More than any other class, I think, Paladins underwent significant changes in Patch 3.2. There were changes across all three specs that palpably impact gameplay and challenge players to take a different approach to the way they play their class. I went through most of the changes in detail in an older post, and many of those initial thoughts still hold true, albeit tempered with some experience on the PTR and changes over the past weeks.
There are buffs and there are nerfs, but the main thing to keep in mind is that this is Blizzard's constant balancing act. As the game progresses, I feel that they're finally honing in to the proper vision for the class. We won't go through all the changes here, but we'll break them down according to what impacts the class in general and according to spec. Let's bathe in the Light after the break...
One change that affects all classes is the level required to learn mounts, with the epic Charger spell now learned at Level 40 instead of 61 or quested at Level 60. In fact, the change effectively neuters the quest line, which is a sad day for lore nerds, role-players, and good, old, fun gameplay. Learning the Warhorse at Level 20 saves a bit of Gold, which isn't saying much, really, considering how easy it is to acquire Gold these days. On the topic of mounts, Druids in bird forms now also benefit from Crusader Aura.
There's been a seal switch-up. Seal of Blood (as well as its Alliance counterpart) is dead. The coolest seal name is no longer in the game. On the other hand, Seal of Command has been reworked to become a nerfed Seal of Blood. So technically, it's really Seal of Casino that kicked the bucket. What does this mean? It means that the best Retribution Seal actually becomes available to leveling Paladins earlier instead of at a ridiculous Level 64. It's a smart move considering only old school nostalgia was the only thing that kept Seal of Command in play, anyway.
An overdue change is that all Judgements are now considered melee attacks that cannot be blocked, dodged, or parried, so all melee bonuses apply or conversely, all abilities that count melee attacks will consider all Judgements. Speaking of judgements and homogenization, Judgement of Light no longer scales off spell and attack power, but is now a flat 2% of maximum health. This means that Judgement assignments are essentially interchangeable among the different specs (JoL was formerly a Retribution Pally's assignment).
I'm going to include changes here that affect the entire class but mostly affect gameplay as a Holy Paladin, such as the buff to the Sacred Shield and Flash of Light combo. Although usable by any spec, it is ultimately most useful to healers, who (should) apply Sacred Shield on primary targets at all times. It's an excellent buff, and is great for mobility fights. The change to Improved Lay on Hands to absorb 20% physical damage instead of an armor increase is pretty much a buff, as well, being more beneficial to tanks who already suffer from armor diminishing retursn. More interestingly, Blizzard also buffed Beacon of Light massively, now counting total healing instead of healing done and increasing the range from 40 to 60 yards. That's just huge. Add to that the fact that it now stacks with other Beacons from other Paladins, and you've got a talent that's borderline overpowered.
Of course, Blizzard knew that, which prompted the necessary (alright, don't argue with me on this, take it to Ghostcrawler) nerfs to mana and mana regeneration. Divine Intellect was nerfed to grant 10% bonus Intellect, down from 15%, and Illumination - the poster child of Holy Pally nerfs - was beaten down to 30% from 60%. What does this mean? Both nerfs hurt a whole lot. You'll want loads of Intellect even more now (what's new?) but you'll also be eyeing some MP5 gear more than ever (oh my God!).
The first two changes are a matter of convenience - one, Blessing of Sanctuary also now increases Stamina by 10%, which means if there's a shortage of Paladins, the blessing should cover for the potential absence of Blessing of Kings. The other, Righteous Fury also no longer has a duration (hooray!), so you pop it on once and forget about it. Until you die, that is. Hand of Reckoning was reworked to be a taunting spell, as was intended, without dealing some silly damage when not necessary. Goodbye to fun PvP usage. Also, Shield of Righteousness was rebalanced to reflect the increased effectivity of Block, and now has diminishing returns to prevent it from scaling into some Captain Insano damage. But it also now (again) has bonus threat.
All very well and good. Nothing exciting there. Check this out... Ardent Defender has been redesigned. It reduces any damage that would take you below 35% health and heals you for up to 30% maximum health if any blow would kill you. It's kind of like Cheat Death and Last Stand had a beautiful baby and named it Sexy McAwesome. This means Paladin tanks will no longer get instagibbed when they're at 36% life or something and the old Ardent Defender was sleeping at the gate. No, really, it's freaking crazy. Oh, and the 30% healing is based off Defense, so don't get any ideas of being unkillable in PvP. I mean, even more than you already are, of course.
And then there's Vindication. What, you say? Isn't Vindication a Retribution PvP talent? Well, before Blizzard decided to cut off its family jewels with a rusty spoon, sure. Now it's like an unconscious Demoralizing Shout, which actually works great for tanks. It also seems to play nice with Hammer of the Righteous and Avenger's Shield. Since you're probably still overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness of Ardent Defender, now would be a good time to tell you that Guarded by the Light no longer refreshes Divine Plea through Judgements.
I'm putting the Exorcism change here because, let's face it, the 1.5 second cast time now takes it off the table for Protection Paladins. Now the only Paladins who will really use it are Retribution Paladins, and event then they still need to wait for an Art of War proc. Kind of dumb, but at least it's usable on players again. I'm also plugging in the change to Seal of Vengeance / Seal of Corruption here because it's been reworked to become some sort of slow build up DPS seal. Tanks will use it, anyway, but I mention it here because it's actually a great PvE DPS spell for long fights. As long as the stacks don't slough off, it's an awesome Seal of Blood homage with double damage crits (!). If the debuff disappears during those fights where the boss runs off for a bit or something, it's kind of like garbage.
Crusader Strike was also rebalanced to have a 4 second cooldown and deal 75% damage. The lower cooldown creates more interesting rotations, more seal procs, and more consistent DPS throughput. The loser? Retribution PvP, which has yet again been kicked in the nutsack. Burst damage was reduced, but there's still no sign of the promised utility. Oh well. Something to look forward to in Patch 3.3, I suppose.
There are a few other changes that affect the class, such as relevant glyph changes, as well as important bug fixes - such as auras that persist through death (finally!). Patch 3.2 continued to hone the Paladin arguably more than any other class. In PvE, Paladins are in a much better place, albeit with some adjustments needed, particularly for healers. In PvP, not so much as Holy Paladins take a mana hit and Retribution Paladins lose their burst trump card. Paladins get faction-specific armor, the sweetest iteration of Arena gear, and oh, a horsey. Not a bad patch, overall, I would say.
| WoW's Patch 3.2 ushers in the Crusaders' Coliseum, the Isle of Conquest, flying mounts at 60, and much more. WoW.com has all the patch information your Worgen obsessed mind can handle in WoW.com's Guide to Patch 3.2!