Problems balancing retribution (QQ elsewhere)
Posted 29 October 2008 - 05:16 AM
I played Holy Paladin S1 and Enhancement Shaman through S2->S4. I would like to play a melee hybrid but I can't see them being either balanced or viable in the long term. The most glaring issue is the lack of cc or MS debuff, but to keep things focused I want to address the various Retribution balancing conundrums that faces Blizzard at the moment:
The paladin dps system relies on a series of abilities all of which have moderate cooldowns, the limiting factor is not rage or energy that can be balanced or controlled to some extent by the other team, but the static cooldown mechanism. This means that if you get out of range for 3 seconds and then back in range, the net difference can be as little as one auto-attack. It also allows the massive front loading of cooldowns that people often see in battlegrounds during a single HoJ. The damage done in the 4.5 seconds is not much less than the damage they would have taken over the first 11 seconds, but unfortunately being dead does not allow you to 'appreciate' that.
For warriors, rogues and ferals DPS can be balanced by modifying the variables in the system they use, the amount of rage generated per hit, the energy regen rate, CP generation rate or the raw cost of the abilities. These kinds of balancing do not apply to melee mana users (enh/ret) as they are not traditional casters who use mana regen stats. 'Traditional' casters have mana efficiency concerns, and need to balance throughput with regen and effectiveness. They can ramp up DPS/HPS at the cost of long term sustainability - Arcane Blast spam or Flash Heal spam - melee mana users simply hit every cooldown as soon as it is up.
This is the key to the problem of balancing melee hybrid dps (ignoring ferals). They do not get the benefits of mana (being able to spend more when they need extra burst) since they do not suffer the concequences (being reduced to terrible rotations / O5SR regen) since they do not run out.
So a solution perhaps is to bring them in line with other mana users, with a wider variety of efficiency spells, and regeneration options.
The traditional balance between casters and melee has been the range of attack. Melee have powerful closing abilities because they are restricted to being in range, and casters have snares and roots so they can avoid this. Here again blizzard have taken an unusual approach with paladins: Warriors will charge and intercept to get into range, and Hamstring to stay there, Rogues will sprint, stealth and possibly shadowstep to get into range, and cripple to stay in range. Paladins however were given a movement speed buff, a ranged stun, a snare immunity and Judgement of Justice.
These mechanics operate in a completely different way to all the other classes and are again nearly impossible to balance. Either Repentance and Freedom guarantee they will always be able to catch someone, and JoJ means they will never be able to escape, or some dispelling (offensive and defensive) means they will never be able to get in range. By adding stun removal to blessing of freedom they have made it an even more important "clutch" ability, and the cooldown and cc aspects of Repentance already make it far more important than simply a snare for closing range on a target.
With both of these abilities being far more important than the role they are there to serve, and especially good at it they are punished with long cooldowns (c.f. Intercept on 15s, 'Spamstring' and the free procs of crippling). Again this overpowered if you do, useless when you can't approach makes them nearly impossible to balance.
Here we come to a rather emotive topic, as Blizzard have repeatedly said they would not want to give every class copies of other classes signature moves, and then went on to add it to rogues, hunters and even temporarily everyone (via Flametongue Totems). The crux of the matter is that Healer/DPS teams playing against Healer/DPS teams will win or loose almost entirely due to their healing debuffs. A common tactic in the MLG tournament series was to swap out the rogue in RLD mirror matches for a warrior, to prevent the opposing druid from constantly removing the wound poison.
I have read elsewhere the concise statement that "No arena team is viable without either a MS or spammable CC"* and I have struggled to find a counter example. Without getting into the details of specific compositions, as a Retri Pally or Enhance shammy, I was pretty much reduced to playing with Warrior, Rogue or Mage in any comp in any bracket to make my class viable. Without it the healing demands on the opposite team were not sufficient to score a kill. Now I know that right now ret/ret/ret might seem a viable composition, but that will shortly be changed when dps is brought into line, but burst damage is possibly the only non-MS non-CC counter to healing (other than drain) and when burst damage becomes 'unhealable' (as it is now) then it will get nurfed.
So without wanting to give ferals, enhancement and retribution MS what can Blizzard do? The obvious answer is spammable CC, but I really don't think the arena needs more, and there really don't seem to be any other solutions (since unhealable burst seems to be quite an unpopular choice atm).
Finally the signature move of the paladin, and for a long time the cause of most of its downfalls. AoE healing was forever denied as in combination with the bubble it would be insane (correct), High dps was denied for the same reasons, as well as survivability cooldowns. The dispelability of DS was a bold move, and I think a good one as it has opened the door to different directions, but as it stands it is still the biggest cause of problems. The reason why paladins did so well in season one was that no-one attacked them because they still had the bubble, so it was seen as a waste. Once people realised that a focused holy paladin was really in trouble, and a kick/pummel/shock or two would force them to bubble, and with the bubble down they were totally defenceless everything changed, and paladins were only seen again in arenas with targets that the opponent could not ignore in larger brackets.
