Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Raid Healing for Holy Paladins post 3.2

This post ended being much much longer than I thought at first when I started it. But I was always adding new views and after a few hours it got quite gigantic. I organized the ideas so that you can pick up what you're interested in or find back some points more easily after reading the whole thing. I'll try to post better inputs on some parts of it later in separate posts if I can find some time for that.
Now let's start with the beast.

It is no news that patch 3.2 changed a lot for Holy Paladins. I have already written several posts on the topic: Patch 3.2 will change just everything ...
You can also find very good analysis of the changes on: Banana Shoulders and

Now what did it changed for me after a few weeks of raiding? Though my experience is limited to Ulduar and Trial of the Crusader 10-Man, I think it is enough to see the big changes that 3.2 brought us.
At first I was very worried with the mana regen nerfs, and for a good reason, I was right. But in the end patch 3.2 gave us so much that I'm not complaining at all, as long as you can adapt to a new style. Let me explain my views, and then talk about gameplay changes.

What changed with 3.2 and how does it impact us?

First big mana & mana regen nerf, Divine Intellect was nerfed from 15 to 10% (about 5% total mana loss) and Illumination was nerfed from 60% to 30% regained from the mana cost of the spell that crits (second nerf it was 100% before WotLK). You can also add the small nerf to Replenishment affecting all mana users. On paper a severe nerf to our mana and regen, and in the game too. Depending on how you played, it will affect you more than others. I had an intellect & crit build so it had a strong impact on my regen and I use Holy Lights much more carefully now while I was sometimes "splash raid healing" with the glyph before, which was an obvious overshot but affordable.

Second change of Beacon of Light and addition of a hot to Sacred Shield, Beacon of Light now works with overhealing and has a 60m range, and if you cast a Flash Light on the target of your Sacred Shield it will gain a hot. The Sacred Shield hot is fine, it is not strong, but it is free, doesn't really cost you any global cooldown (though you have to recast a direct Flash Light on your tank here and there) and helps with maintaining a constant healing influx to your tank (the obvious target of your Sacred Shield). Now the real big boy here is the change to Beacon of Light. It was useful before, and helped you to do a bit of raid healing while still covering your tank. It is now very powerful and allows you to become a full (or nearly) raid healer while at the same time being as reactive as before on your tank and able to land one of these life-saving healing bombs at all time. I'm explaining more clearly that in the next paragraph.

Beacon of Light is your new best friend.

The job of a main tank healer is to always be able to react quickly and do his best to save his tank if a damage spike occurs, which you all know is very common in WotLK. Beacon of Light was created to allow you to do some healing on other members of your raid while still healing your tank, *but* you had to retarget your tank in case of damage spike as any overhealing done was not sent to the Beacon (and hence there was no way to heal your tank for 15K but to target him, unless another member of the raid was also injured for at least 15K, and in a 30m range from your tank). This meant some heavy macro building, using right click to target your focused main tank for example. Or some target change delay, and delay is bad when it's an urgency.
Now all overhealing is also transferred and the range is 60m. You don't have to retarget your tank anymore for this 15K healing bomb, and you can even do it while being too far to even be able to target him, by targeting a member of your raid between you and him.
This is such a strong change that I'd say I'm enjoying raid healing again, it's not any more complex than before (even probably easier if you're following the tips I'm giving later on) but you have much more freedom in who you heal, and it's much less frustrating in the sense you don't have to make this Cornelian dilemma of keeping the strong heals on your mt rolling or trying to help with raid healing.

New Beacon require a new gameplay.

Mostly you have to maintain 4 effects at all time now. Before patch 3.2, depending on who you were healing, the Beacon was not always mandatory, and the Sacred Shield hot didn't exist. So mostly it was only Sacred Shield on your tank & Judgement of Light/Wisdom for your raid. Now a Holy Paladin not using Beacon of Light at *all* times is just a dreadful dumb monkey :P It is just too strong to not be used at all times, unless, perhaps, you're completely sure that only the mt will take damage as in some old vanilla boss fights.

