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The Light and How to Swing It: Must-have and must-miss talents

It's hard to determine the best and worst talents for a class that has three different roles. The best tanking talent is obviously going to be useless if you're primarily a healer, and the worst thing for a prot pally might be excellent with a ret build. Nevertheless, there are certain talents in all three trees that shine brightly, and other talents that make you ask "Who actually takes these?" These ... are those talents.

Best Holy Talents:

  1. Holy Guidance: Increases your spell damage and healing by 7/14/21/28/35% of your total Intellect. It's not a shiny new ability, it's not a magical button for mana efficiency, and it doesn't wow the crowds, but my God, is it good for both PVE and PVP. It allows the Int on our gear to do triple duty, increasing our healing as well as our mana pool and all-important crit chance.
  2. Healing Light: Increases the amount healed by yourHoly Light and Flash of Light spells by 4/8/12%. If you're full holy, you're probably raid/PVP healing or under a misconception about the power of Shockadins. If it's the former, this spell is invaluable. I only wish you could put five points in it ...
  3. Illumination: After getting a critical effect from your Flash of Light, Holy Light, or Holy Shock heal spell, gives you a 20/40/60/80/100% chance to gain Mana equal to 60% of the base cost of the spell. Pre-2.1, this would have been a no-brainer for #1. But they nerfed it from returning 100 percent of mana to 60 percent, since pallies were stacking spell crit and grouping with shadow priests for essentially unlimited mana in raids. Still a nice talent, but not as good as it used to be.
  4. Holy Power: Increases the critical effect chance of your Holy spells by 1/2/3/4/5%. This, along with the less-powerful-cause-it's-only-Holy-Light talent Sancified Light, works well with Illumination and spell crit for keeping up your mana.
  5. Spiritual Focus: Decreases chance to be interrupted by taking damage when casting Flash of Light and Holy Light by 14/28/42/56/70%. Not super for a raid environment, but excellent for PVP, grinding, and everything else. This talent saved me a ridiculous amount of times while leveling.

Worst Holy Talents:

  1. Pure Of Heart: Increases your resistance to Curse and Disease effects by 5/10/15%. Unless you spend 100% of your time fighting warlocks, pick a filler talent that sucks less.
  2. Blessed Life: All attacks against you have a 4/7/10% chance to cause half damage. See, this would be great in Prot, but if you've got 31 points into Holy, chances are that you're healing most of the time and aren't being hit by enemies. It's also not great for PVP and leveling, since it's proc-based and undependable.
  3. Aura Mastery: Increases the range of your auras to 40 yards. Half the raids out there aren't even going to notice if you're using an aura, much less if they're moving out of range of it.

Best Prot Talents:

  1. Holy Shield: Increases chance to block by 30% for 10 sec, and deals 65 Holy damage for each attack blocked while active. Damage caused by Holy Shield causes 20% additional threat. Each block expends a charge. 4 charges. Mmm, delicious prot grinding, made even better by Imp Holy Shield in the same tier. Also makes us viable tanks with the right gear by helping us hold threat and mitigate more damage.
  2. Reckoning: Gives you a 2/4/6/8/10% chance after being hit with a damaging attack that the next 4 weapon swings for 8 seconds will generate an additional attack. Great for ret builds, prot grinding, and early raid tanking. It's less effective as you gear up and get damaged less, but wonderful until then for a myriad of reasons. Combo ret/prot builds with this talent used to be popular, but not so much anymore.
  3. Improved Righteous Fury: While Righteous Fury is active, reduces all damage taken by 2/4/6% and increases the amount of threat generated by your Righteous Fury spell by 16/33/50%. Alex, I'll take "Best Talent I Forget To Use When Soloing" for 1,000. This talent is absolutely required for tanking at all.
  4. Sacred Duty: Increases your total Stamina by 3/6%, reduces the cooldown of your Divine Shield spell by 30/60 sec and reduces the attack speed penalty by 50/100%. It slices! It dices! It increases your stamina for raiding, decreases the cooldown on your signature ability, and lets you annoy everyone else in PVP by hitting them while invulnerable! All this for only two talent points!
  5. Ardent Defender: When you have less than 35% health, all damage taken is reduced by 6/12/18/24/30%. The paladin's longer-lasting but less effective Shield Wall. Necessary for tanking, great for prot grinding. I would have put Blessing of Kings here, but Kings is the odd talent that you mostly take because your guild wants you to, and a lot of pallies have a love/hate relationship with it.

