Legion Paladin Preview

We’ve finally seen all of the previews of each class and specialization heading into Legion. I wanted to wait until all of the healers had been previewed before writing this in case there were any fundamental healing design changes that might have been apparent from the non-Paladin healer previews.

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General Changes

The single biggest change to healing is the removal of absorption (mostly). And there was much rejoicing. Discipline Priests will still have Power Word: Shield, but it will have a six second cooldown, and Paladins lose their absorption mastery, Illuminated Healing. Similarly, they are removing a lot of absorption mechanics from tank specializations as well. I think this is a great change for healing. Absorbs are an interesting mechanic, but they have been too powerful for quite some time and lead to an unhealthy imbalance between healers.

The second big change to healers is a higher emphasis on damage.  Discipline Priests have become a specialization that spends a significant portion of their time converting damage to healing; however, Mistweaver Monks have lost their ability to “fistweave” and, as a result, have lost their immunity to specific ranged-only mechanics. Each healer will now level as their healing specialization and accrue Artifact Power for their healing Artifact weapon rather than level as a damage-dealing spec and change back to healing later.  To me, this implies that our damage will be respectable.  My guess is that our damage will be relatively similar to a tank specialization’s damage-per-second.

In the same vein, healers will be spending more time doing damage when less healing is required.  I should clarify that it’s not absolutely confirmed that we will spend time doing damage on progression bosses, but it was implied during a Q&A on classes during Blizzcon, and the change to healers’ ability to deal damage only reinforces the idea. I’m a little skeptical about this. I know that there’s still a lot of information that isn’t available to us yet, so I’ll hold off on my Final Verdict (ba dum tss), but I will voice some concerns:

  1. Doing damage isn’t that much fun to me.  I chose a healer for myriad reasons, but one of them is the spontaneity that healing provides. I really appreciate the kinds of choices healers have to make to carefully balance between throughput and efficiency. I don’t see the same choices being made by DPS. Now, I realize that any time spent doing damage would probably not be for an extended period of time, but I would appreciate as much time healing and as little time doing damage as possible.
  2. I would prefer that raid cooldowns were toned down instead of giving us more damage for times when we don’t need the cooldowns. Currently, you only need as many healers as you need cooldowns (except Resto Shaman, who count as 8. Just kidding, but seriously).  The healing intensive mechanics on a fight are blanketed with raid cooldowns and the rest of the fight is more or less trivial for the team of healers to deal with. This becomes more and more apparent as we move into later tiers of the expansion. I would love for raid cooldowns to become much more supplemental instead of finding the “lots-of-raid-damage” ability and matching a cooldown to it. The cooldowns could supplement your healing composition’s weaknesses. Are we falling behind on raid healing because we don’t have enough throughput healers? Tranquility, Healing Tide Totem, and Revival are great.  Do we have to move and don’t have enough healers with mobile healing? Devotion Aura to the rescue. Do we have too few single-target healers and a few people are taking lots of damage? Spirit Link Totem! This is from my perspective as a Mythic raider and I acknowledge that it may not be the same for everyone, but it seems like removing the degree of homogenization between how healing cooldowns are used could make them less boring for every difficulty.

Holy Paladin Changes

The developers have finally decided that we should actually be in the front lines with our plate armor, but they also decided to take away our shields.  I’m getting mixed signals, Blizzard! From the Paladin preview blog:

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 no longer have Illuminated Healing; it’s been replaced with a new mastery, called Lightbringer, that increases our healing based on our proximity to the target. There have been a lot of mixed feelings about this change.  There’s no way I could possibly assuage all of them, but I will say that I’m not worried about it… yet. We only have the approximated “30% mastery from typical gear” to work with, but without any indication of range, it’s hard to quantify how exactly good it will be. I fear that some people are worrying too much about maximizing the benefit on every single person in the raid and are losing sight of the nature of healing as a team.  It’s very possible that we will become predominantly melee/tank healers on some encounters. That’s not a bad thing. If anything, it encourages more diversity among healing styles, and I am very much in favor of that.

The blog also alludes to a talent row of localized auras.  I can only guess that Devotion Aura will probably be among that row, though maybe a muted version of what we currently have. Without any more information, we’ll just have to wait and see, but I am very excited to see Auras become a more prominent feature for Holy Paladins.

Basic Abilities

Basic Abilities

A big change to our basic abilities is that we not longer have Holy Power. Hurray!  I could probably spend some time talking about why I agree whole-heartedly with this change, but the horse is already dead, so I’ll move on.

Holy Light and Flash of Light are staying pretty much exactly the same and, thus, not much to discuss.

