A while back Blizzard announced that the reason that Paladins were one of the last ones to get their updates because they were doing a major overhaul to how the class works. They weren't kidding. Most of the changes are coming in the form of the talent trees, but there has also been a humongous change to a core mechanic of the Paladins. In fact the changes are so big, I expect many people to be like "tl;dr lol" and this to be one of my most under-commented posts.
First the huge change:
The Blessing system has gone through a major change, separating and streamlining a lot of it. First and foremost, the actual blessings (the 10 minute and 30 minute greater forms) have been cut down to 4 core blessings, two of them talented. Blessing of Might, Blessing of Wisdom, Blessing of Kings and Blessing of Sanctuary are all unchanged from their pre-WotLK forms.
Now, the first thought running through the Holy Paladins minds is: "Blessing of Light! Where's Blessing of Light!" Well, you'll be glad to know that Blessing of Light's bonus to healing has been rolled into the core spells, meaning it's no longer needed. Much the way they rolled the bonuses from the old Improved Seal of the Crusader talent into the base spell (addendum: Seal of the Crusader has been removed entirely from the game. Good riddance I say). So Blizzard managed to free up one slot of Blessings from the Paladins. Yay!
The other major thought I'm sure everyone is having is "BLESSING OF SALVATION! WTF KAZ? WTF!?!?!" I did not miss it, they have removed Blessing of Salvation as we know it. But before you start screaming that the world is ending, let me explain. This will also lead me to what happened to the other three Blessings (Sacrifice, Protection, and Freedom). All four of those Blessings have become what will become known as Hands. Hands are short duration spells with cooldowns of 25 seconds or more.
First I will touch on the three "lesser" Hands: Protection, Sacrifice and Freedom. The primary purpose of changing these Blessings into Hands is to put them on a separate "spell list" from the Blessings. Far too often a Paladin would drop a Blessing of Protection on a DPS or a Healer to save him or her when they pulled aggro on a boss mob. This would save them, but then the Paladin would need to waste time and mana recasting their old blessing on the target to help them. Now if they do this, it won't erase the valuable Blessing.
Now, I will touch on Hand of Salvation. Unlike the previous three which have remained mostly the same, if not completely unchanged, Hand of Salvation is a completely different beast. Previously it reduced the threat generated by a person by 30%. Now it's a 10 second buff on a 2 minute cooldown that removes 2% of a person's total threat. Instead of reducing the amount of threat generated per attack, works like a threat dump, for 20% of your total threat. This is both better and worse than Blessing of Salvation. Now classes that have no threat dumps, like Warriors, Paladins, Shamans, and Death Knights can have some of their threat dumped off them without needing to disengage or slow down their DPS. On the other hand each player needs to be more cognizant of their own threat generation than ever before. While it appears Blizzard is intending to increase the threat generation of all tanks, the fact is that each person will be doing more threat overall and there's nothing that can be done about it (Tranquil Air Totem has also been removed).
Addendum: See here for the Hand spells.
Okay, now onto each individual talent tree I will quote the talent and give my own thoughts in italics:
First up is Retribution. I chose retribution first because it goes through the smallest change in my book.
But before I go into Retribution I have some bad news and I have some good news. First the bad news: As Blizzard stated multiple times, the Alliance is not getting Seal of Blood. I've checked it out and it's the real deal. We're not getting it. But the good news is we are getting Seal of the Martyr. Which has the exact same mechanics as Seal of Blood. dot dot dot. So there we go. The Alliance is getting Seal of
Heart of the Crusader: In addition to the normal effect, your Judgement spells will also increase the critical strike chance of all attacks made against that target by an additional 1/2/3%.
With the removal of the spell Seal of the Crusader (note: All holy damage abilities had their damage boosted to make up for the loss of Judgement of the Crusader), they couldn't have a talent that relied on it, so the just rolled the Improved Seal of the Crusader talent into the remaining debuff seals. Now, there's some talk about whether or not each application of a given seal gives this bonus, but I consider it unlikely since this was not doable before WotLK, and would be very powerful, being able to have +9% crit chance on a single target if you bring properly built Paladins.
Conviction: Increases your chance to get a critical strike with all spells and attacks by 1/2/3/4/5%.
Previously Conviction only increased crit chance with physical attacks. With it also affecting spells, Ret Paladins can get more mileage out of their non-melee attacks (has some synergy with later talents and the Illumination talent in the Holy tree). In addition this talent is low enough on the Retribution tree that a Holy Paladin could pick it up for even more spell crit.
Seal of Command: 14% of base mana - Instant cast - Gives the Paladin a chance to deal additional Holy damage equal to 70% of normal weapon damage. Only one Seal can be active on the Paladin at any one time. Lasts 30 sec. Unleashing this Seal's energy will judge an enemy, instantly causing Holy damage, double if the target is stunned or incapacitated.
Seal of Command... the mainstay of Alliance Retribution Paladins for so long. Does it have any value now that we have Seal of
Sanctified Retribution: Damage caused by targets affected by Retribution Aura is increased by 2%.
Now for some devastating news to the majority of Ret Paladins: Sanctity Aura is gone, removed from the game entirely. It would be even more of a hit to Retribution utility if they took away the Improved Sanctity Aura effect, so they turned it into a one point talent and applied it to the Retribution Aura, a sorely underused aura as it was, which will find new life in WotLK with this and a completely new talent I will mention later. Also, remember, Aura's are now raid wide, so this will apply to all members it hits.
Sheath of Light: Increases your spell power by an amount equal to 10/20/30% of your attack power and your critical healing spells heal the target for 20/40/60% of the healed amount over 12 seconds.
