Friday, November 11, 2011

Paladin in 4.3

I feel like it's safe to say that I'm not a strong theorycrafter.  Whether or not that makes me a sub-par player isn't really something I've ever been concerned with.  When I play a class I typically find out what I can to make sure I'm "doing it right."  For as long as I've been the type who goes looking for it, the World of Warcraft theorycrafting community has always had a bounty of useful information to help people know how to play their toons.  Note: I probably should have called this post "Holy/Ret/I don't play Prot Paladin in 4.3.

Incoming "balance" changes have been big WoW news lately.  Lead systems designer Ghostcrawler has released a couple of explanations for what's headed our way.  At this stage if you're not on the PTR, these explanations feel fairly flimsy.  Part one of the balance changes can be found here, and part two here.  

For those of us who don't take notes, these explanations remain vague from a theorycrafting point of view (IMO.)  Part one ignores ret entirely, although you could say that it mentions us indirectly under the melee section.  If the raid progression section on Jack's armory page is accurate, then I've seen a total of 82 non-BH boss kills in Cataclysm.  I'd say probably less than twenty of those were done as ret.  That statement is meant to give weight to the fact that I don't really have a concept of how weak or strong melee is vs ranged in a raid setting.  In the current tier, vs the ranged DPS I raid with, melee (namely retribution paladins) feel strong, but I obviously am not part of a min-maxing team so my point of view is most likely not going to show me precisely the reasons for this change.  Adding a 10% melee attack power bonus to Blessing of Might, Abomination's Might, Trueshot Aura, and Unleashed Rage suits me just fine.  I loves me some more pew pew.

Part two of Ghostcrawler's explanation does actually mention ret, although it seems like a very truncated blurb:

" For Retribution, as we suggested previously, we lowered the crit chance of Hammer of Wrath to reduce burst but increased sustained damage through Two-Handed Specialization and Seal of Truth."

When the above mentioned nerf to the crit chance portion of the Sanctified Wrath talent hit MMO-Champion, I was initially dismayed.  All other logic aside, critting is fun.  In full raid buffs Jack is only sporting around 11% crit chance, so when I heard that my Hammer of Wrath wasn't going to produce a nearly guaranteed big shiny number, my nerd rage alert went off.  But then I thought about it.

By its self this is a PvE nerf, plain and simple, but not a huge one.  Ret isn't heavily reliant on HoW as a major damage contributor, mainly due to the collection of cooldowns that are commonly burned together.  Without getting into too much detail or littering this post with too many of my beloved Wowhead mouseover links, when using Avenging Wrath above 20% boss health, hammer commonly falls so low on the "rotation" priority list that it gets skipped.  This is due to a couple of factors like the need to generate holy power, and the fact that HoW isn't affected by mastery and therefore does less damage than Templar's Verdict.  Depending on haste (which is the DEVIL,) you're really only using Crusader Strike and Templar's verdict during burns.  Using hammer almost always interferes with those two abilities, so the loss of crit chance is really only noticed when boss health is <20% where you'll actually start using HoW as a filler between CS/TV.

While this nerf to execute phase hammer use is unfortunate, it's not without reason.  Right now ret is bursty and extremely reliant on cooldowns and random procs.  Blizzard is removing most of the crit bonus from Sanctified Wrath to balance other changes.  These balances are intended to increase sustained output through buffs to Judgement, two-handed weapon specialization, and an already implemented change to the Seal of Truth d.o.t.  Combined with the bonus AP from raid buffs, I'm excited to see where ret sits in 4.3.  It's times like these that make me want to get on the PTR, but I'm just too lazy.

To reiterate, my theorycrafting muscle doesn't get a lot of exercise, so I don't know numbers on what kind of output increase (if any) ret pallys should be hoping for.  Browsing through several paladin forums has yielded a good deal of optimism about the changes.  Some people fixate on the SW nerf, but I think that's due in large part to how it affects PVP.  If buffed judgements hit hard enough, I think the PVP trolls might find a remedy to their nerfbat blues.

  • Holy Radiance now has a 3.0-second cast time, no cooldown, and requires a player target. That target is imbued with Holy Radiance, which heals them and all group members within 10 yards instantly, and continues to heal them by a smaller amount every 1 second for 3 seconds.
  • Seal of Insight, when Judged, no longer returns 15% base mana to the paladin. Judging Seal of Insight still causes damage, and melee attacks will still restore 4% of base mana.
  • Seal of Truth, when Judged, now benefits from a multiplier of 20% per stack of Censure, up from 10%.
  • Talent Specializations
    • Holy
      • Clarity of Purpose now also reduces the cast time of Holy Radiance.
      • Illuminated Healing (mastery) now also applies to Holy Radiance.
      • Infusion of Light now applies its cast time reduction from Holy Shock critical effects to Holy Radiance, in addition to its current effects.
      • In addition to providing haste, the effect from Judgements of the Pure now increases mana regeneration from Spirit by 10/20/30% for 60 seconds.
      • Light of Dawn now affects 6 targets (base effect), up from 5.
      • Paragon of Virtue now lowers the cooldown of Divine Protection by 15/30 seconds, up from 10/20 seconds.
      • Speed of Light no longer triggers from Holy Radiance and no longer lowers the Holy Radiance cooldown. Speed of Light now only triggers from Divine Protection.
      • Tower of Radiance, in addition to its current effects, now also causes Holy Radiance to always generate 1 charge of Holy Power at all times
  • Glyphs
    • Glyph of Light of Dawn now lowers the number of targets to 4, instead of increasing targets to 6, but increases healing by 25%.

