Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Tale of Two Pallys

Once upon a time there lived a Boy who loved Role Playing Games. Truth be told, the Boy started playing PC games rather late in life, as his parents wouldn't buy him such a machine until it became fairly obvious that computers lay in the Boy's future. As soon as the Boy got his first computer, he turned into a devout gamer. He'd been a gamer before - always - in his heart but his desire was only satisfied occasionally and in small amounts whenever he visited one of his more fortunate friends.

Our Boy loved a variety of game types: shooters, adventures, strategies, role playing games... especially RPGs. Above all, the Boy loved RPGs. He was fortunate to evolve as a gamer with such iconic RPGs as the Ultimas (Ultima Underworld being one of his favorites), the Fallout series, Might & Magic, System Shock, Morrowind, the Diablo series and a myriad less significant ones. All this culminated in World of Warcraft.

The Boy was a relative latecomer to World of Warcraft as well. For many years he scoffed at the thought of MMORPGs, i.e. RPGs that must be played online with other people. For one thing, he didn't have access to a reliable, fast and cheap internet connection. For another, the thought of paying monthly for a game was positively ridiculous. Our Boy couldn't afford this. So he continued to read and dream about such RPGs as the FF series, Acheron's Call, Ultima Online and EverQuest. Then, a new game appeared on the horizon: The World of Warcraft. Coming from Blizzard, everyone was hopeful that this new-fangled RPG would be consistent of the high quality displayed by all previous games from the same company.

Having played all of Blizzard's games, our Boy continued to dream but did not get involved. After all, he would never play a MMORPG, as sad as that might be.

As time went by, the new game went into full swing and slowly became the next big thing. Our Boy also grew up, internet became cheaper and faster, and the Boy had a job that made the $15 a month seem insignificant. In a time of boredom, he decided to give this game a try.

The Boy didn't jump straight into the game. Instead, he decided to do some serious research into the facets of the game, suspecting that a MMORPG would be a whole different ballgame from your garden-variety single-player RPG. Thus, he went forth and bought a BradyGames guide. As we all know, such guides are obsolete from the moment they are printed, due to the very nature of the internet. Still, that guide proved valuable to the Boy. He learned a lot about the various factions, races and classes in the new game, about the various roles of healer, tank and DPS, about questing and the different zones, about grouping and socializing.

In short, our Boy was better prepared for this new genre than many others. Getting into the game was easy. He integrated into the whole experience with ease. Pretty soon, he realized that even some older players were "noobish" compared to him. Back then, there were fewer WoW fansites and few people thought about researching the game online. The Boy, of course, was an early adopter for the various online databases and resource sites.

All this didn't prepare him from choosing one of the hardest classes/specs to level at that time: the Protection Paladin. The Boy, from his previous RPG experience, thought that the best class for easing into the game would be one that: a) is a melee fighter, b) wears a shield, c) preferably wears plate, d) can heal itself. This reasoning led to the only conclusion possible: the Protection Paladin was our Boy's best choice for getting to know the World of Warcraft.

Over the following months, our Boy sweated and toiled at his chosen class. He didn't think any of this was unusual. After all, other classes were probably even harder to play, he reasoned, what with the lack of plate, a shield and the ability to heal themselves. Well, after almost a year of play, the Boy finally reached the coveted level 60 with his Protection Paladin. It had been a long and hard road. Along the way he experienced several dungeons with groups but at 60 he finally got to step into one of the all-time classics: Stratholme.

Most of the Stratholme runs were done with his guild. Back then, the Boy belonged in a regular guild. The people were nice and they liked to run with the Boy's Paladin. He received many compliments on his "tanking" skill, whatever that was. You see, even though at the back of his head the Boy knew some basic concepts about tanking, he hadn't the foggiest idea what he was doing inside an instance. He was simply trying to play his class the best he could. He would throw all his skills at the enemy, he would tank and he would heal at the same time. After all, he was a healer in plate, wasn't he?

