Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cataclysm Changes - Paladin

Well the paladin healers had to wait only an extra five days past all the other classes to hear how the spells and talents would change, but the analysis had to wait an extra week from me since work sent me off to DC for a few days and the hotel had no wireless. At $500 a night. Ouch! I suppose I got to see the White House by being so close, but not much time for tourism when in DC for work. So let's get on it, albeit a little bit late!

The only low-level certain heal to be added has yet to be named, but it will be the equivalent of Greater Heal. The new setup will match the other three healing classes, with a fast yet inefficient role being played by Flash of Light, and an intermediate heal being played by Holy Light. I've always felt Holy Light was more of a Greater Heal equivalent, but apparently there will be something bigger. The basic three-tier toolbox is now the same for all healing classes, giving players of multiple healers like myself some level of familiar backbone spells. I'll speak my thoughts about this homogenization later, but overall it is probably a good thing.

Also, Sacred Shield will be modified to be a 30 minute long spell on one target. For a class that already is pigeonholed a bit into tank healing, this is not a step in the right direction. However, the blue post in the very same line spoke of improving the Holy Paladin toolbox to make them better raid healers. I was hoping for a bit more proof of that direction for paladins, but it appears we will need to wait a bit longer for those new spells in the toolbox.

Also the final dispel mechanic of the healing classes is Cleanse, which will remove defensive magic, diseases, and posions. A minor change for Paladins but nothing too major to get used to. Again, I'll give some thoughts a bit later about the standardization or homogenization of the dispel mechanics. One other note is that Blizzard wants Holy Shock to be a core healing spell for all paladins. The balance of the hybrid healing/damage spells is always interesting, so perhaps Holy Shock will continue to enable the shockadin players to do something completely different.

The Cataclysm level abilities feature Healing Hands at level 83. Healing Hands is a six second long AoE heal with a relatively short range. It is not a channeled spell though, so the paladin healer will be able to cast other heals while "radiating" small AoE heals. This is precisely the kind of spell holydins have not had in their toolbox. While it stinks that they will wait until nearly endgame to get it, this is a step in the right direction. The spell is currently tuned with a 15 second cooldown, so it will only be up 40% of the time at most.

The new endgame spell is called Guardian of Ancient Kings at level 85, and basically this is a summoned guardian who does something different for each spec of paladin for 30 seconds. For Holy paladins, the guardian will heal the most wounded ally in the area. I do not anticipate this will be a massive heal, but it will make paladin raid healing more automatic and clutch. I still believe more needs to be added to the toolbox for paladin raid healing, but the two Cataclysm level spells are a step in the right direction.

The top level Mastery bonus is Critical Healing Effect, which is no surprise for this class. This passive ability will further increase the healing output of critical hits. As usual, expect paladin heals to be happy to pack on some extra crit to maximize most of their healing spells.

On the whole, paladins have to be happy with the changes to their class coming in Cataclysm. While the changes may not be as spicy as shamans or earth-shattering as druids, it is good that paladins will basically double their amount of healing spells and join the other non-priest healing classes in utility. As I mentioned earlier, I believe there will be even more coming down the pipeline during the beta phase of Cataclysm, which makes it a great time to pick up a paladin healer and try it out if you have stayed away thus far. Also, paladins are one of the most enjoyable classes to level, so I strongly encourage you to join me in leveling those paladins.

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