The hot news for last couple of weeks has been all of the April previews for Cataclysm class changes. I do want to take a moment before we dive into more analysis to caveat that these are previews. They're not full and complete changes as much as a sneak peak into the brains of the developers. They're saying things like "intent" and "vision" and "what we have planned." The code's not all written, and it's not all been through beta testing. Heck, any of it could change between now and tomorrow, let alone between now and the time Cataclysm hits the shelves. So the important part is: don't panic.
That being said, these previews do give us a handful of insights into some new raid dynamics. I talked about new abilities like Leap of Faith and Vengeance in last week's Ready Check, but now that we have all of the previews out and published, there's even more to talk about. Let's start with that time-honored tank healers, the holy paladin.
The most interesting thing is the new Healing Hands. (Between Healing Hands and Lay on Hands, paladins are clearly a hands-on healing class.) Like Chase pointed out, paladins finally have some kind of heal they can use when the whole raid is taking damage. The issue is that we don't know exactly what the radius of Healing Hands is going to be -- do we have to be standing virtually on top of the paladin? And how powerful will it be? I have this fun vision of a paladin calling out "Hands in 5!" and then watching a raid stumble over itself to get on top of the paladin.
Holy paladins are also being retooled in their main healing method. They won't just be one big nuke and one little nuke, but have a handful of different options on each side of the "slow and efficient" versus "fast and inefficient" spectrum. It's way too early to talk about whether that will dethrone the classic tank healer from their role, but if you add that together with Healing Hands, it definitely seems like there's going to be a change up in that role. It shouldn't feel quite so wasteful to have a discipline priest and a holy paladin in the same 10-man raid.
More exciting, however, is the changes to Blessings. Blessing of Might and Blessing of Wisdom are finally going to be the same spell. We can assume this alteration will also apply to their Greater cousins. That means when you get a raid together, the enhancement shaman and elemental shaman will no longer engage in mortal combat over what buff their class will receive. (Sure, you could use a mini-Blessing on one or the other, but that can turn into a pain in the neck. Paladins deal with it, but soon they won't have to.) It's a relatively small quality of life issue, really, to everyone who doesn't play a paladin. To those of us micro-managing those buffs, it's going to feel like heaven.
Even while the holy paladin is changing its game up, there's a staple of raid healing that seems to be going away. Of course, I'm talking about the tree. Restoration druids will no longer simply be hanging out as a bush by default; now, they'll only go all sprout-and-leaf as a cooldown. Since this ability will work like Metamorphosis, we don't know whether the spontaneous-tree is going to be a panic button, or just something they spam when it's off cooldown.
We can probably rest assured that restoration druids will still be plenty balanced. Blizzard isn't going to yoink such an iconic ability and then leave the class gimped and unable to perform their role. This is just going to be an aesthetic change. But it's still a pretty big aesthetic change. To me, it's going to feel like a plate tank without their shield -- so different and odd that it just won't feel the same, no matter how much I know it's going to be balanced.
Except for the addition of Vengeance (which we talked to death last week), I don't think that the druid or death knight changes are going to have a huge effect on their tank configuration. Sure, druids will have a couple extra buttons to push, and all death knight tanks are going to be blood, but the basic facts of life for those tanks aren't changing. I'm not sure I even feel like their minor tweaks equal what we saw with the Sunder change. (Again, I should point out, we can't really talk about balance in a knowledgeable fashion, since we have no idea what the actual metrics and numbers are going to look like.)
It'll be interesting to see how many raids will be willing to get their trash lined up in a row so that the mage can send a fiery ball of Flame Orb down the center. And as fun as that idea is, that's not the biggest change for Mages. What's that? You didn't hear?
Mages get Heroism/Bloodlust. Sure, they're calling it Time Warp, but shaman will no longer be the only class able to provide this vital buff. Time Warp has an additional run-speed affect, but I actually expect that to get tacked onto the shaman version as well.
This new ability is probably the most controversial change for mages, since Heroism/Bloodlust has always been the staple of shaman. For all that everyone feels like they absolutely must have the buff in order to run a successful raid, that meant it really sucked that there was only one class that could bring it. For all that some shaman might feel like they're losing their biggest ticket into raids, it's not like the class doesn't bring a dozen other buffs along with it anyway.
I had always thought it would be rogues to pick up the new version of Heroism/Bloodlust, but I'm still glad it's getting mixed up among other classes a bit more.
That's all for this week, folks. Good hunting out there.
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