On the Future of Paladin Soloing

Everyone keeps ending up on this blog while googling for “Paladin solo Doomwalker.” I had no idea this was such a popular passtime. Is this some Paladin right-of-passage I don’t know about?

Well, I got myself copied over to the 4.01 PTR to learn the new paladin tanking mechanics and ability priority as well as test-drive the new talents so when Cataclysm comes out I can hit the ground running. Two things became immediately clear to me: 1) I had alot less buttons to push and this bothered me. 2) I am not nearly as immortal as I used to be and this bothered me.

Lets hit the bullet-points:
— Sacred Shield is gone as a baseline ability. Granted I only ever used that on myself while soloing or if there wasn’t a Holy Paladin in the raid, but sine this article is about soloing, I notice a decrease in survivability.
— Instead of 4 blessings, there are only 2 (this just makes my bars look empty and makes me sad). Blessings are now raid-wide and cost no reagents, so thats a major plus for me, but it doesn’t help me survive longer.
— Holy Shield has become a passive ability triggered when you use Shield of Righteousness so that’s another thing less for me to press in combat (I thought they wanted to make Paladins have less passive abilities…. It is theoretically possible to keep it up 100% of the time, it’s just more irritating for me personally.
— Hand or Reckoning no longer causes damage. I guess this change was done because of the 4 tank classes, this was the only taunt that caused damage. This damage was originally coupled into the skill because in 3.1 Exorcism no longer had a cast time or mob-type restriction so paladins would taunt and use exorcism immediately following one another for some additional bonus threat. It’s going to take awhile for me to break my habit of pulling with HoR.
— Cleanse is gone, we are just left with Purify. While this is one less button on my bar, I can also no longer cleanse magic affects from myself which is going to have a significant impact on my ability to solo things in the future I imagine.
— Divine Plea no longer has talents which give it a 100% uptime or keep it from being dispelled. It also got chopped off at the knees and only restores 10% of your mana instead of 25%. The Glyph of Divine Plea, instead of reducing damage by 3% now gives you an extra 5% mana returned when you use it. That’s a big survivability loss right there, but it does also make me feel better about my t10 4 piece bonus. I never had DP up to use as a cooldown on certain fights because I always needed a way to keep it up 100% of the time for the damage reduction.
— The “Grand Crusader” talent (currently a 4th tier follow-up talent to Hammer of the Righteous) has a 20% chance to refresh the cooldown on Avenger Shield. Since Avenger Shield now only costs 260 mana instead of 1200 mana, this is a wonderful change and the built-in power aura for this proc (while somewhat ostentatious) is a nice effect. Avenger Shield no longer dazes targets which means it is finally a useful pulling tool. There is a glyph for it which gives it dazing ability.
— Divine Protection, the Paladin “Shield Wall” has been crippled to only reduce incoming damage by 20% but instead of a 2 minute cooldown, it is now only a minute. It may work out when the raid content comes out, but at the moment I can’t help but feel unjustly nerfed. There is a glyph for this ability which reduces it’s physical damage reduction to 0, but doubles the magic damage reduction to 40%. This is a very situational glyph, but at least for all the dragon-breaths we are gonna be eating to the face, this may be a good thing. Would be better still if both physical and magical damage was reduced by 50%
— I’m sure I’ll catch some flak for saying this, but I’m going to miss Ardent Defender being an automatic. I know some people have expressed gratitude that Blizzard now trusts Paladins enough to use their own cooldowns, but this now guarentees that I will never have a 100% optimal use of this ability. This ability also reduces damage taken by 20% with the Guardian Spirit component still mixed in. This and Divine Protection do not stack to reach a 40% reduction. I’ve spent too long getting used to my free immortality button and playing the game accordingly. This is another habit Blizzard is going to force me to break, and I hate change, so I hate them for forcing me to. It also has a 3 minute cooldown, up from the 2minute cooldown it has on live, and it no longer reduces danger-zone damage at all, another HUGE survivability hit.
— Forebearance still exists for the moment; big, big disappointment here, however it only affects Hand of Protection, Divine Protection, and Lay on Hands.
— Seal of Command is gone, the talent instead turns Seal of Righteousness into “seal of cleave” and it is too far in the Retribution tree for Paladin Tanks to make use of it. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.
— Seal of Light is gone, replaced by Seal of Insight. This is a mash-up between Seal of Light and Seal of Wisdom but its heal is smaller than what it currently is on live, so for a protection paladin this is a survivability nerf. Judgement of Light, Wisdom and Command also no longer exist and have been combined into “Judgement” which has no additional bonus effects, another sizable nerf to my solo survivability. The bonus of not having to worry about judgement-effects being overwritten or having to coordinate judging assignments so that all benefits are represented are heavily outweighed by the lack of bonuses in my mind. I’m going to really miss that 2% healing at 100k health.
— Divine Guardian now no longer affects the casting Paladin, so that’s another small defensive CD we no longer have.
— The flat loss of talents which gave tanks +5% dodge and +5% parry. They are no longer in the trees of any tanking class, but gone they are.

