PVE healing style that fits meHm. Paladins have changed since BC, but a lot remains the same. First and foremost, the huge difference between the healing spell design of paladins vs other healers mostly remain. Priests and shamans both have a quick healing spell with good throughput and low mana-efficiency, Flash Heal and Lesser Healing Wave, resepctively. Druids have lacked such a small heal for a long time, but got one at level 80. In addition, priests, shamans and druids have a slow-casting healing spell with good throughput and good mana-efficiency, namely Greater Heal, Healing Wave and Healing Touch. But... since it's so slow and big, you can't use it all the time.
Now, paladins have the opposite. A quick healing spell with low throughput which is mana-efficient, and a slow-casting healing spell with great throughput but bad mana-efficiency. So, while the other healing classes wanted to use their big spells as much as possible to be as efficient as possible, paladins wanted to spam their small heals until kingdom come.
Of course, more than that have changed. A discipline priest speccing and glyphing for it has a fairly mana-efficient flash heal as well. Druids have gotten Nourish, which is mana-efficient when specced and glyphed and their target is hotted up. Not to mention they can now turn their big slow Healing Touch into a small fast heal by glyphing it, though few do that at 80. Shamans have gotten more utility with Lesser Healing Wave, namely 25% crit as long as Tidal Waves is up. In addition, paladins' spells have changed a bit as well, particularly the glyph of Holy Light which turns it into a semi-AoE spell.
Interestingly enough, paladins have only three heals. Flash of Light, Holy Light and Holy Shock. The latter is the only instant, direct healing spell on a low cooldown in the game. Can be glyphed to 5 seconds too. Granted, Empowered Healing, Riptide and Prayer of Mending might count, but the first two aren't very powerful (and it's very unwise to spam them on the same target mana-wise), and the last requires another hit to actually heal, which is not guaranteed when healing a non-tank. But, in addition to their three heals, paladins have a rather big toolbox of meta-spells (Divine Favor, Beacon of Light, Divine Illumination) and utility spells (Hand of Freedom/Sacrifice/Protection/Salvation etc). If you want to stretch it, you can also call Judgement of Light a healing spell. Stretching it even more is calling Seal of Light a healing spell. Granted, it indirectly heals, but only the caster when he's auto-attacking. I've never ever seen a paladin healer do that in 5-mans, for a good reason.
For a long time, I used to call it easy-mode healing. Now, healing in itself can be challenging as any class, but I believe there is still some truth in this. However, a lot changed when the Beacon of Light was added and modified until it's current version. Their Beacon of Light (or Bacon of Light, if you deliberately want to misspell it) is now one of paladins' most defining class features. I've been envious of the beacon on several occasions. For PVE, they can snipe heals on raid members while healing the tank, much to the annoyance of my shaman who was trying to heal them up with chain heal. In the end, I gave up and sniped heals myself with Lesser Healig Waves, when it had less than a sec cast time. Paladins can also heal the main tank and off-tank at the same time... I was red with envy when I watched a single paladin keep up both tanks on Koralon during Meteor Fist after every other healer had died. Or they can just heal around while being practically immortal by beaconing themselves.
They used to lack any type of healing over time (like Renew, Rejuvenation and Riptide) and healing on demand spells (like Earth Shield, Prayer of Mending and Living Seed). They still do, up 'till level 80. That's the most annoying with healing in 5-mans as a paladin, you have no way of easing the incoming damage without brute-force healing it down like a crazy whack-a-mole game. If they'd still lacked them at 80 too, I would never think twice about considering paladins. Too annoying for my taste. Since I don't have a 80 paladin yet, I don't know how powerful their heals are. However, I know that Sacred Shield is considered "bloody powerful" by a lot people. It was not without reason that it was limited to a single target.
They also lack any direct AoE spells. However, with the advent of their Beacon, they can at least hit two people at the same time. Still, for the few occassions where everyone is taking damage in 5-mans a paladin healer really got to make use of every single global cooldown to keep everyone up. Loken, for example. However, they have the advantage that they never have to make the choice between keeping the tank up or keeping everyone else up. As long as the beacon is on the tank, they will keep the tank up while healing the other party members.
Speaking of tank healing, paladins are certainly among the elites there. Add to that that they got a damage reduction spell without spending a single talent, Hand of Sacrifice. It has a limit on how much it absorbs and might still kill the paladin, though, but combine it with either self-healing (still with beacon on tank) or Divine Shield or Divine Protection, and they're good. On cutting-edge raids, Nature's Swiftness (both shaman and druid version) can't compete at all with abilities that scale, such as Hand of Sacrifice, Pain Suppression and Guardian Spirit. But hey, paladins can even spec into another emergency button, Divine Sacrifice. Has some limits as well, but is now fail-safe in the sense that it can no longer kill you. Speaking of Nature's Swiftness, paladins have an even more powerful version of that, Lay on Hands, which doubles as another damage reduction abilitiy when specced for it. A single healer can have three such emergency buttons... did someone say overpowered? Definitely powerful in the hands of a skilled healer. On the other hand, they lack an Inspiration-like talent, but druids have managed fine for a long time without it.
