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The Light and How to Swing It: The new holy paladin toolbox


Every Sunday, Chase Christian of The Light and How to Swing It invites you to discuss the finer side of the paladin class: the holy specialization. This week, we discuss the our revised healing toolbox in the upcoming expansion.

With the Cataclysm beta now underway, Blizzard's been kind enough to lift the NDA that had been shrouding any expansion information from our eyes. I have been using this opportunity to read up on what holy paladins can look forward to once we're level 85. We have some new information on Healing Hands, and it looks to be a fairly powerful AoE heal (more on that next week). I've also seen some recent changes to the holy tree to reflect the healing game in Cataclysm, as well as some cleanup of talents that were out of place.

The biggest upset for me is our new 21-point talent, Divine Light. It's the "big and expensive" heal that was needed to move paladins to the Three Heal System, and I really don't understand why we need to spend a talent slot to pick up what's supposed to be a core healing spell. I don't care about spending the extra point in the tree, I had just been hoping we would've seen something cool put in the vacancy that was created by the new baseline Holy Shock. The next question is: so what's Divine Light good for anyway?

Before we get into the nitty gritty numbers part of this article, I just want to say that Divine Light has got to be the most uninspired name I've ever heard of. If they move to a Five Heal model in whatever expansion comes next, I guarantee you we'll be seeing Sacred Light and Light of Purity on the table. Prot paladins will be looking forward to Justice's Shield and Guardian's Hammer, while retribution will pick up Storm of the Crusade and Divine Judgement. I understand that paladins are very in tune with the Light and all of that, but can we get a little bit of diversity in our nomenclature?

Holy Shock
The first spell I'd like to touch on is Holy Shock, mainly because it's the one seeing the biggest improvement. We've got a new talent, Improved Holy Shock, which reduces the mana cost of Holy Shock by 70%. When combined with a few points in Benediction, which we'll have free talent points to drop into, Holy Shock's mana cost will be incredibly low. It will actually become our cheapest heal, and with the new Sanctified Light granting it an extra 15% critical strike chance, we will see some huge returns from Illumination.

This is exactly what was needed to jump start usage of Holy Shock, and I can see paladins casting it on cooldown now. It's now crazy efficient, can be casted while moving, and it's currently set to heal a significant amount of HP. It's synergy with Infusion of Light will make it valuable as well, as we'll want to be critting as much as possible when mana is scarce.

Flash of Light
Here's a spell that has undergone some serious role reversal. Currently, Flash of Light is our cheapest, fastest, and weakest heal. Only one of those is going to carry over the Cataclysm, and that's the speed portion. Flash of Light's mana cost is skyrocketing, to be nearly equal to casting a Holy Light today. However, to compensate for that increase in cost, the healing done will also be equal to a Holy Light. If you think about that for a second, it's like they took Holy Light and just gave it a far quicker cast time.

While today that would be pretty much the most overpowered spell entire game, when mana starts to matter in Cataclysm, the cost will be too great to spam it. Could you imagine if your HL cast time was a measly 1 second? Clearly mana regeneration will need to be crippled to allow Flash of Light to not completely overpower every other heal we have. It's interesting to note that Holy Shock actually heals for a nearly identical amount at level 85, and they scale identically with spell power as well. Holy Shock will be our go-to heal when someone needs something quickly, but Flash of Light will be the backup when another heal won't get there in time.

Holy Light
The king of all healing spells. Right now, it's the one spell that every other healer wishes they had access to. It's powerful enough to plow through even the hardest hitting bosses, yet soft and quick enough to cure even minor afflictions. Cataclysm has repurposed Holy Light to essentially switch places with the current Flash of Light, making it our low-cost spam heal. It's new mana cost is actually lower than Flash of Light is today, meaning Holy Light will pretty much be spammable without ever having mana concerns. It's the vanilla heal that's not fast enough to heal quick damage or strong enough to bring a tank from empty to full.

When we look at how it compares to today, one thing to note is the speed. In the beta, it's currently slated to have a 3-second cast time, which is a bit misleading. Holy Light, as of today, has a 2.5-second cast time on live, but both Holy Lights are affected by talents in the holy tree. Light's Grace shaves 0.5-seconds off today's HL, giving it a 2-second baseline cast time. The Improved Holy Light of the future cuts a full second off of the new HL, making the cast times identical.

The difference is that we get to do away with the dumb Light's Grace mechanic, and that the new Holy Light actually scales better with spellpower than the old HL. This means stronger HLs comparatively, though it's worth noting that they did nerf the base heal amount of HL to make sure we weren't immediately gods of healing when Cataclysm is released. I am not really sure where Blizzard is going with Holy Light, to be completely honest with you. Holy Light will cost just 1/5th of what it used to, will have an identical cast time, and will heal for what will probably be a similar amount. What's going to stop every holy paladin from stacking haste instead of intellect and continuing in our Holy Light spamming trend?

Divine Light
While holy paladins have yet to be raid-tested in the beta (the level cap is only 82 right now), I am already feeling wary about Divine Light. It's going to be the slowest spell in our toolbox, and by quite a bit. It's also going to be the most expensive base heal in our toolbox, costing even more than the quick Flash of Light. While the heal may be large, we can actually achieve a higher amount of healing per second by casting two Flash of Lights instead of one Divine Light. The only advantage of Divine Light is that it's more efficient than Flash of Light and has better throughput than Holy Light. Its niche will be a situation where our target is grieviously wounded (needs the entire big heal), won't need the healing quickly (so Flash of Light is too expensive), but also can't wait for two Holy Lights to get there (which would be more efficient).

That seems like a really, really narrow niche to be in. Why not just cast two Holy Lights and save on mana, for only one more second of waiting? Or if time is of the essence, spend the mana to use two Flash of Lights? On top of all of that, we can always just Holy Shock and then Holy Light to heal for as much as Divine Light, but in the same amount of time and for less mana. And finally, on top of that, Divine Light isn't even passed through Beacon of Light, so any combination of Holy Shock and Holy Light becomes the better decision.

Our adaptation to the Three Heal Model seems to be working alright, as Holy Light and Flash of Light both have some pretty obvious niches and use cases. I am concerned about where Divine Light is going to fit into this, and I'm not sure how they're going to work it in. Either they'll have to skyrocket the healing done to make it the highest HPS option, or perhaps shorten the cast time but add a cooldown to keep it balanced. Right now, the balance between HPS and mana does not favor Divine Light, and that's going to keep it on our alternate bar unless some tweaking happens between now and Cataclysm's launch.

The Light and How to Swing It (Holy Edition) is dedicated to helping holy paladins become the powerful healers that we're destined to be. If you're new to the paladin's healing ways, you can learn the ropes with our Holy 101 article. We also have information on how to keep a tank alive, how to heal a raid when necessary and how to beat the GCD. Tanking is a job, DPS is a craft -- but healing is truly an art.

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