Light of the Martyr

The first change comes from a new spell, called Light of the Martyr. This spell is very interesting. We still don’t have word on whether or not it will be a one-to-one transfer of health, and we still don’t know if it will be based on spell power or maximum health. From the available information we can assume that this is supposed to be our ability to use while moving; however, I’m slightly confused about why we will want to use this ability.  The wording implies a one-to-one ratio of health lost to healing produced.  If that is the case, then I would only ever want to use this ability to save someone’s life. Otherwise, it becomes a zero sum ability and we might as well not cast anything and save the mana. It’s probable that the damaging component of Light of the Martyr will be a static percent of Spell Power and the healing component will be affected by other healing multipliers, like critical strike, versatility, and mastery. This would obviously make the ability a little better, but it’s still not entirely effective.  We would need at least a combination of 80% from mastery and crit (i.e. 40% mastery and 40% crit) to have a net gain of as much healing as a single Holy Light or Flash of Light (versatility does double dip in its effectiveness for this ability, but since versatility’s priority is so low for all other abilities, it wouldn’t be worth it to gear for versatility just for the increase on this one ability). This is also all at the risk of killing ourselves, whether as a direct result of casting the heal, or as a consequence to having a later mechanic kill us because we were too low on health–not something I’m a fan of.

Paladins are used to having to stutter step to accomplish casting while moving and could definitely use some love on the mobility front, but I’m not convinced this is an answer. I’m not trying to shoot this down before we get to see it in action, but we definitely need more information on how this works or how talents might influence its design.

Light of Dawn

Due to the removal of Holy Power, Light of the Dawn has acquired a 4% mana cost and a 12 second cooldown.  It has also been changed to be a frontal cone, healing up to five (no longer six) allies in a 15 yard cone in front of you.  This will likely function similarly to Holy Prism (though markedly weaker) in that we will probably want to use this ability as close to on cooldown as possible–even if it’s overhealing.  It’s very hard to make any kind of rotational calculations based on the ambiguous phrasing, but the only thing we have to go on is “moderate” healing to five allies.  Both Flash of Light and Holy Light also heal for “a moderate amount”.  If these numbers end up being relatively close, the potential beacon transfer from overhealing would still be higher from Light of Dawn than Holy Light or Flash of Light. Historically, single-target heals have had a 50% transfer rate and area-of-effect healing has had a 15% transfer rate. Even with the lower transfer rate, Light of Dawn will still transfer roughly 50% more healing through Beacon of Light.

Holy Shock

Holy Shock has had its cooldown increased from 6 seconds to 10 seconds.  The mana cost remains the same, but it’s too early to tell exactly how much healing it will do. The wording of the blog post implies that the base coefficients of all of our healing abilities will be similar, which would more than double the amount of healing that Holy Shock does.  Even with an increase to healing, the increased cooldown is a bigger concern.  Our synergy with critical strike revolves around Holy Shock being the generator of Infusion of Light procs, so I’m curious as to why this change was made. On the one hand, having a higher base heal will make Holy Shock a more worthwhile use of a GCD, but the longer cooldown will mean that it will still be a relatively similar portion of our overall healing and we’ll have less Infusion of Light procs.

A recent tweet from @WarcraftDevs confirmed that haste will still lower the cooldown of rotational abilities

Haste Tweet

This tweet was in reference to a question about Paladins in general, but this will more than likely still apply to Holy Shock for Holy Paladins. It will be interesting to see if Light of Dawn will be considered a “rotational ability” as well. The longer cooldown of Holy Shock makes me think that we might have some options for low-cooldown abilities as talents, but if their cooldown isn’t also affected by haste we might find some strange idiosyncrasies involving specific haste breakpoints where we can cast a specific number of haste-affected casts and cooldowns between the static cooldowns from talents.

Infusion of Light

There are two intriguing changes to Infusion of Light. The first change is the absence of Holy Radiance’s cast time being reduced. I would imagine that this signifies the death of Holy Radiance. It wasn’t listed as one of our basic abilities and doesn’t seem like a worthwhile talent, so it probably got left on the cutting room floor. I can’t say that I’m sad to see it go, but I am a little surprised given how well it would synergize with our new mastery.

The second change is that it no longer gives a passive 10% haste. I have a feeling that this has probably been reallocated to a different passive ability (it never made much sense on Infusion of Light) or is somehow baked into the tuning of other abilities. If neither is accurate and it’s just gone, then this is a pretty big nerf. Each unique source of haste (i.e. total haste from items, haste from Avenging Wrath, haste from the Tier 18 4-piece bonus) is applied multiplicatively rather than additively (like other secondary stats). The 5% critical strike raid buff simply adds 5% to your critical strike chance; the 5% haste buff increases your previous haste by 5% and then adds 5% on top of that. Each new source of haste increases the effectiveness of haste on items, so losing 10% haste and a unique source of haste is a substantial nerf.

