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The Light and How to Swing It: First look at protection in Mists beta

Matt Walsh

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.

Last week, we talked about the first tantalizing drip, drip, drips of information that were emitted in the Mists of Pandaria press tour that occurred, as well as the various media appearances that surrounded that event. Then, suddenly -- beta. So here we are, somewhere between the ecstasy of exploring a new world of ubiquitous wind chimes and rotund, alcoholic bear-men, and the agony of the occasional and painful glance at the beta invitation status on our account page.

Nonetheless, at least we can live vicariously through the goings-on of beta players while we wistfully watch from afar. There's a lot of information coming out of beta, from datamining to the experiences of those lucky jerks already inside, and so we have lots to talk about. Let's dig in and make sense of all the changes that'll be waiting for us when the next expansion hits (thus far!). Also, please note, I'm avoiding anything that we've already learned in the past run-up -- including changes to block, the new and various talents, and previously revealed abilities like Boundless Conviction.

Attack changes

Despite having been taken away from us in one of the past official talent preview updates, Holy Wrath has again been restored to protection paladins. The thinking, it seems, is we needed another filler spell for our rotation to reduce dead time resulting from the various cooldown timer shuffles that have been going on.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes to our attacks in Mists is that Judgment and Avenger's Shield are being changed to be pure spell attacks. In the live game (as well as previous expansions), they've been a platypus of sorts -- melee attacks with abnormally long ranges that have the dodge/parry flags turned off, resulting in just the base 8% chance to miss. Now, they'll be full-fledged spells with a 15% chance to miss, affected by hit and expertise, as dictated by the new system.

It's a slight nerf to both in terms of miss chance, but it'll prevent crazy side effects in the future by removing the possibility that they'll set off various melee-only procs. It's a change that has been a long time coming.

No other real surprises in this category, from early information dumps. Crusader Strike, Judgment, and Hammer of the Righteous generate holy power. The Grand Crusader proc continues to generate a charge of holy power as well, regardless of if the shield toss hits or not. Consecration has a 9-second cooldown and a 9-second duration now, so the idea seems to have it down constantly, thanks to its mana cost coming down to 7% from 55%. Also, old news: Shield of the Righteous continues to cost only 3 holy power (no scaling with how much holy power you have) and makes you block your next attack, in addition to dealing damage, and then buffs your block chance by 25% for a few seconds.

Lastly, in a very interesting change, protection has access to Sanctity of Battle at the moment. Ret-only in the past, this will add a nice dimension to group tanking, allowing us to benefit from haste buffs like Bloodlust, as well as encounter buffs like the ones you get in Sinestra and Madness of Deathwing. It probably won't make us value haste in gearing. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen if we will retain this passive as beta continues.

Auras get the axe

One of the bigger changes to the paladin toolbox in Mists, auras have been given the axe. They are completely gone. So, a moment of silence for our old friends.

In their place, we have abilities like Heart of the Crusader, which is a passive ability that increases your mounted speed by 20%, or the retooled Devotion Aura, which is a cooldown for holy paladins that combined the current Concentration Aura with Resistance Aura -- basically, Aura Mastery 2.0 (and indeed, it occupies AM's old spell ID).

There are no replacements for the armor buff of the old Devotion Aura or the magic resistance buff of Resistance Aura, especially in terms of the latter (because, as announced, Blizzard is just about purging magic resistance from the game).

Blessing tweaks

Blessings remain but will be tweaked in what they buff along the lines of Ghostcrawler's recent group buffs Dev Watercooler post. Blessings of Kings will now only buff strength, intellect, and agility. No stamina, as that's handled purely by the Power Word: Fortitude class of buffs. In addition, Blessing of Might now buffs mastery rather than attack power and mana regen.

Cooldown adjustments

Divine Protection has basically been flipped with its glyph, as they exist on live right now. The base spell in Mists is 40% less magic damage and no effect on physical damage. The glyph now reverses this.

Divine Shield and Avenging Wrath now cost no mana, which is weird (not bad weird, just out-of-the-blue weird), but I'll take it.

Keep in mind that all of our survivability cooldowns, as well as Avenging Wrath, were already off the global cooldown at the start of Cataclysm. So no need for changes along those lines this expansion pack, what with Blizzard's (seeming) push to move more of our survivability-related spells off the global cooldown.

Hands get more range

No real major changes here, other than Hands of Sacrifice and Salvation getting a buff to their range -- now 40 yards, instead of 30.

In addition, Hand of Reckoning has been demoted out of the Hands family. It is now just Reckoning.

Sealing the deal

In Mists, seals are becoming a little more like auras are in live right now, since auras have now gotten the axe. They're getting their own bar (basically moving into auras' old digs), and in the latest build, their cooldown has been changed to 1.5 seconds -- which is usually a dog whistle for the ability coming off the global cooldown.

Some seals have changed slightly, others have mostly stayed the same. Seal of Truth still applies the Censure DoT, in addition to its normal holy damage per swing. Seal of Righteousness now does a holy cleave. Seal of Insight is the only somewhat changed one, increasing your healing done in addition to giving you free healing and mana. You get the old glyph for free now. Seal of Command still exists, but it's a low-level seal that gets replaced with Seal of Truth later on.

Self-buff cooldown change

Righteous Fury now has a 1.5-second cooldown as well, which (again) I assume to mean it's off the global cooldown. This will be a lifesaver when you realize halfway through a boss fight that you forgot to put your threat generator on.

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.

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