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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cataclysm Paladin Preview

So, this post has been sitting on the back burner since the proposed Paladin changes were announced. Better late than never, I suppose, but 'everybody else' has already posted these changes and their thoughts. Too bad, you get to listen to mine now.

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. 
Thoughts: Eadric's ability in ToC is kind of lame. All you have to do is turn around to avoid it. I don't mind seeing another damage spell in our arsenal, especially in the holy tree. Not that I do a lot of DPS type casting in my holy spec. The usefulness of this spell remains to be seen. A blind effect could be very handy.

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.
 Thoughts: We needed an AOE heal. I like that this works like healing stream totem and will allow us to cast other spells while it's active. The short range, however, means we'll have to stack up on the melee DPS (or, alternatively, on the ranged). Not a problem really, as I've been known to toss a JoW on a boss/mob and run up to melee to get mana back in truly mana intensive fights (doesn't happen often, but it does happen). I just wish I didn't have to wait until level 83 to get it.

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). 

Thoughts: This is not a pet in the traditional sense. There is no pet bar, it can not be controlled or pointed in the 'right' direction. The animation for it should be pretty cool. If you've never seen the animation for the paladins resurrection in Warcraft 3, a video of it is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSZhHLkIfkc. It still remains to be seen how well this will work in particular for retribution paladins. Will it damage the ret paladin's current target since it can't be controlled? My prediction? For a few weeks, we'll see winged angel creatures all over raids with several paladins in them. They'll either die out because their usefulness is very limited, or they'll become a common site with players demanding the graphic be nerfed because it's too distracting.


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. 

The only thing I have to say about this is "it's about damn time". This should have always been a base ability for paladins and I'm very happy to see they finally realized it.

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

Not much to say on this. Nothing is really changing for paladins in this regard.

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.  

This did leave a couple questions unanswered. First, what will happen to Blessing of Sanctuary? There was no mention of it. Second, will holy paladins have a talent that increases the benefit of the Wisdom part like we have now? I love my buffed Blessing of Wisdom, but I also like that Wisdom is being rolled in with Might. Buffing a raid just got easier.

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

Joy and felicity. I just hope it becomes a USEFUL healing spell. Right now it pretty much just sucks. The only benefit to using it is it's instant cast, but the amount healed is so small, it's not really worth it. There is no mention if the damage aspect of Holy Shock will be removed. I hope not. It's one of the few damaging spells a holy paladin can use.

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. 

Say goodbye to the bubble hearth ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ar03oIgRvXk ).  I don't have much to say about this since it remains to be seen what the actual effect will be.

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. 

I don't play a ret paladin but, I have heard that the rotation isn't really a rotation. I've also heard some ret paladins I know say they wish the game play was more exciting. Sure they can do some awesome damage, and they have good survivability but that doesn't necessarily make for exciting game play.

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.  

I have a whole lot to say on this subject. First things first, I am thrilled with the sacred shield duration so I don't have to keep renewing it during really intense boss fights. I am also fine with it remaining single target and see no reason for that to change. I'm not sure how I feel about being pulled out of my niche. Kat and I did a podcast about this last weekend, and the 'apparent' homogenization between healing classes. I kind of enjoy being 'a tank healer'. Would more utility be good? I suppose so, and it would be nice to not have to struggle to heal heroic Halls of Reflection. I'm just concerned the healing classes are all going to become so alike that they start to lose their flavor. Again, it all remains to be seen, but it is a concern.

We want to add to the Holy tree a nice big heal to correspond with Greater Heal. 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.  

Yeah yeah, another nice big heal 'just like every other healing class (besides Druids)' are getting. Remember what I said about homogenization? It kind of annoys me that they're making Flash of Light more expensive to cast just because it's fast. Holy Light is already expensive and slow. Then again, they apparently want all of us to struggle for mana come Cataclsym in the pursuit of 'fun'.

On Beacon of Light, this quote is deeper in the thread:

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. 

