Lightsworn: How much change is too much change for Holy Paladins?
It’s a confusing time to be a Holy Paladin. Our spec is undergoing huge changes: the removal of Holy Power, a new proximity-based Mastery, the new melee healer playstyle, Light of the Martyr, Light of Dawn going back to a cone shape… it’s a lot to absorb. Perhaps too much? Will playing Holy Paladin in Legion be fun? Or frustrating?
Having your Holy cake and eating it too
When Blizzard first announced back in November that they wanted Holy Paladins “closer to the front, where they belong,” there was a fair amount of skepticism and resistance to the idea. Fast forward half a year, and it’s now abundantly clear that our melee healer style is here to stay.
Fortunately, Blizzard seems to be making sure that both melee and ranged Holy Paladins will have suitable talents to choose from. This is great news for players who strongly opposed the proposed playstyle change. I know many Paladin players love healing as a pure ranged caster, and/or absolutely hate playing in melee. Quite a few that I spoke to were strongly considering rerolling as a different class altogether, which I absolutely can’t fault them for. I imagine there’s plenty of Survival Hunters who are in the same boat, with zero interest in wielding a spear rather than a bow. (Of course, they can at least still play Beast Mastery or Marksmanship. There’s no second Paladin healing spec.)
On the other hand, is it really good design to have a single talent tree accommodate two drastically different playstyles? I don’t think it is. Instead of having three equally valuable (in theory, at least) talents to choose between each tier, your playstyle choice is going to make some talents essentially useless to you, reducing your options. And while there are plenty of talents that will function just fine for both melee and ranged players, the relative lack of melee-specific talents makes me wonder if design of the new battle cleric style has been hamstrung by this dual-purpose philosophy, and if Blizzard hasn’t been able to embrace these changes fully, like they have with Survival Hunters.
Maybe I’m worrying for nothing. But I can’t help but be concerned that by creating a spec that is trying to do two different jobs, Blizzard has simply created weakened, less focused versions of each. And I’d much rather have one Holy spec that is strong both mechanically and thematically, rather than two half-specs that are vague and unsure just what Holy Paladins are supposed to be.
(Of course, a potential solution would be to simply give us two separate healing specs, one for melee and one for ranged. Druids already split up their melee and ranged DPS roles into different specs, and it seems to work pretty well for them.)
Too much change all at once
Adapting to melee healing is going to be a huge transition for most Holy Paladins. Everything is different in melee — your proximity to other players, your actual, literal view of what you can see (enjoy your new close-up of boss posterior!), different types of mechanics and movement to get used to… the list goes on and on.
This adjustment would be difficult enough on its own, but to make matters worse, our spells and abilities are also undergoing enormous changes. Not only will we be trying to learn how to dodge boss ground slams, or enjoying the “fun” challenge of spreading out while still being within melee range (looking at you, Tyrant Velhari), but we’re going to have to do all this while also getting used to not having Holy Power, the strange and dangerous new Light of the Martyr, the unfamiliar ranges of Light of Dawn and our auras, our new Mastery, etc. It’s an awful lot to take in all at once, and I suspect that for a while, when we’re not stumbling around getting killed by avoidable mechanics we’ve never dealt with before, we’ll be fumbling with or misusing our new heals. It’s going to be bumpy roads ahead.
Personally, I’m afraid it might be too much all at once. Blizzard is already asking a lot of Holy Paladins by shoving them into melee, but I don’t think it’s good if players just end up frustrated and struggling because literally everything is unfamiliar to them. And whether it’s raiding or Mythic dungeons or Timewalking, no one wants to feel like a hindrance to their group! This isn’t Dark Souls. Players should be fighting monsters, not their class specialization.
Granted, this can all be avoided if players simply continue to heal from range like Holy Paladins always have. After all, our talents allow it. Which just serves to emphasize what we talked about earlier — if healing from range is safer, more familiar, and less frustrating, why even bother having the battle cleric playstyle at all?
Circles and cones, how do they work
With our passive auras being reworked to only affect allies within 10 yards, and Light of Dawn reverting back to a cone shape, it presents us with a confusing conundrum: just where are we supposed to stand?
This is nothing more than simple geometry, really. Cones emanate outward from the caster, spreading as they go. Light of Dawn has a 15 yard range, so for maximum effectiveness, you want to be standing about 15 yards away from the group of people you’re trying to heal, to ensure you hit them all.
You probably already see where I’m going with this.
If you’re standing at optimal range to use Light of Dawn, the people you’re trying to heal are not within your aura’s 10-yard radius. But if you stand closer, it’s harder to ensure they’re all within Light of Dawn’s effect, especially if they’re not all perfectly stacked up close together.
Furthermore, it’s going to be exceptionally difficult (if not downright impossible) to hit both the melee players and your tanks with auras and Light of Dawn when fighting larger bosses. Take someone like Kromog or Mannoroth, where the tanks are often far, far away from your melee group. Some of our auras would be really handy for tanks! But what are we supposed to do, stand near the tanks, then dash back over to the melee group if they need some AOE healing?
Maybe we can stand in front of the tanks, so we can have them within our aura and still be close enough to the melee to throw Light of Dawn their way. That sounds safe! After all, there’s never anything dangerous that bosses tend to do directly in front of them.
(Note to readers who have never played melee: This is a lie.)
You know, I can accept that significant role and spec changes might make Legion have a tough re-learning curve. But I really don’t think we need our own spell mechanics directly contradicting and conflicting with each other. 10-yard radius auras are fine. 15-yard Light of Dawn cones are…not super popular, but they’re workable. But not both at the same time!
Something that might help is if Blizzard gave our auras and Light of Dawn their own visual indicators, similar to the spell telegraphs that are so popular in other MMOs. A simple circle at our feet would suffice for our auras, so our teammates can see how closely they need to stand. 10 yards is very small, and it’ll be especially problematic (not to mention annoying) when two of our teammates are standing just far enough apart that we can’t get both of them in our aura at the same time. (Plus, without some kind of visual indicator, we wouldn’t even know they weren’t within range.)
As for Light of Dawn, we already have targeting circles for spells like Light’s Hammer — surely a cone-shaped one wouldn’t be too much to ask? Right now Light of Dawn is instant cast, but I’d gladly accept adding a second button press to it for the luxury of being able to aim it properly.
Now, I’m not saying that things are so bad that it’s time to give up on Holy Paladin and reroll as an inferior class. But I do think we’ve got some considerable challenges before us in Legion, given that our own spec and spells seem poised to fight us and make our lives difficult. Man, give me a horde of rabid demons any day.
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