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Paladin > WoWNov 11, 2015 6:00 pm CT

Lightsworn: Big changes coming to Holy Paladins in Legion

Wow. I think most of us expected some significant Holy changes in Monday’s Legion Paladin Preview, but I don’t know if anyone anticipated just how big an overhaul we’d be receiving! Holy Power gone! Holy Paladins encouraged to be in melee range! A completely new Mastery! Well, you know what they say…

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Holy Power removed

Farewell Holy Power, we hardly knew you! Actually, that’s a lie, we knew you all too well and quite frankly, you weren’t very well-liked. Let’s just say that the majority of the Holy Paladins I’ve spoken to are very, very happy about Holy Power’s removal. Perhaps happy isn’t the right word. Ecstatic? Overjoyed? Crying tears of sheer, unbridled glee? Yeah, let’s go with that.

Personally, I enjoyed Holy Power in Mists of Pandaria, but when our two Holy Power-costing “finishers” (Word of Glory and Light of Dawn) were changed to have a cast time, Holy Power became a clunky chore to maintain rather than an engaging tool in our healing arsenal. I’m not arguing against those spells getting cast times, as that was entirely necessary given Blizzard’s new healing philosophy going into Warlords of Draenor. But cast times and being limited by a secondary resource turned what should have been two of our definitive signature abilities into sheer drudgery.

These changes also ruined Holy Avenger and Divine Purpose, making our level 75 talent tier, formerly a nice mix of options that shone in different situations or according to a player’s individual playstyle, into a barren wasteland where Sanctified Wrath has stood alone as our only real option this entire expansion. Given how lackluster Holy Power has become (and how much players loathe it), it was absolutely time to kick it to the curb. I’m going to miss my giant /flexing Holy Power weak auras, but I suppose I’ll live.

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Paladin healing in Legion

In Legion, Holy Paladins will no longer require a healing “rotation” to maximize our Holy Power usage. Instead we’ll be like other healers, free to cast whatever spells best fit our circumstances, limited only by our mana bar. If you’re worried about running into mana issues without our free Holy Power heals, relax — our healing spells are having their mana costs reduced to compensate. For example, Flash of Light currently costs 20% of our base mana, but in Legion will cost only 4%.

In addition to our standard Holy Light/Flash of Light one-two punch, we’ll still have Holy Shock, cheap and effective like always, and Light of Dawn, which will have a short cooldown rather than consume Holy Power. No word yet on Word of Glory or Eternal Flame, but I wouldn’t expect to see either stick around — Word of Glory is just another single-target heal (which we don’t need), and Blizzard has been trying to get us away from Eternal Flame’s HOT-based dynamic for a while now — what better time than when they’re making all these other sweeping changes?

Physician, hurt thyself

Holy Paladins are also receiving a very interesting new heal called Light of the Martyr. Yes, believe it or not, another Light-named spell! Sigh.

Light of the Martyr is inexpensive, instant cast, heals for a moderate amount, and has no cooldown…but requires us to sacrifice a moderate amount of our own health. I love the style of this spell, since the whole “sacrifice yourself for your allies” flavor is already such a distinctive Paladin theme in our primary mitigation cooldown, Hand of Sacrifice. It’s also a fascinating design concept, using one’s own health as a quasi-secondary resource. Granted, Warlocks have had this for years in Life Tap, but I think the parallels and differences between these two spells are perfect — Warlocks sacrifice their own health for power, while we’ll be doing it to save others. Speaking of which, Light of the Martyr is pretty unwieldy to say — I’m going to be calling it “Light Tap” from now on.

Now it goes without saying that this ability is a double-edged sword, one that we are willingly stabbing ourselves with. Will it take some getting used to? Absolutely. Will we hilariously and disastrously kill ourselves with it? Undoubtedly. I’m also very curious to see how it will work with Divine Shield — will the self-inflicted damage simply bypass the immunity?

On the other hand, I’ve heard some players say they don’t intend to use it, because it’s too risky. This is a mistake. We’re getting Light of the Martyr Light Tap for a reason, to fill a specific niche in our healing spells. If you don’t use it, you’re only hurting yourself. Well, you’re not hurting yourself, which I guess is the entire point.

Anyway. Hand of Sacrifice’s transferred damage is scary too, but even without its glyph, it’s still an essential part of our toolkit! Light of the Martyr is going to be no different. Try it out, familiarize yourself with it, make some weak auras that warn you when your health is too low to safely cast it — whatever it takes! But don’t simply ignore it.

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Holy Paladins as melee healers

“But while Holy Paladins possess the heavy armor and strong defensive ability themes, in practice they spend most of their time behind the frontlines with the more fragile healers. In addition to shoring up the identities of Protection and Retribution Paladins, we’re adjusting Holy Paladin gameplay to bring them closer to the front, where they belong.”

A while back, I talked about how I envisioned the Holy Paladin class fantasy as a sort of melee battle cleric. Apparently Blizzard feels the same way! In Legion, Holy Paladins will be encouraged to get right up in the thick of melee when necessary. Our new Mastery, Lightbringer, will increase healing on allies near us, and we’re also getting new Aura spells that will provide “localized beneficial effects.”

This is a big change, and it’s a controversial one. Don’t misunderstand what Blizzard is saying here — this isn’t merely an optional talent or a fun alternate playstyle they’re suggesting. Like it or not, they want us in melee. Maybe not all the time, mind you, but these ability changes and the language in the Class Preview makes it quite clear that they want Holy Paladins “closer to the front, where they belong.”

Now, don’t get out the torches and pitchforks just yet! The important distinction here is when necessary. For optimal effectiveness, we’ll want to be wherever Lightbringer’s increased healing is most needed. If the melee group is where most of the incoming damage is focused, then we should be up close to the boss with them. If the ranged players are the ones taking more damage, well then it’s back to hanging with the clothies we go!

Players who strongly do not want to be anywhere near melee will also have some options. The new talent Beacon of the Lightbringer will turn our Beacon of Light target into a second Lightbringer source. This feels like a solid solution to me — we can stay back providing Lightbringer’s benefit to the ranged group, while our Beacon target will also provide the increased healing to the melee players. This sounds pretty great, but I suspect this talent will be on the same tier as Beacon of Faith, meaning we’ll have to choose either double Beacons or double Lightbringers. But tough talent choices are a mark of a well-designed talent tier, and frankly it’s about time Beacon of Faith had some legitimate competition.

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Wait, so are we melee or ranged?

A major concern I’ve heard the last few days is if we will count as a ranged or melee player when being targeted by boss abilities. One of the bigger counterarguments against the idea of the battle cleric was the risk of dropping a ranged-targeted ability like Gift of the Man’ari on top of the melee group. Honestly, I wouldn’t worry about it. Blizzard very clearly wants us in melee — it would be ridiculous to make us also drop pools of unavoidable raid-wiping fire while we’re there. Since it seems we’ll be expected to be flexible about our positioning, I expect we’ll be targeted according to our proximity to the boss. It would only be logical to be targeted appropriately based on where we’re standing, and we’ve already seen this with abilities like Kilrogg’s Death Throes, where ranged players aren’t targeted if they’re within melee distance. In any case, I guarantee you Blizzard is aware of these targeting concerns (and are likely making similar adjustments for Survival Hunters) — we’ll be fine.

(Of course, being classified as melee means dealing with an entirely new set of threats that many Holy Paladins might be unfamiliar with: cleaves, frontal cone/line attacks, tail swipes, ground hazards being harder to see…but that’s a topic for another time.)

Lightbringer in PVP

Lastly, there’s been a lot of backlash against Lightbringer by PVP Holy Paladins already, and in fairness, they’re not wrong. As it stands now, Lightbringer does seem pretty awful for PVP. Being forced into melee is the last place we want to be! But remember, it’s early, and we have no idea what our PVP talents will be like. Until we know how Lightbringer might be affected or modified by our PVP abilities, I’d hold off on rerolling a new character just yet.

So what do you think, Holy Paladins? Are you excited about these changes or dreading them?

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