So what do you have to maintain? Beacon of Light (B) on your tank, Judgement of Light/Wisdom (J) on the main raid target (if possible each 20s for the raid heal), Sacred Shield (S) on your main healing target (not necessarily the main tank, I will give an example of that), and the Flash of Light hot (F) on your Sacred Shield target. It requires more attention than before and I strongly advise you to use an add-on to track these 4 mandatory effects that I will name the BSFJ effects.

Gameplay by examples.

As nothing is better than examples, I'll give you what I see as the two gameplay configurations we have now, depending on the boss encounter. As you could guess, I assume that as a Holy Paladin you are assigned to tank healing.
So let's take these examples, the two first beasts of the Northern Beasts trio from Trial of the Crusader.

Gormok the Impaler
This is what I call a single tank situation, it can still require tank switching but at any given time there is only one tank.
Focus you tank (use a focus macro with a shortcut to help if there is some tank switching) and keep at all time Beacon of Light and Sacred Shield on him. When the Flash of Light hot goes down, recast a Flash of Light on the tank. Keep the Jugement of Light/Wisdom up on the boss. And now all you have to do is heal the raid and keep the BSFJ effects up.

The two Jormungars
This is what I consider as a 2 tanks situation (if more than 2 tanks are required, you'll need another Paladin buddy to cover the 3rd tank and helps you on the MT), at any given time at least 2 tanks are taking strong damage, one being the MT usually taking more damage.
The idea is to heal both tanks at the same time, using the Beacon. It was possible before, but it's way more effective now. Cast the beacon on the one you are not assigned to as main healer, and the Sacred Shield on the one you will be targeting most of the time (to maximize the Flash of Light hot uptime). Then cast Judgement of Light/Wisdom on the boss and maintain a regular influx of Flash of Light on your target (with the occasional Holy Light if him or your BoL target needs it).
You're set for double tank healing, and with some training and getting used to it you can mostly heal the two tanks from this encounter alone in 10-Man.

But what about mana regen now?

If you follow the gameplay guidelines I've given earlier, you will see that your tank (which should be your main target during a raid) is receiving a strong and regular flux of healing even if you're mostly casting only Flash of Light on the raid. This is a strong change from before, and means that you should be using less Holy Lights (at least in 10-Man, the boss damage being lower).
But even with a more sporadic use of Holy Light you'll see your mana going down, especially as you should be recasting Beacon of Light for sure each 30s now (I'll have to do the math on the BoL glyph as concerning mana efficiency).
As for myself I went back to the Glyph of Seal of Wisdom (5% healing cost reduction) instead of the Glyph of Seal of Light, and I'm using strong mana regen trinkets and meta-gem. I'm still using my int/crit gear and spec, and it still do the job, I have to use mana potions much more often though, and Divine Plea for these 25% mana as often as I can.
My observation from raiding is that we still have a good lasting power, but we need to be much more cautious with our mana. With my two trinkets () and meta-gem (Insightful Earthsiege Diamond) I can regain more than 2000 mana each 50s (du to the trinkets hidden 45s cooldowns), to which I can probably add about 3000 mana each minute (?) from Divine Plea (I rarely can use it for its full duration but I try to use it each time it's out of cooldown). That's about 5 to 6K mana/minute, not bad without counting any mp5 or spirit (haha).

Minimum Mana Use and Healing Lasting Power

Let us give a look to mana costs now. Just to maintain your BSFJ effects during a minute, you have to cast (with a base mana of 4394 for a lvl 80 paladin):
2 Beacon of Light (35% of base mana),
2 Sacred Shield (12% of base mana),
5 Flash of Light (8% of base mana),
and 3 Judgement of Light (5% of base mana)
That gives you a minimum mana cost of about 6240 mana with 2 Flash of Light counted as a critical (40% crit).
So, just to keep up with the spells you need up at all time you will have a MMU per minute of 6240. Divide your total mana by that and you know how much you can last at the theoric maximum (don't be frightened but now you can see how much mana regen we need).
Now to maintain a regular Flash of Light casting, with 40% critical and 1.5s casting time you'll need to cast 20 Flash of Light per minute, which would cost you about 20 * (3/5*1+2/5*0.7) *352 = 6196 mana per minute.
Add this MMU to the FoL spam cost and you have a rough idea of your mana cost in a raid boss fight. Now calculate your mana regen as I did before, and add in your mp5 (and replenishement if you are sure to have it). Reduce your mana cost by your mana regen each minute, and divide your total mana by that. You will have a rough idea of your mana durability in a boss fight.
Ok this is not easy calculus and you don't really have to do it, but keep in mind that you'll use around 12.5K mana per minute probably half your mana if you have an average gear. Yes mana regen will hurt and you'll have to take it into account much more than before.

