Update 2: PTR Patch Notes Now Up!
Update: Summarised, Seal changes included.
Take a look at those Seal changes... do I sense the chance of Seal-switching to maximise DPS?
Paladin Class Change Preview Summary:
Caveats: Some of these changes are still in progress and may ultimately end up in a different form or with different numbers. Furthermore, assume that talents, glyphs or set bonuses that affect any impacted abilities will also be changed accordingly. Finally, don’t expect that every class will see this many changes. We are making far fewer changes to class mechanics overall in 3.2, but paladins in particular have some issues we feel are in need of being addressed.
Ardent Defender has two important changes. The first is that the damage can no longer “skip over” the 35% health level – it will always be reduced. Secondly, it has a new effect that if a blow would kill you, it instead sets you to 30% health. This portion of the ability cannot occur more than once every 2 minutes. Think of it as a Last Stand that you don’t have to push.
Blessing of Sanctuary to become the tanking Blessing of Choice. May include some form of stamina increase.
Doubled the effect of bonus block value on items (so jewellery, but not shields). Stop-gap not part of long-term plans to change blocking.
We like that Holy paladins have a niche as single-target healers. The problem is we think this niche is a little too narrow at the moment. Furthermore, paladins don’t have a wide arsenal of healing spells so it’s important that all of them are being used.
Flash of Light: so that it places a heal-over-time effect on any target with Sacred Shield on them (the effect will be similar to Sheathe of Light).
Beacon of Light: Changed to count Overheal, i.e. if you place Holy Light on a rogue who is already at full health, it will still have the full effect on a tank with Beacon of Light on them. May allow more than on Beacon on a target (i.e. effective for more than 1 Holy Paladin).
Illumination: Mana returned reduced such that if you use Holy Light too recklessly (such as on targets who don’t require that much healing) you do risk burning out of mana too quickly.
Slight adjustment to Replenishment and MP5 on gear buffed.
Depending on who you ask, Retribution paladins are either perceived as being in need of improvements to make them stronger or are in need of changes to make them less powerful. We are really happy with the overall changes to the Seal and Judgement system from Lich King. However, Ret still has some problems. There aren’t enough buttons to push and they are all limited by cooldowns, allowing Ret paladins to have a lot of up-front burst without requiring a lot of skill or timing to actually hit those buttons (now after the opening moves of a fight, we think things get a lot more interesting because now the paladin’s defenses, healing and dispelling can come into play). We have other problems to fix as well. Exorcism currently can’t be used on players, which we think is a weak design. We have also become less enamoured with the drawback to Seal of Blood / Seal of the Martyr causing damage to the paladin.
Exorcism: Now has a cast time of 1.5 seconds but can be used on player.
The Art of War to make not only Flash of Light instant, but also Exorcism. Choose healing or damage.
Crusader Strike: Cooldown Lowered to 4 sec, damage also lowered. This accomplishes a few things. It lowers burst, it gives the paladins more buttons to push since they aren’t always waiting on cooldowns, it requires a little more skill since the player will have to choose between Crusader Strike and other attacks more often (such as the new Exorcism procs), and it gives Retribution a chance to get more damage out of their Seals (providing a sustained DPS boost for PvE).
Seal of Blood and Seal of the Martyr removed. The damage recoil increasingly felt like a liability in PvE, and wasn’t serving to offset the massive burst damage capable in PvP. We are buffing Seal of Vengeance / Corruption and redesigning Seal of Command with the expectation that these are now the seals of choice for PvP and PvE. Righteousness can remain a tanking seal.
Vindication: Now an attack power debuff that works like Demoralizing Shout.
These changes do not close the door on adding additional attacks, PvP utility or even the oft-requested Crusader Strike debuff. If the changes outlined above finally accomplish the goal of balancing Retribution in PvE and PvP, then we can start exploring those other design issues.
Everything subject to change upon testing and actual gameplay.
We know it's hard to evaluate the Retribution changes without understanding how the Seals now work. Here is how they work.
Seal of Command
OLD: Gives the Paladin a chance to deal additional Holy damage.
NEW: All melee attacks deal additional Holy damage.
Seal of Vengeance / Corruption
OLD: Fills the Paladin with holy power, causing attacks to apply Holy Vengeance which deals additional holy damage over 15 seconds. Holy Vengeance can stack up to 5 times.
NEW: Fills the Paladin with holy power, causing attacks to apply Holy Vengeance, which deals additional Holy damage over 15 sec. Holy Vengeance can stack up to 5 times. Once stacked to 5 times, each of the Paladin's attacks also deals 33% weapon damage as additional Holy damage.
(Full Source Text)
These changes, though tweaks here and there, are pretty significant when aggregated.
Three specific changes catch my eye:
1) Ardent Defender redesign.
This is absolutely immense for a talent which was starting to lose its lustre in the end-game. The 2min cooldown passive anti-death effect is very nice, and coupled with it not being leapfrogged means that Tankadins just got a whole lot more hardy. Still, no extra button to push.
2) Beacon to be affected by Overheal.
Huge. Seriously. The spell will become dependable and much more useful in a raiding (esp 10-man hard mode raiding) situation. It also has significant PvP implication which will need to be addressed, slightly mitigated by how CC-able Paladins generally are.
3) Crusader Strike Cooldown Reduction.
Okay, this is a little complicated. The first and most obvious point is that it makes the Paladin cool-down space much tighter. However 4 seconds is slightly non-optimal because melee abilities GCD's aren't affected by Haste. Just how strong the ability is will largely now depend on the strength of the altered Seals, but basing it on current SoB mechanics this would yet again increase the DPS contribution Seal mechanics (as SoB procs are not normalised). In addition, it seems that a new CS secondary effect isn't completely out of possibility.
This change makes us quite a bit weaker in PvP though, depending redesigned Seals and Exorcism.
The obvious negatives are:
Nerf to Illumination: Part of this will be required as the new Overhealing Beacon could potentially allow for infinite mana situations, esp in PvP. Unfortunately it's a disappointing change to a talent battered by the nerf bat over successive Expansions. The regen effect will probably be tied to Mana/5 levels, mandating a more balanced gear selection.
1.5sec Exorcism. Tough to swallow for Prot as it will essentially become unusable in a Tanks' threat rotation (no avoidance whilst casting), and it's not ideal for Holy which already suffers a lack of offensive abilities. It does however make Ret's rotation a little more interactive and more potent in PvP, so it's not all bad (testers should make sure that AoW Exorcism doesn't reset the swing timer). Tying a free boost to Exorcism's damage in deep-Holy would be a nice idea for Holy PvP/PvE.
Seal of Blood/The Martyr will go the way of the dodo. We should now all be concerned with how Command and Vengeance are altered, SoB (without feedback damage) offers a good model for SoC, it should be very interesting to see how Vengeance is changed. Two quality seals, one for PvP and one for PvE, would be most welcome. Again though, this isn't good news for Prot which makes extensive use of SoV last time I checked.
Something of a mixed bag overall. There's certainly nothing that I'm rabidly against (though another Illumination nerf springs to mine) and the AD change is mouthwatering. Roll on the full patch notes next week!