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Wrath Beta patch notes: Paladin part IV - the Protection tree

Zach Yonzon

Alright, we've seen the changes to the Holy tree, and as far as I can tell, it looks really exciting. Blizzard addressed some key issues such as mobility with possible instant heals, HoTs, and spell haste. Holy Paladins might actually use Seals and Judge them. There's still the quibble about mana regeneration, but for now, it looks as though Paladin healing is headed in the right direction. You can read about the changes to Holy here, as well as the list of changes to baseline abilities and talents.

What about Paladin tanking? The Protection tree in its current state is designed for AoE tanking, which Blizzard acknowledges to be the Paladin tank's niche. But where Paladin tanks shine with trash mobs and situational bosses, the reactive tanking mechanic is only moderately successful with single targets, particularly bosses with slow attacks or do not rely purely on Physical attacks (thus not activating a block). That said, Paladin tanks can frontload massive threat, scale well against multiple mobs, and are the darlings of 5-man content.

New talents
Therein lies the problem, actually. Many Tankadins feel that Paladin tanking loses its relevance in endgame raids, where bosses are designed to be tanked by Warriors or even Druids. Paladins also suffer from a few issues such as lower health totals (partially addressed with the change to Combat Expertise in Patch 2.3 EDIT: The change actually put Paladin Stamina up to par, if not above Warrior Stamina, thanks to 16% scaling. Thanks to all who pointed this out.), susceptibility to silence, and mana -- the blue Rage bar -- dependency (a silenced or mana-less Tankadin generates no threat). Blizzard's new talents in Wrath are as follows:

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.
It took me quite a while to wrap my head around this talent. At first glance it seems to be counterintuitive because a bubbled Tankadin means she isn't tanking and that the raid or party is probably dying. But the ability should actually be taken in the context of a buff to Divine Shield, rather than a strict tanking talent. In this light, it makes more sense and actually becomes an overwhelmingly powerful ability. It is low enough in the Protection tree that Retadins and Holydins can pick it up as a complement to full Retribution or Holy.

Imagine several Paladins with this talent in a raid popping the ability during an encounter with massive AoE damage. 30% is a huge damage soak, and if the ability stacks -- even multiplicatively -- that means a huge damage reduction to the entire raid. Heck, even if it didn't stack it still gives excellent raidwide mitigation. It can potentially be used by Tankadins in situations where a boss wipes aggro and damage is dealt to the raid, such as Illidan's flight phase. A Paladin main tanking Illidan does nothing during Phase 2, an ideal time to pop a Divine Guardian-infused Divine Shield.

Where this ability truly shines, however, is in PvP. In an Arena match, a Holy Paladin with Divine Guardian can bubble and heal while mitigating damage at the same time. Combined with the reworked Hand of Sacrifice, Divine Guardian can provide insane mitigation for affected targets. Because Paladins will invariably use Divine Shield in an Arena match, anyway, this talent is a powerful buff that contributes to the team's survivability.

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%.
Found deep into the Protection tree, this talent adds a considerable amount of spell power and has an unexpected healing bonus. The spell power bonus seems intended for threat generation and DPS, but the bonus to critical heals is a puzzling addition because Paladins speccing deeply into Protection are unlikely to be healing... unless that's exactly what Blizzard plans them to do.

With the change in Righteous Fury, and overall improvements to Holy and Retribution, the doors have been opened for off-spec tanking. At least with regards to threat generation. Touched by the Light seems to return the favor by giving Protection Paladins enough of a healing bonus to off-heal or even heal for 5-man content. EDIT: Readers correctly pointed out that given the new itemization, Tankadins can foreseeably forego spell power plate and stack on Stamina in order to pad spell power. With Protection Pallies sharing Warrior (and Death Knight) plate, this talent becomes essential to obtaining the necessary spell power for tanking.

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%.
This talent addresses mana management somewhat by reducing the cost of tanking staple spells, particularly Consecration. Considering that the buff can proc off two conditions -- parries and dodges, there's a good chance that the buff will be constantly up, specially when tanking multiple mobs. The buff lasts 30 seconds, which is a considerable time to allow for another proc. Avenger's Shield was also buffed in Wrath, with a shorter 0.5 second casting time that conceivably allows it to be used several times while tanking. The reduced cost seems to encourage exactly that.

The talent continues to reinforce what seems to be Blizzard's philosophy with Paladin tanking -- it's reactive. The proc occurs off an enemy action. If a Tankadin isn't being attacked, Guarded by the Light will never proc. On the other hand, the talent scales massively with the number of mobs a Paladin takes on. Note that the cost reduction applies to AoE spells, encouraging a DPS increase. If anything, this talent is very consistent with the Tankadin's current niche. EDIT: BigFire points out that Guarded by the Light helps Tankadins manage instances they're overgeared for. Since mobs in these instances will likely miss and their strikes dodged, Paladins will still be able to maintain damage or threat throughput. Thanks for the insight, BigFire!

