The Holy Paladin Rework in Review
Holy Paladin received a major rework in patch 10.1.5. As you all know this left the spec in a very strong spot, and it has had to be nerfed multiple times since then, but especially in Mythic+ it continues to be dominant. The rework has been a resounding success from both a gameplay, a talent tree design, and a performance point of view. The time since the rework is probably some of the most fun I, personally, have had playing Holy Paladin in a very long time.
The purpose of this article is to provide feedback on which parts of the rework turned out well, and which parts did not, and I have waited until now with this article because I wanted to see how things would settle down and the direction it would take going in to 10.2.
The reason I want to bring this out now is because I fear for the future cohesion of the spec. Holy Paladin after the rework rely on a very delicate balance of three things, neither of which can become too strong or they will take too much precedent over one of the other two.
This "Holy Trinity" consists of: the power of Holy Power spenders, the power of Holy Shock
and all associated effects, and the power of the spells that consume Infusion of Light
. This balance was already shaky on Live servers, but it is in jeopardy of being shattered with the recent changes
on the 10.2 PTR.
I will get more in to this later in the article, because I first want to cover which things have turned out very well with the rework.
What Has Worked Well
As said the rework has genuinely been great and many things have worked out extremely well. The talent tree and the possible playstyles are massive improvements over previous iterations of the spec, and with it increased agency over our healing, it means the spec feels much more fun and rewarding to play.
When you combine this with all of the new synergies between spells and talents that came with the rework, the spec as a whole actually feels a lot more complete and well-rounded in design and rotation.
The Talent Tree
The Holy Paladin talent tree
after the rework has been a tremendous improvement over the previous iteration. The highlight of the new talent tree has to be Daybreak
and Rising Sunlight
, which when combined with Divine Toll
makes for a very potent and fun cooldown, and with our new tier set
this combo will only get better. Other than that we also saw the removal of a lot of dead talents that we took just for pathing, and the replacement of all the boring talents such as "Holy Power spenders do 5% more healing", that we had before.
The removal of most 2-point nodes have left us with just one 2-point node (Breaking Dawn
). This has made pathing of the tree feel smoother and less punishing, and other specs that still have a lot multi-point nodes must be looking at our tree with envy.
Playstyle and Agency
The playstyle too is more engaging and intuitive, and with the welcome death of Avenging Crusader
we have a lot more agency over our healing and who we heal. The rework increased the focus on Holy Shock
and Infusion of Light
, while managing to keep the fast pace of the gameplay that Holy Paladins have gotten used to over the years.
The changes to Holy Power spenders and to Infusion of Light
, has also increased the agency over which spells we choose to consume these with, giving us more choices to make on gcd to gcd basis.
A lot of new synergies between spells were introduced. Most importantly of these are the changes to make Barrier of Faith
and Tyr's Deliverance
work with Holy Shock
, which has made these spells significantly more interesting and viable. Other notable new interactions include Daybreak
and Rising Sunlight
and their synergy with Divine Toll
, and the increased focus Glimmer of Light
with all the talents that now interact with it such as, Glorious Dawn
, Light's Protection
, and Overflowing Light
The design of the spec feels more sensible and it is easier to see the vision behind it.
What Has Not Worked Well and Issues Heading in to Patch 10.2
Along side all the positive stuff, there are some things that I feel could still be improved on. Some of the not so successful points include, in my opinion, a low skill ceiling combined with a high skill floor, button bloat, and the choice to keep Holy Power as a system. I know that some people do not agree that Holy Power is problematic, but I strongly believe it is a thorn in the side of an otherwise very positive rework, and Holy Power's weak tuning risks undoing all the good the rework has done.
But I want to address the other issues first as they are not as important.
With the rework, we saw a lot of extra spells added or made viable again. With Daybreak
, Hand of Divinity
, Barrier of Faith
, and Tyr's Deliverance
all finding their way in to the toolkit, we had to find at least 4 extra keybinds. Combine this with the "re-introduction" of Flash of Light
and Holy Light
back in to the rotation, and the fact that Holy Paladin already had a ton of utility spells to begin with, it is not strange that it is difficult for a lot of people to find enough new keybinds.
Discrepancy in Mythic+ vs Raid Performance and the Uninspired Nerfs
I want to preface this section with saying that Holy Paladin is obviously still strong in both content types, especially in Mythic+ where we have continued to dominate despite multiple rounds of nerfs, and that my focus here is entirely on the nature of the nerfs and not whether they are justified or not.
Since the rework, we have all seen how dominant Holy Paladin are in Mythic+
, even after being nerfed several times.
Meanwhile in raids, we have actually felt the impact of all the nerfs, which amount to around 20% direct hps reduction in total, and we now see Holy Paladin performing at a much more reasonable level. There are several reasons that we have not seen the nerfs have a major impact on our performance in Mythic+. Some of it definitely has to do with the god-comp simply having too many synergies. But it also has a lot to do with the fact that Holy Paladin is not only strong in Mythic+ because of the numbers it can put out. It is strong because no other healer has a toolkit that even comes close to rival Holy Paladins toolkit, not in the amount of healing cooldowns, utility, damage reductions or immunities, nor externals.
So far we have almost only seen Blizzard nerf our direct throughput without touching our toolkit. This is understandable since the rework is so new and it would feel strange to remove or overly nerf tools so soon after a major rework. However, this also means that Holy Paladin is likely to continue to dominate in Mythic+, and it means that the nerfs have had a disproportionate effect on our performance in raids compared to our performance in Mythic+.
