Login with Patreon
WoWOct 5, 2015 1:00 pm CT

Lightsworn: The Battle Cleric Holy Paladin fantasy

I’ve recently begun running a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and one of my players is playing a cleric. In recent editions of D&D, clerics have been encouraged to specialize at either being a melee combatant in heavy armor swinging around a big weapon (essentially a Retribution Paladin), or a divine spellcaster smiting foes from afar with holy fire and divine energy (basically a Holy or Discipline Priest).

However, as I watched this player allocate his statistics and choose his abilities, I realized he was taking an old-school approach to his character. Rather than focusing on one specific area of expertise, he was building a cleric who was just as comfortable crushing zombie skulls with his heavy mace as he was healing his allies or searing evil with radiant light: a battle cleric. Anyone who grew up playing D&D should immediately recognize the archetype: reliable, versatile, indomitable in his faith; the solid, stalwart backbone of any adventuring party. As he chose his deity (Ro, goddess of healing, life, and protection) I realized that this character was exactly what I had been missing in World of Warcraft. I don’t want to just be a Priest in heavy armor, healing my comrades from a distance, my weapon mere decoration. I want to be in the thick of things, utilizing the combined martial and spiritual training that is a signature theme of the Paladin class.

I want to be a battle cleric.


“I will establish a new branch of the Church, the paladins. I have already selected the first candidates for this order. Some were knights before but others were priests. I chose these men for both their piety and their martial prowess. They will be trained, not only in war but in prayer and in healing. And each of these valiant fighters will possess both martial and spiritual power, particularly in blessing themselves and others with the strength of the Holy Light.”

— Archbishop Alonsus Faol


What is a battle cleric?

What does it mean to be a battle cleric? It means being a capable melee combatant, able to dish out some respectable divine punishment, while retaining the defensive and healing abilities signature to our specialization. If you consider our class history in Warcraft lore, you’ll see that this isn’t really a new concept. Tirion, Liadrin, Maraad, Yrel — virtually every well-known Paladin has demonstrated the ability to both mix it up in melee and still use the Light to heal.

I want to be able to bash demons with holy justice in one moment, then turn and heal the valiant tank who is protecting me the next! We’re the only plate-wearers who don’t spend their time in melee — why even bother wearing it if we’re chilling in the back of the room with the clothies? And Blizzard, you’ve given us a bunch of iconic Paladin melee strikes and abilities — I want a reason to actually use them!


How could it be done?

Could Blizzard make some adjustments to our spec to allow this type of playstyle? Well, we certainly already have some of the tools required. We have access to many of the offensive abilities used by Protection and Retribution Paladins, such as Crusader Strike, Hammer of Justice, Hammer of Wrath, Judgment, and Rebuke. Avenging Wrath already buffs not just our healing but also our damage output, and maybe we could borrow Consecration from our Protection pals, except ours would heal allies instead of damaging enemies.

Unfortunately, our melee attacks hit like wet noodles. Actually, no; that’s an insult to wet noodles. In Heroic Hellfire Citadel gear, my Crusader Strikes and Judgments hit for less than 5,000 damage. I sneeze and do 5,000 damage! Clearly, Blizzard would need to make some significant adjustments to our melee strength to make a battle cleric build possible.

…or would they? Glyph of Harsh Words, a staple glyph for Shockadins, allows us to convert healing power into damage output. Glyph of Mass Exorcism, on the other hand, allows Retribution Paladins to turn their ranged Exorcism spell into a melee version that does some splash damage. Finally, there’s Glyph of the Battle Healer, which always sounded thematically amazing for Holy Paladins, but sadly was never any good for us due to our miserable melee damage. The concept behind it, however — hit things to heal people — remains intriguing.


What if Blizzard combined these effects into a talent that converted our healing spells into damaging ones, turned those ranged spells into melee strikes, and allowed our melee strikes to do both damage and healing? You might scoff and say that sounds ridiculously overpowered, that Blizzard would never allow a “hybrid” class like that…and yet, we all do remember Discipline Priests and Atonement healing, right? And Mistweaver Monks, who can do moderate healing and damage while “Fistweaving”? Hell, Restoration Druids have an entire talent tier dedicated to making their offensive spells also heal. Blizzard is clearly okay with at least the concept of healers chipping in some damage — Holy Paladins just haven’t received this special treatment yet.

