I'm going to start my Cataclysm previews articles with the Paladin. Then I'll cover some of the other classes that interest me like Druids, Hunters, Shamans, and Warriors. Then I'll end the series with a major announcement. Let's get right to it.
Our 3 New Spells
Blinding Shield (level 81): Causes damage and blinds all nearby targets. This effect might end up only damaging those facing the paladin's shield, in a manner similar to Eadric the Pure's ability Radiance in Trial of the Champion. The Holy tree will have a talent to increase the damage and critical strike chance, while the Protection tree will have a talent to make this spell instant cast. 2-second base cast time. Requires a shield.
This baby is for Prot Paladins. Ret need not apply (requires a shield). I could see maybe a PVP Holy Paladin wanting to use this, but with a 2 second cast time, that's just asking for a school lock out. It will be nigh useless in PVP. Look guys, the Paladin is a-chargin' up his CC better turn!
We already have a very tight, very well defined rotation in 96969. This spell will be analyzed by the math geeks at Maintankadin and we'll see where it fits depending on cooldown and damage. The irony is that if it doesn't out threat our current spells we won't use it.
Healing Hands (level 83): Healing Hands is a new healing spell. The paladin radiates heals from him or herself, almost like a Healing Stream Totem. It has a short range, but a long enough duration that the paladin can cast other heals while Healing Hands remains active. 15-second cooldown. 6-second duration.
Unless you've been playing a Paladin a while, you might not get the irony of this spell. During our Molten Core, FoL spamming days, we were referred to as a walking HoT. Now, we are literally A WALKING HOT! I wonder if this will encourage Paladins to heal closer to melee range since your Range DPS tends to want to spread out in most raids to avoid damage. In melee, you've got a better chance of hitting more people. This will help address Holy's biggest problem of dealing with a raid healing assignment. Bully for Holy.
Guardian of Ancient Kings (level 85): Summons a temporary guardian that looks like a winged creature of light armed with a sword. The visual is similar to that of the Resurrection spell used by the paladin in Warcraft III. The guardian has a different effect depending on the talent spec of the paladin. For Holy paladins, the guardian heals the most wounded ally in the area. For Protection paladins, the guardian absorbs some incoming damage. For Retribution paladins, it damages an enemy, similar to the death knight Gargoyle or the Nibelung staff. 3-minute cooldown. 30-second duration (this might vary depending on which guardian appears).
This is the most interesting spell to me of the 3 new ones. It sounds like a decent cooldown for each spec and the graphic will be very cool. It will depend on balancing the numbers properly to make sure it's a button worth pushing. But essentially, it's just another trinket. What I like best about the spell is that is has an appeal and a use for every spec. This is really the only spell of the 3 new ones that will appeal to Ret in any meaningful way.
Block Amount: We want to keep the kit of the paladin as a tank who blocks a lot. So by contrast, the warrior tank will sometimes get critical blocks, but the paladin will absorb more damage with normal blocks.
I blew this one. I would have bet large amounts of currency our Mastery was going to be Ardent Defender. But Block Amount is Protection 'Mastery' Stat, and it's one that concerns me greatly. Now I know that Cataclysm's block is different from Wrath's but I'm still worried. Block has traditionally not been a great stat and we don't need to be tied to it.
Holy Damage: Any attack that does Holy damage will have its damage increased.
That's Ret's Mastery and it pretty much applies to everything that isn't a white swing.
Crusader Strike will be a core ability for all paladins, gained at level 1.
And a million baby Tauren Paladins cried out with glee. We've gone all the way from "Paladins will never have a strike" to "You get a strike at Level 1."
Cleanse is being rebalanced to work with the new dispel system. It will dispel defensive magic (debuffs on friendly targets), diseases, and poisons.
Isn't that EXACTLY what it does today?
Blessing of Might will provide the benefit of Wisdom as well. If you have two paladins in your group, one will do Kings on everyone and the other will do Might on everyone. There should be much less need, and ideally no need, to provide specific buffs to specific classes.
And hybrids rejoice. This is big step towards fixing our buff system. Now finish the job. When a Paladin casts his Greater Blessing it should hit EVERYONE IN THE FREAKING RAID!
Holy Shock will be a core healing spell available to all paladins
Please don't tell anyone (especially the WARRIORS, but Paladin tanks just got another survivability cooldown). As a Paladin tank with endless mana on anything that matters, you'll be able to heal yourself every 6 seconds. Sort of like a Blood Deathknight in a way. I still think we'll be a little behind Death Knights at first, but it should make us better. I can only hope that SA will work off the heal. This will also give Ret another tool to help keep themselves alive in PVP. That should make it interesting to balance.
One change we're considering is lowering Divine Shield's duration by a couple of seconds.
You know, and I know, this is really about Bubble Hearth. Don't let anyone tell you differently.
Protection paladins need a different rotation between single-target and multi-target tanking. Likewise, we're looking to add the necessity to use an additional cooldown in each rotation.
An addtional cooldown could be the new Blinding Shield, but I don't know how they will give us a different rotation between multi-targets and single targets. Someone should tell the Devs we already do use a different seal. We use Command on multi-targets and Vengeance on single-target. Now one idea would be to make Hammer of the Righteous do more damage each time it bounces. That way it doesn't make much sense to use it on singles. Another thought would be to make Consecrate do damage based on the number of targets in the Consecrate.
We want to add to the Holy tree a nice big heal to correspond with Greater Heal.
Basically the Healers are getting as homogenized as the tanks, but the good news is this gives Holy TWO new healing spells. I am a little disappointed we didn't hear anything about how the Devs will address the necessity of Spell Power Plate.
Holy paladins will use spirit as their mana regeneration stat. Meditation is the Mastery stat for Holy. This is the spirit-to-mana conversion that the priest, druid, and shaman healers also share.
From our worst stat to one of our core stats. That's just going to be weird for veteran Paladins.
We want to increase the duration of Sacred Shield to 30 minutes and keep the limit to one target.
Well, I won't need setting in Power Auras to track it anymore.
We feel Retribution paladins need one more mechanic which involves some risk of the player pushing the wrong button, making the rotation a bit less forgiving. In addition, we want to add to this spec more PvP utility.
I have no idea how you involve some risk to the Ret Paladin rotation, so I'm curious to see what the Devs come up with. PVP utility would be welcomed but what will they give Rets ( and then immediately take away when it's overpowered in the 4.0 patch).
Overall, it's some interesting changes. We'll have to see how it filters through Beta and what we actually have as the date of Catclysm gets closer. In Wrath we got Sacred Shield, Shield of Righteousness, and Hammer of the Righteous. We became truly viable progression raid tanks. If I had to guess, I'd say Paladins will follow a similar curve to what they saw in tBC and Wrath. They will be weaker at first and get progressively better through the patch cycle.