Thursday, March 6, 2014

[WoW] The Talented Mr. Holy Paladin. Did They Live up To Blizzard's Ideals?

My primary desktop machine went kaput yesterday, leaving me in a bit of a panic. Tonight we’re supposed to be working on Garrosh 10N (we haven’t downed him yet), but with no computer and being one of the three healers, what the heck was the raid supposed to do? Well, apparently, my “tablet” actually was powerful enough to raid on:

I actually use my real keyboard in this setup rather than the one on the Surface Pro.
Not ideal mind you, but it worked okay. And now I’m writing my blog post on it, hooray! Which is good, because having to RMA my desktop machine and not being able to get it back for a month is complete BS. So in the meantime, portable machine goodness.

Yo Dawg, I Heard You Like Talents...

Ye Olde Talents. Looks like there's a lot of choice, but more like a lot of traps.
With the new talent setup, one of the things Blizzard wanted to address was actually having real choices behind your talents. When you looked at the old talent trees, there was pretty well a best answer, and maybe 1 – 3 talent points that were optional. If you weren’t setting it up that way, you were doing it wrong and doing your raid a disservice. In fact, raid leaders would often use talents as an indicator of whether the person knew what they were doing.

So enter the new talent system. Six tiers, one choice of three each one. If they were implemented correctly, ideally you should be able to choose any of the three to fit your play style (or perhaps the encounter). If they weren’t, well, we’d be back at square one, with the exception that putting together 6 choices was way easier than putting back 51 points anytime a talent changed and Blizzard had to wipe them all.

Basically, Major Glyphs++, which does bring up the question of what role do glyphs play today other than being a big pool of talents where you choose three. But that’s a good question for another blog post.
New Talents! Do the exclusive choices make for interesting choices?
Today I want to look at the talents from a Holy Paladin PvE perspective and see if Blizzard made good on their design promise. For interest, you can see the popularity of each talent across all level 90 Holy Paladins where most of their gear comes from raids here:

The speed boost tier. Long Arm of the Law for the most part didn’t turn out to be a very good Holy Paladin talent, as we don’t really use Judgment outside of Selfless Healer builds. We also rarely need to run at mobs, rather, we’re usually running away. Rather, the choice was between the active Speed of Light versus the passive Pursuit of Justice. PoJ isn’t great as our instant spells mostly require Holy Power, and when you’re moving is when you need that Holy Power for the speed boost, but if you’re never going to use the Speed of Light button anyhow. For me there wasn’t much of a choice, however. The speed boost on demand is quite powerful for raiding.

The crowd control tier. Evil is a Point of View was really only useful to CC beasts (as Repentance already works on Humanoids), and Repentance is just… better because it roots things in place rather than sending them all over the place. Perhaps a better talent for PvP, but useless for PvE. But for most raid fights, you actually would rather have Fist of Justice. A ranged stun on a 30 second cooldown? Yes, please, especially given the sheer number of fights in Siege of Orgrimmar with stunnable adds: Immerseus, Norushen, Sha of Pride, Galakras, General Nazgrim, Spoils of Pandaria, Siegecrafter Blackfuse, Garrosh. So some choice if you must have a long CC, but mostly just the stun.

The healy tier. For Holy, this tier is really interesting now that Blizzard fixed the balance in 5.4. The default choice is Eternal Flame, which adds a powerful 30 second HoT to your Word of Glory. Paired with Holy Avenger, you can easily hit 7 to 9 people with full-powered HoTs, making your throughput absolutely off the charts, easily hitting 200k per tick across the entire raid (plus the Holy Radiance and Holy Shock casts to get the Holy Power [Geez, Blizzard, stop using “Holy” in every one of our spell names, please]).

But with the changes to Selfless Healer, that has created a completely different style of play for Holy Paladins. Weaving Judgment into our rotations once again, you can get quite high AoE output for relatively cheap mana requirements (to the point where you just pretty well don’t use Spirit for this build). I haven’t played much with it myself, but a few theorycrafters have utilized it to great effect, especially in fights like Thok. It is an incredibly niche build, however, and it doesn’t even register as a talent anyone wants in PvE.

