Illuminated Healing: An Examination of the Holy Paladin Mastery

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?

21 Replies to “Illuminated Healing: An Examination of the Holy Paladin Mastery”

  1. Maybe should get something like the old (old, really old) glyph of Holy Light.

    That glyph added a “splash” heal, healing people around the healed target for 10% of the healed amount (and that was the time we had only 3 healing spells).

    I’m wondering if such thing could be used for Divine Light. The mastery would give a chance of a proc on any healing spells to trigger the buff that would allow Divine Light to splash healing around the healed target.

    I reckon it doesn’t fit our design (it feels much more like a shaman or holy priest area) but it would add yet another “choice button”, as we are now: We have a fast, expensive heal or a slow, cheap healing (and the large, expensive and slow heal). Suddenly, there would be another variable: Should I use the proc to do splash heal abusing my mana with the expensive heal or should I let it waste?

    Or maybe I just nostalgic with the old days of splash healing in AV choke points ;)

  2. If I were to keep it the way it is, only less sucky, I would make it work exactly like the blood dk mastery does. That is, it would place a shield that stacks up to a certain percent of the targets max hp. This is pretty much how bear druid Savage Defense works as well (and I remember they too had issues with their shields not stacking before). Or what about a little something like how Eclipse works for balance druids? The more you heal the same target, the more healing he gets from your heals? Feels like it would be pretty much in line with paladins being single target healers. Not sure how that would work out in practice though.

  3. Good morning,

    You’re right. It doesn’t make sense to extend the duration of an ability that was probably doing so little absorption as to not even last for the original duration and probably won’t make it to the new, extended duration. It would make more sense to me to either make said shields stronger or do away with them altogether and give you all something more useful.

    I remember you and Walks or someone discussing on Twitter about whether the holy priest mastery does/does not stack. Unfortunately, ours is the same as yours right now – in that lesser forms of Echo of Light will override stronger versions and vice versa. That’s mighty annoying for us, too. I think if Blizzard did fix that for paladins (which they should), they should also consider it for us, too.

    Great post, as always coach.


  4. Those shields seem pretty pathetic at the moment anyway. Ret mastery went from being not so great to suddenly being much more of a decent stat in the last update. No reason why we can’t have something similar, but at the same time, we might fall into the ‘Pallies are OP’ department again.
    If Blizzard is happy with our healing right now, buffing Mastery means something else has to be nerfed.
    How about they switched some of the secondary stats on our Tier gear with the Ret stats instead? I think that would make a lot more people happy.

    Current stats:
    Hands Ret: Crit, Haste. Haste is weak for Ret, but good for us.
    Hands Holy: Mastery. Weak for us, good for Ret.

    Chest Ret: Crit, Haste. Ditto above.
    Chest Holy: Mastery. Ditto above.

    Head Ret: Expertise, Haste. Expertise is good, but I have tons anyway on my off-spec. Likely to be reforging it. More Haste? meh.
    Head Holy: Crit. Ho hum.

    Legs Ret: Mastery, Hit. No complaints about this one, good for Ret.
    Legs Holy: Crit. Ho hum.

    Shoulders Ret: Haste, Hit. Haste again?
    Shoulders Holy: Crit. Ho hum part 3.

  5. How about increasing the effectiveness of the heals transferred through beacon? Base is 50% but with each point of mastery, it would increase the amount transferred. This would fit the niche of the holy paladin fairly well.

  6. Hi Kurn and everyone,

    A proc based on CD use will certainly be a good ideé for PvE, but not for the PvP side of the game that we forgot some times (i don’t care about, by Blizzard do^^), where it will be too much powerfull, i think, because you play a lot with using them.

    I also like the idea exposed by Thorianar, or another one that can be more healing transfered on our beaconed target (more % then the initial 50%).
    But they seem to be useless for PvP side, this time, no ?

    And also agree with Alipally about the stat on T11 gear, even if some way of healing can need a lot more crit than offers (DL spam style in case of long and mana combat). But Mastery is the new kid in the block stat and MUST be on gear :/

    Apologise for any english language errors, i’m not fluent in and many thanks for your blog, allways usefull. Not like mastery for us (for the moment, i hope) ;)

  7. “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.)”

    Terrible. :-) Well, it got buffed, but it’s still not that great – shadow orb procs (from our spell damage) are purely, 100% RNG based. So our mastery is worth exactly 0% when we don’t get a shadow orb to proc. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put up my dots and cast around 8-10 Mind Flays before having an orb proc. The only things the orbs do is that if you have 1-3 orbs, your Mind Spike or Mind Flay will hit for normal damage plus XX amount based on the number of orbs (can get awesome 100k+ crits this way if everything lines up right) and put up Empowered Shadows, a straight buff to spells for 15 seconds or something. So basically, the mastery affects the damage of Mind Blast or Mind Spike only when an orb or three has procced (and Mind Blast has a cooldown).

    Not that you asked for all that. :-) It does, along with what you’ve explained, increase dps, just like the other dps class/spec mastery bonuses.

