Into the Light…

With hours now until release, everything is still in flux…

With everything still in the balance, the fact that Shadowlands and its related systems are all very much still in the air at the moment, making a concrete choice on what class to play, or indeed what role to play in the holy trinity, is still extremely difficult.

Normally at this stage of a pre-expansion period, literally hours out from release, most players, certainly myself, will usually have a fairly solidified idea about what class and indeed which spec that they’re wishing to play in the new content.

For me, still, that choice is still MM Hunter. However while recently levelling my Horde Paladin I fell deeply in love with Prot Paladin once again.

Holy Power just fits perfectly with Prot. It worked brilliantly in Mists of Pandaria, lending Paladins a Blood DK style of gameplay where they could rely on massive self-healing in order to shore up the holes in their Active Mitigation.

And once again, Prot Paladin has returned to that style of play, and I love it.

I was tanking a Heroic Warfront on my Horde Paladin at the weekend, and I was able to self-sustain against a veritable horde of Alliance NPCs for quite a while, much, much longer than most of the other tanks would’ve been able to stay up.

Being surrounded by 20 or so enemies, being chipped down to low health over 6-10 seconds, then using a Word of Glory to restore up to near full health is a LOT of fun. It’s why I enjoy playing Blood DK, and to a lesser extent, Vengeance DH.

The Return of the Protadin

Self-sustain is, IMO, one of the most fun tank playstyles in the game. It takes me right back to my days in City of Heroes, where I played a Regen Scrapper and absolutely adored it.

Blizzard historically haven’t enjoyed letting players use it outside of DKs, as self-sustain tanks can cheese a fair bit of stuff and take on the likes of soloing content long before they feel it should be. Blood DKs have historically been masters of that type of gameplay as exemplified by Mionee, forming as it does the Blood DK’s (Re)Active Mitigation. However they didn’t like Prot Paladins doing it in Mists, but by the time it became a “thing”, the expansion was in its final tier, and it was far too late to realistically change it.

Needless to say when Warlords came around, Prot Paladin for me became a metric tonne of fun less to play, which is why I stopped playing my Paladin in Warlords and switched to Hunter at the time.

In Legion and certainly in BfA, Prot Paladin was still a very unfun spec. BfA in particular saw Prot Paladins be a very squishy spec, due to the fact that Shield of the Righteous was put onto a charge-based system, which meant you couldn’t get great uptime on the ability. Add into that the fact that Prot’s self heal had a cooldown, and a painfully long one at that meant no more reactive self-healing on a regular basis.

Wedded to the fact that after Mists, Shield no longer mitigated Magic damage and only increased armour, meaning that Paladins were the veritable paper-tank for a couple of expansions.

But, thankfully they’re now nearly back to being at their best, although Shield still no longer mitigates Magic damage sadly. However Holy Shield allows you to at least block Magic damage, reducing it somewhat, and First Avenger gives a small absorb shield on use of Avenger’s Shield.

With all that said though, at this moment in time I’m still leaning more towards raiding on my Hunter, as either MM or BM. Certainly starting off as MM at least, as BM is still a decent bit behind MM on damage output.

I’ll be tanking on my Paladin as my main alt, so tanking in any alt raids I attend, and doing more mythic+ this expansion than I have done in previous expansions.

I’ll also be doing more PvP this expansion, as MM, as I want to start picking up some Vicious saddles and collecting some of the more awesome looking mounts available in the game. I’ve missed out on a lot of them, most notably the Hippo mount at the start of BfA, so hopefully he’s made available as a Saddle mount in Shadowlands when Season 1 begins in December.

Not only does Shadowlands look more alt-friendly, with no azerite-style systems locking easy changing of specs behind them, but gear in general will be less plentiful overall, meaning chasing as many different playstyles for your weekly vault will be, well, not exactly mandatory, but more… encouraged.