Any loss of damage and utility from the loss of Sanctity Aura is more than made up for right here. First and foremost is the AP to ppell power conversion which is something which should have been added at the same time a similar talent was added to the Enhancement Shaman talent tree. Anyway, it may not have been there then, but it is there now and it's worth it! Currently, fully raid buffed, Horgrimm has anywhere from 2.3k to 2.7k AP. If he had Sheath of Light, that would translate to over 700 spell damage, in some cases over 800. This would allow him to properly utilize many spells that are reliant on spell damage and not STR or AP which is the main stat for Retribution Paladins currently.
In addition to giving Retribution Paladins access to Spell Power (the new name for Spell Damage) through AP, it also gives them a handy utility boost in terms of healing. Every time a a Ret Paladin would crit, it would cause a HoT for a percent of the amount healed. This is actually a lot more powerful than it looks. First off, Blizzard is consolidating Crit and Spell Crit into one stat, so as one builds up crit, their spell crit also goes up. Using Horgrimm again, in his current Ret gear, raid buffed, he would have around 25% crit rating if he started tossing off heals. That's as much as many entry-level raiding Holy Paladins have. So he could put that part of the talent to full use despite wearing DPS gear.
In addition, while wearing his Ret gear, the boost he got from his AP would apply to his healing spells as well. Now, 700-800 spell damage doesn't seem like much until you realize that in WotLK they are doing away with +healing and +damage and everything is being rolled into one stat called Spell Power (as I mentioned above). For offensive spells, Spell Power will work like +damage did. For healing spells, Spell Power will give a much stronger boost, equaling the same boost +healing would give despite the lower number. Basically, wearing his Retribution gear, Horgrimm will be able to be a full DPSer, or in a pinch step back and start healing and be quite effective at it.
Judgements of the Wise: Your Judgement spells restore mana to up to 3 group or raid members totalling 20/40/60% of the damage caused.
Prior to the addition of Sheath of Light, this talent would have been of little value. Judgements' damage are based on Spell Power, and it was a stat that Retribution Paladins were sorely lacking. But now with Sheath of Light it's a strong utility talent and alone would justify the position of at least one Retribution Paladin in every raid. While this does replace the old talent Sanctified Judgement, I think it will end up being stronger since it scales with Spell Power, while Sanctified Judgement didn't.
Repentance: 9% of base mana - 20 yd range - Instant cast - 1 min cooldown - Puts the enemy target in a state of meditation, incapacitating them for up to 1 min. Any damage caused will awaken the target. Usable against Demons, Dragonkin, Giants, Humanoids and Undead.
Ret Paladins have CC? Say what? Repentance used to be primarily a form of PvP interrupt, with minor PvE utility. In WotLK it underwent a major overhaul. The downside is it's mana cost jumped up a lot and will scale with level. The upside is that it's duration and availalble targets were hugely expanded. Previously it was only usable against Humanoids, but with it's new list of targets, there are few things that cannot be CCed. As for it's duration, it used to last 6 seconds, now it lasts 1 minute (assuming no damage is done to it) to match it's cooldown. Congratulations, Ret Paladins!
Divine Purpose: Reduces your chance to be hit by spells and ranged attacks by 1/2/3% and reduces the duration of movement slowing effects by 10/20/30%.
A PvP talent to be sure, and it was that way before the changes. Previously, it lowered the chance to be critically hit by melee and ranged attacks by 4/7/10%, which was quite useful prior to tBC. But with the wide spread availability of Resilience in level 70 PvP, such a talent loses a lot of it's luster. Instead what was crippling Retribution Paladins was any CC that slowed them and allowed their prey to get away. With this talent they can quickly shed such things and catch up and continue the beat down, not to mention giving them a small avoidance boost against ranged enemies.
Fanaticism: Increases the critical strike chance of all Judgements capable of a critical hit by 5/10/15/20/25% and reduces threat caused by all actions by 6/12/18/24/30% except when under the effects of Righteous Fury.
This talent is almost identical to it's tBC counterpart, with the only difference being the chance to crit on a Judgement being increased from 3/6/9/12/15% to it's current form. A straight buff right there.
Sanctified Wrath: Increases the critical strike chance of Hammer of Wrath by 25/50%, reduces the cooldown of Avenging Wrath by 30/60 secs and while affected by Avenging Wrath 25/50% of all damage caused bypasses damage reduction effects.
The first new Retribution talent, it's quite a doozy. Increased crit chance on Hammer of Wrath (which will be stronger than ever now thanks to Sheath of Light) will make it quite the potent ability, while the buffs to Avenging Wrath will turn many Retribution Paladins into lean, mean fighting machines.
Swift Retribution: Your Retribution Aura also increases casting, ranged and melee attack speeds by 1/2/3%.
Another new talent, again, buffing Retribution Aura, making it the aura to use for a Retribution Paladin.
The Art of War: Your damaging Crusader Strikes have a 5/10/15% chance to cause your next Judgement spell to cause double damage.
This talent requires you to have picked up Crusader Strike before you can get it. Again, Sheath of Light shows it's value. With the new amounts of damage a Judgement can put out, double damage along with the potential to crit is a very large boost to a Retribution Paladin's damage.
Righteous Vengeance: Increases critical damage bonus of all attacks by 3/6/9/12/15%.
With all the crits going on all over the place as a Ret Paladin, this talent is just amazingly strong. What else is there to say?
Divine Storm: 12% of base mana - 5 yd range - Instant cast - 10 sec cooldown - Requires Melee Weapon - An instant weapon attack that causes Holy damage to up to 4 enemies within 8 yards. The Divine Storm heals up to 3 party or raid members totalling 20% of the damage caused.