Worst Prot Talents:

  1. Improved Devotion Aura: Increases the armor bonus of your Devotion Aura by 8/16/24/32/40%. Are you raiding and in the tank's group? Then this would be okay. Are you doing anything else? Then you shouldn't even touch Devotion Aura. In theory, it can be good for tanking, but any pally tank is going to take Redoubt and one of the other "better" tank skills instead.
  2. Weapon Expertise: Increases your skill with all melee weapons by 2/4/6/8/10. This talent has its defenders, but I am not one of them. If I had to push myself to take it as a rogue after the weapon skill nerf, why the heck is it an eighth-tier talent in Protection for PALADINS? Were they just totally out of ideas for talents?
  3. Improved Concentration Aura: Increases the effect of your Concentration Aura by an additional 5/10/15% and reduces the duration of any Silence or Interrupt effects used against an affected group member by 10/20/30%. The prot tree has a lot of good talents, so I had to stretch to find the third weakest. Theoretically good for PVP, but fairly mediocre in practice.

Best Ret Talents:

  1. Vengeance: Gives you a 1/2/3/4/5% bonus to Physical and Holy damage you deal for 8 sec after dealing a critical strike from a weapon swing, spell, or ability. This effect stacks up to 3 times. The basic ability of ret damage, sort of like how Holy Shield is the base ability of Prot and Illumination was the base ability of Holy before it got nerfed. This requires a high crit rate to keep up constantly and get your 15 percent, but should be worth it if you have even semi-decent gear.
  2. Crusader Strike: A instant strike that causes weapon damage plus 40% of your Holy spell damage and refreshes all Judgements on the target. Makes playing a ret pally a little less like having your teeth pulled. ("Seal Crusader, Judge Crusader, Seal Command, wait eight seconds, Judge Command, Seal again ...") Scales well with weapon damage and gives ret a better use for spell damage gear. The multi-Judgement refreshment is nice and theoretically helps retadins in raids.
  3. Improved Judgement: Decreases the cooldown of your Judgment Spell by 1/2 seconds. A ton of your damage comes from judging. This lets you judge 20 percent faster. It's early and cheap. There is no bad here.
  4. Conviction: Increases your chance to get a critical strike with weapons by 1/2/3/4/5%. Great synergy with Vengeance, plus crits are incredibly important when you're swinging around a massive two-hander.
  5. Seal of Command: Gives the Paladin a chance to deal additional Holy damage equal to 70% of normal weapon damage. This one is tough. It's the core damage seal for Alliance ret paladins, but falls behind Seal of Blood for belfadins. It procs 7 times a minute and thus is very good for slow weapons, but proc-based DPS is unreliable and can pull aggro. Benediction would be my choice for Hordies. Your call here.

Worst Ret Talents:

  1. Divine Purpose: Melee and ranged critical strikes made against you cause 4/7/10% less damage. Some of these paladin filler talents seem to assume that we're doing nothing but standing outside Ironforge and dueling. Worthless in PVE, too unreliable to count on in PVP, and even if it does proc, the damage reduction is marginal.
  2. Vindication: Gives the Paladin's damaging melee attacks a chance to reduce the target's Strength and Agility by 5/10/15% for 10 sec. Ha! You thought we were going to give retadins a decent raiding ability, but it actually doesn't work against most bosses, so you're pretty much boned unless you fight rogues and warriors a lot or like seeing pretty debuff icons on your opponents!
  3. Pursuit of Justice: Increases movement and mounted movement speed by 4/8%. Well, it's not that bad, until you get Crusader Aura at 64 which totally blows this away. Other than that, it's good for running away from stuff and carrying the flag in WSG. Why are you carrying the flag in WSG, anyway? That's why Blizzard came up with druids and shamans.

Filed under: Paladin, Talents, (Paladin) The Light and How to Swing It

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