Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Holy Paladin Healing Needs More Interactivity

I think I'm beginning to get a bit of Shaman envy.  Some friends were discussing Shaman Totems (the relics, not the spells) in-game, and the conversation slowly evolved into pointing out the differences between Shaman and Paladin healing.  If you look at the tools both classes have, they're surprisingly similar at first glance—to the point where you can list off the various heals each class uses and find an analogous spell for the other class.

However, despite the similarities on the surface, the deeper mechanisms of the classes are two completely different beasts.  The Shaman's entire healing system seems to be based off of creating intuitive rhythms and flows, and adapting to the situation at hand—it works extremely well with the water theme of the Shamans' Restoration tree.  The Paladin healing system, on the other hand, is an extremely forward min/maxing system.  All of the "interesting" parts are designed to maximize the strengths of each individual spell while mostly ignoring the weaknesses.  Take Infusion of Light for example—it currently makes our fast heal, Flash of Light, even faster, and our big heal, Holy Light, even bigger.  In Patch 3.3, it will also make our damage stabilization spell, Sacred Shield, provide more stability via Flash of Light HoT (technically, the base spell is being nerfed and Infusion of Light is being updated to un-nerf it for Holy, but that's besides the point).

There's very little in the Paladin Holy tree that encourages making use of the entire toolkit.  Sure, Holy Shock (with Infusion of Light) encourages using Flash of Light or Holy Light, but that's not really much of a choice due to Holy Shock's cooldown.  Flash of Light does nothing to encourage use of Holy Light, and vice versa, which has resulted in the current Paladin strategy of just picking one spell between the two primary heals, gearing to maximize it's potency, and then spamming it as long as possible.  Holy Light builds are generally built around the idea of being able to cast as many Holy Lights as possible—the occasional Flash of Lights mixed in is simply a necessary evil required to not empty one's mana reserves too quickly.  Flash of Light builds are designed to make Flash of Lights hit as hard as Paladinly possible, and the occasional Holy Lights are simply a necessary evil when Flash of Light simply does not have sufficient throughput (which is pretty much all the time nowadays).  Beacon of Light and Sacred Shield add very little to the equation (in terms of interactivity/fun)—in practice they're just abilities that require maintenance every 30-90 seconds, depending on talent specs and glyphs.

What I'd really like to see in Cataclysm is a series of changes to the Paladin Holy tree that is designed to make Paladin heals synergize with each other rather than compete with each other (hopefully in amusing off-the-wall ways).  The Flash of Light portion of Infusion of Light is definitely good in this respect, but so much more can be done to encourage the Paladin to use the entire healing arsenal available.  For example:
  • Update the Holy Light portion of Infusion of Light into something more fun.  While crits are usually fun, a slightly higher chance to crit is completely lackluster—how can you tell if even helped you on any individual cast?  Instead, make it something that's not only useful, but also noticiable.  Perhaps a chance for your next Holy Light cast to trigger a bonus Illumination effect.  Heck, even an uninspired and boring "makes your next Holy Light spell heal for 5% more" has a tangible impact on healing, as compared to the current effect.
  • Make Flash of Light do something beneficial for Holy Shock and/or Holy Light.  Perhaps give it a chance to trigger a buff that adds a HoT/shield/increased heal effect to the next Holy Shock or Holy Light cast.  Maybe the buff could be stackable and the number of stacks determines the strength of the effect (say, for sake of example 3/6/10% of a Holy Light or 10/20/30% of a Holy Shock).
  • Give Sacred Shield some interaction with Holy Light.  One idea would be to allow a Holy Light crit on a target with Sacred Shield splash mini-bubbles on nearby targets, thereby encouraging the Paladin to Flash of Light those targets to leave behind lots of HoTs.  Another idea would be to give a Holy Light cast on a target that has Sacred Shield to energize the next bubble, allowing it to absorb more damage than it would be able to normally.
  • Similarly, allow Sacred Shield and Holy Shock to interact.  For example, allow Holy Shock to "pop the bubble" causing the current or next Sacred Shield proc to instantly heal the target for its absorption amount, rather than (or in addition to) its normal effect.  Or maybe let it bounce a copy of a Sacred Shield bubble onto the lowest health party or raid member within 40 yards.
  • Finally, allow Holy Light to help out Holy Shock and/or Flash of Light.  One possibility would be to let a Holy Light crit finish the current (or prevent the next) Holy Shock cooldown, and/or to increase the spell power coefficient of the next Flash of Light cast but with a corresponding increase in mana cost.
Any (or all) of the above would help create a sense of synergy that's currently very lacking in the Paladin Holy tree.  Additionally, it helps make Paladin healing more than a one- or two-dimensional affair by adding complexity and depth in a way that makes intelligent healing decisions matter (unlike the current healing "spam") while still keeping things fun instead of mind-bendingly confusing.  The flavor of the Paladin Holy tree could be enhanced further by keeping in mind the strengths of each spell when designing the interactions with others (for example, Holy Shock interactions would all have something to do with burst healing, Flash of Light with efficiency, Holy Light with raw and overwhelming power, and Sacred Shield with stability—I'd have done a better job of portraying this in the examples above, but I'm just too tired to think straight).

