Ardent Defender has two important changes. The first is that the damage can no longer “skip over” the 35% health level – it will always be reduced. Secondly, it has a new effect that if a blow would kill you, it instead sets you to 30% health. This portion of the ability cannot occur more than once every 2 minutes. Think of it as a Last Stand that you don’t have to push.
I'm not sure I like the idea of a Last Stand I don't have to push. On the one hand it's nice that it'll go up without any thought, and with a 2 minute cooldown it's unlikely that it would proc inconveniently (where you would want to be killed and then not have the proc available when you need it), but on the other I like being in charge of my own destiny. It makes me feel a better player if I push the button that saves my butt rather than the game pushing it for me.
I'm happy with the first change though. Damage leapfrogging over the 35% mark has been one of the reasons Ardent Defender isn't as appealing as it could be. Now that the damage won't leapfrog, it'll likely find its way into more tanking specs.
A second change to Protection is we want to make sure Blessing of Sanctuary is always the tanking blessing of choice. A likely change here is to have it boost stamina as well.
I agree it should be because we spec for it, but the fact it isn't always has never really bothered me. More stamina would help make it more appealing, but it feels like a bit of a bandaid if that's all they're going to do with it. I think something like more avoidance would make it extremely clear that "Hey, you want this for tanking!"
We also recognize that block does not provide the mitigation it once did. While we have long-term plans to change the way block works entirely, in the short term we are doubling the effect of bonus block value on items (so jewelry, but not shields).
I haven't tanked high end content, and though I know a lot about tanking, I'm not tanky enough to have noticed that block value specifically is weaker than it used to be, save that hitting the old 102.4% avoidance (formerly uncrushable, now block capped) isn't what it used to be. I wouldn't dare tank a raid in TBC without the 102.4% avoidance.
But I've yet to hit the 102.4% avoidance on Gillien and I've comfortably tanked all of Naxx 10 and bits of Naxx 25. I think I could even do parts of Ulduar 10. So blocking? Not what it used to be.
First, we are changing Flash of Light so that it places a heal-over-time effect on any target with Sacred Shield on them (the effect will be similar to Sheathe of Light). This should make Flash see a little more use.
I'm going to hope this means "in addition to" FoL's normal effect. If FoL is otherwise left alone this will give us a nice buffer on our tanks while we heal someone else. But would the HoT portion stack (say like a druid's Lifebloom, up to three stacks) or just be over-written by repeated FoL spamming? If it will not stack for a single pally, will it stack for multiples?
When I'm tank healing, I don't normally weave FoLs into my Holy Lights. If I need to use multiple HLs it's generally too risky to go for a FoL. And if I'm FoL healing, it doesn't seem like the HoT portion will be that useful unless it stacks. The HoT works best as a buffer, which means I have to leave the tank to heal someone else to get the most out of it. Fortunately, leaving the tank to heal someone else is more viable now thanks to this:
Second, and more importantly, we are changing the way Beacon of Light works. Currently, it does not count over-healing on the target. We are changing that. In other words, if you place Holy Light on a rogue who is already at full health, it will still have the full effect on a tank with Beacon of Light on them. This is a huge buff, particularly when you consider the Holy Light glyph which allows for a small amount of “splash” healing. This effect isn’t common when you use Holy Light on a tank because the tank is often standing alone. But if you heal the melee, you are likely to get a lot more total healing from this effect (while still healing the tank through Beacon of Light).
Now healing other people will not risk the life of the tank because overheals will continue to heal the tank. I'm extremely happy with this change because I'm the sort of person who likes to heal as much of the raid as reasonably possible while still keeping my assignment up. I hate to see anyone die as a healer, even if that person was not my assignment. (Exception being deaths due to stupidity.)
Bonus for arena: Since you do not have to be in line of sight with the beacon target in order for the beacon to get heals, it'll now be possible to overheal someone with the Light's Beacon buff (which shows that heals on this person will be mirrored on the Beacon of Light) and still heal the beacon target.
For instance, I run 3v3 with a DK and a hunter. The DK might run around pillars and such chasing after people, making it difficult for me to heal him, but he'll still be close enough for the hunter and me to be affected by Light's Beacon. With patch 3.2 I'll be able to heal myself or the hunter even if we're at full and still heal the DK who is LOS from me.
Blizzard is also looking into letting multiple Beacons of Light (from different paladins) stack on a particular target. For a Naxx or Ulduar raid I don't think this should be necessary, since there are often 2-3 tanks, and a healthy variety of healer types, but this will be nice for VoA pugs or Malygos runs which run the risk of having more holy pallies than tanks to Beacon. One horrible 25-man VoA run I was on ended up with five paladin healers. Ugh...
With the Beacon of Light change, the paladin can provide a lot more raid or party healing. To adjust for this, we are going to reduce the amount of mana returned by Illumination. If you use Holy Light too recklessly (such as on targets who don’t require that much healing) you do risk burning out of mana too quickly. Of course, they will still have Divine Plea and other mana regeneration mechanics.
These changes should lead to healing as Holy being more dynamic – you are going to be targeting a lot more group members than just the tank, while still providing massive healing on the tank. However, you won’t be able to just constantly spam your biggest heals, at least not on the more challenging encounters. There is an opportunity here for skilled players to really do some outstanding healing as paladins, but it’s going to take a little more effort.
I rarely have an issue with PvE mana, and I've always healed with my PvP holy/prot spec (which results in me having a lower crit than most holy PvE paladins), so if Blizzard wants us to care about mana, this is a good place to hit us. I like caring about mana, it makes gameplay more interesting, so all this sounds fine to me.
And these changes will give me free license to play my holy paladin the way I like playing him; tossing out heals on the raid and still keeping the tank alive. (I love beacon, what can I say?) Earlier I couldn't always risk it because I would be risking the tank, but now it's all open season!
First, Exorcism has a cast time of 1.5 seconds but can be used on players again. This will let paladins use it in PvP, but not while moving towards a target.
Non-instant isn't so great, but it's still a ranged attack and I'm sure I'll use this in arena. The cast time makes it a risk against any team that can lock me out of my holy school, but it'll help when I'm clear to use it and my team needs a little dps.
Fourth, we are removing Seal of Blood and Seal of the Martyr. The damage recoil increasingly felt like a liability in PvE, and wasn’t serving to offset the massive burst damage capable in PvP. We are buffing Seal of Vengeance / Corruption and redesigning Seal of Command with the expectation that these are now the seals of choice for PvP and PvE. Righteousness can remain a tanking seal.
Righteousness is a tanking seal? The only action bar I keep it on is the one I use when I'm soloing. I've heard it's better than Vengeance/Corruption on trash that's due to die before all five stacks gets up, but I'm too lazy to change my keybindings for it.
But with the buff to Vengeance/Corruption… phew… that's going to make some tasty threat. I'll probably drop my Armsman enchant (been thinking about it anyway) and replace it with the soon-to-be buffed Reticulated Armor Webbing.
There's a part of me that feels I'm about to miss out on an opportunity to understand what Seal of Blood is all about. I have never been ret, and have a ret set that is middling at best. I only put it together because I got so many Naxx 10 leftovers that people said should go to me on the off-chance I would ever use them. I might put that set on and tool around Icecrown for a little while and smack myself with SoB just to see what it's like.
While I've been writing this, the patch notes for 3.2 have gone up and it's a long list of stuff. We'll have to see how it all plays out.