The crowning achievement of the new Retribution tree. Whatever utility Retribution Paladins previously lacked, it will be gone with this ability, IMO. Much like Shadow Priests with their talented abilities, now Retribution Paladins can DPS and heal and restore mana all at the same time. While it will not be in the same values as a Shadow Priest can put out, what they lack in numbers they make up for in targets. A Shadow Priest is limited to his party, while the Ret Paladin can cover the entire raid. A major boost to Retribution Paladins everywhere.
Next up is the Holy tree.
Spiritual Focus: Gives your Flash of Light and Holy Light spells a 14/28/42/56/70% chance to not lose casting time when you take damage.
This talent has undergone no textual changes, but instead has changed locations. Previously the spot it inhabited was held by Divine Strength, but that talent has moved over to the Protection tree, and this talent has moved up from Tier 2 to Tier 1 to replace it.
Seals of the Pure: Increases the damage done by your Seal of Righteousness, Seal of Vengeance and Seal of Corruption and their Judgement effects by 3/6/9/12/15%.
This talent used to be Improved Seal of Righteousness, but was changed to include Seal of Vengeance and Seal of Corruption (the Horde equivalent of SoV). In addition it was moved from Tier 2 to Tier 1, swapping places with Divine Intellect. For tanks and Paladins leveling as Holy, this talent is a nice choice since either of the options it boosts for the given Paladin are strongly reliant on Spell Power and will get a decent boost from this talent and the talents innate in the tree of the player's choice.
Healing Light: Increases the amount healed by your Holy Light, Flash of Light and the effectiveness of Holy Shock spells by 4/8/12%.
Much like the talents on the previous tier, this talent moved up one, going from Tier 3 to Tier 2. This will make it available sooner for leveling Holy Paladins, increasing their utility in early instances. In addition, it has been expanded to also boost the power of Holy Shock. I'm not 100% certain if that only applies to it's healing efficiency or it's damage output as well. If the latter, this is a very valuable tool to Shockadins.
Divine Intellect: Increases your total Intellect by 3/6/9/12/15%.
As I mentioned previously, this talent moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2. In addition, it's previous percentile modifier was increased from 2/4/6/8/10% to it's current value, giving Holy Paladins a nice buff, both to their mana pools and their crit chance.
Unyielding Faith: Reduces the duration of all Fear and Disorient effects by 15/30%.
First the more obvious change on this talent. Previously it increased the chance to resist Fear and Disorient effect by 5/10%, now it decreases the duration of these effects by a lot more. Quite a nice change, since it's always works as opposed to chance to resist which is only percentile. Plus lowered duration means it's faster until you become immune to the CC effect.
Also, much like the other talents I've mentioned this one got moved from Tier 3 to Tier 2. I'm now going to go into detail on why I think certain talents were moved to where they were. By having the Spiritual Focus, Healing Light, and Unyielding Faith talents all available in the first two tiers, it gives a level 19 Holy Paladin decent healing and access to vital PvP talents.
Illumination: After getting a critical effect from your Flash of Light, Holy Light, or Holy Shock heal spell, gives you a 20/40/60/80/100% chance to gain mana equal to 60% of the base cost of the spell.
Talent remains unchanged from it's pre-WotLK counterpart, but it's moved up one tier from 4 to 3. The only reason I can figure for this is because with all the other talents moved around, Tier 3 was left with too few talents for a single tier and this was an easy move.
Improved Lay on Hands: Gives the target of your Lay on Hands spell a 25/50% bonus to their armor value from items for 15 sec. In addition, the cooldown for your Lay on Hands spell is reduced by 2/4 min.
First off an overview of the changes. The old bonus was a 15/30% bonus for 2 minutes, and the cooldown reduction was 10/20 minutes. Now, to truly appreciate how amazing this talent has become, one must understand how awesome the core spell has become. The new Lay on Hands no longer costs all of a Paladin's mana, and has a cooldown of 20 minutes as a base effect. While it still restores 100% of the Paladins health and some mana (max rank is currently 1950 mana). Now being able to give an armor boost along with not draining all of the mana and having a cooldown makes this spell a real "Oh Crap" button for a Protection Paladin and an amazing fast, powerful heal for a Holy Paladin.
Improved Concentration Aura: Increases the effect of your Concentration Aura by an additional 5/10/15% and reduces the duration of any Silence or Interrupt effect used against an affected group member by 10/20/30%. The duration reduction does not stack with any other effects.
This talent used to be in the 4th tier of the Protection tree, but normally the only people who would pick it up were Holy Paladins. Instead of putting it up high in another tree, Blizzard listened to the player base and moved it where those who needed it could access it easily.
Pure of Heart: Reduces the duration of Curse and Disease effects by 25/50%.
Similar to Unyielding Faith, but this one applies to Curses and Diseases. Used to increase chance to resist both. Major PvP talent. Due to both of those effects not having diminishing returns on many of them, and because this talent is deeper in the Holy Tree I believe it was made stronger. In it's old incarnation, it was next to useless because diseases were next to non-existent in PvP and a Warlock could easily recast a resisted curse. Lowering their duration is very powerful and it gives a Holy Paladin much more survivability against both, since diseases can be stacked (thus hard for a Paladin to cleanse) and they can't remove curses at all, other than with Divine Shield.
Sanctified Light: Increases the critical effect chance of your Holy Light and Holy Shock spells by 2/4/6%.
This talent was increased to also include Holy Shock in addition to Holy Light. This makes both Sanctified Light and Holy Power potent offensive and restorative talents. A welcome change to Shockadins everywhere.
