If you saw my column last week, you'll notice that I've been less than thrilled with the way the protection tree had been progressing in the beta. Sure, things have been getting better, but it has felt as if the whole tree is fairly unsettled. With the latest build, we're finally starting to see things get a little smoother and the mechanics to make a little bit more sense. Keeping Holy Shield up is easier than in previous builds, and a lot of depth to the types of strategies we can have while tanking has greatly improved. Also, our mastery bonus has been official revealed.
I'm going to use the same type of disclaimer that I did on the ret talents article. These may not be the talents we'll end up seeing when the expansion hits, but they're getting there. Some talents will look pretty close to how they exist currently, while others have absolutely nothing to do with their current versions. Let's go take a look.
Avenger's Shield What was once our pulling ability is now actually one of our primary rotation abilities. It still acts like it used to, but it has a 24-second cooldown
Vengeance This is a passive tool that will help your threat keep up with the DPS in your party or raid. As your health gets higher, your damage and thus threat will also increase.
Touched by the Light Here's where all of those stamina buff talents got condensed down. Also, the old Touched by the Light's strength to spellpower conversion is also tossed in here for good measure.
Judgements of the Wise Our old mechanic of refreshing Divine Plea with each hit has gone by the wayside. Instead, we regain mana with each Judgement.
Mastery: Divine Bulwark Well, we've received our mastery bonus. It's a little different from what we saw previewed, as this increases our chance to block instead of the amount blocked.
Protector of the Innocent (3 talent points) Improved Devotion Aura (minus the armor increase) and the old Improved Retribution Aura both tacked into a first-tier bonus. Extra healing and threat are never looked down upon.
Seals of the Pure (3 talent points) Primarily a threat talent and something to give retribution paladins access to when grabbing sub-spec talents.
Improved Hammer of Justice (2 talent points) You'll either be grabbing the two talents here or in Protector of the Innocent above to move onto the next level, depending on which type of utility you want to nab. Hammer of Justice is no longer an interrupt, though.
Judgements of the Just (2 talent points) Pretty much the same as live, but with the Hammer of Justice cooldown part removed. However, as Seal of Justice has changed on beta to have the effect of the old Judgement of Justice, the extra 1 second means something entirely different.
Toughness (3 talent points) Why do something in five points when you can do it in three? Again, a repeat of live with a slight alteration. The lowering of snare durations has been removed, but it keeps its 10 percent armor increase.
Guardian's Favor (2 talent points) Exact copy of the live talent. Don't look at me like that; they get more interesting in the next tier.
Hallowed Ground (2 talent points) Consecration on the beta right now costs 55 percent of your base mana (2.5 times what is is on live), lasts 10 seconds and has a 30-second cooldown. This talent takes that down to about 11 percent base mana cost (which is half of live) and bumps up the damage.
Sanctuary (3 talent points) Instead of being a blessing, it is now a passive benefit that's up at all times when talented. This is also where you'll grab your melee critical strike reduction from, as we no longer have defense rating as a stat.
Hammer of the Righteous (1 talent point) It has received some changes from the version on live. Right now, it shares a cooldown with Crusader Strike and, like CS, it grants holy power when used. Also, instead of being target-limited, it works more like Swipe. Your initial target will take most of the damage, with all other targets in melee range being hit with a smaller amount of holy damage. Essentially, this is what you'll be using against groups, and Crusader Strike is what you'll use against single targets.
Wrath of the Lightbringer (2 talent points) Since Blizzard gave Holy Wrath the same treatment as Exorcism so that they can now both be used against any target, this has opened another rotational ability. This bumps the damage and critical strike of that spell, as well as Judgement and Hammer of Wrath, for a bit more threat.
Reckoning (3 talent points) This is pretty similar to what's on live, as well. The change of note is that on live, it works against damaging attacks as well, but in beta, it only works against blocked attacks. Since that is the case, Blizzard has bumped it from a 10 percent chance to a 30 percent chance. Just remember you get a better block chance with higher mastery.
Shield of the Righteous (1 talent point) Major redesign of the original spell. First off, you'll notice it's a talent instead of something that holy paladins can also use. Secondly, it taps into the new holy power system scaling, much like retribution's Templar's Verdict. The more holy power used on it, the more efficient its damage is.
Grand Crusader (2 talent points) As strange as it seems, Avenger's Shield is now a rotational ability sort of like retribution's Exorcism. You'll mainly be waiting for this talent to proc to reset the cooldown on Avenger's Shield so that you can nail your target with it for a sizable chunk of threat (or start to grab the next group).
Divine Guardian (1 talent point) Divine Sacrifice is no more! Instead, we get the extra talents that were originally tacked onto it that were referred to as the "raid wall." This reduces the incoming damage to everyone (except you) by 20 percent on a 2-minute cooldown. The reason it skips you is that the devs didn't want it to become another tanking cooldown. On the bright side, the redirected damage part from Divine Sacrifice is completely gone.
Vindication (2 talent points) Your two holy power producing abilities knock down the incoming physical damage of your target by 10 percent. Not too shabby. The effect lasts for 30 seconds, but you'll be hitting a button that triggers it every third GCD, giving you plenty of wiggle room.
Holy Shield (1 talent point) This is now a proc effect attached to two of your holy power releases. It lasts for 20 seconds, and you'll be able to refresh it after around 13.5 seconds or so. However, this means you'll want to cheat some of your holy power at the beginning of your fights to get it up and running early. This will probably mean a quick Crusader Strike followed by a Shield of the Righteous or Inquisition before going into a real rotation.
Guarded by the Light (2 talent points) Unlike some of the previous talents, which had some resemblance to their counterparts on the live realms, this one is completely different. The only thing that is the same about this talent is the name. It now deals with a small modification of the Val'anyr effect. If you use Word of Glory to heal yourself and you're already at full, it creates a small bubble that absorbs damage. This will probably be the way to go on more magic-damage-based fights instead of using something that procs Holy Shield. I'm still waiting to see what this will look like in level 85 gear.
Sacred Duty (2 talent points) This, unlike its live version, is a threat talent. Pay no attention to its having the same name as a talent on live. The critical strike bonus means you'll want to be hitting Shield of the Righteous at a full 3 holy power to get that extra threat.
Shield of the Templar (3 talent points) As strange as it may seem, we are getting a talent to lower the cooldown of Avenging Wrath. It also bumps down the cooldown of Avenger's Shield from 24 seconds to 15 seconds, making it truly a more rotational ability. Also, one of the few talents we've seen mention Guardian of Ancient Kings (which still isn't implemented, even if we could currently level past 83 in order to get it).
Ardent Defender (1 talent point) Gone are the days of passively kicking in what is essentially Last Stand and Shield Wall combined. Instead, it has become an actual controllable tanking cooldown that you can use in ZOMG emergencies. The reason this version of it wouldn't work on live is due to the ability to die in the blink of an eye. With the reduced danger of insta-death in Cataclysm, we should be able to more accurately predict when we need to use something like this.
The Light and How to Swing It tries to help paladins cope with the dark times coming in Cataclysm. See the upcoming paladin changes the expansion will bring. Wrath is coming to a close and the final showdown with the Lich King is here. With Cataclysm soon heating things up, will you be ready?