And for next time

In my next post I will discuss about healing macros and how they can really change your raiding experience as a Holy Paladin. Being more reactive, keeping up your multiple effects more regularly, avoiding wrong targeting when recasting Beacon of Light (which can be really deadly now) ... all of these can strongly change with macros.
Stay tuned.

If you want more inputs on healing post patch 3.2, you can read the guide on, it is full of gear & gemming information.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Holy spec: did you try Holy + Prot already?

As my series on leveling is finished I'm back to talk about healing, gear and specs for patch 3.2. I'm writing an article about general gameplay in raids (that will be way too big ...) but I wanted to point you towards that article from Banana Shoulders: Bubble Spec: the New Hotness.
It's about the "new" Holy & Prot spec based on using Divine Sacrifice. Siha calls it a Bubble Spec and I like the name, it links it to Disc priests shields (and it is damage prevention), and it uses the paladin bubble to save ourselves when we use it.

Clearly, anyone can see uses for this huge raid damage prevention on bosses like XT-002, YS, Anub ... but as crit strength has gone down since patch 3.2 my previous preferred spec (51/2/15+3) has lost some of its punch, pushing the Bubble spec to our attention.

This is not news and several guilds have been using that spec already, but if you've not yet give it a try and see if it'll be the 3.2 spec for you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pre-raid gear in patch 3.2

Last article about rolling a new paladin character to 80. This article will target gearing your paladin from fresh 80 to Ulduar raid level (at least enough to start Ulduar without shame). As I'm a healer this will obviously be more healing biased but most can apply to any paladin spec.

Wrath of the Lich King Patch 3.2 changed a lot of things for everyone, and even more for Holy Paladin. The two most impacting changes are:
  • changes (read mana regen nerfs, BoL buff) to the Holy Tree;
  • changes to the badge system in heroic and raid instances.
I'll try to look on these two changes and how it changed things for new 80 characters, and then I'll try to give tips about how to use them to your advantage. I recently leveled a Druid to 80 and got her from fresh 80 to a WoW Heroes rating of about 2246 (Ulduar 10/25 level according to WoW Heroes) in two weeks following these tips. Just so that you know my Holy Paladin has a score of 2290 and I've run nearly all of ToC 10-Man and all Ulduar but for Yog with her (but for Anub as I'm in vacation since he's up).

Holy Paladin Changes in 3.2

I've already discussed the changes to Holy in patch 3.2 in this post. If you've played a Holy Paladin in WotLK before patch 3.2, you should read it, and perhaps even this post on Elitist Jerks. If you're new to paladin healing or have not played a paladin healer since BC or before, then most of what you need to know is:
  • your mana is not "infinite" anymore by specing for crit rating and intellect;
  • you'll have to use Beacon of Light to be competitive, it is now the main tool of your healing skills and no sane Holy paladin will let it drop down.
I'll discuss more about the gameplay changes since 3.2 for me in a soon to be post, give it a look then. What matters for us here that mana will be an issue for you, intellect, mp5 should be big focuses for you in your gear, more than crit or haste, at least at the beginning (spellpower will still be your main gear focus).

Badges in 3.2

The huge change is that all raids and heroic 5-Man instances drop Emblem of Conquest (Ulduar 25-Man badges before 3.2). As you can guess, that allows you to gear in nearly full 213 and 226 gear just by doing heroics.
A lot of people, me into them, think that it is not a good thing, as a way too easy Naxramass wasn't good. This does not push people to do good to get their gear. And if you want to do high level raids (read end of extension arc raids like AQ40, Naxramass 1, Black Temple, Sunwell) gear won't be the only thing you need, and in fact it is the easiest to obtain thing. Skill on the other side needs hours of raiding and training. But I won't talk about that here, it is not the point.
I'm not going to give you the list of items you need. As I strongly incite you to raid at the same time you'll be gearing through heroics. Start with Nax10, proceed until you reach Ulduar, you'll be able to gear up from there. you can use the badges to complete what you'll get during your raids, and all your raids will give you badges too (Nax25 is the fastest source of badges if you can find a good group).

