Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Paladins (and everyone): Present and Future

This is the Part II to the previous post about paladins in the past year and a half, and some expectations/wishes for Cataclysm Some of these I'm looking forward to, some I expect anyways, and some I would just really like.

1. The Talent Tree overhaul. Talents that give you +heals or +damage are supposedly out the door, and talents are going to focus more on giving new abilities or adding special effects to existing abilities. This. Is. Awesome.

My biggest complaint with the BC priest talent trees was the feeling of prohibition. I felt that the Holy and Disc trees were designed to keep you from getting too many cool talents at once instead of letting you have good synergy with the points you had.

Also in this new talent system, for each talent point you spend in a tree, you will get a passive buff to *some important stat for your class/role*. Which is why the change of getting rid of those filler talents is great - we're going to be getting a little bit of oomph each time we spend a talent point.

Another wish I have for this new talent tree overhaul is more choices. Of course I'm going to discus the Holy tree for paladins, since most of us agree that there is too much filler, too many "junk" points you have to get just to build up to Beacon of Light. Some talents (in all trees) are PVP oriented or PVE oriented. I would like more talents that can be awesome for both PVE and PVP. I would like more choices at the bottom - maybe instead of having one 51-pointer, have two... with the caveat that choosing one makes the other unavailable. Of course, these talents would have to be balanced closely or we will still have the same cookie-cutter builds we have now. If for instance, paladins had to choose between their Bacon and a really crappy 51-pointer, a paladin would be ridiculed for not having Beacon, so there's really no choice there without proper balance.

2. The spellpower/attack power overhaul. Much like +healing/+spelldamage disappeared in the transition from BC to Wrath, spellpower and attack power are disappearing and being replaced with Mastery. I am optimistic about this change. Instead of spellpower giving you more damage or healing, the stat Intellect will (I predict that critical strike rating will be unlinked from Intellect and either linked to another stat or just left to stand on its own to slow down gear progression throughout the expansion). It will allow for a lot more flexibility in gearing - blue comments have hinted that they want upgrades to be upgrades without needing a spreadsheet. I like the idea, so long as we still have some choices, and I think we will. However, I do believe that spellpower has not ever been a choice, not for me on any of my healers. Most of the gear available from a given tier has comparable amounts of spellpower, if not the same numbers. So for me to make a choice between two pieces of gear available from a badge vender, for example, a mail helm or a plate helm from Triumph badges. They have the exact same stamina/intellect/spellpower/gem slots/socket bonus/spellpower. The difference is that the plate has crit/mp5 and the mail has haste/mp5. My only "choice" was do I want haste or do I want critical strike rating? (I don't feel I have a choice, until I am haste capped I will "choose" haste). It doesn't matter that either of those helms have spellpower because almost all the ilevel 245 gear has the same amount. There's no choice to focus on spellpower (except via gems and enchants, which we should still be able to do if Mastery is worked into those professions). As a healer, my choices are really between haste, crit, and Mp5, and it's been that way throughout the entire expansion.

3. The spirit un-nerf. (Or, you will want spirit, we will make you want it). Many clothies and leather-wearers have had a love-hate relationship with Spirit through Wrath. In BC, it was a powerful regen stat, but Blizzard nerfed the amount of regen it gives outside of the 5 second rule because they didn't like what it did to boss fights with transitions and how much mana priests and druids could get back by not casting. GC has also gone as far as to say that he thinks not doing anything (getting outside of the 5 second rule) for that long to preserve resources isn't fun. It makes me think that we will be seeing more active mana regen talents. Did I mention yet that they are overhauling Paladin and Shaman healers to make them spirit-based as well? All healers will want spirit, and DPS will not (mages, warlocks, and boomkins will supposedly not be getting spirit or spirit-conversion talents). Paladins and Shamans will be getting a "meditation-like" talent. As much as I'm not for even more homogenization, I think it's a welcome change for what it will do to delineate what is healer gear and what is DPS gear. Also, now that our mail and plate wearing healers want spirit, Mp5 is going to disappear. I would like the five second rule will be replaced by an in-combat, out-of-combat system (provided they tweak out of combat so it's less buggy and allows me do out of combat things when the fight is over).