Even if Blizzard didn’t go the Atonement route, I’d be happy to simply have my melee abilities do something useful. Remember Thok in Mists of Pandaria? I loved taking Selfless Healer (which at the time made Judgment generate a charge of Holy Power, and affected Holy Radiance in addition to Flash of Light) and Holy Avenger for that encounter. When Thok began casting Deafening Screech so rapidly that cast-time spells were impossible, I could pop Holy Avenger, use Judgment for 3 Holy Power, Light of Dawn (which was instant-cast back then), Holy Shock for another 3 Holy Power, Light of Dawn, Crusader Strike for yet another 3 Holy Power, Light of Dawn, etc. And after three Judgments, I could also cast an instant Holy Radiance! That synergy, and being able to benefit from using my rarely-used offensive abilities, remains one of my favorite healing memories.

Now, not every Holy Paladin would be interested in a melee career, where it’s a blinding blur of big boss butt and whirling spell effects. I get it! Which is why the battle cleric build would have to be an option, likely a talent. Would this be too drastic an effect for a single talent? Well, considering Protection Warriors get Gladiator’s Resolve, which turns them from a tank into a DPS, a completely different group role…no, I don’t feel it would be.


Balance Issues

Blizzard has never been keen on hybrid classes/roles, and it’s easy to understand why. Having players who were able to be half one role and half another would interfere with WoW’s tried-and-true tank/healer/DPS dichotomy. Unlike a free-form game like D&D, groups in WoW are designed for specific group ratios. Traditionally, a 5-player dungeon is intended for one tank, one healer, and three DPS. A 10-player raid is intended for two tanks, three healers, and five DPS. And so on.

Except…these traditional group dynamics really don’t apply anymore. Most tanks these days do enough self-healing that they already basically count as half a healer. And with all raid difficulties except Mythic now having flexible raid scaling, there’s no such thing as a “right” number of healers any longer. Not that this was ever a hard rule in the past, mind you — in previous expansions, most 10-player raids ended up two or even one-healing some of their encounters, while 25-player teams were known to bring as anywhere from nine to three healers(!).


In general, though, raid leaders had a rough idea of how many healers they would require based on if they were running with 10 or 25 players. With flexible raid sizes, this is much trickier to figure out. How many healers does one bring to a twelve-person raid? A fourteen-person raid? Seventeen? Where’s the cutoff between “wiping because not enough healing” and “healers are falling asleep because there’s nothing to do”? Last week, I asked my Restoration Druid if he had run out of mana on Mannoroth, because I noticed an empty mana bar on his raid frame during the fight. Turns out he hadn’t run out of mana. He had just been in feral form, DPSing, because there was nothing to heal.

Obviously, balancing our numbers would be a careful process. Our healing would have to be brought down significantly for this to even be remotely feasible, and our damage output (while better than our current state of mediocrity) should never approach that of a true DPS spec. I’m not looking to have my holy cake and eat it too. I just want another option.

Thematically, I want to be a battle cleric because I think it would be a fun addition to our spec and an appropriate tribute to the classic RPGs that Warcraft drew its inspirations from. Mechanically, though, I want the ability to be a partial DPS, partial healer for those nights when my raid requires just that — half a healer. Trying to find the perfect number of healers with flexible raid sizes is a frustrating endeavor these days, and too often ends up with a healer playing a DPS spec that they don’t particularly enjoy or aren’t particularly good at.


It’s time for hybrid options like a battle cleric build, Blizzard. We’ve already got the armor, the weapon proficiencies, and the melee abilities. You’ve made the raids flexible — now let us be as well!

Blizzard Watch is made possible by people like you.
Please consider supporting our Patreon!


Join the Discussion

Blizzard Watch is a safe space for all readers. By leaving comments on this site you agree to follow our  commenting and community guidelines.

Toggle Dark Mode: