Beta Build 12664 hit last night, and there's not a whole lot that needs to be said about it. As always MMO-Champion has the full listings for all classes, aswell as a few very cool screenshots, so check it out. There's not a whole lot to say about the build, like the last couple they've tinkered around the edges but not changed the fundamentals much. Here are my highlights for Paladins:
Vindication talent now causes Holy Wrath to have a chance ('chance' has to be one of the worst words in Talents, it's so woolly) for an AoE 10% Physical Damage debuff (i.e. Demo Shout). Overall a good change, but as always you have to question exactly what is meant by 'a chance'. Avenging Shield is cemented as part of the Protection Paladins' rotation as the cooldown is reduced to 20 secs via talents and it has have a chance to be reset on successful Crusader Strikes. Holy Shield's duration is increased from 15 to 20 seconds. Looks like they were listening to what I said last week about the problematic way that HS interacts with CS, but even at 20sec the problem remains. Crusader Strike remains an unreliable means of generating Holy Power for Protection, especially at lower tiers of content, and so virtually all HP would remain spent on HS. Prot could do with a higher rate of HP generation or more reliable means of generation less susceptible to the whims of RNG. However even that sticks in the craw somewhat when Warriors get 10% additional block passively (scaled by Mastery) and critical blocking effects. Art of War is no longer as likely to be 'always up' with a nerf to 15% chance to proc, but the tighter rotation makes this feel less of an issue and just allows other spells to get a look-in. Imp. Crusader Strike is back and reduces the cooldown of CS from 4 to 3 seconds (with two points invested). Spam, spam, spammy spam spam. Not a great fan of this, but it does tend to close down the available GCD-space, hence making decisions of other spells to use more meaningful. Seal of Justice see's a change in the tooltip - no longer stuns the target, instead limits its' maximum run speed. So far this isn't reflected in the MMO-Champ or WoWHead Cataclysm spell databases so we really don't know what it means. It may be that the 100% run speed limitation is being removed from the Judgement and instead is a Seal proc debuff (bleh change IMO), or it may be that it's a more meaningful Snare. This is one that needs to be tested (and me with a broken Beta account, Oy!)
There's not really an awful lot to talk about then - they're tinkering around the edges but not changing too much from previous builds. I still think Protection doesn't have a really distinct flavour in Cataclysm so far, though chucking out Avengers Shield regularly may help. To a certain extent leveraging in Holy Power more should tend to help, but I'm of the opinion that more reactive defensive abilities would be a boon to making the spec more fun. We shall see what the future hols in this regard.
Anyway, that's boring stuff. So in an effort to be less boring, lets have a look at Guardian of Ancient Kings.
The Guardian is our level 85 spell and as you can see has different effects depending on the specialisation you have chosen. Note that duration of the Guardian's manifestation is as yet unknown, but we can at least make the educated guess that for Protection it'll last approx. 12 seconds to match up with Shield Wall.
Protection: Summons the Ancient Protector, reducing the damage you take by 60%. However it's possible that during this time the Guardian is killable, making the duration potentially quite short. Currently, the duration is unknown.
Holy: Summons the Ancient Healer, who can cast Light of the Ancient Kings:
This heal should scale with your Spell Power, and it'd be pretty cool if it also scaled with your haste at the same time.
Retribution: Summons the Ancient Crusader, who fights by your side and strengthens your attacks.
So, something akin to the Shadowmourne weapon proc. It's unknown if the 20 Str buff starts to stack as it attacks, or starts at a full stack which reduces as it attacks. In addition, the damage done by the Ancient Crusader itself is as yet unknown.
Something of a mixed bag really. The Guardians may turn out to look awesome and be very powerful, but they probably won't change playstyle very much. Protection Paladins especially may feel short-changed as the Guardian is merely a slightly more powerful version of a spell they already got at baseline (Divine Protection). All three are very much 'fire and forget', though only in the case of one spec does it synergise with other cooldowns.
If the offensive potential of the Guardian + Avenging Wrath + Zealotry is deemed to be overly strong expect them to become mutually exclusive later on in the Beta (as with Divine Sheild, Divine Protection, Lay on Hands and AW currently).
with thanks to Lebeau on the MMO-Champion forums for drawing the threads together.