Monday, November 03, 2008

A Lack of Patience With Forbearance

Warning: Long rant ahead.

Forbearance. It deliberately restricts the use of abilities rather than open up options for their use, which is why I've never liked it as a mechanic. It was first brought in to deal with a PvE rather than PvP problem: chaining BoP's together in certain encounters made them trivial (I seem to recall the nerf being discussed in conjunction with Blackwing Lair encounters), long before Arena's were mooted. A single Paladin chaining BoP and DS in PvP, primarily to defend nodes in AB and AV, was both powerful and overestimated at a time when Shaman and Priests didn't hotkey Purge, but never really resulted in an outcry. Still, they linked Forbearance to DS aswell as BoP, and so with a 1min Forbearance effect we had the situation up until 2.0.1. Not a big deal it has to be said as you really should be throwing out BoP on your allies, not yourself.

With 2.0.1 two new abilities were introduced which altered the equation somewhat: Avenging Wrath and Mass Dispel. Avenging Wrath caused and couldn't be used whilst under Forbearance, Mass Dispel removed Divine Shield when previously it couldn't be (Counterspell went some way to negating DS in PvP against Healing Paladins). Unfortunately this meant that in PvP Avenging Wrath couldn't be used until at the earliest 1 min after Divine Shield, and only in PvE fights where DS wasn't useful. A 1 min duration however wasn't the end of the world. More annoying perhaps was BoP and AW being Purged or Spellstolen leaving you with a pretty high opportunity cost, the benefits of which could be erased in less than a GCD.

Kalgan had this to say about Mass Dispel and Divine Shield two years ago:

I don't know that you can necessarily call it negated
- It has a 1.5 second cast time, which means you have plenty of time to stun them as they cast Mass Dispel. It also means any other friendlies have an opportunity to interrupt it.
- Casting Divine Shield would still get you out of any form of crowd control and remove any debuffs, even if it got dispelled after the fact.
- You're talking about 1 of 9 classes that can counter it.
- Using your words, if it's "already on a 5 minute cooldown", then that implies to me that you've already learned to survive without it most of the time. :0
- It costs the priest a substantial chunk of mana, so it isn't something they can throw around carelessly.

I think by now we know just how hollow every one of those points are. However I would pick up on just one, as as it neatly dovetails into criticisms of Forbearance: "- Using your words, if it's "already on a 5 minute cooldown", then that implies to me that you've already learned to survive without it most of the time. :0"

The value of all the abilities listed is not simply the buff that they give for 10-20 seconds, it's the knowledge (yours and your opponents) that you can pop those abilities at a given time. It is that knowledge which in part allowed us to adjust to the 5 minutes whilst DS is on cooldown, as well as your opposition not being able to see what cooldowns you had available. Forbearance is quite literally a flashing sign saying 'Squishy Plate Wearer Here' because it shows that we have no answer to the gank train when other classes possibly could.

In the 3.0 Beta Forbearance was increased to 3 minutes, Avenging Wrath removed from it and changed to 20% damage/healing, and Divine Protection changed to a pseudo- Shield Wall. I don't think I ever understood why the duration of Forbearance was increased. Three minutes is an absolute eternity in every mode of gameplay and we have no ability, such as Preparation or Cold Snap, that instantly refreshes critical cooldowns. On the other hand BoP, DP and DS are fairly mutually exclusive in terms of their gameplay uses: DP for tanking; DS for dropping aggro and debuff clearing; and BoP would be used on someone else. So long as AW wasn't linked to Forbearance I wasn't too concerned.

Fast-forward to today and the current situation is down (apparently) to AW being able to be popped whilst being Bubbled, and so it was hotfix nerfed. To be quiet honest, I think that's bullshit reasoning.

We are looking at some way of making Avenging Wrath and Divine Shield mutually exclusive. This may be through Forbearance, if we can reduce the Forbearance duration through a hotfix. The bubble is intended as a defensive measure. Yet bubble+wings currently is used a lot in BGs and Arenas and helps contribute to the feeling of being destroyed by a Retribution paladin while you are unable to respond.

