of the class, I could never keep them straight. I remembered “the one that spins you around” .. “the one with wings” .. “throw the hammer”. They’re definitely not self-explanatory like Siphon Soul, or Frostbolt, or Arcane Shot.
But Az, how can you call retadins the most boring when shamans exist?
My shaman is 87 at the moment. While Elemental seems to get worse with each expansion from a leveling perspective, Enhancement was a ton of fun IMO. Then you have Bloodlust, Fire Elemental Totem, Grounding Totem, Ghost Wolf to get around, Purge spam in PvP, Hex has a lot of flavor, Far Sight is actually tactically useful in some BGs, Thunderstorm to knock people off cliffs in AB (etc) as Elemental, Feral Spirit in general as Enhancement, and (this will sound a bit lame but…) Chain Heal is one of the most iconic and cool-looking heals in the game for Resto. Also, Earth Shield feels meaty in a way that Beacon of Light or any other spell never does. Perhaps it’s the sizzle when casting it…
I will concede that Shaman talents aren’t all that interesting. But! At least the Glyphs are meaningful decisions and/or actually impact how you use the abilities in question. For example, Glyph of Shamanistic Rage is a mini-bubble. And… that’s about it. But one is more than paladins get.
“The niche it fulfills is “all these buttons are for other people” when the game has been about all the cool individual things you can do for the last three expansions.”
While I haven’t played WoW in forever and I’m sure you’re correct in the context of the current state of that game, I think buttons for other people does need to be a thing. We saviour-complex martyr types represent a big enough sliver of the MMO ecosystem that any dev team would be wise to toss us a class or a few viable builds – and thematically, a paladin is defined by the ethos of service.
The problem lies in the subsequent point you make – nothing is sadder than a paladin-archetype who ends up an irrelevant gadfly, instead of a much-desired presence altering the flow of battle.
Yeah, the problem is this: does the savior-complex person fit a Retribution paladin? Keep in mind that aside from Emancipate, all of the abilities I listed before are available to all three paladin specs, one of which is Protection paladin. If you want a martyr-type, there you go. Having so many precious slots of your class kit locked up with abilities you are never going to use outside of Arenas is depressing as hell. Is the DPS paladin going to use Hand of Sacrifice in a raid? Out leveling?
It’s a bizarre design for a class to have so many short-duration buffs solely for the use of other people in a game that doesn’t support that general gameplay. Even if you were A) out leveling with a mage friend, and B) they pulled aggro, and C) you were fighting a mob that didn’t die in 5 seconds to two DPS wailing on it, using your Taunt spell would have the same effect as Hand of Protection 99% of the time. I suppose if the mage was running around AoEing everything and drew aggro from every mob in sight, maybe it’d be useful then, for six seconds. Post ability-pruning though, has is it that we lost Auras and kept the Hand spells?
The more I think about the whole situation, the worse it seems. Emancipate was our big high-level ability? When we already had Hand of Freedom? What signal is that supposed to send? It sucks, all of it.