Ladies and gentlemen, Cataclysm Build 12857 shall hereafter be known to me as the “Trifecta of Doom” build.

Paladin Summaries

To begin, let us look at the paladin tree summaries, which let you know what abilities you get just for spending your first points in that tree. (Click for a larger version.)

Notice anything weird? Wrong? Strange?

How about the fact that the Holy tree only has 3 abilities listed, followed by their mastery, whereas prot and ret both have four?

Take a closer look at the Holy summary.

Holy Shock, fine. Walk in the Light (still at 10%, mind you), fine. Meditation (50% of regen while casting), fine. Mastery seems fine.

What’s missing?

I was about halfway through a Blackrock Caverns run last night when I realized what the problem was.

Spiritual Focus is missing.

Are you kidding me? There I am, in Blackrock Caverns, and someone, while running back to the group, accidentally pulled a pack of mobs and trained them right to us. We got a couple of them CCed, the tank grabbed the rest but there was a caster who wasn’t CCed who kept shooting me with Arcane Missiles. And my casts were being pushed back, even with Concentration Aura on.

I have faint hopes that this might be retooled or something, but for right now, it’s just gone. It seems as though Blizzard has completely gutted holy paladins.

The Trifecta of Doom Build’s Major Changes

I call this build the Trifecta of Doom Build because three major tenets of our class have been changed or removed, along with a couple of minor things.

1) Illumination has indeed been removed from the Holy tree. It’s just flat-out gone. Vanished. Poof. After four years of consistently nerfing a core talent in the Holy tree, Blizzard has finally gotten rid of it. I honestly have a visceral reaction to this change. They should have tossed it out four years ago. It would have been more along the lines of having a good friend die suddenly in an accident, rather than seeing that friend die a slow, painful death. Sure, it would have hurt like hell to begin with, but with it having only been part of Vanilla WoW, rather than Vanilla, Burning Crusade AND Wrath, it would have hurt less overall.

2) Divine Plea now only returns 10% of your mana over 15 seconds (down from 25%) and the cooldown has been raised from 1 minute to 2 minutes. Healing reduction remains at 50% while Divine Plea is active. Considering what an important role Divine Plea has played in holy paladin healing for almost two years, this definitely comes as a blow.

3) Spiritual Focus‘ disappearance was a wholly unexpected change. One of the few benefits to being a healer who mostly casts spells with a cast time is that, with Spiritual Focus (70% pushback resist) and even the base Concentration Aura (35% pushback resist), we were not able to be interrupted by damage. Sure, we were very susceptible to interrupt effects. There’s nothing quite as panic inducing as watching EVERY ABILITY YOU HAVE go on cooldown at the same time! But at least we didn’t get interrupted by damage.

Did you know that priests no longer have a pushback resist talent? And neither do druids. Shaman do, in their resto baseline skills, as do elemental shaman, and mages still have Burning Soul. But warlocks, priests, druids and paladins don’t have pushback talents or skills.

That’s 9 specs without access to pushback resistance (outside of Concentration Aura) versus 5 who do. Who here thinks that they’re phasing out pushback resistance entirely?

<raises hand>

The minor things I mentioned are the removal or change of most talents that actually improve our healing, as I mentioned the other day. We have precisely one talent in our first two tiers that actually improves healing, which is Divinity. We have Last Word, which increases the critical strike chance of Word of Glory, if used on someone under 35% health, yes, but this is not a flat increase. This is a random proc under certain conditions. We have cast-time reductions on Holy Light and Divine Light with Clarity of Purpose, true, but again, this isn’t an increase in healing, it’s just a haste increase on two spells.

Other Changes

Holy Power generation has been fixed, finally. I now can generate Holy Power through the following methods:

a) Using Holy Shock grants 1 charge of Holy Power.

b) 3/3 Tower of Radiance means that directly healing your Beacon of Light target with Holy Shock, Flash of Light, Holy Light or Divine will grant you 1 charge of Holy Power. (Yes, using Holy Shock on your Beacon target still grants you 2 charges.) This eliminates the Word of Glory bug and removes the Holy Power generation from using Light of Dawn and Holy Radiance.

c) Using Crusader Strike , which is a baseline paladin ability in Cataclysm, will grant you 1 charge of Holy Power.

You also no longer get the red W buff that was a placeholder for Holy Power in your buff area. Holy Power charges are only visible on your character portrait. It does not seem as though there is a time limit on Holy Power charges any longer. When we had the little buff icons, Holy Power was lasting 30 seconds. If there’s no longer a duration, this is good and means we can store Holy Power charges, then drink, then move on to the next pull with a full Holy Power bar.

If there is a duration, it is certainly much longer than 30 seconds as I’ve been sitting here with 3 charges on me for about five minutes, now.