Less gear, in general, will be a good thing I think. No more will we have to put up with bags full of alternate gear because of “reasons”. You’ll have your BiS gear and that’ll be that. It’ll be such a refreshing change to be able to chase BiS once again, without having to worry about Warforging or Titanforging, or rolling gear with the right stats, or sockets etc.

And legendaries this time are a huge improvement over their Legion inspirations. Being able to semi-target specific legendaries is a massive QoL improvement over Legion, where specs were defined by having a specific legendary or not and you were viable as a raider based purely on the RnG of getting your BiS legendary gear.

The Plan heading into launch

At this point in time, my list of characters to get levelled and play over the course of the first six months or so looks like this:

  1. Hunter | MM & BM | Kyrian or Night Fae
  2. Paladin | Prot & Ret | Kyrian
  3. Druid | Guardian & Resto | Night Fae
  4. Warlock | Affliction & Destro | Kyrian
  5. Warrior | Fury & Prot | Venthyr
  6. Death Knight | Frost & Blood | Venthyr

Kyrian is a strong covenant. It’s the best Covenant in terms of DPS at least for a good number of specs at the moment, and means I’ll need to level characters specifically to pick up the transmog, pets, title & mounts for the other covenants.

That said, the Kyrian’s main strength used to be the Pelagos soulbind, which gave stacking Versatility every time you used an ability that wasn’t a repeat of the last one. However that has very recently been changed to give a stacking magic damage reduction effect, which in retrospect will help Paladins with one of their mitigation weaknesses, even if only slightly.

Buffs to the Night Fae Covenant ability, Wild Spirits, has brought it up now to at least being on a par with Kyrian for MM Hunters, and for BM is outright now the best. This could mean instead of double Kyrian characters out of the gate, I could be running with one Night Fae and one Kyrian, which is a nicer situation for me in all honesty, as the prospect of re-earning renown and rewards a 2nd time on only my 2nd character for the same Covenant didn’t feel great IMO.

The above 6 characters though should form the core of my time throughout Shadowlands.

The remaining classes will be levelled (as I like to have all classes at max, just in case), however they will be only played sparingly throughout the expansion:

  1. Shaman | Ele & Resto | Necrolord
  2. Rogue | Assassination | Kyrian
  3. Priest | Holy & Shadow | Kyrian
  4. Monk | Windwalker & Brewmaster | Kyrian
  5. Demon Hunter | Both Specs | Kyrian
  6. Mage | Frost | Venthyr
  7. Hunter 2 | MM & BM | Venthyr or Kyrian
  8. DK 2 | Frost | Night Fae

And that’s just my Alliance characters on Silvermoon!

Horde classes will probably fill in the remaining Armour type / Covenant combinations, as my intention is to only ever be playing casually on those characters, especially as none of my Horde characters currently have a guild.

But as you can clearly see, Kyrian will still be the strongest Covenant for quite a few classes and specs, albeit not by as much as it had been prior to the Pelagos changes.

Personally I’m not stoked about the Night Fae transmogs for Hunter, but the Wild Spirits ability does look amazing in action, and the cooldown on it isn’t unpalatable, at the 2 min mark. It should line up, initially at least, with the likes of Trueshot prior to CD reductions on TS from various avenues. Resonating Arrow from the Kyrian does a lot of the same thing as Wild Spirits, but is on a 1 minute CD while doing less damage, and Kyrian also has the Swolekin with his Phial which heals and removes bleeds, curses etc.

That said, the Night Fae Soul Shape ability (which turns you into a sparkly blue fox amongst other things) with a speed boost? Man that’d be REALLY handy for running current AND older content.

Both Ardenweald and Bastion are gorgeous zones, so either way I’ll not be lacking for aesthetic environmental beauty on either of my first two characters, which is a bonus!

Onwards, into the Light!

This will be the last post prior to the launch, as the expansion launches tomorrow night as of the time of writing. So here’s hoping it’s a smooth launch, and that everything isn’t bottlenecked and lagged out as they have been in previous expansions where both factions began on the same journey in the same place…