Wednesday, April 14, 2010

[Paladin] Thoughts on the Preview

First off, an MSN conversation between myself and a guildie:

    Hana says:
    - We also get some uber sounding summon called Guardian of Kings that summons an angel with a sword and it does different things depending on spec.
    Cursedhoof says:
    - neat
    - hunters get a big bag

Hopefully someone else gets a chuckle out of that too. (And hunters aren't that badly off!)

So on to the preview!

New Paladin Spells

Blinding Shield (level 81): Causes damage and blinds all nearby targets. This effect might end up only damaging those facing the paladin’s shield, in a manner similar to Eadric the Pure's ability Radiance in Trial of the Champion. The Holy tree will have a talent to increase the damage and critical strike chance, while the Protection tree will have a talent to make this spell instant cast. 2-second base cast time. Requires a shield.

Healing Hands (level 83): Healing Hands is a new healing spell. The paladin radiates heals from him or herself, almost like a Healing Stream Totem. It has a short range, but a long enough duration that the paladin can cast other heals while Healing Hands remains active. 15-second cooldown. 6-second duration.

Guardian of Ancient Kings (level 85): Summons a temporary guardian that looks like a winged creature of light armed with a sword. The visual is similar to that of the Resurrection spell used by the paladin in Warcraft III. The guardian has a different effect depending on the talent spec of the paladin. For Holy paladins, the guardian heals the most wounded ally in the area. For Protection paladins, the guardian absorbs some incoming damage. For Retribution paladins, it damages an enemy, similar to the death knight Gargoyle or the Nibelung staff. 3-minute cooldown. 30-second duration (this might vary depending on which guardian appears).

Blinding Shield looks like only tanks will really want it, and not just because of the shield requirement. When I first saw that the Holy tree would have a talent to increase its damage I thought it might be nice for the soloing holy pally (or one wanting to help AoE trash), but with that 2-second base cast time it's probably going to be too long to be useful, even for off-spec tanking. It kind of makes me wonder what the point is to make an ability baseline if only one spec can get any use out of it. Only ret gets the instant Exorcism, but prot still might use it to pull if Avenger's Shield is on cooldown.

Healing Hands is pretty much what I predicted; a centered AoE heal, though I was amused by comparing the paladin to a Healing Stream Totem. I'm a little curious whether this spell will be instant or have a cast time. The short range means that this spell will be most effective when standing with a melee group, since the ranged and healers are generally spread out for boss fights. Does this mean we'll see more holy paladins standing in melee range? (Some already do to melee for mana using Seal of Wisdom.) Or will it be something a prot paladin will do if they have a spare GCD and threat is good? Our feral druid is sometimes #3 on heals due to his Improve Leader of the Pack aura. Maybe a prot paladin could be next. The short cooldown is nice and the fact we can keep casting while it's going makes me think this is going to be a raiding staple.

Guardian of Ancient Kings sounds pretty crazy, and yet it seems like such a paladin thing. If there was any class that was going to have such a pretentious sounding spell, it would be us, and we're getting a friggin' angel! It sounds like it'll be a smart single target healing totem for a holy paladin, another tanking cooldown for prot, and a semi-pet for ret. Actually, out of the three specs, I think ret would be probably be least excited about it, because it would just be another dps cooldown to blow, but holy and prot actually get another tool in the toolkit.

Rhidach is thinking that GoAK might cause Forbearance, but I'm inclined to think it won't. For one thing, it would make it impossible to use both Divine Protection and GoAK anywhere remotely close to each other and no other tanking class has a tanking cooldown that closes off access to a second tanking cooldown.

Changes to Abilities and Mechanics

  • Crusader Strike will be a core ability for all paladins, gained at level 1. We think the paladin leveling experience is hurt by not having an instant attack. Retribution will be getting a new talent in its place that either modifies Crusader Strike or replaces it completely.

  • Cleanse is being rebalanced to work with the new dispel system. It will dispel defensive magic (debuffs on friendly targets), diseases, and poisons.

  • Blessing of Might will provide the benefit of Wisdom as well. If you have two paladins in your group, one will do Kings on everyone and the other will do Might on everyone. There should be much less need, and ideally no need, to provide specific buffs to specific classes.

  • Holy Shock will be a core healing spell available to all paladins.

  • I have never experienced the wonders of Crusader Strike, but ever since the need to refresh seals went away at the start of WotLK, leveling a paladin has been lacking. I was toying around with a new pally that I got up to level 7 or 8 before I stopped and it was mindnumbing because I was killing everything literally with just Judgement and auto-attack, and you can only judge every 10 seconds. At least before I had to up a seal and then judge and up the seal again.

    The Cleanse bullet point doesn't really make any sense since it's pretty much what we do now, but it might be referring to the loss of the dispel magic ability for prot and ret.

    Blessings get condensed again as it looks like we will only have Might and Kings. PallyPower may no longer be needed. I wonder if the buffs are going to go raid-wide as well, since there will be so much less specialization. Rohan had mentioned that this could be awkward if there is only one paladin in the raid, but the druid's Mark of the Wild could be adjusted to provide the same benefit as Blessing of Kings making them essentially the same buff. Ghostcrawler actually proposes that as an obvious solution.

    Holy Shock being available to everyone is nice. It'll give prot and ret an emergency heal for themselves (being instant) without them having to burn Lay on Hands. It probably won't heal for much, but considering that healer mana is supposed to be an issue in Cataclysm it may be more desirable than ever for a hybrid to toss a heal on themselves if they can.

