[Updated] Wrath Beta patch notes: Paladin part I

Zach Yonzon
Z. Yonzon|07.18.08

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[Updated] Wrath Beta patch notes: Paladin part I

Faith has been rewarded. The Paladin changes have finally been revealed in the Wrath of the Lich King beta patch notes, and from a quick review of things... I'm just blown away. It appears as though Blizzard really seems to be on top of its game and isn't afraid to shake things up in order to get things right. Paladins are getting major changes to key abilities, and all of them seem like direct responses to grievances that have been aired in the past.

The talent trees are being moved around yet again (remember when Blessing of Kings used to be the 31-point Retribution talent?), but this time the changes seem to make more sense. There are major overhauls to some talents and abilities, as well as a removal of others. The changes are geared towards streamlining the trees and abilities, Blizzard remorselessly paring down the unnecessary and consolidating what needs to be rolled together. A list of the changes and my analysis after the jump.

Paladin patch notes from the Wrath Beta (UPDATED with spells from The WotLK Information Wiki:
  • All Auras now affect all party and raid members within the area of effect.
  • Anticipation (Protection) moved to tier 1, now increases chance to dodge by 1/2/3/4/5%.
  • Avenger's Shield (Protection) cast time reduced to .5 seconds, duration increased to 10 seconds.
  • Avenging Wrath no longer causes Forebearance, damage increase reduced to 20%, now increases healing done by 20%.
  • Blessing of Freedom renamed Hand of Freedom. Only one Hand spell can be on the target per paladin at any one time. Now costs 6% of base mana.
  • Blessing of Light and Greater Blessing of Light removed. Their effects have been folded into all relevant abilities.
  • Blessing of Protection renamed Hand of Protection. Only one Hand spell can be on the target per paladin at any one time. All ranks now cost 6% of base mana.
  • Blessing of Sacrifice renamed Hand of Sacrifice, is now only 1 rank and transfers 20% of the damage taken to the caster, duration reduced to 12 seconds, cooldown increased to 2 minutes. Only one Hand spell can be on the target per paladin at any one time. Now costs 6% of base mana.
  • Blessing of Salvation renamed Hand of Salvation, now reduces total threat on the target by 2% per second for 10 seconds while also reducing all damage and healing done by 10%. Only one Hand spell can be on the target per paladin at any one time. Now costs 6% of base mana.
  • Conviction (Retribution) now increases critical chance with all spells and melee attacks.
  • Divine Intellect (Holy) moved to tier 2, increases total Intellect by 3/6/9/12/15%.
  • Divine Intervention cooldown reduced to 20 minutes.
  • Divine Protection and Divine Shield now cost 3% of base mana.
  • Divine Purpose (Retribution) now reduces chance to be hit by spells and ranged attacks by 1/2/3%.
  • Divine Strength (Holy) moved to tier 1 in the Protection tree.
  • Greater Blessing of Salvation removed.
  • Hammer of Justice now costs 3% of base mana.
  • Hammer of Wrath is now considered a Retribution spell, moved from Holy, mana cost reduced, missile speed increased, now usable on targets below 35% health.
  • Healing Light (Holy) moved to tier 2.
  • Holy Shield (Protection) cooldown reduced to 8 seconds.
  • Holy Shock (Holy) range changed to 20/40 yards when used on enemies/friends respectively, cooldown reduced to 6 seconds.
  • Holy Wrath is now instant cast, causes a 3 second stun, cooldown reduced to 30 seconds, radius reduced to 10 yards.
  • Illumination (Holy) moved to tier 3.
  • Improved Concentration Aura (Protection) moved to the Holy tree.
  • Improved Concentration Aura moved from the Protection tree to tier 4 in the Holy tree.
  • Improved Devotion Aura (Protection) moved to tier 4, reduced to 3 ranks, now increases armor of Devotion Aura by 17/34/50% and increases all healing done to units affected by Devotion Aura by 1/2/3%.
  • Improved Hammer of Justice (Protection) now reduces cooldwon by 10/20/30 secs.
  • Improved Righteous Fury (Protection) threat bonus folded into base spell, talent still reduces all damage taken by 2/4/6%.
  • Improved Sanctity Aura (Retribution) renamed Sanctified Retribution, now causes all units affected by Retribution Aura to cause 2% more damage.
  • Improved Seal of Righteousness (Holy) moved to tier 1, renamed XXX, now affects Seal of Righteousness, Seal of Vengeance and Seal of Corruption.
  • Improved Seal of the Crusader (Retribution) renamed Heart of the Crusader and the effects now apply to all Judgement spells.
  • Judgement of Justice will no longer prevent Fear effects, only prevent NPCs from fleeing (e.g. at low health).
  • Lay on Hands no longer drains all mana, cooldown reduced to 20 minutes.
  • Pure of Heart (Holy) reduced to 2 ranks, now reduces duration of Curse and Disease effects by 25/50%.
  • Redoubt (Protection) moved to tier 2.
  • Repentance (Retribution) mana cost changed to 9% of base, duration increased to 1 minute (10 second PvP duration), now usable against Demons, Dragonkin, Giants, Humanoids and Undead.
  • Retribution Aura damage increased and now gains damage based on Holy spell power.
  • Righteous Fury now increases threat caused by Holy damage by 90%.
  • Sanctified Light (Holy) now also increases the critical chance of Holy Shock.
  • Sanctity Aura (Retribution) removed.
