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August 1, 2010

Lessons from an Alt: the Holy Pally

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Written by: Vixsin
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As many players and bloggers out there have discovered, the end of the xpac is a great time for alts, and like many others, I’ve been living it up these days on a variety of toons, including one annoying cutesy Holy Paladin. Back in the early days of the expansion, my paladin was strictly a tanking toon, my favorite tank by far, but as part of my recent interest in expanding my healing horizons, I decided to swap out her defense and block for some spellpower and Int, and see how my resto shaman (and disc priest) experience helped prepare me for the world of Bacon! …. erm, I mean, *Beacon.

Unlike my disc priest, who I’ve been healing on for about 8 months, my holy pally is a recent convert, limited in experience to very fast gearing and alt raids (I’m currently 10/12 in ICC25 hardmodes, since our PuG leader refuses to even let us burn attempts on HM Sind. Boooo!) But through my gearing and raiding adventures I’ve discovered a number of things about Horde’s (pretty) odd race out, not one of which relates to facerolling.

 

The Paladin stigma + gear reality

When I first started gearing out my holy pally, and ventured into a few low-expectation PuGs, I was a slight bit shocked to discover that most of the players, let alone the healers, had high expectations of me, none of which centered around my guild tag or an amazing gearscore (which I didn’t have; I ran ToC25 with 4k and Heroic HoR with 4.3k. Yeouch). Instead, they seemed to innately subscribe to what I’m going to call the “Pally Healing Stigma”, which suggests that: a lone pally can keep up one or two tanks with no assistance regardless of gear level. Yeah, um … no. Despite the fact that I got into heroic farming with an almost BiS Naxx set, which isn’t blues mind you, as I re-geared myself to current standards, I really had to work my arse off to keep tanks and my teammates from faceplanting. And when I first set foot into our alt ICC (which was 7/12 HM at the time), with a whopping 5k GS, I was quite naturally assigned to solo-heal tanks. Needless to say, my mana regen was crap, my thoughput incredibly low, and I quickly was speaking up that I needed serious help if we wanted to keep the run successful. I got it, thankfully, but I got a serious wakeup call that day—while paladins are the tank healing class to beat, that expectation unto itself can be the source of some serious misunderstandings.

 

CD Management

Otherwise known as holy-hell-I-want-to-use-wings-but-I’m-sacred-I’ll-need-DSac, CD Management is one of the biggest differences between Shaman and our long-bomb brethren. While CD management on rets essentially translates to “keep everything on CD”, the utility of CDs that a Holy Pally provides oftentimes leaves me guessing. To use or not to use, that is the question. More so, the effects that CDs like Divine Plea have on output (pre-t10), or that Avenging Wrath has on the ability to Bubble Sac, mean that a very macro-level perspective is often required of good pally healers, in order to assure that they can maximize their contributions without letting their teammates down when they need some Pally CD love. Now if only there was a way to set up a Power Aura for those perfect times when tank damage won’t be spikey or scary so I can afford to regen.

 

The Damage Prediction Flip

In line with the preceding point … Whereas on my disc priest I focus on predicting when damage will occur, I’ve discovered on my holy pally that I need to think about when damage won’t be occurring, so that I can time my regen, movement and re-beaconing to not adversely impact the tank’s health or my raid responsibilities. In fact, in the absence of 2pc t10, my pally took a pretty significant hit whenever she needed to utilize Divine Plea. Whereas on Vixsyn and Psyrin, I can (and need to) use my regen when it’s most beneficial, on my pally I have to time it when it will have the least impact on the raid and my assignments. Interestingly enough, since I equipped 2pc t10, the impetus for my use of Divine Plea has changed from “oh god, I really need the mana”, to “oh hey look, DP is coming off of CD”. What a change a tier set makes!

 

Do you have those lead feet in a size 13 ½?

In my years of healing I have developed, tested and refined one overarching hypothsis—instant casts require leaping to work correctly. I point to every tree I’ve ever played with as irrefutable proof that, in fact, jumping increases HPS. So, as I mentioned in my Disc Priest writeup, as I became more comfortable in my sissy robes, I found myself really enjoying the freedom of movement that I don’t have on Vixsin. Jump + Right click became my foundation of success. And then, I tried on those Holy Pally shoes; I might as well have agreed to nail my feet to the floor. As FH’s great holy pallies can attest, a few steps at the wrong time can spell death in heavy-hitting encounters, to the point where movement becomes almost less desirable than encounter damage. (All you holy pallies out there can admit it, you’ve bubbled through void zones, flame walls, and aoe just so you didn’t have to move.) It seems almost comical that the de facto tank healers out there are possibly the least mobile class out there, especially given that they’re tied to tanks who like to charge, intercept and LoS their way from fight to fight.

 

Raid Utility != Healing Utility

Arguably, paladins are masters of raid utility—they offer one of every spec type (tank, healer, dps), one variation of almost every buff, a handful of additional on-demand CD buffs/debuffs and an aura for almost every spell type in game. Whereas shaman amble about with our slightly-dorky-but-still-efficient fanny pack of spells, pallies are the sole traveler who needs 3 dollies for all the crap they packed for the weekend holiday. Now this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, except that for all their utility baggage, holy paladins aren’t the most agile of healers. A group full of players taking damage is still enough to send me into a slight panic, although it is quite a relief to not have my heart skip a beat when tank health dips significantly.

 

Looking forward as a plate-wearer

With the announcements as of late regarding new healing spells and new resources (it’s like Runic Power, only not!), the future seems to be an interesting place for holy paladins. Supplemental spells like Healing Hands, Light of Dawn, and Guardian of Ancient Kings seem poised to add some much-needed dimension to the class. And although I think it will take a very powerful and concerted efforts to remove the Scarlet Letters [TANK HEALER] emblazoned across their chests, I can definitely say that the swap to something other than single-target healing will be a blessing for pallies everywhere. Because despite the perception that the holy pally life is an easy one, there is an inherent stress to the tank-healing role that I didn’t fully recognize until I stepped into their shoes. And after two xpacs of being the sole class propping the raid’s meat shield, I think it’s time to give them the break that they deserve.

 

(Oh yeah … My name is Vixsin, and I’m a switcher.)






4 Comments


  1. Mally

    Great piece Vix. Lovely to be offered a break at long last! :)

    I’ve been a Pally healer now for years, and your description sums us up nicely. Rather than a swiss-army-knife healer like perhaps a priest, we are a swiss-army-knife _class_, 50% heals, 50% raid utility (give or take), with a surprisingly rich toolset. There’s been several times recently on my Shammy where I’ve wanted to shield someone, or take their threat down, or some other tool that is only indirectly related to healing only to find myself hitting Chain Heal again in the hope that it all works itself out.

    I love the playstyle as well as having the responsibility for looking after the tanks, but am still looking forward to new AoE opportunities and challenges in Cataclysm. I just hope it continues to feel like I’m playing a Pally and not just generic healer X.

    Maltheus, EU – Quel’Thalas
    Twitter: Inpuuuuut


  2. I loved reading this. I try to follow the healing community and it seems the paladin section has very elite ranks, with not that many “this is my experience as a new paladin healer” types. Paladin was my final foray into healing, and it still makes me panic, undergeared as I am, and oftentimes tanking rather than healing. As resistant to change as I am, I’m really not looking forward to relearning to heal in cataclysm. I’ve always liked the niche roles we had, and the sheer skill it took to step outside those roles and perform well regardless.

    Appreciate the view you’ve shared here!
    @valkyrierisen´s last post ..Guess where I am


  3. I play a Holy paladin as my main (even leveled as Holy!). Loved this read, really did.

    It’s true though. Our cooldowns are so incredibly important, I wouldn’t know what to do without Aura Mastery and Divine Guardian. Or Divine Plea. Or Divine Illumination. Or.. the list goes on and on.

    And yes, I admit! I have in fact saved both my ass and that of the tanks (and possibly that of some others) while popping my Divine Shield/Divine Sacrifice macro during a Firewall or similar mechanic.

    On a related note, I’m probably going to love the new healing kit we get in Cataclysm, but I will miss a lot of those cooldowns. Divine Illumination, gone. Divine Guardian, gone. Ouch.
    Kaboomski´s last post ..Half a Kingslayer


  4. I admit, I still have a good lot to learn about healing on a paladin, and merely stepping up on Saurfang’s platform is enough to make me break out in a sweat (my one Beacon failure will haunt me for the rest of my days.) But learning about a class that has been so stereotyped for so long has been an enlightening and humbling experience. I do hope that Cata brings some exciting changes and maybe some viable contenders (ahem, shaman) for the I-HEAL-TANKS badge.

    (So long as that badge comes with bubble … Now that pallies can heal raid, they don’t need that, right? ^_+ )



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