Analyzing the Warrior/Paladin Pairing

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Warrior/Paladin has long been considered a “classic combo” in WoW PvP group setup. From world PvP to Battlegrounds, it benefited from well-rounded and consistent options, and a versatility that few two-man teams could match. Longevity, pressure, reactive abilities, and control of movement defined the Warrior/Paladin pairing and made them a powerful force in any setting.

With the advent of arenas and level 70 PvP, Warrior/Paladin has once again exerted dominance as an ideal core for any team format, providing the most common two-man pairing amongst high-rated arena teams in the game. This setup has experienced success across the boards; in 5v5 arenas, for example, Warrior/Paladin (and usually a Priest) forms the absolute backbone of over 90% of teams with ratings above 2000 with the myriad control options and “answers” the pairing has at their fingertips. In 3v3 arenas, Warrior/Paladin creates a strong, balanced basis that works well with almost any 3rd man, capitalizing on many of the same benefits as running the pairing in 5v5s. In the 2v2 arena format, Warrior/Paladin defies many of the “gimmick team” issues of the format with its immunity to several “free win” control strategies while providing a balanced set of abilities to match up well against most other 2-man configurations.

Class Breakdown: The Warrior

Warrior in full Gladiator gearWarriors form the highest play-percentage of any class in high-end arena play, with 30% of top 2v2 teams, over 60% of top 3v3 teams, and over 95% of top 5v5 teams running a Warrior in their main lineup, according to the Armory. Warriors have one of the highest damage potentials in the entire game and control many aspects of a fight with snares, stuns, and interrupts. They are mostly immune to one of the most common sources of Crowd Control (Fears), and, with proper heal support, are one of the hardest targets to bring down. The Warrior’s greatest contribution to a fight, however, is the addition of Mortal Strike, uncontested for its ability to bring a target down and to apply both constant pressure and an enormous mana sink for the opposing team. The Warrior is essentially a ticking time bomb when he is able to stick to an opponent; he will eventually kill his target in a prolonged fight given enough time. The Warrior benefits from incredible burst damage potential, which happens naturally as part of his normal sustained damage stream. With a few good successive criticals from a Warrior, a target can suddenly drop 50% of their HP with no real warning, setup, or use of cooldowns on the Warrior’s part. The Warrior is still applying his standard pressure and control (Mortal Strike, Hamstring, Piercing Howl, etc.) and really has not changed his actions or tactics at all to cause this sudden drop of health – thus, the opponent cannot really plan for it. When combined with the effects of Mortal Strike and the constant stuns/interrupts from skills and passive abilities, Warriors are able to dictate the flow of a fight by forcing opponents (and especially opponent healers) to base their actions largely around the Warrior’s choice of targets and potential damage flow.

Limitations

Unsupported Warriors are highly susceptible to roots and can be rendered largely ineffectiveWith all the strengths of the Warrior class, they have a few major limitations that prevent them from being a solo powerhouse. A lone Warrior has few ways to threaten many classes, such as Mages and Druids, who have powerful crowd control options that Warriors cannot reliably remove. Warriors are very vulnerable to snares, roots, and certain “reset” options available to many classes (such as Hunter traps and Polymorph). In many cases, a Warrior cannot even reliably attack certain classes without dedicated support; a Mage, for example, can completely shut down a Warrior that is attacking him without experiencing any significant danger. There are many battles that an unsupported Warrior, despite his great strengths, cannot hope to win.

Warriors have the most difficulty facing teams with both snare removal (such as Blessing of Freedom or Druid Shapeshifting) and the ability to apply snares/roots of their own (such as a team with a Hunter or Mage). The Warrior’s main strength is the ability to stick on a target and apply constant pressure throughout an entire fight, and any time this can be disrupted the Warrior’s contribution is minimized.

To combat these issues, a Warrior must be properly supported. Ideally, support for a Warrior must include both offensive assistance (locking down his target, offensive Dispels on his target) and defensive assistance (heals, Dispels on the Warrior to remove effects like Frost Nova and Polymorph, and other movement-freeing abilities, all of which allow him to maintain his offense). Most teams include a Priest for offensive and defensive Dispels and as a secondary healer, but the inability to remove most snares from the Warrior or to help lock down a potential target does not wholly account for the Warriors greatest limitation. Shaman provide excellent offensive assistance from Bloodlust, Purge, and various snares/totems, but give almost no defensive assistance and cannot remove negative effects from the Warrior. Druids provide a little of both offensive and defensive support but offer few Dispelling options. None of these classes allow a snared Warrior to catch up to his target.

This is where the Paladin comes into play.
Class Breakdown: The Paladin

The Paladin combines powerful heals and defensive abilities with versatile buffs and CC removalThe Paladin combines the best support abilities with the strongest single target healing and wraps them in an extremely durable shell. Paladins have found a home on most arena teams as the primary healer and the support they provide with their three strongest Blessings remains crucial for almost every team regardless of format. Furthermore, Divine Shield offers 12 seconds of temporary protection from spell interrupts and control abilities that would otherwise limit healers at potentially rough times.

Most Paladins in the top 100 rated teams run a talent build that incorporates 41+ points in Holy with the rest in the Protection tree. This ensures the strongest healing, the most important support talents and a reasonable amount of survivability for the Paladin himself.
The Heals
A Paladin specced for Illumination receives mana back for a healing spell when it critically heals. This means a Paladin pursuing one stat, Spell Critical Strike Rating, can see returns in both his healing output and longevity, giving them easy gear choices and the ability to power all three of their heals at once.

