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The Light and How to Swing It: A look at the changes so far coming in Mists

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.

It seems like we're in the closing stretch of the beta cycle, and we have a fairly clear picture of how we're going to be tanking in the next expansion. There are some amazing changes and some disheartening ones. Nonetheless, they are the cards we are being dealt, and it behooves us to flip up that corner and peek at what we have so we can make informed decisions in advance, before anything can sneak up on us.

There's a lot to go over, so I'm just going to jump right in.

Active mitigation

While this was initially sold to be a much bigger deal, it's still going to make a difference in how we tank. In addition to doing damage, Shield of the Righteous now reduces physical damage taken by 30% for 3 seconds and applies the Bastion of Glory effect. Bastion of Glory in turn buffs Word of Glory by 10%, and the effect can stack up to five times.

Shield of the Righteous is now only usable at 3 holy power, so it's more than ever a finisher. You'll want to use as often as possible -- which shouldn't be too hard, since the ability is off the global cooldown and can be woven in between other abilities. Our survivability (thanks to Bastion of Glory) will be heavily tied in to how we use Shield of the Righteous.

In addition, our mastery (Divine Bulwark) will be giving equal percents of block chance, a boost to the damage reduction following a ShoR, and a boost to Bastion.

Changes to holy power

Holy power gets a quality-of-life buff with the introduction of Boundless Conviction at level 85. This allows a paladin to accumulate up to 5 holy power, rather than 3 -- though, regardless, abilities can only use a maximum of 3 holy power when activated.

The prevailing opinion right now is that the best way to manage holy power is to "bank" -- wait until you have 5 holy power, rather than waiting only until you reach 3, to use an ability. That way, you have 2 holy power in reserve that you can quickly build on and use to fire off a Word of Glory or what have you to avert catastrophe.

Lastly, keep in mind that Judgment (yes, with only one "e" now!) now gives a charge of holy power with a successful hit.

Cooldown changes

There haven't been many serious changes to cooldowns. We certainly didn't gain any this time around, unlike how we gained Guardian of Ancient Kings at the start of Cataclysm. Instead, the only changes are that GAnK has gone to a baseline 3-minute cooldown and Divine Protection flipped positions with its live glyph -- in Mists, the baseline is 40% magic damage reduction and no physical damage reduction, and the glyph will flip that to 20% magical, 20% physical damage reduction.

Word of Glory, which was arguably a cooldown in Cataclysm, is now off the GCD and has only a 1.5-second cooldown. More than ever, between that change and the addition of Bastion of Glory, you'll want to treat WoG like a bonafide cooldown in Mists and save it for the most critical times. Unfortunately, with the removal of the Guarded by the Light talent as we know it, WoG overheals will not apply a damage absorption bubble.

Changes to block

Last week it was discovered that, thankfully, diminishing returns was removed from block chance after having been added earlier in the beta. So this section will not be nearly as dire as it could have been. Still, block isn't making it to Mists unscathed. There is a new two-roll system handling avoidance and block. First, an attack has a chance to be avoided, and then if it is not, it has a chance to be blocked. The separation of rolls is basically a nerf to block, and the more avoidance you get, the worst your block chance will effectively be. Holy Shield is also gone, keep in mind, so our block value remains at 30%.

On the bright side, a successful ShoR is essentially a free block, giving us the equivalent physical damage reduction of a block with the timing that we choose.

Removed abilities

Like most expansions, a few more abilities are being shaved out of our toolkits. Most shocking among these is the wholesale removal of the auras system. That's right -- if you hadn't heard yet, all of the auras are getting the boot and the bar is being repurposed into a seals bar. Some of the auras are being recycled into new abilities, such as Heart of the Crusader (no more sharing your speed boost with other people in your group/raid) and Devotion Aura (which is now a raid cooldown).

The paladin specs are also playing a little game of musical chairs with the abilities Exorcism, Holy Wrath, and Consecration. Unlike live, where all three specs have access to all three, now only ret has access to Exorcism and only prot has access to Holy Wrath and Consecration. So the only thing that changes for us is no more hard casting Exorcism on ranged burn phases, such as when your pillar's add was dead in Nefarian phase 2, in between our actually efficient ranged attacks.

New abilities

Saving the happier news for last! Thanks to the new talents system, we're gaining (potentially) a whole new slew of abilities. It's actually very exciting. Possible new additions to your bars include abilities like the speed boost Speed of Light, crowd control Repentance, heal over time Eternal Flame, new Hand spell Hand of Purity, and the entire level 90 tier's stable of interesting new attacks.

The one talented ability I'm really excited about is Sacred Shield (the return of an old friend), which we can use to put a faux disc bubble on ourselves. I'd take that over Eternal Flame any day of the week, between the lack of a holy power cost and the maxim that "damage prevented is better than damage healed."

After taking Exorcism away from us, ret was so kind as to share Sanctity of Battle with us and holy. This is great, because now our abilities will benefit from raid buffs like Heroism rather than just our melee swings. It also makes haste a valid threat stat, though the exact value of it still needs to be theorycrafted out. I don't think we'll be stacking haste, but the ability isn't worthless now.

Lastly, our new level 87 ability is Blinding Light. Not the most amazing ability ever, but it'll have its uses, especially for tanking. It's alway nice to have a little more crowd control.

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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