Tuesday, April 13, 2010

From Leaves to Light

A long-time reader/commenter/friend Kayeri recently had a dilemma; her guild asked her to do something she'd never done before. Normally a Tree, they requested that she switch her main to her Holy Paladin (as they seem to be becoming some sort of endangered species). She agreed to give it a shot, and then came to me to talk about it.

I wrote a while ago about some differences I noticed immediately when starting a Paladin after only healing with a Druid. Cast times, mobility loss, no HoTs, AoE issues...it all hit rather hard, to the point where I was stressed whenever I tried to heal on Bellbell. It was so different, and at the time, it felt weaker.

This, unfortunately, was due to me not playing to, nor understanding, its strengths.

Druids are HoT healers. Anyone spamming Nourish is almost certainly doing it wrong. We blanket raids, we roll stacks of various HoTs, we run around and hop side to side. We shift out of snares, dispells curses and poisons, and we Cyclone, on the rare occasion it is necessary. But what makes a Paladin?

Paladins are direct damage healers. Except for their HoT on targets effected by Sacred Shield, they do not have any skills that continue healing after the initial burst has landed. With a Paladin, what you get hit with is what you get. This takes a lot of habit breaking from playing a Druid. You can't just pop a heal on someone and leave them alone if they're low; their health won't continue to rise on its own.

A Paladin's strengths are in big (costly) heals and cooldowns. This class has cooldowns for everything. Increase healing. Regen Mana (at the cost of healing). Reduce Mana cost. Take damage for another. Take damage for the raid. Make another player immune to physical damage. Make yourself immune to all damage. Drop someone's threat. Remove and prevent snares. Heal to full in an instant. A sudden boost to any aura you're wearing to weather practically any elemental storm or, since it's usable while mounted, burst your entire raid from teleport pad to Gunship in six seconds.

It is very easy for people to say "All Paladins do is Holy/Flash of Light." That is the really boring, really narrow, mediocre, annotated, TL;DR, lazy version of Paladin healing. And it may seem like, wow, next to a Druid, there seem to be so few spells...

Well, that's because most of the spells aren't about directly healing, even if the ones you use for the majority of the time are.

Druids are about rolling HoTs, right? Well, then you should already be familiar with the concepts needed to maintain, and transfer, Sacred Shield and Beacon of Light to appropriate targets. They are, in application, like extended HoTs in that you do not want them to fall off. If they fall off, your tank starts taking more damage or your heals around the raid are not going to your Beacon target. I'm not sure about you, but if my HoTs ticked on the tank every time they ticked on someone else, I'd make sure that Beacon never disappeared. The same holds true for the Haste buff that comes from Judging on an enemy target. Without it, your heals are slower and less effective.

Oh yeah, and Holy Shock is like Swiftmend without the need to heal them with something else first. Very pro.

Holy Paladins are highly mana-dependent, especially when going into a Holy Light spec (this is the Holy spec that delves into the Devo tree for improved shields and the ability to absorb damage on the raid). There are very good reasons why Paladins gem as much Intellect as possible; Holy Light is expensive to "spam," and Divine Plea will restore a quarter of your mana (usually used in conjunction with Avenging Wrath to buffer the loss in healing output). Think of it like an Innervate with some penalties, and that needs to be managed well. You can also use it along with Divine Illumination, and with 2-piece T10, Divine Illumination buffers your healing as well, making it a good candidate to use in combination with Divine Plea, allowing you to stagger the cooldowns and have more options to gain mana.

Paladins should have sharp raid awareness. You should be ready to switch auras for situational damage just like you would be ready to shift forms out of a snare. People will call for a lot of things you never had to worry about before as a Tree. Freedom through ooze, Salvation for a tank on Festergut or an over-eager DPS on any fight, a Hand of Protection for a Warlock about to pull every Vengeful Fleshreaper on his face on the way through Plague Wing trash, an iceblock breaking too early on Sindragosa and needing to Aura Mastery + Ice Resist Aura through a Frost Bomb...you get the idea.

But really, until you've lived it, you don't. Druids aren't cooldown based classes at the moment, because we don't mesh well with them. Paladins do. They open their magic toolbox and throw their toys around and they have a magic toy for almost any situation. If all you are doing is spamming Holy Light, then you are doing as poorly as a Restoration Druid who only hits Rejuv or Nourish.

Remember how Resto Druids have a sort of "bastard cousin," the Dreamstate Druid? How, at one point, Dreamstate was where the hip kids were at, and then it changed?

