Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cataclysm Paladin Preview Thoughts

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.

Interesting. Looks like our variant of Shockwave. One concern, however, is that Blinds usually break on damage, and a Prot paladin usually puts out a lot of AoE damage. For example, if Consecrate was down, and the paladin hit Blinding Shield, the blind would almost immediately break from Consecrate damage.

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.

Quite nice. Turns the paladin into--dare I say it--a "Beacon of Light". Makes positioning important and nudges the paladin towards melee.

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).

Very cool. I quite like the idea of summoning celestial aid. From a mechanical standpoint, this is interesting in that it is the first ability to have a different effect depending on talent spec.

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.

Excellent change. The paladin leveling experience does need some spicing up. Also interesting is that Prot and Holy get access to CS.

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

Pretty much the same as before, but probably with the increased cost and no longer fails to cast if there isn't something to Cleanse.

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.

What about the case where there's only one paladin? Tanks and Caster DPS will want Kings (Int grants Spell Power now). Physical DPS and Healers will want the new Might. That still cuts across different classes, not to mention that to buff a raid requires 10 casts. Also, how does Sanctuary fit into the new scheme? The goal should be to eliminate PallyPower, and I don't see that happening.

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

Healing-wise, sounds good. The question is if this will include the damage portion too.

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.

ZOMG! The end of bubble-hearth? Say it ain't so, Ghostcrawler!

I'm not a big PvP player but I don't think that dropping Divine Shield by a couple of seconds is going to do that much. It might make a difference in the very high end. But at the lower end, 10s is much like 12s, and people are going to be angry that the paladin can go immune at all.

It doesn't seem like the trade-off is worth losing bubble-hearth. Bubble-hearth doesn't have a large gameplay impact, but it has had a huge impact on the "culture" of WoW. It's referenced in a lot of movies and jokes, and it's part of being a paladin.

If anything, I might suggest something more radical. Divine Shield could become a Holy talent, an Improved Divine Protection. That would restrict Prot and Ret to Divine Protection, but keep the full immunity for Holy, and Holy could still continue the tradition of bubble-hearthing.

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.

The last time Blizz said this, they ended up dropping the cooldown of Crusader Strike by 2s. We'll see if they come up with something more interesting this time around.

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.

Sure, why not. One less thing to worry about. It'll be a little bit annoying for fights with tank swaps. However, this guarantees that Ret and Prot paladins will have their Sacred Shields up on a target. Still, might be an interesting place for talents. Holy's Sacred Shield gives a FoL HoT, so maybe Ret and Prot's could do something unique as well.

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.

Eh? Paladin heals operate on a different paradigm than Priest heals. FoL is cheap, efficient but weak, while HL is expensive, wasteful but powerful. If they're changing this then it will be hard to evaluate paladin healing by looking at the past. Personally, I don't think we even need an extra direct heal. Holy Light, Holy Shock, and Flash of Light are enough.

As for the Beacon change, it's probably necessary. Healing two tanks at once is excessive.

Holy paladins will use spirit as their mana regeneration stat.

Expected. Lawbringer armor gets the last laugh after all.

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.

Well, Protection does have access to Crusader Strike now. We may see something where Hammer of the Righteous is dropped for Crusader Strike on single targets.

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.

The word "small" is a bit concerning. But we'll have to see. A longer duration might also be good, to break out of the 969.

Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses

Critical Healing Effect

Damage Reduction
Block Amount

Melee Damage
Melee Critical Damage
Holy Damage

Meditation: This is the spirit-to-mana conversion that the priest, druid, and shaman healers also share.
Vengeance: This is the damage-received-to-attack-power conversion that all tanks share.
Critical Healing Effect: When the paladin gets a crit on a heal, it will heal for more.
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.
Holy Damage: Any attack that does Holy damage will have its damage increased.

I like the Mastery effects. In a world where it takes multiple casts to heal someone to full, the Critical Healing Effect will be very useful. I'm assuming it means that the crit multiplier on heals will be higher than 150%. Holy Damage is an iconic part of Ret, it's what differentiates paladins from warriors. Better blocking is good for a shield-using tank.


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.

Very interesting. Nothing has driven home the scope of the healing changes in Cataclysm like the idea of a "giant" Holy Light which still requires 3 casts to heal a tank to full.

Also nice to know is that they are definitely changing the paladin healing paradigm to match that of priests. Kind of honestly, I think we're just going to have to reserve judgement until Beta starts.