Sacred Shield seems to be relegated to the sidelines, despite Holy being able to plunk it on three people instead of one. It’s cheap, but so is Eternal Flame, and that doesn’t require an extra button. But it is somewhat competitive, and more folks use it than they do Selfless Healer, so that’s something.

Despite the overwhelming popularity of the default choice, this tier does bring something interesting to the table as far as variety goes.

The utility tier, which is pretty handy overall. Clemency is the default choice, and overwhelmingly the most popular, giving all of your hand spells an extra use over the course of a fight by adding a charge mechanic to the cooldown. However, with all of the buffs to Hand of Purity and the 30 second cooldown, it can be quite powerful for certain fights, especially if your tank is a Monk as it works on Stagger. However, having an extra Hand of Sacrifice is still better unless the tank is going to be taking a tonne of damage from DoTs. Unbreakable Spirit isn’t terribly useful for Holy unless you’re aiming to cheese mechanics with Divine Shield every 2.5 minutes, and then most cases you’ll be using the extra charge for Hand of Protection for performing most cheesing. So for the most part, niche uses, but the default is best.

The cooldown tier. Sanctified Wrath is useless for Holy. Nobody uses it. 0% popularity. Doesn’t even register. Divine Purpose versus Holy Avenger is a far more interesting discussion. Divine Purpose is nice because you don’t have to deal with another button (the Active versus Passive choice that seems to work pretty well for talents), and is a great mana saver, but is random, so you cannot count on it. Holy Avenger is another throughput cooldown, and an amazing one at that, buffing your Holy Power abilities and making you generate three times as much Holy Power, every two minutes. Having this cooldown available is immensely powerful, as you can see from the Eternal Flame discussion above. Personally, I think all raiding Holy Paladins ought to be using Holy Avenger, but if you’re the type that forgets to use your cooldowns, then Divine Purpose is probably the better choice.

As an aside, I find it amusing that Speed of Light is more popular for raiding Paladins than Pursuit of Justice, but Divine Purpose is more popular than Holy Avenger. Clearly Active versus Passive isn’t sufficient to make the Passive choice the most popular, but I suppose the power gain averaged over the course of a fight for Divine Purpose versus Holy Avenger isn’t as clear cut as it is for Speed of Light.

The new ability tier. Again, we have one talent which absolutely nobody takes, Execution Sentence, and two other talents which are both relatively popular. Holy Prism is fantastically powerful, but if you aren’t used to using it on cooldown, it can be a bit of a waste. One could argue it eats up a lot of GCDs, but I find in practice it’s the most powerful spell I could probably be using for the GCD anyhow, so it’s not a loss whatsoever. And it’s free! Light’s Hammer, on the other hand, does an immense amount of healing in very short order if your raid is stacked up. For a fight like Thok or Megaera, Light’s Hammer is absolutely amazing. For most other fights, Holy Prism is a better bet because people can be moving around and you’ll still get them. Both abilities are pretty evenly split amongst the populace.

Blizzard has had the most success for the talents when they pit a passive choice against an active choice which is more powerful, at which point it turns into a question of how much mental throughput do you have to use on making those extra decisions, like the speed boost tier, or the cooldown tier.

Situational talents with a default are a little interesting, but honestly, we could likely do with just rolling the default into the class and wiping out the other choices. The utility tier comes to mind for this.

They really tried and came up with something really interesting with the healy tier, especially around Selfless Healer, but the default is still too easy and too powerful for anyone but the most advanced theorycrafters to play with the niche builds.

Overall, I think Blizzard was more successful in giving Holy Paladins choices than other specs, and I like the new talent system for Holy Paladins overall. Having two viable choices almost every tier is a pretty big win, and an improvement over the old talent system. There are still places to be improved, and I’m interested to see what changes they make and what the new talents look like in Warlords of Draenor (spoiler alert: I didn’t bother to look at the ones announced over Blizzcon because they were all going to change completely anyway).

I’ll be going over Enhancement Shaman soon to see if the same conclusions hold up there.