Now, combining this with the commentary above: I'm not sure how other paladins use it. Is it actually possible to put beacon on your main target and get twice the heals out of it? That's kind of what I was kind of reading into it. The way I use it is to beacon a second tank, or another target taking tons of damage (like myself), and heal that other target while I heal my tank. Or I'll toss it on my tank and heal myself through damage I am receiving due to AOE or Divine Sacrifice. At any rate, I can see how it might be overpowered in the expansion. This, however, is our top Holy Paladin talent. I don't want to see it nerfed. I would rather have Beacon increase the mana cost than only work with a few spells or, as some have suggested, have a lesser healing effect. I can live with an increased mana cost.

Holy paladins will use spirit as their mana regeneration stat. 

No big shock here. This was announced as part of the Stat and System changes here: http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=23425636414&sid=1. Basically, MP5 is going away, all our gear will start showing spirit instead, blah blah blah.

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.  

This should be interesting. Right now, Paladin tanks seem to be awesome at multi-target tanking. I don't have too many problems holding threat on multi-targets unless my DPS totally outgears me. Basically on single target, one of my hammers does multi-target damage. Would be nice to have something else in the rotation for single target.

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. 

This is a nice change. I hope they give it a 30 minute duration along with Sacred Shield, though a ten or fifteen minute duration would be acceptable. Holy Shield is a staple of paladin tanking and it will be really nice to not have to keep renewing it.

Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses:

To find out more about Mastery, follow this post: http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=23710210871&sid=1

Holy
Healing
Meditation 
Critical Healing Effect
Protection
Damage Reduction
Vengeance 
Block Amount
Retribution
Melee Damage
Melee Critical Damage 
Holy Damage 

Now for what all this means for Holy:

Healing basically improves your healing by X%. All healers will have it. All healers will also have meditation which is the spirit to mana conversion.

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

Okay, so my first reaction to that is 'duh'. But what they really mean is when we crit on a heal, it will be REALLY AWESOME. Or something.

 For Protection:

Damage Reduction is pretty self explanatory. Vengeance however requires a blue quote as follows:

Vengeance: This is a mechanic to ensure that tank damage (and therefore threat) doesn't fall behind as damage-dealing classes improve their gear during the course of the expansion. All tanking specs will have Vengeance as their second talent tree passive bonus. Whenever a tank gets hit, Vengeance will give them a stacking attack power buff equal to 5% of the damage done, up to a maximum of 10% of the character's un-buffed health. For boss encounters, we expect that tanks will always have the attack power bonus equal to 10% of their health. The 5% and 10% bonuses assume 51 talent points have been put into the Protection tree. These values will be smaller at lower levels. Remember, you only get this bonus if you have spent the most talent points in the Protection tree, so you won't see Arms or Fury warriors running around with it. Vengeance will let us continue to make tank gear more or less the way we do today – there will be some damage-dealing stats, but mostly survival-oriented stats. Druids typically have more damage-dealing stats even on their tanking gear, so their Vengeance benefit may be smaller, but overall the goal is for all four tanks do about the same damage when tanking. 

I want to talk about that for a second. When I've been tanking, I've noticed that DPS gear definitely does seem to scale better as we go up. DPS can far outstrip a tank and holding threat can be difficult. I'm glad Blizzard recognizes this and is doing something about it.


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.  

I guess this is the paladin tank's 'niche'? With the way block is changing come Cataclysm to only reducing 30% damage, this will be a nice bonus for the Paladin tank. I'll be interested in seeing how it looks in the beta.

For Retribution:

All melee dps are getting melee damage. I assume it's one of those "increases damage by X%" bonuses. They're also getting either Haste or Critical damage. Again, I assume Melee Critical Damage is "increases crit chance by X%" kind of deals.

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

A needed bonus for ret paladins. Again, I don't play as ret at all, but I've heard complaints.

That's it for the Paladin Preview. Nothing to get overly excited about, but these are just preliminaries, nothing is set 100% in stone and we haven't even started beta testing yet. If you wish to slog through the entire thread about these changes, follow this link: http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=24261189717&sid=1

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