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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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Cataclysm Class Previews – Priest

Posted by Malevica on April - 8 - 2010

Following on from the Shaman class preview, here’s the priest version. I decided not to split Holy and Discipline out, it only overcomplicated things.


Spells and Abilities

Heal (available at level 16): Introduced at a low level, the “new” Heal spell will functionally work much like a down-ranked Greater Heal did in the past, adding more granularity to your direct-healing arsenal. If you need to heal someone a moderate amount and efficiency is an issue (making Flash Heal the incorrect spell for the job), then Heal is what you want to use. Heal is intended to be the priest’s go-to direct-healing spell unless they need something bigger (Greater Heal) or faster (Flash Heal).

Swap “Heal” for “Healing Wave” and this could be a copy of the Shaman change. Again, it’s a way of providing a standardised basic toolkit with a range of spells to select from, and allowing the extra class-specific abilities to be more fun and diverse.
While it looks like homogenisation, and it sort of is, it allows the class-specific abilities to be less homogenised since the basic bread-and-butter healing can be covered by any class.

Inner Will (level 83): Increases movement speed by 12% and reduces the mana cost of instant-cast spells by 10%. This buff will be exclusive with Inner Fire, meaning you can’t have both up at once. Inner Fire provides a spell power and Armor buff; Inner Will should be useful on a more situational basis.

I played a Warlock for a while, and this looks just like the Demon Armor/Fel Armor mechanic, especially since the “charges” mechanic is being removed as well. I imagine Inner Fire will be standard as now, and when Bonestorm or some other effect requires you to run around for a while you switch to Inner Will.

Given that Inner Fire had turned mostly into a passive spellpower buff in WotLK, this is a nice step in the direction of giving abilities a bit more flavour. Note that

Leap of Faith (level 85): Pull a party or raid member to your location. Leap of Faith (or “Life Grip”) is intended to give priests a tool to help rescue fellow players who have pulled aggro, are being focused on in PvP, or just can’t seem to get out of the fire in time. Instant. 30-yard range. 45-second cooldown.

This is the biggie, and there’s been lots of reaction to it.
The gut reaction of a healer to being given something like this, especially given the way it was described in the class preview, is “so now DPS standing in fire is my problem too?”. It was mine too. Tanks and healers already often bear (or feel they’re bearing) the majority of the responsibility in dungeons and raids, and this does sound like ratcheting up the responsibility one more notch.
I’ve talked about this before: while DPS do need to perform well to meet soft or hard enrage timers, and there are unhealable situations where DPS can kill themselves, generally the responsibility for a wipe to Berserk falls collectively on the DPS group, and only after the fact, while the responsibility for a tank death or mob not being picked up is often attributable to one player, immediately.

I can agree to some extent, although it shouldn’t be forgotten that Hand of Protection and Hand of Salvation already exist and are often used to help less aware players. Perhaps these are also lamented, but I don’t hear much about them.

I’d prefer to look at the positive sides.

Firstly, this is another good example of getting healing eyes off Grid/Vuhdo and onto the game world: to use this tool effectively, you’ll need to know who’s in trouble, or who’s going to be in trouble soon.

Secondly, there’s a 45-second cooldown on the ability. You won’t be able to rescue every DPS from every flame patch, so I don’t think there’ll be a massive dependency developing. But if someone does happen to make a mistake, you have the ability to save them, once. I’d love the ability to save a Sindragosa wipe by yoinking out the one person who hasn’t spotted the out-of-position Frost Beacon near to them in the confusion, or to stand off and extract the Defile target from the pack on Lich King Phase 2.

Finally, although it’s not totally clear it’s possible this will be able to break roots/snares, effectively spreading part of the Hand of Freedom buff out into the raid. Not every DPS in fire is oblivious, and not every snare is a benign annoyance.

I don’t PvP much, so I won’t comment on the probably legitimate concerns about losing control of your character to a random party member. For PvE though, I can see that it would introduce a moment of confusion, and probably disrupt your rotation so it will need to be used carefully, but if I’m using a 45-second cooldown on you then a small break is probably the lesser of two evils.