Of course, back then, a lot of classes suffered from OOM issues frequently. A Protection Paladin would run out of mana almost after every pull: "Wait guys, OOM, gotta drink." The boy persevered though. His heart warmed up every time he received praise for his skill. And still, he knew not what he was doing. In retrospect, he now suspects that the other people in his group weren't great experts either, or else someone would have told him: "Dude, you're the main tank today, be sure to crank that threat up."

In the meantime, the Boy had slowly become disenchanted with his Protection Paladin. Having also started a Hunter, he realized that this pet class was Easy Street in comparison to its plate-wearing cousin. As a result, the Paladin was slowly delegated to the sidelines. The new Hunter occupied most of our Boy's time and in short order made it to level 60.

More time passed. Our Boy had become tired of WoW. He took a year-long break. The new expansion, The Burning Crusade, came, went in full swing and started puttering out before the Boy decided to give WoW another try. He, of course, ignored the Paladin and focused on the Hunter. Taking the familiar Easy Street, he worked his way to 70. Then, another expansion was announced: The Wrath of the Lich King.

Shortly before the spanking-new expansion was released, a major pre-patch went live: the famous 3.02. Classes were completely revamped. Paladins got a new life. There were rumors that Retribution Paladins (which before had allegedly been even worse than Protection) had gone from Lolret to Wowret. The Paladin class was finally viable for playing on a casual basis and fun to boot.

Feeling nostalgia seeping in, our Boy decided to dust off his long-forgotten Paladin, spec him as Ret and see what the hoopla was all about. As soon as he stepped through the Dark Portal, it was obvious that something grand had been done to Paladins. They were fun to play once more!

For what felt like a very short time, our Boy bashed, Judged, Crusader Striked and Divine Stormed his way to 70. This new Paladin was actually funner than the Hunter! Then the new expansion hit and the Boy went back to leveling his Hunter main all the way to 80. His Retribution Paladin remained parked in Shattrath at level 70.

After also leveling a Death Knight to 80, the Boy turned his attention back to his Paladin. He started leveling it through Northrend. In the meantime, Retribution Paladins had been "nerfed" a couple of time but the class remained viable for solo-ing. It wasn't as engaging as a Death Knight but the fun was still there.

More recently, the Boy had another thought. Since he liked farming Stratholme (for some reason he always liked that instance) on his own, he saw a few minor problems in using the Hunter for this purpose. Although the Hunter's pet takes all the damage, a Hunter has to worry about and control an extra entity. Not only that, but the Boy had heard Protection Paladins were the best AOE tanking class out there. AOE grinding was frequently associated with this class. A Protection Paladin would be even better suited to AOE-grinding Stratholme mobs due to the fact that paladins have some nice bonuses when fighting Undead with skills such as: Holy Wrath, Exorcism and Glyph of Sense Undead. In the Boy's case, his Paladin also had the advantage of being an Enchanter. An Enchanter can make plenty of gold in Stratholme by disenchanting the huge number of BOP greens and blues that drop.

Thus, our Boy started to shift the focus of his Paladin from Retribution to Protection. While leveling through Northrend, unfortunately there aren't many quest rewards with tanking stats but as one gets closer to 80, these start appearing, including some good quality blue items. By the time he reached level 77, the Boy's Paladin had an almost complete starter set of tanking gear.

From here on, the boy would level and play his Paladin as Protection. The experience was totally different that playing Retribution. This was the most involving class/spec combination the Boy had ever played. Leveling as Protection might not be the very best option out there. A player ideally should fight several mobs at once because that is where Protection shines. In addition, great care must be taken with mana recovery, otherwise a Protection Paladin will find himself OOM rather quickly. The correct Seals and Judgments must be used. Divine Plea must be kept up at all times and for this, the Paladin needs to make sure that a fight lasts close to 1 minute or that he can move quickly to another mob before the buff expires. The ideal situation would be one with fast-spawning, chain-pullable mobs where the Protection Paladin could keep on going forever without a break.

A shield-bearing, fast-weapon-wielding, armored-to-the-teeth Protection Paladin is very different from the same class in Retribution spec. One needs to watch his cooldowns like a hawk, keep Holy Shield up at all times, constantly spam his skills when they are off cooldown and even judge correctly depending whether he needs more mana or more health.