#GoodDesign, #HolyPaladin, #Talents, #WoW


  1. I agree with your conclusion. I don't raid anymore, so I look at talents from the point of view of someone who only plays Arenas and Rated BGs. I find that I am constantly swapping talents depending on what format of PvP I will be playing, what team mates I will be playing with (diminishing returns with other CCs is a big consideration) and even what Battleground I will be playing in (i.e. Light's Hammer in Silvershard for the extra snare, Holy Prism in big CTF group fights, and Execution Sentence in node maps/smaller fights). So if you think Blizzard did well with giving choices from a PvE perspective, then I would say they did doubly well, because they also did it from a PvP one.

    1. Good to know :) I don't PvP at all so I have no real insight there.

  2. "with no computer and being one of the three healers, what the heck was the raid supposed to do?"

    Two heal it? You SHOULD be two-healing Garrosh on Normal OR Heroic anyway, it's primarily a DPS/coordination check that gets much easier with more DPS and the healing is bursting rather than constant. Which means using a cooldown or two for something like Whirling pays off far more than having an extra healer.

    1. Agreed that we should be, but we haven't really been able to 2-Heal many encounters. Mind you, my DPS as Ret is abysmal anyway (granted, higher than the other healers' DPS off-specs by a factor of 2), so not sure it's even that helpful. I could bring my Enhancement Shaman, seeing as I'm not raiding on Sundays anymore, but I'd like to actually get the kill on my Paladin as that's the character that's been in the Wednesday raid the entire time.

      We also have nearly 0 off-healing, Mage, Hunter, Warlock, Warrior, Monk are our DPS, Warrior tank, which doesn't help. Druid tank does bring a lot of self-healing, and I can tell the difference between healing the two as I pretty much don't need to heal the bear tank.

      Whirling Corruption has been a sticking point for us, however, once it gets empowered anyhow. Tranquility is a pain to use as you have to eat the missile damage (I've been mitigating it by HoSing the druid healer when he has to sit still and Tranq), and PW:Barrier's radius is tiny. Devo Aura is great, but 3 minute cooldown. We have a couple of the Warrior health banners, but that's not a huge help.

      It is funny, though, as I do play Holy Paladin DPS for phase 1. I'm the one who kills the engineers. Heroism on the first engineer, Wings on the second, Divine Favor on the 3rd, and I can kill them all. But once we're into Phase 2+, I'm flat out just heals. Though, digging into World of Logs, my healing throughput is just a little under their combined overheals, so perhaps it is doable.

    2. What percent is Garrosh before the second intermission? He needs to be at 30-35% tops, ideally much lower at this point with all the gear you have.

      "Mind you, my DPS as Ret is abysmal anyway (granted, higher than the other healers' DPS off-specs by a factor of 2), so not sure it's even that helpful."

      It should be, because your healing shouldn't be needed at all.

      "Whirling Corruption has been a sticking point for us, however, once it gets empowered anyhow."

      Make sure your priest has Cascade and is using it on each Empowered Whirling.

      1st Whirling: have a warrior drop Demoralizing Banner and Rallying Cry -- that's 10% less damage taken and 20% more HP.

      2nd Whirling: have the other warrior repeat it.

      3rd Whirling (in p3): Devotion Aura for 20% less damage.

      If you're getting more than 3 Whirlings total (2 in p2.5 and 1 in p3) you're doing it very, very wrong and it'll be nigh impossible to kill it.

    3. We're about there. We definitely hit Phase 3 before a 3rd intermission, but we are getting 3 normal Whirling Corruptions, and we did get 2 Empowered Whirling Corruption before hitting P3.

      I'll bring back the feedback, though. Super good feedback!

    4. Oh, sorry, I was referring to Empowered Whirlings only -- so if you're hitting p3 before the third Empowered Whirling you're probably okay. Obviously better to get 1 or 0 but it's doable.

    5. Yup, we were hitting 35% - 40% by the second intermission, so just slightly behind. I think we're going to bring my Enhancement Shaman though. Very strong off heals and twice as much DPS as my Retadin spec. We just want to whomp him already (we're basically locking until he's dead because it's purely execution that's keeping us from our kill).