All right, now I'm sure you've heard about Flash of Light and Holy Light Paladins. There is a difference. Astounding, I know! Flash of Light is less bastard, however, and is more the spec that is just not bad but not as good when it comes to a raiding situation. Flash of Light goes into the Ret tree instead of the Devo, upping personal crit instead of gaining a raid cooldown. They are about quick, high-hitting Flashes of Light on as many people as possible. They go for Crit gear and Spellpower gems, when a Holy Light Paladin would prefer Haste and Intellect gems.

Do you guys know that belt off of Gunship 25 man? That belt every Paladin seems reluctant to take?

It's because it sucks. You're better off with a mail belt than that thing. The Mp5 is okay (did you know Crit was devalued and Mp5 revalued for mana regen?) but the crit just destroys the belt. Most Paladins get their crit from combined haste and crit pieces; solely crit pieces are a bit of a sacrifice.

So if you've ever wondered why that belt goes for so low in your GDKP run, to an offspec Paladin at min price, it's because it's just not something that great to wear. Sure if it's a huge upgrade, you'd put it on, but it's about as great as an Intellect Trinkett with a Spellpower cooldown would be for a Druid, and looks just as pro to any Paladin who knows what they're doing.

Oh yeah, and, 2 piece T10 is awesome! 4 piece isn't worth your time; find better off pieces for the other slots.

This has been my extremely nutshell'd version of Paladin healing, with some Druid analogies and comparisons thrown in to help ease the way. I hope this helps a bit with the drastic class shock of switching between the two types of healers, for Kayeri and anyone else attempting the switch. I'm happy to answer any questions in the comments, and if I don't know the answer I'll probably just go whine to Sharlet (my mentor in the ways of Paladin'ing) until I get it.


Kayeri said...

Thanks, Bell, this was a nice starter piece to look over. I did do some healing in an ICC10 the other day and learning when and how to use the CDs effectively is going to be the biggest part of the learning curve on being a holy paladin.

Thus far, I've likened it to whack-a-mole healing, and it sure makes me miss the HoTs! But as I get into it a little more, I'm sure it will get better.

And just for the record, I wasn't asked to change my main, but it was hm... 'hinted' that a holy paladin would be more useful to the guild than a 3rd tree... ::chuckle:: I am lucky in that I see raid time on both the druid and the paladin each week.

The funniest part of the whole thing has been listening to other paladins tell me about why I should be holy light or flash of light specced... they are quite passionate in their reasoning! ::chuckle::

One thing I do have to do is find a timer for Beacon and other things... I'm so used to my HoTs I don't need it for them, but I will need the reminder for my paladin. :)

Thanks, Bell, it's muchly appreciated! (and btw, Arriell initially wasn't any happier about this than Bellbell was, but I think she's gradually coming around) :)

Bell said...

@Kayeri - oops, I can edit that if you want.

If you use Healbot, it'll show Beacon and Sacred Shield on the square/bar. I'm sure Grid has that functionality, too.

QJ said...

Bell, I love this post. What I love about it is that I had the exact opposite experience that you did. When I rolled my druid, my problem was not seeing the results of HOTs. I didn't understand that the hots were taking effect much more slowly, I'd empty my entire mana bar into whoever was tanking. Once I figured out that I just needed to sit back and let things tick, I had a much easier time adjusting to the style. Even now, I find I have problems with patience when I heal with a druid. I want to see the results of my heals NOW.

What I love about paladin healing is the utility. We have cleanse, we have the Hands, we have 2 bubbles, we have a spell that guarantees our next spell is a crit (great for Oh Shit situations). One thing I have noticed, however, is that it can be frustrating and confusing to raid leaders who are unfamiliar with the tools a paladin has. I was recently in a PUG 25 man TOC, where I was called out for being low on the healing meters. What really frustrated me about that was that I had died early halfway through the beasts and had also sat out half of the first Jaraxxas attempt. What he didn't notice was that I had 100 more dispels than the next highest raider, and was 2nd or 3rd on the meters for the 2nd Jaraxxas attempt. He didn't try to piece together the whole picture, he just looked at the Healing Done and called me out. It was really frustrating for me to have to try to explain myself

Dorgol said...

As I said on your early post - switching from Paladin to Druid was just as scary. I went from "OMG EVERYONE IS TAKING DAMAGE AND I CAN'T HEAL THEM ALL" to "OMG THE TANK IS TAKING A TRAIN-TO-THE-FACE AND I CAN'T SEEM TO TOP HIM OFF!".

Things are much better now. Druid healing became a smooth experience once I got use to it. I still prefer Paladin healing, though. I love the utility aspect of the class; not surprising since that's the quality that brought me to the Paladin to begin with.

I will say that in today's world of over-geared heroics Druid healing has become really, really boring. One rejuv and a Wild Growth and I don't have to do anything for 10 seconds. At least with the Paladin I have to cast each and every heal. :)

jeffo said...