Blessed Hands: Reduces the mana cost and increases the resistance to Dispel effects of all Hand spells by 15/30%.
The first new talent for Holy Paladins, this is primarily a PvP talent, where being able to dispel or purge Hand of Freedom or Hand of Protection in arena is a killer. Honestly, none of them have overly large mana costs, so that's not a major selling point in PvE, but it is still helpful (especially since Holy Paladins will commonly be tasked with hitting the person who's highest on threat with Hand of Salvation).
Holy Shock: Rank 7 - 650 Mana - 20 yd range - Instant cast - 6 sec cooldown - Blasts the target with Holy energy, causing 1296 to 1402 Holy damage to an enemy, or 1431 to 1549 healing to an ally.
First, and most obvious change, is that it's had it's cooldown lowered from 15 seconds to 6 seconds. This alone doesn't make Holy Shock worth it, but it was one of the longstanding problems with it as a reliable healing spell. But when you combine it with the fact that the healing effect has had it's ranged extended (to 40 yards even though it's unlisted as an effect) and the amount healed has been strongly buffed, it makes Holy Shock a very viable tool for healing.
Infusion of Light: Your Holy Shock critical hits reduce the cast time of your next Holy Light spell by 1.25/2.5 secs.
This is what really legitimizes Holy Shock as not just a gimmicked Holy Paladin spell, but a real useful tool. Every time the cooldown is up, I expect a Holy Paladin will throw a Holy Shock until this effect procs. And without a listed duration, this effect is probably permanent until you cast Holy Light, making it a strong power to be used.
Sacred Cleansing: Your Cleanse spell has a 10/20/30% chance to increase the target's resistance to Disease, Magic and Poison by 30% for 10 sec.
I'm not really sure what was the intent of this one. I mean, it has utility in both PvE (if you're cleansing an effect, it will probably be cast again soon) and PvP (if you cleanse an effect, the person who put it up will probably reapply it). I'm just not sure of it's value. I'll leave it up to an actual healer to let me know the real value of this talent.
Enlightened Judgements: Increases the range of your Judgement spells by 10/20 yards.
This is half of the major change of Holy Paladin mechanics. One of the major complaints of Holy Paladins is they just stand there and heal. They have next to no ranged damage abilities, and really getting into melee range to melee while healing is far too dangerous. This gives a Holy Paladin the ability to stand back and do a small burst of damage every 8-10 seconds, allowing them to contribute more than just some healing. Also the range matches perfectly with the range of Holy Shock, and along with the new cooldown of Holy Shock, I'm sure it makes Shockadins quite happy in their pants.
Judgements of the Pure: Your Judgement spells increase your casting and melee haste by 2/4/6/8/10% for 30 sec.
Here's the other half of the major change. Not only can a Holy Paladin contribute to DPS... they should contribute to DPS in order to make them better healers. If they aren't actively going out and casting a Judgement every 25 seconds or so, their healing potential will actually drop. It's an interesting change of pace for the Holy Paladin, and I'm sure quite welcome.
Beacon of Light: Rank 5 - 2330 Mana - 40 yd range - 1.5 sec cast - The target becomes a Beacon of Light, healing all party or raid members within 10 yards for 2000 over 15 sec.
With a fast cast time, long range, no cooldown, ability to heal the entire raid, and the fact that there's no waiting to put a circle in it's place, Beacon of Light could easily find itself as one of the more powerful AOE healing spells in the game. A welcome breather to the monotony of Flash of Light spam (though it's not the only new healing spell Paladins are getting, though the details on the other one isn't fully clarified other than it will be a single charge version of Prayer of Mending).
Finally, we come to the Protection tree. Unlike the two previous trees there is not a lot of increased hybridization. Prot Paladins still will have a lot of life, very little mana, and their heals won't be fantastic. But the big change comes in the form of their gear and it undergoing a massive change. But I'm getting ahead of myself. All will become clear in time.
Divine Strength: Increases your total Strength by 3/6/9/12/15%.
Moved from the Holy Tree (why was it there in the first place?) to the Protection tree. First impulse upon seeing this: Why is it there? But after looking over the rest of the tree, I've realized Blizzard's intent, and it's perfectly placed, but again, I'm getting ahead of myself. Also it's been buffed from 2/4/6/8/10% to it's current form.
Anticipation: Increases your chance to dodge by 1/2/3/4/5%.
Moved from Tier 3 to Tier 1, this talent has gone through a major change. Previously it boosted Defense by 4/8/12/16/20 points, it now increases your chance to dodge. While this version gives more total avoidance (5% as opposed to 2.4% avoidance and 0.8% chance to block) Defense gave a faster way to reach uncrittable, and gave some addition chance to be missed, which is always active even if you were knocked down.
Stoicism: Reduces the duration of all Stun effects by an additional 10/20/30% and reduces the chance your spells will be dispelled by an additional 10/20/30%.
Moved from Tier 4 to Tier 2, replacing Precision (not sure if it was rolled into the class or just completely removed), making Stoicism more accessible to players who want to stack more points in their primary tree, or for people who want to pick up both Stoicism and Unyielding Faith. Obviously primarily a PvP talent, this one has been changed from 2 ranks to 3, and had it's previous chance to be stunned changed to lower stun duration. A very good investment for any PvPing Paladin.
Redoubt: Requires Shields - Damaging melee and ranged attacks against you have a 10% chance to increase your chance to block by 6/12/18/24/30%. Lasts 10 sec or 5 blocks.
