As you may have noticed, the PTR went up recently. And with it, we got some reveals of our set bonuses for T16. Let’s take a brief look at them and ponder their usefulness.
First, it removes the opportunity cost of using Word of Glory as an emergency heal. Using WoG means you’re giving up 3 seconds of Shield of the Righteous coverage, which can often mitigate more damage than WoG will heal. Getting that balance point right can be tricky, and the set bonus makes that choice easier. Since both WoG and SotR are off-GCD, you can WoG and SotR yourself in rapid succession during a danger period. This set bonus makes the WoG+SotR combination a very potent anti-spike technique, which should mean it’s a great damage-smoothing effect. Once I have tank metrics properly implemented in SimC, we’ll be able to see exactly how effective it is for that purpose.
Second, and more subtly, it gives us a reserve bank of holy power. Boundless Conviction already gives us a reserve of 2 holy power to work with, and smart paladins use that to great effectiveness. This set bonus turns Bastion of Glory into a secondary reserve, such that if we’re in trouble we could fire off a WoG to gain up to 4 holy power instantly. Pulling that off at max effectiveness will be a little tricky, as you’ll need to pick your order of operations properly to make sure you cast a 1-HP WoG. But even if used inefficiently, this is a potent effect because it gives you extra SotR coverage whenever you deem it necessary.
But the third (and in my opinion game-breaking) use is the one that’s likely to get this set bonus nerfed. And that’s the combination of 2-piece T15 and 2-piece T16. The latter removes the opportunity cost of WoG, making it essentially free. The former gives you 15 seconds of 40% block that isn’t affected by diminishing returns every time you cast WoG. While HP generation rates are not quite to the point where we can keep that up 100% of the time, they’re not that far off. You would need to generate 3 stacks of Bastion of Glory every 15 seconds, or one SotR every 5 seconds. Right now, most players are casting SotR every 6-7 seconds. As players approach the 50% melee haste soft-cap, 100% uptime of Shield of Glory should become a reality.
I think that this is probably an issue, because 40% block is almost certainly strong enough to sacrifice two slots of higher-ilvl T16 gear. Especially if you can use two pieces of heroic, double-upgraded T15 tier. I expect this interaction will trigger some sort of change as soon as Blizzard finds out it exists. They could nerf this set bonus or swap it with the 4-piece to ensure that the 2T15+2T16 interaction is impossible. They could also just nerf the T15 2-piece bonus and leave the T16 bonuses in-tact. As we’ll see in a second, the 4-piece bonus is considerably weaker, so my vote would be to swap them.
The 4-piece bonus grants us a heal over time after Guardian of the Ancient Kings (GAnK) expires. The amount of healing is determined by the damage we take during GAnK. Blessing of the Guardians is the HoT spell, so we know that it ticks every second for 10 seconds.
Unfortunately, when I tested it on the PTR it seems the HoT amount isn’t being calculated, because the buff would appear and expire instantly. In fact, the only reason I knew it was there (and could determine the spell name) was that it showed up in Recount/Skada as a heal that produced 0 healing. So at this point, we don’t know what damage value it will use. I’m assuming it will be post-mitigation (unlike Vengeance, which is pre-mitigation), but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it will use damage done before or after absorb effects are taken into account.
That said, it may not matter that much. This set bonus is incredibly weak, so as a 4-piece we may just skip it entirely. You’re generally going to use GAnK in one of two situations. The first is a predictable period of high damage, and it’s rare for that period to last the entire duration of GAnK. The second is a situation where something goes wrong and you use GAnK to buy your healers time to recover. In both of those cases, the HoT is showing up after the danger period is passed, so it’s not terribly effective. Your healers may be able to ignore you more than usual after GAnK ends, but apart from that the set bonus probably just creates a bunch of unnecessary overhealing.
There’s also tank swaps to consider. If you and your co-tank are taunting so that you can alternate cooldowns to survive an extended phase of intense damage, then it’s very likely that the HoT will end up ticking on you when you aren’t even tanking. With some smart pre-planning you could arrange to chain GAnK and Divine Protection, and maybe the HoT will be enough of a buffer that DP will be a sufficient cooldown. But that’s still a pretty niche application. A set bonus that’s effective on only one or two fights in an entire raiding tier is a set bonus you’re probably safe skipping.
But the biggest Achilles heel of the 4-piece bonus isn’t the effect itself. It’s what the effect has to compete with: the superior itemization of higher-ilvl thunderforged off-set pieces. Which raises a more general point about paladin tier itemization.
We don’t have any information about the itemization of tier 16 yet. The T16 pieces have identical stat combinations to the T15 ones, so I’m assuming that they are all placeholders. That may be a good thing though – while it doesn’t give us any information, it means that maybe there’s still time to influence a change.
