Design Issues Aplenty: The Dreaded Spellpower Plate

Let me start by saying this installment tackles an entire game design, and because of that, it will be lengthy. I will try and be concise, but for the idea to make sense, it has to be taken as a whole and not in bits and pieces or the entire mechanic becomes epic phail.
Over on the forums, someone decided to create their own design Q&A in hopes of some blue love. The questions are well thought out and worthy of a read from anyone interested in random aspects of the game. As would be expected, a question arises about spellpower plate, and we are lucky enough to be given a response from the crab.
“We would like to get rid of spellpower plate, but we don’t have a great system yet to make loot work without it. We want Holy paladins to wear plate and we don’t want them to be great at say damage or tanking without having to swap gear.”

I originally had a 4 paragraph response questioning what the hell he was talking about, but hanging out on MMO-Champion this morning, I found another response which I think better hits on the issue.

“We actually like the Feral solution and would love to implement something like that for Holy plate. We just haven’t figured out a way to make it work yet. The Feral tree is designed to have some crossover between dps and tanking and some degree of being able to use the same gear for both cat and bear. If you could use “rogue leather” to also heal and do ranged dps, then it might be a problem. That’s one of the risks in making paladins heal using dps plate. There are solutions of course, but we haven’t liked any of them sufficiently well to pull the trigger.”

Now the task becomes making DPS gear good for paladins, but not making all DPS plate desirable for healing.

This is a basic game design, and it impacts all healers.

Hit rating is the first and primary difference between healing gear and DPS gear, but there are also others. Boomkins like crit and it’s not quite as valuable to resto druids. MP5 has always been a way of deciphering whether mail is resto or elemental gear, even if Ulduar says differently. The major problem with my suggestions is without an addon like rating buster to help a holy decipher gear, things might be a little confusing, but it is my belief that if you have only one addon, it should always be rating buster.

First, let’s remove Divine Intellect from the holy tree. It’s not a cross tree talent, meaning neither rets nor prots are interested in it, and it is a seemingly lackluster talent for the avenue we are going to take. Holies will be taking Divine Strength, more on that later, if they want to boost their mana pool. Now with no intellect boost, you might as well remove Holy Guidance from the tree as well, but don’t worry, we are going to give you something way sexier than Megan Fox on a motorcycle (seen Transformers yet anyone?) for your sacrifice.

If you read the design Q&A thread I linked, you will find a suggestion for a talent called strength of mind. I like this talent, but I have called it something else, and because I’m as stubborn as a weimaraner without obedience training, I am going to call it what I have called it for a months, Brains from Brawn.

Brains from Brawn will increase your intellect by 25/50/75% of your strength. I compared the T7.5 shoulders to come up with the talent. 75% of the 75 strength on the retribution shoulders is 56.25 and the actual spellpower on the holy shoulders is 57. This number can be tuned up or down based on the itemization budget. Because I don’t really know the mathematical formula that Blizzard uses to budget gear, I am left guessing the actual numbers I should be using.

I would also add a talent (currently held by Holy Guidance) called Light Infused Armor that increases a holy paladin’s healing by 3/6/10% of their shield, cloak, and PLATE armor. Though Blizzard has removed +healing gear, there are still talents that prop up either healing or damage, so the mechanic is still in the game. Restricting the bonus to only healing will not impact the dps of a holy paladin because almost all of a paladin’s offensive spells are multiplied by both attack power and spellpower (see mathematical explanations for consecration, seal of righteousness, or hammer of wrath). A paladin with 20k armor would have about 2000 spellpower. When you add the raw caster gear a paladin will be wearing (rings, necks, shield, weapon, trinkets) this number is likely to be a little high. Tuning it down to 2/4/6% would give 1200 and seems more appropriate. The bonus would only apply if the gear is plate. A paladin trying to exploit the programming and wear some caster mail would not receive the bonus from that particular piece.

Degenrus, one of the best holy paladins I know is sitting on 20984 armor in all plate caster gear. 6% 20984 is 1259 spellpower. Add the spellpower bonus from his neck, weapon and shield, and rings and you will get 1900 spellpower. His spellpower, under the current design is 1931 for a net loss of 30 spellpower. It’s never nice to wake up on patch day and loose any spellpower, but the incoming changes in 3.2 to beacon of light and sacred shield would more than make up for a loss of 30 spellpower. Spellpower scaling may be the unforeseen problem. When you compare the T7.5 and 8.5 shoulders, you only gain 38 armor or a pathetic boost of about 2.28 spellpower while the current spellpower boost is 12.

The final solution is a little less refined when working in the current loot tables, but I will try and patch up the obvious holes.
Mental expertise will increase your MP5 by 50/100% of your expertise rating. Both the priest talent meditation and druid talent intensity imply an ability to focus in on the ability to regen your mana while performing your healing duties. The talents are, in a sense, an expert skill in the art of regenerating mana.

You will find only a few pieces without defense (meaning not tank gear though it did pick up some tanking pieces) and with expertise even useable by a paladin. The other plate with expertise is tier gear for warriors and deathknights so they are automatically off limits. I only really have the T8.5 hands to provide a comparison, and even then it’s not the best example, but it’s the best I could find.

The DPS gloves have 38 expertise rating while the healing version only has 19 MP5. The major flaw here though is there are no other pieces of tier gear for a ret paladin with expertise. Expertise is seen more as a tanking stat, and therefore, not much DPS gear has it. It appears when Blizzard decided to give ret paladin’s expertise, they did so by loading it all on one piece of gear and moving on to bigger and better things. If the expertise were spread out over more pieces of gear and not loaded up on one piece, then expertise rating could very well function as the MP5 stat for the suggested talent. Spreading expertise out among more pieces of gear would also help the dps reach the 214 expertise rating needed to nullify dodges. If you hop over to a warrior thread on elitist jerks, you will find that once a dps warrior is hit capped, the cheapest way to boost dps is with expertise rating. The paladin I mentioned earlier has 170 MP5 unbuffed. Since the 3.2 will increase the MP5 on all items by 25%, he will have about 212 MP5. 212 looks eerily close the needed expertise rating of 214. Looks like a little more expertise on dps plate would help more than just holy paladins.

Now, I am sure most DPS plate wearers are screaming at the screen right now and wondering why in the hell I would make you roll against another player for your gear? Well you won’t… ok, you will, but it’s better for you I swear. Instead of adjusting the loot tables down and removing the caster plate, the caster plate will be converted to DPS plate. This means that all bosses that drop DPS and caster plate will now have 2 pieces of DPS plate in the table.

You will be adding one more player to roll, but you will also be adding an extra piece to roll on. Instead of the current design where all the spellpower plate gets sharded to given to the ret or prot paladin for their rarely used offset, all of the plate wearers will have an extra chance to roll on a desired piece. Three classes wear plate, and though tied for the most with clothies, it has 3 different types of gear. Cloth has 2 and even those run together better than healing/tanking/dps gear. Plate crossover is abysmal where cloth crossover is, at least, manageable.

Keep the current loot tables intact
and use them as a model for the future ones.

Wrath is responsible for the rise of the retadin, an infestation of Death Knights, and warriors who can’t get passed just how bad ass they look with titan’s grip (no disrespect to you arms warriors out there). There is little evidence to suggest the demand for DPS plate is going diminish anytime soon; so load up the loot tables and share the love with holy paladins. Everyone will be better off for it.