What is Illuminated Healing?
Illuminated Healing is the holy paladin mastery. It is, to be blunt, underwhelming. It is a stat that I reforge away from and a stat I do not seek out. How does it work? Well, each Flash of Light, Holy Light, Divine Light, Holy Shock, Word of Glory, Light of Dawn and Lay on Hands heal we cast will take 10% of that heal (plus whatever mastery rating you have) and form it into a shield on your target that lasts for 8 seconds. I have 203 mastery rating, which bumps my mastery from the 10% base to somewhere in the realm of 11%. That’s how little I value mastery; I barely have enough of it on my gear to add a single percentage point to my base amount.
According to MMO-Champion, it’s getting a buff in the 4.1 patch. The shields will persist for 15 seconds instead of 8 seconds.
Not only is this increase in duration just as underwhelming as the mastery itself, but it fails to address the problem with our mastery. Our Illuminated Healing shields do not stack; the smaller shields will be overwritten by larger ones and refreshed by smaller ones.
Why is our mastery a shield effect?
The short answer is this was almost certainly Blizzard’s way of compensating for the lack of Sacred Shield. Sacred Shield was a baseline paladin ability that was introduced in Wrath of the Lich King. Originally, you could cast it on multiple targets at once (I’m not quite sure how I managed to heal through Loken in Halls of Lightning without it!) but this was deemed far too powerful and it was then restricted to a single target.
It wasn’t your typical shield, however. When you think of an absorption shield, you likely think of something like Power Word: Shield, the priest ability. While Power Word: Shield is active, it absorbs all incoming damage up to its maximum amount (which is dependent on the spellpower and level of the casting priest). Sacred Shield was a buff that existed on the target you cast it on and, if that person took damage while Sacred Shield was on them, an effect would trigger. This triggered effect was the damage absorption effect and lasted until consumed or for 6 seconds and could only get triggered every six seconds. (4 seconds with the 4pc Tier 8.) It actually was pretty substantial mitigation over the course of a fight when placed on a tank, when specced properly. It wasn’t perfect, but it was unique and it was ours.
They had also incorporated Flash of Light to leave a heal-over-time effect (HoT) on a target that had Sacred Shield on them, which would tick for 100% of the Flash of Light heal over the next 12 seconds. So if my Flash of Light hit for 12,000 on a target with Sacred Shield, they would receive that 12k healing and then receive 1k per second for 12 seconds.
It was nice synergy.
They removed Sacred Shield for Cataclysm. It’s actually returned as a Retribution talent, albeit in a different form. Still, the idea of a short-duration damage absorbing shield was clearly incorporated into the holy paladin mastery.
Why is Illuminated Healing underwhelming?
You’d think that damage absorption would be a good thing, that you would want to stack as much of this as possible. However, in part due to the short duration of the shields (which is, admittedly, getting buffed in 4.1, as previously mentioned), many of the shields are just plain wasted when cast on the raid.
Even on tanks, where you think it would make a large difference, it just isn’t all that effective. Due to the fact that the shield’s size is dependent on the size of the heal (and mastery rating), in order to get even a shield in the realm of 4000 or 5000, you need to be using Divine Light, our large, expensive heal.
Since 100 mastery only increases our shielding by 0.697% (as per Elitist Jerks), the item allocation points are almost certainly better served by reforging to something like haste, which provides 0.78% spell haste for every 100 haste rating. I’m not a math person, but even I can see that I’m gaining more haste for 100 points than I would gain shield power by adding 100 mastery. Since haste leads to a shorter global cooldown and a faster cast time on spells, I personally feel that haste is a better stat than mastery is. Most people tend to agree with me.
So what would be a good mastery for holy paladins?
Ah, the $64,000 question. In order to answer this, we should look at all the other specs and see what their masteries do.
This Wowpedia page is somewhat out of date as there have been several changes to people’s masteries, but it’s a good baseline.
DPS death knights get increased frost or shadow damage. Appropriate.
Tanking death knights get a shield based on a self-heal. Also appropriate.
DPS druids get increased damage from Eclipse or bleeds. Seems fair.
Tanking druids get increased absorption from an ability. Seems in-line with the Blood DKs.
Healing druids get increased healing if their targets already have a HoT on them. That makes sense; HoTs are the staple of druid healing.
Beast Mastery hunters gain more pet damage, Marksmanship hunters get extra shots off and Survival hunters deal more elemental (soon to be “magical”) damage. All of this seems excellent. I know I enjoy Wild Quiver procs when I play my Marksmanship hunter.