In the cosmetic area…

- Hammer of Wrath has had its graphic changed to the old 2H Weapon Specialization graphic from the ret tree:

- Cleanse‘s graphic has gone back to the old Purify graphic. I suppose this makes sense because Cleanse removes magic, poison and disease, whereas Purify only does poison and disease, and prots and rets won’t be able to remove magic.

- Clarity of Purpose‘s graphic is now the old Blessing of Wisdom graphic. This makes me happy. Blessing of Might now provides attack power and mp5, so to see the Blessing of Wisdom icon still somewhere in the game makes me smile.

Daybreak is a new talent that is actually surprisingly useful. The Glyph of Holy Shock now increases Holy Shock’s critical strike chance by 5% instead of reducing its cooldown by 1s, so resetting the cooldown on Holy Shock isn’t bad, especially if you proc Infusion of Light to get a super-fast Holy Light. (Too bad Holy Light still doesn’t heal for much of anything.) You can hit Holy Shock, then if it crits, you can hit Holy Light for a sub-one-second (and very cheap) cast and hope for a Daybreak proc, then go back to Holy Shock. Daybreak, by the way, has got a pretty “power aura” notification, as seen below. (And that was a Holy Light cast, by the way. 6782 at level 83. Sigh.)

Speaking of Infusion of Light, it almost works properly, now. Instead of giving you an instant Flash of Light (as the live version does), it now actually reduces the cast time of your Holy Light by 1.5 seconds as advertised. Trouble is, it’s still currently consumed by your next Flash of Light, even though it does nothing for the cast time. Ah, beta.

Talents

Okay, since we’re moving into talent discussion, let’s take a look at what I think the best talent spec for a holy paladin is at the moment.

31/0/10

Let’s walk through it together.

Holy

Tier 1

Arbiter of the Light: 0/2. This is largely because it no longer adds critical strike chance to Holy Light.

Divinity: 3/3. No-brainer.

Judgements of the Pure: 3/3. Also a no-brainer.

Tier 2:

Clarity of Purpose: 3/3. 0.5 seconds off healing spells is a good thing.

Last Word: 2/2. In previous builds, I’ve scoffed at this talent. There seemed better places to spend one’s points. Not only do we no longer have better places to spend our points, but this is actually really useful in those “holy crap” situations. There are two particularly foul attacks by Evolved Twilight Zealots in Blackrock Caverns:

1) Gravity Strike: Inflicts damage equal to 70% of an enemy’s current health and briefly reduces its Attack Power.

2) Grievous Whirl: A vicious attack that causes the target to bleed profusely until fully healed.  Deals 750 damage every 2 seconds until healed.

The combination of those two? VERY BAD. So Last Word, while originally not as great as some of the other talents we could have picked up, does have its uses.

Blazing Light: 0/2. All damage. Damage of Holy Shock and Exorcism. Unless you want to be a Shockadin (which won’t ever be viable as a raiding spec, but definitely seems like a decent soloing idea), stay away from this.

Tier 3

Denounce: 0/2. If this worked the way Telluric Currents does for resto shammies, I’d be much more inclined to pick this up. As it is, it’s a free, instant Exorcism after every Holy Shock. Shockadin territory.

Divine Favor: 1/1. Different icon than the live version, different ability altogether, but 20% spell haste and 20% spell crit for 20 seconds on a 3m cooldown? Definitely worth the investment.

Infusion of Light: 2/2. Even if this didn’t lead into Speed of Light, this is still a good talent. Snag it.

Daybreak: 2/2. As I explained above, very nice to have.

Tier 4

Enlightened Judgements: 0/2. PVP talent. I mistakenly took this when I was respeccing because I’m apparently hard-wired to click on that icon. So when I ran Blackrock Caverns last night, every time I judged, I healed myself for 4.2k-5.5k. This heal can crit, too, and I saw crits of 6-7k.

Beacon of Light: 1/1. 50% of healing done is still better than 0% of healing done.

Speed of Light: 3/3. Excellent talent to reduce the cooldown on Holy Radiance and to help with positioning.

Sacred Cleansing: 1/1. I still can’t believe we have to waste a point just so that our Cleanse remains exactly the same as in Vanilla, BC and WotLK, but it’s well-worth the point anyways.

Tier 5

Conviction: 3/3. Bonuses to healing are good.

Aura Mastery: 1/1. Same as the live version, definitely worth the point.

Improved Concentration Aura: 2/2. With Spiritual Focus missing, presumed dead, this is a must-have. 50% chance to resist pushback for you and your group.

Tier 6

Tower of Radiance: 3/3. No-brainer. Any way to gain Holy Power is good. 267 charges gained over the course of my run last night.

