Finally. We get to the most exciting -- albeit also most likely to change -- part of our Paladin abilities analysis. The new Wrath of the Lich King talents! Readers who have been keeping watch on the expansion's Alpha and all the rumors and leaks know only too well that Paladins have had nothing significant throughout the entire Alpha stage. That all changed with the sudden release of the Beta yesterday, however, and a flood of overwhelming Paladin information came streaming in. You can read the list of changes in my first post, and a general review of baseline abilities and existing talents in my follow-up post.
Paladin talents have been greatly reworked, with some talents jumping from one tree to another, and other talents scrapped completely. The general vibe from the new talent trees is that Blizzard, after so long, has finally given the class some much needed love. I don't think I've gotten this excited about the class -- or heck, about the game -- in a long time. We'll take a look at each tree, the new talents, and what they could mean for Paladins in Wrath after the break.
Without question, the Paladin Holy tree has been suffering for some time now. This was brought to the fore during the recent MLG Orlando tournament when Serennia, reputedly one of the best professional WoW players in the world, completely embarrassed himself when he chose to play a Paladin for 3v3. It prompted commentator and former pro Arena competitor Kintt to describe Paladins as Big Macs compared to Druids, who were Filet Mignons. That has been Paladin healing in a nutshell... gimped in mobility fights and lacking in versatility. Let's take a look at how Blizzard chose to respond...
Requires 20 points in Holy
Reduces the mana cost and increases the resistance to Dispel effects of all Hand spells by 15/30%
A pretty straightforward spell, this talent makes the fifth tier of the Holy tree somewhat crowded. It appears to be a key PvP talent to protect situational buffs such as Hand of Protection, Hand of Freedom, and Hand of Sacrifice, which are all prime targets for dispels, specially in an Arena environment.
Infusion of Light
Requires 1 point in Holy Shock
Requires 25 points in Holy
Your Holy Shock critical hits reduce the cast time of your next Holy Light spell by 1.25/2.5 secs.
Here's where things get interesting. Holy Shock is mana inefficient in its current form, but Wrath buffs it with a reduced cooldown and supporting spell crit talents. With a high enough Holy spell crit, Holy Shock can become standard a precursor to instant Holy Lights. If Holy Shock crits, it can immediately be followed by activating Divine Favor to throw out a massive heal.
Used offensively, Infusion of Light can provide a staggering, instant reset -- Holy Shock an opponent with a crit, Infusion of Light procs, immediately heal yourself for massive amounts. This talent puts Holy Shock into serious consideration as an integral part of a Holy Paladin's spell cycle. It's still fairly expensive, but the time reduction to Holy Light is a 15 second buff that can be kept until needed. Paladin healers can crit with a Holy Shock and subsequently spam Flash of Light until an instant, giant heal is called for.
Furthermore, a critical Holy Shock also means Paladins get 60% of the cost back, thanks to Illumination. With enough spell crit, or even Divine Illumination, Holy Shock actually becomes a cheap spell that grants an instant Holy Light. Does this help in fights with mobility? To a degree, yes. It's not as controllable, but it certainly creates more options for Holy Paladins.
Requires 40 points in Holy
Your Cleanse spell has a 10/20/30% chance to increase the target's resistance to Disease, Magic and Poison by 30% for 10 sec.
Cleanse is an invaluable spell that still needs some work in itself, with so many debuffs having high resistance to dispel mechanics. This ninth tier talent helps in that regard somewhat in a preventive manner, increasing the chance to resist further debuff stacks. Because Cleanse activates the Global Cooldown, it precludes healing and spamming Cleanse means sacrificing heals. Sacred Cleansing eases the strain somewhat by giving a preventive buffer to targets.
Requires 40 points in Holy
Increases the range of your Judgement spells by 10/20 yards.
I griped about the fact that Seals weren't a part of a Holy Paladin's spell cycle in an old column, stating that in its current form, healers aren't able to take advantage of Seals. This ninth tier talent changes all of that. With a standard 30 yard range, Holy Paladins will be able to Judge opponents even while keeping a safe healing distance. Unfortunately, the Judgements still need melee strikes to be refreshed, and there isn't a particularly stellar Seal to judge. We'll wait for Blizzard to notice that, but for now, understand that this is all a mere precursor to...
