Ret Paladins Hit with Nerf Bat

It's official: retribution paladins are getting nerfed with changes to Judgement of the Wise, Judgement of Wisdom, Judgement and Seals, Hammer of Wrath and Art of War. Lead games system designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street has posted the changes on the O-Boards, along with an explanation:

We concluded a couple of weeks ago that Retribution was doing too much damage in PvP. We tried to nerf the burst damage through the previous changes to Divine Storm etc. Unfortunately, those changes didn't prove sufficient. Not only were paladins still destroying other classes in PvP, but we also found their PvE damage, even at level 80, was too high. Many classes were concluding they were too weak based on comparing their numbers to paladin numbers (and to be fair, hunters and in some cases mages and warriors).

Keep reading for the full post and all of the changes, as well as Ghostcrawler's lengthy responses to a number of questions.

Here's Ghostcrawler's first post :

Hello paladins,

Sorry we didn't get a chance to pre-announce these changes before the data were pushed to the beta. I won't try to sugarcoat it -- these are nerfs.

As I tried to explain before, we concluded a couple of weeks ago that Retribution was doing too much damage in PvP. We tried to nerf the burst damage through the previous changes to Divine Storm etc. Unfortunately, those changes didn't prove sufficient. Not only were paladins still destroying other classes in PvP, but we also found their PvE damage, even at level 80, was too high. Many classes were concluding they were too weak based on comparing their numbers to paladin numbers (and to be fair, hunters and in some cases mages and warriors).

Here are the new changes:

1) Judgements of the Wise: Mana gained reduced from 33% to 15% of base mana. We spent many hours arriving at this number. For example, we did a lot of Patchwerk fights, watching the mana bar to see when and if it ever went down. In BGs, we were seeing paladins able to go from target to target without pausing even when unleashing all of their attacks. While we don't want you to go OOM in a few seconds, we don't want you to ignore the mana bar either. Mana is not rage -- warriors can't typically start a battle with a full bar.

2) Judgement of Wisdom: mana gained reduced to 1% of maximum mana and proc frequency cut by 50%. This ability was flat out better than Vampiric Touch when the mana provided between the two really needs to be close in order for the decision between Shadow priest and Retribution paladin to be a real one.

3) Judgement and Seals: Damage reduced by 20%. This is the major damage adjustment -- a lot of damage was coming from these. We do realize this hurts Holy and Protection as well, and that is something for which we are prepared to offer compensation (particularly if it hurts Protection's threat generation).

4) Hammer of Wrath: Now can’t be used until the target is below 20% health. Our rule of thumb is that core "Execute-style" abilities work at 20% and talented abilities work at 35% health. We originally had Hammer at 35% based on some other limitations of the spell.

5) Art of War: Increased damage bonus to Judgements, Crusader Strike, and Divine Storm. I'll report back on the exact numbers here when we've settled on them.

I also want to add that the token Blessing of Might change wasn't intended as a joke -- it is designed so that Battle Shouts won't cancel the longer and more expensive Blessing of Might in a group setting.

These seem like pretty severe nerfs, but that was the intention. It is difficult for some players to ever be truly objective with issues surrounding their class, but in this case we felt Ret was severely overpowered. This was not in the realm of small tweaks to fix (though we did try originally). We overhauled the paladin class for Lich King, so it is unfortunate but not too surprising that the numbers for the dps spec require a lot of iteration. The mistake is ours, not the fault of the player base or beta testers.

Nerfing a spec or class is never fun. It means that our initial estimates of numbers were off and we know that the community is going to react negatively (to put it mildly). But we have to try and keep the game in a relatively balanced state and that is going to mean making decisions that are unpopular sometimes. If you need to blame someone for the nerfs, blame me.

As always, if we over-compensated, we'll adjust the numbers again. But as I said, our initial round of nerfs wasn't sufficient. Lest you fear that Lich King is upon as and you won't see any additional changes, that is not our point of view. We changed a lot in the game and we need to be able to rectify problems. I would expect early patches or even hotfixes to deal with class or balance problems, and hopefully these will slow down as we get closer to major content releases. But nothing is off the table after we ship, down to rearchitecting talent trees if we think that is called for. This isn't to suggest we aren't happy with the state of the game. Rather, my word that we will continue to iterate on problem areas as they come up.

