I have to confess that I couldn't wait to write this part of the series, if for nothing other than I just love the paladin class. Paladins get a brand new resource on top of mana in 4.0.1, the exciting holy power that is bound to see a little more tweaking throughout Cataclysm. A few changes are going to happen from here until the expansion, such as a critical change to Divine Storm that will no longer require its dependence on holy power. Little tweaks like these will find their way to the game, which will make gameplay better for players everywhere (and we can finally use Divine Storm again, yay!). It should be clear that things are slightly different now than how they'll be in the expansion.
For now, we'll take a look at all the talents that should prepare us for Cataclysm PvP. I might sound like a broken record every time I say this, but paladin PvP really gets more interesting this time around. The new mechanic brings in a new flavor to the game experience, and the new talents are just a lot of fun. Let's dive right into it.
Holy paladin PvP The amazing thing about holy paladin PvP this time around is that it's a very in-your-face kind of game ... it's a highly survivable spec with more than a few offensive tricks up its sleeve. You'll enjoy the Holy Shock specialization ability more than ever, with options to put more weight on offensive capability. The shockadin spec lives because all holy paladins are technically shockadins, which makes this discussion somewhat interesting -- we'll take a look at a full support spec, but we go over at all those offensive spells, too. While these talents were intended to assist leveling, they also make a holy paladin capable of dealing a bit of hurt in PvP. Let's see what the tree has got:
- Protector of the Innocent This talent was stupidly good. It was so freakishly, wonderfully, sexy good that I wanted to take this talent away, hide it, and protect it from Ghostcrawler, who was destined at some point in the dark future to take his cursed Nerfhammer® and smite it to the ground. This was quite arguably the best talent to come out from the patch -- not just for paladins, but for all classes. It's a scaling self-heal that triggers automatically with every direct heal, including those targeted at the caster. Unfortunately, this talent is going to be changed in Cataclysm to no longer proc with self-targeted heals, which makes it significantly less sexy and useful. Still a good PvP talent, though. Just not as godly in the expansion. Enjoy it while you can.
- Clarity of Purpose This offers a flat 0.5 second shaved off the casting times of those massive nuke heals. What's our PvP mantra? Faster is better. So three points for this bland and unexciting talent is non-negotiable. It's expensive, but it pays big dividends.
- Last Word As a holy paladin, you'll be using those holy power stacks for Word of Glory as much as you can because it's free and instant, two magic words in PvP. This talent makes it an almost guaranteed crit when used on targets on the brink of death (or 35 percent health, whichever is lower), which makes it an important part of your healing toolbox. Maintaining full stacks of holy power becomes an art when watching over someone's health, because you'll want to have three stacks for when your target dips below 35 percent. Last word allows you to fire off a high crit chance Word of Glory to buy time for that gigantic nuke heal.
- Denounce This is the talent that had all those closet shockadins giggling to themselves in glee. Exorcism is a powerful ranged DPS spell that gained a casting time and a hefty mana cost but had its long cooldown reduced to 0. Not a bad tradeoff, right? Except this talent shaves a ton off that mana cost and gives Holy Shock a 50 percent chance to proc an instant and free Exorcism. Think about that for a moment. That gives holy paladins Holy Shock, longer-range Judgements, and procced Exorcism in their kiting toolbox -- instant-cast spells on short cooldowns. The only thing you'll need is a true snare. But you're a healer in plate, so who cares?
- Divine Favor Faster is better, which makes this one point investment a no-brainer. It's a 3-minute-cooldown, activated spell to help you out in those clutch situations.
- Infusion of Light and Speed of Light Notice how everything is about making things faster? Both talents should make those direct heals easier to cast in PvP, with Holy Shock as the necessary linchpin that sets the chain reaction of speed. In Cataclysm, you'll get Holy Radiance, which is a self-originating AoE heal with a long, 1-minute cooldown. The bonus is this talent reduces the cooldown to 30 seconds and gives a 60 percent speed boost for 4 seconds every time you cast it. What does this mean? It means you'll need to run into and out of the fray to juice the most of this heal. The speed boost isn't exactly a true kiting tool, unfortunately, but it definitely helps.
- Daybreak If Holy Shock is the linchpin spell, the developers are certainly driving home the point with Daybreak, which encourages the use of other spells but ultimately grants you more Holy Shock love. If there's anything better than an instant-cast spell, it's an instant-cast spell that doesn't trigger any cooldown. Well, it could be free, too, but that would just be obscene.
- Enlightened Judgements This is why spirit will be important to you, the holy paladin, in Cataclysm. Sure, there's that whole thing with mana, but you'll get that sweet bonus to hit, too. Never mind that the range bonus has been reduced to a piddly 10 yards, you'll want to keep casting Judgement in PvP anyway because this talent makes it heal you. And if you really want to hit from afar, you can pick up Improved Judgements from tier 1 of the retribution tree. Take that, Protector of the Innocent nerf!
- Beacon of Light Did I say holy is a survivable spec? I'm sorry, I meant impossible to kill. Holy paladins in PvP will usually throw the bacon on themselves, which not only makes them delicious but also allows them to heal their team while healing themselves at the same time. The talent has been nerfed significantly, but the lower cost means you can toss it around and heal two people at the same time with higher frequency. If I'm not mistaken, Beacon of Light also doesn't trigger the global cooldown, making it possible to cast it on one target simultaneously with a big heal on another.
- Sacred Cleansing The nerf to Cleanse makes this a non-negotiable investment, allowing holy paladins to remove magic effects. The nerf crippled protection and retribution's PvP survivability and utility significantly, making those specs highly susceptible to various forms of crowd control. Sacred Cleansing makes holy paladins incredibly resilient, especially in the new environment, where generally only healing specs are capable of breaking magical effects. Because spamming Cleanse can cause you to bleed out your mana very quickly (it goes off even without a targeted spell effect), glyphing with Glyph of Cleanse (major) isn't such a bad idea.
- Aura Mastery You won't believe how impossibly annoying this spell can be to classes that can interrupt. It is one of your most important spells in your toolbox, especially if you'll be playing a support role. You probably won't need this as much in a battleground environment, where healers can get away with a lot, but it's still a powerful spell to have for those high-pressure situations. In a pinch, use it to give a boost to Crusader Aura when you need to get your group to a battlefield objective in a hurry.
- Paragon of Virtue So you think you're annoying being hard to kill with new and powerful instant heals? Try on the new and improved Divine Protection every 40 seconds for more laugh-in-your-opponent's-face action. Paragon of Virtue also reduces the cooldown of Avenging Wrath by 1 minute.
- Blessed Life Now this puts your opponents in a tough situation -- every time they hit you, you gain a charge of holy power, which means they keep pushing you closer to a Word of Glory. Since this effect only procs every 2 seconds, they theoretically have to dish out more damage in 6 seconds than one Word of Glory. Not such a tall order, but when you figure in all the other heals you can get off in that time, it becomes a truly discouraging task. (EDIT: Reader HeroJÃ©z points out that this will be nerfed in Cataclysm to proc only every 8 seconds!)
Divine Plea was nerfed big time in 4.0.1, and there are no longer any mana refunds from crits, so if there's one tiny chink in the holy paladin's armor, it's less powerful mana gain. It's still a powerful spec that's infinitely more fun to play -- there are several procs to watch out for and a lot of ways to solve problems on the battlefield. The best part? When all else fails, there's always Divine Shield.