In the end, the Boy has turned 180 degrees back to the Protection Paladin he started playing with, but it no longer feels like the same class. Protection is more powerful, focused and enjoyable. It has become viable for solo-ing content in addition to remaining the best AOE tanking spec in the game. Thanks to Dual-Specs, the Boy can switch to Retribution any time he wants but the desire to do so is dying a little each day.

The Boy is finally content with playing a Paladin. The Boy has come home.


Anonymous said...

Nicely written.

I have been a die-hard prot pally since I started in BC (right before 2.4 came out is when i started playing). I had so many ppl tell me "Lol, your leveing prot? wtf?"

Yet those same ppl would stare at me in amazement as I would pull 4-5 mobs to me, and down them with little problem, and even be able to solo 3 and 4-man quests.

I love my prot pally, and wouldnt trade her for nuthin'. Definately my fav class to solo with, even if I have been focusing on my hunter lately.

Inori "is totally awesome" - Korgath

Savin (Nay) Wangtal said...

I could never stand Stratholme. That place is just too depressing for me. It's so full of non-gnome death and destruction.

Skaut said...


I know right where you are coming from too. I have a 73 Prot Paladin and am leveling two more Pallys, one is 43 leveling Prot, one is 42 leveling Ret. I love playing all of them!

And you should definitely get your Pally into Strat farming for that horse!! I know mine will be when I get high enough level!

Joe said...

ok, this article scared me at first. I'll say the first part about the "boy" and gaming/pc's right upto the point where he took a year off from wow, is exactly, word for word, my past.

You've not been stalking me right?


Anonymous said...

Awwwww =)

Very well written. I leveled my Paladin as protection from level 10 right up until 73 where he is now, because I saw Hobbs once and it inspired me. Plus leveling as an AoE grinding spec is a great change from questing and fighting one mob at a time and things. That, and Ret is FotM and annoys me.

Darth Solo said...

Thank you thank you! You've probably all guessed that I am the "Boy". I have to say, playing as Prot has been a whole new experience these last 3 levels to 80. It's sublimely satisfying to be able to gather a slew of mobs and whack the crap out of them.

I even discovered a new tactic: I will hit 1 mob and then, while continuing to attack it, I will keep moving backwards into other mobs in the vicinity, deliberately aggro-ing them. All the time I'm spamming my Prot abilities. I developed this tactic due to the fact that I can't always run around and grab 5-6 mobs easily, either because they are spaced too far apart or because I'm in a cave or indoors where I can't use my mount.

The only weakness that I see in my Prot Pally so far is magic. If there are several magic mobs it could get hairy.

@Savin (Nay) Wangtal I don't know man... I have a weakness for Strat. I can't really explain it. It's something to do with the atmosphere inside, those floating ash motes... At least now I can take revenge on those nasty undead for all the times I died in there when I was 60.

@Scout I've done Strat several times already on my Hunter and it's a blast. No mount yet. I can't believe how weak the Baron seems now.

@Joe I think you're the one who's stalking me man! Nah, I think that we weren't the only ones who had the brilliant idea of starting their WoW experience with a Prot Pally back in Classic WoW.

@veliaf I guess Ret is FotM because all of a sudden it has finally become worth playing, in Wrath, that is. Nothing wrong with that. DKs seem even more popular but I'm very happy with that as well.

Dalt said...

Great Article.

I just switched from Ret to Prot at 40 and I am enjoying it quite a bit.

I used to hate murloc camps and now when they run away at low health to grab more friends I just smile :)

Darth Solo said...

Ha ha that last sentence is priceless!
TBH I can't begin to imagine how it is to play Prot at 40.

Shawn said...

I started a Prot pally for all those exact reasons. He's amazingly fun to play. My problem is that I've never really liked the Paladin thing in any other RPG I've played (mostly D&D), so having the option of being a Blood Elf Paladin really appealed to me. I like the idea of being a Paladin that's not Evil per se, but kind of a dick.

Darth Solo said...

Lol. Do you prefer playing on the Horde side? I'm 90% Alliance so my Pally is a human. Blood Elf females are really hot but males are too effeminate for my taste.