I also want to stress that we do not make balance decisions based on the QQ of other classes. At most, if there is a pretty vocal outcry that will encourage us to rerun the numbers to see if something is amiss. As vocal, and sometimes passionate and even logical as forum posts can be, they represent a fraction of the entire fanbase and it would be foolish for us to clobber one group of players solely based on the whining from another group.

Go ahead and vent if you have to. We won't delete posts or ban posters in this thread unless they are overly offensive. We do ask that you not launch a thousand other threads so that other paladin issues can still be discussed. Likewise, we have no problem with other classes engaging in the discussion but outright gloating or trolling will be frowned upon.

And I do apologize for putting you through this.

Here's his follow-up post with responses to questions:

I know many of you asked good questions before the posts hit their limit. I am not convinced that my answering many of these questions would calm anyone down, but I'll give it a shot. If not, when the paladin community has gotten it all out of their system, I'll still be here.

Also realize that there are probably a couple hundred questions at this point and I can't answer them all. Here are a few common themes:

I thought we were supposed to be bursty?
Yes, that's the design. It's also a tough design to nail because if you're too bursty the opponent doesn't even get to respond.

You reviewed our class last because you don't care.
We overhauled the entire class. We rebuilt the way Seals and Judgements work, and by and large it's a good change. Paladins got a lot of attention for Lich King. your response suggests to me that the correct way to balance the game in the future is to make a class terrible early on and then buff it so that players are happy and excited instead of fuming and disappointed. Trajectory is everything.

I thought you didn't want us to run out of mana.
We didn't want you to run out of mana in three hits, especially in a sustained dps fight. What we don't want is for a paladin to kill someone and move on to the next enemy without losing any mana. I'm a little surprised so many people deny this was going on or that it was a problem.

We think we have your mana in a good place now, but mana is one of those aspects of the game that requires a lot of adjustment and there are many classes right now who would still like us to further review how mana is working for their class. If you're running out of mana too fast, believe me, we'll hear about it and we'll adjust it if we weren't "surgical" enough this time around.

But we don't care about Battlegrounds.
A lot of people do care. And if you don't care about them right now, I'll warrant that's because they don't offer the rewards that Arenas or raiding do. This is something we want to address in the future.

Again, though, we think Ret was out of line in several situations. Other classes are OP in some situations too, and we have either recently nerfed them or are still discussing how we want to address those classes as well.

Look at all the other classes in here laughing at us.
Well, they're jerks. Many of them probably suspect they are OP too and have so far escaped the nerfbat. So far. We want Retribution to be a dangerous class to go up against. We don't want to see BGs with 30 Retadins on one side, which is actually something we were seeing. Yeah, I know it sucks that people say Lolet. It sucks when people say huntards too. That doesn't drive people away from playing either class. We're always going to have some amount of competition in this game, either directly in PvP or the damage race in PvE. If I can read 1200 angry posts from Ret pallies today, you can blow off some inane gloating from warlocks or warriors. We delete the trolling comments when we see them.

Why didn't we compensate Holy and Protection first?
We want Holy to have better dps than it did in BC, but that's a secondary consideration compared to them being good at healing (which we believe they are). We are also still committed to Protection being able to tank anything that a warrior can. Consider that the boss armor changes hurts warrior threat more than it does paladin threat. The net result should hopefully come out equal. So far I'm not aware of a boss fight in the game where a paladin MT struggles. As I said, though, this is something we're working on right now.

Why did I describe our initial attempts to nerf Ret as surgical?
Because that's what we tried to do. In retrospect, we were so worried about nerfing Ret too much that we ended up not fixing the problem. We should have done more sweeping changes initially.

Why did we say Ret was fine for so long?
Because we didn't want to have to nerf the spec. Ret players were having fun. We thought and hoped that some well publicized bugs were to blame for the excess damage. As I've said, if I wait to post until we're absolutely 100% certain, you're just not going to get as many posts. Many posters have said they appreciate getting occasional developer communication and insight. But that is going to come with some risk that things are going to change. As I said, I'll caveat it more in the future.

That you're somehow paying to beta test the game.
First, I don't really think we'll ever get game balance to a state where 90% of you would say "Yes, it's perfect! Don't touch a thing!" Second, it's an MMO. Things change. The game evolves. We are always going to be changing things on our end as well. Players would be just as happy as not enough changes as some of you are with too many changes.