  1. crusader strike being baseline is something they should have done a while ago, i welcome a baseline holy shock as well. the summon sounds awesome, and blinding shield also sounds cool cant wait to see the animation for it. the aoe heal sounds kind of lame since its centered on you.

    the changes arent bad, but they are a bit "meh" when compared to how i lit up after reading the changes that my shammy was going to get.

  2. Nice breakdown.

    I like the Healing hands idea, although I feel we might end up getting in the way of a cramped /range.

  3. I hadn't considered the impact to our ability to bubble hearth at all! I'm a bad paladin. I think I've only done it once, maybe twice. :) But why should only holy pallies get to do it?

    Initially I didn't think we needed another single target heal between FoL, HL, and HS either, but with them bringing us into line with the other healers it makes sense. I'm just surprised they didn't keep HL as the largest heal and insert something in the middle.

  4. From a Holy point (that is my off spec, that is used now days more than my main), the crit healing effect is... meh. The beacon really scares me. And the whole extra direct heal is confusing. I mean, just like you said, we operate a little differently, and we already have the "granularity" they they are going for in other classes.

    As a ret, the holy damage, though wwill be nice (and is better than the first pass) im worried for three reasons:

    1) they could have used it to build in the complexity that the spec so badly needs - I.E. look at arcane mages.

    2) Its so completely boring. Yes, mastery will be a flat increase to dps. Thats it. No procs, no "change this up" nothing. Add it, see DPS increase. This is what we are trying to get AWAY from.

    3) I can see holy damage (which is not resistable) getting way out of hand, especially at upper levels. I don't want a repeat of everything we have had so far, buff and nerf - or rather I should say, Nerfbat to the face right out of the gate (remember the nerbat we took right as wrath launched?).

  5. @Firespirit

    No, "2) Its so completely boring. Yes, mastery will be a flat increase to dps. Thats it. No procs, no "change this up" nothing. Add it, see DPS increase. This is what we are trying to get AWAY from."

    That is what Blizzard is trying to get away from us having to choose. They stated that they were planning on making it so that we could branch out and choose more interesting talents without having to sacrifice dps talents, so they were intending to make the Mastery stuff where that was balanced out.

    Given the genericness of the name, they obviously haven't figured out what they are planning on doing with it so its hard to say what they're going to do with it.

  6. Good analysis.

    My 2cp... I really like the preview... a lot, for very different reasons than most others.

    The paladins are getting quite a few 'new' mechanics that aren't currently in other classes... whereas a lot of the other classes abilities, are things already done by x class.

    Take Healing Hands, for instance. one of the major gripes of a lot of paladin healers has been this idea of a 'back' healer. Quite a few of us felt, why not have a spell that put us back up front. This does that. It all depends on how it's tuned; if you move and it breaks casting, then it's a waste. It has to be dynamic and it has to not suck in non-clustered encounters... potentially a talent to extend it's range in the holy tree? Who knows, but the concept sound.

    And the Guardian spell at 85... is really unique. I love, love how (finally!) all specs. get to use a core mechanic but evolves based on your specialization. Essentially being 3 unique spells, wrapped in 1 shiny package! Although, the effect for holy seems... a bit too similar to that of Lay on Hands... and I'm not a fan of having something pick my target for me. That could be a bit clunky.

    Overall though, from a holy perspective, I'm optimistic with the changes. There's still a lot to question, but I think we can also begin to see where the devs. want to take is in Cataclysm.

  7. I'm a little bit concerned about how Beacon will be affected, not for when you're maxed out and have plenty of mana, but when you're leveling and have just gotten the talent. For the leveling and mana-poor, Beacon's bite into your mana pool is already restricting. Further hardships on mana will push Beacon into the "wait until much later before you use this" range of things.

  8. so if i cant heal myself to full while immune under my bubble, and 2-3 "giant" holy lights will get a tank to full.
    if bubble goes to 10 secs, i say we be looking at 5-6 holy lights to get us to full, so holy could do it with there new spell other specs might be getting to maybe 3/4 health.

  9. > ZOMG! The end of bubble-hearth?

    When you use bubble, you should also get a buff.

    Hasten Retreat
    Lasts 4s
    Reduces the cast time of you Hearthstone by 4 seconds.

    > Lawbringer armor gets the last
    > laugh after all.

    They are changing existing gear. They could still change Lawbringer to have "health per 5 seconds". :)

  10. Re the change to Cleanse, I thought I remembered seeing somewhere that this will be an ability only available to Holy pallies now?