This talent remains unchanged from it's pre-WotLK form, save that it was moved up from Tier 1 to Tier 2. This is a welcome change because previously you had to either pick Improved Devo Aura (worthless talent) or Redoubt (worthless save for it opening up Shield Specialization). Now this wasn't a huge deal for most Prot Paladins, because they were going to get Shield Spec anyway, but for Ret and Holy Paladins it was just filler points to get to the good stuff after. By making Tier 1 and Tier 2 have other viable options, it's not as bad to get there.
Addendum: Every Prot Paladin worth his salt really will want this talent now, if for no other reason than to open up Shield Spec. One of the new spells added to Paladins in WotLK is Shield of Righteousness, which is basically a Holy damage version of Shield Slam, including it's damage being based upon Shield Block Value. This is not a talented spell, which means it will be available to all talent builds, making it an amazing spell for MTs and OTs alike. A great addition to the class in general, and not just Prot Paladins.
Improved Righteous Fury: While Righteous Fury is active, all damage taken is reduced by 2/4/6%.
Previously this talent boosted your threat generated when RF was active from 60% to 90%, and gave the above listed effect. With WotLK, they rolled the bonus threat into the baseline spell, making it always generate 90% additional threat from Holy damage, and this talent is only really needed by the Raiding Main Tanks, and not anyone who wants to tank decently at all. This is a welcome change, IMO because it allows Ret (and in some cases Holy) Paladins the ability to either be a MT for a 5-man, or quickly pop up RF and throw themselves at a mob if the MT goes down, potentially saving the run.
Toughness: Increases your armor value from items by 2/4/6/8/10%.
Moved up from Tier 2 to Tier 3, this talent remains unchanged. If I had to guess why they moved it was to fill out this tier for the PvP who wanted stuff from the fourth tier, but didn't want any of the other PvE centric talents.
Divine Guardian: While Divine Shield is active 15/30% of all damage taken by party or raid members within 30 yards is redirected to the Paladin.
The first new Protection talent, it is a very interesting talent, this has amazing potential for a Holy Paladin, any PvP Paladin, and an OTing Raiding Prot Paladin. This one truly epitomizes the idea of the Paladin sacrificing himself or herself for the good of their allies.
Improved Hammer of Justice: Decreases the cooldown of your Hammer of Justice spell by 10/20/30 sec.
This talent received a hefty boost in WotLK, doubling the cooldown reduction from 5/10/15 sec to it's above listed form. Hammer of Justice currently maintains it's 60 second cooldown without this talent, so with it one will be able to stun every 30 seconds. A marked improvement in ability. PvP Paladins everywhere rejoice.
Improved Devotion Aura: Increases the armor bonus of your Devotion Aura by 17/34/50% and increases the amount healed on any target affected by Devotion Aura by 1/2/3%.
Improved Devotion Aura moved up from Tier 1 to Tier 4, replacing Improved Concentration Aura. It also went through a major overhaul, going from 5 ranks to 3, having the armor bonus boosted from 40% to 50%, which still is very little, but is a much more reasonable boost considering it is only 3 talent points now. Those changes alone might not have been enough to justify it's acquisition, but it also received the interesting effect of boosting the healing of any target effected by it by up to 3%. With Paladin Auras now affecting an entire raid, this makes Improved Devotion Aura a must-have for every Protection Paladin.
Holy Shield: Rank 6 - 280 Mana - Instant cast - 8 sec cooldown - Requires Shields - Increases chance to block by 30% for 10 sec and deals 211 Holy damage for each attack blocked while active. Damage caused by Holy Shield causes 35% additional threat. Each block expends a charge. 4 charges.
Now, beyond the obvious change of increasing Holy Shield's damage to make up for the loss of Judgement of the Crusader, Holy Shield had it's cooldown lowered from 10 seconds to 8. I'm not complaining about this because against large amounts of monsters it means more HS uptime, and it means HS will never be down against raid bosses. But it does kinda sting that they are putting this in the game only after Protection Paladins no longer need it. Holy Shield was the means for a Protection Paladin to reach uncrushable status, but in WotLK, raid bosses will not crush at all. So the ability to keep HS up full time is no longer needed. It's not bad, just wish they had done it sooner.
Touched by the Light: Increases your spell power by an amount equal to 10/20/30% of your Stamina and increases the amount healed by your critical heals by 10/20/30%.
The counterpart to the Retribution talent Sheath of Light, this talent is actually the real cornerstone of the changes to the Protection tree. One of the longstanding problems with Protection Paladins is there are a lot of tanking pieces with a lot of stamina and few pieces with spell damage. In tBC this wasn't such a huge issue because Blizzard needed to make separate tanking gear for each of the three tanking classes. But with Death Knights coming in WotLK and them sharing tanking gear with Warriors, it seems silly to make an entire set of gear for just one role when you could shift their abilities and stats to be more in line with the other two classes.
Now, when I thought about this, I went to Warcrafter.net and did the math. Fully raid buffed, Alixander has around 1551 Stamina, and 30% of that is 465 spell damage. To make clear, right now I have 446 spell damage. Pretty much, if this talent was already in the game, I wouldn't need a spell damage weapon, or a spell damage shield or any gear with any spell damage on it at all. I could focus on Stamina, avoidance, Block Value, +hit and expertise just like Warriors do.
Now, another way of seeing things is with this talent one could stack even more spell damage than before and be a veritable beast of threat generation, but there's more to this change than meets the eye. I can't detail it yet, but once I get to the final talent, all will be made clear. Simply put, this changes the entire setup of Protection Paladins everywhere, meaning a start over from the ground up and I'm behind it 100%.
Oh yeah, and so I don't forget it, the bonus to crit heals is a wonderful addition to hybridization of Protection Paladins, allowing them to easily assist with healing if needed. Plus the bonus Spell Power when a Prot Paladin is wearing Spell Power plate to heal with will be simply fantastic.