You may also have noticed that we nerfed level 70 raiding and that the level 80 raids are pretty easy compared to our past instances. We wanted to make sure we weren't shining too harsh a light on balance differences until everyone had plenty of time to get used to the changes -- more time than even our large beta can offer. Nobody should get parked at the curb in Naxx, and by the time Ulduar and later instances come on line, I predict we will have made many balance changes.

We don't believe you because we've been at the bottom of the barrel before.
There's not much I can do to get you to believe me or not. I try to be honest so my words carry some weight, but I also try to joke around a little so you know I don't take myself too seriously. I don't know how many other ways to say that it sucks that your PvE wasn't competitive in BC or that you weren't a major Arena force. That's not where we wanted you to end up and not where we want you to end up this time. I'm not going to show you my daily tasks or how I spend my time so that you can oversee my progress and make sure it doesn't happen again. Sorry. The best thing you can do is point out situations where you're struggling so we can investigate. Most of you haven't even had a chance to test with these changes yet.

You're nerfing paladins because of PvP.
Read my initial post again. Ret PvE dps was also too high.

Our numbers are different from yours.
That's going to happen. We compare data when we can. I think you'd agree that the game balance would be pretty interesting if we automatically made adjustments whenever anyone suggested them.

You said I wouldn't get banned.
You're still going to get banned for explicit language, death threats or the like (thank you very much for those BTW). Try and make your point without resorting to text that will violate the posting regulations. Call me a jerk, if it will make you feel better. It boggles my mind that I actually need to point out that AIDS comments and the like aren't appropriate. If you're smart enough to raid or do Arenas on your character, you're smart enough to know how to make an intelligent post.

Added one more for clarification:

You only tested in Naxx, but paladins do bonus damage against undead.
Yes, we know that. We tested under a lot of different situations with and without undead and with different levels of gear and buffs present. I use Patchwerk as an example a lot because players understand that it is a very simple boss fight in which there is no running around, adds or damage to the raid.

Comments

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Thankfully I have never tried it
# Oct 28 2008 at 7:12 PM Rating: Decent
8 posts
so I wont know what I was missing.

I will say that I am tired of sucking in PVP so I dont do it with my pally much.
Thank God.
# Oct 27 2008 at 10:46 AM Rating: Default
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Finally, I can go back to owning them again over and over and not be so careful.

-Rogue.
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When
# Oct 27 2008 at 10:44 AM Rating: Decent
Maybe I can't read or it wasn't glaringly obvious.....when does this change hit the main servers? (Or has it already)
Not to the ground - BELOW IT
# Oct 27 2008 at 8:09 AM Rating: Good
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170 posts
omfgoomroflret?

I agree with the change to the mana thing as I rarely (Rarely not never!) got oom. But I am not sure that this many and size nerfs are good, we have already taken a battering. DS hits for about 750 normal now, when it is not dodged/parried/blocked.

I am sure that Blizz know what they are doing, but I have to say I wanna have a smoke of what they are smoking.

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we knew it
# Oct 27 2008 at 8:07 AM Rating: Decent
18 posts
I think we can honestly admit that we all saw it coming.
It Was Bound to Happen
# Oct 27 2008 at 7:57 AM Rating: Decent
Well, it was fun while it lasted. :(
It Was Bound to Happen
# Oct 27 2008 at 9:56 AM Rating: Decent
Scholar
43 posts
Yeah, apparently 3 years of being the joke spec wasn't enough for Blizzard. Sigh.
Yes, it still needed some modification, but to cripple the class again is just beyond belief. You know, after all this time, maybe allowing ret pallies to be a little OP (not ridiculously, but somewhat) for more than 3 weeks might have been considered reasonable payback.

And no, my main is not a pally, in fact, of my 7 level 70s, not one of them is a paladin (poor chump is still 67). it really is too bad.
It Was Bound to Happen
# Oct 28 2008 at 5:27 PM Rating: Decent
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10 posts
I have to agree with you when you say, "not one of them is a paladin (poor chump is still 67)". Although you did one better than me, mine is still at 66 LOL. Thanks, Blizzard!
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