The Light and How to Swing It: Patch 3.2 and the Paladin

Ok, we've got quite a bit of information on Patch 3.2 now, and even though this major content patch isn't introducing too many new things to the class, it does shake it up a bit. Nothing too big, but it should keep everyone on their toes. But first we'll talk about one thing that isn't related to class skills or nerfs or anything like that... first I'd like to encourage everyone to get chummy with the Argent dudes. Do their mind-numbing daily quests and all that, get the Crusader title if you want... and along the way collect 100 Champion's Seals.

According to the PTR, the new Paladin-exclusive Argent Charger is available on the Tournament Grounds for a mere one hundred seals. Of course, Blizzard is also giving away Tier 9 gear for free during the testing phase, so that cost could still change. Still, here's that pony that Ghostcrawler promised all of us. It's a fitting item for an entire faction run by Paladins, right? Anyway, enjoy that pony because not everything in Patch 3.2 is as nice a ride.

Exorcism now has a 1.5 sec cast time.
The good news is that this spell will again be usable against players and player-controlled units so it's a minor buff for PvP. While the casting time prevents the spell from becoming a true offensive option for Holy or Protection Paladins, it's still status quo for Retribution and is actually something of a nerf. I'll explain how a little later.

Flash of Light now has an additional effect - If the target has the Sacred Shield effect, they heal an additional 100% over 12 sec.
You know what this is? This is Blizzard's way of making Paladin healing more interesting than Holy Light spam. If you don't already use Sacred Shield proactively, here's another reason to. Of course, it works best when the target already has Sacred Shield applied, otherwise the 1.5 seconds of GCD only eats into the bonus Heal-over-Time. This is a clear incentive for healers to mix healing up with Flash of Light and a reminder to other specs to keep Sacred Shield up.

The healing amount on the Beacon of Light target is now based on the total healing done (including over-healing) instead of the effective healing done. Radius increased to 60 yards. Multiple Paladins can now have this active on the same target. Buff indicating a player is within range of the Beacon target is no longer displayed.
If it isn't already obvious, this is a major buff to Paladin healing. Given that Holy Paladins are naturally prone to overhealing to begin with, the adjustment allows players flexibility with heals and players will no longer hesitate when using a nuke heal on a nearly topped-off target.

The range increase also increases the usefulness of Beacon of Light, so players don't have to worry too much about tanks and off-tanks drifting too far apart. In fact, the buff acts as some sort of healing range extender -- you won't need to be within range of, say, the tank in order to heal her. That's kind of crazy, isn't it? Players can essentially spam heals on the nearest target (even themselves) even if they're topped off and expect the Beacon of Light (usually the tank) to receive the full effect.

Allowing multiple Beacons on a single target is just wild. You'll see 50k health tanks leap from a sliver of life back to full in the blink of an eye even when none of the Paladins are healing her directly. Paladin total healing is going to go through the roof. Enjoy.

Judgement of Light now heals the attacker for 2% of his/her maximum health.
While this is something of a nerf, it simply homogenizes the spell for all specs. This means that any Paladin can be tasked with judging Light instead of the assignment going to Retribution Paladins simply because it scales better with them. The good thing is that the spell now heals tanks, who have copious amounts of HP, a lot better.

Illumination now give you a chance to gain mana equal to 30% of the base cost of the spell. (Down from 60%)
While Illumination has gotten hit by the nerf bat more times than Thrall thinks of Jaina, this time it's a perfectly sound nerf that shouldn't upset any thinking Paladin. With the massive buff to Beacon of Light and even Flash of Light, Paladin mana regeneration needs to be curtailed a little bit. I mean, let's face it... between Illumination, Replenishment, and Divine Plea, when does a Holy Paladin run out mana these days?

Improved Lay on Hands now Grants the target of your Lay on Hands spell 20% reduced physical damage taken for 15 sec.
This is a minor change that's actually a buff because it no longer scales off the target's armor value. It's a 20% physical damage reduction across the board, which means it works better for non-Plate or low armor classes. Furthermore, it will work -- as Alex would put it, "wonderfully" -- for tanks who have already hit the theoretical armor cap (more of an optimal point where more armor gives less and less benefits).

Divine Intellect now increases your total Intellect by 2/4/6/8/10%. (Down from 3/6/9/12/15%)
This is another nerf to bring Holy Paladins' sustainability in line with other classes. It's a minor hit to total mana as well as crit and consequently regeneration through Illumination. It would be an outrageous change except that Blizzard injected Beacon of Light with Super-Soldier Serum and it's now some sort of super-hero talent that has the power to make all nerfs look prettier than they actually are. Mmmm, nerfs.

Shield of Righteousness
now causes Holy damage equal to 100% of your block value (down from 130%) and now causes High threat.
While it looks like a nerf from the numbers, Blizzard also notes that "the amount of bonus block value on all items has been doubled," which means that the damage output from this spell will be relatively the same. It's a little bit of a reversion to an old iteration, as well. Notably, the spell again causes high threat, which means overall threat output should be higher.

Blessing of Sanctuary and Greater Blessing of Sanctuary now also increases Stamina by 10%.
This talent has had an interesting run from being the most desirable tank buff because of the rage and runic power regeneration mechanic in Wrath to an optional buff since it was changed to grant only mana regeneration to this, which appends Blessing of Kings-for-Stamina bonus. This way, raids or parties with only one (Protection) Paladin can have this blessing on the tank without missing out on Kings. Don't be too excited at the prospect of stacking it with Blessing of Kings, though, because the two effects don't stack.

Hand of Reckoning now causes [ 50% of AP + 1 ] Holy damage if the target is not currently targeting you.
It's a taunt. Use it as a taunt and not as anything else. The new version deals higher damage but is intended to pump out a little more threat as a peeling method.

Righteous Fury now lasts until cancelled.
Minor buff. Thank you, Blizzard, this is an expensive spell.

Ardent Defender has been redesigned - Damage that would take you below 35% health or taken while you are at 35% health is reduced by 10/20/30%. In addition, attacks which would otherwise kill you cause you to be healed up to 10/20/30% of your maximum health. This healing effect cannot occur more often than once every 2 min.
Did Paladins just get a Cheat Death? A personal Guardian Spirit? As if Blizzard didn't already grant Protection enough love with Patch 3.1, here they go giving Paladins an automatic Last Stand. It's a nice nod to Protection. Then again, Ardent Defender -- a talent that Blizzard felt was "no longer cutting it" -- was already being skipped by some Paladin tanks. This makeover should pull this over-the-hill talent back from near obscurity. Is it mandatory now? Almost. It prevents tanks from getting one-shot by nasty bosses. This talent ensures that they die in at least two hits.