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The Light and How to Swing It: The shrinking paladin toolbox

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 9 other people, obsessing over his hair, and maintaining the tankadin-focused blog Righteous Defense.

If there's one thing in WoW that's a major sticking point at the start of every expansion, it's the constant change in each class's abilities at launch. We all know the pain: Some abilities come in, some are changed to a whole different creature, and others just fade away. People hate the idea of having to relearn their class, for sure, but most of all what I hate is the idea of losing some old friends to the march of time.

We all fondly remember one ability or another from auld lang syne in WoW. The game feels a slight bit emptier without it, though you'll cope, because there's really no way to turn back the clock. Once an ability hits the chopping block, it seldom comes back. (Unless it's Blinding Light -- that one definitely got a second chance.)

Let's talk about a few of the amazing paladin abilities that were tossed out on the heap, as well as what's currently getting its head jammed in the guillotine.

The dearly departed

I think it's a safe position to venture that any paladin who did any group content before Cataclysm was enamored with Divine Intervention and how it helpfully spared one's wallet from any wipe. I used to love tossing out a DI as soon as the word "wipe" exited my headphones. Before anyone could blink I'd drop to the floor, give up the ghost, and not a single red cent following that.

The choice of who was "it" was also the surest way of determining who the paladin's favorite was -- like perhaps the raid leader they were sucking up to.

Nonetheless, I'm pretty sure the reason Blizzard eventually removed the ability wasn't to kill fun (the usual charge!) but rather that DI opened up some "creative" possibilities in some raid encounters, and the designers were sick of having to plan around people's possibly abusing the ability. Consider Deathbringer Saurfang's Mark of the Fallen Champion, where for the first few weeks of his availability, raids could just DI the marks and completely negate the mechanic. For the good of preemptively removing future exploits, DI had to die.

A much less consequential ability that was taken away from us was Sense Undead. You'd toggle the ability, and your minimap would light up with every undead enemy nearby. In Wrath, they added a minor glyph that gave a paladin an additional 1% damage done against undead enemies when Sense Undead was active -- which was a pain because the ability was mandatory (generally), so whenever you were within 10 feet of Icecrown, your minimap would light up like the Fourth of July.

Despite the annoyance, the ability was pure class flavor. Paladins are the champions of the Light and scourge of the, uh, Scourge. It made perfect sense for them to be able to, yes, sense the undead. I'm not sure I saw the reasoning behind throwing the baby out with the bath water when Cataclysm launched.

The other ability (and I use this term loosely) that I rue the removal of is definitely bubble-hearthing. But this is a very shallow example, between the fact that it's returning via a glyph in Mists, that a similar effect can be jury-rigged with the Last Relic of Argus, and that it was never a real ability and thus could never truly be removed. It was just neutered incidentally by nerfing the duration of Divine Shield.

In short, despite many people decrying the inability to "officially" bubble-hearth in Cataclysm, it is a silly example. Let us not go to there.

On the chopping block

But that was the past, and there's not much we can do about that. Instead, the spectre of future cuts looms in our very near future. For example, how we're soon losing access to Exorcism, and likewise stealing away Consecration and Holy Wrath from the other paladin specs.

Most critically (and most distressing to me) is that they're killing the auras system in Mists. Concentration, Crusader, Devotion, Resistance, and Retribution -- they're all going away, as we know them. A few are being molded into something new, specifically Heart of the Crusader, a new passive, and Devotion Aura, which is more of an Aura Mastery-meets-Divine Guardian-lite raid cooldown.

It's still pretty bothersome, at least for me, that they would remove auras. I can see why they're doing it, but the system has been a hallmark of the paladin class since Warcraft 3 when those funky runes first spread out from underneath the footsteps of Uther and Arthas. You don't get much more paladin than the auras, and for them to be shunted aside so unceremoniously ... It's a little tragic.

It's always hard to predict what will be tossed out down the line. There are usually design issues that rear their ugly heads as an expansion continues, and the designers do their best to work around them (and with them). Eventually though, the hassle becomes much less worth the sentimental reasons for keeping an ability or slate of abilities, and they're marched up to the block to be disposed of.

Who knows what the future holds as to which abilities will have that target painted on their back. If you told me at the beginning of Cataclysm that Divine Guardian would be out, I would have found that absolutely plausible. But auras? Not in a million years. Next time you forget that you have Crusader Aura on, appreciate that small goof, because you won't be able to make it much longer!

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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