Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Is the Holy Paladin Really a Paladin?

Technically, yes. A Holy Paladin is simply a Paladin character who has placed more talent points in the Holy tree than in the Protection and/or Retribution trees. However, if the answer was as simple as that, I probably wouldn't be writing this blog post. :P

Two weeks ago, I asked the question "What is a Paladin?" and provided my own answer. I highly suggest reading that post as it provides a more in-depth response, but to summarize very briefly, my answer was that the Paladin is best defined by its essence, which is primarily made up of three prominent Paladin themes (which extend beyond WarCraft to every fantasy-genre Paladin I've ever heard of):
  1. durability,
  2. connections to the divine, and
  3. melee combat.
Now, the reason why the question in this post title comes up is that the Holy Paladin in World of Warcraft does not fit particularly well with the third theme, melee combat. Sure, Holy Paladins are decidedly melee-ranged characters while engaged in solo play, but very much lose this trait in group situations. As a result, every time I join a group as a Holy Paladin, I get the sensation that my character is no longer a Paladin, but rather something more akin to a Cleric or Combat Medic.

Don't get me wrong, though—I still love playing my Holy Paladin. If I didn't, I would have respecced, rerolled, or quit the game long ago. However, the fact that my Holy Paladin only plays like a Paladin about half the time is somewhat disappointing, and the fact that I cannot answer the question "Is the Holy Paladin really a Paladin?" with a wholehearted "Yes!" is discouraging.


  1. I play a druid, normally a resto druid, but I bounce between specs, so I know what it is like to be a healer that has the potential to do other things.

    Yes, while healing in a group you are performing a role that could be filled by any other healer, though your heals work differently from other healers, something bliz has worked hard on to make sure is the case to differentiate characters in simmilar roles.

    Though I don't think because you are not fulfilling all three points every single moment of game play you are any less of what your class is. Should the dps machine/tank die at any point you could jump into that role and fight. you have the potential to do something a priest could not.

    The way I see it, in a group situation, a paladin healing is firstly performing a role that most can't and is being humble in defering combat to another class which lacks the healing talent of the divine, and secondly a paladin healing is the tactican, guiding the group on the ebst course of action and enabling them to take that action by watching their health, while at any point should the situation call for it is ready to step up and meet the challenge of taking the fight to the enemy face to face.

    That is my take on the group dynamics anyway...

  2. Y'know, I think the time my holy paladin felt the most "paladin-y" by those criteria was back when she was fulfilling her original purpose -- she was originally intended to be a battleground healer.

    Sure, she flung heals (a lot of heals!), but she also ran headlong into the fray in order to get between her foe and her ally, threw hammers at people, stunned and tossed judgments and often ended up saving the day with a well-timed Lay on Hands. :)

    (She also suffered the other fate of paladins, which is underappreciation. "Don't just stand there doing nothing!" was something I heard frequently... from people I was healing at the time. Perhaps this leads to the paladin trait of humility! Unfortunately, since I, the player, am not so much with the humbleness, that kinda turned me off on PUG battlegrounds...)

    (Oh hey, this is Teuthida, by the way!)

  3. If you're a holy paladin in PvP, I'd say yes, you're definitely being the crusading champion known as a paladin. You're throwing out heals, but you're presumably knocking some heads and capping flags just as well as anybody else.

    I don't consider my primary role in PvP to be DPS, but I get my killing blows every now then.

    Outside of that... one time my 5-man tank died so I turned on Righteous Fury and tanked the remaining enemies while still healing myself. How many healers can do that? :D

  4. should the tank die, if I go bear form I might be able to keep things going for a little bit but 1, past frenzied regen I can't heal myself without shifting and losing my armour, and 2, without the talents invested to increase my armour, dodge, and health I'm not going to last long anyway, not the mention my healing gear is completely utterly different from my feral gear

    And as my priest there is no chance...

    Paladin has one over me here. The opposite is also true to some degree as well, the paladin can swap to a healing role from a tanking role just as well if not better than a feral due to lack of mana.

  5. @Wise Fox: I think we're talking about two different things here. You're discussing a character's role in a group, whereas I'm discussing how well the Holy Paladin lives up to the essence of the Paladin as a whole.

    Role-wise, I have no problem with the Holy Paladin being a healer. In truth, I think it's quite necessary that Holy Paladins have a niche in both PvE and PvP, and neither tanking nor damage-dealing really fit. Additionally, healing does very much work well with the game mechanics (4 tanking classes, 4 healing classes, 4 purely damage-dealing classes) as well as the lore of the Paladin.

    However, this issue that this post is designed to bring up is that the manner by which the Holy Paladin heals does not match the essence of the class as a whole.

    Allow me to give you an example. For me, the essence (or at least part of the essence) of the Druid class is based in shapeshifting and nature. Imagine what the class would feel like if the Druid's Restoration tree abandoned these themes. How would the class feel if there was a Druid tree that sacrificed the ability to shapeshift in order to make the Druid's humanoid form more powerful? What if all of the Druid heal over time spells were of the Shadow school rather than the Nature school, and the Restoration Druid was more like a heal-oriented Shadow Priest? How would you feel if the flavor of Druid healing abandoned the idea of using nature to mend and nourish life and instead took on the flavor of using evil and hatred to transfer the pain and suffering felt by one's allies to one's enemies, thereby healing your friends and harming your foes?

    This would not be particularly Druid-esque, would it?

    That's what I'm talking about for the Holy Paladin. Standing in the back and healing may be the way healers in general are envisioned and balanced, but it's just not very Paladin-like. I see the current playstyle that is required of the Holy Paladin as not significantly different than any of the un-Druid-ish concepts I mentioned above.

  6. @Anjela: Hey Teuthida! Glad you found my blog. :)

    For me, my Holy Paladin felt most "Paladin-y" before Holy Paladins became primary healers in The Burning Crusade. Back then, I could feel comfortable meleeing without having to worry about the heavy AoE damage and silence/interrupt effects that have become nearly inescapable in modern instances. Plus, TRI has always been totally awesome since its creation, as evidenced by the fact that they let us heal/cleanse/buffbots melee way back in the Molten Core days. :P

    @Hana: The biggest gripe that I have with the way Paladin PvP has been designed is the overloading of Holy Shock. Holy Shock ends up being nearly 50% of my damage output in PvE, yet must also double as my most effective healing spell in PvP. This means that every 6 seconds, I'm left with the decision of choosing between using that cooldown to heal, deal damage, or save it for a few moments.

    Basically, this means that I can either use the spell for damage and put myself at risk of silence/interrupt effects when heals are really needed, or save the spell for healing and no longer be able to effectively deal damage. In other words, "throwing out heals" and "knocking some heads" become mutually exclusive to some degree. :\

  7. Double the problem for a belf from a lore point of view.

    So your order has allied itself with the naaru as the best game in town, but there's little mention of anything overtly religious, both the Blood Knights and the Scryers are soldiers, pure and simple, trying to save the remains of a society destroyed in a holocaust.

    I've tried playing a priest and it's just not my mood. There's too much manipulation and not enough devotion. To me, the paladin mythos has self-sacrifice at its core.

    At least the possibility of playing back-up tank does make a difference to me. Being able to take aggro has its uses.