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The Light and How to Swing It: Nerfing Holy Radiance to the ground


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.

Paladins haven't always had the most amicable relationship with the community team and developers at Blizzard. Retribution paladins have fought for years with the blues over their perception of being constantly nerfed, which is a nice way to say that ret paladins enjoy playing the victim. Their claims do have some merit, though, as the paladin class has undergone major transformations in nearly every expansion, and not always for the better.

In patch 4.3.2, the developers are handling a few balance issues. Fire mages are being tweaked downward, while hunters should be doing slightly better overall. Oh, and the mana cost of Holy Radiance is going up by 14%. Holy paladins are already complaining on the forums about this nerf, but the truth is that it's irrelevant. Even as Holy Radiance has seen two nerfs in as many patches, it's still an amazing spell. It takes a lot more than a 14% mana cost bump to erase Holy Radiance's dominance.

Healers don't have a Patchwerk

I don't get all of the hatred and malice aimed at holy paladins that is coming from the other healing classes. I understand that World of Logs might make it seem like we're crazy-overpowered. The truth is that the paladins at the top of the charts are just spamming the hell out of Holy Radiance and not necessarily doing their job properly. Remember, raids that take more damage also receive more healing, so you'll do less HPS when healing a more skilled raid.

Part of the problem is with Dragon Soul itself. Nearly every boss in the tier promotes stacking the raid up in a tight ball. In fact, Yor'sahj heroic is nearly impossible if your raid can't collapse into the boss' hitbox in just a few seconds flat. Everyone is constantly stacking up, and so AoE heals are going to be abused. Because every boss' healing requirements are different, it's impossible to rank healers in terms of potency. Each diverse healer performs differently on each encounter. On fights where the raid is tasked with spreading out, holy paladins are nowhere near dominant.

There's nothing like Holy Radiance

The second problem with Holy Radiance is Holy Radiance itself. Ultraxion is an encounter that magnifies everything that's unique about Holy Radiance. The key differentiator between Holy Radiance and every other traditional heal is that Holy Radiance heals everyone within range. The other workhorse AoE heals, like Wild Growth, Chain Heal, and Prayer of Healing only affect a handful of targets. While there are a few heals such as Healing Rain that can also heal everyone, they have long cooldowns and aren't spammable.

The combination of a spammable heal that doesn't have a target cap is what propelled holy paladins to the #1 spot on World of Logs.

A person might wonder why the developers decided to change Holy Radiance so radically in the middle of an expansion. That person doesn't play a paladin. We're used to radical redesigns, such as the introduction of holy power and Cataclysm's new three-heal model. Holy Radiance's new identity is different though because of how little testing was done on its strength on the PTR.

The nerf to the four-piece bonus on our tier set was introduced to prevent holy paladins from solo healing every single Dragon Soul encounter, and the new mana cost increase is only around to ensure that we cast Holy Shock or Light of Dawn every few GCDs. It's clear by the size and the scale of the nerfs that Holy Radiance is receiving that it's not going anywhere until Mists of Pandaria. The devs aren't nerfing Holy Radiance into the ground, as it's still one of the best heals in the entire game.

Holy Radiance might get changed again

Once patch 5.0 is within striking distance, I suspect that we'll see a major change to Holy Radiance on the books. Holy paladins need a spammable AoE heal to compete with the other healers, but it doesn't need to heal everyone at once. A Chain Heal-style priority system that directs the healing to the most wounded targets within HR's range would help. Holy Radiance could also be changed to only affect one group, like Prayer of Healing.

The truth is that Holy Radiance in its current incarnation isn't going to be sustainable. Holy Radiance's initial Cataclysm iteration had flaws; the new version simply traded in those problems for new ones. While it's unlikely that we'll see any more Holy Radiance changes until the pre-Mists update, I am already bracing myself for yet another version of the spell. And from what I gathered from the official healing forums, the other healing classes are eagerly awaiting that day as well.

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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