Thursday, April 23, 2009

Exorcism and the Pally Burst Damage Problem

I haven't been playing MMO's as much recently with work being pretty busy and forcing me to cut down on the days I could raid. For the last couple months it pretty much came down to being able to play games or write about them. However, with the release of the Ulduar patch in World of Warcraft I thought it would be a good idea to go ronin for a bit and leave my guild. This gives me some actual free time to try out some of the non raid content in the patch and experiment with the new dual spec system. I'm still playing a paladin as my main and as a hybrid class he probably benefits the most from being able to keep two different specs. That's not to say other classes don't benefit greatly from the dual spec system. Even pure dps classes like rogues and hunters can tailor their talent choices for PvE or PvP damage.

Since I wasn't going to be raiding much I decided to try out having two damage builds for my paladin. My primary build was a classic retribution build which goes slightly into the protection tree for some increased survivability. However, for my secondary build I wanted to do something a little more off the wall. Since I have a decent collection of healing gear in the bank I decided to try a shockadin build by going just deep enough in the holy tree to grab holy shock. It wasn't that bad of a PvP build since holy shock, exorcism, and judgement dealt a nice amount of burst damage. Plus, the build had enough holy talents where it was possible to heal team members in arenas. I didn't get a chance to test it, but I figured that a paladin could quickly unload all three instant cast spells and still keep two team members alive.

Of course the problem with exorcism is that it's a class-wide spell and pure retribution paladins also got a decent boost to their burst damage from it. Blizzard obviously noticed this at the last minute and decided to change exorcism so it doesn't work on other players. It's a shame to lose a interesting build, but I can see why Blizzard felt they had to nerf the ability. Paladins have long had a problem with all their abilities being dependent on cooldowns instead of a system like rage or combo points. This allows very nice burst damage, but also makes their sustained damage much weaker then other classes. Blizzard was pretty much forced to make exorcism usable on living mobs since Ulduar doesn't have undead mobs. However, adding another ability dependent on a cooldown just further aggravated the burst damage problem.

Blizzard really does seem stumped on what to do here and moderators on the forums have actually asked players to share ideas. Rohan's idea of using stacks of vengeance as a resource which are consumed by special abilities is pretty good. I also like how Warhammer Online had a lot of hybrid classes that had abilities that were dependent on players healing and dealing damage. This isn't exactly doable for World of Warcraft at the moment, since the targeting system in the game makes it hard to switch back and forth. However, paladins do have a number of self healing abilities. Thus if new damage abilities were conditional on paladin's having a full health bar then you could successfully prevent overwhelming burst damage in PvP situations. It's an idea somewhat similar to the current incarnation of Seal of the Martyr.

Using Full Health to limit burst damage:

1) Change some current paladin abilities to work like seal of the martyr
Example: Make Crusader Strike hit harder, but also deal damage to the paladin.

2) Add an ability which can only be used at full health
Example: Righteous Scorn = Exorcism that can only be used at full health, but deals damage to the paladin. The cooldown could be rather short so that during a raid the paladin could use it more often if they are being healed.

3) Adjust healing effects on abilities like Divine Storm
Example: Ideally a paladin would have to use multiple Divine Storms to recover from the damage dealt by Righteous Scorn.