Bubbles and Crits: Paladins from 3.0 to 3.2

This is a guest post by jeffo, a Paladin blogger from Looking For More.

Before there is Cataclysm there was a cataclysm – a massive overhaul to WoW that patch 3.0.2 brought to the game. From this Holy Paladin’s perspective, these changes were more than welcome and, once I got used to 40-yard judgments, a spell that would let me heal two(!) targets at once and a greatly streamlined judgment system, I was in good shape. The road to level 80 also brought us a shield and a new mechanism for regenerating a lot of mana over a short period of time. The revisions to all three Paladin trees made many Holy Paladins rethink where their non-Holy points should be invested.

Prior to 3.0.2 most Holydins would go into Protection tree, primarily with the aim of picking up Blessing of Kings. With Wrath out most Holy Paladins decided to dig instead into the Retribution tree, picking up talents that increased spell crit by 8%. Although Kings remained in the same location in the Protection tree, the shuffling of talents around it made this build pale in comparison to a Holy/Ret spec. The crit talents took advantage of one of our key talents, Illumination, and enabled Holydins to stack Intellect, load up on crit gear, and Holy Light-spam our way through Naxxramas into Ulduar. Even as we watched a shameful moment in paladin history (Arthas disbanding the Silver Hand and sending Uther home in disgrace in Old Stratholme), healing Paladins seemed to be entering into a Golden Age, topping meters and putting out prodigious amounts of healing while our fellow healers were running dry.

Storm clouds appeared on the horizon in May when Ghostcrawler dropped the first hint that Blizzard was looking at nerfing Illumination. This touched off a vigorous debate on Plusheal.com (as opposed to the O-Boards, where it spawned much QQ from Paladins, and much ‘lol, nerf pallies, QQ moar’ from everyone else) about what this would mean if the change went through, though many seemed to believe that it wouldn’t.

It did.

On June 18, the news was announced, and it was even worse than we had imagined: Not only did the mana return from Illumination get cut in half, one of our key talents, Divine Intellect, was also getting cut by 5% at max level. Combined with an across-the-board nerf to Replenishment, it appeared that Holy Paladins were getting nerfed ‘to the ground, baby’ (sorry, can’t resist borrowing that quote from our favorite crab). Anguish and anger ruled the day on the O-Boards. We were going to be crippled, we were going to be benched. Never mind the huge buff to Beacon of Light (and it is huge), never mind the Flash of Light over Time effect on Sacred Shielded targets: Rerolls were incoming, subscriptions were being canceled. The Golden Age of the Paladin was over.

Or was it?

April’s Patch 3.1 introduced some new wrinkles that may well have been designed to lure healers out of the Ret tree: Divinity and Divine Sacrifice. With the nerfs incoming in patch 3.2, a number of Paladins began eyeballing and experimenting with Holy/Protection as an alternative. Siha at Banana Shoulders predicted on July 21st that a Holy/Prot spec would become the favored spec while other Paladin deeper in Ulduar than I were looking at this spec as a way to mitigate some of the high raid-wide damage seen in fights like Mimiron. Sadly, despite the theorycrafting that was going on, few people who were actually IN the PTR were posting their experiences with any real numbers. Instead, we got a mix of ‘it’s not too bad’ and ‘it sucks, I’m re-rolling’, so we were left to wait, wonder and speculate. Much of the speculation focused on whether or not the sky would fall when the patch went live.

Patch Goes Live, Sky Does Not Fall!

Just before the patch hit I dropped my 1000 gold on dual-spec training and created…a second healing spec. I went with a 51/20/0 ‘Bubble spec’, figuring there was no getting around the nerfs and that I was going to have to get used to it. A funny thing happened to me: I’ve been using the bubble spec almost exclusively ever since. A one-minute Sacred Shield is nice, and Divine Sacrifice is a very strong talent (provided I don’t inadvertently kill myself with it). I do miss not seeing quite as many BIG, GREEN NUMBERS as I used to, but with raid buffs I’m still typically critting well over thirty percent of the time, and have hit 40+% on some fights.

But what about the mana? Prior to 3.2 in my Crit spec, I was getting around 40% of my total mana regeneration from Illumination; Replenishment was a distant second at ~30%. Both were getting cut drastically in the patch, and switching to a Bubble spec would make my crit drop by another 8% or so – would I be able to heal, or would I find myself starved for mana?