What does this all add up to? Well, a little more difficulty, but not necessarily diminished success. After messing around on the target dummies getting re-aquainted with my abilities, I ran out to Hellfire Peninsula to see if I could still take the Fel Reaver. It was a little more difficult than I remember it being on live, in as much as I believe I took more damage fighting him, was hit more often, and took more damage per-hit in identical gear and was not able to recoup that damage as quickly. He was still no mach for me and I dispatched him with little difficulty. I then flew over to Nagrand to beat up Durn the Hungerer with the same result. I flew to Shadowmoon Valley to see if I could still take Doomwalker, but he was sadly not there. I then went out to the Howlig Fjord to introduce my PTR-avatar to the wandering Storm Giant. He was more difficult, a similar experience to the Fel Reaver, but in the end he didn’t really have a chance of killing me, it was just that I lost more health in the process and wasn’t able to heal it as quickly (ie he actually got me down by 10k or more at one point). Then I went on to the TRUE test as I attempted to solo Utgarde Keep. And not just solo it, mind you, but embarass it, the way I can on live. I ran in, pulled the whole first room as I’ve done dozens of times before, and I was quickly squashed, and VERY aware of when AD would have proc’d on live but was no longer able to save me in this strange new world. I simply could not heal through the damage they were doing to me. At no point did I ever use a cooldown, but I’ve never had to before. Now, I am absolutely certain that if I attempted to dismantle the room in smaller groups that I would succeed with no real difficulty. But that’s not the point. The point is not that I can survive 4 lv72 elites hitting me, it’s that I USED TO BE ABLE TO SURVIvE 12. And this angers me. Sure, entitlement complex and somewhat unrealistic ability to succeed compared to every other class in the game, but that’s not the point, I have been diminished, and in the true Paladin tradition, here I am complaining about it.
The major difference, as I have expressed, between live and PTR is the significantly less frequent and smaller heals I recieve from my abilities. Seal of Light, Judgement of Light, the Hammer of the Righteous’ ability to proc both of these things for additional healing, a lack of a Sacred Shield (however small it was), as well as no additional bonus from Divine Plea, and a reduction in all my avoidance and armor stats across the board. Yes, I know numbers are always subject to change and one of the last things to get locked down, but here’s how it looks for me:

On Live

Health — 48854 (4210 stamina [157+4053] 0/53/18 build)

Defense — 555 (763 rating) 6.20% increase to dodge, parry, and block
Armor — 36135 (2 Stamia trinkets and Improved Devotion Aura +1205)
Dodge — 27.26% (622 dodge rating adding 13.75%)
Parry — 23.25% (518 parry rating adding 11.45%)
Block — 11.20% (0 rating with a 1760 block value)
Using the unhittable macro I am listed at 71.34% without Holy Shield up.

On PTR 4.01

Health — 54981 (4704 stamina [172+4532], 0/31/5 current build)

Defense — No longer exists, Putting 3 points into the Sanctuary talent makes you crit-immune
Armor — 29653 (2 Stamina trinkets and Devotion Aura +1150)
Dodge — 19.52% (972 dodge rating adding 21.48%) — HOW it can add 21.48% and me still be sub-20% I just don’t know…
Parry — 17.46% (665 parry rating adds 14.70%) — which couple with the base of 5% should put me at 19.70, but again, my math might be wrong…
Block — 21.00% (0 rating with a flat 30% block value) I will block the same % from a 21k hit from the Lich King as I will from a lv12 Trogg in Ragefire Chasm. Apparently it’s open-season on block tanks in all 5-mans after their damage was made irrelevant by proper gearing in Wrath… I can’t wait to go to Ragefire Chasym and see “You take 7 damage from Trogg (3 blocked).” I’ve already got the noose hanging in my garage just waiting. Block rating goes up to 36% with a 3-Holy-Power Shield of Righteousness for 15 seconds. On top of the 5% flat Block chance, a 0-Mastery adds 16%, and every point of Mastery (not mastery Rating) will increase this block chance by 2%. I am lv80 in Icecrown raid gear on the PTR so I have no mastery values with which to expand on this.
The unhittable macro I have did not work properly on the PTR, so rough napkin math puts me at 66% chance to block, dodge, parry, or be missed (without Holy Shield). That value is based on the posted numbers, not on the (somewhat) higher numbers which my ratings indicate I should have. Using those numbers it would be 71% approximately. With Holy Shield plus Mastery bonuses it appears Paladins will still be able to be unhittable in Cataclyms, but it’s too early to tell how the numbers will scale at 85.

