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Cataclysm Class Previews – Paladin

Posted by Malevica on April - 14 - 2010

Following on from the Shaman, Priest and Druid class previews, here’s the Paladin preview from a healing point of view.


Spells and Abilities

Healing Hands (level 83): Healing Hands is a new healing spell. The paladin radiates heals from him or herself, almost like a Healing Stream Totem. It has a short range, but a long enough duration that the paladin can cast other heals while Healing Hands remains active. 15-second cooldown. 6-second duration.

As we’ve seen with Healing Rain, Efflorescence and Power Word: Barrier, this is another healing ability with strong raid awareness and positional requirements. This ability should help a paladin to plug their AoE/group healing weak spot to some extent; a paladin can be assigned to a cluster of people to provide some supporting healing.

The wrinkle with Healing Hands is the duration relative to the cast time, meaning a maximum of 40% uptime. In Wrath that would provide some sticky moments on something like Blood Queen Lana’thel or heroic Val’kyr Twins, but with the larger health pools and slower pace of damage taken this might allow time for the healing to average out.

The size of the heal will determine whether this is simply used on cooldown or saved for a tight spot, much like a Druid’s Swiftmend: too little healing and it might as well be used on cooldown, make it larger and it becomes sensible to save it for a time when it won’t be wasted. Perhaps even a rotation of paladins could be used to counter abilities like Kologarn’s Shockwave which affect the entire raid, or to cover both the melee and ranged.

I like the sound of this ability, especially for 5-mans, since it will allow me to have something other than Glyph of Holy Light splash or frantic Flash of Light spam to heal up my party after AoE or multi-target damage, which can only be a step forward.

Guardian of Ancient Kings (level 85): Summons a temporary guardian that looks like a winged creature of light armed with a sword. The visual is similar to that of the Resurrection spell used by the paladin in Warcraft III. The guardian has a different effect depending on the talent spec of the paladin. For Holy paladins, the guardian heals the most wounded ally in the area. For Protection paladins, the guardian absorbs some incoming damage. For Retribution paladins, it damages an enemy, similar to the death knight Gargoyle or the Nibelung staff. 3-minute cooldown. 30-second duration (this might vary depending on which guardian appears).

Just wow! I’m really excited about this ability, and especially the way it has been adapted to give something useful to all three specs: tanks get a defensive cooldown (although this will be a tricky balancing act), DPS get a boost to their damage output, and healers get a helper to smart-heal at their side for a while. Just the thing to get you through the tricky last 30% or when the raid needs a little extra help.

I honestly can’t see a downside to this, and it will also help with the Paladin’s raid healing along with Healing Hands. I’m impressed that the developers seem to have found good, practical ways to improve Paladin group healing without just giving them a Prayer of Healing or baking in the Glyph of Holy Light.

Cleanse is being rebalanced to work with the new dispel system. It will dispel defensive magic (debuffs on friendly targets), diseases, and poisons.

Not exactly a revolution for Holy Paladins, although it’s worth noting that as part of the new dispel system Retribution and Protection Paladins will lose the ability to Cleanse.

Blessing of Might will provide the benefit of Wisdom as well. If you have two paladins in your group, one will do Kings on everyone and the other will do Might on everyone. There should be much less need, and ideally no need, to provide specific buffs to specific classes.

Not so much buff streamlining as a quality of life change for the poor junior Paladin who gets to buff 15 times to cover every spec in the raid and their pets. It should also reduce some of the contortions needed to persuade PallyPower to give the right people the right buffs.

It might also help alleviate the headache of trying to figure out what buff to give all the hybrids in your PuGs quickly enough that they don’t start moaning. Or maybe they’ll see “Blessing of Might” and moan anyway. Perhaps it can be renamed to something more spec-agnostic, like Blessing of Power?

Holy Shock will be a core healing spell available to all paladins.

Fair enough. Depending on the level it becomes available this should make healing in instances a lot easier, as well as possibly giving Protection Paladins an easier self-heal.


We want to increase the duration of Sacred Shield to 30 minutes and keep the limit to one target. The intention is that the paladin can use it on their main healing target. That said, we would like to improve the Holy paladin toolbox and niche so that they don’t feel quite like the obvious choice for tank healing while perceived as a weak group healer.

That’s a long duration. 60 seconds felt very short and I’m glad and not surprised that it’s going up, but I didn’t expect more than 5 minutes. I wonder then if the mana cost will go up correspondingly to discourage the Paladin from swapping targets as much as we do at the moment and to keep it on the “MT” (or their assignment, whoever that might be). This does seem superficially to be against the goal of moving the paladin away from tank healing, but might be intended to provide more smoothing or ‘passive’ healing to allow the paladin to do other things in between direct heals.

