Once again I have corpse run all the way back to here to do some wittering on. But of course if I didn't at least comment on the new Cataclysm info, what sort of a paladin would I be? So without any further ado, let's dive in to the new talent and ability changes. UPDATE: Mere hours after I wrote this Ghostcrawler came out and said most if not all of the talents we see are not going to be there. Luckily this will force me to write another post later on.
My first point is the new 31 point trees in general. I like them. I was worried at the beginning of Wrath that talent trees in general were going to get too complicated, and with such cookie cutter builds for classes making it easier for someone to spec wrong somewhere down the line. This looked like it was going to be made a bit easier during the original announcement of Cataclysm, when we were told talent trees would be made simpler and we would have Path of the Titans, where we could customize our character to suit our play style and be rid of cookie cutter builds. Then, lo, Path of the Titans was scrapped.
Happily the new talent trees we have, if still unfinished, are looking much better and it seems to me they have incorporated the Path of the Titans mind-frame into them. After going down the trees, it seems that there's generally only 1, maybe 2, talents that you could do without, but again this is down to personal choice. For instance, when I went through the retribution tree I chose Repentance, an old favorite, instead of the new and improved Eye for an Eye.
Eye for an Eye has been changed so that now any damaging attack against you has a chance to trigger a judgement, which is much more useful in a PvE situation than the current one, as more than likely you will come against some sort of boss that fire AOE attacks like there's no tomorrow. This brings me neatly on to Seals of Retribution. This replaces seal of command in the retribution talent tree, and instead of being a new seal it acts as a general damage buff. It now gives 15% extra damage from your seals on weapon swings and still gives the multiple target hitting buff the current SoC has to Seal of Righteousness. There's also the matter of Sanctified Wrath. This works the same as the current talent, except with one big difference. Instead of allowing 25% of damage to bypass damage reducing effects, it now allows us to cast Hammer of Wrath like the target has below 20% health whilst avenging wrath is active. Which is just sweet.
On a Prot note, it's interesting to see the damage increasing talents swamping the tree. Improved Exorcism and Improved Crusader strike both feature. Improved Exorcism reducing cast time of said spell by 0.8/1.5 seconds and increasing damage by 10/20%. Improved Crusader strike features a reduced cooldown of 2/4 seconds and an improved damage of 50/100%. This makes sense with crusader strike now being a baseline ability (more on that further down) and with it's nature. Because CS deals 100% weapon damage, I have no doubt that with a 1 handed weapon this would have been way down on the priority scale of protection without the increased damage. Along the same theme, there's also Hallowed Ground, which is basically improved consecration. It increases damage by 20% and, this is awesome, duration by 30 seconds, when fully specced. It has 2 points, 10/20% damage and 15/30 second duration.
In the last of our talent trees, we have Holy. First thing to note is the migration of Divinity from Protection to Holy. This makes sense purely through the nature of the spell. Next, we have the appearance of Divine Light, our big heal. Don't be fooled by the "Heals a friendly target for 50 to 60" description. With a cost of 30% base mana and a 2.5 second cast, this will be our most expensive, longest and most hard hitting heal. I'm a bit disappointed with this one, if only because it seems like it's there to fill a hole and will only be useful in a what-if situation, now that Holy shock is baseline (more on that further down too). Moving on, the next point is a sneakily hidden one, that implies more than it says - Sacred Cleansing. The description is simply "Your Cleanse spell now also removes 1 magic effect". Since Cleanse already dispels magic, it doesn't take Steven Hawking to realize that Blizzard's promise about dispels becoming more costly and less effective was kept, as Cleanse will now not cleanse magic when cast by just anyone. Generally there are no big surprises in the rest of the tree, all increasing critical hit chance and healing done by one thing or another, but there are 2 more talents I wish to touch on. First, Purifying Power, a 2 point talent which, when you cleanse a friendly target of an effect, gives you a 50/100% chance to unleash a judgement on the caster of that effect. This could potentially mean almost no manual judgement casting, but also this will increase you haste when tied in with Judgements of the Pure, making this a useful talent. Lastly is actually the last talent - Divine Illumination. An old friend with a new face, this no longer reduces mana consumption, but instead increases crit chance for spells and attacks by 30%, which is quite a change.
I shall now lightly touch on Crusader Strike and Holy Shock, 2 abilities which have made the jump from talents to baseline. Crusader Strike, firstly, is going to be introduced at the beginning of a paladin's life. This was sorely needed, as I was recently leveling a new paladin on an old realm, and realized that all I could do for many levels was judge and auto attack. Crusader strike will provide much needed variety into the play style of an early paladin.
Holy Shock is another spell made available to all. We don't really know much about how useful this will be for damaging, but in terms of healing this is going to be buffed a lot. This will be our second go-to heal after Holy Light, providing much needed diversity to suit a situation. It can be cast on the move and it's looking at seeing a lot of healing due to critical hits, mainly from talents. I can see this being used whenever it's ready, as a follow-up to holy light casts. I'm predicting a longer cooldown, but only because it seems so efficient and powerful.
All in all I think it's looking good for us so far. It's also worth remembering we will be locked out of the other 2 trees once we spec into one of them, and with mastery included we're set to see the rise of the hybrid, with each spec set to do it's job and not replace the others. We're far from the end of the changes, but I'm hopeful for the future of paladins.