It's a phenomenal time to be a Paladin these days. Let's face it, no matter how we spec, we're actually wanted all throughout Northrend. As Holy, we've got spots in parties, raids, and refreshingly even Arena teams of any bracket. As Retribution, we're actually sought after in groups and -- paired with the right teammates -- can actually shine in Arenas, too. Protection Paladins are just about the best tanks in the game right now, even in raids, what with all trash being AoE'd to kingdom come.
Patch 3.0.8 has a few changes that should boost us and balance us in some areas. One big change is how Divine Shield, Divine Protection, and Avenging Wrath cannot be used within 30 seconds of each other anymore, and the removal of Forbearance from Avenging Wrath once again. This reworks the quick fix post 3.0 where Retribution Paladins were devastating opponents with wings and a bubble. It wasn't the most elegant solution and hurt Paladin tanking about as much as it toned down Retribution dominance in PvP. With Patch 3.0.8, Paladin tanks can look forward to frontloading massive threat comfortable with the thought that Divine Protection is a mere thirty seconds away. Furthermore, Divine Protection no longer has a penalty, making it nearly identical to a Warrior's Shield Wall. That's right, Tankadins get even better.
On the other hand, Divine Shield was reworked to more appropriately reflect an environment where Paladins can do more than auto-attack -- all damage done reduced to 50% instead of an attack speed penalty. This should balance it for PvP, as well, and we should start seeing Arena matches where wings pop thirty seconds after bubbling. Due to this change, Sacred Duty no longer references any attack speed penalty and 2 points in the talent also increases total Stamina by 8% (up from 6% on live), although investing only one point yields a mere 3% increase.
Great news for Protection, sure, but there's even more good news -- the biggest news, actually, for all Paladins -- we get a ranged, single target taunt. Hand of Reckoning is a 30-yard taunt that deals 1 Holy Damage on an 8 second cooldown. It's awesome. Paladin off-tanking gets even better, and Retribution Paladins no longer have to smash their heads against a wall when faced with a flying mob. Don't forget to pay your trainer a visit as soon as the patch kicks in, this wonderful little spell is available at Level 16. This spell means a lot to the class, and with the change to tapping mechanics in Patch 3.0.8, it means Paladins of all specs will finally have a ranged pulling ability. It's little things like these that make all the difference.
Holy gets some love, too, with their offensive capability improved as Judgements of the Pure also increases the damage done by seals and judgements by 25%. On the Retribution end, Seal of Command will now also scale with spell power, a definite buff to the defining seal of the tree. In the current environment, Seal of Blood / of the Martyr is a better seal to use overall, even in PvP. Seal of Command was nerfed so many times that even the Glyph of Seal of Command wasn't necessarily bringing the ability up to par. The spell power scaling should hopefully see it return to prominence in PvP. Oh, and to answer a reader's e-mail, Haste works adversely against Seal of Command because the PPM is calculated after Haste effects apply and not just to the base weapon speed.
On the glyph side of things, we get three changes -- one is a buff, another a nerf, and the last one a rework. First, Glyph of Holy Light, the best raid healing glyph for the class, was buffed to affect targets in a 20 yard radius (up from the pitiful 5 on live). One of the best PvP glyphs at the moment, Glyph of Turn Evil, was nerfed to increase the cooldown of Turn Evil to 8 seconds. It's still pretty good, specially against the ridiculously overpowered Death Knights, but it will no longer be freely spammable. It now sadly gives a window for risen ghouls to Explode.
The last is the change in Glyph of Hammer of Justice, which currently increases the duration of the stun by 1 second but will be reworked to extend the range of the spell by 5 yards. It's sort of a nerf, but the stun rarely lasts the full duration in PvP, anyway. On the other hand, a 5 yard range bonus doesn't seem worth the Major Glyph slot, specially for a 10 yard spell. I guess we'll see how it goes.
[UPDATE: A number of readers pointed my way to the undocumented patch notes -- sorry for missing those -- which changes the Glyph of Hammer of Wrath from a range increase to a 100% cost reduction. This makes it possible to spam Hammer of Wrath during boss fights with abandon. Definitely a plus. Libram of Reciprocation, the emblem-bought relic, has been changed from a Haste bonus to a Crit bonus, making it that much more attractive to use.]
At this point, I'll be so bold as to say that the class is the best it has ever been in four years. All specs are viable in every aspect of the game, with the sole exception of Protection slightly wanting in PvP. Although Ghostcrawler has mentioned that he'd like to see all specs viable for all aspects of the game -- be it PvP or PvE -- he also said they're a long way off from achieving that. Still, the Paladin class is about the best work they've done so far towards that end, if raid and Arena representation is to be believed. Heck, one ride around Dalaran would probably confirm the fact that Paladins (and, ugh, Death Knights) have been popping all over like bad mushrooms.
If you leveled a Paladin to 80, congratulations. You chose a class that will always find a place in a group. When dual specs kick in, whether in Patch 3.1 or later, Paladins will have the flexibility to fill utility voids in a pinch. Does this mean the class is done? Perfect? Has hit its plateau? Not quite. There's still a lot of work to be done, as can be evidenced by the continuous tweaking, minor or otherwise, to abilities and relevant glyphs.
Let's be honest here -- the only reason Paladin DPS is competitive in Naxxramas is because the place is crawling with fricking undead! When Ulduar rolls around, Retribution's going to need a lot more toys to play with. I mean, right now we have to use Divine Storm and Consecration in our rotations just to keep up. Remember when Ghostcrawler said those were optional spells for AoE fights? Well they're not. If we don't use them against single target mobs, our DPS drops like a rock. The thing is, I'm sure Blizzard knows this. I'm also pretty certain they're working on it.
That's just some of our issues. They're not huge, certainly, and other classes have bigger problems, but the class is far from done. But look at Shamans, who should be getting a boost in Patch 3.0.8. Things will get fixed in the proper time. After years of waiting for the class -- or all its specs -- to rise above laughability, we should feel like kings right now. I mean, even tanking has gotten more interesting, what with Hammer of the Righteous and Shield of Righteousness thrown into the mix. It's just... righteously fun.
Paladins are in a relatively good place right now, so the best thing to do at this point is to... enjoy the game. Run some instances, do some quests. Gear up for Ulduar. Heck, do some Arenas while the going is good. Barring those stupid Death Knights, we're kings of the world. Go out, have fun, and deal some righteous fury.