When 4.0 hit and we got our new, smaller talent trees, it seemed to work out just fine. There was an adjustment period, obviously, and we didn’t have all the talent points we’d have at 85, but we had 36 of them and could snag a lot of useful talents.
As I work on getting my baby paladin to 85, I’m realizing that the talents are horribly placed for a toon that’s not at least level 80, who is doing a lot of PVE healing and very little questing. The baby pally is level 75 and I’ve seen a plethora of issues with our tree as I’ve painstakingly put talent after talent into our Holy tree.
Let’s look at the first tier of the Holy tree.
Arbiter of the Light – a healer won’t take this.
Protector of the Innocent – Still a dumb talent, seven months after 4.01 dropped, despite the fact that I now have 3/3 points in this at 85. As I gained levels on the baby paladin, I ended up putting two points here just to advance to the second tier.
None of this really helps healing in low-level dungeons. By the time I was 15, I had 3 points in JotP and 1 point in PotI and, honestly, it didn’t feel like those four talent points — points that are supposed to be meaningful, or else we’d have unlimited specs — were doing a lot for me at that level.
Anyways, I then added a second point into Protector of the Innocent at 17 to go with my 3 in Judgements of the Pure, so I could get to the second tier.
Clarity of Purpose – More haste stuff. I don’t know about you, but with Holy Light, Flash of Light, Holy Shock and Word of Glory as my only healing spells at level 17, I don’t need all that time off of Holy Light. Divine Light isn’t even in my spellbook at level 17, and it won’t be. Not until level 62, I discovered. Why give us access to a talent that helps out a spell you get 45 levels later? Still, I took 3/3. What else was I going to pick to get me to the third tier?
Last Word – Okay, this was actually a bit useful. 2/2 here, despite the fact that, at level 85, I typically only have one point here.
Blazing Light – As someone who quested very little and instanced quite a lot, I ignored Blazing Light.
On to the third tier at level 27!
Denounce – Ignored it.
Divine Favor – Well, I took it, but only because you never know what idiots you may be running with in random pugs.
Infusion of Light – Finally, something sort of useful. Increased chance of Holy Shock crits and… wait, what’s this? More cast time reduction on Holy Light. And Divine Light. Something that, at level 27, I still won’t get for another 35 levels! Left with Denounce as an option, I took IoL instead so I took 2/2.
Daybreak – Yummy. 2/2 here. So far, this is probably the best talent in the tree because we have two of the three spells that proc it and it’s a handy proc.
On to the fourth tier of our tree, meaning we should now be level 37.
Enlightened Judgements – Meh. We’ll come back to this.
Beacon of Light – Finally, we have our Beacon and actually can heal the tank via healing other people. I was quite pleased to pick this up in the middle of Uldaman when I dinged 37.
Speed of Light – Are you KIDDING me? More spell haste? Holy Radiance cooldown? I’m sorry, I can pick this up at level 37 and I won’t get Holy Radiance for another 48 levels! Still, you take it, because what ELSE are you going to take?
Sacred Cleansing – I got this right after Beacon, so at 39. Dispelling magic effects is win.
Level 47 means we can hit the fifth tier of our talents.
Conviction – Well, yeah. Pick this up.
Aura Mastery – So very, very useless at this level. Completely and totally useless for PVE scenarios. I can see where Aura Mastery + Concentration Aura would be nice for silence/interrupts in PVP, but AM+Devo or +Ret is pretty useless when you’re rolling through Scholomance. I always like being able to use Resistance Aura with AM, but… we don’t even have Resistance Aura for another 29 levels! Skip this for now.
Paragon of Virtue – Well, we HAVE Divine Protection, but we almost certainly don’t need to use it. And what’s that? Avenging Wrath? We only get that at level 72, 25 levels from now. How about Hand of Sacrifice, you ask? Wouldn’t that lowered cooldown be useful? Sure, if we didn’t get Hand of Sacrifice at level 80. What were the designers thinking, making PoV available when only one of the three spells affected by it are even trainable by level 47?
So I got 3/3 Conviction and then pondered what to do.
I decided on 1/2 Enlightened Judgements and, since I had Beacon of Light, I threw in that last 3/3 point for Protector of the Innocent. I still hate that, but I have to admit that PotI is more useful than PoV at this level.
Level 57 brings us to tier six in our talent tree.
Tower of Radiance – a no-brainer. Snag it!
Blessed Life – I skipped it. I wasn’t getting hit enough to justify putting points here.
I still needed two more points somewhere to get to Light of Dawn.
Eventually, I dropped them into Aura Mastery after all, and 1/2 into Paragon of Virtue, then picked up Light of Dawn at 67. Your mileage may vary. You may prefer 2/2 Enlightened Judgements or something else, butthat’swhat I decided on.
You see what I mean, though, right? From level 10 to 67, there are just so many awkward moments where you don’t know where to put your talents because the talents are aiding spells you don’t even HAVE yet a lot of the time.
You get Divine Light at 62. However: Judgements of the Pure, Clarity of Purpose, Infusion of Light, Daybreak and the first point of Tower of Radiance all involve or affect Divine Light use… when we don’t have it.
How about spell haste? We have: Judgements of the Pure, Clarity of Purpose, Divine Favor, Infusion of Light and Speed of Light that all have to do with improved our casting speed… but you don’t need your casting speed improved when you’re healing Deadmines. Or Zul’Farrak. Or even Hellfire Ramparts, really.
So what’s the real issue here? Well, the holy tree is clunky for someone who is using the dungeon finder, primarily, to heal and level.
I believe that the reason for it is so that prot and ret paladins cannot access talents that really improve healing, lest they become very imbalanced. (They have a 20-second cooldown on Word of Glory since 4.1 hit because it was deemed that both those specs were doing too much healing – likely prots in PVE and rets in PVP.)