  • Seal of Justice/Judgement reduced to 1 rank with all the effects of the previous rank 2, the Judgement effect no longer prevents Fear.
  • Seal of the Crusader has been removed. The effects of Judgement of the Crusader have been folded into all relevant abilities.
  • Seal of Vengeance damage over time effect duration increased to 18 seconds.
  • Spiritual Focus (Holy) moved to tier 1.
  • Stoicism (Protection) moved to tier 2, now reduces duration of Stun effects by 10/20/30% and reduces chance your spells will be resisted by 10/20/30%.
  • Toughness (Protection) moved to tier 3.
  • Turn Undead (ranks 1 and 2) removed. Turn Evil now granted at level 24, mana cost changed to 9% of base.
  • Unyielding Faith (Holy) moved to tier 2.
From the WotLK Information Wiki:
  • Seal of Corruption - Fills the Paladin with holy power, granting each melee attack additional Holy damage over $53742d. This effect can stack up to $53742u times. Only one Seal can be active on the Paladin at any one time. Lasts $d.
  • Blessed Hands (Requires 20 points in Holy) - Reduces the mana cost and increases the resistance to Dispel effects of all Hand spells by 15/30%
  • Infusion of Light (Requires 35 points in Holy) - Your Holy Shock critical hits reduce the cast time of your next Holy Light spell by 1.25/2.5 secs.
  • Sacred Cleansing (Requires 40 points in Holy) - Your Cleanse spell has a 10/20/30% chance to increase the target's resistance to Disease, Magic and Poison by 30% for 10 sec.
  • Enlightened Judgements (Requires 40 points in Holy) - Increases the range of your Judgement spells by 10/20 yards.
  • Judgements of the Pure (Requires 45 points in Holy) - Your Judgement spells increase your casting and melee haste by 2/4/6/8/10% for 30 secs.
  • Beacon of Light (Requires 50 points in Holy) - The target becomes a Beacon of Light, healing all party or raid members within 10 yards for 2000 over 15 sec. (Rank 5, Level 80, 2330 mana, 1.5 sec Cast)
  • Divine Guardian (Requires 15 points in Protection) - While Divine Shield is active 15/30% of all damage taken by party or raid members within 30 yards is redirected to the Paladin.
  • Touched by the Light (Requires 40 points in Protection) - Increases your spell power by an amount equal to 10/20/30% of your Stamina and increases the amount healed by your critical heals by 10/20/30%.
  • Guarded by the Light (Requires 40 points in Protection) - Whenever you parry or dodge an attack you have a 10/20% chance to reduce the mana cost of your next Consecration, Holy Wrath or Avenger's Shield spell by 25/50%.
  • Shield of the Templar (Requires 45 points in Protection) - Increases the damage and reduces the mana cost of your Holy Shield, Avenger's Shield and Shield of Righteousness spells by 5/10/15%.
  • Judgements of the Just (Requires 45 points in Protection) - Your Judgement spells also reduce the melee attack speed of the target by 10/20%.
  • Hammer of the Righteous (Requires 50 points in Protection) - Hammer the current target and up to 2 additional nearby targets, causing $s1% of weapon damage as Holy damage. This ability causes high threat.
  • Heart of the Crusader (Requires 5 points in Retribution) - In addition to the normal effect, your Judgement spells will also increase the critical strike chance of all attacks made against that target by 1/2/3/4/5%.
  • Sanctified Retribution (Requires 20 points in Retribution) - Damage caused by targets affected by Retribution Aura is increased by 2%.
  • Sheath of Light (Requires 20 points in Retribution) - Increases your spell power by an amount equal to 10/20/30% of your attack power and your critical healing spells heal the target for 20/40/60% of the healed amount over 12 seconds.
  • Sanctified Wrath (Requires 35 points in Retribution) - Increases the critical strike chance of Hammer of Wrath by 25/50%, reduces the cooldown of Avenging Wrath by 30/60 secs and while affected by Avenging Wrath 25/50% of all damage caused bypasses damage reduction effects.
  • Swift Retribution (Requires 40 points in Retribution) - Your Retribution Aura also increases casting, ranged and melee attack speeds by 1/2/3%.
  • The Art of War (Requires 40 points in Retribution) - Your damaging Crusader Strikes have a 5/10/15% chance to cause your next Judgement spell to cause double damage.
  • Righteous Vengeance (Requires 40 points in Retribution) - Increases critical damage bonus of all attacks by 3/6/9/12/15%
  • Divine Storm (Requires 50 points in Retribution) - An instant weapon attack that causes Holy damage to up to ${$i-1} enemies within $a1 yards. The Divine Storm heals up to 3 party or raid members totalling $s2% of the damage caused.
A helping hand
Where do we begin? One major change is the introduction of a new nomenclature for some Paladin Blessings, renamed Hand spells -- short duration buffs with generally longer cooldowns. Most of these were the active or reactive Blessings such as Freedom, Protection, and Sacrifice, as well as one passive Blessing, Salvation. The nomenclature or type change allows for Paladins to give an additional, situational buff that doesn't overwrite the passive buffs like Blessing of Might or Wisdom. While this change is mostly mechanical convenience, Blizzard also removed Blessing of Light, meaning Paladins will no longer be brought only "for the extra Blessing". There are only two basic blessings now, one essentially for melee classes and another for mana users. This reduces the urgency for multiple Paladins in raid situations.