Avenger's Shield: Rank 5 - 1745 Mana - 30 yd range - 0.5 sec cast - 30 sec cooldown - Requires Shields - Hurls a holy shield at the enemy, dealing 705 to 861 Holy damage, Dazing them and then jumping to additional nearby enemies. Affects 3 total targets. Lasts 10 sec.
Again, like Holy Shield, Avenger's Shield had it's damage range improved to make up for the loss of JotC. In addition AS had it's daze duration expanded from 6 seconds to 10, and it's casting time lowered from 1 second to .5 seconds meaning it could more easily be used in PvP, to snare runners, or to recast mid-combat for a quick threat boost. All around good changes here, IMO.
Guarded by the Light: Whenever you parry or dodge an attack you have a 10/20% chance to reduce the mana cost of your next Consecration, Holy Wrath or Avenger's Shield spell by 25/50%.
A wonderful talent for Prot Paladins tasked to tank multiple mobs at one time. With more and more mobs it means a greater chance to parry or dodge. This translates to having Guarded by the Light proc very frequently. Considering how often a AOE tanking Paladin will be dropping Consecration, and how costly the ability is, this is simply amazing! A must-have for any raiding Prot Paladin.
Shield of the Templar: Increases the damage and reduces the mana cost of your Holy Shield, Avenger's Shield and Shield of Righteousness spells by 5/10/15%.
Quite a helpful talent, improving single target and group threat generation along with allowing better mana efficiency, which is quite a problem once you overgear an encounter. While this talent isn't a must-have, it's certainly well worth the investment.
Judgements of the Just: Your Judgement spells also reduce the melee attack speed of the target by 10/20%.
Another of the longstanding problems for Prot Paladins is that it's not an illusion... we do take more damage normally, than warriors. At first many said it was the difference between Defensive Stance and Improved RF (10% damage reduction vs. 6%), but that wouldn't account for the numbers we would see.
Eventually one of our own put it together: Thunder Clap and Improved Thunder Clap. It would give a slowing effect of 20% to all white attacks from raid bosses. This would account for around 10-15% less damage a Warrior would see than a Paladin who didn't have a Warrior dropping TC on their bosses. And it was a problem for DPSing Warriors, because TC is not available in Berserker stance, meaning a Warrior would need to hop over to Battle, and do TC every 30 seconds, then hop back. Or even worse, do the entire battle in Battle Stance, which meant more threat and less damage. Of course, not to mention that TC would generate additional threat, which Warriors do not have a way to dump.
Well now those days are over. With Judgements of the Just, a Paladin can get the same slowing effects that a Warrior has without forcing a Warrior to be in Battle Stance. While Thunder Clap is still the better option when slowing down large groups of players, this talent allows us to do it on our own. Another use is if a Protection Paladin is DPSing and a Warrior is tanking, the Warrior won't have to waste rage on TC, if the Protection Paladin is keeping a Judgement up.
Hammer of the Righteous: 6% of base mana - 5 yd range - Instant cast - 6 sec cooldown - Requires One-Handed Melee Weapon - Hammer the current target and up to 2 additional nearby targets, causing 100% of weapon damage as Holy damage. This ability causes high threat.
This is the final piece of the puzzle we need to show exactly the extent of the changes Blizzard is intending for Protection Paladins in WotLK. The first piece was really Guarded by the Light, which showed a method for Protection Paladins to still use Consecration, Exorcism, Holy Wrath, Holy Shield, and Avenger's Shield effectively without a lot of Spell Power.
The second piece was Seal of the Martyr being made available to the Alliance, meaning both factions would have a Seal that procced on every swing and dealt Holy Damage based off weapon damage. This means both sides can get away with using high damage weapons and STR instead of needing to use Spell Power weapons.
Thirdly was Divine Strength being put in the Protection tree and not the Retribution tree. When I first saw this, it made little sense, but once I put the pieces together, I very much understood Blizzard's goal.
The final piece was this ability. A Protection-only Holy Damage ability which used white damage and not Spell Power as a base. To properly get maximum mileage out of this talent, one needs to have a lot of STR, and a high damage weapon.
One of my only real issues with being a Protection Paladin was that while I was a front-liner, swinging my weapon to help my allies, the actual swinging of my weapon always felt hollow. I was only using a sword or a hammer because it allowed my spells to do more damage. Now that's no longer true. In WotLK, Protection Paladins will use high DPS tanking swords and swing them to do damage, not just to have their seals proc.
In the end, I believe Blizzard's goal is for Protection Paladins to move away from Spell Power weapons and plate, and to embrace high STA weapons and armor that also have +hit, +expertise, avoidance stats, and STR on them. This is looking like what they also intend for Warrior and Death Knight tanks. Simply put, there will only be one setup for a plate wearing tank, instead of having one set for each class. Maybe there will be some Spell Power on the tiered set, but that will be all. Other than the Paladin Tiered set (and maybe not even there), expect Prot Paladins to stack STR and STA as their two core stats.
Personal note: With all this explained, I can also say that one of the reasons I was looking forward to DK tanking was it was a tank that used it's weapon for damage and not just for spell casting. With these changes in Protection Paladin tanking, I'm not sure if I will swap my DK to my main anymore. I'll still try it out, but in the end I'm just not sure. Instead I'll try both and see how it comes out. I'm very excited by these changes and can't wait to see them in-game.
The next part I'm going to touch on either new abilities I haven't mentioned before, or changes to existing abilities that I didn't mention in my review of the talents.
Avenging Wrath: 8% of base mana - Instant cast - 3 min cooldown - Increases all damage and healing caused by 20% for 20 sec.
