Friday, June 21, 2013

Patch 5.4 PTR's Level 45 Talents for Holy Paladins

The Changes:
Blizzard recently updated the Public Test Realm patch notes for World of Warcraft's 5.4 patch, which includes significant changes to the level 45 talent tier for Paladins. The relevant patch notes are as follows:
  • Sacred Shield (Old) has been renamed to Holy Shield and is no longer a talent. Holy Shield is a Protection Paladin ability learned at level 85. 
  • Sacred Shield (New)
    • Holy: When the Paladin or their Beacon of Light target falls below 30% health, that target gains a Sacred Shield absorbing damage equal to 30% of their maximum health. Sacred Shield can only occur once every 2 minutes. 
    • Protection, Retribution: When the Paladin falls below 30% health, they gain a Sacred Shield absorbing damage equal to 30% of their maximum health. Sacred Shield can only occur once every 2 minutes. 

Don't panic, though! Community Manager Rygarius clarified some of the changes and the intentions behind them in this forum post. I'm not going to go over everything, but here are the salient points:

  • Selfless Healer was intended to be a viable option for Holy Paladins who happen to enjoy a playstyle that involves frequent usage of Judgment. Blizzard recognizes that not everybody enjoys this playstyle, so it's not meant to be an attractive talent for everybody.
  • Eternal Flame was used far too frequently by Holy Paladins, so Blizzard is trying to figure out how to nerf it so Selfless Healer and Sacred Shield become viable choices. The 30% nerf to Eternal Flame's initial heal will probably be reverted, but the change to make it no longer stack Holy's Illuminated Healing mastery is here to stay.
  • Sacred Shield's changes listed above are all pretty much going to be scrapped, because it buffs Protection too much and because the new Sacred Shield is unattractive for Holy and Retribution. Blizzard is looking for a way to make the currently existing talent more attractive to Holy and Retribution, but they haven't decided what exactly to do quite yet.
That means the level 45 talent changes for Holy Paladins at the moment amount to the much more easily manageable:

My Thoughts:
I am actually somewhat intrigued by the Selfless Healer changes. At level 90 and with 26,000 spellpower (roughly normal tier 15-geared), a 3-stack of Selfless Healer grants you the approximate healing power of a Divine Light plus a Holy Light for the mana cost of a Holy Light and 4 nonconsecutive global cooldowns. The big question I have, though, is how does it interact with Infusion of Light procs? If the instant Divine Light consumes the proc, then it loses much of its appeal, but if it leaves the proc untouched (or better yet, allows the instant Divine Light to bypass triggering the global cooldown in exchange for consuming the proc), then it might be worthwhile to give this talent a second look.

However, Selfless Healer still has one fundamental flaw: Judgment just isn't really a Holy spell. Protection and Retribution both have effects that make it something worth casting relatively frequently, but Holy has no real reason to cast it except for this talent. Without some additional base effect for Holy, spending global cooldowns on Judgment will always be seen as a detriment, and I think Selfless Healer will remain unpopular.

As for Eternal Flame and Sacred Shield, the former's HoT ticks refreshing the Illuminated Healing mastery is a blatantly overpowered mechanic, and so many Holy Paladins choose this talent that I can see why Blizzard wants to tone it down, however the biggest reason why I chose Eternal Flame over Sacred Shield (even though I had tried Sacred Shield first and prefer it conceptually over Eternal Flame) is that Eternal Flame benefits from haste, critical strike, mastery, and transfers over Beacon of Light, whereas Sacred Shield only benefits from haste. Unless Blizzard allows Sacred Shield to benefit from Holy's strengths as well as Eternal Flame does, I'm not sure it will ever be as attractive.

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