If you want to fix Holy Paladins domination in Mythic+ you have to, either give other healers a similar amount of powerful tools, or you have to reduce the amount of tools that Holy Paladin have access to. If you keep just nerfing throughput you will keep hurting our performance in raids more than our performance in Mythic+.
Lack of Possible Skill Expression
Holy Paladin has never been the most complicated or intricate healer out there, and I don't want that to change, but I also feel that the current version has too little depth.
There are several reasons for this. For example, while universally seen as a good thing, giving Holy Shock
2 charges has definitely made it significantly easier to not waste casts. On top of that Holy Power spenders have been made much weaker, meaning that you are less punished for over capping Holy Power. In many cases you actually have no choice but to overcap because you are being flooded with resources and Holy Shock
resets to the extent that you can never realistically spend it all.
With the introduction of a ton of new tools and healing cooldowns, each cooldown has had to be made less powerful, meaning you are again less punished for misplaying and misusing these cooldowns, and often times you can save your mistake by just using one of your other cooldowns because you have so many of them. This is especially important in Mythic+ where for most other healers, you will just not have anything for the next damage event and likely wipe.
I don't have any magical solution to this, and I dont know if it even needs to be "solved", just pointing out that there is an issue here when comparing to other healers which further serves to make Holy Paladin meta.
The Shaky Balance of Holy Power, Holy Shock, and Infusion of Light
As mentioned at the start of the article, Holy Paladin relies on the balance of the "Holy Trinity"; the power of Holy Power spenders, the power of Holy Shock
and all associated effects, and the power of the spells that consume Infusion of Light
If one of these become too strong, then you will see one of the others be pushed out of the way. This is a problem because the cohesion of the spec depends on all three being fairly balanced.
To illustrate, for example, if Holy Shock
it self becomes too strong, then you will do all you can to optimize for more and more Holy Shock
s. For this to be facilitated something else will have to give, and in this case it would be Holy Power spenders because you would need to consume as many Infusion of Light
as possible to get cdr on Holy Shock
with Imbued Infusions
. What this means is that you would not care about over capping Holy Power as long as it meant you got more Holy Shock
Already before the rework went live there were mutterings amongst the Holy Paladin theorycrafters that especially Infusion of Light
spenders and to a degree Holy Shock
were strong enough that this balance was in jepoardy. This means that it was speculated that we should "ignore" Holy Power to the extent that we could even stop tracking Holy Power and instead just track Blessing of Dawn
stacks, and only cast spenders on 2 Blessing of Dawn
stacks. However, the difference between doing this and just playing around not over capping Holy Power was so small that we decided to just recommended the latter instead due to it being infinitely more intuitive and not a big enough loss to justify doing it differently but, we are seeing people beginning to play this way and performing very well
on live servers.
The problem we are facing in 10.2 with the increased focus on spot healing across the board for healers, is that Blizzard have elected to buff Flash of Light
and Holy Light
and have given us another set bonus that scales entirely on how many Holy Shock
s you can cast. At the same time Word of Glory
has not been buffed. This means that comparably Holy Power spenders are now even worse than on live, and if this does not change then we would have to recommend people to intentionally ignore Holy Power and only cast spenders on 2 Blessing of Dawn
For Paladins who played back in Warlord of Draenor, this might be a bit of a deja vu, because the fact that we were largely not playing around Holy Power back then was the main reason Holy Power was removed in Legion. Let's hope history repeats it self in this case.
The biggest problem with the need to keep the balance of this Holy Trinity is that it severely limits what Blizzard can ever do with things like tier sets in the future. Let's say you wanted to make a tier set that made one part of it stronger and more fun then one or both of the other two would have to give way. Now, sure, you could just not care about that or even claim that it is fine. But at the end of the day you gotta ask yourself; why does combo points exist if its optimal to ignore it? Why does Infusion of Light
procs exist if you don't prioritize using those procs? Why have so many talents interact with and focus on Holy Shock
if it shouldn't be pressed on cooldown?
Remember that the fact that we were ignoring Infusion of Light
procs was listed as one of the things the reworks hoped to fix.
Right now, it is practically impossible to use all these resources and it feels counter intuitive and wrong to be forced to "play incorrectly" by over capping or wasting on one of them. I think it is impossible and that it is extremely limiting in design possibilities to strive to keep this Trinity balanced. It is my firm belief that Holy Power has to go to open the spec up to future options from a design perspective.
"But cant Blizzard just buff Word of Glory
to restore the balance?"
In a vacuum, this is definitely a possibility. But Holy Paladin and Word of Glory
does not exist in a vacuum. Firstly, just buffing Word of Glory
without buffing Light of Dawn
would push it too far ahead that you would just never cast Light of Dawn
again and buffing Light of Dawn
would go against the renewed focus on spot healing, secondly if you buff spenders then that would just be an unwarranted buff to Holy Paladin in general which would disturb the over all healer balance.
I know this is only the first PTR patch, but I wanted to highlight this problem as early as possible, and I don't expect this entire problem as I see it to be solved in patch 10.2, that would be asking a lot, but going forward I think a solution eventually has to be worked out, or we will just see the history of Holy Paladins ignoring major parts of their toolkit repeat itself.
The take away from this post should be that the rework was a huge improvement to the spec overall, and Holy Paladin will continue to be strong going forward, both in raids and mythic+. The spec plays better than it has in years and it is fun and fast paced, with more agency than it has had in a long time.
However, there are some issues that needs to be addressed to keep the balance of the different portions of the spec healthy going forward.
If you made it all the way through my impassioned wall of text, you are amazing!