The Sacred Shield one-two
It's still very (almost embryonically) early in the patch development process, but there's already been a pretty key reversal in what was an exciting change. A reversal which I'm really hoping does not stick.
The new build Wednesday night introduced a baseline Sacred Shield, renamed to our old friend Holy Shield, and a new, completely different Sacred Shield talent. Blizzard is apparently (and rightfully) concerned that since the start of the expansion, protection paladins by and large have chosen only Sacred Shield as their third-tier talent and completely avoided Eternal Flame and Selfless Healer like a warrior avoiding a bath.
However, late Thursday night, Rygarius posted on the forums that the developers were likely going to revert this change, bringing back the old/current Sacred Shield, and instead electing to make the other two talents in the tier more attractive for prot. I am disappointed, but I see their point, especially about the threat of having to nerf prot for getting a free talent (sort of).
By itself, the new (now dead) Sacred Shield wasn't anything amazing, but if paired with the gift of a free new mitigation spell, it would have given protection paladins a major buff going into the next patch. That obviously would have not gone over well.
Now, if the developers want to make EF and SH more attractive, they have their work cut out for them. The major reason we like Word of Glory so much is that's like a cooldown that you pop when your health dips and you need a boost back into safer territory. A heal-over-time doesn't have the same impact, and suffers from the same problems that most HoTs have by often being lost in overheals. Likewise, Selfless Healer is just a weak talent, the heal it allows isn't that great, and it eats up a GCD whereas WoG does not.
One way I think they could at least make SH interesting for tanks is to give it a protection-only hook where Flash of Light would apply an absorption shield instead of a heal. Make it weaker than the absorption offered by (the random) Sacred Shield, of course, because choosing when to front-load an absorb would be really powerful in of itself. Especially on any fight where there is a major, telegraphed burst. This would also avoid any redundancy with Word of Glory, since SH you would use preemptively and WoG reactively.
I think that could make the talent very situationally attractive. It's definitely a functionality that's missing in the tier!
Other major changes
Sanctified Wrath was changed to reduce the cooldown of Judgment by 100% (up from 50%). So basically, for the 30 seconds that Avenging Wrath is up, thanks to the talent, you can spam Judgment with every GCD. That sounds really boring, doesn't it? I doubt this will be the final iteration of this talent change.
Glyph of the Alabaster Shield (which is one of those glyphs you'll find on just about every protection paladin) is being nerfed from 20% to 10%. I'm sure they're concerned that it's considered near-mandatory.
And speaking of Shield of the Righteous, the T16 two-piece set bonus that would make using Bastion of Glory stacks generate holy power has been changed to the four-piece bonus. This is to prevent crafty tanks from pairing the T15 two-piece and the (old) T16 two-piece to basically keep the 40% block chance buff of the former up indefinitely. It's good they nipped that in the bud as quickly as they did.
Perhaps one of the 5.4 changes I'm most excited about, Reckoning (and other taunts) will now give the taunting paladin a 200% threat boost when they take over the boss. Ideally this will prevent the current situation where tank A is taunting a boss away from tank B who is drowning in free attack power from Vengeance, and then both tanks have to struggle to avoid B ripping the boss back from A over the next few seconds. Always a huge pain.
Personally I find myself using a cancel/apply Righteous Fury keybind these days to cancel the buff whenever my co-tank taunts off of me, so I can continue with my attacks keep the damage going without accidentally taking the boss back and blowing myself up. It's really not fun at all, so this is a great change for all tanks.
Proving our worth
Not directly a change to paladin tanks, but I think these are just as exciting and relevant to our interests. From earlier columns you may have noticed that a major bugbear of mine has been all the new stuff that Blizzard has added this expansion that tanks have to switch to a DPS offspec to do properly.
Yet we'll soon have the Proving Grounds to play around with, which has a mode specifically for tanks, and this is very awesome.
Proving Grounds will, I assume, be a great way for new tanks to practice skills like maintaining aggro and protecting their fellow groupmates -- essential for any new tank to learn -- in a high pressure environment. Perfect for stretching your wings for the first time without the threat of angry strangers just waiting to pounce with judgment. I'm glad Blizzard is adding this resource for all the new tanks out there and who have yet to pick up a shield for the first time.
For established tanks, Proving Grounds will give us a chance to flex our egos the same way that Brawler's Guild has allowed DPS to strut their stuff these past few months. And, unlike Brawler's Guild, will be able to enjoy the new feature in our preferred/main spec. As someone who is definitely not 100% comfortable/competent masquerading as DPS, I'm relishing the opportunity to really dive into this new content with the gameplay that I love to engage in.
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!