At BlizzCon 2011, we received our first preview of what the new stable of talents would be for protection paladins. The name of the game, as the devs insisted, was to break the cookie-cutter mindset and allow for more diverse styles of play between two players of the same spec and class. It remains to be seen if the former comes to pass, but the latter seems to be a safe bet.
Each talent choice is (ostensibly) going to be designed to be as balanced as possible, or so Blizzard promises. At the moment, I think there is a clear cookie-cutter spec to be had, with possibilities for switching depending on any conditions produced by a specific encounter. As such, I'm going to dig through each of the 18 talents available to us and explain why I think the "winner" in each tier is the best choice in a vacuum.
That said, please keep in mind the standard disclaimer when it comes to something this early in the design process: Everything will likely change. I'm going to go ahead and plant my flag and make some declarations, but please focus more on the reasoning behind my choices rather than the specifics. What makes certain talents great in this new system, ultimately, it isn't the math or the wording -- that's ephemeral -- it's the spirit of the design behind each talent. Likewise, enjoy the delusion of what life would currently be like with these talents; it's fun to dream.
Anyway, if you want to follow along with my choices, I invite you to check out my talent choices at the Wowhead MoP talent calculator. You won't be able to see the talent wording otherwise, since there are no official "spells" to link to yet.
Tier 1: The long-awaited gap closer
I've been waiting many a year for that fateful moment when, sitting in my seat at BlizzCon, Blizzard unveiled that prot was finally going to get access to burst movement-buffing abilities -- a gap closer. None of these are Charge, or Death Grip, but they'll fill that long-gaping hole in our toolbox that has haunted us in fights like Al'Akir. But I digress!
Speed of Light On its face, this is the best choice for two reasons. One, biggest bang for your buck -- if you want a speed boost, you want the fastest one you can get. The other two speed boosts, as you'll see, cap out at progressively smaller increments.
The other reason why this is the superior choice is that it's eminently controllable. It's a 1-minute cooldown, you pop it when you need it. But will you need to use it more than the 1-minute cooldown allows? Maybe -- depending on the encounter -- but that's why the other choices exist. For default situations, this is the superior choice on the basis of its size and its control.
Long Arm of the Law A good middle ground and probably critical for a fight that would require constant, oft-available movement buffs. Shannox, for example, comes to mind in regards to attempting to outrun another stack of the bleed. The 1-minute cooldown wouldn't be terribly helpful for that. On the other hand, you need to worry about using Judgement in rotation and then not having it available when you want the speed boost.
Pursuit of Justice Not a fan of the design of this talent. Sure, it'll be up more often, but the stuttering nature of the speed enhance will make it possibly annoying -- not to mention it caps out much lower than the other two. The best you get is constantly alternating somewhere between a light trot and a brisk jog.
Tier 2: Crowd control
Fist of Justice Basically Hammer of Justice but with twice the range and half the cooldown. A solid choice for most boss encounters, especially if we're looking at a fight with stunnable adds like Ragnaros.
Repentance The idea of having a crowd control ability (you know, other than Turn Evil) as prot is kind of nice. Unfortunately, the cast timer precludes its use in combat, and outside of combat there are already a whole mash of classes that bring crowd control without having to sacrifice already-existing utility. (Not to mention, looking at a Repentanced add sideways can usually break it from the spell.)
Seal of Justice Horribly situational at best, ultimately this would end up a PVP talent. From the sounds of it, only looks like a single-target effect, so there's no Chilblains equivalency going on here. Alas.
Tier 3: Survivability boosts
Blessed Life Essentially a free holy power charge every 8 seconds while tanking. Not too shabby at all, but, as you'll see, there are far better goodies in this tier. For a threat-heavy build though, this is the tier 3 talent to beat.
Sacred Shield An awesome survivability talent, but sadly inferior to the next choice. Theoretically, in pure farm situations this is ideal -- assuming there is really no chance of death. If there's even a teeny-tiny chance of meeting your demise, then you should take ...
Ardent Defender Our old friend! In a situation where you can die, like I said, there's no real choice. Cheat death is that powerful.
Tier 4: Healing and absorbs
Selfless Healer I know they said they don't want talents to be considered prot talents, or ret talents, or holy talents but ... this is a holy talent. As long as Flash of Light has a cast time, no matter how short it is, there's no good reason to take a talent that buffs it.
Eternal Glory Lackluster today, lackluster tomorrow. Not even good for threat!
Holy Shield More like it. Notice that in this current incarnation there is no cooldown, as opposed to Word of Glory with its 20-second cooldown. Considering this is the only survivability choice of this tier, in addition to being a pretty sweet ability (basically a second Word of Glory) -- it's the hands-down best choice. Likewise, don't be confused by the wording, Word of Glory also says "friendly target," and it is self-castable.
Tier 5: Utility enhancements
Veneration Purely situational, if not completely a PVP talent. Tying it to Consecration seems like an odd idea, though. That's an awful lot of mana for a de-snare. On the bright side, though, if there is an encounter that mass debuffs the raid/group with a slow, this would be incredible.
Acts of Sacrifice This talent strikes me as incredible milquetoast in its current incarnation. The self-Cleanse pseudo-Freedom also smacks of PVP utility.
Clemency I like this the best of the three, if only for that magic "control" word. Plus think of how fun it would be to get two Hand of Protections out at once in a hypothetical Searing Seeds-esque scenario. Broken, broken I say!
Tier 6: The big guns
Holy Avenger Sadly, this is the only talent in the tier with any real survivability hook. Imagine, if you will, popping this and for the next six global cooldowns chaining Word of Glory and Holy Shield -- again, assuming no cooldowns. That'd be an insane burst of healing and mitigation. Of course, there likely will be cooldowns, so all we can do is dream for now. At the moment, just focus on the fact that this is the only controllable burst survivability talent -- a perfect counter to a dangerous and sudden avalanche of damage.
Sanctified Wrath This might be fun with two-piece tier 13, chaining the bonus and racking up mitigation bubbles just as each is quickly cleaved away. In addition, Judgement will be granting holy power charges in MoP, so this will be a quick way to rack up and expend a ton of holy power on top of a torrent of attacks. Combined with Long Arm of the Law, this is basically a constant speed boost for a set portion, as well. Ultimately though, it feels like more of a threat talent, since you'll still have to expend GCDs on casting Judgement.
Divine Purpose Procs are always fun, especially for a spec as generally stodgy as prot is. However, the lack of control is a non-starter in the end. Would be worth more for threat than survivability.
A thousand variables
Obviously, as you could see from my incessant hedging throughout this word soup, there are an infinite number of unanswered questions that can turn just about every declarative statement I've made today completely on its head. Word of Glory could lose its cooldown, Holy Shield could gain a cooldown, Consecration could change to a reasonable mana cost, Judgement could give us holy power or have the tier 13 two-piece bonus baked in. Anything is possible!
However, that doesn't mean this kind of idle speculation is completely wasted -- the whole point of exhibiting all these new talents to us was to provoke this kind of flagrant hand waving. Blizzard wants our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams, our complaints. Even if just to ignore them.
And, indeed, Blizzard wants to offer us a tiny peek into the developers' thought processes; I think we should we oblige them.
The Light and How to Swing It shows paladin tanks how to take on the dark times brought by Cataclysm. Try out our 4 tips for upping your combat table coverage, find out how to increase threat without sacrificing survivability, and learn how to manage the latest version of Holy Shield.