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WoWApr 21, 2015 3:00 pm CT

Lightsworn: The happy viability of level 100 Protection Paladin talents

Protection Paladin

I’m not sure if we should considering ourselves lucky or not but, unlike our Holy and Retribution brethren, we have nothing waiting for us in the current 6.2 patch notes. This is probably a representation of the excellent place that Protection is snugly situated within — a Goldilocks zone where our DPS is decent, our survivability is great, and there’s nothing terribly wrong or ridiculously excellent going on with our specialization. How did we happen to find ourselves in such a happy state?

Indeed, a good example of the adequasivity of Protection Paladins is our level 100 talent tier. Thanks to changes made in patch 6.1, each of the talents in the tier is a perfectly viable choice. Sure, for some encounters one or another may be a better option — but in a vacuum, you could choose any of the three talents depending on your own personal preference and not be shooting yourself in the foot.


6.1 leveled the playing field

Not to rehash what is essentially history now, but in patch 6.1 Protection saw several changes that revolved around a reworking of Empowered Seals: the value of haste was improved, the amount of haste we received from Liadrin’s Righteousness (from casting Judgment when Seal of Righteousness is active) was increased, and the number of seals at our disposal was reduced. These changes combined resulted in a buff of the Empowered Seals talent, which was brought up to par with Seraphim and Holy Shield.

Prior to that change, our level 100 talents were not much of a choice. Most Protection Paladins chose Seraphim, as the talent was a massive source of damage and survivability (although the first benefit was the most attractive for many!). The talent was eventually nerfed to make it less generous with the quantity of its secondary stats boost, and so the field was leveled somewhat between that talent and Holy Shield.

As mentioned, it took a serious shuffle to make Empowered Seals viable. Before 6.1, the only tanks to take it for a spin were those foolhardy enough to suffer juggling up to three different seals. The amount of effort the talent required to maximize its value did not seem worth it, based on how the talent was initially released in Warlords of Draenor.

The importance of choice

It’s critical that the level 100 talent tier presents a realistic choice for players where there is (generally) no wrong answer. The level 100 talents, for all classes, are supposed to be the talents that players can use to “customize” how they play their character. Some hunters, for instance, can use a level 100 talent to play without a pet. That is a huge departure from the out-of-the-box default gameplay of the hunter class.

Outside of the way each talent choice affects your character sheet, all three have a unique effect on how it feels to tank. With Seraphim you can constantly (50% of the time!) go Beastmode on a boss. With Holy Shield you can block spells — and while it’s a shame that there’s no satisfying visual feedback for a spell block as it happens, it’s still wonderful to know that it does happen when that talent is active. And with Empowered Seals you can relive the glory days of Mists of Pandaria and tank with 50% haste and a one-second global cooldown (GCD).

Based on sims run by Theck after 6.1 was released, the three talent choices are roughly equivalent in terms of damage dealt and survivability gained. There is no immediate, obviously incorrect choice that you would be foolish to choose, and this is a tremendously important thing for the “fun factor” in Protection. There’s nothing that kills the party faster than the classic “illusion of choice” that we all know and loathe.


The nuance of choice

Since patch 6.1, I’ve been tanking with all three talents to try each out and figure out which I like the best.

Holy Shield has a special place in my heart, if only based on name alone (well, and a healthy amount of Burning Crusade nostalgia); however, the talent is pretty boring ultimately. As mentioned before, it’d be nice if there was some kind of feedback that the talent was doing its thing, but absent that it operates in the background, unseen and unheard. I get why that can be unsatisfying for many folks, though I don’t agree with the seemingly widespread assessment that Holy Shield is only for Paladins who cannot “handle” Empowered Seals or Seraphim. There’s nothing wrong or shameful with going with Holy Shield’s passive benefits; indeed, the talent can even be the best choice on some encounters with a large adds component.

Seraphim was the foundation of my tanking through most of our Highmaul progression. Initially I did not care of the five holy power entry fee to Burst City, but over time I got used to it. It also helped that I slowly became addicted to how good Seraphim made me look on the DPS charts. That nerf fixed that, unfortunately, but the dependable burst was still a welcome addition to my tanking.

These days I am using Empowered Seals for most encounters. Now that I have enough gear of a high enough ilevel, I am able to guarantee 50% haste with the Liadrin’s Righteousness buff active. Tanking with a one-second GCD again is quite a rush, and if you haven’t given Empowered Seals a fair shake yet I urge you to reconsider.

While some may find the seal swapping to be a huge pain (it hasn’t bothered me that much, thanks a /castsequence macro), for me, the biggest downside of the talent has been the constant gem and enchant swaps I’ve had to manage with every new piece of gear. Once you’re in Blackrock Foundry, it’s really to easy to hit 50% haste with raid buffs and Liadrin’s Righteousness active. Anytime I am lucky enough to get an upgrade, I get to do the hokey pokey with my enchants and gems to find the combination that gets me as close to 50% haste as I can (without going under). Good thing reforging was removed, eh?

Gripes aside, the most important takeaway here is that since 6.1, when it comes to our level 100 talents we finally have a choice between three valuable, viable talenting options. This is a wonderful thing to behold, and a symptom of the great spot that Protection is currently ensconced within.

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