    I used to love healing on my paladin, but since 4.0, I’ve felt a bit “meh” about it and changed my offspec to ret (I hate it, thought). I’ve unfortunately not kept up with holy paladin changes since then, but I know they’ve really changed it up and paladins are not really known as “super tank healers” like they were before. That being said, if they were, I’d like the idea of a little bit of mitigation on a focused-on target. It seems to me that Blizzard is not really sure where they really want paladins to shine and they are trying to make them “anything” healers (like holy priests) with a mishmash of abilities, instead of having them shine on one thing. Which is good, but .. well, the mastery doesn’t really seem to line up with that idea, either.

    I liked that old Glyph of Holy Light, too, as Thorinar said. :-)

  8. Actually, the list you have shows the core problem entirely. “Mastery” is a stat that really doesn’t do much for the game design. It “improves what you do.” What does having a stat called “Mastery” bring to the table that “Agility” or “Intelligence” or “Strength” doesn’t?

    They have created a stat to give them more things to itemize. But the stat doesn’t bring anything worth bringing to the table. It’s just poor game design. Asking “what do I want to maximize: haste, crit, hit or mastery” just isn’t all that more interesting than asking “what do I want to maximize: haste, crit or hit.”

  9. @Oestrus

    “I remember you and Walks or someone discussing on Twitter about whether the holy priest mastery does/does not stack. Unfortunately, ours is the same as yours right now – in that lesser forms of Echo of Light will override stronger versions and vice versa.”

    This is actually incorrect. Each direct heal from the Holy Priest in question creates a separate heal over time effect [for a percentage of the original heal] that “stacks” in the sense that a previous direct heal will not overwrite the previous hot. They will overlap, but each one only exists for six seconds. The tooltip (and log) updates for the total amount in an effort to not clog up the combat log. The buff tooltip is more like an Echo of Light “well” that accounts for the total healing per second at the time for when the tooltip was generated.

    It really boils down to a semantics issue. The hot itself gets larger, but does not stack upon itself and roll indefinitely (as it did in parts of the alpha/beta, where Holy Priests could stack the buff past 1 million per tick… which is probably a good reason to not have it “roll” without lessening its duration).

    How does this relate to Illuminated Healing? Multiple shields do not add to existing shields—a stronger heal will create a shield that overwrites the existing shield’s amount. Due to the tiny nature of each shield created (and the boatload of mastery it takes to gain another percentage), lots of shields are munched by subsequent heals or are never completely absorbed. Ideally? It would work like Val’anyr or Divine Aegis and the shields would stack until they reached 10% of the caster’s health.

    There’s also the question of comparative value. My Illuminated Healing will, at most, account for 3–4% of my total healing on any fight (and even when I reforged for mastery in ICC, it was never more than 8%). This is not even correct: to the best of my knowledge, World of Logs still takes any absorb and counts the full value of the shield without accounting for shields that fall off / only absorb a percentage of their value. A Holy Priest’s mastery will typically be their third to fourth highest heal. Of course, this is also a byproduct of the fact that Illuminated Healing is only created by 40% of a paladin’s total healing [no shields from beacon transfer, protector of the innocent, or holy radiance] whereas Echo of Light is created by everything but Renew ticks [the Divine Touch talent gives Renew a direct healing component], the Prayer of Healing Glyph, and Lightwell ticks.

    Of course, the druid and shaman masteries also provide benefit that increases their comparative value, but their masteries are harder to quantify.

  10. “Restoration shaman’s healing (all of it, in 4.1) is increased via mastery. Period. It’s a throughput stat for them.”

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but Resto Shaman’s Mastery does not equate to a constant bonus on all spells, regardless of circumstance. Deep Healing is a factor of, first and foremost, target health, meaning a) we don’t always receive the same bonus, and b) that as other healers become more powerful, Resto Shaman actually get weaker. It’s long been a concern of the Resto community, not to mention it’s a pain in the ass to actually analyze since there’s no way to track Mastery’s benefits.

    That being said, I absolutely understand your point about Holy Paladins’ Mastery being at odds with the design of the class. But, the Resto Shaman in me just wants to warn you: be careful what you wish for. :-P

  11. “Of course, this is also a byproduct of the fact that Illuminated Healing is only created by 40% of a paladin’s total healing [no shields from beacon transfer, protector of the innocent, or holy radiance]”

    This is the worst of the problem, IMO. Less than half our heals proc shields, then more than half of those shields get wasted from overwrite or falling off.

    I don’t have any ideas for paladin mastery myself, but, mastery should make what you already do better, not add a new mechanic entirely. It’s not such a big deal right now, but I wonder if paladins are going to have gear itemization problems in later tiers. How much longer will we be able to avoid mastery? What happens when we run into diminishing returns on crit, spirit, and haste? Obviously, that’s a long ways away, but other healers will get to balance moderate levels of three luxury stats while we will run into diminishing returns sooner because we only (want to) work with two.