Here are a few pointers about loot lists for patch 3.2: on, lots of different posts on The Holy

Remember also that you can get 2 Emblems of Triumph (for your Tier 9 armor) per day with the daily heroic quest. And you can run the new Trial of the Champion instance in both normal and heroic mode, even normal mode will reward you with very nice items like this "you must have" trinket: Tears of the Vanquished.

Time to gear-up !

My earlier post about pre-raid gear is still useful, you can find it here.
Now how can you get as soon as possible to the gear level to pleasantly run heroic and "easy Nax"?
I'm not going to advise reputation gear, as it'll probably take you time to get these reputation high enough to get anything useful (read epic gear), reputation are useful but focus on the once you want at revered level for your head enchant (Kirin Tor for Holy, Knights of the Ebon Blade for Retribution, Argent Crusade for Protection).
I'll advise you to PvP during you last levels (78+), get the lvl 78 pvp gear and play as holy or ret as you like, your goal will be to get xp and honor points. At lvl 80 you should be able to do buy Epic arena armor and Wintergrasp gear. For that:
  • run Wintergrasp battle as often as you can (especially if your faction is on the attack);
  • run Alterac Valley as often as you can (best reward in term of xp/honor per hour).
Then once 80, get your pvp gear, complete it with Titansteel gear (head, feet, mace). You should be around half epic. Keep your lvl 78 pvp gear or crafted pve gear, gem for spellpower & intellect. Enchant your epic items (esp. your Titansteel Guardian). You should be ok for heroics and Nax 10 and Trial of the Champion (at least normal).

From there progress with badge gear, what you can get on raids, and what you'll get on the Trial of the Champion normal & heroic (you'll want that mace from the heroic version).

You can also run the dailies from the Argent Tournament, there is ilevel 200 (Nax10) epic gear to get and a lot of pets & mounts of you like them (I'm not the most patient type and never got anything from them).

Final Words

I hope you'll enjoy playing at a Paladin, especially if you joined the rank of the healers in this game :)
Your first days as a Holy Paladin won't be easy as we miss on the mobility part, you can't heal and move nicely. Try to play often with a tank you know, and that will know when to move and when to give you 10s to heal & mana regen, that will really make things easier for you, and that is really the best advice I can give you (especially for heroic timed CoT 4 or heroic Utgarde Pinnacle).

A first version of this guide can be found here, there are pointers to other good Holy paladin gearing guides.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Paladin Leveling Guide (part3, end)

Second part of a guide for those that roll or reroll a paladin. The first part of the guide, addressing levels 1 to 58 can be found here: Paladin Leveling Guide (part1), second part for lvl 58 to 68 is here: Paladin Leveling Guide (part2).

This guide is more targeted for those that already have a lvl 80 and can support their alt, but most of the tips can be applied by anyone.

Paladin Leveling Guide (part 3, your time in Northrend)

The basic advises from the first guide are still valid, I'll rewriting them here because you should always keep them in mind while leveling.

The first tip, which is common to all leveling guides you'll ever find is: maximize your damage output. Don't try to gear for survival, the game isn't that hard most of the time and you'll want to down mobs fast.

The second tip is, try to get a good leveling guide if you want to. If you're new to the game, enjoying the discovery is probably the best thing to do, and using Wowhead to search when you're stuck in a quest will be enough. If you're a bit tired of the vanilla content, or want to reach 80 much faster, then leveling guides are for you. I used Jame's Leveling Guides for my 3 last characters, from 1 to 78 (last levels are not yet in the guide but really not hard to do) both on horde and alliance side, and I strongly advise them.

Ok, now let us start with paladin stuff. You can find all the paladin skills by level on Wohead here, if I'm not direct linking a skill, go there for more info.

I've written my views on leveling as a protection or holy paladin in Paladin Leveling Guide (part2). Though a dps (retribution) spec will level you faster, if you intend to tank or heal at level 80, I advise you to get the dual spec talent (that you can buy for 1000 gold) and try instancing with this spec. Retribution will be better for solo questing, but you'll find a group easier as a tank or healer, and will get used to what you want to play later on with your paladin.

