The first qualification round of Blizzards Arena Tourney has ended, the results are in, and long-time Paladins should be forgiven for an eerie sense of deja vu. But I'll get to that in a minute, first the results of this round from Tourney Realms worldwide:
Yep, 1 Paladin. Worldwide. Not even a holy paladin to boot, but rather a lone Ret Paladin in a Warrior/Paladin/Druid team in Europe. It should be stressed that this competition is 3v3 and not the more balanced 5v5 within which Paladins hold a premier position alongside Warriors and Priests, but the trend is interesting nonetheless. Also this statistic cannot be decoupled from class entry popularity, which would correlate strongly with perceived class viability, so we should be careful not to make any drastic pronouncements on Paladins based upon this statistic alone. (though it shouldn't stop 'us' from indicating it as evidence of the class flaws we do point out).
And this is where the Deja vu comes in. Rewind almost exactly 3 years to this day and the Blizzard Test of Honour contest has just finished. This was a test based upon WoW's then fledgling PvP Honour system, when points were awarded for damage done upon killing a opposing player. This was a competitive system much like the Arena Rating System is now (rather than the accumulative reward system of the new Honour Points) where you had to actively be better than other players/classes to rank higher than others in your realm. One of the criticisms of this Test was that it was weighted towards those classes with highest offensive output (Hunters, Mages, Warriors) and against those who had difficulty racking up damage (Druids, Paladins, Holy Priests), and unlike the Arena it was definitely not group-friendly. The results were predictable: Paladins in the US had no representation, and only one Loke on Korgath-EU - an old-school Reck-bomber - was able to eek out a win against the odds. Thats not to say that every other class was well represented, I recall Druids and Warlocks being pretty low though with more overall. But for long-time Paladins, more than any class, it will sound a familiarly discordant note.
I don't mean this to be a immense "QQ Blizzard Sucks" post, it will remain true that any class with the hallmarks of a 'Defensive Hybrid' will tend to under perform in competitive PvP. Utility, mobility and offensive arsenal are the most important features of an effective PvP class these days, and Paladins aren't up there in the era of resilience. But all is not lost, due to our poor performance in '05 Paladins received Hammer of Wrath. It was a great addition at the time of Spell Damage scaling, zero resilience and relatively low health levels and is a skill which can improve again if we see proper Paladin scaling in Wrath. Hence can be hoped that with this clear evidence we can put pressure on Blizzard to not forget about us in PvP, both offensively (more Offensive Utility if not damage) and defensively (more utility, a fix to Cleanse, a HoT, mana pool protection).
I'll keep my fingers crossed and remain hopeful.