Beacon of Light

Although how the ability functions hasn’t changed, the reduced mana cost is telling. The mana cost wasn’t changed by much (from 0.625% of max mana to 0.5%), but the reduction implies that we’ll be casting it more than we are now. I may be reading too much into this, but I think they may have gotten rid of Beacon of Faith and expect us to swap Beacon much more regularly. I also kind of hope that this is the case. Some of you may think I’m crazy, but Beacon of Faith is too strong. I think that alleviating a healer from having to babysit tanks for every encounter is a good thing, but Beacon of Faith made it too easy and, as a result, made Paladins mandatory for most healing compositions. There are lots of other reasons why Paladins were so good throughout Warlords, but Beacon of Faith is one of the biggest culprits.

Unfortunately, I think this is a difficult problem to solve; giving every healer a mini Beacon (like Discipline Priests’ new Atonement) is unimaginative, but forcing healers to spend so much effort on healing tanks is boring for healers. Likewise, tanks have to take enough damage that forces active mitigation or their job can feel trivial. I don’t necessarily want to be swapping Beacon of Light every time the tanks swap–that’s a lot of energy and focus–but I also empathize with the designers trying to fix this problem. Having tanks deal with most of their own survivability through absorbs and self-healing is a potential solution, but then Beacon of Light and, to an extent, Atonement would feel somewhat worthless.

I would not be surprised to see the entire level 100 talent row changed, and one of them is probably the new talent that was previewed.

Lightbringer Talent

At first glance, I thought this said that it was a flat increase to mastery by 24%, but after thinking about it a little more, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.  The Devs have already confirmed that the mastery scales “generally linear” with distance and there is a minimum radius at which anyone inside will receive 100% of the mastery effect. For the purpose of this example, I’m going to assume that the minimum radius is 10 yards and 30% base mastery from items because that was their estimate in the blog.

Without the new talent, anyone from 0-10 yards will receive 30% increased healing, anyone at 25 yards will receive 15% increased healing, and anyone at max distance of 40 yards will receive 0% increased healing. With the Beacon of the Lightbringer talent, anyone from 0-10 yards will receive 54% (+24%) increased healing, anyone at 25 yards will receive 27% (+12%) increased healing, and anyone at 40 yards will still receive 0% increased healing. The effectiveness of this passive will also scale with distance. Assuming you’re taking this talent to ensure that the entire raid is within roughly 15 yards of either yourself or your beacon, the new mastery would still be at around 45% effectiveness for people at 15 yards. That’s a lot of baseless napkin math, but if it ends up being relatively close, then this talent is not too shabby. Again, these are not real numbers, they’re just to show how the talent will most likely work.

Final Thoughts

As is the case with every spec, it’s really hard to know exactly what we’re in for in Legion without seeing the talents. They’ve hinted at a whole lot of new talents that will have a big impact on our playstyle and I’m interested to see what will stay and what will be completely different. I’m also curious as to whether or not they’re going to overhaul the Draenor Perks based on the new abilities, or if they’re just going to change around the ones that become defunct. Enhanced Holy Shock will be even more influential with the longer cooldown on Holy Shock.

I’m optimistic about about our new mastery and the challenges that come with it (especially if we aren’t given the ranged-only mechanic immunity). I’m anxious to see how all of our abilities will mesh with new talents and changed cooldowns, but I’m still worried about Light of the Martyr. Hopefully we’ll get some new information soon that puts some of my fears to rest. Most of all, I’m just happy to be getting new information. Beta soon, please!

Thanks for reading!


2 thoughts on “Legion Paladin Preview

  1. Beals February 22, 2016 / 12:42 pm

    Thanks for the introduction into the Legion Holy Pala. I’am always looking for information which explain abilities, stat wights and talent combinations combined with theorycrafting in detail. Some of the *Guides* we can find only explains “crit is good”, use “Flash of Light after Holy Shock” and so on, but without explaining why. Therefor I’am very pleased to find a blog like Sacred Shielding and want to read more. 🙂


    The links show us ability updates, talent tree and a Artifact Weapon calculator. I play WoW since 1 year and start raiding 6 Month ago. So it is hard for me as newbie to identify a good talent combination or a playstyle. Maybe it gives an idea to you, how we play the Paladin in Legion. And maybe you would like to show us a little bit about your ideas. I would be glad.


    Sorry for my bad English 😉


    • Dreamguard February 22, 2016 / 9:21 pm

      I’m glad you enjoy it!

      I haven’t posted about Legion changes and playstyle just yet because we’ve only had Holy Paladins on the Alpha for a few weeks and we haven’t been able to raid test with them, so I’m not really sure how it’s going to play until I get to test more.

      I’ll be sure to update once I get a better idea myself.


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