With time and many tweaks and adjustments, the WotLK beta has wrought many changes from the initial beta outlook. As we get closer to patch 3.x and its class overhauls, I took a long, hard look at the current state of the healadin.
And I don’t like it.
Admittedly, it is hard to make any truly informed decision from outside the beta – the latest changes for instance are still not final, nor does reading patch notes or second-hand accounts really give a feel of how the new trees will actually play.
That being said, from the looks of things, the hopes I had been harbouring to see an evolution of the healadin playstyle seem to have been in vain.
Due to a combination of factors which include mana cost adjustments, the nerf to the Infusion of Light talent and the addition of the admittingly interesting Sacred Shield spell, complex and more varied healing cast rotations which include Holy Shock appear to be, again, on the backburner compared to using our TBC single trick, spamming Flash of Light. Granted, on longer fights you’ll be keeping Sacred Shield up every 30 seconds (Woo! Sacred Shield is the new Seals) for variety, and if you spec all the 51 points in holy you’ll even get the option of keeping Beacon of Light up every minute.
But from where I’m sitting, it looks like the Wrath healadin will be, again, mostly a FoL-bot. So much for versatile and more interesting gameplay.
Not to mention that the Infusion of Light “adjustment” just killed, again, any semblance of 2v2 and 3v3 arena mobility for the holy paladin, one of the biggest issues holding the class back and keeping its number massively under-represented in those two brackets.
On the other hand, you can spec into a solid protection tree, said to provide much more damage (and hence solo viability) in Wrath than TBC, or an extremely sexy reborn Retribution tree which doesn’t just provide better DPS than ever before (OK, let’s cross our fingers, between patch 2.0.1 and TBC go-live Retribution was massive, too) but also pretty solid healing capabilities with the Art of War and Sheath of Light talents. Add to this that you can actually spec up to 5/5 Illumination in holy with 51 points in Retribution for off-healing or 5-men main healing, and you have (as it currently stands) not merely a good, non-gimped, non-laughingstock spec but you have something even more invaluable to many paladin players.
The realization, at last, of the Paladin vision of old: the dream of a holy warrior who can both smite his enemies and keep his allies alive, by staying in the thick of battle. And that alone is heavy enough in the paladin player psyche, especially among those players who stuck to the class through 4 years of disappointment and clericking for the lack of alternatives, to make the Wrath Healadin, as it stands now, the least attractive spec to come.
Caveat Emptor: As mentioned in the beginning, I’m merely theorycrafting. Actual results, in the beta or after a couple of additional adjustments, may change between now and level 80.