While I’m pleased to see Paladins gaining some extra group healing in general, I’m really not sure if the “tank healer” label will be so easy to shrug off. Healing Hands will have to be rather good to drag Paladins off the tanks, especially as many will have either rolled the class with tank healing in mind or become accustomed to that as their role over the years.

We want to add to the Holy tree a nice big heal to correspond with Greater Heal. Flash of Light remains the expensive, fast heal and Holy Light is the go-to heal that has average efficiency and throughput. Beacon of Light will be changed to work with Flash of Light. We like the ability, but want paladins to use it intelligently and not be constantly healing for twice as much.

My first thought on reading this was that I wasn’t aware Flash of Light was the expensive, fast heal at the moment. I suspect this is a clash of tenses, where “remains” should be replaced by “becomes”.

In any case, this seems to position Flash of Light as the “Flash Heal”, moves Holy Light more towards Heal than Greater Heal (although it will need to have its single-target throughput reduced significantly, because currently it has a Heal-like cast time with at least Greater Heal-like output) and leaves the field open for an as-yet-unidentified big slow heal. This really just pulls the basic direct healing toolkit into line with the other three healers and isn’t unexpected, even if the wording could have been checked a bit more carefully.

Some quite big fundamental changes here though. As Rohan at Blessing of Kings points out, currently Paladin heals operate on a different paradigm to the Priest heals that seem to be the new norm: while Priests trade immediacy and casting speed for mana efficiency (fast and expensive vs slow and cheap), Paladins trade throughput for mana efficiency instead.

When I read the Sacred Shield change I rather expected to see an increase in the duration of Beacon of Light as well. However, from what has been said about Beacon of Light it seems almost as if it is being moved away from 100% uptime and more towards situational use, perhaps for times when there is widespread spot-healing to be done with Flash of Light and the Paladin needs to divert themselves away from their assignment temporarily.

That said the impact of this change is a little unclear at the moment, since we don’t have information on the relative size and cost of Flash of Light to be able to understand the role of FoL and Beacon together.

Edit: The section of the class preview quoted above has been clarified and the original post on the forums updated. The new version is quoted below for reference, but I’ve left the original in place in this post as well for reference. This doesn’t affect the conclusions, but it is worded slightly better.

We want to add to the Holy tree a nice big heal to correspond with Greater Heal. Flash of Light remains a fast heal, but will be more expensive to justify the cast speed. Holy Light will be the go-to heal that has average efficiency and throughput. Beacon of Light needs to be changed so that its benefit is letting the paladin heal two targets at once, not letting the paladin get two heals for the mana cost of one. It’s intended to save GCDs and targeting time, not mana.

And the final change for this section:

Holy paladins will use spirit as their mana regeneration stat.

This change was announced previously, so it will probably not be news to many people. It will be slightly odd to be picking up Spirit gear again.


Critical Healing Effect

Meditation: This is the spirit-to-mana conversion that the priest, druid, and shaman healers also share.

Critical Healing Effect: When the paladin gets a crit on a heal, it will heal for more.

Clearly Paladins will continue to be built around the idea of critical heals and single target heals, which is good if only to retain some consistency in healing style between expansions. Generally though the mastery speaks for itself.


The Paladin preview was released later than the other classes because the developers felt they needed more time to hammer out the details of the class changes before publishing them. Even then there are still gaps, the odd error and the notes feel a little more vague than other classes, but despite that this preview is a decent indication of the intentions of the developers for the Paladin in Cataclysm.

They have stated clearly that they want to allow the Holy Paladin to feel empowered to heal more than just the tanks, and have given them a number of useful tools to do this, from a body-centred AoE HoT in Healing Hands to a summonable Guardian of Ancient Kings to smartheal the raid on their behalf. I’m just not sure if the changes alone will be enough to really move the Paladin out of their niche, but not much would break them out of it in a short timeframe anyway. Little steps.

No doubt there will be some distress at the Beacon of Light change, but from the (probably biased) point of view of a Disc Priest who has been left in the dust on many occasions I’m almost glad that Paladins won’t automatically have the throughput of 2 tank healers in the future. Beacon of Light is an amazing ability and I’m glad it’s staying in the game in some form, but the contrast between raiding with and without a Holy Paladin is probably a little too big at the moment. My Holy Pally is sad though!

On balance I think this preview represents a good step forward: expanding utility and moving Paladins out of the niche without too much naked homogenisation.

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Categories: Analysis and Theorycrafting

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