I figure I know a good thing or three about paladins, having spent the last seven years playing one, so I’m taking the time to write down my thoughts on the new talent tree. Exact numbers haven’t been released yet, but the general gist of the abilities has been out for a while now and beta testers have been screwing around with most of the abilities. I’m still not sure how much I like the new system, but if it really does make balancing easier than I’ll be all for it. Anything to make the days of “Fuck class X and their OP shit, I quit” over and done with.
The first tier opens at level 15 and is a choice between three different speed buffs. Speed of Light is the fastest, a 70% increase for eight seconds on a one minute cool down. Long Arm of the Law is next with a 45% increase for 3 seconds upon a successful Judgement strike. The last is Pursuit of Justice and is similar to the current talent in the Retribution tree, giving a solid 10% movement speed buff at all times and an extra 10% per charge of Holy Power.
Speed of Light looks like it will have the most benefit in PvE situations for Retribution and Holy Paladins. This will get them from point A to point B, maximizing their DPS when changing targets or allowing them to get to dying comrades faster. I can see Protection Paladins also finding this talent selection useful for the same reasons, but the flat 10% movement speed buff at all times will always be the best bet for tanks for positioning during boss fights. Long Arm of the Law will be the choice for Ret and Prot in PvE, allowing incremental speed buffs instead of relying on the one minute cool down to catch up to kiting classes. Holy Paladins should take a closer look at this one for PvP or PvE because we will be continuing to rely upon Judgement to regain mana and will be casting it every time it’s up anyways. Though, since Holy Paladins can create up to five charges of Holy Power, Pursuit of Justice might end up being very over powered.
I will be using Long Arm of the Law in my Ret and Holy specs because I like having a short speed boost available whenever I need it.
The second tier opens at level 30 and allows Paladins to choose between a stun, a CC, and a snare. Fist of Justice replaces Hammer of Justice, lowering the cool down on the six second stun by 30 seconds and increasing the range by ten yards. Repentance remains the same, except has a 1.5 second cast time instead of being instant. It is still only usable on Demons, Dragonkin, Giants, Undead and Humanoids, leaving them incapacitated for one minute or until they take damage. The third choice is Burden of Guilt, adding a 50% movement speed debuff to victims of the Paladin’s Judgement for 12 seconds.
In PvE, I don’t see Holy Paladins taking Burden of Guilt and I see most Prot Paladins picking it up. Other than that, there’s no real reason to choose one talent over the other. PvP, on the other hand, will be full of arguments why one is better than the other. I think Holy will stick to Fist of Justice for access to a quick, ranged stun to augment their team, while Prot and Ret will find equal benefits from picking any of the talents in the tier. Again, though, I see Prot having added benefit in picking up Burden of Guilt, especially as the slow will help them flag carry during RBGs while not forcing them to reduce their DPS.
As Ret I will be choosing Burden of Guilt because I don’t like to CC as DPS and as Holy I will take Fist of Justice. The stun is useful on bosses with adds as well as during trash to help reduce damage on tanks, or to keep mobs off of me.
Tier three opens up at level 45 and gives Paladins, regardless of spec, a choice between three different heals. Selfless Healer places a buff on the Paladin (stacking up to two) every time a Judgement hits successfully which reduces the cast time of Flash of Light and it’s effectiveness by 50% per stack. Eternal Flame consumes all available Holy Power to place a HoT on a friendly target that lasts for 30 seconds, the strength of which is determined by how much Holy Power was used. Sacred Shield is the third option, brought back from the end of WotLK, which places a shield on a friend target, absorbing an amount of damage every 6 seconds and increasing the critical strike chance of Word of Glory by 30%.
In PvP, all paladins will be choosing Selfless Healer, though. An instant cast Flash of Light every 16 seconds at 100% effectiveness is just too good to pass up. This tier bothers me for PvE because it doesn’t benefit Ret Paladins in any way. They can pick any one and it just plain doesn’t matter. Prot Paladins will pick Sacred Shield for the absorb and the increased self-heal with Word of Glory. The real benefit of this tier is for Holy Paladins who will have a real reason to change between talents depending on each boss fight, how many other paladins there are in the raid, and what class the tanks are. Unfortunately, this also means Paladin healers will be required to carry stacks of the dust that allows them to change their talents wherever they go.