Judgements of the Pure
Requires 45 points in Holy
Your Judgement spells increase your casting and melee haste by 2/4/6/8/10% for 30 secs.
Paladins suffer from the fact that their two staple healing spells have a casting time. With talents such as Infusion of Light and Light's Grace, however, this strain is eased somewhat. Judgements of the Pure continues to contribute towards mobility by enabling faster cast times. Judgements of the Pure and Light's Grace combine for 1.8 second Holy Lights.
Because it lasts for 30 seconds, Holy Paladins can easily keep up the buff even if an occasional Judgement is resisted. This means a potential constant 10% haste increase -- not just to spells but melee attacks as well. On the surface, one might wonder what a Holy Paladin would need melee haste for. Well... how about tanking? With the changes to the tree, a Holy Paladin has enough tools to dish out constant damage with Consecration, Holy Shock, and a sped up melee strike with Seal of Righteousness. Because Righteous Fury has been buffed to grant 90% more threat from Holy damage, a Holy Paladin can potentially generate massive threat. Having fun with the possibilities yet?
Beacon of Light
Requires 51 points in Holy
The target becomes a Beacon of Light, healing all party or raid members within 10 yards for 2000 over 15 sec.
Blizzard didn't want to give Paladins a Heal-over-Time. They didn't want to give them a group heal. No, Blizzard wanted to give them both. Why settle for anything less? Beacon of Light is a strange hybrid healing spell that's like the bastard love child of Tranquility and Holy Light. It's a targeted group HoT that has a cast time. Confused? Essentially, you select a target to become the eponymous Beacon of Light -- probably the Main Tank -- and put an HoT that emanates healing rays of love and warmth.
What's the big deal? The big deal is that the HoT generates threat -- but for the target, not the caster. Every tick of the Beacon of Light will count as threat for the target, because it's considered to be their healing spell. So yes, Paladins got a much-needed HoT and a much-needed group heal... but once again the class cements itself as the best single-target healer in the game by proactively generating threat for the main tank.
Changes to the tree
The Holy tree got a few talent shuffles, notably the removal of Divine Strength, which was placed into Protection; Spiritual Focus and Seals of the Pure (the talent formerly known as Improved Seal of Righteousness) were moved up to the first tier from the second; Divine Intellect was moved down to the second tier but buffed to grant a 15% increase to total intellect (up from 10%); Healing Light and Unyielding Faith were moved up to the second tier from the third; Illumination was moved up to the third tier from the fourth, leaving the fourth tier with just Improved Blessing of Wisdom. Easy solution -- pull Improved Concentration Aura from the Protection tree and put it into the fourth tier. Blessed Hands fills up the fifth tier while there are no changes to the sixth and seventh tiers.
Generally, the proper talents were placed in the right places, as Holy Paladins use Concentration Aura more than Paladin tanks. Many talents were also moved to earlier tiers without nerfing them -- which is effectively a buff. Overall, the new Holy tree looks more streamlined and focused. The new talents also open up impressive offensive options for Holy Paladins, centered around the 6-second Holy Shock and haste-enabled spells.
The changes are exciting coupled with the new spells because it represents a more involved playstyle that encourages healing Paladins to include Judgements in their spell cycles for the 10% haste buff. The buff provided by Infusion of Light is compelling enough to encourage the use of Holy Shock, as well as the shorter cooldown. The 11th-tier talent of Beacon of Light is a multi-purpose spell (which hopefully scales extremely well with spell power) that just might be what the doctor ordered for what has been a long-suffering class. Healing has improved overall, DPS seems like an option, and consequently tanking with Righteous Fury could actually work (mitigation notwithstanding). The one glaring absence is the lack of an active mana regeneration mechanic to allow Paladins comparative longevity in healing endurance fights. Perhaps we'll see changes to this effect as the Beta progresses.
<-- Wrath Beta patch notes: Paladin part II