What a great year 2008 has been for Paladins. While 3.0 overhauled the game in general, the class was retooled throughout the year, particularly Retribution, and became one of the most fun classes to play. In fact, Paladin popularity, while never a problem, rose incredibly. Even as I mourn the decline of Warlocks, I shudder at all the Paladins coming out of the woodwork like roaches. No, really, all the Paladins who have now specced Retribution because it's viable but can't break 1,400 DPS even with an epic 2-hander make me want to kick little kittens.
But never mind how I feel about that. The truth is that this is all good for the class, if not necessarily the game. I mean, did we ever dare dream that people would actually look for Retribution Paladins in trade or general chat? When you say you're a Retribution Paladin nowadays, nobody flinches. Nobody laughs. Nobody says, "haha, lolret." Or if they do, you Divine Storm their ignorant butts to kingdom come. Seriously, the most badass character in all of Wrath of the Lich King -- the one guy who spanked Arthas' sorry Death Knight butt -- is a Paladin. That feels pretty good. So, 2008. One heck of a year, wasn't it?
1. Retribution's retribution
The actual change to Retribution wasn't in 2008 but in 2007, during Patch 2.3, where Retribution DPS went from laughable to surprisingly good. This meant that the Paladin class started off 2008 on a really good note, with all three specs viable in raids and two specs mostly alright in PvP. We'll get to that in a bit. When Wrath broke, that viability jumped significantly and the fear factor doubled. We started out the year with players ridiculing the spec, and ended it with players respecting it. Despite the massive nerfs and the now-immortal quote, "to the ground, baby!" -- Retribution is still looking pretty good.
2. Holy moley!
Holy's biggest problem was always mobility and multi-target healing, two issues that Blizzard attempted to address with giving Paladins Haste and cast time-reducing talents like Infusion of Light and Judgements of the Pure. The real reason why Paladins are topping the SK-100 charts for Arena representation? Paladins are more viable as Retribution and Holy now. If players are enamored by Divine Storm and Paladin burst damage, they really have to see 18k Holy Lights thrown up in about 1.275 seconds. Anyone complaining about Beacon of Light hasn't played Holy in a raid. Period. Sure, we get a bit squeezed when everyone in the raid is taking damage, but hey, that's what Priests are for.
3. A plateful of plate
Death Knights. I hate them. No, seriously, I hate them. Tirion Fordring was on to something, you know. Alright, fine, I hate all Death Knights except my overpowered Arena partner who makes me look good. But everyone else can go jump in the lake. You know, wearing all that plate so they sink to the mucky bottom. See, this is how Warriors felt when Retribution Paladins were taking all their DPS plate. If we've been sharding every leather drop, it's been a cutthroat struggle for all the plate and 2-handed weapons. I mean, even Fury Warriors are going after 2-handers now.
4. Protect Protection
Quietly, Protection Paladins have been chugging along. They're still there, you just don't notice them because Death Knights are show-offs. But really, Protection Paladins are phenomenal tanks, even if we do lack a single-target taunt. And with the new "tanks have to be fun" philosophy that Blizzard's employing, Protection Paladin DPS is off the chain, specially on large pulls. And really... what pull isn't large nowadays? Everyone has dumped crowd control in favor of AoE tanking. And while Blizzard has said that they'd like to improve Protection for PvP, Protection Paladins are the only Paladins that make Rogues cry.
5. No pink gear
Alright, the absolute best thing to come out of 2008 for me, really, is that Blizzard finally veered away from making Paladin armor that's completely... fruity -- not that there's anything wrong with that, to quote Seinfeld. But it turns out that the once ridiculous-looking Gundam Tier 3 armor from the original Naxxramas isn't so bad, specially when it's in badass black. I mean, really, I've been passing on Tier 7.5 simply because the black and gold from 10-man Naxxramas looks so deliciously good it makes my shorts fall off. Let's hope that the days of purple Crystalforge are finally over.