The fourth tier in the Paladin’s talent tree opens at level 60 and offers the class a choice of three cool downs. Hand of Purity has a one minute cool down, can be placed on a friendly target and reduces the damage of periodic effects by 70% for six seconds on that target. Unbreakable Spirit reduces the cool down of Divine Protection, Divine Shield, and Lay on Hands by 1% per Holy Power spent, up to a 50% reduction. Clemency is an instant cast spell with a five-minute cool down which instantly ends the cool down of Hand of Protection, Hand of Sacrifice, Hand of Salvation, and Hand of Freedom. The cool down on this one seems a little long and I imagine it will be nerfed to one or two minutes as none of these Hands are game breaking and easily removed.
In PvP, there are benefits to all of these talents, but I think Unbreakable Spirit and Hand of Purity will be the top two used by Holy and Prot, while Ret will mostly use Clemency for the extra Hand of Freedom. Paladins interested in PvE will be split between Hand of Purity and Unbreakable Spirit. The raid utility of the later is inarguable, whether you’re DPS, heals or tank spec’d, while the former allows quick access to Paladin “Oh shit” buttons and how we love our “Oh shit” buttons.
I will be using Hand of Purity in my PvE Holy spec, Unbreakable Spirit in my PvP Holy spec, and Hand of Purity in my Ret spec.
Tier five gives Paladins the choice between three enhancements to existing cool downs. Holy Avenger improves Guardian of Ancient Kings so that the Paladin casts the next five abilities that require Holy Power as if three Holy Power were consumed without using any Holy Power. Sanctified Wrath improves Righteous Fury depending on the Paladin’s spec. For the duration of the Righteous Fury buff: Holy Paladins no longer have a cool down on Holy Shock, Prot looses the cool down on Judgement, and Ret doe not have a cool down on Hammer of Wrath. Divine Purpose, if chosen, gives Paladins a 15% chance when casting any Holy spell to have the next ability that would require Holy Power cast without consuming any Holy Power and with a strength of three.
This is another tier where the benefits of each ability could be argued, though I think the weakest ability is Holy Avenger no matter what spec you are using, whether in PvP or PvE. Ret paladins will probably see the most DPS increase from Sanctified Wrath, but Divine Purpose is an ability they use now that allows a huge burst of occasional damage. Holy Paladins could have a very decent cool down to save a tank in Sanctified Wrath, but Divine Purpose could again give that additional burst to healing that makes it essential. Prot Paladins will get the short end of the stick as I protect all will need to take Divine Purpose as it gives them the most bang for their talent slot.
The final tier opens up at level 90 and gives paladins access to three abilities. Holy Prism has a 20 second cool down and sends a beam of light towards a target, turning them into a prism for Holy energy. If the target is an enemy, the spell deals damage to the target and heals the five nearest allies within ten yards. If the target is friendly, the target is healed and then heals the five nearest allies within ten yards. Light’s Hammer has a one minute cool down and hurls a Light-infused hammer to the ground where it blasts a 10-yard radius for 15 seconds, healing allies and damaging enemies standing within it. Execution Sentence has a hammer slowly fall from the sky on to the designated target over ten seconds, causing increased Holy damage on enemy targets and healing on friendly targets with a final burst at the end.
There will be many arguments for while certain spells should be used or shouldn’t used, but these will all be situational. If there is a lot of AoE damage, healers will want to choose between Light’s Hammer and Holy Prism, while if there isn’t they’ll want to use Execution Sentence. In PvP this choice will be based on 2v2, 3v3, 5v5 and what position you will be playing during the RBG. DPS and Prot Paladins will be forced to choose along the same lines, but instead if there’s a lot of adds, they’ll choose between Light’s Hammer and Holy Prism, and if it’s a single target fight they’ll use Execution Sentence. In PvP, the same will apply so you will know a good paladin from a bad one by how often they switch out this talent for another.
All in all, I’m very pleased with the talent tree for Paladins. What I’m not happy about is the lack of Divine Sacrifice! I miss this spell as much for its utility as for all the mishaps it caused when I clicked it on accident and killed myself during a fight. Come on Blizzard, gimme my DI back!