There are also their buffs... in particular Blessing of Kings. I've seen 25-man raids that refuse to start until they've got a paladin to buff Kings. Blessing of Wisdom and Might are also powerful stuff, but can be duplicated by others. Handy that they no longer need to be refreshened every 5 min. They are also the most powerful buffers in the sense that three different paladins can provide three different buffs. Shamans can come close, but they only have two unique buffs for most slots, unless you are in need of a particular resistance. Oh, and then you can have three different paladins provide three different auras. Not only that, but their auras have a longer range and are more reliable than a shaman's totems, making them the first choice for resistance effects such as Fire Resistance.
On the topic of survival... let's see... plate armor which allows them to mitigate a lot of physical damage, divine shield that makes them completely immune to (almost) everything, and their various "hands" which can reduce threat, remove any movement-impairing efect, completely drop aggro / ignore physical damage and the ability to spam huge heals on both themselves and the tank at the same time? Yes, they are solid.
The ability to help recover from a wipe, or at the very least ignore any repair costs once in a while, Divine Intervention, is just icing the cake.
Yes, I think I can get used to the paladin toolbox.
Potential as PVP healerAgain, I have no direct experience here at high level. The only experience I have is battlegrounds at lower level. However, arenajunkies.com clearly show that paladins are among the most common healer in arenas... in fact THE most common healer, from what I can see. That alone should say something.
The infamous bubble is perhaps their most known (and hated) feature. While it can now be dispelled by two classes, no matter how fast you dispel it it will at least clear you of all debuffs. If there are no dangers to your bubble nearby, you've got 12 seconds of free healing... almost. Solid, but a paladin can't rely on that alone. However, there is also another use for the forbearance trick: Divine Protection. It is clearly weaker, but has the advantage that it can't be dispelled by warriors, has a shorter cooldown, and priests often miss that it's on due to it's rather subtle graphics. Compared to Divine Shield at least. A good priest won't be fooled, though.
What else do they have? Hand of Protection to give an ally (or yourself) completely immunity to all physical attacks? Nice. Hand of Freedom to make an ally or yourself completely immune to movement-impairing effects? Very nice. Slap it on a warrior and watch him crush the mage into small pieces, unless he's got his Ice Block off cooldown. Hand of Salvation which glyphed provides a -20% damage taken buff on yourself? And I thought I was going to miss barkskin. Hand of Sacrifice and Divine Sacrifice to make you immune or at least highly resistant to a lot crowd control, not to mention it makes the damage on your target much more manageable.
Oh, and there's still beacon. Except now you'll slap it on yourself instead, and copy all healing you do to yourself. Mohahahaha! In arena it's just as good to slap it on a team memer, depending on who's going to take more damage. Add to the survivability that they also has a lot of armor that will always passively protect them.
In battlegrounds you can really feel the difference with Crusader Aura. Not least, this enables you to ride away from others. The opposite is rather frustrating, when you only got 100% speed and your tail got 120%... trust me on that one. Crusader Aura is handy when travelling anywhere, not just in arenas. Paladins are the only healer with a mounted speed buff of any kind.
Now, they lack a snare, but they have a very special ability... Judgement of Justice. As a holy paladin, it has a 40 yard range. Use it to semi-dismount people from a long range. They can't run away using abilities such as Ghost Wolf, Travel Form, Sprint or a mount.
Paladins got a reliable stun, on a 40 sec cooldown talented. They can also fear and stun undead and demons. But that's the limit of their crowd-controlling abilities.
On the topic of mana, 1 min cooldown on Divine Plea rocks for battelgrounds. Can't say how well it works in arenas, with the healing debuff slapped on it. I know that my arenamate (a paladin) and me could outlast a lot of enemy teams. The only ones we had trouble outlasting was druids... but they couldn't run us out either. After about 15 min, they gave up.
What do they lack? Well, they lack any sort of sprint themselves. Shamans and druids can often run away, while priests and paladins have to stay to take the heat unless they got enough range to mount up. Fair enough. Just as in PVE, they don't have Hots to play with. They do have one, but it's on one target only, making it unusuable for healing damage in battleground effectively. Sure helps on that one target though. Going to miss that from my druid. Aura Mastery allows them 6 sec of playtime every 2 min, but they can still be stunned and death gripped. So under heavy fire, they're not always able to get out heals at all.