In short, my mana is fine! Despite the fact that in bubble spec Illumination now only makes up 15-17% mana return, and Replenishment returns now seem to fall in the 25% range, I have had virtually no issues with mana to date. Even on fights where I find myself having to bomb Holy Lights, I’m not the healer that calls ‘Out of mana’ over vent – that doesn’t happen for me unless something’s gone very, very wrong in our raid. How can this be? I believe it’s due to a combination of the following:

  1. High crit rate: Despite the loss of 8% crit through my respec and the 50% Illumination nerf, I’m still regaining plenty of mana through crits. Unbuffed I stand at 27% Holy crit; with full raid buffs, I’m still typically critting on 40% of my heals.
  2. Guardian, Sacrifice and Shield: With 2 points in Divine Guardian, Sacred Shield lasts one minute (as opposed to 30 seconds untalented), and absorbs 20% more damage per hit. Divine Sacrifice can eat up a pretty high amount of damage every two minutes. Fewer shield refreshes, more damage absorbed = mana savings.
  3. Play Style: Three big things in this category: First, I’ve become better about finding safe spots in fights to use Divine Plea; second, I’m getting back into the habit of using Divine Illumination whenever I can (I used to use it pretty much every cooldown, but got out of the habit since the expansion, simply because I didn’t need it); third, where I’ve traditionally done my healing from 40 yards away, I will now be found a little more often around the bosses’ feet. A single swing with Seal of Wisdom active can get you enough mana for your next Holy Light, depending on the size of your mana pool.

Based on my experience, Bubbledins seem to be faring pretty well so far: we can still put out very large numbers and our mana seems to hold up well over long, healing intensive fights. I think that it actually makes us a more well-rounded healer than we were heading into the patch. But what about the holdouts? The nerfs seemed to be aimed pretty squarely at Int-stacking, Crit-bombing, Holy retadins, and there’s still a lot of them out there. For my next act (Matt willing) I will take a look at some numbers and reports from my critting cousins. A bit more research is in order, and it may mean taking the Crit spec back out of the garage and into Ulduar again – should be fun!

16 thoughts on “Bubbles and Crits: Paladins from 3.0 to 3.2”

  1. I found the holy/prot spec useful even before the Illumination nerf. The incoming damage mitigation was more useful for when your group did something wrong *starts counting the slimes running around on Grobbulus*. A Divine Shield + Divine Sacrifice makes a high stacked Koralon aoe easy to handle.

    I haven’t done Holy/Ret in a while though and am looking forward to your take on how that is doing.

  2. Also keep in mind that the Sacred Shield bubble being up increases your Flash of Light crit chance by 50%, so there’s a lot of critting going on if you use Flash of Light as your go-to heal in the Holy/Prot spec.

  3. @Nigel: The Divine Sacrifice talent was something that I never really looked at when that particular patch went live, but I recall seeing the first earnest discussion of it at PlusHeal a few days before the Illumination nerf hit the PTR. I think my thought process at the time was something along the lines of ‘mitigation, schmitigation, I’ll crit that damage away!’ What I find interesting is how quickly I’ve adapted to the Bubble spec; I almost feel naked without it.

  4. I am switching tonight for our raid on Ulduar 25, but I have a question for you guys: how are you gemming now? I still have Int stacked to the high heavens, but I was wondering if maybe I should swap out for Crit or SP. Thoughts?

  5. thanks for the info – i have been running my pally bubble spec for about 3 weeks. Mana is no problem, but my crits are a little – weak. I am curious how you are gem’d/chant’d Do you stack all the intel or do you match for item bonus? Thanks 🙂

  6. Also, what about haste?? I am trying to get mine above 400 – are you finding that you need haste over crit and SP??? What are your current stats or maybe a link to your bubblicious toon??? thanks.

  7. Thyra — I am enchanated as follows: hands, wrists, weapon: Max SP enchant for slot; chest is +10 stats; shield is Intellect; Cloak is haste; Legs is 50SP/30 Stam. Icewalker for feet. Head and shoulders I go with the SP/Crit enchants. I’ve heard some paladins call crit ‘useless’ in 3.2, I don’t subscribe to that notion.