Holy Shock is an expensive instant cast heal (or damage) spell on a short cooldown and is useful when the Paladin is on the run or fears a spell interrupt yet still wants to have some healing heading to his target. Flash of Light is a highly effecient, low output heal with a 1.5 second cast time. It is best used as a patch heal or 'pre-heal' - a spell cast before the target takes damage with the anticipation of him being slightly hurt by the time the spell lands. With Flash of Light's short cast time, it is also a good option when healing under the threat of a spell interrupt.

Holy Light is the main work-horse heal. It is slower, but has a significantly higher chance to critical with talents and has a naturally high healing output. The output is often high enough to even offset the impact of Mortal Strike.

The Blessings

Blessing of Freedom is the only ability in the game which counters the Warrior’s primary weakness: vulnerability to various snares and rootsBlessing of Sacrifice transfers some of the damage dealt to a friendly target to the Paladin instead. Its primary role is to keep the Paladin safe from control spells that break when their target takes damage, such as Polymorph, Seduce, Sap or Blind. This spell helps keep him relevant against teams counting on heavy control.

Blessing of Protection offers 10 seconds of immunity to physical damage, often saving a target near death. Equally important, it also clears physical debuffs like Mortal Strike and Hamstring from the target. Even against teams that are weighted towards spell damage, tossing Protection on the target can be useful to clear the Mortal Strike debuff and allow for substantial healing.

Finally, Blessing of Freedom, by making its recipient immune to the effects of snares roots for ten seconds, is the strongest universal PvP buff in the game for both offensive and defensive situations. It has a lengthy duration and a short cooldown, allowing for it to be active for a majority of the time. Melee damage requires close constant proximity to the target, and consistent ranged damage requires line of sight and proper spacing. Both range and line of sight can be given or taken away depending on who has the Blessing of Freedom and who does not. Snares and roots are common and cheap; snare and root removals are not. This buff is the crucial connection between Warriors and Paladins. It addresses their most significant limitations with very little investment required from the Paladin. Already impractical to Fear, and now impossible to snare or root, a team's options against a Freedom'd Warrior are very limited and predictable. Further still, when the Paladin is under heavy pressure and low on options, he can switch Blessing of Freedom to himself and rely on the snares and disruption of the Warrior to escape and recover.

Additional Synergy in Group Composition

A well-supported Warrior's damage rarely dips - he is not limited by cooldowns or mana. So long as he can stick to his target, he remains a constant danger. Factoring in the longevity of Paladin support, typically lasting longer then any other healer, this combination goes the distance.

Additionally, these two classes are very difficult to justify targeting to rob them of that long duration presence. Pressuring either can fail to slow down the incoming offense to your team and every point of damage done to a Warrior is bought with rage; attacking him will often increase his ability to retaliate to your team rather then contain him. Similarly, investing time and cooldowns into dropping a Paladin may all be undone once Divine Shield goes up. If that Paladin is being healed by a back-up healer, he's also gaining mana for being healed through the Spiritual Attunement skill. Every heal on him gives him 10% of the mana that he was healed for. If you attempt to drop either and fail, you've just made your job considerably harder.

This combination is effective for the duration, and it's going to be very tough to try and take out either early into a fight. So what can be done for a team to cope?

The Limitations

Paladins are highly vulnerable to various forms of Silence and Spell Lock and have few instant-cast options to avoid these abilitiesDespite its consistent strengths, the team has its share of weaknesses. The first limitation comes from the Paladin's Cleanse ability, a beneficial dispel that removes one Magic, Disease and Poison effect each cast. Many caster classes can apply multiple magic debuffs at once or in quick succession, making it highly unlikely that a Paladin will be able to remove an important debuff with one or two castings of Cleanse.

For instance, a Mage can seal a Polymorph on a Warrior by casting the Detect Magic debuff after it. This may require the Paladin to cast Cleanse twice or more to remove the Polymorph. The same rings true for Rogues with poison applications, and dispel resistance talents make both situations even harder for a Paladin to deal with. The team loses valuable time and the Paladin is exposed playing catch-up during this process.

Additionally, Cleanse can not remove a Priest's Mind Control spell, which can be especially debilitating on the Blade's Edge Arena. If this effect is left unanswered, the Warrior will be run off the bridge resulting in Mortal Strike expiring on his target. That target will most likely be back at full health by the time the Warrior is back and fighting on the bridge after running his lap of shame. Finally, Cleanse also offers no protection against the Druid's Cyclone, a very consistent means of control against both Warriors and Paladins.

The Paladin also lacks an offensive presence. He has a strong short-range stun in Hammer of Justice on a considerable cooldown, but has little other means to aid in bringing down a target beyond a small amount of damage or possibly a Judgment of Justice. He is entirely a defensive specialist.

The largest weakness is the Paladin's susceptibility to spell interruption. Any significant amount of healing requires them to be stationary at length, casting spells with significant cast times. They lose access to heals, utility, and survivability if their Holy line is locked by a Counterspell, Spell Lock, or the equivalent. Curse of Tongues is also especially difficult for Paladins to deal with given their reliance on healing spells with cast times. Every extra moment spent casting a spell is time for other classes to recognize it and work in a spell interrupt of any sort.

Conclusion
Clearly, Warrior/Paladin cannot cover all angles - there are many abilities and situations they cannot easily address and which create demand for other strong support classes, such as the Priest and Shaman. They do, however, fare well against the largest variety of team composition, and are a successful pairing in all three arena types. For a balanced core with longevity, pressure, versatility, and synergy with virtually any other class, Warrior/Paladin is the dominant presence serverwide.

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