All HoTs and DoTs will benefit from Haste and Crit innately. Hasted HoTs and DoTs will not have a shorter duration, just a shorter period in between ticks (meaning they will gain extra ticks to fill in the duration as appropriate).

This is a huge change, and one which I am very pleased to see. Allowing HoTs to scale with gear as well as direct heals do is a massive boost to them, and the extra ticks mechanic as opposed to just shortening the duration is a beautiful counter to the problem with effects like the Glyph of Renew or Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation.

This may introduce another soft-cap for haste though, where you want to reach a certain level of haste to get an extra tick. For example, if Renew currently ticks after 3, 6,9,12 and 15 seconds, then in order to get an extra tick you need the tick time to be 2.5s, which means 20% haste. This gives Renew ticks at 2.5, 5, 7.5, 10, 12.5 and 15 seconds.
However, extra tick or no, the throughput of the spell will scale smoothly, the extra tick just provides extra mana-efficiency. And 20% haste isn’t an unreasonable goal anyway.

While we want to keep the priest’s role as a well-rounded healer, we also want to make sure the class is a viable tank healer, which is something priests moved away from a little in Wrath of the Lich King. Greater Heal will probably be the tank-healing spell of choice, though we’ve also discussed giving Discipline a second shield so that they have a small shield to cast on lots of different targets, and a big, more expensive shield to cast on a tank or anyone else taking a ton of damage.

I’ll agree with the sentiment in the first half of this statement. Discipline is generally seen as the “tank healer” spec, but try swapping your Holy Paladin for a Disc Priest in heroic ICC (or heroic Northrend Beasts when it was new) and then tell me about “bring the player, not the class”. I’d be happy to see a bit more love given to Priests’ tank healing arsenal.

As for the differentiated shields, I actually like that idea as well. 10k shields are nice and all, but they’re also expensive. Bubble-blanketing WotLK-style simply wouldn’t be viable in a significantly more mana-restricted environment. But being able to pre-shield with lighter bubbles during quiet moment, while keeping the big guns for the tanks or people with specific debuffs, that appeals a lot.
This is all under the assumption that DPS will be taking hits more on the 40% than the 80% level in Cataclysm. Otherwise we’ll need the big guns anyway.

Divine Spirit and Prayer of Spirit will be removed from the game. As Spirit will be the primary mana-regeneration stat, we don’t want it to vary as much between solo, small group, and raid play. Blessing of Kings and Mark of the Wild will not boost Spirit either.

Not a surprise at all. Matticus predicted this a while ago, and the logic given here is pretty sound. Even now the difference in regeneration between a 10-man and 25-man raid can be quite surprising, I’m all for making the experience more consistent.

Mana will be a bigger consideration for all healers. We aren’t trying to make healing more painful; we’re trying to make it more fun. When the cost of a spell isn’t an issue, then casting the right spell for the job is less of an issue because you might as well just use your most powerful spell all of the time.
We are, however, getting rid of the five-second rule, because we don’t want to encourage standing around doing nothing. We’re also going to cut back on the benefits of buffs such as Replenishment so priests (and all healers) don’t feel as penalized when those buffs aren’t available.

(My bold for emphasis)

The first part of this is not news. We have known for a while that we will be more mana-restricted in Cataclysm, and I don’t think many people would argue against this change. The other two points are more interesting.
Skipping to the end, cutting back on the benefits of Replenishment is long, long overdue. Replenishment is so powerful now that Intellect is the only sensible regeneration stat and has been pretty much since T8. The trouble with stacking Intellect for regeneration is that it leaves you in such a poor state if for whatever reason your raid doesn’t have any, or enough, Replenishment to go around. As with the removal of Spirit buffs, this should go a long way towards a more consistent experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the value of buffs and synergy, especially in an MMORPG, but no one buff should be quite so dominant.