First thing almost every Paladin will notice is that Avenging Wrath no longer causes Forbearance. This is not a typo, Blizzard did change this. As a counterbalance to that, they also lowered the percent bonus from 30% to 20%. While this is a bummer, it's well worth it to me, because it means that we can use it every time it's up and not worry about when we use Divine Shield. Also, Avenging Wrath has been changed to also increase healing as well as damage by 20% when it's used. Holy Paladins now have a reason to have this on their quick bar. Finally, with AW not causing Forbearance, a PvP Paladin can pop wings, then bubble themselves and not have to worry about it being stolen or purged. This is a great day for Paladins of every spec.
Sacred Shield: 35 Mana - 40 yd range - Instant cast - Each time the target takes damage they gain a Sacred Shield, absorbing 500 damage. They cannot gain this effect more than once every 6 seconds.
A level 80 Holy Paladin spell (non-talented), the details on this are really sketchy. Duration? Can it be cast on multiple targets? Does it scale with Spell Power? Can it be cast on self (for Protection Paladins)? All of these are unknown. But it looks interesting, eh?
Hammer of Wrath: - Rank 6 - 615 Mana - 30 yd range - 0.5 sec cast - 6 sec cooldown - Hurls a hammer that strikes an enemy for 1140 to 1260 Holy damage. Only usable on enemies that have 35% or less health.
Interesting to note that the health range that Hammer of Wrath can be used upon has been expanded from 20% to 35%. What is even more interesting is that the same treatment has not been given to Execute or any other talents or abilities which target "weakened" enemies.
Turn Evil: 9% of base mana - 20 yd range - 1.5 sec cast - The targeted undead or demon enemy will be compelled to flee for up to 20 sec. Damage caused may interrupt the effect. Only one target can be turned at a time.
Interesting not because it's changed (other than the mana cost), but because it's available at 24, when you get the original version of Turn Undead, which only works for 10 seconds. Maybe they will add more ranks later, but right now there's only a single rank that works on Demons and Undead and causesthem to flee for 20 seconds.
Worthwhile addendum: If you use Judgement of Justice then Turn Evil on a demon or undead they will just stand there, unable to flee, but unable to fight. Enjoy.
Seal of Wisdom: 14% of base mana - Instant cast - Fills the Paladin with divine wisdom for 30 sec, giving each melee attack a chance to restore some of the Paladin's mana. Only one Seal can be active on the Paladin at any one time.
Unleashing this Seal's energy will judge an enemy for 20 sec, granting attacks and spells used against the judged enemy a chance to restore mana to the attacker. Your melee strikes will refresh the spell's duration. Only one Judgement per Paladin can be active at any one time.
Seal of Light: 14% of base mana - Instant cast - Fills the Paladin with divine light for 30 sec, giving each melee attack a chance to heal the Paladin. Only one Seal can be active on the Paladin at any one time.
Unleashing this Seal's energy will damage an enemy and grant melee attacks made against the judged enemy a chance of healing the attacker. Your melee strikes will refresh the spell's duration. Only one Judgement per Paladin can be active at any one time.
Seals of Light and Wisdom are both no longer given multiple ranks, and are being reduced to percent of base mana costs. While is true for every other Seal, Seals of Light and Wisdom get special notice because this could signify a change in how they work. It's a probable guess that their base mana and health recovered will scale with level, but they could also possibly scale with the caster's Spell Power, meaning that as the caster becomes more powerful, so will the Seals and Judgements. A nice possibility.
Also worth touching on is that all of the damaging seals are also getting this treatment. Seals and Judgements of Righteousness, Command, Blood, Vengeance, the Martyr, and Corruption all appear to now scale with level and Spell Power or Weapon Damage. It will be nice to always have a Seal be as powerful as it can be with every level. This will make leveling a Paladin much easier.
Righteous Defense: 40 yd range - Instant - 15 sec cooldown - Come to the defense of a friendly target, commanding up to 3 enemies attacking the target to attack the Paladin instead.
None of the actual mechanics of the spell have changed, but Blizzard was nice enough to realize that this is our only taunt, and despite it being multi-target, having it cost mana is just stupid, considering that Bears and Warriors don't need to pay rage for Taunt or Growl. Thank you Blizzard for not making Paladins have to pay for what should have been a free ability from the get go.
The last portion will be for some prospective talent builds that could be used in WotLK once we're all 80.
Raiding Holy/Ret: 56/0/15: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=sxA0gGzGVuMxRtZE00x
With the usual gamut of talents in the Holy tree, but picking up the awesome tag-team combo of Enlightened Judgements and Judgements of the Pure means that Benediction is a must-have. And with Conviction now giving a crit bonus to spells and melee, it's a welcome addition, boosting a Holy Paladin's crit up an additional 5%. While one could pick up Improved Judgements, since the primary reason to get Judgements of the Pure is for the haste buff, which lasts 30 seconds.
Raiding Holy/Prot: 54/17/0: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=sxA0gGzhVuMxRtVGz0T
This talent gives up some of the additional offensive and critting options of the Holy/Ret build to have increased survivability and more raid-wide utility through Divine Guardian and Blessing of Kings. Optionally one can drop three points from somewhere to pick up Improved Devotion Aura for those in the back row, since otherwise it will mostly be gotten by Protection Paladins and if you're either lacking one or too far away, it would be a nice boost to healing.
PvP Holy: 51/20/0: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=sxGbghdGVzMxRxVGz0Th
Beacon of Light is an amazing PvE spell, but is much more lacking in PvP where it could be easily dispelled, wasting mana and cast time. Instead by focusing more on survivability and offense, PvP Holy Paladins can support their allies and defend themselves as needed. The addition of Enlightened Judgements to the Holy tree gives Holy Paladins a effective new offensive option at their disposal.