Also in the vein of what healers are doing during a fight, I would like to see more things to do other than just filling up green bars while working to keep my blue one from going down. The Priest Discipline tree has a couple of great examples - Pain Suppression and Power Infusion. A special Judgement effect that only holy paladins can give would be awesome. Wouldn't it be neat if a priest could channel for 5 seconds to give 10 seconds of damage reduction? (I suggest channeling because of PVP concerns). Would a shaman enjoy having a special ability (other than Heroism/Bloodlust), perhaps in the flavor of an extra totem with a special buff they could use once or twice a fight? I can't think of specific abilities I'd want my healers to have, and Blizzard would have to balance these carefully (I don't want to hear from a rogue that we wiped because my tree didn't give him an agility buff often enough during the fight). I would hate for the "stuff to do while we're not healing" evolve into one class being assigned to only heal and not buff because their buffs suck, while another class being told to "not heal and buff those dps moar". No matter the implementation, I want more stuff to do to support my raid other than my green numbers!

4. Reforging. How many times has caster gear with hit on it dropped and everyone passed because no one wants hit anymore? (Our DPS are capped, and our healers don't want it). In theory, this will happen less with the ability to go up to a crafter and switch one stat for another. The example I remember reading was that spirit and hit would be exchangeable. A cloth item with stamina/intellect and hit/crit could be changed into an item with stamina/intellect/spirit and crit. The idea is less gear sharded and more gear getting worn via reforging. If implemented well (and I believe Blizzard wants to do a good job), this could be great. I wonder if strength or agility will be able to be reforged into intellect or spirit, as well? This could solve what many view as the problem of spellpower plate - hundreds of pieces of gear designed for only one of thirty specs in the game. If a paladin could reforge a plate item from stamina/strength and crit/hit to have stamina/intellect/spirit and crit, the game designers spend less time creating items for thirty possible specs and more time designing items that more players could use (with a trip to the forge). There will be limitations, I'm sure: we will not be able to over-stack a stat and some stats will probably not be available for reforge (stamina comes to mind). Another idea I could see being implemented is another version of the token-drop system. Much like tier gear tokens dropped in Naxx and Ulduar, a helm token would drop and the awarded player would get the choice in what piece of head gear to turn it in for. Unlike tier gear, these wouldn't have to be limited to certain class types or even armor types. (Or, if they did do class or armor type limits, they could be a bit broader than tier gear is now, and the server could check to make sure there's the appropriate recipient in the raid before it drops the token). This wouldn't have to replace the way loot drops now, it could be used to enhance the way loot is done now.

5. Defense Cap. There have been no announcements (that I am aware of) that the defense cap is going away, but I think it will. Druids are a prime example of a tank that does not need to reach a specific number in defense to tank. In fact, I really like druid tanking and the way that itemization for druid gear works because there is no "tanking" leather. In the feral tree, there's a talent that makes them uncrittable, so they don't have to be "defense capped". I hope to see similar talents added for the other tanking classes, because the defense cap makes getting started as a tank gearing up artificially harder than other roles and takes switching around enchants and gems early on. I would like to see defense as a stat not to cap, but to add more mitigation, so that tanks will want it for the mitigation it offers, and like other stats, more would be better. EDIT: I found this post from MMO-champion. Not quite the removal of defense cap, but Blizzard definitely sees the need for more viable tanking specs in small-group content. Yay!

6. Hit Rating and Dispels. I don't mind that offensive dispels need hit rating for maximum effectiveness, but it's frustrating as a healer to miss a Cleanse on a tank. Steelbreaker comes to mind as the most taxing example, where your tank would die if you were resisted. I've heard players on the forum say "oh I never get dispel resists those things don't happen often enough to be worth talking about" but I don't believe that. In a raid setting (especially if you raid with trigger-happy dispelling priests like I do), I will dispel and then the effect disappears (because we had three people try to dispel it at once). In a five man (or a 10 man where I'm the only player who can dispel magic), I notice those resists quite a bit more. Most of the time it's not a raid-wipe... but it's also a tad frustrating that the best dispeller in the group is a hit-capped DPS who should not be focused on decursing, but doing damage to the boss. As much as I love the idea of everyone supporting everyone, I expect that Cataclysm will continue to have tight enrage timers, leaving the support role of decursing to the healers. I also half-expect talents in DPS trees to be reworked to get rid of a "cap" on how much hit is needed. Right now, any points beyond the hit cap are wasted points. On my balance druid this is painful - she had way too much hit too soon, but I can't get rid of it all without a severe overhaul in her gear (and competing with resto druids and all clothies for cloth and leather with no hit on it). I don't like how hit is necessary to gem and enchant for in the beginning of an expansion and becomes a stat that needs to be shed after the sheer amount available on gear (triumph badge trinket, I'm looking at you!). I expect changes, but I'm not sure what implementations we'll see.