Ultimately, the goal would be to create a dynamic system that has a great deal of complexity, but is relatively simple to just jump into and play around and experiment with.  In other words, the idea is to make healing on a World of Warcraft Paladin akin to fighting on a Diablo 3 Monk.



  1. These seem like very good ideas to increase the dynamism of it - but me? I'd like to see Paladin healing retooled entirely.

    It never sat well with me that Holy Paladins are wearing plate and sitting in the rear casting. I'd rather see Paladin healers get some use out of all that armor, be somehow more combative. Like WAR healers, perhaps?

  2. It is true that the Holy Spec is very dull. Personally i would love to see a change infusion of light does something else to holy light other than the crit which we really do not need.

    particularly i like your last suggestion of a holy light finishing the cooldown of holy shock and make it reusable.

    my take on making Paladins a more fun healing spec would be to add another healing spell. preferably in the form of a bounce spell or an aoe healing spell. in the back of my mind i always thought what a Cone of Cold type of holy spell would be like for the game. it will add diversity to the healing of a pala and it could bring back Shockadin

  3. I'm the main Hardcore Raiding Holy Paladin of mu current Guild. And I wanna say that I would LOVE to see any (or all) redesigned changes in the incoming 4.0 But truly I doubt Blizz would be jump in that Bag of Snack, right now there are a LOT of Priest bitching about the Holy Pallies being OP, with this possible cool new toy, then are gonna go CRAZY about in the official forums.

  4. I really do like a lot of your ideas on the subject. My mainspec is Ret but I've been doing a lot more healing lately with the onset of the random heroic functionality of the Dungeon Finder and things do tend to get a little dull.

    It would be very nice to see some relation between spells to the point where we're casting heals to gain access to more procs or abilities beyond just bigger crits or shorter cast times.

    This would all have to be balanced as Holy builds are often centered around high int/crit but I like where this is going.

  5. Excellent!

    Also I would like to see a more powerful heal that you can use while moving. (I know we have lay on hands) For instance, when a tank thinks that since your heals are so great that he can get 50 yards away from you and keep moving away. They forget you have to be stationary to heal them with a powerful heal.

  6. I like the idea's listed and the only problem I see with the "I'm wearing plate, let me do more" mentality is it opens the flood gates for other healing classes to start making similiar demands.

    Personally, I think they need to add two thing so the healing style. One, add boomkin style proc's from spells to increase/provide bonus's between the spells such as flash proc's a holy light bonus and vice versa. Second, I'd also like to see something like the opposite of beacon of light that could be called Pillar of Light where the ability centers on the Holy Paladin and provides aoe style benefits that are based upon a percentage of healing done that is comparable in pasive healing that is not unlike healing stream totem's affect.

  7. As someone with a Shaman main and Paladin alt (both with healing offspecs), I would love to see some more spell interactivity in Holy, the same way my Shaman uses "healing combos" to handle particular situations. Holy has always felt very wack-a-mole to me.

    Throwing a wacky idea into the ring for fun: a glyph or talent of Holy Consecration, which turns the consecrated ground into a healing zone for friendly units rather than doing damage. (Possibly with a different color to avoid confusion.)

  8. Clearly there are many things Blizzard can implement to make our class more interesting. Let's see them put some of these to action in Cataclysm..... Here's to hoping!!!

    Great post/ideas, I hope the developers are reading!!!!

  9. No! None of this. All of these things are buffs and bonuses in some sense. Any and all buffs and bonuses must be paid for in blood - nerfs. What we'll end up with is not a fun rhythm, but an unpredictable mess. I don't want to have to spellswap back and forth just to get a good heal off - I want my good heal to go off, right now, or the tank dies. Frankly, I moved /to/ the Paladin healer for this playstyle - playing a priest dealing with stacking Flash Heal before GHeal, making sure Inspiration is procced, etc, is just an unreliable pain. I want my consistency!

  10. I would like to see these changes as options in the "revamped" healing tree coming in 4.0. There are two healing trees priests have access to and tons of variations thereof, variations in druid healing specs, and the ever-fluid healstyle of the shamans. Every healing paladin has more or less the same build and very much the same handful of spells.

    Like, give us two tree-finishing talent points but allow us to only choose one. That's something we haven't seen in the game yet.

  11. One idea I've liked is to have a Sacred Shield on a player, then Holy Shock that player and have the effect create a sort of AoE heal/damage to those around the targeted player; similar to a Priest's Nova spell. A good tweeking balance in terms of amount healed/damage delt would be needed of course, but it would give another trick in a Holy Paladin's book.

  12. @Bruce: I completely agree with you in regards to Holy Paladins being shifted away from the back and onto the front lines. I actually have several posts from about a year ago that might interest you: What is a Paladin? and Is the Holy Paladin Really a Paladin?. Check 'em out if you get a chance. =)

    @Anonymous #1: A Cone of Cold-like spell for Holy Paladins would be really cool. However, I personally don't think Holy Paladins need another spell—we just need our current spells to be more dynamic. More spells don't necessarily mean more fun, especially fire-and-forget spells like AoEs and bouncing heals.

