In short I like the three new spells the class is to receive, however I'm guardedly neutral on the overall class changes that were announced today. From previous comments by Ghostcrawler I'm expecting that some miner Protection nerfs are coming in Cataclysm but this preview doesn't give us any glimpses of what form that might take. From discussions about the other healing classes, healing in Cataclysm in general, and specifically in the Resto Druid healing threads I know that healing will look and feel quite a bit different in Cataclysm. Blizzard wants mana to be an issue for healers and slow down the pace of healing a bit. And you can certainly see that again in the Holy Paladin portion of the preview. Gone will be the days of Beacon bombing, and the utter mana efficiency and I'm not sure I'm really going to like that. In general the Holy changes we're seeing here are yet another near total mechanic revamp and it really makes me wonder anew what kind of decision making process Blizzard has in place when they decide on such things. Beacon of Light was all the rage when Blizzard announced it two years ago, and now all of a sudden they dump all over it. I'll reserve final judgment until we see a bit more on the planned changes, but again, I find all of these deep class changes to be quite annoying. And lastly, they're going to make the Ret "rotation" less forgiving by introducing some risk into the mix? You mean, like they did with the Feral Druid cat rotation? The one they made completely too complex and unforgiving and allowed to remain so for two years before finally announcing plans to ease the situation? Blizzard, please don't screw up Retribution like you did Feral cats.
New Paladin SpellsIn followup to various healing comments, Blizzard went on to clarify:
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).
Next you will find a list of some of the paladin spell and ability changes, followed by our intentions for improving each talent tree for the release of Cataclysm. There will be further changes, but those revealed below should offer some insight into our goals.
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.
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.
Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses
- Critical Healing Effect
Meditation: This is the spirit-to-mana conversion that the priest, druid, and shaman healers also share.
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.
Here's a bit more clarification on some of these changes. Also, please keep in mind that this is merely a preview and we'll still have more to go in testing up to and including any other changes that aren't listed here in the preview.
We've updated the Flash of Light reference to make it a bit more clear in the original post as follows.
Flash of Light remains a fast heal, but will be more expensive to justify the cast speed. Holy Light will be the go-to heal that has average efficiency and throughput. Beacon of Light needs to be changed so that its benefit is letting the paladin heal two targets at once, not letting the paladin get two heals for the mana cost of one. It's intended to save GCDs and targeting time, not mana.In addition we're changing the paladin heal design to match that of the other healers. Holy Light is the middle heal. It's very efficient, but not particularly fast and doesn't have a lot of throughput. Flash of Light will be the faster heal that costs more mana. (Currently paladins sort of flip the model around by having a fast, efficient heal.) Holy paladins can talent into an additional heal that is like a giant Holy Light. It might take three of these big heals (or two crits) to get a tank from death's door back to 100% health.
Currently on live, Beacon of Light is a tool that allows paladins to target more than just the main tank. In Cataclysm if it just doubles their healing, it is going to be overpowered. We have two ways we might handle this and we'll experiment to see which feels better. The first is that Beacon only works on some heals, such as Flash of Light or Holy Light (but not the big one). An alternative idea is that Beacon increases the mana cost of a heal cast on a beaconed target, since you're essentially getting a double heal. Under this model, Beacon itself would cost no mana.
Also on the live realms currently, paladins have huge mana pools and massive throughput. The trade-off is that they are excellent single target healers and much weaker in other roles. We want paladins to be slightly more interchangeable with other healers. In Cataclysm, you should be able to have a Holy priest on the tank and a Holy paladin on the raid. We're not sure we'll back off of the current healing roles completely, but we definitely want to add more breadth to those whose roles are currently too narrow.
As for the Guardian of Ancient Kings. First, it's important to understand that this is not a pet nor does it have a pet bar associated with it. Second, it's also not meant to last for very long. So, it's not a pet in the traditional sense. It's a friend in need when you need it, but not a permanent companion.