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

Gregg Reece

With the Light as his strength, Gregg Reece of The Light and How to Swing It faces down the demons of the Burning Legion, the undead of the Scourge, and helps with the puppet shows at the Argent Ren Faire up in Icecrown. This week we're taking a look back at 2009 and the ups and downs we've felt as paladins.

Well, it's after Christmas and another year is almost behind us. Two-double-zero-nine was a particularly frustrating year for paladins, because we felt we were either at the top of the pile or the bottom and it changed from day to day. The development team has even been quoted as saying that paladins have been the hardest class in Wrath to balance even when taking death knights into consideration. Let's walk down memory lane and see where we were and where we're going.

Echoes of Doom...
Back when 3.0.2 dropped in October of last year, lots of changes came forth. Seals were changed to last 2 minutes and not be consumed by judgements. Seal of the Crusader was removed due to the fact that no one really ever used it and it was absorbed elsewhere into the class. This was a major quality of life change for paladins.

Judgements themselves also changed to be seperated from their related seals and in this we lost the old generic judgement and gained judgments of Light, Wisdom, and Justice. On top of that, all paladin abilities now scaled off of both spell power as well as attack power so that retribution and protection paladins no longer needed any spell power gear (which confused people for several months afterward).

Alliance players were able to access a clone of Seal of Blood called Seal of the Martyr. Horde players also got a new seal that was a clone of Seal of Vengeance called Seal of Corruption. Alliance finally had their dps seal and Horde finally had their tanking seal.

Blessing of Light was removed for the sake of simplifying blessings. Blessings of Salvation, Sacrifice, Freedom, and Protection were changed to the new 'Hand' spells and were independent from blessings. This meant that you could cast Hand of Freedom on someone without worrying about wiping off their Greater Blessing of Might.

Repentance was made to be extremely useful in PvE combat as a ranged Sap-type ability. Oh, and for all of you Burning Crusade era retribution paladins out there, Sanctity Aura was merged into the talented version of Retribution Aura we have now.

Paladins got three new talented abilities, one at the bottom of each tree: Beacon of Light, Hammer of the Righteous, and Divine Storm. These greatly improved each of their associated trees. These also made each of their trees a lot more interesting than they were before and filled niches where they were lacking.

There was also the fact that retribution paladins were the kings of all dps. Even with vaguely decent gear, we could absolutely destroy an instance. For those of you thinking back and saying, "Nah, we weren't that strong." I dare you to dig out your old damage parses. With just an oath-keeper, I could do more dps than most of my guild. The reason this wasn't caught on the PTR was due to a completely unrelated bug that was increasing everyone's damage numbers due to an error with calculating critical strike rating. The developers thought that was the reason retribution numbers were high on the PTR and expected it to be fine when the bug was fixed and the patch went live.

The problem was that when the patch went live, dps paladins dominated in every facet of the game. Retribution paladins could pop Avenging Wrath and Divine Shield in PvP and nuke other players with their extremely high damage. The burst potential of the class allowed player to quickly mow down anything in their path. I'll be the first to admit that I had a lot of fun during this time period. We were blatantly over-powered and it showed with every press of a button.

This lead to a series of hot-fixes. Avenging Wrath, which had been taken off the new three minute Forbearance, had it reapplied to prevent bubble+wrath combo in PvP. Coefficients of seals and judgements were lowered across the board which significantly hurt holy paladins who were feeling like they had some actual solo damage. There was much gnashing and wailing.

Righteous Vengeance was changed at some point during all of these hot-fixes to be a refreshable damage over time debuff instead of direct additional critical strike damage to help reduce some of the burst of paladins. Burst was one of those words that got tossed around a lot when it came to paladins.

Those paladins with an axe to grind and blinded by their involvement with the class openly berated Blizzard for nerfing them after the class had finally become 'good' and making up for all of that time where they felt hybrid balancing of old. Those of us who realized that even though playing like this was fun that the class was so overpowered that it was broken took the hot-fixes for what they were; just band-aids to keep everything intact until the next minor patch could help resolve these issues.

Patch 3.0.8...
Along came 3.0.8 and a better fix for Avenging Wrath was born in the method we have now creating a thirty-second window between when Avenging Wrath or Divine Shield/Divine Protection/Hand of Protection becomes active and when the other skill can be used. This prevents the bubble+wrath combo that had become so deadly as well as keeping Avenging Wrath off of Forbearance. To help prevent any future PvP bubble issues, Divine Shield had a 50% damage decrease added to it and the old weapon speed penalty removed.

Protection paladins got a couple changes in the patch as well and actually, all for the better. Divine Protection became a true Shield Wall and removed the old attack penalty that came with it. A new skill called Hand of Reckoning was added that finally allowed for a true single target taunt. There was much rejoicing.

Unfortunately, we started seeing that while retribution was beginning to be in check despite it's high burst rate, holy paladins were beginning to be under the microscope for balancing when it came to mana usage. This was, admittedly a problem for all healers, but holy paladins seemed to be the prime example that the developers used. As such, Judgement of Wisdom was changed from returning a percentage of your max mana to a percentage of your base mana. This kept the return the same for ret and prot, but significantly lowered it for healadins.

Patch 3.0.9...
Well, there is very little that changed in 3.0.9, but there is quite a bit to say for one of them. The quick one was just another quality of life change which bumped up seals to last the thirty minute duration they have now. The other change was an intended nerf to holy paladin mana regeneration through Divine Plea.

Up until this point, Divine Plea had reduced healing by 20%. The developers thought that amount of healing reduction would be enough that paladins would carefully consider when to use Divine Plea and when not to use it. They were, in point of fact, wrong. Healadins were using it every time the cooldown was available. It was too big of a mana boost to ignore despite the reduction in healing. Plus with the fact that Avenging Wrath now increased your healing by 20%, you could essentially cancel it out.

That's when the developers decided to up the ante on their side and take the healing nerf to 50% and at the time it was jokingly called the paladin version of Mortal Strike. This actually started to deter its use a bit and caused paladins to start considering when to use it and when to save it.

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