The 2 weapons that will bring you to 80

When you arrive in Northrend, your first objective should be the Axe of Frozen Death, it's a @H Axe that you will probably keep until lvl 75. It is roughly equivalent to the 2H axe dropped by Prince Malchezar at the top of the Karazhan tower, which was a beauty coveted by many arms warriors.
It can be reached completely solo by horde players, you will need a group of at least 3 with a good healer to get it on the alliance side (trust me the last quest on the alliance side is suprisingly hard).
If you follow James guide, you'll get it fairly late especially if you're alliance. I'd advise you to get it earlier and get it enchanted with a +85 attack power as you'' play with it for a few levels.

When you reach lvl 75 it will be time for you to go to Zul'Drak if you're not yet there and do the Arena of Anguish series (remember the Arena of Blood in Nagrand, it's the remake) to get your De-Raged Waraxe. Once again enchant it with a +85 attack power, you'll probably keep this axe until 80.
The arena can be done with a good group of lvl 75 characters, but you will often find people helped by level 80 characters in full epics doing it, if you can find an easy spot, take it by all means, this axe will be your best friend for a long time.

If you're searching for a Holy paladin weapon, it'll not be too hard to find decent quest ones. If you want a good one, I'd advise you to befriend the Kalu'aks that have a very nice lvl 78 blue healing mace, you can also get nice healing weapons in several instances.

As for tanking weapons, the choice is much more scarce. You'll probably have to use a one handed dps weapon (at least there are some with endurance & expertise like this one) until lvl 74. At lvl 74, get one or two friends and go get the Ragemane's Flipper (elite quest lvl 74). You'll probably keep it until lvl 80.

Where to go and what to do when you arrive ?
(zones to level in)

Not considering the notes about getting your weapons before (it all depends if you're using an heirloom weapon) here is the order I'll advise you to follow in Northrend.
I'll advise using Jame's guide in that order:
Howling Fjord : lvl 68 to 70
Start with Howling Fjord questlines, until you reach quests which are lvl 71. It should be at the end of the "pirate" part of Jame's guide. Try to do the Utgarde Keep instance before leaving the zone.
Borean Tundra : lvl 70 to 71/72
Switch to Borean Tundra by Kalu'ak tortoise boat, and do all of it and the Nexus instance.
Howling Fjord : lvl 71/72 to 73
Back to the Fjord, finish the quests, do the elite ones if you can, do the Utgarde Keep instance if you've not done it before.
Dragonblight : lvl 73 to 74/75
Dragonblight is your next zone, there are two instances in the zone, you can do them whenever you find a group for them. This zone is huge, and there are several elite quests that require a group but are nicely rewarding (follow Jame's guide).
Zul'Drak : lvl 75-76/77
Zul'Drak is a good zone to level in, you have the Drak'tharonKeep (lvl 74+) and Gundrak (75+) instances into it, and the Arena of Anguish (see before).
Grizzli Hills : lvl 76-77
If you're not yet 77 then go to Grizzli Hills and grind quests until you are.
Scholazar Bassin : lvl 77-78
Do the Nessingwary quests if you want the achievement, do the Oracles/Frenzyheart quests for the faction rewards if you're not into achievements (they start with this quest).
Storm Peaks & Icecrown : lvl 78+
These zones are full of great quests, that will provide you with items still useful at lvl 80 and are very nice story wise. You will also be able to start your Son of Hodir faction grind for your shoulder enchants (with this quest).

The real new skills until 80.

The first one is Divine Plea at level 71. That will strongly change your mana regeneration, and can make leveling as protection doable (though a little slow still). This skill gives you back 25% of your mana each minute.

The second one is Shield of Righteousness at level 75. Only usable with a shield, this is another help for protection leveling, and a huge aggro boost if you're tanking.

... and now you reached 80, good job, now what to do ?
That will be part of a next article where I will try to advise the fastest path itemization-wise, to reach up-to-date raid status as soon as possible (I went from fresh lvl 80 to a gear roughly ok for Ulduar 25 in 2 weeks on my druid with the patch 3.2 token fest).