Protection paladins are receiving a number of peripheral changes in 5.4, but nothing that changes our core mechanics. We’re still going to be stacking haste thanks to Sanctity of Battle – in fact it’s even on two of our tier pieces – and we’re still not very interested in avoidance. We’re still going to be focusing on high Shield of the Righteous uptime, and we’re still going to be one of the best (if not the best) tank classes.
There are, however, a few high-profile changes that affect our talent and glyph choices. The Icy Veins Guide should be up to date with all of the latest information. In this post, I’m going to go over what’s changed and discuss many of those changes in greater detail than would be appropriate in a class guide.
Grand Crusader: The first change most players notice is Grand Crusader. It no longer procs from Crusader Strike and Hammer of the Righteous, but instead procs only from avoidance (30% chance per avoided attack). This is probably the change I’m asked about most often, primarily from players wondering if this “kills” haste-tanking.
But while this seems like a significant change, it’s actually not. Grand Crusader certainly helped make haste stronger, but only by a tiny amount. The majority of our affinity for haste comes from Sanctity of Battle, which isn’t changing. Unless that gets nerfed, we’re going to continue to stack haste.
The only noticeable effect that the Grand Crusader change should produce is a slight adjustment in our multiple-mob tanking priorities. As we tank more mobs, we have a higher and higher chance of getting early Grand Crusader procs. So when tanking more than 5 or 6 mobs, we may start prioritizing Grand Crusader procs over Crusader Strike and Judgment.
Eternal Flame and Sacred Shield: This patch, Sacred Shield received a 30% nerf and Eternal Flame‘s heal-over-time (HoT) component received a 40% buff. Together, this has finally shifted the balance of power in our Level 45 talent tier. When cast with 5 stacks of Bastion of Glory, Eternal Flame’s HoT will heal for 3x-4x as much as Sacred Shield absorbs. As such, it becomes the better smoothness option at high haste, essentially through brute-force.
That doesn’t make Sacred Shield a bad choice, just a little less effective at smoothing melee damage. It may still be the stronger choice when up against large, one-shot boss attacks. And the ability to put it on your co-tank is another hard-to-quantify benefit; I suspect that two paladin tanks that are alternating Sacred Shields such that each tank has two active at any given time is still superior to a similar strategy with Eternal Flame.
The general strategy when using Eternal Flame should be to refresh it when it’s about to expire or shortly after it’s expired, ideally at high BoG stacks and always with 3+ Holy Power or a “freebie” proc like Divine Purpose or the Tier 16 4-piece bonus. Note that in many cases it’s actually better to let it expire and re-apply than to refresh it early thanks to the instant healing component. For example, if you refresh it a second early while at full health and then take a large hit from the boss, the Word of Glory portion is wasted as overhealing and the first few HoT ticks will go towards healing that damage. If instead you let the HoT expire and held that Eternal Flame until after the melee attack landed, the instant heal would completely offset the melee attack, leaving you at full health with a fresh HoT ticking for the next melee attack.
If you’re looking for a good way to track Eternal Flame, I’ll be posting about the latest version of my WeakAuras configuration later this week once I’ve had a chance to test them on the live version of 5.4. They’re all uploaded to pastebin, so you can try them out, I just don’t guarantee that they’re bug-free for 5.4 yet. Also note that the author that’s been maintaining WeakAuras the last two years has moved the project to WeakAuras 2, so update your links accordingly.
Selfless Healer: The third choice in this talent tier also saw a notable change this patch. Selfless Healer now consumes Bastion of Glory stacks to apply a healing bonus to Flash of Light when you use it on yourself. Before, it gained no healing bonus when self-cast. Unfortunately, this is still not enough to make the talent attractive.
Since the mechanics of Selfless Healer are less than obvious, here’s a detailed explanation of how it works. Each stack of the Selfless Healer buff reduces the cast time by 35%, so at 3 stacks Flash of Light is instant-cast. If you heal an ally, it’s just a simple 20%/40%/60% increase to the healing done at 1/2/3 stacks. Simple enough.
However, that healing buff doesn’t apply if you heal yourself. Instead, Selfless Healer modifies Bastion of Glory, giving it the following tooltip:
Bastion of Glory
Requires level 40
Increases the strength of your Word of Glory when used to heal yourself by 10%. Selfless Healer also increases healing from Flash of Light on yourself by 20% per stack. Stacks up to 5 times.
So when you use Flash of Light on yourself, you only get the +20% to +100% bonus from having one to five stacks of Bastion of Glory. That 20% per stack bonus doesn’t increase with mastery, either, unlike the Word of Glory healing bonus. There’s an additional caveat here, in that you only get the bonus when you have at least one stack of the Selfless Healer buff as well. A hard-cast Flash of Light with no stacks of the Selfless Healer buff doesn’t consume or benefit from Bastion of Glory. So with 5 stacks of Bastion of Glory you get +100% healing done regardless of whether you had 1 or 3 stacks of Selfless healer.