Again we have the all eggs in one basket approach to defence, and again it is the cause of massive balance issues. Shamanistic Rage, Bear Form, Def Stance, Evasion, Cloak, Vanish etc all provide other melee classes with ways to reduce the incoming damage significantly. I much prefer getting focused on my Shaman (I guess I am used to it) and switch in a shield, drop a new set of totems and get ready to pop SR if needed. Rogues are often ignored due to the number of defensive cooldowns they have, and warriors benefit from a bit of focus, and can even turn the tide with a good spell reflect. Paladins can literally do nothing then bubble to get complete invulnerability and debuff removal, and even ignore the side effects of Unstable Affliction. In addition to this they can still put out burst damage and move around or heal, unlike the mage trapped in an ice block or a vanished rogue.
TLDR (or summary as it used to be called)
It seems that with all of the traditional / required abilities of a melee class, Blizzard magnified them to the extreme, applied punishing cooldowns to give them to ret. While it might be technically possible to balance these (for example the dps cooldowns and coefficients can be adjusted to match a benchmark) they will only be balanced for that particular situation, and any variation (such as gear scaling) will throw this balance way off. Imagine balancing dps for a boss that appeared for 5 seconds then vanished for 7.
It seems that looking forward to level 80 arenas, there is no such balance between all these extremes that will allow retribution to be effective in arenas, it will either dominate due to its burst damage 'breaking' the arena rules, or will fall by the wayside as once each cooldown is blown it is stuck. I would love for things to be otherwise but I just can't see a path to a solution.
* I can't remember the source, somewhere on arena junkies though - and the closest I have come to a comp is Shadowplay (UAlock/SPriest/RShammy) but they complained that there were no trolls on the 2.4 tournament realms for their 20% healing debuff, and I guess Spriest/Rogue in 2v2, but then even without being troll there is still a lot of cc right there to nearly consider it 'spammable'.
Posted 29 October 2008 - 06:02 AM
Healing while continuing to DPS.
In my mind, Art of War and Divine Storm's healing is what really made the revamped ret tree stand out. If mana for Flash Heals from Art of War wasn't such an issue now, and Divine Storm's mana cost and healing amount changed, I could see Retribution as a sort of defensive hybrid that helps ease the load of a healer. Priests and Shaman, for example, are not known for their longevity, and having a Ret Paladin constantly throwing out little Flashes of Light could potentially free your healer to play more offensively.
I think this is what Blizzard was going for, but it's gotten lost in the wave of damage and healing debuff concerns.
Another point, of course, is the general futility of Cleanse. This isn't strictly an issue limited to Paladins, of course, but they seem to be 'balanced' around the idea of being able to actively and effectively cleanse targets.
As far as the weakness of Retribution to Mana Burns...I've slowly come to believe that the entire Mana Burn mechanic has to be changed as a balancing mechanism. The recent quote from Ghostcrawler indicates that they aknowledge Viper Sting to be a problem but that they "don't want to nerf hunters in pvp either". Viper Sting and Mana Burn have long been abilities that keep Hunters and Priests back, with the irony that Priests and Hunters (and Mages, of course) are the most vulnerable classes to mana burns. I would prefer to see Mana Burns removed in general, because it punishes so few classes so amazingly harshly and doesn't touch other classes at all.
Perhaps Retribution needs a way to either mana burn others (and I would really like to see a Rage or Energy burn) or defend the mana of allies. Cleanse is not a truly viable solution to the latter.
Posted 29 October 2008 - 06:03 AM
In addition to that, Ret has been the focus of some pretty powerful emotions over the past weeks, both from its victims and lately from its users, and I doubt that this thread can be constructive or deliberate in such an environment. It really seems excessively specific and only exists due to the currency of the problems, which are already being looked at closely by developers and beta testers, and which you yourself admit appear to be pretty intractable. I can only see bad things happening in this thread, unfortunately.
Posted 29 October 2008 - 06:22 AM
I appreciate the calmness with which you discussed the various problems and limitations of the spec, but I have to ask: Do we really need a thread devoted to hypothetically balancing a single spec of a single class which already clearly has developer attention focused on it?
Sorry I didn't realise we were thread capped
Thanks for the constructive and deliberate comments though, however I do not personally see Protection being arena viable any time soon, and as the only purely passive healer that gains nothing from the spell damage changes I cannot really see Holy being particularly useful either (in the general sense of course, DS, BoP, Cleanse and Freedom will always be useful to someone in 5v5), so please consider it more of a paladins in general with a focus on Retribution thread
This also touches a little on Chirality's points about ret healing. As it stands now Retribution can heal significantly, both the longevity and the effectiveness of the heals were buffed. Before 3.0.2 both enhancement and retri both had very lacklustre heals that would OOM them in a very short amount of time. Although the power of retri's heals has been buffed, I am pretty sure from the recent GC posts that their intention is that they will not be as spammable as they are now, and throwing a couple of Holy Lights will significantly cut into your DPS.
As things stand now that seems only reasonable, but do remember that with the spell power changes most healers are effectively in DPS gear (I know as a disc priest I was dispel and fear-hit capped for good reason already). As far as balancing it, whatever would be done for DPS and mana concerns would clearly impact the healing concerns, and any mana spent on heals would cut into DPS mana. I guess it is a further side effect of the cooldown cap of DPSing that frees up mana for casting heals with little impact on damage done.
As far as the timings of the thread go, well I guess some people will be unable to distance themselves from the 'Gamma' testing going on on Live at the moment, but I am sure that if there is anywhere left in the world to discuss this kind of thing, it would have to be here.
Posted 29 October 2008 - 10:00 AM
Posted 29 October 2008 - 03:24 PM
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