Mages also seem pretty appropriate. Arcane mages deal more damage the more mana they have, which is very much in-line with the spec. Arcane has always been about increasing mana, so it stands to reason that good mana conservation/replenishment would add bonus damage. Fire mages gain more periodic fire damage, which is excellent for them, as they have dots flying all over the place. Frost mages deal more damage against frozen targets, which is a staple of the frost spec. All seems well.
Protection paladins gain increased chance to block with their mastery, which is fair. They have a shield and blocking has always been the protection paladin niche.
Retribution paladins gain extra holy damage from Templar’s Verdict, Crusader Strike and Divine Storm with their mastery. Again, this is a staple of the spec.
Discipline priests have increased shield effectiveness, and rightfully so. They are the masters of mitigation.
Holy priests get an extra HoT effect on their direct heals, once again proving that holy priests are the most versatile of all the healing classes, able to take advantage of both direct heals and HoTs.
Shadow priests gain more damage from their shadow orbs. Not that I know what on earth a shadow orb is, but it’s clearly something that deals more damage. It’s in-line with their spec, whether or not it’s good. (It could be, or it could be terrible. I honestly don’t know.)
The rogue masteries all look good, if not at least useful. Assassination’s increases poison damage, Combat’s procs extra off-hand attacks and Subtlety’s increases damage on finishers and Slice and Dice.
Elemental shaman get a version of the Marksmanship hunter’s Wild Quiver, where they have a chance to proc an extra Lightning Bolt or Lava Burst. Enhancement shaman deal more elemental damage, something that is quite handy given the fact that Lava Lash and Lightning Bolt are core parts of their rotations.
Restoration shaman’s healing (all of it, in 4.1) is increased via mastery. Period. It’s a throughput stat for them.
For warlocks, the Affliction spec’s mastery increases, shockingly, periodic shadow damage. Demonology’s increases the pet’s damage and the warlock’s damage when they’re in demon form. Destruction’s mastery increases fire damage done. Again, all in-line with the strength of the spec.
Arms warriors can proc an extra attack with their mastery and Fury warriors improve abilities that cause them to be enraged, as is befitting the spec.
Protection warriors, the other shield-wearing tank class, also get increased chance to block but also have the chance to critically block attacks.
So, let’s see…
Tanks (no shields): Get absorption.
Tanks (shields): Get more block.
DPS: Get more DPS via extra damage appropriate to the spec or extra attacks.
Healers (shaman, druids, holy priests): Get more throughput
Healers (discipline priests, holy paladins): Get more mitigation
Shaman, druids and holy priests all get more throughput via their mastery, as is befitting their specs. They are throughput healers. Discipline priests get more mitigation, which makes sense because they are the mitigation healers.
Why on earth do paladins get mitigation?
We got mitigation because they did away with Sacred Shield in its Wrath of the Lich King form.
It has nothing to do with our spec or our class.
Paladins are the single-target healers. We are the cooldown healers. Paladins have always been a proc-based class, from Reckoning generating extra attacks to Sacred Shield having to have its actual absorption effect be triggered.
It would stand to reason that a holy paladin mastery would incorporate something proccing, something to do with our cooldowns or something to do with single-target healing.
We don’t need the throughput help, since Holy Radiance and Light of Dawn do a good job of boosting us up on the meters (which is all that so many people tend to care about , which makes me sad — but that’s another post for another day!). We could use more mitigation help, but not something that would be overpowered if we were to stack mastery. It would have to be something that would work on a single target, but wouldn’t require us to focus on the single target, given that so many paladins out there have taken to raid healing and just slapping their beacon on a tank. It would also have to affect more than just one spell of ours.
How about if, after casting Hand of Sacrifice, Hand of Protection or Lay on Hands, you had a % chance to generate a new effect? That effect could be a hefty shield, based on your spellpower, mastery rating and character level. It would be cast immediately on the person you cast the spell on and would last until consumed or for 15 seconds. It would have an internal cooldown of ~2 minutes, so you couldn’t spam it by spamming those abilities. It could be called Sacred Armor or something appropriately “holy paladinesque”.
That’s just an idea, but the fact that it’s a proc and it’s procced from our cooldown abilities ties in nicely with how holy paladins have always worked. An internal cooldown would mean holy paladins aren’t completely overpowered. I’m not sold on it, but I think it would encourage more use of our cooldown spells (which so many people still don’t use!) and would give us a bit more mitigation right when we need it, since we’re casting HoSac, BOP and LOH when we’re anticipating a lot of damage or when we’ve seen a lot of damage just hit.
If you could redesign the holy paladin mastery, what would you do?