In search of paradigm shifts

The ironic thing about me putting up a “fighting against the tide” post yesterday is that the same thing is happening in the protection paladin community at the moment.  However, there’s a lot more of us available for said fighting.

I’ll simply let my post on the official World of Warcraft forums explain it all.  Note that it is very protection paladin specific: if you don’t play World of Warcraft, much less play a protection paladin within the game, you’ll likely be either uninterested or confused — so, I’ve hidden it behind the break.

First of all, and before I get going, I would like to apologise if I’ve posted this in the wrong place: this may be more appropriate in the tanking or paladin sections. I’ve posted in here because, well, patch 5.4 is on the PTR, and thus there is a chance, small though it may be, for the people at Blizzard to take notice.

With that out of the way, let me get to it.

Unfortunately, for prot pallies, T15 was a bit… well, “meh” — and I don’t feel that it was our set bonuses, it was more our stat itemization. Protection had undergone a major paradigm shift in Mists of Pandaria: where in expansions past we were trying to get as much dodge, parry, defense rating, block rating etc. as possible, the introduction of active mitigation, as well as giving us Sanctity of Battle has changed the game for us totally. A large proportion of us are now going with hit/expertise/haste builds, simply because:

  • Landing each hit maximises Holy Power generation, and hitting things faster maximises it even more.
  • The more Holy Power we generate, the more Shield of the Righteous we can get off.
  • Shield of the Righteous smooths out our incoming damage, which makes us easier to heal.

To give a personal example: when I’m tanking Horridon, my healers certainly feel (and let me know in no uncertain terms!) the difference between when I’m covering each Triple Puncture with a ShoR, and when I’m not. It’s a massive shift from the Cataclysm days (and before) where protection was all about “just run through your rotation and let the stats on your gear take care of damage”.

My complaint, and I’m by far not the only person who feels this way, is that our gear itemization isn’t reflecting the direction that protection has taken. True avoidance stats, such as dodge and parry, have low value for us; a dodge/parry piece is typically the first piece of gear that we’ll throw out when something better comes along. And a fact that a lot of our T15 gear was itemized this way was, to be quite honest, a kind of a letdown: it felt like “our” tier set wasn’t being designed for us any more.

It’s really a very negative psychological effect. I was in the position where I had access to haste pieces (my ret pally got lucky with bonus rolls!) long before I had access to tier gear, which, for me, make it a very easy decision to skip the tier pieces. Which, for me, took a lot of fun out of the game — particularly when you see your fellow raiders get all excited about completing their set bonuses, and you’re sitting in the corner thinking “meh” (and/or contemplating using Ra’sha’s Sacrificial Dagger) because the trade-off of sacrificing mastery for the set bonuses was simply not worth it.

I think the best example of this is the recently datamined legendary cloaks (of course, usual disclaimers about datamined objects apply). We have the choice between:

  • the strength tanking cloak, with an amazing proc, but with one decent stat (mastery) and two we find little value in (dodge and parry), or
  • the strength DPS cloak, with one amazing stat (haste), one decent stat (mastery), but then one completely worthless stat (crit) and a proc that we all know is designed for a spec other than ours.

That kind of puts us between a rock and a hard place: it feels like gear just isn’t being designed for us any more. Right now, we’re getting conflicting messages: the speed, fun, damage smoothing properties and sheer fun of Sanctity of Battle makes it clear that we want to gear for haste, but our T15 itemization seems to indicate that Blizzard is, to put it in Theck’s words, “the disapproving nanny “tsk tsk”-ing, wagging her finger, and suggesting that us naughty haste-stacking paladins should cut our hair, get a job, and go back to wearing respectable tanking stats like dodge and parry”.

True, wearing dodge and parry reduces our total damage taken, but to be brutally honest here, TDR is an absolutely terrible metric (I suspect that it only gets widespread recognition because it’s simple to understand and easy to measure). While stacking pure avoidance stats is great for TDR, it leaves one vulnerable to damage spikes, which is what really kills tanks nowadays. Our active mitigation (with haste) model allows more damage in over the course of the fight, but it smooths out that damage: you take more damage when it doesn’t matter, but less damage when it does. And having a smoother damage intake makes you much, much easier to heal: the healers can predict your damage intake and heal accordingly, and you’re a lot less likely to be hit by an unlucky string of damage spikes and die before either you or your healers can react.

So, to get to my point, and the request that I’d like to make: I’d like to see combinations of hit/expertise/haste/mastery/parry on our T16 set. As I’ve mentioned already, since it’s made for us, it would feel like it’s “our” set. Obviously, the itemization doesn’t have to be perfect: we definitely don’t expect vast quantities of haste on every piece of gear, but it should be on some of them, and for our T16 set (considering that this will likely be the final tier of this expansion) maybe even most of them.

To understand why, let’s take a look at the other four tanking classes quickly:

  • Warriors and DKs receive hit/expertise/mastery/parry/dodge, as those are still their core tanking stats. Even though DKs get some benefit from haste, and warriors get some benefit from crit, those benefits aren’t great enough to warrant gearing them.
  • Druids and monks receive hit/expertise/haste/mastery/crit, as they have a true active mitigation model designed around those stats. They can wear dodge and parry gear, but since they get a comparatively much smaller benefit, they don’t.

Paladins? Well, we’re somewhere in the middle. As I’ve already mentioned, we’ve moved on to an active mitigation model, where haste and mastery are valued far more than dodge and parry, yet we’re still getting warrior/DK itemization. To put it more bluntly, our class has moved into Mists of Pandaria, but our gear is still stuck in Cataclysm.

With a hit/expertise/haste/mastery/parry itemization on our T16, we have the following advantages:

  • Our tier itemization shifts to be much more inline with what we actually value.
  • Double avoidance gear would no longer exist on our T16 gear. As I mentioned above, this is the first thing to get thrown away whenever possible, though we do tolerate gear with one avoidance stat and one other strong stat (dodge/expertise, dodge/hit, etc.). Being able to replace a T15 dodge/parry piece with a better itemized “off-set” piece is why we found T15 gear so unattractive.
  • It would send the message that Blizzard finally understands how we work, and more importantly, have accepted our massive paradigm shift and are supporting it. In terms of player morale within the protection paladin community, I simply can’t understate how important this is.
  • Not only that, but it sends the message out to everyone else. Not everyone can be bothered to get involved in protection paladin theorycrafting, not everyone reads guides on Icy Veins, Elitist Jerks et al. I suspect that a lot of prot pallies out there simply don’t know that haste is a great stat for them, and putting haste on their tier set will inform them far better than a patch note or class guide will — they’ll start considering haste, and may even start asking around to find out why.

However, for purposes of clarity, I should point out that I’m only making this request with respect to our T16 gear. Off-set itemization, I feel, can remain as is… even the dodge/parry pieces. These pieces are still valuable to warriors and DKs, and can be gap-fillers for unlucky slots. (Though it may be worth reconsidering dodge/parry pieces entirely, as it seems that DKs don’t really care for them either… but that’s something for WoW 6.0). And of course, adding a legendary cloak itemized specifically for us is probably not a great idea, going against the whole “legendary for all” idea and all of that.

I understand that I’ve written a lot, so:

TLDR: Protection paladin tier itemization needs to catch up with our gameplay (should head in a hit/expertise/haste/mastery/parry direction), otherwise we’ll continue to ignore tier gear in favour of gear that suits our playstyle better.

Finally, a request to the community: please contribute constructively to this thread. I realise that this is a massive ask, since the official forums have a pretty bad signal to noise ratio, but insults, QQing, etc. is really not the way to get Blizzard to acknowledge (much less act on) this. 🙂

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