As one who plays a Holy Paladin, thank you for this excellent summary. I think you understand Holydins better than some Holydins do!

@Kayeri -- there is a great add-on for tracking Beacon and Sacred Shield available with a very awkward name shortened to clcbpt available at curse: http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/clcbpt.aspx It takes a little setting up but works very nicely I've found.

Endyme said...

I've played a paladin for about 5 years (omg I feel old now). She's been Holy for much of it and I LOVE it. I feel super confident when I'm healing on my pally, I know what to do, what heals and such I have at my disposal. I'm trying to level a druid healer now, and while she's only 22, it's SO different. I'm used to having my heals hit instantly, so the whole HoT thing is so hard to get used to. I 'healed' in Deadmines and it's just....it drove me nuts not seeing folks' health bars go up right away. It's a whole different ball game and it's interesting to read something from the opposite POV!

Cazenovia said...

Ooooh - that was incredibly helpful. I have a (semi-) working knowledge of all the other healing classes, but have never really understood paladins past their strengths in tank-healing.. our holy pally last night mentioned that he needs to have some free GCDs to use cooldowns rather than simply spam heals, and that makes a lot more sense now. Thanks!

Jiyambi said...

I actually recently switch my mains from druid healer to paladin healer. I actually LOVE paladin healing now, the hugely powerful Holy Light bomb just makes me so happy. It took a long time to get used to all those tools though!

Kayeri - if you are looking for a timer, I simply use "Classtimers", and have my beacon and shield target as my focus. I use the all in one time and it shows me everything I need to know - Beacon, Shield, Judgment, and my haste buff from judgements. It also shows any temporary buffs on me like Avenging Wrath or Diving Plea. It also works great for every class, including druids, so I really recommend it - I never have to get used to a new timer when I switch toon! :D

Averna said...

This is a neat post, Bell. Paladin healing is one of those thing I could never get. People would say "Lol just use the three holy spells" but then I think, yeah but what about the hands? and auras? and judgments? what the hell are all those? To me, it's one of the most complicated healing classes out there.

Adgamorix said...

Nice writeup, but I'm going to disagree with your assessment of the HL vs FoL healers - although not entirely.

I currently run 2 Holy specs, 51/20, and 51/2/28 - and I have 2 complete sets of gear for HL or FoL. What I have found is that (much like everything else) you have to use good judgment when picking which spec to run.

In our 10m raids, I almost always go with the 51/20, simply because Imp Devo (with the 6% bonus healing) is too good a buff to pass up - but we don't have a Protadin or a Tree in our 10m group.

In our 25s we do - so I have more flexibility. By running a FoL build (on fights that don't have say, multiple tanks taking damage at once, or not Festergut) I can BoL the tank, and heal the raid quite well. Or, I can swap to my HL build for Fester and laugh my way to victory.

I would say that going for the FoL route you need the right raid group, and the right gear setup, do do it well (also you need near zero lag, and to never missclick your heals). HL is certainly a much more forgiving setup for a starting healer.

So, there - I agree, yet disagree in some regards.

Jen said...

Thank you! My main's a tree and my alt is a prot pally, but since everyone and their dog have a tank, I'm asked to be holy in a lot of guild runs. Switching from tree to holy pally was HARD, the first raids were absolutely horrible (I was undergeared too). Glad to see it was not something wrong with me and the classes really are THAT different.

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Bragerlan said...

I love this post.
I have been a Holy Light healz Dwarf my entire life of WOW. I currently have a Priest to lvl 77 and will be working on my Druid come September. I am currently in Iraq and it does not allow me the ability to play. But it has turned me onto the bloges-sphere to feed my need. I really enjoyed this posting.
When I was leveling it seemed that no one really wanted me to heal them. Everyone wanted a Priest. But when I hit 80 and got a few pieces of gear I was then sought after funny how it works.
It was great to read how someone was able to capture how being a good Holy Pally is not a three button healer. And in the early stages of the level 5 mans is a real challenge, pre beacon anyway.
I love my Pally and really like my Priest but when I return I am going to make a Tree and on the Hord side. I have never been a Hord so it will be all new and get experience a bunch of new quest chains. I play with my wife and she really has not done any raiding while I have been gone (shy) so she has leveled 3 alts. One of which was a Hord so I told here I would level a Druid with her when I got home. I am looking forward to the ability to heal on the move. Some fights make it so difficult dealing with cast times. Hodir must be the simplest fight to heal for a Tree but as a Pally it is difficult to get use to it especially with people taking damage when they should not be.
I will have to get use to not seeing people going for near death to full health in one shot of a 20K heal, that will be the most difficult and change.
Looking forward to your future blogs.