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The Light and How to Swing It: Our time to shine

Zach Yonzon

In about a week, Patch 3.0.2 will drop on our collective heads and it will be a glorious time for Paladins. Barring any unexpected nerfs from the current build, the new patch should see a new era for the class where our brethren from other trees stand shoulder to shoulder with everyone else. Massive changes to the class will mean that Retribution Paladins will not only find a spot in groups, they'll actually be sought after. Protection Paladins will not just continue to excel in AoE grinding and tanking, they'll be the Energizer bunnies of AoE, turning it into an artform. And Holy... well, Holy still has a few kinks that need to be worked out, but Paladins are still phenomenal healers with more flexibility than ever.

It is our time to shine. Each and every Paladin of every build will be viable, wanted in groups, and formidable to face in a PvP setting. Core changes to the class will make it less of a chore to micromanage and more fun and strategic to play. For many of us, Patch 3.0.2 will be sweet redemption for all those times of sticking with a class that was generally frustrating to level up with (unless you were Protection), had clunky core mechanics on short timers, and oftentimes pigeonholed into one role, later two. These days, anyone who laughs at our choice of tree, even Retribution -- especially Retribution -- will be on the receiving end of our powerfully revamped Avenging Wrath.

If there ever was a time to learn how to laugh maniacally, it would be now. I know it's not fitting for us servants of the Light -- or thieves of the Light if you play a Blood Elf -- but I think we're excused for this one time. After all, it isn't everyday that a class gets a complete turnaround from almost losing relevance to being one of the most desirable classes in the game. Those hardcore few who never gave in to speccing out of Retribution will be vindicated (yeah, I'm going to be doing this a lot today), with their visions of dispensing righteous justice (see what I mean?) coming true in blinding fashion.

Paladins will fare better in Arenas, and not just in the 5v5 bracket. Paladins will become more viable in smaller formats, too. Holy will suffer a bit without Divine Plea until Level 80 Arenas, but being able to shift more reliably from healing to offense makes Holy Paladins pretty scary because every Holy Paladin is technically a Shockadin. And yes, losing instant Holy Lights -- for now, at least -- is painful, but a 1-second cast Rank 11 Holy Light is still pretty awesome. Beacon of Light is also a cool trick to pull off to solve line-of-sight problems. Improved mobility, more utility, and better coefficients make Paladins strong contenders for the healing role on a team.

How about DPS? Never has it been better to be a Retadin than in the post-3.0.2 world. Yes, we're still kiteable, and yes, we still don't have a proper spell interrupt yet, but Retribution brings more to the table now in Arenas. We will no longer be helpless victims of drain teams, a Retadin's greatest bane. If we can Judge, we will have mana. If we have mana, we will dish out some pain. We will no longer hesitate putting up Avenging Wrath for fear of being vulnerable for the next minute or three. No, Retribution is a force to be reckoned with. An unstoppable force of Light and Justice and swirling hammers with shining wings of heavenly fury. It will be sweet and it will be glorious. At least for 12 seconds.

Protection Paladins probably still won't see much action in Arenas, but frankly, the new talents make it so that Tankadins won't need to respec just to PvP. So while dual specs aren't in the game yet, Protection Paladins can stay the way they are and be extremely hard to kill and knock some heads in the process. In some non-AoE scenarios, Protection Paladins have even outdamaged Retadins! With Blizzard's new philosophy of pumping up tank DPS, it's now going to be fun to PvP as as Protection. In the Battlegrounds, Tankadins will not only be annoyingly impossible to kill, they'll be deadly, too.

The biggest change in the brave, new world is that Retribution Paladins will actually be wanted in raids now. Read that again. Wanted. Sought after. Desired. It will no longer be a joke when you see groups looking for Retribution Paladins on the LFG channel. We have Replenishment to thank for that, as well as a high self-sustainability and added utility in healing. If we spec for it, we can even bring permanent haste to a group. It's been a long time coming, but it's finally, truly here. DPS output isn't bad, either, so no raid will be gimping themselves by bringing a Retadin just for mana regen.

Sure, all the other tanks got the ability to AoE tank, too. But nobody does it like a Tankadin. In fact, with the a Tankadin's blessing, AoE tanking gets so much better for everyone else. It's the best tanking spell in the game, scaling massively with gear. The more mitigation and avoidance your tank gets, the better the spell becomes. It's crazy. Oh, and Protection gets more buttons to throw into their mix, too, including mashing faces left and right and an instant cast Avenger's Shield. There are so many good talents in Protection now that it feels so bloated... in a good way.

And then there's Holy. Yes, I know I said Holy still needs a bit more love, but this doesn't mean it isn't a great tree. Beacon of Light is an amazing spell, really. I know our traditional task has been to keep our eyes on the tank... but this spell lets us keep up our tank and his friends. It's not an HoT, it's not a group heal, but it really does the job rather nicely. Heal nukes are a Paladin specialty, and this spell takes that to the next level. Did I mention Beacon of Light can crit? Healing with Beacon of Light up is like conducting a heal concerto. If you like big numbers, you'll love the beacon.

Party time, excellent
World of Warcraft post Patch 3.0.2 should be called World of Pallycraft, really. At no time in the history of the game has the class been more loved, more wanted, more viable, more fun to play, more powerful, and just plain... more. When I leveled up my Paladin, I did it with so much disdain that my wife often asked me why I kept on playing one. But I really had fallen in love (or love / hate) with the class and stuck with it. Now, it appears that all that faith will be rewarded.

Are there issues with the class? Definitely. But what class doesn't? Are they huge issues? Yes, I'm afraid. We still have mobility problems. Holy is still a muck of neither-here-nor-there talents deep into the tree. The nerf to Infusion of Light was an extremely low blow considering it procs off crits. Ghostcrawler said it was because they saw too many Arena matches where Holy Lights were uninterruptible.

Let me just get this out of the way because I feel this is a very bad assessment. We need instant cast Holy Lights in Arenas. It procs off the crit of only one spell, so I really don't understand how the devs came upon that data unless Paladins were critting Holy Shocks willy-nilly every 6 seconds. We have only one school for all our spells. A well-timed interrupt or silence mechanic locks us out of every darned thing except Divine Favor. If the nerfed talent also procced an immunity to silence or interrupt effects, then I'll gladly take that over more mobility.

I still have a lot of concerns about the class, let's make that clear. I don't think the class is perfect or balanced as it is. I do think, however, that this is the best state the class has ever been in. I don't want to focus on the issues right now because a lot of players have already elucidated upon the matter in the Paladin Beta forums. I like to stay positive and steer away from ranting and QQ. There's enough of that already. I know the class still needs some work, but right now I'm happy with the direction they're taking it. We wanted some things fixed, and Blizzard went around and fixed them. After 3.0 goes live, more data will come in and we're likely to see fixes come in through future patches. It really isn't unreasonable to have faith that the class will finally, truly shine.

Zach continues to believe that the Paladin class will be fixed in The Light and How to Swing It, where he talks about bracing for change in the coming months. This includes how to deal with the inevitable Patch 3.0, as well as what he feels are the issues with the Holy tree. He hopes that the deep Holy talents will be made useful. Seal Mastery, anyone?

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