  11. "And the Guardian spell at 85... is really unique. I love, love how (finally!) all specs. get to use a core "

    How is the Guardian spell unique? It's Ancestral Awakening, Self PW:S, OR Gargoyle on a 3 minute cooldown.

    As for Healing Hands, the ability sounds awful for the same reasons they never went with a Healing Consecrate. Having a heal centered around YOU is a pain (and ultimately why Holy Nova sees almost no use). This problem only becomes worse since Paladins will be the least mobile of all the healing classes in Cataclysm.

    Having to run TO someone to use a short range ability as Holy is why they changed Enlightened judgements from +10 yards to +30yards in the Wrath Beta.

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  13. Blinding Shield - Yes, the Blind will probably break on damage, but it will still work well for generating threat.

    However, think about it from a PvP perspective: Holy Paladins will finally have a CC! Yes, it has a cast time. Yes, it has a weird "facing" requirement. However, I fully expect there to a glyph available that will make it instant cast (or 0.5 sec cast).

    Healing Hands - I like this spell, and I like that it has limits. I'm one of those players who has long said that we don't NEED an AOE heal. In raids AOE healing is more than covered, and in 5-mans we rarely see massive group damage (at least not enough that Beacon+Spot Heal can't cover it). With this spell Blizzard can add some more "massive group damage" in 5-mans (like boss #2 in Heroic MgT) without giving Holy Paladins the finger.

    Guardian - I won't form a solid opinion until we see it in action. Two questions, though:

    1) Can the Guardian can be targeted / killed / CC by enemies (NPCs or players)?
    2) How does the Guardian gain its "spec dependant" skills? What happens when the best Holy spec is 30/30/16 - how will the Guardian gain its abilities?

    Bubble changes - Honestly, I thought they were going to make Divine Shield a Holy only talent when I first started reading the update. Honestly, I think that would be a better implementation (talent replacing Holy Shock - Divine Shield: Your Divine Protection spell now makes you immune to all damage for 12 seconds). We'll see where it goes.

    Overall, though, I'm happy with this preview. Despite me not healing on my Paladin in a month or so, I still prefer Holy to the other two specs and I'm looking forward to new skills and abilities.

  14. Probably the same way they decide which mastery you get. :)

  15. All I want from cat is the end of the word "spam"...I'm tired of asking "what do I do?", and the response being "spam --fill in the blank--". This game is giving me carpal tunnel.

  16. Thanks for the thoughts. Since I rarely heal, it's good to get an (intelligent) healer's perspective.

  17. Lazaros of Llane10:22 AM, April 15, 2010

    I really appreciate your open, even-handed approach to these announcements. In at least a few other blogs I've skimmed, there's fire and brimstone. You explain the notes from how we stand now, compare them to what Blizzard has said they're changing, and ponder the overall effect.

    I appreciate your words, as always (you're on my short daily reading list). It used to be helpful when reading about the abilities of my regular crew, and now moreso that I have an 80 Paladin.

  18. I for one am not too keen on a few things announced and a few others just are uninteresting or way off base.

    Crusader Strike being baseline is ... lets just say, its annoying. Unless they actually change the mechanic, it will not be in a prot paladin's rotation. Our rotation is fairly tight as it is, and pushing an ability that does 75% weapon damage of a one handed weapon over HoR which has a very nice modifier to up said weapon damage is unheard of. If they are to force us into using CS as prot vs single targets they are going to have to push a talent that modifies CS to make it an actual damage dealing ability for a Prot.

    Healing Hands is an interesting concept, but like others have said, it forces the paladin to position himself where the most damage is. In a great number of fights ranged are forced to stand far away from each other and melee take a brunt of damage because they are forced to be close. Some encounters favor the healers standing in rather than out so they dont have to move. This mechanic is interesting on its face, but would rather see the ability be targetted and not using the paladin as a totem.

  19. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

    I'm one of the minority SP-FOL pallies out there and quite used to being told my gear is speced 'wrong' by those I subsequently outheal by a country mile (yes I know that healing meters are not the point, keeping people alive is the point, but they are a good indication).

    I mention this because of this idea that Pallies are poor raid healers.

    With beacon on the tank, Fol/Holy shock combinations on any other target and JoL every 20 seconds it takes a pretty good/geared shammie to beat the throughput.

    Could be I'll have to change my whole playing style to the mainstream, or maybe the new changes will suit spellpower builds better. Only time will tell.