7. More gated raiding. I imagine that the gating we see in Icecrown (and ToC) will continue to remain throughout each tier of raiding in Cataclysm. Blizzard has really made a focus to get more people doing the same content at the same time. I know a lot of people were upset that Naxx and Ulduar have become obsolete, but I really like that I don't have to do Naxx to get gear for my alts (we all farmed Naxx more than enough on our first characters, right?), I can queue in the Heroics and get up to speed and doing current content a whole lot quicker. It allows for the larger servers to have more pugs, because current content is more accessible. I also fully expect more normal/hard modes... where the normal modes are more or less pretty easy, and the hard modes are, you guessed it, hard. What I would like to see is slower progression of gearing throughout each tier in normal modes, while the gear available from hard modes is more powerful. I haven't been able to do a whole lot of hardmodes myself (nothing in Ulduar, and I'm 4/5 ToGC10), but I understand that the hardcore gamers want some toys all to themselves. I don't blame them, they earned it if they can kill Anub on 25 Heroic. I also expect that like Icecrown, the heroic modes will not be available right away, quite possibly until the instance has been cleared on normal mode.

My special wishlist for paladins includes an overhaul to Blessings (again). I really like the changes that Blizzard has made to Blessings from classic up until now, but I don't think the system is perfect yet. The biggest problem I have with Blessings is Might and Wisdom are far too situational depending on class and spec. When it takes an addon to coordinate four paladins to do different blessings to 10 different classes, I think that's a problem. (Sure, PallyPower isn't necessary but I groan when I pug with paladins who don't use it). I would love if Wisdom and Might disappeared, and were replaced with one blessing - possibly Mastery (and can we say goodbye to those Improved Blessing talents?). Also, I think Cataclysm is the perfect time to introduce one-click raid-wide Blessing buffs. Even if it takes implementing an extra spell, or an extra reagent (or both), I think the old blessing system just has to go. Too many times I've been the only paladin (or the only non-prot paladin, since they insist on using BoSanc on everyone), and I have to set up PP to track Greater Wisdom (for the resto and balance druids), and regular Might for the kitty. While it's not impossible, why can't I just buff once and give everyone what they want? Don't get me wrong - I don't want all our blessings to disappear, but rolling Wisdom and Might into a new Blessing would mean less pre-fight buffing and more time killing shit!

Another thing I would like for ALL classes is less mandatory glyphs and more flexibility. Right now, for so many classes, there are mandatory glyphs. Sometimes it's because the other glyphs just suck to much, and in other cases a glyph is too powerful to not have. Some glyphs do have flexibility and synergy (Seal of Wisdom for Holy Light build paladins and Seal of Light for Flash of Light build paladins is a great example), some are just fun or quality of life enhancers (minor glyphs like Thorns that increases duration when cast on yourself, or glyphs that relieve the need for reagents like Levitate), but some just plain suck (can anyone offer a viable use of Glyph of Possessed Strength?). And of course, what priest doesn't remember the debacle of Glyph of Penance? In 3.0, the glyph to reduce the cooldown of Penance by 2 seconds was introduced, and in 3.1, the Penance spell was given a longer cooldown because the glyph was just too powerful. Instead of giving priests the option to use the glyph, it became mandatory as the cooldown was unmanageable without the glyph. I would love if I had options to glyph and talent, instead of choosing the cookie-cutter build that is the only, the best, way, for PVE (and PVP too!).

I suppose this long and somewhat ranty post could be summarized: Wouldn't it be great if there are more ways to "win" with your spec and glyph choices than "fail"?. Oftentimes we judge other players based on these choices - and anyone who doesn't glyph the best way is obviously fail, because there's only one or two ways. I want more talent build choices, I want more glyph options, I want more stuff to do than spam heals!

Oh, and we also want tri-spec (or quad-spec)! In line with my request for multi-end tree talents, I would love to have a couple of Holy specs (right now my two specs are Holy/Prot and Holy/Ret, but the talents spent in Holy are very much the same... because I don't have options in the Holy tree). More specs please!

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