Tuesday, October 4, 2011

We Don't Make the Class You Play... We Make the Class You Play Better*

 It's been said by quite a few internet pundits that the Paladin is the easiest of the WoW classes to play.  While I don't know whether that's the case --I could make a good argument for Arcane Mages taking that slot-- Ret Paladins are certainly one of the least "button heavy" classes to play.

One of the big knocks about Ret Paladins in Wrath was the lack of any real rotation.  The "rotation" a Ret Pally had was the equivalent of a giant game of Whack-a-Mole: whatever ability was off CD was the button you used.  Sure, there were a few choices here and there, but in this case perception was indeed reality.  Cata actually introduced a rotation (of sorts) to Ret, which boiled down to

Crusader Strike -> filler -> Crusader Strike -> filler -> Crusader Strike -> Templars Verdict

with a few items such as Inquisition, Zealotry, and Avenging Wrath inserted as needed.

This is not very button heavy.  (Stop laughing, Arcane!)

With Ret, once I took care of some basic keybindings and a few macros, there wasn't much to do.  Since I don't raid, I'm not too concerned about squeezing every last bit of DPS that I can out of my rotation.  I know the spec, so as long as I can work it well enough I'm fine.  Even a Frost Mage isn't that button heavy, particularly once the keybindings and macros are settled into place.  In PvP, it's all about CC and driving the other side batty.**

But when I started leveling that Warlock, my laissez-faire attitude hit a brick wall.

With Adelwulf, there were not only a lot of buttons, but you get them all launched at you in quick leveling succession.

By L20, I knew my old button system was in trouble.

By L30, it was just about untenable.  My fingers ached, and I knew that if I didn't overhaul my keys I'd get a serious case of carpal tunnel syndrome, not to mention being completely incompetent.

Of course, that meant that my old keybinding setup had to be thrown out the window, which is why I balked at the task for so long.  Muscle memory was going to be a bitch and a half while I settled into something reasonable. 

My first attempts went poorly.  Oh, I knew what I wanted from a Warlock angle so that was easy enough, but I didn't expect how much trouble it would be to reorganize my Ret keybindings into something I could use effectively.  In my first run after keybindings 2.00, I ran Q through AV.  Or rather, Q bubbled his way through AV.  I'd placed Divine Shield too close to a button I hit more often, and I was accidentally spamming DS the entire run.  Iteration 2.01 didn't go so well either, as every time Art of War procced I hit the wrong key and had to look away from the screen to figure out what I was doing wrong.

Not good.

Iterations 2.02 through 2.17 were incremental improvements until I finally got to the layout I liked.  Main attacks on top, debuff removal and cc stuff below that, and rarely used spells on the bottom.  There were individual quirks about my setup, like having Exorcism and Hammer of Justice use the same finger as before --but keys on different rows-- kept me from accidentally blowing a CD on something I wanted later.  (Trust me, it all makes sense in my mind.)

Turning to Neve, I balked.  PvP and PvE spell emphasis on a Frost Mage are different enough that I really didn't want to work on it.  Like ever.  But when you can't even find your main spells once you login, you have to do something.  And I'll be honest:  I haven't really finished the job of reorganizing Neve's keys into something that feels natural, even after iteration 2.13. 

Even that half baked key setup, however, is much easier on my hands.  My fingers don't ache after a couple of games of WSG like they used to.  And when I remember where everything is, I can hit the keys more quickly.

If it weren't for trying out that Warlock, I'd probably never have reworked all of this stuff.  Amazing how something good can come out of a class that wallows in its use of evil.

I do have one side effect of all this work, however:  my left pinkie has a disturbing tendency to accidentally hit the "Sleep" button on my keyboard***.  Talk about Imps and their tricks.  /grumble

*This is a wordplay on an old series of commercials for the chemical company BASF, whose tagline was "We don't make a lot of the products you buy, we make a lot the products you buy... better."  Here's a link to a 14 year old commercial via YouTube:  1997 BASF Ad

**If I've got at least three Alliance trying to DPS down Neve in WSG, I consider that I've done my job.  When 1/3 of your team is chasing after one person who isn't a FC, then the rest of your team is freed up to do the dirty work.

***Which, naturally, won't stay disabled.


  1. Warlocks are great for stretching your keybinding muscles. They have to use a lot of different spells to be effective, and even the simplified PvE environment tends to require an awful lot of keybinding. :)

    I'm glad your lock helped your pally and mage out - see, they're not ALL bad!

  2. @Cyn-- With the way the leveling process has been simplified, I discovered that a lock can easily handle PvE enemies about 2 levels higher in the lowbie zones without quite so much keybinding.

    Well, maybe not ALL bad, but I think that Blizz should have had a "death mechanic" where the summoned demon doesn't vanish, but grabs the lock and then disappears into the earth. More realistic, if you ask me.