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Beta Cataclysm: New Paladin Talent Trees (Finally)

August 14, 2010

Finally the day has come…

The day that Ghostcrawler promised us months and months ago.  We finally not only have new Paladin talent trees that look closer to finalized versions of all 3 trees, but we have trees that actually work.  Now please remember that these are active as of the date of this post and will probably change in someway before Cataclysm is released.  That being said, lets take a look at the new protection talent tree and see what we have in store for us.

While the tree does not look hugely different than what was in the last build, there are sweeping changes to just about every talent in Protection, and a few more in Ret that directly effect us as Tanks.

Holy Power –

Our new and “fun” resource that the developers are forcing down our throats.  I honestly, do not know why they think we needed some newfangled resource system to make the class more fun.  I didnt see anyone complaining that Ret or Prot were boring during Wrath.  Sure we saw complaints during Vanilla and TBC, but that was more because 2 specs were worthless in Vanilla and 1 was just plain bad until the second half of TBC.  They think we need it, so like the case of crabs the girl you met at Senor Frogs in Acapulco gave you, you got it and its not going away very easily.

As protection we gain Holy Power from two abilities and two abilities only, Crusader Strike and Hammer of the Righteous.  Each time we use one of these abilities we gain a charge of Holy Power, which is indicated by on the UI by a glowy “rune” on the sword like area beneath our nameplate.  Holy Power can be used for 3 different uses, Shield of the Righteous, Inquistion and Word of Glory.  All three are extremely useful for a Protection Paladin.  Gone are the days where we worry about mana as our resource.  Our new rotation is based completely on using 3 Holy Power charges at a time.  Any less and our threat output will suffer significantly.

Shield of the Righteous –

Our beloved Shield is back!  ShotR has returned from the dead once again and is now one of our base Holy Power based abilities.  As you can see Shield of the Righteous is not only back but has now swapped places with Holy Shield in our tree.  While this change makes it incredibly difficult for a player to be an effective tank before level 50, this is change is a godsend for us as tanks 50+.  The complete shift of the paradigm from using Holy Power as a mitigation resource to using it for Threat and Damage is complete.

What changed?  Well, basically everything changed and nothing changed.  Shield of the Righteous used to be a wonderful spike threat ability.  It was our go to ability to start any fight where there was a bit of start up RP.  A lot of paladins used it to engage most bosses for quick and dirty threat spikes.  Those days are gone.  With the way Holy Power works, this ability will not be used at its full strength for at least 2-3 ability rotations.  As most paladins will use their first Holy Power charge for a few seconds of Inquistion in order to get Holy Shield up and running and then move to ShotR on their first pass of full Holy Power.  Mostly because this ability is a complete waste of Holy Power if not used at 3 charges.  Using Inquistion to buff Holy Shield is a much more efficient use of your first HP.

Holy Shield –

Our most famous mitigation ability has gotten a face-lift.  Not necessarily a good one.  Gone is the 30% chance to block.  Gone are the 8 Charges.  Gone is the reflective damage that we all knew and loved.  What we are left with is half the block for twice the duration without a specific button to press.  Our most important buff is now triggered by one of two other abilities, Shield of the Righteous and Inquisition.  Meaning that whenever one of the two is used, Holy Shield becomes active (or refreshes its duration).  With no cooldowns on both of these abilities, it will be extremely easy to keep the buff active.  With two abilities refreshing the duration, we have a free CD to use on something else during our tanking rotation.  What that may be used for is up is highly situational, but Blizzard’s insistence on creating flexibility during all class’ rotations is very evident in this change.

Hammer of the Righteous –

Our once base tanking ability stricken down in its prime.  The changes to HotR are huge and can be felt significantly in our rotation.  Blizzard’s drive to make tanks use different rotations for different situations is here my friends and HotR is the biggest example of that.  HotR is still cheap, at 6% base mana it is only slightly more costly than Crusader Strike.  Hammer’s damage output has been reduced.  Out is the 4x Weapon DPS.  In is the 39% weapon damage.  Gone is the bouncing hammer that made us happy as we heard it hit 3 targets every 6 seconds.  Welcome to the point blank AoE of the new HotR.  Doing baseline Holy Damage it actually has the potential to be a better multi-tanking tool.  The biggest downside is that with the loss of the “bouncing hammer” we also lose the Censure dot being applied to 3 targets every 6 seconds.

The biggest change to Hammer of the Righteous is not in its fundamental changes to how its damage works.  It’s in the simple fact that it is mutually exclusive with Crusader’s Strike.  One and only one of these abilities will be in your rotation at a time.  Hammer will remain the go to ability in our rotation, for a long time to come.  However, it will take a back seat to Crusader Strike for most boss encounters.

