On Wednesday, Blizzard released the preview of the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator, and while other classes were gleefully ripping through it like kids under a Christmas tree, the paladins were scrutinizing and trying to figure out exactly what had changed -- looking for interesting divots in the chunk of coal, if you will.
I guess Blinding Shield is confirmed as our level 87 spell (though we've been there before, yes?), and Speed of Light is even more obviously the best first-tier talent choice. There are some minor things here and there, however, that tend to point toward larger trends that will hold sway over our beloved spec in the next expansion. In today's column, I'll dissect those trends along with all the evidence that points toward them and forms the foundations of what we can expect.
1. Major rotational changes are coming. This is perhaps the biggest change coming to prot paladins, aside from the nascent active mitigation that we haven't really received any details on just yet (though I get ahead of myself). The intention seems to be to kill the 939 rotation for good by making the rotation far more dynamic with adjusted ability cooldowns and more holy power generation.
This is not to mention that the whole centerpiece of the threat rotation -- getting that massive, 3-HP Shield of the Righteous off -- has been completely neutered. The significantly takes away the center of gravity for the rotation.
Nonetheless, let's look at the actual changes.
For starters, Crusader Strike and Hammer of the Righteous are now on 4.5-second cooldowns, rather than 3 seconds. This removes the tedious heartbeat of the current rotation when you're hitting one or the other every other global cooldown. The cynics among you would rightfully point out that we're moving from a one-GCD pause between heartbeats to a two-GCD pause, though it's still a net gain in the end.
Like I said above, Shield of the Righteousness has changed significantly. It now can only be used with 3 holy power, rather than scaling with the number of holy power charges you've accumulated. Likewise, as mentioned, the amount of damage it inflicts is going to be much lower than what we're used to. It has a mitigation component as well, which we'll talk about shortly.
Judgement is now on a 6-second cooldown and generates a charge of holy power, so you better believe it will be occupying a much bigger slice of the rotation. In addition, Judgements of the Wise only affects adding holy power gains to Judgement now, the mana regen component is completely gone now. This dovetails with the major changes coming to regen and mana pools in Mists of Pandaria, which (again -- sorry, broken record) I'll talk about in a bit.
You might be either gladdened or saddened to see that Holy Wrath is now holy only. Personally, I'm saddened. I really got used to having an AoE stun for the right kinds of mobs. It was a horrible clunker for our rotation now.
Consecration continues to be a lackluster mana guzzler.
Also of note: Hammer of the Righteous has the Vindication/10% target damage reduction effect baked into it. Assuming this doesn't also get added to Crusader Strike (or some other single-target attack), we'll probably be looking at a situation where we'll have to use HotR once every 30 seconds to keep the effect up. Hopefully HotR isn't linked with Crusader Strike anymore, so it won't throw off the rotation and we can just use it as a filler.
For more on our 5.0 rotation, check out the blog post Theck wrote detailing different possibilities. Some of the information there is out of date as of this new talent calculator
2. First inklings of active mitigation are appearing. As I said above, Shield of the Righteous now has a mitigation component. When you shield slam, you also buff your block chance by 10% for 5 seconds. Hopefully those numbers are going to get tweaked, because I can't seem to stop yawning.
The design, as imparted by Ghostcrawler in the recent class Q&A, is that we'll be making this choice when we have piled up 3 holy power: Use Shield of the Righteous for bonus block chance, self-cast Holy Shield for damage absorption, or self-cast Word of Glory for a quick heal.
Side note: I don't see anything in the talents or abilities lists for over heal from Word of Glory to convert to an absorb effect. Hopefully that comes back; I hate wasted heals.
In any case, you can see where they're going with active mitigation to start. Our normal rotational abilities will have a survivability angle to them. What remains to be seen is what other effects get tacked on to our abilities and if it gets to the point where hit/expertise is required (assuming that is still a goal) to make the hit land and thus benefit from that survivability.
3. Tank raid cooldowns are disappearing. Lost but certainly not forgotten on that page: Divine Guardian. Likewise, it looks like Rallying Cry is missing in action as well. Anti-Magic Zone persists, as a talent. In any case, looks like Blizzard is finally taking steps to ratchet down the raid damage reduction cooldown arms race -- for tanks, in particular.
I can't say I'm happy about this, though I understand it. Divine Guardian was, is, and will always be overpowered, and the only recourse was to give something like it to others and thus have to boost boss damage to compensate or to remove it completely and avoid that additional complexity. With everything being pared down this expansion in order to reduce complexity -- like Judgements of the Just -- it made sense for Raidwall to be forced to exit stage left.
4. Mana management is changing. The healers are more so up in arms over this, but it still touches our little corner of the world. Intellect doesn't affect mana pools anymore, so to compensate, mana classes are getting much higher mana pools. Regen as well is changing, hence the removal of that component of Judgements of the Wise. Instead, via Touched by the Light, we'll have a 10% regen bonus on top of whatever the paladin class gets at base.
As a whole, this really doesn't mean much of anything for us except that we will be thinking even less about how to maintain our mana pool. Instead of needing to Judge to keep it up, we'll just watch the replenishing mana roll its way in, without any actions undertaken on our part.
Ultimately, it's obvious a lot will be changing in 5.0. And we haven't really begun to scratch the surface. We don't know what our mastery will be changed to (I really can't imagine Blizzard leaving it as is), and we haven't seen the full scope of what active mitigation has in store for us.
Thankfully, though, we do know that Turn Evil has a new icon. That's certainly a small comfort.
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.