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The Light and How to Swing It: Seals, Blessings and Auras part II

Zach Yonzon

Last week we took a look at one of the Paladin's core class mechanics, the Seal, which is a short-duration buff that is both preparatory (for Judgement) and integral to a Paladin's attack cycle. Last week, I also mentioned how Seals fail to play a part in a healers spell cycle because of how they operate. Because seals require a Paladin to make a melee attack in order for a seal to work or proc, they are similar to Rogue poisons or Shaman weapon buffs. But seals are not weapon buffs, allowing them to proc off unarmed melee attacks (although why anyone would want to is anyone's guess) but also making them susceptible to dispel mechanics.

I personally think there was a wasted opportunity in this design because it locks out one key aspect of the class from an entire spec. Because of the short seal duration, healers must get into melee range and whack at opponents constantly. Even if a Retribution Paladin is in the raid keeping up a Holy Paladin's judged seal, the Holy Paladin himself won't reap the benefits of his own judgement -- most likely Wisdom or Light -- because he won't be hitting the enemy. A healing Paladin's two-button spell cycle consists of Holy Light and Flash of Light which both have cast times, necessitating periods of no movement and often precluding melee combat. If EA Mythic's Warhammer Online follows through with the hype, there won't be any, as animated designer Paul Barnett would call it, "namby pamby healer classes."

While Retribution is fun and can dish out some hurt, and while Protection are kings of tanking entire armies, when a Paladin specs Holy, she becomes exactly that -- a namby pamby healer class. The Holy spec is somewhat ironic and goes against the grain of the core class design. Paladins are a heavily-armored melee class. When they spec Holy, that armor often goes to waste and the melee aspect is shelved away. If the spec was built to take advantage of the seal system rather than be hindered by it (putting up seals activate the GCD, pushing back healing or cleansing), we'd have a very different story. We would have Holy Paladins rushing into combat -- I don't care if they deal piddly damage -- in order to be effective, rather than standing in the back of the raid. I attribute that playstyle dichotomy to the failure of seals.

A Blessing and a curse
Blizzard defines the Paladin's challenges in its official page to "Learning the proper Blessings and aura type for each battle" and "Remembering to use Blessings on everyone as needed". Note the absence of seals in the equation. This brings us to the next two core class mechanics, Blessings and Auras. The irony is that because of the short duration of seals, keeping it up is usually more involved than maintaining Blessings. Blessings are longer duration -- usually 10 minutes -- buffs that, unlike seals, can be put on other players.

Most Blessings are what I consider to be passive or give persistent effects without needing much maintenance or proper timing. Passive Blessings have greater versions, which last for 30 minutes and require a reagent. When raiding, it is usually prudent to bring at least two to three full stacks of Symbol of Kings. Prior to Patch 2.2, Blessings normally lasted for 5 minutes and Greater Blessings for 10. Apparently, Blizzard's initial idea about involved Paladin play was paying close attention to short-duration buffs. This has changed somewhat but it's clear that Blizzard's intention for this particular mechanic was that Blessings should be changed up often. The way it currently works, however, there are few blessings that work on short cooldowns or active Blessings (more on those next week) and most are pre-encounter buffs. It is also important to note that players may only have one Blessing on them per Paladin at a time.

The passive Blessings are Blessing of Light, Blessing of Might, Blessing of Salvation, Blessing of Wisdom, and the two Protection talents Blessing of Kings and Blessing of Sanctuary. Blessing of Light is usually applied to the main tank or the healer's primary assignment. Because it only works with Holy Light and Flash of Light (not even Holy Shock), it is only applied to the primary healing target if there are few Paladins in the raid. It is one of the lower priority passive Blessings and applied only raid-wide when all other passive Blessings are already on. It also cements Paladins' status as the best single-target healers in the game. If Blessing of Light didn't activate the GCD, maybe it would see more use as healers could cast it preceding a key heal. As it stands, Blessing of Light is a crutch ability that is often used to boost the healing of undergeared Holy Paladins.

Blessing of Might increases Attack Power and is given to Warriors, Hunters, Rogues, and Enhancement Shaman or Retribution Paladins. Its caster counterpart is Blessing of Wisdom, which benefits all mana-using classes. Both are pre-encounter buffs, usually cast during downtimes. BoW sees a little more use in PvP, particularly in Arena play, helping teammates regain mana through particularly long matches. BoM is designed to increase DPS, thus making encounters shorter, while BoW is designed to sustain players through longer battles. In many cases, Might is a low-priority Blessing because of better options such as Kings or Salvation.

Blessing of Salvation is the single most efficient PvE DPS buff in the game. Despite most DPS classes' protestations -- they will often clamor for Blessing of Kings or Might -- Paladins should insist on putting Blessing of Salvation, particularly to those with little to no Threat mitigation and high burst. Salvation allows DPS classes to unleash more damage with less fear of pulling aggro. It is also useful for healer classes with no threat-reducing talents. Unlike other passive Blessings, Salvation cannot be applied on the fly because it does not reduce existing threat already generated (i.e. it doesn't work like Fade or Feint).

Protection is the only tree with its own Blessings and one of them, Blessing of Kings, is arguably the most useful passive Blessing and is usually the default Blessing for a group if the Paladin has it. Because it is a flat 10% increase to statistics, it scales extremely well and is a great leveling tool for groups because it softens progression by scaling a group's overall effectiveness -- from survivability to DPS -- upwards. It is also a PvP Holy Paladin's key preparatory spell in Arenas.

The other Protection talent is Blessing of Sanctuary, a little-known seal that sees little use outside of Paladin tanking. Sanctuary is designed specifically to augment the threat generating blocking mechanics of Paladin tanks, and is only half as useful to classes with no shields. The damage mitigation it provides is calculated before other damage mitigation such as armor, and is substantially more powerful at Level 70 (Rank 5) than it is at Level 60 (Rank 4). Next week, we'll take a look at the shorter-duration or active Blessings and Paladin Auras as well as how these three core class mechanics currently work together and how they can potentially be more synergistic for the future of the class.

Want to learn more about the Light? The Light and How to Swing It provides a Paladin for Dummies look at the class, from leveling from 21-40 to choosing the right Badge rewards for your Paladin at Level 70. From Uther to Lady Liadrin, this column serves up a weekly look at Mike Schramm's most ridiculed class.

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