The Light and How to Swing It: A look at the Mists talent calculator update for tanks

Talent calculator

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Protection specialist Matt Walsh spends most of his time receiving concussions for the benefit of 24 other people, obsessing over his hair (a blood elf racial!), and maintaining the tankadin-focused blog Righteous Defense.

Yesterday, Blizzard updated the Mists of Pandaria talent calculator for all the classes, tantalizing us with many new goodies. For the first time since the talent trees were first debuted at BlizzCon last year, there are actual new and exciting choices awaiting paladins in each tree -- not just reworked talents and spells that already exist in game, but actual new toys to potentially play with! Moreover, the spell list betrays a few clues of how tanking will operate for us in the next expansion.

Obviously, this is all pre-alpha and thus very much subject to change, but it's still very worthwhile to dig in and see where the expansion is headed.

The rotation keeps on rotating

For starters, as I had written was my hope last week, Crusader Strike (and Hammer of the Righteous) were changed to 4.5-second cooldowns, up from 3 seconds. And yes, they are still linked; using one will force a cooldown the other. In any case, this stretches out the heartbeat of the rotation, thankfully, and makes the act of moving through one's rotation much less blisteringly repetitive.

On top of that, Judgement's cooldown was reduced to 6 seconds, Consecration's to 9 seconds, and Avenger's Shield's to 9 seconds. And on top of that, Grand Crusader now has a 40% chance to proc a free Avenger's Shield. Considering all of that, we're talking about a very busy and very varied rotation. It gives me goosebumps just to dream about not having every other key I press be Crusader Strike.

The holy power will flow

And on top of all these attacks that you'll be flinging out, the holy power will be flowing much more wildly than it ever did during Cataclysm. Crusader Strike/Hammer of the Righteous will grant a charge every 4.5 seconds, much like clockwork, but then you'll also be getting a charge from every Judgement (every 6 seconds) along with any of the (likely many) free Avenger's Shield procs you get from Grand Crusader.

Combine that with the new level 85 passive that all paladins will be getting, Boundless Conviction, which allows us to store up to 5 holy power at once. While we're still capped out at expending no more than three charges at a time on a finisher, being able to bank some holy power is a wonderful concept. Letting resources not go to waste is always key.

I use the word resources because it's becoming more and more apparent that mana really isn't a resource of non-healing paladins anymore. Guarded by the Light will give us 5% of our maximum mana every 2 seconds, without having to even fire off a Judgement. And holy paladins are the only ones that get the Holy Insight passive, which grants a 400% larger mana pool. It's very apparent that the intention is to limit paladin healing by the non-healing specs, but not giving them the mana to do much more than fire off a single Flash of Light (36% of base mana!) without crippling their ability to complete the rest of their normal rotation.

But I digress! Looking at the calculator, we can see another exciting design change: What we are spending our holy power on will actually be interesting as well. And they all have some survivability hook!

Inquisition is now retribution only. Word of Glory is off the GCD, thanks to Guarded by the Light (though with a 1.5-second cooldown). Shield of the Righteous also has a 1.5-second cooldown (also off GCD?), and now guarantees a block as well buffs block value by 25% for 6 seconds. And Eternal Flame (one of the new talents) allows you to put a HoT on yourself by spending holy power.

Each and every one of those choices are interesting to make. Very exciting design change, and exactly what I was hoping for.

Actual interesting choices to be had!

Speaking of interesting choices, the latest makeover to the Mists talent tree gave us a lot of really interesting choices to make in each tier -- not to mention that the level 90 tier is filled with new spells, rather than rehashes.

I'm definitely happy Blizzard moved Ardent Defender off the tree and made it a spec feature instead. It was way too powerful to be a talent and not be the obvious choice 99% of the time. In contrast, Holy Avenger is still probably the best choice in its tier -- 5 free max-power HP finishers when you need them most for survival? No questioning needed there. Still, this is pre-alpha, and there are many tweaks to be made. What's important is the direction they are headed, and it's a positive one.

Consider the level 45 tier. Eternal Flame is another heal (over time, though) that we can weave with Word of Glory for a large chunk of self healing. Sitting in the same tier is Sacred Shield, which gives us damage absorption ever 6 seconds, as well as buffs the crit chance of our Word of Glory. Sacred Shield feels like the obvious choice most of the time, but I can definitely see situations where having an additional HoT would be helpful.

The level 60 tier is equally exciting. Hand of Purity is a really cool concept, and the idea of situationally having the option to negate periodic damage is great. Again, you can definitely think of fights where having that kind of tool in your arsenal would make a big difference in your survivability! Likewise, the concept behind Unbreakable Spirit is awesome -- being able to shave time your cooldowns' cooldowns (that was fun to write) is really dynamic and compelling.

Additionally, my biggest complaint from the big talents reveal at BlizzCon was how boring our level 90 talents were, at the time, compared to those of other classes. Now what we see here are some fantastically interesting choices. They'll likely all be balanced out to be worth the same damage/healing over time, so we can put aside the numbers for a moment. On their faces, they each have something unique and compelling about them, either a filler ability to fire out a beam of light, a holy Death and Decay, or the ability to drop a hammer on a target -- each feels true to the new, stated design intent of the trees.

Paladins are definitely headed in the right direction for Mists. Hopefully we continue this trajectory!

The Light and How to Swing It shows paladin tanks how to take on the dark times brought by Cataclysm. Try out our four tips for upping your combat table coverage, find out how to increase threat without sacrificing survivability, and learn how to manage the latest version of Holy Shield.