    For gems, I may do a little tweaking. I still use Insightful Earthsiege for my meta. Anything yellow gets Brilliant King’s Amber; Red where I want the slot bonus (plus I need one for the meta) gets the Runed Cardinal ruby, but I’m considering switching some to Luminous Ametrine (12SP/10Int). For Blues to activate meta or for quality socket bonus it’s the 10Int/5mp5 – I can’t remember all of the names right now, sorry. My current waist doesn’t have a socket, I slotted Brilliant King’s Amber in the eternal belt buckle.

    I didn’t go out of my way for haste but as I came through Naxx I ended up with somewhere over 400 haste rating. This went down into the upper 300’s as I started picking up some Ulduar and badge gear to the point where I started using the haste food. I’m currently back to 443 haste (17%) unbuffed, without gemming or enchanting specifically for haste (aside from the cloak), and it’s working out pretty well so far.

  8. I’m just about to start raiding (ulduar and toc not naxx/os) on my paladin, switching over from a disc priest since we have 3 priests and zero paladins at the moment.

    Is there some threshhold at which point you’d advise switching specs from 51/0/20 to 51/20/0?

  9. Nice summary Jeffo!

    My opinion – the only stats worth stacking at this point are int and haste. You’re going to get mp5 and crit on your gear no matter what and in truth they are not so far apart that it greatly matters (min maxing aside).

    Shoot for the soft haste cap (676 I think from memory gives 1 sec FoL’s raid buffed) and as much int as you can get.

    I am not sure, after all the complaints, that the nerfs actually achieved what they were designed to do. Paladins still stack int and bomb HLs – they care more (ie some) about mana now but it hasn’t really changed the playstyle at all.

    I do wonder if 3.3 brings a nerf to beacon (back to how it was – its flat out OP at the moment) and the inevitable fix to Seal of Wisdom (yeah I get 1400 mana back per swing – I can DP + melee swing from near empty to full on a stunned Icehowl for example).
    .-= Silk´s last blog ..My spec =-.

  10. “Is there some threshhold at which point you’d advise switching specs from 51/0/20 to 51/20/0?”

    I don’t see any reason to worry about a threshold. Running the bubble spec gives you practice at using it and remembering your cooldowns. 8% crit is nice, but paladin gear already stacks plenty and raid buffs bring it even higher.

    Tier 8 four piece bonus is very nice for the bubble spec, though 2pc7 & 2pc8 synergize nicely.

    You can gem SP to boost shield and Flash/HoT strength, but matching to socket bonuses makes activating your meta easier and helps with your longevity (INT) overall. Insightful Earthsiege still provides a good chunk of mp5. Even with a bubble spec and high SP you will be casting plenty of Holy Lights in Ulduar.

  11. I’ve been 52/17/2 for a long while now, since we started doing Ulduar hard modes. It’s such a benefit in those fights. I tried switching back to holy/ret but I’d gotten so used to longer SS and DS.

    I gear for haste and mp5 since the 3.2 changes. but I still gem the same: Intellect, intellect, and more intellect. I sit on 32k mana unbuffed, and it really is the best way to maintain decent regen. Replenishment, SoW, and Divine Plea all benefit from huge mana pools.

  12. @Wall – That’s incorrect. What you had before was that even though DS was supposed to only absorb x% of damage, up to 150% of the paladin’s health, DS was working so that since you took zero damage, you would absorb an insane amount of damage – since you weren’t taking any, that 150% cap was never reached. What they did was fix the bug that allowed you to absorb more than the talent specified you should. It was a small enough tweak that we didn’t even really notice it.
    .-= Adgamorix´s last blog ..A full 10 =-.

  13. @Wall and Adgamorix: there’s been some debate about whether or not this has been ‘fixed’ or not. I know that World of Logs can be a little sketchy as far as how it records absorptions and to whom it’s attributed; however, last night on a hard mode XT (10 man) I was able to pop Sacrifice/Shield twice during Tympanic Tantrums. The first case it was credited with absorbing 59K in damage; the second case around 42K. In looking through the logs I can’t find any other shields active that may be inflating those numbers. Raid buffed I stand at a little under 25,000 health. If the absorption amount was limited, there’s no way I should be approaching 59K. I’m curious what others are finding with this.


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