    @Erknost: As far as I'm concerned, having players complain that another class is "too fun" is a good place to get to. At least that way we know that changes down the pipeline are going to be designed around increasing the enjoyment value of other classes, since no one of sound mind at Blizzard would intentionally nerf fun. ;)

    @cornelious0_0: Welcome to the healing fold, brother. =) And yeah, I can see how all of the above would necessitate being tuned so that they're balanced, but the examples were mostly just there to illustrate the main point of making healing as a Holy Paladin more dynamic.

    @Anonymous #2: Well, to be fair, we already have the longest range of any healer thanks to the mechanics of Beacon of Light, which can effectively extend our healing range to 60 yards or more. That particular situation sounds more like a communication problem than a mobility issue to me, though.

    @Anonymous #3: Well, I don't think it's so much of a "I'm wearing plate, let me do more" mentality as it is fulfilling the potential and flavor of the class. Arguably, all of the other healers have a very strong sense of being the class that they are, whereas Paladins are more healerish than Paladinly. Druids have very strong elements of nature and shapeshifting and it's extremely apparent in their healing. Shaman healing calls forth the notion of harnessing elemental forces in a cooperative manner (i.e. taking advantage of the natural ebb and flow of water rather than channeling it forcefully). Priests give off a strong sense of faith and channeling divine powers in the name of their chosen deity.

    The difference between the general vibe the above classes give off vs. the vibe the Holy Paladin gives off is that all of the above can be applied not only to the individual healing spec, but also to the class itself. There's very little of Paladin healing that stays true to the common Paladin archetype. At best, one can say that the Holy Paladin toolset is very blunt, like the warhammers that WarCraft Paladins tend to favor. While the other healers have a very strong sense of "I am a Druid/Shaman/Priest!", Holy Paladins are more along the lines of "I am a healer!" rather than "I am a Paladin!" It's a subtle difference, but—in my opinion—a very important one.

  13. @Anonymous #4: The "healing Consecration" notion has been around since the spell was made a Holy talent back in patch 1.9 or so before eventually being made baseline. The fact that it still hasn't been implemented suggests that it's most likely a lost cause by now. =(

    @Tironus: Thanks for the compliments. =) Also, I can assure you that the devs have probably never heard of this blog before, considering that my average page views per day lingers at around 20 (with yesterday's link from WoW.com causing the only exception/spike). =P However, since the reception has been pretty positive, I'll probably reformat this a bit and make a post on the official WoW Healing forums, so keep an eye out for it. ;)

    @Surothog/Gallstaff: I can see not wanting the Paladin class to change because the current iteration is why you chose to create a Paladin, but it's just as important to understand that there are many people, like myself, who created a Paladin at launch or somewhere along the way because of the promise of what the class might become, and not what it is. Personally, I doubt making the class more fun would require nerfs, especially since Cataclysm is coming up and all healers are likely facing a relative nerf (by which I mean health pools will be going up faster than healing ability), so it seems like the perfect time to discuss changing things around a little without having to worry about being nerfed "to the ground" in compensation.

    Anonymous #5: While two mutually exclusive finishing talents in Holy would be interesting, I get the feeling that that would only result in more Holy Paladins having to pick up both talents via dual specs, kinda like many raiding Priests are Holy with one spec and Discipline with the other. The only way to prevent that from happening is to ensure that both specs are equally effective in all situations, which is an extremely tall order considering that Blizzard is still working on making sure every talent tree has a viable spec option for both PvE and PvP. I think the best we can hope for in the relatively near future is a more dynamic playstyle.

    @Anonymous #6: I like that idea. It has a very DotA Omniknight vibe. =P

  14. Hi,

    This is a nice post and makes clear that the holy tree could use some new ideas. And it is always good to discuss these.
    But personaly i dont like the idea of more synergy. I really like the simplicity of the base play style of a holy paladin. If i wanted more synergy i would have played a priest for example.
    I think that playing a paladin is not for people who want to have a wide arsenal of different spells and abilitys.
    But i like the idea of more tweaking trough glyphs, so that you have a choice.

  15. Hi all. My main is a holy pally (even leveled as holy - can you say noobsauce?). I agree that it's a bit irritating having all that plate and just chillin in the back. If I have a good group I'll get in there and stun/ drop Consecration and even get in a few lawlmelee hits. But just not a lot you can do. I'd like to see, as maybe an 'ultimate spell' Pallys get Circle of Healing or Holy Nova as a final realization of priest/ warrior hybrid. Not unlike us getting shield bash (or similiar to it) at level 75 when warriors get it at level 5-ish. It would of course absolutely drain our mana. I like the idea of it being the icing on the cake at say level 100.

  16. I like the idea of the stackable buff... maybe it could work sort of like an arcane mage's Arcane Blast. FoL can stack up to 5 times increasing the next HL by a certain percent for each stack. Sounds great!

  17. These are all very good ideas for the most part and I am new to healing in general(holy paladin is my first healer) but it would seem to me that the best and easiest options would be stackabele FoL's to create HoT type spells, and glyphs to change the dynamics of certian spells, like giving HL an aoe effect (because it takes longer to cast it would be nice to get more work out of it.