And just in case that wasn’t confusing enough, the buff tooltip is also misleading. If you mouse over the Bastion of Glory buff while Selfless Healer is talented, you’ll see:
Bastion of Glory
Your next Word of Glory used to heal yourself heals for an additional 10%.
Your next Flash of Light will heal you for 20% more per stack of Selfless Healer you have accumulated.
20 seconds remaining
which obviously contradicts the spell tooltip. The spell tooltip is correct, however; with 3 stacks of Selfless Healer and 5 stacks of Bastion of Glory, you’ll get +100% healing when you cast Flash of Light on yourself and consume the stacks of Bastion.
That was a lot of words to describe a mechanic that’s irrelevant to us, but unfortunately that’s how the numbers fall out. Unbuffed on the PTR, a Flash of Light healed me for 35k with no Bastion stacks and 70k with five Bastion stacks. A 3-holy-power Eternal Flame that consumed five Bastion stacks healed for 115k immediately and ticked for 35k. Those two aren’t even in the same ballpark – Eternal Flame is essentially spamming you with Flash of Light casts automatically via the HoT mechanism, and does a better job of health recovery with the immediate heal. And Eternal Flame is off-GCD. And scales better with spellpower than Flash of Light does.
So while the Selfless Healer buff was a nice thought, it’s too little to really make the talent worth taking. Even if it gave the 60% bonus from all three Selfless Healer stacks, it wouldn’t be strong enough to rival Eternal Flame’s primary heal. It would also have to get full benefit from each BoG stack, including mastery scaling, to have any hope of competing. And probably even then some thanks to the long-tail healing from Eternal Flame’s HoT.
Glyph of the Battle Healer: Gutted. Utterly and completely destroyed. Battle Healer’s old version was incredibly strong, and basically mandatory because it was a significant amount of free raid healing for the cost of a glyph slot. The new version completely changes how Battle Healer works. Now, it causes Seal of Insight to heal the lowest-health raid member instead of healing you. Unless, of course, you happen to be the lowest-health raid member.
That in and of itself might not completely neuter the glyph, as in many cases you will be the lowest-health raid member anyway. So it would be a trade of some personal survivability for some raid healing, but would generally divert that healing back to you when you were in severe danger.
Unfortunately, the glyph also reduces the size of the heal to 30% of the unglyphed value. That’s the part that stings. We might take a small personal survivability loss for some extra raid healing, but not a significant personal survivability loss for very little raid healing. Battle Healer is probably out of the rotation permanently, or at least until it gets changed again in a future patch.
Sanctified Wrath: I’m not sure whether this qualifies as a big change or a little change. Sanctified Wrath was tweaked to generate an extra holy power from Judgment during Avenging Wrath. This makes it a little more attractive to us than before, as it finally gives us a substantial holy power generation increase. We still have to change up our rotation to make most effective use out of it, however; with this talent selected, we switch to a J-CS-J-filler- rotation during Avenging Wrath.
I’m still not 100% sure about where this change leaves Sanctified Wrath. The 3-minute cooldown on Avenging Wrath still limits the total usefulness of the talent. We’re probably equally invincible whether we have Avenging/Sanctified Wrath or Holy Avenger active, but Holy Avenger is on a shorter 2-minute cooldown and should generate more average DPS. Divine Purpose should be higher DPS still and provide higher average Shield of the Righteous uptime, though without the same level of control.
My gut feeling is that you’re probably a little more survivable during Avenging/Sanctified Wrath than you are during Holy Avenger, but that the longer cooldown and more lmited availability probably makes Sanctified Wrath the slightly weaker choice in most circumstances. But they’re all close enough that you can probably take whichever talent you like in this tier.
There are loads of little changes, none of which stand out as particularly worrisome. In no particular order….
Mana Regeneration: Seal of Insight lost its mana return component during PTR, which led to some discussion of whether high-haste builds would be able to continue operating. To compensate us for that loss, Guarded by the Light was buffed from returning 6% of our mana every 2 seconds to returning 15%. This should be enough to keep us rotation-stable even at 50% haste, and has some fringe benefits as well. For example, less waiting time between successive Redemption casts after a wipe.
Weakened Blows: Crusader Strike now also applies Weakened Blows, which is a nice quality-of-life buff. Also makes Glyph of Hammer of the Righteous completely irrelevant. As opposed to pre-5.4, when it was “almost completely irrelevant.”
Burdened by a Guilty Point of View: The old Burden of Guilt talent has been turned into a glyph (replacing Glyph of Turn Evil) and replaced with Evil is a Point of View. This new talent allows us to use Turn Evil on Humanoids and Beasts. This probably doesn’t have a lot of applicability to PvE, but who knows. On a fight like Faction Champions, having the option to fear something might have been useful.
