While the above was the most-looked-forward-to possible change in Cataclysm, we still didn't get it. Hopefully, the developers will come to their senses and change this horrible oversight on their behalf, but until then we are perfectly happy with just adding the tauren to our list of Light-touched brethren.
Yesterday, the paladin class previews brought us a brief glimpse of things to come. Some of them were expected, while others were a little more out there. Overall, I think there will be a lot of tweaking to the class as a whole in the coming expansion. We're going to see more defenses removed from our brothers and sisters in the other specs as well as having some of their tools become available to us.
Let's take a look at some of these changes after the break.
New toys for protection
Let's start with our new abilities -- and by this, I mean those abilities which were previously unavailable to us in protection spec.
At level 1, all paladins are getting Crusader Strike as a baseline ability. It should break up our rotation a bit if we need more single-target attacks, and we likely will, with the overall nerf to AoE tanking in the expansion. We'll also be getting Holy Shock baseline as well. This will help give us a better single-target rotation in general and during those times where having all of that AoE threat can be a bad thing (Saurfang, I'm looking at you).
The only thing that bothers me about this is the mention in the post that Holy Shock will be an important baseline heal for all three specs. This might mean it will be losing its offensive capabilities, but I kind of doubt that. With the instant Flash of Light that retribution has available to it and our general survivability in protection, there's not much reason to add it baseline purely for healing.
As for new abilities, we get a 5-man boss ability, a totem ability and a weapon/trinket ability, depending on spec.
The first ability is called Blinding Shield, gained at level 81, which will be talented down to an instant cast as protection. This will cause what is essentially a cone attack that will blind and damage anyone looking at your shield. You probably remember this from ToC 5-man and if you don't, then you'll probably remember the next part, which is a short Blind effect where you stagger around aimlessly for a moment.
While a lot of the repercussions of this could be seen as PvP-related, it will also have a nice niche in PvE as well. Being able to momentarily disable a large group of non-undead mobs is going to help on adds fights (I know Holy Wrath helps against swarms of geists) or just on massive pulls (and having something to use against things like humanoids and beasts is helpful in general). For PvP, this will add to our repertoire of short-duration stuns. I'm not sure what the range of this will be, but if it can hit that caster or hunter who is just out of reach, I'll be thrilled.
Next, we get that AoE heal that holy has politely been requesting ever since they got tired of only healing the tank. Healing Hands will work much like the shammy Healing Stream Totem, allowing the casting paladin to be a conduit of the Light, healing those around them. Now, it won't necessarily be the same strength as the totem, just work like it. If this ends up being an instant cast for us, we may want to work it into our rotation during group damage fights to help out the healers, as it is a fire-and-forget type spell. Also, it doesn't say anything about this spell healing the paladin in addition to those around them. This might be due to the wording, but there is still too little information at this point, and any of these spells may end up changing.
Our level 85 ability gives us a short-term pet. Yes, you heard me right. We get a summoned pet. Guardian of Ancient Kings summons a winged creature of light to protect you. The pet abilities will vary based on your spec. As protection, our guardian will absorb damage or possibly redirect the damage to them. As this is pretty much still in pre-beta phase, who knows? However, this will add an additional tanking cooldown for us which, hopefully, will not trigger Forbearance. The holy version of this pet will will do healing, and the retribution version will probably act much like the unholy death knight's Gargoyle ability.
The information thus far implies that Guardian will be on a three-minute cooldown and will be lasting around 30 seconds depending on your spec. If the damage absorbed by this ability is high enough, it will end up being a fairly decent tanking cooldown for us. The question is will the duration end up being 30 seconds? If so, will this be something we'll need to save or pop at every chance? Part of the problem is we have too little information at the moment about what else is happening to us.
Other changes of note
Holy Shield charges are being removed in Cataclysm. Its damage and threat will be slightly reduced, but it will end up being a non-charged buff that simply increases your block. Being as avoidance as a whole is being nerfed in the expansion, you will also probably see a nerf to how much spell increases your block. It might just be reduced down to 20%, but be prepared as these stats undergo a major retuning.
Sacred Shield is being buffed up to a 30-minute duration. It still can only be on one target (which is you), but keeping it refreshed will be less of an issue.
Speaking of refreshing buffs, Blessing of Might and Blessing of Wisdom are going to be merged into one buff. This will significantly simplify things when dealing with strange hybrid classes like druids, shamans and us paladins that contain both casters and melee in the same class.
Blessing of Kings and Sanctuary will both still exist from what we know, but there is talk of combining Kings and the druid's Mark of the Wild into a single spell to further simplify buffs between classes and reduce the need for their drums.
There was one bit of text from the changes that I'm both happy and slightly concerned about:
As I mentioned above, adding Holy Shock and Crusader Strike as baseline abilities should allow us to remove our main AoE tools for those times when we need to avoid accidentally grabbing threat on multiple targets. (Yes, the AoE-fest of Wrath is supposed to be going away.) The real question is what they mean by "... add the necessity to use an additional cooldown ..." and what that entails. If they mean we'll be tossing the occasional Crusader Strike and Holy Shock in there, then I'm fine. If we have another version of Holy Shield that must also be maintained, then I'm a little more wary. We don't have enough information to know what they mean at this point, but I'm hoping for some clarification during the Twitter developer chat on Friday.
Our first two talent tree mastery bonuses aren't all that surprising, as all three of the other tanks also have them.
Our top mastery stat will be Damage Reduction, which will only be increased with talent points in the tree. An extremely useful, if not also extremely boring, stat. Attaching this to the talent trees will allow Blizzard to tweak the damage taken by any particular tank class in the event that they're not keeping up with the others. It can also allow them to nerf any class that is over-performing in damage prevention.
Following that is Vengeance, which is also only increased by talent points spent in the tree. This is a new concept to help tanks keep up in both damage and threat with their DPS counterparts. To put it simply in a TLDR, this adds a stacking buff to your outgoing damage based on how much incoming damage you've taken.
The longer explanation of Vengeance is a bit more complicated. It takes a look at your unbuffed health and when you are hit, it will start adding the stacking buff. This starts out at a bonus to your damage equal to about 5% of your unbuffed health and maxes out at 10% of your health. It does take gear, gems and enchants into consideration so that as you reach the next tier of content, your damage buff will increase as you get more stamina. This also means that we can primarily worry about things like avoidance and effective health instead of needing to gear or talent for more threat as the damage dealers start to out-scale what we can do.
Our last mastery bonus (and the one that will be affected by the actual mastery stat) is block amount. This increases the percentage damage from each hit blocked. Yeah, it is a bit boring, but it is going to be useful. Warriors have a slightly different one that allows them to have critical blocks that will double the base 30% damage blocked to 60% damage blocked. Ours on the other hand just increases that base of 30% until at the top tiers of gear, we're starting to approach that 60% they can hit. Overall, both classes will probably average out around the same. Warriors will be about big blocks, and we'll be about consistent blocks, which tends to be the flavor of the two shield classes.
In the end, this is a pretty fair adjustment. We're getting some tools we need in the extra tanking cooldown as well as some quality of life changes. The mastery bonuses, while boring as can be, are going to be important and useful. Hopefully, our tanking rotation will be a lot more interesting instead of the monotony we can run into with the old 96969.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In WoW.com's Guide to Cataclysm you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From goblins and worgen to mastery and guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.