Tuesday, November 10, 2015

[WoW] Holy Paladin, Batman! Er, Preview

Blizzard released the Paladin preview and I have to say I'm tentatively excited about the Holy Paladin notes. I'll be combing over them this post and putting down thoughts, squees, concerns, ideas, etc. So here we go!

Holy Paladin Identity
The niche of the plate-wearing holy crusader is well established in Paladin gameplay, with one key exception. Whether Paladins are mitigating enemy attacks, aiding their ailing allies, or delivering punitive justice, it’s in their nature to serve in the thick of the battle. 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.
In Wrath and Cataclysm, Holy Paladins were the melee healer. We sat in the frontline with the melee, getting mana back by hitting the boss, and in Cata specifically, our positional heals (Light of Dawn and Holy Radiance) were extremely satisfying to use. In TBC, Paladins wore pretty much anything we could get their grubby mitts on, but we still tended to have way more armor than other classes and could tank in a pinch for a short period of time.

Today, Mistweavers are the melee healer (they even get tagged as melee rather than healer in most encounters, if I recall correctly), and Paladins are in the back with the squishies, which feels lame to me.

Positional Healing Returns
We love the unique identity of the Paladin healer and are modifying the gameplay to better support it. Single-target healing from Beacon of Light remains their marquee ability, but other abilities and talents have been adjusted to encourage Holy Paladins to be near the people they want to heal—including melee characters, when necessary. This is incentivized by Lightbringer, a new Mastery, which increases healing on allies near you. This is further reinforced by the addition of a row of Aura talents that provide a variety of localized beneficial effects, and refinements to some spells, such as Light of Dawn returning to being a cone.
We'll be encouraged to sit near the melee if need be. Raid healing? Sit with the ranged. Tank healing? Sit on the tanks (unless there's cleave, in which case sit in the back with the melee).

Can I give a shout-out to conal Light of Dawn, by the way? That was probably the most satisfying skill shot for a healer: swinging around for a quick LoD at the ranged from the melee pile then back again to keep meleeing the boss. Granted, otherwise direction matters not at all, so now we won't have to swing back again necessarily, but I'm really happy to see directional/positional healing make a return. It'll make healing feel a bit more dynamic in my opinion.

Between Auras making a return (and ostensibly being a little more position related than the Auras of old which were just 40-yard buffs), and the new Mastery--Lightbringer--we'll be encouraged to stand near the people we're healing. From a high level, this will probably be our optimal default position for healing:
MSPaint Masterpiece. Pink Smiley is the Holy Paladin, everything else is probably obvious.
Can hit either the ranged or the melee+tanks with LoD, close enough to melee to give them auras (though depending on the radius, maybe you want to sit in the melee pile to get the auras to them). Tanks will still get beacon(s), so you're rarely going to be healing them directly still anyhow.

You might need to be able to melee the boss, though. We don't know what offensive talents we'll get yet.

The Death of Holy Power (For Holy Paladins)

Holy Power is dead, long live Holy Power (for Ret). I will not shed a tear for Holy Power. As a build/spend mechanic, once we lost the ability to (effectively) generate it outside of Holy Shock, it became pretty lackluster, as it became less a decision to sacrifice some healing or mana now to generate Holy Power faster. Add to that spenders requiring a cast time in Warlords, and aside from Eternal Flame it felt like needless complexity. It was an interesting idea, but it always felt half-baked for Holy.

Light of Dawn becomes just another AoE heal tool--we have no idea if we're keeping Holy Radiance, or if HR is turning into something else--and Holy Shock just becomes a decently powerful instant heal on a short cooldown, though it keeps it's interaction with Holy Light and Flash of Light (see below for more details on the...well, details).

Abilities: New, Old, and Changed
Talents will also provide players with options to incorporate offensive capabilities while healing. When allies are in need, Light of the Martyr allows the Holy Paladin to rapidly heal them by sacrificing personal health.
  • Holy Light
    2.0% Mana, 40 yd range, 2.5 sec cast
    A slow but efficient spell, healing a friendly target for a moderate amount.
  • Flash of Light
    4.0% Mana, 40 yd range, 1.5 sec cast
    A quick but expensive spell, healing a friendly target for a moderate amount.
  • Light of the Martyr
    2.5% Mana, 40 yd range, Instant
    Sacrifices a moderate amount of your own health to instantly heal an ally for a moderate amount.
    Cannot be cast on yourself.
  • Light of Dawn
    4.0% Mana, 1.5 sec cast, 12 sec cooldown
    Unleash a wave of healing energy before you, healing up to 5 injured allies within a 15 yd frontal cone for a moderate amount.
  • Holy Shock
    1.5% Mana, 40 yd range, Instant, 10 sec cooldown
    Instantly trigger a burst of Light on the target, dealing moderate Holy damage to an enemy, or moderate healing to an ally.
    Holy Shock has double the normal critical strike chance.
  • Infusion of Light
    Your Holy Shock criticals reduce the cast time of your next Holy Light by 1.5 sec or increase the healing of your next Flash of Light by 50%.
  • Beacon of Light
    0.5% Mana, 60 yd range, Instant, 3 sec cooldown
    Place a Beacon of Light on a friendly target.
    Your heals on other party or raid members will also heal the Beacon of Light target for up to 50% of the amount healed. Your Flash of Light and Holy Light on the Beacon of Light target will also refund 40% of their Mana cost.
  • Mastery: Lightbringer
    Proximity to your target causes your spells to heal for up to 30% (with Mastery from typical gear) more.
Additionally, to provide a glimpse at how some talents may build upon this, here’s one example of a Holy-specific talent:
  • Beacon of the Lightbringer
    The maximum bonus from Mastery: Lightbringer is increased by 24%, and it now increases your healing based on the target's proximity to either you or your Beacon of Light, whichever is closer.
Ah, meat and potatoes. Let's take a looksee, shall we?