EDITED: Readers correctly pointed out that Hand spells are worded exactly as the current Blessings, which mean they will likely NOT stack (they might, I dunno, but I'm now somewhat convinced that they will not), as I initially misinterpreted. I've edited the following paragraphs to remove all references to stacking and adjust my analysis accordingly. I blame sleeplessness and the Beta for breaking at odd hours. Thanks to everyone who commented!

A nerf to salvation?
Salvation has been converted to a Hand spell, reworking it to be a short-duration, progressive threat reduction rather than its current passive form. In its current iteration, Blessing of Salvation was one of the best buffs a Paladin could give to a DPS class; in the Beta, Hand of Salvation becomes a reactive spell, given in situations where a specific DPS might be overtaking the tank(s) in threat. On the surface, it appears to be a nerf to an otherwise fantastic ability, but one important thing to note is the way Blizzard seems to be reworking the way threat and tanking works for many classes. If Blizzard pulls it off, Hand of Salvation will become a clutch encounter spell rather than a mindless buff applied at the beginning of a raid. Paladins were asking for a more involved way to play the class. This is one of the spells that do it.

EDITED: However, it must be said that Blizzard's new threat generation and management mechanics must work in order for a periodic spell such as this to work. It's important to take the spell in context of the changes to Wrath, where it is one of the few targeted threat-reduction buffs available. Blizzard has removed Tranquil Air Totem, for example, and has worked on threat generation/reduction into base spells. It also applies retroactively, meaning it will reduce current threat by up to 20% over 10 seconds, which is massive. Let's not even start on the mischievous applications by reducing your friends' damage...

A nerf to sacrifice?
One major overhaul was to Blessing of Sacrifice, renamed Hand of Sacrifice. Its current form made it useful as a counter to crowd control -- breaking sheep or sleep, for example -- but was essentially useless in PvE because it conferred extremely low, non-scaling mitigation. The Beta version no longer serves that purpose with a shorter, 12-second duration and a longer, 2-minute cooldown. However, its new 20% mitigation mechanic makes it useful in both PvE and PvP, acting as some sort of Pain Suppression lite. EDITED: While it loses its anti-CC utility, the new version has more usefulness. On the other hand, the rework of the spell leaves Paladins more vulnerable to crowd control in PvP, which can potentially be a problem. Let's hope Blizzard still has some changes in store to address this possible flaw.

Because Hand spells scale incredibly well even if they do not stack, the changes are quite arguably buffs to the abilities. Salvation and Sacrifice now work differently and will take some adjustment to utilize properly, but overall I think that the new Hand mechanics work toward a more involved playstyle. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though. The changes in Beta shake things up in a major way.

Hungry for more Wrath of the Lich King Beta news? Read 'em all in this fantastic little guide to everything Beta. WoW Insider has a slew of articles for you now that the NDA has been lifted and the Beta forums opening up to the public. Keep checking the site for more class analysis and insights to the changes.
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