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The Light and How to Swing It: The Paladin of 2009 part 3

Gregg Reece

Call of the Crusade...
As patch 3.2.0 dropped, we waved goodbye to Seal of Blood/Martyr. Blizzard decided that they were taking Seal of Command's rightful place as a pure damage seal and removed them. They changed Seal of Command to be a slightly nerfed version of the old Blood/Martyr, but without the self-damage component.

Also, they significantly buffed Seal of Corruption/Vengeance so that they were the go-to damage seals which still left Seal of Command in the dark. However, the Corruption/Vengeance seals caused the players to have more build-up time on their damage and allowed the developers to finally wrangle in the burst problems they'd had with retribution since the beginning of Wrath.

Blizzard finally decided on a work-around for Exorcism so that it could be used in PvP as well as PvE. They simply added a 1.5 second cast time on it. This removed it's ability to be cast on the run before a battle (and as a tank who liked to use it as a secondary pull for speed dungeon runs, this change annoyed me at the time) while still allowing it to be cast.

The problem with that short cast time is that a retribution paladin won't ever want to use it in battle. The solution? Let The Art of War talent proc that lets the retadin cast an instant Flash of Light work double-duty and also be used for instant Exorcisms. Viola, you've got a way for the skill to still be usable without the issues you were running into previously. Also, if you do happen to be taking damage, you have to make a choice. Do you use an instant Flash of Light to heal or do keep doing damage and burn that Art of War proc for an Exorcism? I've got a feeling we'll see more of those added into the paladin class in the future.

Hand of Reckoning was changed so that instead of a small and fairly insignificant amount of damage dealt, it slapped the target for 50% of your attack power. It also only did this damage if you weren't the top dog on that mob's aggro list. However, one small thing that Blizzard didn't think of was that on non-tauntable bosses, a ret paladin could just repeatedly slap the boss with Hand of Reckoning for that added damage without worry of actually pulling the boss. That too, was hot-fixed.

Tanking pallies also got a major boost through the old talent Ardent Defender. This talent had been both a blessing and curse for as long as I could remember. In the original version at 35% health, it would decrease incoming damage taken by a percentage based on talent points. The problem was that if you took a large hit at 36%, the talent didn't actually do anything and you would end up taking the full hit. Well, the devs did this one right. Now, as soon as you fall below 35%, it starts reducing damage. This means if you were 2 hit points over 35% and got hit for 3000, it would take the first 2 hit points normally and then reduce the 2998 remaining damage appropriately. This was a massive boost to paladin tanking almost to the point of being overpowered. Along with this particular quirk being fixed, they added an additional feature to the talent that worked much like Last Stand. If a paladin with this talent received a killing hit, they would instead heal up to 30% of their maximum health and still live. This effect was automatic and could only occur once every two minutes. A lot of warriors were not at all happy about this as they felt paladins got a cooler version of an old warrior skill... and we did.

Righeous Fury, which was a threat buff that had to be maintained every thirty minutes and could often end up being a pain also received a buff by the removal of its duration completely so that it worked much like an aura. This meant that once it was on, you didn't have to worry about it unless you died or it was dispelled in some way. Major quality of life change for tankadins.

In 3.2.2 Seal of Command finally received a change that made it exceptionally interesting again. Damage from Seal of Command could now chain to an additional two targets when using single-target attacks. This quickly earned it the nickname Seal of Cleave. While not the primary seal on boss fights or necessarily in PvP, it has quickly become the seal to have up when quickly trying to mow down a group of targets (trash in raids).

Tankadin threat was also beginning to get a bit out of control and thus Righteous Fury was nerfed from 90% additional threat down to 80%. This along with some other paladin tanking talent nerfs removed some of the over-powered nature that paladin tanks were starting to get the reputation for.

Fall of the Lich King...
This brings us to where we are now. Paladin tanks are keeping pace with the big dogs and in some cases, leading the pack. Healadins are still doing well. Retribution is middle to upper of the pack when it comes to damage dealing. There have been some nerfs in the latest patch, such as adding Forbearance to Lay on Hands when cast on yourself and a reworking of Divine Sacrifice's raid-wall.

Blizzard's current goal for paladins seems to be building some walls between the three specs and making us a little less hybrid in our abilities. Each will retain what it does well, but will start to be blocked off from what the other trees specialize in. We'll see where this leads in the future, but at the moment, we paladins are in a fairly decent position and it looks like Blizzard intends to keep us there.

The Light and How to Swing It tries to help Paladins cope with the dark times coming in Cataclysm. See the upcoming Paladin changes the expansion will bring. Wrath is coming to a close and the final showdown with the Lich King is here. Are you ready for the assault on Icecrown Citadel?

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