It seems, as they mentioned, the core of Holy Paladin is intended to play similarly as we did before. Holy Shock's cheap cost, cooldown, and effects on Holy Light/Flash of Light means we'll probably cast it almost on cooldown. Or use it in a manner similarly to how Resto Shaman today use Unleash Life (to super-power a Healing Surge if needed). We're still going to Beacon a target mostly permanently (possibly two still, we don't know), so unlike Disc's new temp-Beacons for Atonement, we'll still have steady tank throughput. We'll still primarily cast Holy Light as our default ABC spell (Always Be Casting), if we're not DPSing as they suggest via Talents.

What changes is the positioning thing as mentioned above. we'll want to be close to our healing target, or alternatively if we're raid healing, put a beacon in the melee and stand in the ranged (or vice versa) with Beacon of the Lightbringer so you get your full Mastery bonus on the entire raid.

I really like Light of the Martyr as a concept though. It's very much in the Hand of Sacrifice wheelhouse, and gives us a second instant cast spell mitigating our healing on the move issues. Beacon yourself, though, and you'll get half of the health you spent refunded via Beacon (assuming a moderate amount is the same for damage and healing). It won't let you spam the ability, but assuming it doesn't bypass bubble, the old bubble->HoS trick would work here allowing you to be the most mobile healer for 8 seconds. Or if defensive cooldowns work, Divine Protection + Beacon would make it spammable for a few seconds as well. I have a feeling they'll be adding some restrictions here (or make it bypass everything and just take directly from your health pool).

Potential Pitfalls

I think the biggest potential pitfall here is the Mastery. Depending on how it's balanced, we may just end up sitting on the tanks in fights where we can, which is kinda weird. It also might be effectively required to stack Mastery to be competitive if the devs aren't careful. Depending on how the Mastery scales out geometrically, we could end up being relatively anemic directly healing the ranged pile if we're in melee (or vice versa).

To be fair, our single target throughput is currently anemic. We shine because we can double-beacon the tanks, so our 75% relative single target throughput becomes 150% total throughput (and explodes meters). I don't really see that changing too much, so I expect our throughput to feel even worse when situated 20+ yards from folks. Also, I doubt Beacon heals double-dip, so really you'll probably never heal the tanks directly unless you're on top of them. If you have a choice at 30,000 healing on a tank directly, or 39,000 (+30%) healing on a DPS with 19,500 of Beacon transfer on both tanks, it makes even less sense now to directly heal the tanks--unless they're going to die and you're spamming Flash of Light, in which case, godspeed because woo, comparatively anemic single-target throughput. Though, that's what Lay on Hands/Hand of Sacrifice is for so it might not be so bad.

So the model seems at first blush that it might further enforce a raid spot-healing niche with significant passive tank healing, but if the devs think that's a decent niche, that may be okay.

Positional healing also has the issue where if we're forced to move, our effectiveness now drops even further than it already did. Paladins are not very mobile healers, and while interesting tricks with Light of the Martyr may mitigate that a bit depending if we can use said tricks, moving away from people to spread out or just being on the move often means our Mastery would also get significantly worse. Think Xhul'horac or Gorefiend from HFC.

Overall Thoughts

Despite the potential pitfalls, I'm pretty jazzed. No more Holy Power, more interesting sacrifice-y mechanics with Light of the Martyr meaning we have more interesting combos/decisions, skill shot with Light of Dawn returning, and position meaning something means I'm way more excited about the playstyle potentially being more dynamic and consequently, interesting.

I'll be honest, Warlords has been super boring for Holy. Double Beacon, Holy Shock on cooldown, Holy Light all the things, Eternal Flame when you have >3 HP, break healing meters. Powerful, but boring. Having more to think about would definitely be nice.
#WorldOfWarcraft, #Paladin, #Legion

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