Blessed Life: 0/2. I specced 1/2 for this last night to test it out. From what I can tell, this does require direct damage done from a mob in order to proc. I do not think AOE effects count, as I stood in Quakes and Blast Waves and such to no effect. It only granted me 61 charges over the run.

Tier 7

Light of Dawn: 1/1. Still has a crappy animation, but you should definitely take it.

Protection

Take no talents here.

Retribution

Tier 1

Eye for an Eye: 0/2. Worthless to us as healers.

Crusade: 3/3. Holy Shock’s healing increased by 30% is all we care about.

Improved Judgement: 2/2. It’s not quite as far as in Wrath (30yd as opposed to 40), but it’s well-worth taking anyways.

Tier 2

Eternal Glory: 2/2. What a freaking lifesaver this thing is. I gained 176 charges of Holy Power over the course of the run because of this talent.

Rule of Law: 3/3. Well, I can only get 1/3 at the moment, since I’m only 83, but we’ll want to fill this up to increase crit chance on Word of Glory and Holy Shock.

And that’s about it for talents. About the only wiggle room I see is dropping Conc Aura for Blessed Life or Enlightened Judgements, but if Spiritual Focus is really dead, I can’t advise that for any reason in PVE healing.

Blackrock Caverns

So I did a Blackrock Caverns run last night with a fairly decently geared tank from my live realm. As a healer/tank combo, we still waited about 15 minutes for a queue, probably due to the late hour.

After some initial lag issues relating to using addons, I turned them all off and just healed the way I always have in Beta — terrified because I can’t properly see things on my laughable version of raid frames.

It went reasonably well. The first boss wasn’t a problem. Even the second boss wasn’t too bad. The third boss was okay. That’s as far as I’d previously gotten, so everything beyond that was new to me. There’s a Core Hound fight, it’s AWESOME. haha. It was actually the one fight that I felt was tuned well for our group. It was annoying to be feared and have fire show up, etc, but I finished the fight with just about no mana and everyone alive. The damage wasn’t horrible, but it was challenging, particularly with a movement aspect.

The last boss is ridiculous. As near as I can figure, you have the boss and he has two adds. The adds are elementals. The adds do not go after whoever has the highest aggro on them, but rather, WHOEVER HIT THEM LAST.

Sounds like a fun mechanic, right?

Wrong.

These little bastards, if you’re close enough to them, inflict a debuff on you.

Would you like to know what this non-dispellable debuff looks like?

It’s called Crepuscular Veil. And it reduces healing done on its target by 99% for four seconds. It only gets cast when they’re in range, mind you, so you basically have to kite them. They are immune to stuns, but Entangling Roots work just fine. It wouldn’t have been quite so bad if we had had a shaman for Bind Elemental or a warlock for Banish, but we didn’t. Our group was, I kid you not, four paladins and a feral druid.

Repentence doesn’t work on elementals. And they’re immune to stuns, so Hammer of Justice is worthless.

It’s clear that what you’re supposed to do is CC one of them and kite the other while you bring down the boss. A hunter would have been great. Anything with a pet would have been great, too — just stick the pet on one for a good 15 seconds or so, then pull the add off the pet, heal the pet, put the pet back on the add.

We couldn’t get it done with our group composition, although we got the feral druid to go resto and basically cast roots and then he and I were going to ping-pong the remaining add. It actually didn’t go that badly, but we’d tried 3-4 times or so and X (not xmolder, but the tank from my live guild) had to go, so we called it.

During one of the attempts, I noticed the druid dropped this green thing on the ground. “OH MY GOD,” I said out loud, to myself, “EFFLORESCENCE!!!!” So I went and stood in it! (Click for the larger version.)

Apart from that healing debuff, the Grievous Whirl and the Gravity Strike, things weren’t too bad. It was important that our tank be aware of his debuffs (charging into the alloys with 48 stacks of a “take more fire damage” debuff is bad!) and that the DPS watch the floor and not stand in front of mobs who cleave. But it wasn’t terrible.

What is surprising is the healing breakdown. (Yes, I logged the run. I love World of Logs.)

Here’s my healing by spell:

1) Holy Shock: 1,603,147 healing, 20.4%, 165 hits, 63 crits, 228 total. 21.7% overheal.

2) Beacon of Light: 1,186,292 healing, 15.1%, 357 hits/total. 29.2% overheal.

3) Word of Glory: 1,158,982 healing, 14.8%, 75 hits, 105 crits, 180 total. 10.3% overheal.

4) Flash of Light: 1,143,394 healing, 14.6%, 106 hits, 36 crits, 142 total. 14.7% overheal.

5) Divine Light: 1,124, 898 healing, 14.3%, 69 hits, 24 crits, 93 total. 9.2% overheal.