If we take that on face value then they may have a point. However there are other things they could have done which are possible as a hotfix, the most obvious one being reducing damage done whilst being under the effects of DS by 50%. Remember, they can nerf numbers server-side but they can't change tooltips, so this may be an issue for those who read take the tooltip as a contract cast in stone. Oh, wait:

Not to mention Righteous Vengeance, which currently on live does nothing. So re-linking AW to Forbearance is not because of tooltip fidelity, but simply because it is the quickest way to get the job done. 'Still', you may be thinking to yourself, 'laziness doesn't imply dishonesty' to which I would agree. However lets not forget that two undocumented nerfs went into this hotfix. By far the lesser one is to JoJ, Ret will take Improved Judgements and Holy should have 30yrd Range Judgements so it's no biggie. The greater one is Sanctified Wrath, which no longer causes any damage whilst under the affects of AW to pierce absorption shields (even though the tooltip states it should).

The idea with this hotfix was therefore fundamentally to nerf Paladin Burst, especially against Shielded targets, rather than to eliminate the once per 5 minute DS+AW. The effect is another 20% nerf to Paladin burst potential because no Pally in their right mind will AW in PvP. In PvE Prot will never use AW because it puts their Shield Wall on a 2-minute cooldown. Equally Holy would have difficulty justifying the GCD + vulnerability to Status Effects/Aggro which popping AW over DS would cause. And in PvP munching through PW:S or Mage Shield will again be an exercise in futility. For Ret PvP AW is even worse than it was in 2.4.3, and not great for Holy either. If Blizzard want to do this then fine, but I'd propose an alternate solution.

  • Change Hand of Protection so that it may not be used on yourself, similar to Hand of Sacrifice. Forbearance to remain a part of HoP to prevent chain-immunity in PvE/P.
  • Remove the Forbearance Debuff completely from Divine Shield, Divine Protection and AW. In PvP it gives away to the opposition a means tracking vulnerability when their should be using their own skill to do so, and has zero value in PvE.
  • Cause DP and DS to incur a 30 second cooldown to each other. In PvE this would have a limited effect, in PvP it means they can't be used back-to-back but can both be used in the same fight (like CoS and Evasion can both be used). If Paladins are a defensive class, and don't have offensive abilities like intercept/MS/interrupts etc, it's time we started having the label pay off. DP can be Purged remember, so it's not exactly uncounterable. Right now, Warriors in PvP are both a more defensive class and have more offensive abilities.
  • Cause Divine Shield to reduce damage caused by 20%, negating the worry of AW+DS. Paladin Burst with both DS and AW popped will remain less than a non-DS Paladin, which by now should be easier to cope with at lvl70 and 80. If there is an issue with Paladins doing any sort of damage whilst invulnerable then reduce damage by 50%; still doing some damage though is necessary (to remain a minor offensive threat, interrupt flag caps, etc).
  • Let any Paladin use AW whenever the hell they want, 3 (2) minute cooldown permitting. It's purgeable for gods sake.

  • This still makes us weak against Priests and Mages due to their shields as Sanc. Wrath no longer pierces. As this is desirable for Blizzard then so be it.

    We are also sympathetic to the notion that if Ret can't do insane burst damage, that the spec might need other tools to be viable in PvP. We're exploring this now, possibly though the missing 11-point Prot talent, possibly through other avenues. We'll let you know when we've made a decision here.

    Ghostcrawler posted this in acknowledgement of Ret issues without significant burst damage. Frankly, I can already heal myself or someone else through another Paladin's Burst as Ret, so our Burst is not even close to insane. Even with the changes I've outlined above Paladins need more tools to do the job, though I am weary of using Protection's 11 pt talent to solve Holy and Ret's PvP issues. Frankly, there is plenty of room to do it in the Retribution and Holy Trees.

    I'm not holding me breath for new abilities and functionality. Even if we get them it will be a very long time before we do (see: 2+ Content Patches), and will be to address shortfalls in the class rather than provide new advantages to improve game balance. Every time Blizzard says 'we are considering x/y/z' as a buff take it with a huge pinch of salt because in the main they're trying to sooth your feelings and most definitely not guaranteeing changes.



    Alex - aka Firelight 03/11/2008, 13:43  

    Its really frustrating being a ret-paladin at the moment - little things are sending me over the edge and getting me really riled up when I know it shouldnt. I mean for christs sake ITS A GAME!!!!

    I never thought I'd be so passionate about a game before.

    Seriosly its like Blizzard WANT us to re-roll Death Knights.

    I'm so tempted...

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