Our T15 set was a bit of a letdown for a few reasons, the first and most obvious of which is the set’s itemization. It feels like a form of punishment to wear our tier gear, because we have to suffer a lot of dodge/parry itemization that we don’t want just in in order to have fun set bonuses. The incredibly low value of dodge and parry for us also meant that those fun set bonuses weren’t terribly effective either; as we’ve shown, the bonuses don’t even make up for the loss of haste and mastery incurred by skipping thunderforged haste plate gear.
I know I found myself in the situation where I had heroic thunderforged off-set pieces before I had access to heroic tier, which made the decision to skip the set bonuses fairly easy. And that was a little disappointing, because I would much rather be excited about tier items than feel ambivalent about them.
But an even more important effect is psychological – it feels like our tier set is not being designed for us anymore. Either because the itemization team doesn’t know what paladins like, or because the developers themselves aren’t sure what we should be wearing. The game is giving us conflicting messages. The speed, fluidity, and fun of haste-stacking gameplay that Sanctity of Battle gives us make it clear we want to gear for haste. But our tier itemization is the disapproving nanny “tsk tsk”-ing, wagging her finger, and suggesting that us naughty haste-stacking paladins should cut our hair, get a job, and go back to wearing respectable tanking stats like dodge and parry.
Since it’s “our” set, it should really feel like it’s made for us. Obviously the itemization doesn’t have to be perfect. I don’t expect gobs of haste on every piece. But it should be on some of them, and for T16 maybe even most of them.
To be more explicit, what I’m suggesting is a paradigm shift in how paladin gear is itemized. As an example of what I have in mind, let’s consider the other classes for a second.
- Warriors and DKs get combinations of hit/exp/mastery/dodge/parry, again because those are the core tanking stats the classes are designed to use. DKs get a very small benefit from haste, and warriors get a small benefit from crit, but neither is large enough to warrant gearing for them.
- Monk and druid tier has combinations of hit/expertise/haste/mastery/crit, because those are the core tanking stats the classes are designed to use. They can certainly wear dodge and parry gear, but the benefit they get is small compared to haste, mastery, and crit, so they don’t want them.
Paladins are somewhere in the middle now. We get warrior/DK itemization even though we have little interest in dodge or parry. We’ve moved to a more monk- and druid-like active mitigation model, where dodge and parry give us much smaller benefits than haste and mastery. In a sense, we’ve moved on to a WoW 5.0 active mitigation scheme, yet we’re still being itemized as if we were WoW 4.0.
What I would like to see is an acknowledgement by the developers that they understand we’ve evolved as well. And that acknowledgement would come in the form of a paradigm shift in our tier itemization. Rather than being stuck with warrior/DK itemization on our tier, I’d like to see us get combinations of hit/exp/mastery/haste/parry.
This itemization scheme has several advantages:
- It would shift our tier itemization to be more in-line with what we actually value
- It would eliminate dodge+parry combination pieces, which literally feel worthless to many paladins. While we may suffer one or the other on a piece with another strong stat, like a hit/dodge or expertise/dodge item, double avoidance gear is the first thing we toss aside or disenchant. A large part of the reason the T15 4-piece is not attractive is because we can replace a dodge/parry piece with well-itemized off-set, which provides a huge performance difference.
- It would send the message that Blizzard understands how prot paladins work
- More importantly, it also sends the message that Blizzard supports haste as a true tanking stat for us.
- Not only that, but putting haste on our tier does a much better job of informing the masses that “hey, haste-tanking is a thing” than any blog post or patch note ever will. A large majority of players don’t do any research outside of the game, and may have literally no way of knowing that haste is a good stat for them. Putting it on the tier will force them to consider that, and may even lead them to ask around to find out why.
Note that I’m only talking about our tier gear here. I don’t think dodge/parry off-set items need to go away – in fact, I think off-set itemization can remain entirely unchanged. Those pieces still have value for other tanks and can be gap-fillers for unlucky slots. Though given that DKs don’t seem to care for dodge/parry either, it may be worth reconsidering dual-avoidance itemized pieces entirely. However, that’s not a pressing issue.
It’s just the protection paladin tier itemization algorithm that really needs to be re-evaluated. Otherwise we’re in for another tier of ambivalence towards (or outright avoidance of) set bonuses because they’re tied to gear that isn’t designed with a protection paladin in mind. And I really hope that doesn’t happen, because I’m sort of tired of skipping set bonuses. It takes a lot of fun out of the game to see all of your friends and teammates be excited about completing their 2- and 4-piece sets while you’re unable to muster up more than a “meh” because your spec’s bonuses just aren’t worth it.
T16 2-piece bonus is very good, possibly to the point of being broken.
T16 4-piece bonus is very weak, probably to the point of being ignored.
Protection paladin tier itemization really needs to catch up with protection paladin gameplay, or else we’ll continue to ignore non-broken set bonuses in favor of gear that fits our play style.