Unbreakable Spirit: Drastically simplified in 5.4, the new version of Unbreakable Spirit just reduces the cooldowns of Divine Protection, Divine Shield, and Lay on Hands by a flat 50%. This is essentially no change for the latter two spells, but should reduce the cooldown of Divine Protection from ~40-45 seconds to 30 seconds. All in all a fairly clear buff that makes the talent much easier to understand.
There is one caveat: while undocumented, taking this talent will also reduce the healing generated by our tier 16 2-piece bonus. Though the bonus is pretty weak anyway, so that’s probably not a big concern.
Lights Hammer: The healing component of this spell has changed slightly thanks to a last-minute change. Instead of healing all players in the area of effect, Light’s Hammer now only heals the six players with lowest health. A nerf to be sure, but the smart target selection still makes it pretty powerful.
Alabaster Shield: This glyph was nerfed from 20% per stack to 10% per stack. Still a nice DPS boost, but not as nice as before. Was already less effective than Focused Shield on single targets, so this shouldn’t change much.
Glyph of Holy Wrath: Aberrations have been added to the list of creature types on Glyph of Holy Wrath. It’s a buff, but I’m not sure if there’s any relevant aberrations in Siege of Orgrimmar.
Glyph of Devotion Aura: Formerly the Glyph of Rebuke, this glyph turns Devotion Aura into a personal cooldown rather than a raid-wide cooldown and reduces the cooldown duration from 3 minutes to 2 minutes. Devo is such a strong raid cooldown that I don’t expect most people will use this much, especially since 2 minutes is still a fairly long cooldown for a weak, 6-second copy of Divine Protection.
Glyph of Divine Shield: One of two new glyphs this patch, this glyph heals you for 10% of your health for each harmful effect you remove when you bubble. The heal is capped at 50% of your health. Neat idea, but I’m not sure it’s that useful in practice.
Glyph of Hand of Sacrifice: This is the other new glyph, which eliminates the damage redirection of Hand of Sacrifice, turning it into a simple 30% damage mitigation cooldown. Neat, but less useful to us tanks since we shrug off that redirected damage in the first place.
Vengance: This probably qualifies as a big change, except that it doesn’t really change how we play very much. Apart from being less reckless, I guess. Vengeance was nerfed in two ways this patch. First, the amount of attack power gained from melee attacks was reduced from 1.8% to 1.5% and the amount gained from spell damage was reduced by teh same proportion (from 4.5% to 3.75%). Second, it now has diminishing returns when tanking multiple mobs. The hardest-hitting mob always gives the full amount, but each successively weaker mob gives 1/N-th as much. So the second mob grants 1/2 as much as it would alone, the third grants 1/3 as much, and so on.
This is a fairly big hit to our survivability in AoE tanking situations, so we’ll have to be a little more careful with big pulls. Rather than simply grabbing everything in sight and “tanking the world,” we’ll want to try and split those mobs with other tanks. Thankfully, this diminishing returns mechanism makes that easier as well.
Taunting and Threat: All taunts now cause a 3-second grace period, during which you generate 3x as much threat as usual against the taunted mob. This should eliminate most of the wonky threat-related issues players were experiencing after taunting early in an encounter. In addition, the base threat multiplier of Righteous Fury (and all other tanking presences) was buffed from +400% to +600%. I assume this latter change was to compensate for the significant reduction of Vengeance in 5-man heroics.
Legendary Buffs and Nerfs: The Indomitable Primal Diamond proc was buffed significantly. Now it reduces all damage instead of just physical damage, and the proc rate was doubled as well. On the other hand, the Capacitive Primal Diamond proc rate was nerfed by 40% for tank specs to discourage its use. The new legendary cloaks for DPS classes (Gong-Lu being the relevant one for us) have this 40% proc-rate nerf built in, again, to discourage us from ignoring the tanking cloak (Qian-Ying).
Simulationcraft should be updated to version 540-1 today, though I haven’t implemented new T16 TMI bosses yet. Partly because I don’t yet have data on how hard these bosses will hit, so for now the T16Q boss will have to suffice. However, I have implemented just about everything else. It should have all of the new 5.4 mechanics, along with several bugfixes. As usual, please let me know if something looks funny.
- APL tweaks – removed HotR, added EF, added Ret’s 4T16 bonus
- T16 Normal and Heroic profiles optimized
- SotR no longer ignores the 1% racial expertise bonuses.
- Eternal Flame’s base heal was receiving the +100% bonus for self-healing
- Holy Avenger doesn’t buff Hammer of Wrath damage for Protection anymore
- Sanctified Wrath’s bonus healing taken is now restricted to Protection
I think that covers the bulk of the relevant changes in 5.4. Of course there’s lots of new content as well – the Timeless Isle, Siege of Orgrimmar, Flex Raids, Proving Grounds, and so on – but none of that is super-specific to us.
But if you have any questions that I haven’t answered here or think of something I’ve omitted, please post them in the comments. I’m fairly busy on Tuesdays, so I may not get a chance to respond until this evening.