The pending changes for classes in Cataclysm have finally all been announced as Blizzard has provided details on the Paladin class. The Paladin class is already very well rounded being able to melee well, heal well, and tank well. It looks like Blizzard is not really changing the basic direction of the class, but is going to fine tune it with several changes.
Lets look first at the three new abilities that the Paladin will gain on the way to level 85.
Blinding Shield This ability will be earned at level 81 and cause damage to and blind all nearby targets. Blizzard has not decided exactly how it will would but may end up working similar to Eadric the Pure's ability Radiance in Trial of the Champion. Meaning it will be a bubble that explodes outwards blinding anyone that is looking at it. They have already stated that the different talent trees will enhance it in different ways, however it will likely require having a shield equipped.
Healing Hands This will be a new healing spell learnable at level 83. This is meant to give Paladins a method of healing multiple players at once. It will likely be a short range AoE heal to players around the Paladin on a 15 second cooldown an last 6 seconds. Blizzard describes it as almost like a Healing Stream Totem, and Paladins will be able to cast other abilities while it is still healing.
This should really help Paladins heal in fights where AoE damage occurs since currently they are single target healers only. It will remain to see how powerful it is and if it can really allow them to be effective raid healers.
Guardian of Ancient Kings This new ability will be gained at level 85 and will allow the Paladin to summons a temporary guardian that looks like a winged creature of light armed with a sword. The effect the Guardian will have depends on the Paladins spec the guardian will perform different actions. Holy guardians will help heal a nearby ally, Retribution guardians will deal damage like a Death Knights gargoyle, and Protection guardians will absorb incoming damage.
This ability more than any other sounds like a great addition. It will grant Paladins something new and will not be generic to the class, but specific to each type of build. It will likely be active for 30 seconds and available on a 3 minute cooldown, allowing any spec extra help when they need it most.
Class Mechanic Changes
In addition to the three new abilities, several of the existing Paladin mechanics are getting tweaked and changed. Some appear to be buffs while others look like nerfs. Due to overall stat and game changes though it will be hard to tell for sure until Cataclysm is released. Retribution Paladins are likely also going to gain another ability or mechanic so that their rotation is not purely a first come first serve rotation. Ideally the ability will add some PvP utility as well, but Blizzard is not sure what it will be yet.
The first change s that Crusader Strike will no longer be a Retribution only ability. Instead it will be available to all Paladins at level 1 to grant them an instant ability while leveling. Retribution Paladins will get either a buff to it through talents or a replacement strike, it has not been determined yet. This change really should improve leveling as a Paladin as it will give low level paladins a solid attack that they can use, were right now at low levels you are very limited.
Cleanse is being changed to fit into the new dispel system. It will now only remove defensive magic (debuffs on friendly targets), diseases, and poisons. This partially removes its ability to cleanse magic effects on players. To what degree this effects the ability is unclear as it really depends what magic gets classed as defensive magic. At first glance it doesnt seem like anything to worry about.
Next up is a nice buffing change. Blessing of Might will now also grand the benefit of Blessing of Wisdom. The idea here is that in a group with two Paladins one can now do a group Kings and the other a group Might and get everyone with a valid buff. There should be no need to juggle buffs per class or per player.
On the healing from there will be several changes. Holy Shock will be a class healing spell rather than a holy spec only ability. This will allow all Paladins to have an instant heal available to them. Also the holy tree will get a new big heal spell and the other heals will be rebalanced. Currently flash of light is both fast and efficient, where other classes fast heals are inefficient. The plan is to make Holy Light to efficient heal, Flash of Light the fast heal, and the new heal the really big slow heal.
Also planned are changes to the way Beacon of Light works. Blizzard is unhappy that it essentially allows two heals for free all the time. They state that they want tit to save GDSs and targeting time, not save mana. It may cost more to cast a heal while using Beacon of Light or it may only function off certain heals, it has not been decided yet. The effect this will have is huge, since most Paladins rely on getting two heals for the cost of one.
Lastly for Holy Paladins, spirit will be used for their mana regeneration. This could be a big change since currently Paladins rely on MP5 and mana regen through critical heals. How much this plays in to the game will have to be determined when it goes live.
A few changes are also in the works for Protection Paladins. First off two separate tanking rotations are being aimed for, one for single target and one for AoE. Currently the AoE and single target rotation is almost identical with only slightly different priorities on abilities. Blizzard also mentions another cooldown in each rotation but no mention of what it could be.
Protection Paladins will also be seeing charges removed from Holy Shield, meaning it will affect every block rather than a set number. It will continue to improve block chance while active, and cause a small amount of damage and threat.
Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses
Along with the new abilities and mechanic changes Blizzard also outlined the new mastery bonuses that Paladins will receive.
Holy Paladins will gain extra healing, meditation, and a critical healing effect. Meditation is the same spirit-to-mana conversion mastery that all other healers are receiving. The critical healing effect means that when a Paladin lands a critical heal it will heal for even more health.
Retribution Paladins will gain extra melee damage, extra melee critical damage, as well as extra holy damage. The last ability means any attack that causes holy damage will deal additional damage over the base amount.
Lastly, Protection Paladins will gain extra damage reduction vengeance, and extra block amount. Vengeance is a new mechanic being added to all tanks to ensure their threat and damage dealing ability does not fall behind DPS classes. Vengeance will apply a stacking attack power buff equal to 5% of the damage done to them up to a maximum of 10% of the character unbuffed health. The block amount will allow a Paladin to block more than the base 30% damage that Warriors block per attack.
Overall the class changes proposed to the Paladin look pretty solid. The three new abilities all look well thought out and should prove interesting. Several of the spec specific abilities are also changing to be available to all Paladins, such as Crusader Strike and Holy Shock. This will allow Paladins to be even more versatile between specs and allow even better abilities for the specific spec.
Some of the changes definitely come across as nerfs, however how much effect they really have on the game will have to be determined once they go live. Due to other changes coming into effect they may not be as drastic as they seem. The key one here being beacon on light.
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