Aside from Hand of Freedom, they have a hard time with debuffs. Sure, they can remove 3 different types, but only every time they hit cleanse and burn a global cooldown. Priests, shamans and druids all have a "persistant" dispel that keeps dispelling several times after the initial gcd (Abolish Disease, Abolish Poison, Cleansing Totem). Priests can also dispel two magic debuffs every gcd, making them able to compete with a frost mage's ability to apply debuffs. The talent Sacred Cleansing can help, but it's not reliable.
Now, paladins have the same problem as druids; lack of dps in healer spec. But there's also a difference: While the druid can only cast heals, paladins can actually cast other spels as well. It came as a surprise to me, but my paladin partner could actually throw in a decent nuke to help me (as a DK) finish my enemies off: Hammer of Wrath, Holy Shock and Judgement actually made a difference. My healer often ended up with more killing blows than me, of course with me being a heck of a lot higher on damage done. That may make all the difference to me. I don't need a lot of sustained dps in a healer spec, only the ability to throw in a decent nuke. Like priests can chain Holy Fire (+ Smite) + SW:D for some burst. Druids lack that. The closest thing they come is chain-gunning Wrath if they've spent talent points to get it down to 1.5 sec. Shamans have a very decent burst with Flame Shock + (Lightning Bolt + Chain Lightning) + Lava Burst.
PVP healing will take some time to get used to since I've been healing a lot as a druid earlier... but it'll work out, I hope.
Potential as ranged dpsFail!
Second optionsPaladins can't do ranged dps, but they got two other options: Tanking and dpsing. Why would I want to tank as a paladin when I can tank as a DK? For one thing, it might be easier to find groups that way. Tanks are in even shorter supply than healers, but it's pretty easy to get groups as a healer too. And who knows, I might really like their tanking. I can't tell 'till I've tried. Well, I have tried, but not as a full-fledged high level protection paladin, only as a retribution paladin at level 71 and a protection paladin at level 62. Might write a seperate post about that.
The tempting thing about going Retribution is that it allows you to be a semi-healer in PVP. You don't have the faintest chance to compete with a full-fledged healer, but you still got Hand of Sacrifice and Protection. In addition, Hand of Freedom can be used to remove stuns when talented, and why skip that for PVP? While dpsing, you can also throw out a lot of instant Flash of Lights, and Cleansing is possible as well. Too much of it will naturally drain the mana pool in no time, but judging on every cooldown with a glyphed Seal of Command generates a pretty good amount of mana. I have tried it a bit at 71, and it was fun. With that said, as a DK you can peel your allies extremely well, use Anti-Magic Shell to reduce damage taken, use ghoul stun and silence casters to prevent incoming damage. In effect, I'm trading one toolbox for another, and it's not necessarily a better one for my purposes.
One decent thing is the ability to self-heal between combat in battlegrounds/Wintergrasp. As a DK, I'm forced to eat unless I've taken so little damage that a bandage will do.
So, I'll have to give up the idea of going ranged dps. I think I can live with that, but then I might just as well go druid, right?
FeelGenerally, I don't like paladins. No, seriously, I don't like the paladin feel.
To start somewhere... the original paladins were special members of the church who were given permission to dabble in heretic magic to further the church's goal. That dissapeared somewhere along the line. I don't like the "purity" and "holier than thou" feeling. Granted, the wings are cool, but belong to priests, not paladins. I like the feel of blood elf paladins a lot better, as they didn't care for the holier-than-thou stuff, just for the power.
But... it's "just" a game, and I'm not roleplaying much these days.
Need more experienceI'll just have to spend some more time finding out if they're suited for me. As Gravity noted, I'm a crazy altoholic, and this won't exactly reduce that impression.
The paladin I will level (Mirlei) is on a RP-PVP server, where all my other characters are on a RP server. Tirvin, my paladin on Earthen Ring, is dedicated to play with my wife. And she doesn't play much at all these days. Since Mirlei is on a different server, she can't benefit from all the high-level crafting materials I've gathered, my max-level jewelcrafting, inscription, engineering and enchanting, and she can't have heirloom items. ... Actually, the worst part is not being able to fly. Old-school. Extra challenge too? The game isn't exactly very challenging itself until max-level cutting-edge content.
I'm not going to migrate her to another server. I want to try some world PVP action, and the ability to gank alliance that annoys me. Note that I don't do that without reason, only if they go after my mining veins. If anything, I could transfer a bank alt to her server with gold, heirloom items, crafted items and stuff. But that costs real money, and it's hardly worth it.