4.3 (look I found more blue posts! Thanks Wowhead!) is bringing some pretty big changes to holy paladin healing.  Holy Radiance, our main AOE healing tool, is getting revamped.  Changes include an added cast time, a removed cooldown, granting of holy power, and alterations to target capping and how the heal is delivered.  At first blush I was pissed off about the cast time.  Being able to hit HR on the run has always been extremely handy.  The lack of a targeting requirement is also something I enjoy because that means I don't have to utilize a binding in Vuhdo for the spell.

I'll certainly get over both of those things, but I cant help but wonder why Blizzard needed to change this heal.  Holy radiance currently radiates (lols) out from the caster, which is both convenient and limiting.  With the targeting requirement, HR will radiate out from the person you cast it on.  For situations where group stacking is occurring but you're not a part of the dogpile, this design change will allow you to heal effectively in a variety of placement situations instead of just one.  Removing Holy Radiance's cooldown certainly poses it's own set of questions, but I think it's only a negative to bad players with no concept of mana conservation.

Aside from the big HR controversy (read: druids be real mad,) there are only a couple of other changes of note.  Protecter of the innocent, a small heal the paladin gets every time they directly heal a friendly target, no longer transfers through beacon of light.  The major downside here is that while this heal is never large, it's nearly constant.  It's often likened to being the closest thing a holy paladin has to a h.o.t.  H.o.t.'s are favorable because they help stabilize tank health while they're not being healed directly.  I'm not overly concerned about it, but again it seems like a mechanic that didn't need to be changed.  Blizzard has made some statements that seem to indicate a desire to remove the amount of healing done by beacon, but if they start doing that it's going to require a massive spec redesign.  The PotI change feels like they're just testing the waters here.  Don't get me started on the multiple false releases stating that Word of Glory wont be eligible for beacon transfer.  That's either a derpfest or they were actually considering it for a while.  Either conclusion is full of too much fail for my blood.

I do a lot of my blog posts late at night, which I'm finding can be good and bad.  When I'm awake, the creative juices just seem to flow better.  The problem is that I tend to get lazy and forgetful at the ends of drowsy entries.

You know you play a game too much when you're mowing the lawn and you have an epiphany about patch 4.3 holy paladin changes you forgot to mention in your blog.  How foolish of me to leave out the changes to seal of insight!  Right now holy paladins are spending a GCD every eight seconds on judging.  The reason for this is Seal of Insight's mana return mechanic.  Every time I judge I get 15% of my base mana (around 3500) back.  Over the course of a five minute fight, that's worth over 130k mana.  That's an entire mana pool!

Come 4.3 everything about that mechanic is changing.  As noted in the blue post above, judging seal of insight no longer returns insta-mana, but will instead increase spirit based regen for 60 seconds.  I feel this is a good change, mostly.  The only part I don't like about it is that I've grown to think that judging is fun, and a good measure of whether or not I'm  "doing it right."  Right now if I forget to judge on cooldown, I feel it in my mana use.  While it's true that it will be great to not have to think about judging during an emergency healing moment, I think that takes some of the fun out of the spec.  I'm also a little concerned with the quantity of spirit I'm sporting.  Jack has probably more spirit-less items equipped than he should, in exchange for higher intellect and haste.  I don't particularly have mana issues, but that's with a pretty solid habit of using my judgement on cooldown.  Whether or not I have enough to stay at the same level of regen is something I'm concerned about.  If I knew how to calculate passive mana regen to figure out how much I'll actually be churning out, I'd be a bit more comfortable.

The other holy changes in 4.3 I think are just meh.  Yeah, light of dawn is getting messed with, and holy radiance is now affected by mastery (whoopie.)  Having a reduced cooldown on my mini-bubble will be nice, especially since it's the only source of my pally sprint in 4.3.

These balance changes are obviously just Blizzard's way of trying to cope with gear scaling over different raid tiers.  I get that this is needed, I really do, I just wish the changes didn't feel so hamfisted.  The ret changes seem fine, I suppose.  One thing I'd add to the sanctified wrath nerf is to make HoW be affected by ret's mastery:Hand of Light.  To me that would help balance out the dps contribution for when hammer is being used most often.  The healing changes incoming don't particularly seem to come from a specific problem.  Ret is bursty, hammer of wrath crit reliance in pvp is crutch-ish.  Smoothing out and increasing sustained damage is exactly what retribution needs.  Holy was doing just fine as far as I know, but like I said, I'm not a pro theorycrafter.

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