The Light and How to Swing It: Radical changes to holy paladins on the 4.3 PTR

Chase Christian
C. Christian|10.02.11

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The Light and How to Swing It: Radical changes to holy paladins on the 4.3 PTR
holy radiance
Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Every Sunday, Chase Christian invites you to discuss the finer side of the paladin class: the holy specialization. Feel free to email me with any questions you want answered, like why paladins are so awesome.

When I first checked out the official PTR change list for the upcoming patch 4.3, I wasn't expecting many holy paladin changes. We've been performing admirably in Cataclysm, comfortably straddling the line between obsolescence and ubiquity. Upon the reading the changes, I was shocked to see such radical changes to our talents, spells, and playstyle. Patch notes like these are always scary, as we don't know if we're being gutted or reinforced. I immediately downloaded the latest PTR client and got to work.

Holy Radiance
was completely retooled into a cast spell that we use on a friendly group member, with talents changed to reflect the new design. We gained two new holy power sources, and Light of Dawn had its target count shifted. Our bread-and-butter mana regeneration mechanic, the Seal of Insight and Judgement system, was also scrapped in favor of a flat regeneration buff that scales with our spirit.

Bad news first

I'll start with the nerf: Our mana regeneration is slated to drop significantly. We can currently regenerate about 1,500 MP5 if we're diligent about our Judgement usage with Seal of Insight active, which is a large chunk of our overall regeneration. Our new regeneration design involves us using Judgement about once a minute to keep our Judgements of the Pure buff active. While JotP is active, our spirit-based mana regeneration in combat is boosted by 30%.

It's important to note that this value scales with gear, as we'll regenerate more mana as our spirit and intellect increase. For my Firelands-geared holy paladin, I will see about 700 MP5 from the JotP buff. That's less than 50% of the mana regeneration we see from Seal of Insight today. This nerf affects newer holy paladins more than it affects geared holy paladins, since the MP5 scales with spirit. Make no mistake, this is a nerf to every holy paladin from someone who just hit level 85 and the most gritty Firelands heroic healers.

The change isn't the end of the world, as we obviously have several other mana regeneration options that weren't edited at all. In fact, Divine Plea now gives us a free holy power point when activated, which is just further incentive to start leaning on it more often. Based on the mana regeneration change, on a standard 5-minute encounter, we'll have about 10% less overall mana to work with. The nerf hurts, but there is a silver lining.

By removing our pathological need to use Judgement every 8 seconds, we can reclaim several GCDs per minute. We can cast more spells, and we don't have to worry about choosing between healing someone and Judging. In fact, if these changes make it to live servers, Judging on cooldown will cause us to lose mana, as Judgement itself costs just over one thousand mana. We'll want to use mods like clcbpt to track our JotP uptime, and we want to refresh it as close to its expiration as possible to minimize the number of Judgements we're forced to use. Judgement used to be the spell you cast on cooldown, and now we want to cast it as little as we can. I know that this change will take a lot of getting used to.

Light of Dawn's two modes

Light of Dawn has always been a poor performer in smaller group sizes, as you're unlikely to cap out its healing by hitting five targets with it at once. The devs saw this weakness and tweaked the spell to accommodate both large and small groups. Light of Dawn now always hits six targets, an increase from the previous limit of five targets.

The Glyph of Light of Dawn, rather than increasing the target count to six, lowers the target count to four but boosts the healing done by a full 25%. The idea is that our base of Light of Dawn is now the go-to raid heal for large groups, while LoD glyphed is now a viable option for healing smaller groups. When we factor in the upcoming Holy Radiance changes, LoD might actually see some usage in both large and small formats as desired.

Holy Radiance like we've never seen it before

The instant-cast, set-it-and-forget-it Holy Radiance we knew and loved is no more. The new Holy Radiance only bears the faintest similarities to our old HR, although it's slated to fill the same niche. I've often lamented that holy paladins don't really have any AOE healing options once we've popped HR, as we're left just spamming our normal heals on our targets to top them back off. The new Holy Radiance is a cast spell with no cooldown. Its cast time is identical to our Holy Light and Divine Light. For me, that's about 2.2 seconds.

We choose a target within 40 yards, cast HR on them, and the target and everyone near them will get healed immediately and then the target will start emanating healing to everyone with 10 yards for 3 seconds. As you can see in this article's header image, there's currently no graphic for HR, although I suspect it will get one soon. If you cast HR on someone who already has HR on them, the new HR overwrites the older one. A major difference from the old HR is that this one delivers half of its healing instantly, which is better than the old model of waiting 10 seconds for all of the healing to take place.

The idea of the new HR is that we can cast it continuously on the raid, sort of like Chain Heal, allowing us to focus our cast times into AOE throughput. In addition, HR will grant us a holy power point every time we cast it, allowing us to set up an AOE healing combo using Holy Radiance and Light of Dawn. To further strengthen the usefulness of Holy Radiance, the healing it does is now affected by our mastery, Illuminated Healing. The value of mastery will increase significantly, while the value of haste will decrease in some cases, as there are no haste breakpoints to shoot now that HR has a fixed number of ticks. Holy Radiance still doesn't interact with Beacon of Light in any way, and it also doesn't proc Protector of the Innocent.

The problem with HR on the PTR is that it isn't balanced very well. It costs more mana than a Divine Light and yet heals for the same amount as a Holy Light to a single target. We could cast nearly four Holy Lights for the cost of a single Holy Radiance, or we could cast one Divine Light in the same time span and heal for significantly more. The tooltip for Holy Radiance looks like it dropped the target cap and diminishing returns we saw on the old spell, so it's quite possible that the true strength of HR will lie in healing groups quickly. If we can get at least three targets to soak up the full healing capacity of HR, we will break even, so having a full raid of injured players could make this spell incredibly powerful. The fact that we cast it on a target also makes it useful for healing both the melee and ranged clusters without requiring everyone to stack up.

The Light and How to Swing It: Holy helps holy paladins become the powerful healers we're destined to be. Find out just how masterful mastery healing can be, gear up with the latest gear, and learn how to PVP as a holy paladin.
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