Didn't we go through this already? Avenging Wrath's viability pre-Echoes of Doom was tied down by its causing Forbearance, particularly in PvP. Prior to the patch, using Avenging Wrath in PvP was akin to signing your own death warrant. In the current environment, it becomes even worse because Forbearance lasts two full minutes. It's an easily dispellable buff that leaves Paladins without the use of its class-defining defensive spell. Only the most foolish -- and consequently dead -- Paladins used Avenging Wrath in Arenas. In Battlegrounds, it was only usable against opponents who didn't have dispel mechanics. Otherwise, using it would be considered a reckless, oftentimes disastrous move. It's important to note that dispelling or stealing Avenging Wrath does not remove Forbearance.
The removal of Forbearance from the spell was brilliant. One of the best and celebrated moves for the class in general. It opened up many opportunities for all specs, not just Retribution. For a few glorious weeks, it was critical to Holy healing in Arenas, and even tanks in PvE got to use it while under the effects of the new Divine Protection. Making Avenging Wrath cause Forbearance -- now a longer debuff than before -- is one of the most debilitating retractions that Blizzard has ever done. The removal of Forbearance actually made Avenging Wrath usable in Arena or even Battleground PvP. This change will again see the use of the spell decline sharply in PvP, and almost virtually never in Arenas. Two minutes in Arenas is an eternity. Even Hypothermia only lasts 30 seconds.
Forbearance lasting two minutes also means that Retribution Paladins in PvE will never have the opportunity to use Divine Shield or even Divine Protection as an uh-oh button because it leaves no room for error in our rotations. PvE Retadins will have Sanctified Wrath, allowing the use of Avenging Wrath every two minutes. Optimal DPS requires Avenging Wrath up whenever possible, which means that in PvE, we will have Forbearance up pretty much permanently. If we ever manage to steal aggro at any point, we are, to put it bluntly, screwed.
I'll be clear about this: I don't have a problem with Avenging Wrath and Divine Shield being mutually exclusive. If Blizzard feels that its overpowered, then fine, change it. But Forbearance as a solution is crude and clearly done without enough testing (I'll talk most about that later), removing the utility of the spell and revisits old problems.
The fix should be very easy. Have Avenging Wrath overwrite Divine Shield and vice versa. This way, if one is dispelled, Paladins will have the option of using the other. The way it stands now, use of either spell is an extremely heavy strategic decision in PvP and Divine Shield will pretty much always win. Make Avenging Wrath and Divine Shield share the same sub-type of spell (e.g. Blessings and Hands) and allow only one up. Call it a Divine Gift or something: "Players may only have one Divine Gift on them per Paladin at any time." Problem solved. No more untouchable winged juggernauts of doom.
If Blizzard insists on appending Forbearance to the spell, then I implore them to at least make the spell dispellable only by Mass Dispel. Avenging Wrath now incurs such a severe penalty that it simply doesn't make any sense to have the spell removable or stealable and leaving the penalty on. It didn't make sense then, it makes even less sense now. Forget that request. Just make them the same spell sub-type.
Was the ability to cast bubble and wings simultaneously so game-breaking that it had to be hotfixed? Seriously, how many classes have been tuned or nerfed so many times through hotfixes in the history of the game? Just how badly did the problem persist and break the game that it could not be examined further and given a proper solution?
What really broke me about this whole affair was the staggering of the nerfs. If it was given all at once with a good explanation, I'd have been fine. But this latest nerf, sneakily unleashed on the Paladin community through a hotfix mere hours after an announcement on the forums (and we all read the forums, amirite?)... this is just disappointing. It's like a gunman warning you that he's about to shoot you moments before he unloads a 12-gauge on your chest. Nerf after nerf after nerf brings into question the entire design process. Why is a class being hotfixed instead of properly reworked and rebalanced through Beta or PTR testing?
A questionable design process
Throughout numerous posts, I always said I have faith in Blizzard because they seem to be going in the right direction. Through the nerfs, I stoicly asserted that the class would get fixed because Blizzard knew what they were doing. But with the latest nerf, I just don't know anymore. I'm just disheartened.
Ghostcrawler claims that they at Blizzard "have access to testing capabilities far beyond that of the average player." He explains that developers do not make decisions willy-nilly and do not merely make adjustments based on the whinings of players on the forums. I believe that, sure. So how exactly did Retribution get released on live in such a broken state? And why did Blizzard, as recently as BlizzCon, say that the class or spec was fine?
How come, despite what Ghostcrawler calls "a large number of tools that we don't make public," despite being able to "look up numbers or gather data that most players have to estimate or guess at," and despite hiring "experts on all classes" and being "in contact with expert players of the classes throughout the world," Retribution made it to the live realms in its state in Echoes of Doom? How can something that big, that environment-changing, make it though all that scrutiny and number-crunching?
I know. Mistakes happen. That's part of the design process. But the solutions, hotfixed nerfs accompanied by statements amounting to "we'll see how it goes," does nothing to alleviate player fears that there isn't enough testing done. When Blizzard stealthily fixes a class through a restart (just so you know, they also reduced Judgement of Justice's duration to 10 seconds for PvP), it's just not very encouraging.
Let's face it. I'm still going to play the Paladin class long after I finish this post. Many of us will continue to log in, bring out out our hammers, shields, or swords, and play the game we still love to play. I won't lie. I love World of Warcraft. I still love my Paladin. And I'll still be whirling my hammer through all the nerfs and hotfixes. It's the nature of the class. If we were able to plow through 70 levels of auto-attacks and then some, we'll be able to endure this.
We're still in a better place than pre-Patch 3.0.2. The rework of the Seal and Judgement system is still the best thing that's ever happened to the class. We're still great healers, awesome tanks, and yes, fearsome DPS. Echoes of Doom ushered in a new age of Paladin gameplay and I really appreciate that. Recent stumbles notwithstanding, the developers have showed a keen sense of understanding of the class and fixed many of its issues, there's no question about that.
These are steps that need to be taken. Retribution got out of the gate imbalanced and it needs to be reined in. It can be done better, but this is what we have. The funny thing is... I still think Blizzard will eventually find the proper balance for the class. I am certain -- and bull-headedly so -- that Blizzard will compensate for Retribution's lost burst with other, much more needed tools. I am also certain that Holy healing and DPS will be improved. They said they would fix it, and ridiculous as it may sound right now... I trust them. They've gotten so many things right I'd be remiss were I to blithely condemn this recent spate of nerfs. Yes, the latest one broke me. But hey, I play a Paladin. I can heal.