The removal of the five-second rule is something that has been rumbling along for a while. I’m a little nostalgic for the days of using clearcasting procs and Inner Focus to buy Oo5SR time, because reacting to those things was one way to differentiate yourself as a healer and demonstrate your skill. I take issue with characterising that sort of play as “standing around doing nothing” when in fact you were constantly evaluating to decide when to jump back in and when to stay out and regen. But with the boost to Meditation in 3.1 and the high relative value of Replenishment compared to Spirit-based regeneration the five-second-rule has felt increasingly redundant.
Perhaps the harm in leaving it in is the potential for some players to obtain big gains from gaming the 5SR. If the design philosophy is to return to OOM rather than Berserk timers as the factor which ends attempts, you might want that time to be fairly controllable.


We want to improve Discipline’s single-target healing capacity. One key is to make sure shielding isn’t always a more attractive option than healing.

I’m not totally sure what this one is driving at. Is this talking about pushing Disc back onto tanks and away from bubble-blanketing? If so, bring it on, it can’t come soon enough. The Lich King on 25-man is a bit of a snooze-fest.
If we’re talking about spot-healing then that statement is true as long as 1) a second hit will kill the player without an intervention, and 2) a bubble is instant while a heal takes time. In WotLK this is generally the case, so we shield then heal.

How will this be implemented? You can eliminate condition 2 by giving us an effective instant heal, but I don’t think that’s likely, or you can eliminate condition 1 by giving players more survivability in general, which is probably the way things will go.

Discipline will finally be getting Power Word: Barrier as a talented ability. Think of it like a group Power Word: Shield.

The closest analogue to PW:B is the DK Anti-Magic Zone, but it has some important differences, such as a way to counter it in PvP (since it absorbs all damage, not just magical damage).

What can I say? This has been on the table for a long time, and I’m extremely excited by it. It will take pride of place on my bars, and Mass Dispel will have to shuffle down a place!

More seriously though, this is a very nice ability to have available, and more importantly it will help to keep our heads of Vuhdo from time to time. This is a recurring theme in the healer changes so far, and one which I’m very much in favour of.

We want to make Holy a little bit more interesting to play. One new talent will push the Holy priest into an improved healing state when he or she casts Prayer of Healing, Heal, or Renew three times in a row. The empowered state varies depending on the heals cast.

The idea behind the Holy “cast three in a row” talent (it’s called “Chakra”) is that we’ve always positioned Holy as a versatile healer. This talent lets you shift into different modes. If you need to be a tank healer, cast three single target heals and your single-target healing is now better. Cast three area heals, and you can be a temporarily specialized group healer. We’re going to try to play this mechanic up with a cool UI to try to get that “I’m almost in the zone” feel. We’ll let it apply to as many types of spells as we can, perhaps even Smite for those times when nobody’s taking damage.

There’s been some rather mixed reaction to this one, but it certainly sounds interesting and I’m keen to see where they take it during Beta. I do wish they’d change the name though, I’m a Priest, not a Guru.

The mechanism sounds interesting though. I imagine you might have an aura one way or the other, and a buff which stacks like Serendipity does as you cast the other type of spell until it changes your aura.

I’m not sure why Holy needed such a new and different dynamic though, but maybe that’s the Disc in me looking jealous.




Absorption: Improves the strength of shields such as Power Word: Shield, Divine Aegis, and Power Word: Barrier.

Radiance: Your direct heals add a small heal-over-time component to the target.

The Discipline mastery is hardly a bolt from the blue, although very valuable, but the Holy one is really nice-looking. This should be a nice boost to throughput, or help with topping off the raid when a large heal would be wasted.


On the whole there’s some exciting stuff in store for Priests in Cataclysm. I’m really looking forward to playing with Power Word: Barrier and Life Grip, and I’m intrigued by how Chakra (grating already…) is going to turn out.

I do wonder if I’ll find myself feeling the pull of Holy again in Cataclysm. Holy already has more “toys” than Discipline, and it looks like getting more come Cataclysm. Let’s just say I’m glad I have dual-spec and can try out both.

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