6) Holy Radiance: 561,679 healing, 7.2 %, 525 hits, 177 crits, 702 total. 36.1% overheal.

7) Holy Light: 494,658 healing, 6.3%, 66 hits, 16 crits, 82 total. 17.4% overheal.

8) Light of Dawn: 331,583 healing, 4.2%, 96 hits, 26 crits, 122 total. 37.5% overheal.

9) Lay on Hands: 144,643 healing, 1.8%, 4 hits, 1 crit, 5 total. 24.8% overheal.

10) Enlightened Judgements: 93,592 healing, 1.2%, 38 hits, 8 crits, 46 total. 58.4% overheal.

First of all, that’s probably the most I have EVER used Holy Shock in my life. Daybreak procced 93 times, which is nice, but it’ll also proc even if Holy Shock isn’t on cooldown, oddly, so that might or might not have had anything to do with it.

Second of all, look at the next few spells I used. Look at the percentages. 15%, 14%, 14%, 14%. With Holy Shock at 20% and my next four spells at 14-15%, that’s a pretty even distribution, particularly considering where holy paladins are at right now. I also could have used Light of Dawn and Holy Radiance a LOT more frequently.

And if I had used Holy Light every time Infusion of Light procced (63 times), then I probably would have had more Holy Lights used. It’s so difficult to think that the sound effect for IoL means I should cast HL instead of FoL. It’s a very different mindset, especially considering I’m still healing on live and can’t get used to the new way without screwing myself over on live.

What This Means

It seems to me that this is what they probably want — healers of all kinds to use different spells as appropriate instead of relying on one or two spells. But part of why I used such a variety of spells is because I wasn’t sure what to use next.

They say that Holy Light is our go-to spell. Well, it doesn’t heal for much. It’s okay that Holy Light heals for next to nothing IF you basically pair it with an Infusion of Light proc. If you don’t, it’s next to worthless. Like I’ve said before, I have 50k health in my HOLY GEAR. My tank last night had 75k health in a regular dungeon, not, you know, ICC. Do you know what a 6-7k heal does to a tank who has lost 70% of his existing health due to Gravity Strike? It as though you didn’t actually cast a damn thing. And it took you about 2.2 seconds to do it, with over 1000 haste, at level 83. If it took you .7 seconds to do it, which it does, after an Infusion of Light proc, that’s fine.

In my experience, Holy Shock is our go-to heal. I’m pretty sure I don’t like that. I’m also pretty sure that this is how Blizzard can justify the loss of Spiritual Focus. “But you’re NOT always casting spells with a cast time! Holy Shock! Word of Glory! Light of Dawn! Holy Radiance!”

And maybe they’re right. Maybe paladins are supposed to be the new mobile healing class. Except that Light of Dawn and Holy Radiance are on 30 seconds cooldowns, Holy Shock is on a 6 second cooldown and Word of Glory is dependent on a whole other resource that is, as I’m sure Walks will mention, strongly linked to none other than Holy Shock. And Holy Light, a spell with a stupidly long cast time, is supposed to be our go-to spell.

I just don’t understand what they’re doing. Usually, I can see the method to the madness, even if I loathe the method with all my being. But I just can’t see what they’re trying to do here. It feels as though Blizzard is all over the place with holy paladins right now. “No, don’t cast!” “But a casted spell is your go-to spell!” And then they throw things like Gravity Strike at us. The content is telling us to do one thing (Divine Light and Flash of Light fairly frequently) but our talents are telling us to do another (Cast Holy Shock ALL OF THE TIME!).

I’ve been thinking a lot since my run last night, while writing up this post and doing regular, everyday stuff. I don’t see what direction they want us to go in. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s too early in the beta to see that.

What I can see, though, is the death of the spec I have loved playing since July of 2006. That’s when I started really trying to level my paladin as holy and I’ve basically been holy ever since. I keep trying to make sure my emotions don’t overly inform my posts, but I can’t help but be disappointed. There is very little that is at all familiar about holy paladins right now. Illumination gone. Divine Favor changed. Divine Illumination gone. Divine Plea changed. Spiritual Focus gone. Sacred Shield gone. Flash of Light’s HoT gone.

The only thing I remotely recognize about paladins in Cataclysm is Holy Shock. Everything else is completely different or gone. The talent trees are dumbed down and you can now almost happen upon the optimal spec by chance, just by allocating 5 points per tier. And yet, the content is challenging to people in ICC gear?

I know. Tuning of the encounters, of the abilities, of the talents, of the glyphs, of everything. I know.

But I do think that this Trifecta of Doom build has turned a corner for holy paladins and I’m not quite sure we can ever go back.