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The Light and How to Swing It: How many abilities is too many?

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.

Remember Divine Intervention?

I was talking about bygone abilities with some guildmates the other day (we need a ret/holy hybrid, by the way!) and it evolved into an interesting conversation about ability bloat in WoW. Some of them thought that they had way too many abilities on their bars with far too many keybinds to manage, and were dreading finding room for anything new that could be added in the next expansion.

Personally, I don't feel like I'm in the saturation point just yet (maybe because I'm not a prolific macro-er) but I can definitely sympathize with the sentiment. Ever since TBC, Blizzard has been heaping more and more abilities into our toolbox, and if we're not yet at a saturation point, we will soon be at one in the future. Regardless, it's interesting to look not only at what our toolbox is like now, but also what it used to be like, and then if something had to be cut down the line, where the knife may well be pointed.

The state of our toolbox

At the start of Mists there was a noticeable ability prune, as some spells and attacks became exclusive to one spec or another. For example, holy took most of the healing spells we once had the possibility of draining our mana with. Not really a loss there. However, consider that when the spec walls went up, we managed to squirrel away Holy Wrath and Consecration from holy and retribution, and in turn retribution got sole custody of Exorcism and Inquisition.

To partially make up for losing access to these abilities, Mists introduced the new talent system with its various optional abilities. One moment you could have Speed of Light sitting on your bars, and then another moment it's gone because Pursuit of Justice and Long Arm of the Law are both passive. Protection paladins can be assumed to have to deal with a Sacred Shield button, unlike holy and ret. And on fights like Megaera you are probably going to have to deal with a Hand of Purity button, while other fights Clemency (with no extra buttons needed) may suffice.

And speaking of utility, paladins are probably a little unique among most classes in that because of our vast array of utility abilities and spells, we have a lot of "fluff" that might not always be used, but can be so critical that you can't not have them somewhere handy on your bars. A great paladin is one that has Hand of Protection, Hand of Freedom, and Hand of Sacrifice at the ready, and an overly prepared (possibly paranoid) paladin is one that finds room for Hand of Salvation as well.

I could go on and on with other uncommonly used, situationally useful buttons -- Blinding Light, anyone? -- but I'll spare you all the grocery list.

Considering all that, when I'm evaluating everything on my bars today, including macros, and despite everything that's been taken away, I still feel like we have a very healthy number of buttons demanding our attention. Sure we're not (for example) a pet class with an array of macros just to keep the pet from somehow eating a healer in the heat of battle -- but it's still very feasible to feel overwhelmed by what we have to work with.

And as much as I may make it sound like PvE paladins have a lot on their plate, I can only begin to imagine what PvP paladins need to work with since their gameplay revolves around random and unpredictable situations.

What could be pruned?

In the recent past, whenever Blizzard pruned abilities from our spellbook, it was often the most obviously redundant choices. Three different flavors of Judgment, for example, was hideously excessive. Did Seal of Light and Wisdom need to exist simultaneously? Not really, and it was easy to roll them up into Seal of Insight. Did we need to have two separate taunts? The devs felt no (I woefully would have preferred they didn't) and they cut us down to just Reckoning.

You could go even further back if you wanted and dredge up the ghosts of all the Blessings that have disappeared over the years, if they weren't lucky enough to get repurposed into a Hand spell.

And yet even then, it can be argued that the number of Hand spells we have these days are too many. How many times do we really ever use Hand of Salvation anymore, considering how insane tank threat is? Maybe on transitions when the passing tank has a large amount of Vengeance, but never (this expansion) on a non-tank character. Could Hands be combined, like putting the Freedom effect on Sacrifice? Perhaps, and I imagine that could be low-hanging fruit for a future prune come the next expansion, if the devs decide they need to cut back a bit.

There are some abilities that I hope that the devs do not usher to the chopping block, no matter how utterly inconsequential or situational they are. For example, Turn Evil: I don't think I've yet used that ability once this expansion and (confession time) I don't even have it on my bars. Yet, it doesn't add to any ability bloat I may or may not be suffering and it just feels so iconic as part of the paladin toolbox (this may be my old D&D days showing) that it would be a real shame to lose. For similar reasons I was annoyed when they chopped Sense Undead, which was utterly unobjectionable outside of the silly glyph that everyone used back in Icecrown Citadel.

Closing up this topic, I'm curious what you all think. Do you have too many abilities on your bars, are you drowning in buttons? Or do you feel like there's enough room for expansion and you're not yet pressured to go out and buy a Naga?

Addendum: The value of t15 set bonuses

Theck wrote a great blog post the other day, which I hope you'll read, simming out the value of the two and four-piece bonuses on our t15 tier. I won't spoil the ending, but regardless it's great to have some numbers backing up the general feeling I've seen among protection paladins that our four-piece bonus leaves much to be desired and our tier itemization makes it hard to justify going for it. (That might have been a spoiler.)

The Light and How to Swing It shows paladin tanks how to combat the Sha in the strange new land of Pandaria. Try out the new control gearing strategy, learn how to make the most of the new active mitigation system on your tankadin, and check out how to deck out your fresh 90 tank to get ready for any raids!

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