Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On the Rivalry of Mastery and Beacon

Holy Paladins have traditionally been known through World of Warcraft's history for being the healing class with the smallest healing toolkit. Over time and expansions, our tools have grown more numerous and eventually Blizzard standardized healing abilities to some degree in Cataclysm, but generally speaking our toolkit has rarely had an excess of abilities that performed the same basic task. The current Holy Paladin mastery—Illuminated Healing—and one of the tree's defining activated abilities—Beacon of Light—seem to me to be the new exception.

As things currently stand, both Illuminated Healing and Beacon of Light are two tools that essentially share the same primary function: to act as a health buffer for tank healing. However, the two act in such conflicting ways that they feel like rivals competing for a single job rather than two distinct utility abilities that each have their place in our toolbox. The way Beacon of Light is designed makes it less appealing, even with Tower of Radiance, to cast directly on the buffed tank unless absolutely necessary, but the Illuminated Healing mastery makes it more appealing to cast directly on the tank and thereby bypass Beacon of Light's whole purpose. Since both Beacon of Light and Illuminated Healing are wasted on targets that are not consistently taking damage, the only time the two effectively work together are when multiple tanks are taking damage simultaneously and for prolonged periods of time, which only happens in raids, and even then not on every fight.

The problem is made worse by the rules governing the Holy Radiance ability in patch 4.3. Even though the ability is being redesigned as an active heal rather than a passive one, it still won't be allowed to transfer through Beacon of Light, unlike our other AoE healing ability, Light of Dawn, and our other primary Holy Power generator, Holy Shock. However, it will be allowed to benefit from the Illuminated Healing mastery, which makes it feel like it should be used on or near tanks in order to not risk making the tank's health less stable.

I hope Blizzard doesn't leave the situation as-is, especially as design moves forward for the upcoming Mists of Pandaria expansion. To some degree, it feels to me that if the two abilities can't (or won't) be made to play nicely with each other, then either one should be altered to fit a more distinct role or the two should be rolled into a single ability.

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