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WoWOct 6, 2015 5:00 pm CT

Lightsworn: Protection Paladin changes I want to see in Legion

Protection Paladin changes

Despite what you might think after reading this post, I actually think Protection Paladins are in a pretty decent place. We have okay damage, decent survivability, and our rotation is snappy and fluid. Things are not terrible for us. However, they could be so much better.

Blizzard makes it sound like Legion is going to feature a real push at redesigning the specs to make them more fun and to better capture the class fantasy of each. This is an excellent thing, and long overdue. While Protection Paladins are in an okay place, they could be so much better. Our spell effects could be better looking and more impactful, our abilities could have more of a “pow” to them, and our rotation could be tweaked to make it more fun to execute.

It’s time for the traditional pre-expansion wishlist — let’s plunk ourselves down on Great-father Winter’s lap and see what we can dream up.


Renewed emphasis on our utility

I talked about this a bit in my previous column, but one of the aspects of the Protection Paladin that has been woefully underrepresented by our mechanics is our specialization’s ethos of self-sacrifice and group support. Paladins were first formed as an order of Priests-in-armor, who would provide succor to their allies in the thick of battle. As I argued, with the new push for capturing the “fantasy” of each specialization, this is something that needs to be represented in our specialization’s design.

But how do you go about pushing that ethos in actual combat mechanics? Well, we could have a system that rewarded us for using our utility cooldowns on our group mates. There could be a talent that granted a full bar of Holy Power whenever Hand of Sacrifice or Hand of Protection was used on an ally while in combat.

That would certainly prioritize using those abilities, though it’d have the unfortunate side effect of forcing people to blow those abilities on cooldown, rather than when they were actually needed. Maybe the talent could have a couple of charges to use per combat instance, and those charges could be expended at the Paladins’ discretion. There are ways to design such a reward for use of utility without making their use essentially automated. We can, through good design, be encouraged to use some of our most impactful abilities without them being mandatory. Good group play should absolutely be rewarded through mechanics.

And now that utility has come up, it’s time for me to wheel out the cage in which I keep my largest and angriest bugbear: Auras. It’s time for auras to come back. Not to sound like a broken record from last week, but this class is missing a piece of its soul without that lovely halo following our footsteps. I understand why the auras buffs were removed (streamlining buffs) but it’s like asking Shamans to play without totems, and the designers wouldn’t be so cruel as to — oh. Oh no.

In any case, the designers are smart, and they can figure out a way to balance the demands of a balanced buff ecosystem and reinstating a classic part of the Paladin identity.


Less binary active mitigation

Something that’s been bugging me this expansion is how boring active mitigation is starting to feel. I don’t know if the shine is just coming off, or if something is intrinsically wrong with the system design, but on some fights where I am standing there and burning through my rotation I fall into a form of highway hypnosis. My subconscious takes the wheel because there’s nothing to consciously decide or think about.

What to do when tanking is purely binary. You accumulate enough Holy Power and then it’s either (A) do I have enough health or (B) will I die in a few seconds if I don’t heal myself? If A, I throw out a Shield of the Righteous, if B, I’ll likely Word of Glory if I don’t think the healers can catch me in time. And, honestly, 90% of the time it seems like I’m choosing A. Ultimately, it doesn’t really feel like an interesting choice to make every time I’m at 3-5 Holy Power.

Isn’t there something else that can be added to that decision tree? Is there another Holy Power-spending ability that can be thrown into the mix that makes a 50/50 coin flip a bit more interesting? Seraphim kind of hits the spot, but that’s really the added decision of “is Seraphim off cooldown?” That doesn’t really require any additional thought other than directing the eyes to look at the remaining cooldown on the ability.

Active mitigation was so exciting when it debuted, and this form of tanking is still leaps and bounds ahead of where we were before we had it. Eventually all fun things become boring though, and it’s time to mix things up and make tanking more engaging again.


A streamlined rotation that’s fun to execute

Related to my concerns with the fun factor of active mitigation, I’m starting to get bored with our rotation. This is likely a case of familiarity breeding contempt. Our rotation hasn’t changed very much since Holy Power was introduced, it only got a bit faster thanks to haste. As a whole, the rotation is stale and feels like old hat. It doesn’t help that many of our spell effects date back to vanilla, and compared to some of the newer, fancier spell effects out there, they just look so old and tired.

Look at Holy Wrath for example. Whenever you cast that spell, it’s like your Paladin sneezed out little droplets of the Light. Every time those golden ping pong balls emanate forth, I hear in my head an emaciated “pew” to match the animation. The spell effect does not match the idea of the spell, which is that the Holy Light is bursting forth from you with great wrath and smiting the undead and demonic enemies that surround you. Can’t we get that updated a bit, to be something a bit more impressive — especially if Holy Wrath continues to be one of the heavier hitters in our rotation?

Also, for the love of the Light, get rid of the meteor/damage-splitting nature of Holy Wrath. It’s so counter intuitive for an (ostensibly) AOE spell to get weaker the more enemies you have around you.

Unrelated to spell effects, I think I’m finally tired of the manufactured Crusader Strike/Hammer of the Righteous dichotomy. Is it “complexity” to have to choose between two alternating spells depending on whether you are fighting a single target or multiple targets? Not really. It’s another one of those boring binaries that presents any choice, no matter how small, as interesting just because some choice has to be made. Why not have us just use Hammer of the Righteous for both single target and AOE, tune it appropriately for both situations, and use that freed up slot on our bars for a new spell in our rotation that’s fun and interesting?

What we’re really overdue for is a decent snap aggro spell. Holy Wrath kind of fits that role, but not really, because of the aforementioned meteor problem. All of our AOE spells are either weak, have a short ramp-up time (i.e. Consecration), or are target-limited (i.e. Avenger’s Shield). I would like something in our toolbox that immediately hits everything around us and/or does a large enough amount of damage that it immediately grabs their attention. Something we can use in a boss fight when six or more adds suddenly show up and swarm towards the healer.

Also, make it look awesome when we use it.


Pipedream: How ‘bout a sword-and-board DPS spec?

I can’t lie. I’ve been looking at Warriors with envy for most of this expansion because of Gladiator Stance. The idea that a Warrior tank can switch to a DPS role without changing to a completely different style of plain is just not fair. I know, I know. Homogenization and so on. But, don’t you see how much cooler the Warriors’ toys are over there?! I want it. I know it’ll never happen, and probably never should happen, but I want it all the same.

If we must compromise, I’d be willing to accept a version called Crusader’s Resolve where we can wield a two-hander with a shield as a DPS role like the Crusaders of Diablo 3. That would keep it just different enough that it’ll pass muster, I imagine! (Listen — the point of a wish list is to dream big.)

Anyway, that’s my wish list for Legion. I’m curious what you are all hoping for in this next expansion. What are your biggest issues that you want changed in this specialization, and what cool new effects and abilities could you dream up that you would like to see?

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