Sorry, the above graphic really has nothing to do with today's column, but I wanted to feature more of the new built-in "power auras" that Blizzard added to the game.
As for today's message, I know the following is going to raise some red flags for those long-time paladins out there, but don't freak out. I'm going to ask that you start stepping up and bringing a bit more utility.
Relax, I didn't mean it in a vanilla or BC sort of way when you were sometimes just brought for certain buffs and nothing to do with your damage, tanking or healing. I mean it in a real sense that we do have some utility available to us in addition to everything else that we do, much the same way that hunters' traps bring utility to their class.
The coming expansion is going to be harder than we're used to. We've been just nuking things for so long that a lot of our utility abilities have slowly worked their way off of our toolbars, or we're getting new abilities in the expansion to fill roles we haven't had before.
Let's take a look at what we're going to be expected to start doing once the Cataclysm gets into full swing.
We've all got them. Hand of this, hand of that -- but do you actually use them? I don't really count Hand of Reckoning in this category because until we received it, they were all single-target niche buffs. I'm pretty sure we all use Hand of Salvation. I use it on myself, both tanking (well, off-tanking) and as DPS, to keep my threat down. There's even a glyph you can grab to turn it into a mini-tanking cooldown. It can also be used on the shaman who keeps creeping up on the tank in the threat meters.
Some guilds got use out of Hand of Protection in the Northrend Beasts portion of Trial of the Crusader a raiding tier ago. It wasn't so much the damage negation as it was the ability's knack for removing certain negative effects. I've also known of holy paladins to use it on DPSers who weren't keeping track of their threat and were getting beat on.
One hand spell I tend to use when off-tanking is Hand of Sacrifice. As a healer, off tank or DPSer, you can use this to help spread out the damage from the tank to reduce any big damage spikes. With Cataclysm, we will all end up with more health overall, which will make everyone a little less squishy when helping out in this way, and we won't die as easily.
One of the other hand spells is Hand of Freedom. The problem with this is that it's a little bit harder to tell when you can use it to help someone else out. There are some fights where you know that a certain person is going to be taking a speed debuff (Sindragosa) and will likely need some help getting rid of it in order to move. Otherwise, it really comes down to someone's calling out that they need it or to keeping your eyes open. More often than not, you'll be using it on yourself.
While it does have some resemblance to its Wrath cousin Divine Sacrifice, the new Divine Guardian doesn't have any of the drawbacks. There is no more of the damage redirection from your party or needing to make sure you have some sort of way to mitigate the incoming damage up. It is literally Divine Protection for the raid. Not for you, but for everyone else in your raid.
That's right; it doesn't help you at all. You're being completely selfless by using a keystroke in order to help protect your raid. I've heard some paladins claim that since it doesn't help them, they don't see the need in spending a talent point on it. Some guilds would just knock you back to the second string and put in a paladin who will use it.
Keeping the raid alive is everyone's job in Cataclysm and not just the healer's. Although, if your guild is running two paladins for its tanks, you won't necessarily need both of you to talent into it. Of course, the same goes for any raid buffs and debuffs.
Remember back during The Burning Crusade when people worried about crowd control and we didn't have any? Remember at the beginning of Wrath when Blizzard finally revamped Repentance to be useful outside of PvP and then gave us an entire expansion in which we would just use AoE to kill everything? Well, Cataclysm mixes those two. You've got a cool method of crowd control and you will actually have opportunities to use it.
If you're a retribution paladin and you've got it talented but don't have it placed on your bars anywhere, then you might want to dig it out again. Take it out, knock the dust off of it and re-read what all you can do with it. Repentance keeps them out of the way for a minute, but they'll wake up ticked off if anyone starts beating on them. It is generally usable against anything with an intelligent brain (or remains of one), which includes dragonkin, undead, humanoids, giants and demons. No, you can't CC elementals, beasts or mechanicals (or unknowns like slimes), but it still leaves a lot open.
Anyway, toss the ability on your toolbars and muck with the range a bit in dungeon runs before the expansion hits. If you don't, you might not be ready when someone asks you to step up and take care of a pest.
I know Hammer of Justice sucks. I'm also not asking you to use it. I'm primarily talking to my retribution paladin brothers and sisters. We finally got our own (talented) spell interrupt with a short cooldown. And the PvP rets rejoice.
For those of you not playing PvP, this is also handy for you. Do you remember vaguely hearing in raid or party chat that the feral druid or rogue needs to interrupt some spell at some point? That's what you get to start doing. The new talented ability Rebuke functions just like their interrupts.
Also, I can hear, "But that's the tank's job!" coming from a few of you. Actually, it's not. Sure, three out of four tanks are going to have that same ability available to them, but they're busy worrying about other things. Don't take my word for it, though.
The emphasis above is mine. Blizzard doesn't balance anything around the tank doing that. Pretty much like it doesn't balance encounters around a healer's doing some sort of CC. If you're a DPSer, one of your jobs is to interrupt spells the bad guys are casting. No, you can't interrupt all of them, but there are usually a couple of abilities that are worse than others.
In some encounters, you'll usually have an interrupt rotation. This usually means that each person is in charge of interrupting in a specific order, so that you don't have three people try to interrupt at the same time and then all of them end up being on cooldown for when the next time something is cast. Other times, it really just doesn't matter due to things not being cast that often that you can interrupt.
Everyone will be taking a more active role in things during Cataclysm. Getting used to it now will help prevent some growing pains.
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?