Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. On Sundays, Chase Christian invites you to discuss the finer side of the paladin class: the holy specialization. Feel free to email me with any questions you want answered, like how awesome the Draenei casting animations are.
I have heard from a plethora of patient paladins who are very excited about the new shockadin spec. Holy paladins have traditionally missed out on the fun of dealing ranged damage due to various issues with our abilities and talents. Now that Blizzard added some support for the build, we are now tasked with figuring out if it's even viable and how exactly to best play the spec. We're discovering new territory here, boldly going where no paladin has gone before.
While we're sure that holy paladin DPS is going to be at an all-time high no matter what, the question is exactly how powerful we're going to be. Luckily for us, the Cataclysm beta servers are still active, so I took the opportunity to run some tests on exactly what type of damage we can expect to be doing. Obviously, if we're just killing mobs for a daily quest, time isn't exactly of the essence. However, if we want Exorcism and Holy Shock to be viable options in PvP or a raid environment, their damage needs to be substantially larger than it has been in the past.
Establishing a baseline
The biggest change to healing in Cataclysm is the dramatic increase in life across the board. Players are now running around with over 100,000 hit points without any buffs, and tanks are a full 50 percent higher than that. Considering that in WoW, 4,000 hit points used to be great, it's clear that life has been scaled up dramatically. The effect is twofold: we have more time to react with heals, and it takes us longer to execute our opponents.
Of course, this also required a change to mobs to also scale with our new HP pools. They're dealing more damage than ever, and their life has increased as well. The average monster HP at level 85 is also over 100,000 hit points, and there are several that are even higher than that. Elite mobs have more triple the HP of a regular mob, and so you can see that it's going to take a lot of damage to take one of these opponents out.
We have 3,000 spellpower now
Now, I understand that your gear may fall anywhere on the spectrum between green items and Icecrown Citadel's finest, and that's OK. With the ease of acquiring gear right now, it's not very difficult for a holy paladin to reach 3,000 spellpower without any real effort. I've currently got about 4,000 spellpower in my Icecrown gear, although as you will see soon, it doesn't matter that much. Exorcism doesn't scale very well with spellpower, as I mentioned in my first shockadin article, although I see now it scales even worse than I originally thought.
With 3,000 spellpower, I have been seeing damage dealt by Exorcism in the range of 4.5k per cast. Even if we've got so much haste that we're at the GCD cap, that's still only maybe 6k DPS if we factor in crits. Those types of numbers would've been impressive back in the Ulduar days, but nearly every caster eclipsed that upon entering Trial of the Crusader. It's simply not hitting that hard, and considering that our crits are only striking for 150 percent of base damage, the damage is simply weak. While it's a huge improvement over the 1-2k DPS we were capable of before, it's definitely not going to compete at all.
Expect 6,000 spellpower in blues
I used one of the premade characters provided by Blizzard to test Exorcism, and it came stocked with blue gear from heroic dungeons. While it was fairly strong, it's obviously not top of the line. While in this gear, with appropriate enchants and gems, I was sporting 6,000 spellpower. The unfortunate fact is that my haste was nowhere near the GCD soft cap, and so my Exorcism cast time was well over 1 second. This alone will lower Exorcism DPS significantly, as we have been relying on the massive amounts of haste we get from Judgements of the Pure and our top-shelf gear.
With 6,000 spellpower, my Exorcisms were only hitting for 6k. Considering that the cast time of Exorcism went up and that my critical strike chance went down, we're actually doing less damage at 85 than we were at 80. The increase in spellpower is simply nowhere near enough to offset the decay of our stat ratings as we leveled up. That didn't stop our enemies' life pools from tripling in the meantime, though. It would take nearly 25 seconds for us to kill an enemy mob, even if we're doing nothing but chain-casting Exorcism!
Tier 11 doesn't help
Once I had my premade geared out in full epics and tier 11 gear, I was rocking about 7,000 spellpower. While I was in pretty solid gear, my Exorcism damage barely budged from the blue gear I was previously in. Trying my hardest, I couldn't get my Exorcisms to hit for over 6.5k damage. While my haste did increase, it was still nowhere near the GCD-capped levels we enjoy today.
Exorcism simply takes forever to knock out mobs. It was great while leveling against mobs with only 45,000 HP at level 82, but as mob levels increase, so do their HP. Exorcism is simply nowhere near scaling fast enough to keep up with the high damage demands of level 85.
The silver lining
Not everything is gloom and doom, luckily for us. Since we do have access to Inquisition, we can boost our Exorcism damage by a full 30 percent. Unfortunately, due to its low duration, we can't really keep it up that often. It does allow us to deal significantly more damage with Exorcism, to the tune of 8k Exorcisms while in blue gear. A holy talent that extends the duration of Inquisition would be perfect for giving the spec a much-needed boost, though we'll have to see how committed Blizzard is to the shockadin playstyle.
With Inquisition active and Divine Favor plus Avenging Wrath burning, I was actually able to do some pretty serious damage. My cast time was down to almost 1 second, and my Exorcism damage was well over 10k per shot with a great critical strike chance. I think that the old shockadin tradition of powerful burst is going to be en vogue once again in Cataclysm. While we may not be worth much on an endurance race, we will still be capable of popping our CDs like a 3-minute-mage and wrecking whatever we're pointed at.
The Light and How to Swing It (Holy Edition) helps holy paladins become the powerful healers we're destined to be. Learn the ropes in Holy 101. We can help you keep a tank alive, heal a raid when necessary and beat the global cooldown. Tanking is a job, DPS is a craft -- but healing is truly an art.