    New Talents and Talent Changes

  • We want to ease off the defensive capabilities of Retribution and Holy paladins slightly. We think the powerful paladin defenses have been one of the things holding Retribution paladins back, especially in Arenas. One change we’re considering is lowering Divine Shield’s duration by a couple of seconds. Having said that, Retribution does pretty well in Battlegrounds, and Battlegrounds will be a much bigger focus in Cataclysm since they can provide the best PvP rewards. Furthermore, the healing environment of Cataclysm is going to be different such that a paladin may not be able to fully heal themselves during the duration of Divine Shield to begin with, so this may not be a problem.

  • We feel Retribution paladins need one more mechanic which involves some risk of the player pushing the wrong button, making the rotation a bit less forgiving. In addition, we want to add to this spec more PvP utility. Right now the successes of the Retribution paladin in PvP seem to be reduced to either doing decent burst damage, or just being good at staying alive.

  • We want to increase the duration of Sacred Shield to 30 minutes and keep the limit to one target. The intention is that the paladin can use it on their main healing target. That said, we would like to improve the Holy paladin toolbox and niche so that they don’t feel quite like the obvious choice for tank healing while perceived as a weak group healer.

  • We want to add to the Holy tree a nice big heal to correspond with Greater Heal. Flash of Light remains the expensive, fast heal and Holy Light is the go-to heal that has average efficiency and throughput. Beacon of Light will be changed to work with Flash of Light. We like the ability, but want paladins to use it intelligently and not be constantly healing for twice as much.

  • Holy paladins will use spirit as their mana regeneration stat.

  • Protection paladins need a different rotation between single-target and multi-target tanking. Likewise, we're looking to add the necessity to use an additional cooldown in each rotation.

  • Holy Shield will no longer have charges. It will be designed to improve block chance while active, and will continue to provide a small amount of damage and threat.

  • I'm really not sure how the paladin defenses are holding ret back in arena, unless it's because Blizzard's afraid to give them better offense while their strong defense remains. And even that is a little funny because when I do arena the ret paladin is a popular first target to burst on, with the idea of forcing him to use his bubble early. When he bubbles, we switch targets, then when his bubble is gone we switch back. Making the bubble shorter might just make things easier. The comment about not being able to heal to full in the duration of the bubble sounds scary though.

    More PvP utility sounds good as well. My current 3s team is survival hunter, ret paladin, holy paladin (when we get to play *sigh*) and our strat is supposed to be to lockdown a healer and burst a dps (sometimes lock down a dps and burst the healer, depending on comp), but sometimes our ret paladin has to tell us he's just out of cooldowns and he can't do anything.

    Sacred Shield to 30 minutes. Good. One less buff to worry about renewing in the middle of a fight.

    I'm surprised Holy Light is going to be made the middle heal and then a new bigger heal would be added. Everyone is so used to thinking of it as the big expensive heal. It's going to be quite an adjustment to see Holy Light as being middle of the road, but I guess they don't want ret and prot to have access to the bigger heal, which is why it's going to be talented. Flash of Light is also going to be an expensive, fast heal now instead of a cheap efficient heal, to bring us in line with the rest of the healers. I'm not sure I like Beacon of Light being changed to only work with Flash though. We're not getting Healing Hands until level 83, and this will leave leveling holy paladins with very little in the way of multi-target healing until they're past done with WotLK content. No other healing class has this issue. Fortunately, Blizzard is still thinking about how to tweak Beacon so it's not set in stone.

    Spirit for mana regen was expected. It'll definitely feel funky for the first few weeks, but I'm sure we'll all adjust.

    Change to single-target vs. multi-target tanking rotations. Nice. I admit it's rather nice being able to mix it up as a bear. Now paladins can too. And this may be good for situations like Deathbringer Saurfang where the paladin has to refrain from doing AoE to avoid grabbing unwanted adds. Maybe there will be no more screaming that the paladin has to watch his AoE threat.

    And finally, yay, to no more charges for Holy Shield. I'm wondering if it'll become a passive always on aura or it will still have to be refreshed though. It's another button to push, sure, but it's weird to push a button every few seconds to maintain a mostly defensive ability (since the paladin has to be attacked for it to do any good).

    Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses


    Critical Healing Effect

    Critical Healing Effect: When the paladin gets a crit on a heal, it will heal for more.


    Damage Reduction
    Block Amount

    Vengeance: This is the damage-received-to-attack-power conversion that all tanks share.

    Block Amount: We want to keep the kit of the paladin as a tank who blocks a lot. So by contrast, the warrior tank will sometimes get critical blocks, but the paladin will absorb more damage with normal blocks.


    Melee Damage
    Melee Critical Damage
    Holy Damage

    Holy Damage: Any attack that does Holy damage will have its damage increased.

    The masteries aren't really anything to write home about. They're very much in the vein of making you do what you want to do better, and first two for all the specs are pretty much what we've come to expect given what we've seen for other classes.

    Holy paladins will still be interested in critting, and with limited mana pools and the assumption that players will often be in an injured state, crit heals will mean a lot more. A crit heal will mean mana saved, because of the additional healing that won't need to be done, and not just because of the mana return from Illumination (assuming that talent stays).

    Paladins still get to be the block tank, thanks to Block Amount for prot. It's not really exciting, but very practical and in line with the spec.

    Ret, I'm a little less certain about. I thought that Blizzard had toned down the amount of holy damage that comes from ret's attacks, changing it to physical, so it seems this wouldn't apply to all their damage, but maybe that'll still be okay since they already have the generic Melee Damage that all melee dps are getting.

    All in all, I'm rather surprised there wasn't anything quite as earth-shattering as the blood tanking for DKs or loss of tree form for druids. There are definitely some quality of life issues being addressed, but not the overhaul that I thought. Of course we're being moved away from being tank healers, but really, what I'm feeling here is more refinement. Maybe this'll be the expansion where paladin performance won't feel like a yo-yo.

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