Shockadin: 53/0/18: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=sVAbg0dGizMxRxZVf0xh
Many of the changes to the Holy tree have turned it from a gimmicky PvP DPSer into the real deal. The obvious addition of Enlightened Judgements combined with Holy Shock's damage version range means a Shockadin no longer needs to approach their target to do maximum damage. Judgement of Righteousness plus Holy Shock, with enough Spell Power will be a potent combo at a 20 yard range.
Main Tank Prot/Ret: 0/59/12: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=sZx0tIxckMgqeRGoVbx
This build focuses on survivability and threat generation. While there are some other talents I could pick up, like Anticipation or Pursuit of Justice, I chose to aim for where I did since I believe it's the most effective use of my available talents. It also keeps it's options broad in that it can effectively AOE tank and Single-Target tank.
Main Tank Prot/Holy: 17/54/0: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=sxG0gZV0tcgcdMgoeRGo
This one sacrifices survival and threat generation to have greater healing potential when they aren't needed to tank bosses. By picking up Healing Light, Illumination, and Improved Lay on Hands, a Paladin can vastly improve his healing potential without crippling his survival and threat generation (the loss of the 5% parry in tBC was really hard to make up for when being uncrushable was a concern).
Off-Tank Prot: 0/59/12: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=sZE0tcgcdMgoeRGoVbx
Despite the same numbers in each talent tree as Main Tank Prot/Ret, this build is fairly different. With the addition of more single-target non-reactive threat generating abilities Prot Paladins can more easily fill the role of Off-tank without relying on Mana Pots. This build sacrifices some of the major single-target damage reduction talents to pick up more avoidance (to work with Guarded by the Light) for when they are tasked to off-tank multiple adds (a common setup in bigger raids). It doesn't sacrifice anything in threat generation, so it will be able to keep up in that regard.
AOE grinding Prot/Ret: 0/54/17: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=sZE0xcx0zggoeRhoVfx00b
This spec is for a 5-man tank that has great potential for AOE grinding. Reckoning is amazing when you have low avoidance (i.e. prior to starting to raid) and Guarded by the Light will make it easier than ever to take on large amounts of enemies for easy money.
PvP Prot: 20/51/0: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=sxhbghZxGtcghzMxoeoho
PvP Prot? What? Well, between vastly expanding Prot's DD options and making it more healer friendly with Touched by the Light, Prot has had the potential of being a PvP spec added to it. Avenger's Shield has always been a powerful option in PvP, made moreso by it's lowered cast time and increased daze duration. Hammer of the Righteous will be a powerful tool since it's damage is based weapon damage, but it's damage is Holy thus not mitigated by armor. Shield of Righteousness will be no slacker either with it being Holy Damage as well. While maybe not as powerful as Ret, it will make up for it with a high amount of survivability.
Deep Ret Raiding: 0/7/64: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=sZxMZEf0x0fuAIoguAo
Picking up almost every worthwhile talent in the Ret tree, this build can put out some amazing damage with a some nice extra utility. It may lack some utility that other Ret builds will have from the other trees, but it's damage is second to none for Paladins. Also, this applies to all Raiding Ret trees: I don't take Seal of Command because Seal of Blood/the Martyr will probably be better.
Raiding Ret/Prot OT: 0/19/52: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=sZx0tcxZVf0x0fuAhoxuqo
What this talent build lacks in damage and utility, it makes up by being able to easily switch roles and provide Blessing of Kings. By taking Shield Specialization, a Ret Paladin will be able to strongly boost the power of Shield of Righteousness, and picking up Toughness will allow them to maximize their survivability when tanking.
Raiding Ret/Holy: 20/0/51: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=sxA0gZZVf0x0fuAhoxuVo
Moving the previously stated talent points from Prot to Holy deprives a Ret of the nice STR boost of 15%, but opens up a lot more healing possibilities. Illumination is the cornerstone of any Paladin's healing arsenal, giving unmatched longevity. Divine Intellect will boost the mana pool of the Retribution Paladin, making him able to last longer in some of the more lengthy fights.
PvP Ret: 10/10/51: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=sxhbZxGZVfcth0hAcsMzNo
Picking up key PvP talents up through the Ret tree, it goes deep enough into both the Holy and Prot tree to get some nice talents there. From the Holy tree it grabs Spiritual Focus and Healing Light for some quick healing when needed, and Unyielding Faith to decrease the power of enemy Fears. From the Prot tree, Divine Strength's acquisition was obvious, and Stoicism and Guardian's Favor bring strong benefits to any Arena or Battleground.
PvP Ret/Prot: 0/20/51: http://wotlk.wowhead.com/?talent=sZxG00ghZVfcth0hAcsMzNo
Dropping the talents in the Holy tree, this build dives deeper into the Prot tree to get Improved Hammer of Justice and Divine Guardian. Imp HoJ is very standard fare for a PvP Paladin, doubling (or more depending on the set bonuses from the PvP sets) the amount of times per minute that they can use HoJ. Divine Guardian has great potential in PvP since it can allow a lightly clothed player to survive a barrage by one group as the Ret Paladin runs through the enemy front-line unopposed behind his or her bubble.
Of course the talent builds I listed aren't the only options, nor are any of the changes I've talked about final. But this should give you an idea of some of the changes in store for Paladins of all shapes and sizes. I know I'm excited about them.
Oh yeah, and a minor note that doesn't deserve it's own post: According to Wowhead, Death and Decay has been made an instant cast. I'm pleased as Punch.