    And of course, what happens when Blizzard sees paladins avoiding mastery like the plague and decides to design a tier where we are forced to take it? We really, really need a mastery that enhances what we already do instead of tacking on a new mechanic like an afterthought.

  12. I think Walks mentioned something like this, but I read over at Porkchop’s that our larger shields are not overwritten, just extended in duration by smaller heals. Maybe both of them are not quite correct? For reference, plus the comments at:

    Is there anyone out there with logs or math on how the shields really work?

    I heal 10s with another paladin (who doesn’t stack Mastery) and his absorbs are absolutely huge compared to mine. But only because he direct heals the tanks most of the time while I play whack-a-mole on the raid and let my Beacon help on a tank. I don’t see why Beacon doesn’t proc shields.

    One nit pick: Holy Paladins had no procs for years. Only in Wrath did we receive any procs in Sacred Shield and Infusion of Light.

    As for ideas?

    Glyph of Holy Light 2: Electric Boogaloo!
    Mastery grants a percentage of your direct healing as splash healing to 5 random targets within 8 yards of the target. Base percentage of 5%? Situationally ‘overpowered’ or completely useless. Tier 13 stack mechanics become our .

    Cataclysm 2.0
    Increase shield duration to 15 seconds. Allow shields to stack to a certain cap. Mastery increases % of heals applied to shield. Beacon applies shield as well. Including Beacon makes it more predictable. Blizzard would probably scale it down as well, but at least we’d have a better understanding of the stat value.

  13. I find that when I tank heal in raid, my mastery contributes to about 6% of my total healing overall, and that’s with about 210 mastery rating. If I’m raid healing, I find that number goes down to closer to 2% of my total healing, depending on the fight. Honestly, I think that if the mastery accounts for 6% to 8% of our total healing done, it’s probably somewhat worthwhile. The only thing is that it’s nigh useless for anything but tank healing.

    However, extending the shield duration isn’t going to really help. The tanks will eat through it in a matter of milliseconds anyway, and the raid probably shouldn’t be taking damage that fast in most situations anyways. And if they are, you’re not going to be one healing them, you’ll be using Holy Radiance and mitigation cooldowns.

    The splash healing would be nice, but we get that as part of our Guardian of the Ancient Kings. Turning our mastery into that would devalue that cooldown even further, though honestly I think that ability needs a retooling anyhow.

  14. @ Josh I love the increased healing via beacon (may be too big of a boon for our class that already is good shape)

    I’m really worried that fixing mastery on a class that is already balanced will lead to a nerf somewhere else. So I’m very very okay with just leaving it as is.

    But if it had to be something useful then why not try to take care of two birds with one stone?

    Holy Pallys are not only forging away from mastery, but crit too. So maybe a mastery effect that is based on a critical strike?? How about a critical strike has a 10% chance to reset the cooldown of holy shock, and an increase in mastery increases the chance of a reset?

  15. @Johnathon, my recollection of Mastery was that it was put in to provide a way to tweak specs. Say you want to nerf 3.0.3 ret pallys you now have a way to do that without causing implications for holy/prot. Any changes in the benefits of your talent tree’s mastery will not affect other trees. But yes mastery is somewhere between a disappointment and abject failure. With all the homogenization and simplification going on, adding an obscure not very important stat does not make sense.

    For my resto shaman, mage and warlock, mastery is the worst stat. In particular for resto shaman, mastery on gear is just Blizzard way of saying its time to reforge.

  16. I’d like to see a throwback to some form of mana return of some sort from some (or all) of our healing abilities ala the old 60% mana returned from FoL crits. It could be either cast or crit dependant (the latter making crit a useable stat again) with the higher mastery giving either a higher chance to get a set proc value (cast dependant), or a higher percentage of mana returned (crit dependent). Just my two cents.

  17. I think that if mastery was more like every crit that the holy paladin does with his or her spell absorbs like 50% of the amount healed and lasts until all dmg is taken or 15sec shield where’s off. And for how ever much mastery the paladin increases the amount absorbs. And just to make the paladin realy op if you crit 2 times in a row you get 50% from both of them and it stacks

  18. I think a mastery that would encourage the use of (at the moment) a useless spell would make our mastery use the spell more often. Have the mastery proc a free Light of Dawn that would be cast as if it had 3 Holy Power. Starts at 10% chance of casting and increases by 1% per point of mastery. Since our single target heals are already the best there is, increasing our AoE heals would be the next best thing to balance out out overall healing. Maybe increasing the width of the cone to make it a more dependable AoE heal than Holy Radiance.

    I went to to even see if stacking mastery is even worth it. After equipping normal, current gear (tier 12) and gemming and reforging my stats to mastery, I calculated that my mastery would be at 1900 (which I believe would put up a shield with around 40% of the direct healing spell). This seems pretty good, but my haste was at 254 (5.04%) which is understandable since I subsituted mastery for haste.

    So I would be healing a lot more slowly, but the tank would have a larger damage mitigation between the time I’d be casting my next heal.

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