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%.
This three point talent further addresses mana management indirectly by reducing ability costs. Shield of the Templar in conjunction with Guarded by the Light both call for the use of Avenger's Shield as part of a Paladin's spell cycle. I'm going to take a moment and mention the new Level 75 ability Shield of Righteousness, which is sort of like the Paladin's version of Shield Slam. While not strictly for Tankadins since it's a baseline ability, the spell exemplifies Blizzard's direction of granting tanks more DPS. With a high block rating value -- a stat which Tankadins stack -- this ability can inflict a great deal of pure Holy damage, and consequently generate massive threat.

Judgements of the Just
Requires 45 points in Protection
Your Judgement spells also reduce the melee attack speed of the target by 10/20%.

Here's another talent that seems rather counterintuitive to me because Paladin tanking scales well against an opponent hitting fast. On the other hand, this is the much-needed Thunder Clap for Tankadins, albeit exceedingly expensive requiring 45 points and only affecting melee attack speed. It seems like an underwhelming talent at this point, but considering it is a buff to Judgements, it's a sustainable debuff at no additional cost. EDIT: Most of the Tankadins commented that this is the most powerful talent for mitigation, specially against bosses that hit hard. I can't believe I didn't see that right off, so it's a really bad call on my part. If bosses aren't immune to this debuff, this is a big deal. Thanks to Mike and others!

Hammer of the Righteous

Requires 50 points in Protection
Hammer the current target and up to 2 additional nearby targets, causing 100% of weapon damage as Holy damage. This ability causes high threat.
Considering all the talents and abilities that contribute to the tanking Paladin's DPS and threat-generation, it would appear that it would be almost impossible to lose aggro. Hammer of the Righteous is yet another multi-target DPS ability that generates threat. With current itemization, the fast spell damage weapons that Tankadins wield doesn't seem to work well with the talent. But with a 6 second cooldown and a cheap cost, it definitely fits right into a Protection Paladin's spell cycle.

Changes to the tree
An unchanged Redoubt has been moved to the second tier, and Improved Devotion Aura has been reworked and moved up to the fourth tier. Someone at Blizzard must be in love with the old Improved Sanctity Aura, because the healing bonus has returned in Wrath, this time applied to Devotion Aura. The moved talents make room on the first tier for a buffed Divine Strength (increases Strength by 15%, up from 10%), which was moved from the Holy tree. A reworked Anticipation, now conferring up to 5% Dodge rather than points in Defense, was moved from the third tier to the first tier.

Where did Precision go? Good question. I have no idea. It isn't on any patch notes, and it doesn't appear to have been moved anywhere, either. In its place, the fourth tier Stoicism was moved and reworked to become a three point talent (up from two) and grants a higher chance to resist stun effects (30% up from 20%). One curious change from the patch notes indicates that it now reduces the chance that spells will be resisted rather than provide dispel protection. In some ways, the change makes up for the loss of Precision, but at the same time makes Stoicism less useful for PvP, where dispel protection is invaluable. It is low enough in the Protection tree to be a complementary talent.

An unchanged Toughness was moved from the second tier to the third tier, in place of Anticipation. It's an effective nerf because it's relatively more expensive now (by five talent points), although it is on the same tier as the Warrior version. It's interesting to note that Death Knights get Toughness on the second tier, but gain a 15% armor bonus rather than the standard 10%. Lastly, Improved Concentration Aura was moved to the Holy tree, replaced by Divine Guardian.

Final thoughts
The new Protection talents and abilities glaringly lack an important aspect of tanking -- mitigation. There are a plethora of threat-generating and DPS abilities, as well as a few mana conservation talents, but nothing in the new spells indicate a way to mitigate damage. There's the reworked Anticipation, of course, and it is interesting to note that Protection is diversifying from pure block, granting benefits to dodges and parries. Overall, it's difficult to ascertain how well these talents will work because Blizzard is completely revising tanking in Wrath of the Lich King. Until more details about tanking are revealed, I can't say whether or not the lack of mitigation spells actually matters.

It's also notable how all three Paladin trees now generate some respectable DPS -- Holy Paladins can shock and judge from a distance, while Protection Paladins get a faster cast Avenger's Shield and the Hammer of the Righteous. Both shield-using specs can also include Shield of Righteousness into the mix. It looks very, very interesting and Protection can even heal decently with some talents.

Paladins are still susceptible to silence. Unlike Retribution's Crusader Strike, which is in the Physical school, Hammer of the Righteous, Shield of Righteousness, and Avenger's Shield are all Holy. This means a silence effect effectively locks Protection out from DPS and threat generation. Mana management has been addressed in a sideways fashion, but I'm looking forward to more changes in the future that will hopefully answer this concern.

<-- Wrath Beta patch notes: Paladin part III - the Holy tree
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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