As far as Health is concerned, I checked, and the stamina values on my gear remain unchanged. It looks like the base-stamina for a lv80 Blood Elf Paladin has been raised from 157 to 172. The larger health pool can only seem to be accounted for by the “Primary Tree” bonus of “Touched by the Light” which gives a 15% stamina boost, because otherwise I can’t seem to determine where it would be coming from.

Among the reasons for this major armor reduction is that Devium’s Eternally Cold Ring goes from 672 on live to 192 on the PTR. Looks like ArP stats on gear weren’t the only things to get destroyed. The Paladin 277 tier chest drops from 4100 armor to 3140, the Gauntlets of the Kraken go from 2658 to 1939, Verdigirs Chain Belt drops from 2143 to 1674, and the Pillars of Might sink from 3500 to 2651. And those are just the bonus-armor pieces. So already, all stats aside, my armor dropped almost 7000 points, which, taking into account Blizzard’s plan to make all of Cataclysm similar to icecrown in the “gets hit more often but for less” causing armor and stamina to have a theorycrafted relative value of 11.4 armor to 1 stamina, I lose a little less than 7000 effective health against physical attacks (like the kind of attacks I suffered while stunned and unable to avoid from the Vrykul in Utgarde Keep when I pulled the whole room). Though to be fair, I did seem to gain about 7000 Health from the talent trees. I’m not sure if the numbers are an exact match, I didn’t go that far with the math, but, at least for some fights, that 7000 health vs 7000 armor comes out on the good side of the chage. Also, all trinkets that grant armor that I currently have (Petrified Twilight Scale, Unidentifiable Organ, and the Glyph of Indomitability no longer have any armor on them whatsoever, basically invalidating them as trinkets completely. I can’t help but feeling that Sindragosa 25H would squash me like a bug now… With the Icecrown 30% buff being removed in Cataclysm I am forced to wonder if anyone is going to be able to clear the content level-appropriate with the new mechanics. At level 85 in iLvl351+ raid gear the 30% buff likely won’t be relevant, but for a level 80 with the 30% buff after 4.01 goes live but before the 4.03 Cataclysm installation, success should still be possible, but I believe alot more tank damage is going to be noticable. I don’t see a lot of post-4.01 heroic LK25 kills prior to lv85.

Looking at these avoidance+mitigation numbers, the totals are the same, but there is a 10% difference in avoidance over mitigation on Live vs the PTR. So I was taking more hits than I was expecting to, and taking more damage from those hits than I was used to. The numbers seem to back up my experiences attempting to solo things on the PTR.

One thing I have not yet mentioned is Word of Glory. For those of you who have played Retribution and used Art of War to heal yourself with an instant-cast flash of light, you can think of it that way. Word of Glory is a heal on yourself or another that scales with the Holy Power you have to determine the size of the heal. There is also a deep Protection tree talent “Guarded by the Light” which increases the healing Word of Glory does to you by 60% when you use it to heal youeself (your spellpower still scales with your strength) and any overhealing it does adds a damage shield to you. You can think of it like Sacred Shield’s less consistant sister I guess. But you can use this when soloing to somewhat make up for the lack of healing done to you by the changes to Seal and Judgement of Light by healing yourself and giving yourself a shield should you already be topped off. The only other use for Holy Power (sub-85) is to cause damage with Shield of Righteousness (which also applies Holy Shield). Since threat is a non-issue when soloing, and bursting the oppenent down before he bursts you down is not the hallmark of the Protection Paladin playstyle, its damage is almost as irrelevant. Holy Shield may make it worthwhile depending on if you are soloing a single large boss-type monster vs. a smaller trash pull. Because the block value is always a flat 30%, it will be far more useful reducing 10,000 damage by 3000 than 1000 damage by 300. It would only equal out, roughly, if you had 7+ guys on you, which, at the moment, doesn’t seem surviable anyway. In just my brief testing, the heal typically provided an average heal of between 7-9k with 3 holy power. The biggest problem with this is that the Guarded by the Light shield only lasts about 6 seconds, so it falls off very quickly and may not necessarly get completely used in its absorbtion capacity, especially against a single, slow-swinging target if you avoid the swing. For raiding purposes, at the moment neither of these holy power abilities seem especially interesting to me. Threat will likely be more important than I’m giving it credit for with all the changes coming, but the damage shield so far is underwhelming.

Tl;Dr… First impressions are that Paladins can still solo things they could before as far as I can tell, they just can’t be as cavalier about it as they used to be. We’ve lost a great deal of survivability and self-healing. Gear has changed, abilities have changed, but there’s no way to tell how it’s going to work at 85 just yet. Soloing outlands and old-world content should be just as easy or easier at 85 than it is right now, but out ability to solo Northrend content at lv80 has definitely been diminished and it remains to be seen how much we will be able to do at lv85 with tier-11 iLvl gear.

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