So you can’t have anything that affects the baseline paladin healing spells in the first two tiers, lest you buff prot and ret. And you can’t spend 10 talents in the holy tree all buffing the one spell we have early on that is inaccessible to other paladin specs, Holy Shock, because, well, Holy Shock does not have 10 talent points worth of modifications to undergo. It’s a simple heal, it’s an instant heal and while it would be nice to bring it to a 5 second cooldown with those three points in Clarity of Purpose, I don’t really see where else we could buff it substantially without us being too overpowered.
This, naturally, leaves all kinds of “useful” (I use that term loosely) talents to pick up in the first two tiers. It’s the utility stuff. Increase your self-healing. Increase your haste when you judge. A 3-second Divine Light cast time at 85 would suck so they put it in reach of the prots and rets, if they want to snag Clarity of Purpose for some reason, but it doesn’t do my level 19 holy paladin much good to drop a talent point in there and get .15 seconds off my Holy Light.
Having said that, I want to be clear that just because I understand why they do it that way doesn’t mean that I like it, nor does it make it any easier to tangibly feel as though I’m improving my character when I drop a point into Paragon of Virtue at level 59, without having two of the three spells affected by that talent. As if the fact I don’t have them yet isn’t enough, they’re not even within arm’s reach, either. These are spells that I won’t get for 13 levels, in the case of Avenging Wrath, and 21 levels in the case of Hand of Sacrifice.
Of course, when you’re 80, you don’t notice most of this. You just drop your 31 points into Holy and 5 points elsewhere and, at the Shattering, I was fine with that. I had absolutely no idea how clunky, awkward and just downright nonsensical the holy tree was for the paladin who was not max level at the end of Wrath of the Lich King.
The baby pally is now 75 and I’ve taken to tanking my way through Wrath content, after seeing far too many would-be tanks who are clearly incapable of understanding what a tank is and should do.
The prot tree, from what I can see, does not suffer from these issues. If it does, the issues are nowhere as serious as in the holy tree.
Prot Tier 1:
Divinity – All healing done by you and healing effects ON you by 2/4/6%. Well, gee. Tanks get healed. That’s certainly useful!
Seals of the Pure – more damage! Damage equals threat. True, we only have Seal of Righteousness at the time we can put points in here, but that’s just a damage modifier for basically all of your seals. It’s not like it’s a modifier for your casted spells or usable abilities, most of which you don’t have yet. It’s modifying something you always have up, regardless of which one you use most. (Well, apart from Seal of Insight.)
Eternal Glory – nummy, but we’ll come back to it.
Prot Tier 2:
Judgements of the Just – The thunderclap effect for paladins. Useful for tanks so you don’t need to rely on someone else to slow the attack speed of the boss. A USEFUL TALENT. (And useful to ret/holy PVPers for the Seal of Justice modifier.)
Toughness – Increased armor up to 10%. These are all TANKING talents! In the tanking tree! Shocking!
Improved Hammer of Justice – whatever, any remotely knowledgeable tank is going to take the other talents for PVE situations.
You can see that ret and holy would both love Toughness, Improved HoJ, Eternal Glory and Divinity for PVP situations for sure, but these are all useful, right from when you get them, as a baby prot pally.
I still maintain that .15 seconds off my Holy Light is not useful at level 17. At level 85, I love it. But not at level 17.
The holy tree is unpleasantly broken for characters who aren’t 80 yet and does a great disservice to those who wish to immerse themselves in the spec so that they may feel more comfortable and competant in the holy spec at max level. However, because they can’t put talents that are useful to holy at level, due to possibly buffing the rets and prots among us, and because this isn’t an issue of balance or tuning for those who are at max level, I don’t think we’ll see any reorganization of the tree or even a change of when we get our various class abilities. (Seriously, Hand of Sacrifice at 80? What are these people on??)
Our old talent trees, as bloated as they could be, didn’t have this problem. Spiritual Focus, which is baked-in now, was useful to us, granting us 70% pushback protection on our casted healing spells, meaning that with Concentration Aura up, we were able to cast without fear of pushback. In a low-level dungeon, this is surprisingly useful, given that you will almost certainly get healing aggro since the chances are quite good that your tank will have no idea how to tank at all. Healing Light, which was extra +healing to our healing spells, was useful to us. Divine Intellect gave us 10% extra intellect towards the end of Wrath and was, shockingly, useful to us at level 16 or level 80. And now, we have Judgements of the Pure, Protector of the Innocent, Clarity of Purpose and Last Word for those 10 talent points. There’s just no comparison. The old talents buffed our healing and intellect. These talents buff our cast times, give us a silly self-heal in Protector of the Innocent that will transfer through beacon (which we won’t have for another 27 levels if we max out PotI as soon as we can) and gives us a situational healing buff if someone is under 35% health.
I don’t have statistics on how many holy paladins are quirky enough (like me) to level primarily as holy, whether from 80-85 or 1-85 or some bunch of levels in there, but given that the dungeon finder is a viable alternative levelling method to questing, I feel strongly that my talents should mean something, even in the early levels. Right now, my talents feel like they might eventually pay off, and that’s only because I know what I want my holy spec to look like at 85. That’s why I eventually picked up 1/2 in Paragon of Virtue. I still need to respec so that I drop to 1/2 in Last Word and put 2/2 in PoV, but it feels ridiculous to do so now because, even at 75, I still only have two of the three spells Paragon of Virtue modifies! I have to wait until 80 for Hand of Sacrifice before it feels as though a respec would make sense.
It’s a very frustrating experience and if this is meant to be this way, if we’re supposed to be frustrated that we’re not yet max-level and that’s why half our talents don’t do what they’re supposed to, yet, that’s a pretty poor incentive to level, if you ask me.