There are many different changes coming to the World of Warcraft when Mists of Pandaria is released and players want to know about all of them ahead of time. Some of the changes I was most interested in checking out when I got my beta invite was the changes to Paladin Tanking.
Being a long time Paladin tank I am keenly interested in any changes to the class and have a solid base from which to analyze the upcoming changes. This article looks at the initial changes that I have seen so far in the game and how they affect the Paladin class while tanking.
IMPORTANT: While this article focuses on what is in the beta right now, please remember that this is a beta and anything and everything is subject to change before release.
The first of the changes is a change in philosophy by Blizzard that come about at least partially due to the buff to threat generation a while ago. Now that tanks do not need to focus as much energy on threat creation they need something else to worry about.
Blizzard has stated in the past that they would like to go to a more active involvement system for tanks. This has been interpreted by players as an active mitigation system. There have been many discussions about this on the official forums. A good example with a response from Ghostcrawler can be found here: Active Mitigation.
Essentially what Blizzard states they are aiming for is a system that means tanks need to generate and save their resources to use when needed for abilities that provide additional survivability in fights.
This has been added in the game through several talents and abilities that focus on the use of Holy Power (HP) and other abilities that are cooldown based that need to be managed.
While I will discuss some of the abilities later on in this article, I have to say that so far while it is active and involving, the system is not that interesting to play. It is basically just more buttons to hit each time they are up. That being said, this is still very early in beta and we are not yet dealing with heroic bosses or raid bosses which might change things a bit.
Shield of the Righteous
The new and improved SotR essentially dicatates that you use it every 6 seconds like clockwork.
This is one of the abilities that has been modified that could be considered active mitigation. The old Cataclysm version of this ability simply caused damage based on the number of HP you had when you used it. The new MOP version can only be used with 3 HP and while it still deals damage, does a lot more in addition.
The next attack that you block after using Shield of the Righteous (SotR) will block an additional 45% of the incoming damage. All attacks that you block after that will block an additional 20% of the incoming damage. Both of these effects last for 6 seconds after the use of SotR.
This is a pretty big boost to the ability and while it certainly is active (meaning that you need to use it) it is not reactive. What I mean by this is that essentially it is a no-brainer. Anytime you have 3HP and 6 seconds has past since your last SotR this becomes your top priority attack since it causes damage (and therefore threat) and provides significant mitigation.
Active Mitigation Talents
The other abilities that are being considered as active mitigation abilities are two of the three talent abilities you get to choose from at level 45. They are Sacred Shield and Eternal Flame and are shown below.
Both abilities last 30 seconds and provide either a shield ability or an ongoing heal. Again they are both active in the fact that you need to use the ability, but since they last 30 seconds and have a 30 second cooldown they should both simply be used every 30 seconds and there is no involvement in choosing when to use them.
As an aside many players are still looking at which of the two is a better choice. At first glance Sacred Shield probably is since it does not use HP to cast, prevents some damage (saving your healers mana), and allows your Word of Glory(WoG) to critically cast more often for a bigger heal. The heal from Eternal Flame probably works out to more effective health though, so only time (and lots of math) will tell which is better.
Word of Glory is off the GCD
Since I mentioned WoG above, it is probably worth noting that it no longer triggers a global cooldown any more. This means that you can use it in the rotation whenever healing is needed even if you just did something.
This makes it marginally better than it was before since it no longer affects your other abilities or interrupts the flow of your rotation.
The new hit table and its effect on block
The old hit table against tanks included miss, dodge, parry, and block. This made it possible and sometimes easy (depending on your gear progression) to get to the block cap. The block cap was the point at which your miss, dodge, parry, and block totalled 102.4% that meant that you were not able to be suffer a full hit from a raid boss.
When Mists of Pandaria launches the whole system will change. The new hit table is essentially created by splitting the old hit table in two. When you suffer a hit as a tank there will potentially be two rolls against two different tables to determine what happens. Firstly the game will check against a table to see if the attack is dodged, parried, or if the attack misses entirely. If the attack does in fact land on you then a roll is done against a second table that checks if you suffer a full hit or if you block the hit.
Essentially this means that to be block capped in MOP you will need to have 100% block. Since that much block is hard to get and since block will now be subject to diminishing returns it will mean that it will be almost impossible to ever reach block cap.
This change will have a dramatic effect on tanking due to the additional damage a tank will take. Potentially even more important than the additional damage you will take is the fact that you will suffer damage in a much “spikier” manner. In the old system you could sacrifice dodge and parry to focus on block and while you would take more damage but take it in a much steadier way since you would only ever suffer a 50% hit. With the new system you will take many more hits that are at full damage instead of 50% hits.
Divine Protection Changes
This ability has gotten a significant change that is both good and bad. The base ability now provides a 40% damage reduction on a 1 minute cooldown instead of only a 20% damage reduction. Now before you get too excited, it is only effective against magic damage, not physical damage.
Seeing that one of the Paladin tanks weak points has always been against magic based attacks you can understand how this is a good thing. However since it means that we will suffer more physical damage it is also a bad thing.
Luckily, for now at least, Blizzard saw fit to add a new glyph into the game that allows you to lose 20% of the magic damage reduction to add 20% physical damage reduction, essentially returning it to its old form. While a very nice option this could mean that Paladin tanks will be expected to carry a whole lot of dust of disappearance to that we can move back and forth between the forms of this ability depending on the fight we are at.
Seals have also changed a bit for Paladins, the biggest change is that they are now more like auras than they used to be. They can now be cast once and they stay active until cancelled or changed.
The new Seal of Righteousness is essentially a cleave attack.
Also Seal of Righteousness has been changed to essentially be a cleave type seal. The Seal now deals 5% of your weapon damage as holy damage to all targets within 8 yards. This is meant to allow you to keep threat on large groups of enemies.
This will mean that you will generally use Seal of Truth against single target enemies or small groups, the seal stays very similar to it was before. When fighting large groups you will probably use the new Seal of Righteousness for AOE threat. Lastly you can use Seal if Insight to assist in healing and mana regeneration when required.
Paladin Tank Changes Â Conclusions
It is still very early in the beta to make any firm conclusions on the direction being taken, but so far it seems kind of blah. Sure there are lots of changes and it might just be that I am too used to the old system, but many changes seem like over simplifications.
While there are more buttons to push at times, it seems like it is just a matter of using them whenever they are available. It also seems like there are fewer choices and options as to what to do.
Again though this is just a first glance at them, it is normal instance bosses and trash mobs, and I am still getting used to what is going on in the game with the new mechanics. While tanking is still fun and entertaining, it does not seem more or less involved, just different. Hopefully as the content gets more difficult that will change.
The Messiah has had his say on the Paladin Tanking changes, have you? Make sure you post your comments or questions below.