Vindication –

This talent has changed significantly.  On live, Vindication is placed on an enemy with Judgment.  In Cataclysm, this is no longer the case.  On its face, it would appear that the change to this talent merely replaces Judgment with our two new core Holy Power building abilities.  Yet, there is a hidden benefit here that we have been lacking for a long time.  Ever since Vindication was changed into our “Demoralizing Shout” equivalent, we have been limited to only debuffing the specific monster that we are actively judging.  Meaning that if we are tanking 3-5 enemies on live, only 1 of them has the debuff.  With the changes to Hammer of the Righteous, we know will debuff ALL monsters in the immediate vicinity of us.  While it’s a much smaller radius than Warrior’s debuff it is a significant step forward for us in this area.

Grand Crusader –

Now this one is really interesting.  A blatant attempt to take Avenger’s Shield and put it into your regular rotation.  Combined with the Glyph of Avenger’s Shield, this could really pack a punch as a proc based ability to drop into the normal tanking rotation.  Avenger’s Shield itself has gone through mana other changes to make this more of a reality.  It has had its base mana cost reduced from 26% Base Mana to a mere 6% mana.  That my friends is the same basic cost that both Crusader Strike and Hammer of the Righteous have.  Combine that with a naturally reduced 15 second cooldown and this talent looks more and more worthwhile.  Since we now do not have Holy Shield or Consecration to press every 9 seconds, this is a welcome addition to the rotation.  Even if it’s a bit of hit or miss.

Our rotation in general is still being fine tuned at the moment.  Gone are the 969 days of old.  The one thing we do know is with the removal of Holy Shield and Consecration as maintenance abilities we have more time to hit other buttons.

Guarded by the Light –

Our third Holy Power using ability after Shield of the Righteous and Inquistion is a heal.  So this talent gives us a bit more use for that heal.  Now this talent choice is extremely situational.  Even at 85 with starter raid gear you are going to be healing for about 6k with Word of Glory.  Meaning the shield is going to be about 4k worth of damage.  The talent would do us a lot of good if we could begin encounters with Holy Power, but since we can not, this is purely in the realm of trying to avoid a huge chunk of predictable incoming damage.  You say we have several abilities that are on short cooldowns that could take of that damage as well?  Yes we have Divine Protection, Divine Guardian and Argent Defender, but 6 seconds of a ~4k shield during a transition is a good thing.

That being said, the jury is definitely still out on this talent.  Definitely interesting but most Paladins will choose to forgo this one in favor of one of our few choice talents in Ret or Holy.

Hallowed Ground –

This talent has been changed a few times over the course of the last few builds.  This latest version of it is perhaps the worst version we have seen yet.  Previous versions have increased the duration of Consecration significantly.  Allowing us to not have it as a maintenance ability but also allowing to be able to have it “always on” at the same time.  This current version takes that away and gives us buffs to mana cost and damage.  Still, with a 30 second cooldown and a 10 second duration, this talent becomes a heck of lot less interesting when we know we aren’t going to be using Consecration nearly as often as we do now.

This is another throwaway talent at the moment.  It may be decent for picking up incoming adds in some instances, but the talents we can pick up in Ret and Holy out weigh this.  While we do not have Spiritual Attunement anymore, we shouldn’t have many mana problems with our limited usage of the spell.

Improved Judgment –

This is the one I am talking about when I say, there are better options in the Retribution tree for us than Hallowed Ground and Guarded by the Light.  We have lacked the ability to damage many things at range for a long time.  Sure we have Avenger’s Shield, but that was it.  We have no closing ability (still a point of contention for many Paladins), but we have two ways to pull monsters.  We have a bit more in our kit to take adds off mages and healers as things get a little hectic.

All in all, a good set of talents.  Even the ones that I do not think are “good” aren’t bad.  They are either purely situational or just not necessary to do our job.  These are definitely not the last of the major changes to our tree.  Hallowed Ground specifically may change a few more times until the developers get AoE tanking to where they want it to be.  Divine Guardian is also in the category of “to be changed”.  It its current iteration it is the famous “Raid Wall” we all know and love, but without any downside to it.  A six second mitigation cooldown to go along with our other 2 mitigation cooldowns.  The one talent I wish would change is the “new and so far from improved” version of Argent Defender.  As a clicky this ability is not fun in any way, shape or form.  While it does belong at the bottom of the tanking tree, it should go back to being completely passive.  Or at the very least, give us our 1up back and redesign the cooldown to do something else.  Right now it’s basically Divine Protection + Get Out of Jail Free.  Its live version is a great passive mitigation talent with a fun 1up ability.

Paladin has come a long way this Beta patch.  We are viable again!  I for one can’t wait to jump into Stonecore and see how things go.

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