Illuminated Healing in 4.2: New! Improved! 100% More Shiny!

I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams
They fade and die. - lyrics by James Kendis, James Brockman and Nat Vincent[1]

Ahh, Holy Paladin Mastery. You are so young and yet have lived a very checkered and unappreciated life. Greeted with an overwhelming wave of indifference when you were born which turned into outright hostility as you grew up into an awkward adolescent that no one knew what to do with. It became so bad that people could barely look you in the eye any longer and simply reforged as much of you away as they could, pretending that you didn't exist. It's not really fair, is it? We all had such high hopes for you.

Patch 4.2 represents a coming of age of sorts for Illuminated Healing. The awkward teenage years of short, non-stacking, pimple-like bubbles are gone. In it's place is a more mature and grown-up Mastery ready to take on the real world and make a difference.

Alright, I think I've taken that metaphor as far as I can go. Consider yourself spared the Clearasil jokes.


As a stat for Holy Paladins, Mastery in 4.1 is generally considered beyond worthless. It is the automatic choice for reforging. Our mastery ability, Illuminated Healing, puts a shield on the target of a Paladin's single-target healing spells for 12% of the healed amount, modified by mastery. Sounds great, in theory. Who wouldn't want an across-the-board 12% increase in their healing effectiveness due to the mitigation of incoming damage? Discipline Priests have made a living with doing just that through two expansions now.

The Evolution of Illuminated Healing
The problem is that it just doesn't play out that way in reality. The shields are too small to be meaningful. They don't last long enough to reliably be counted on to absorb damage. And they don't stack - meaning a heal cast on a target with a shield on it will overwrite it with a new shield based on the new healing spell. These three things combined means that most of the Shields simply go to waste and the ones that are used are small enough to be insignificant.

Throughout Cataclysm, Blizzard has been steadily tweaking Illuminated Healing with a series of small buffs. It's very apparent that they are being cautious with our mastery in an attempt to ensure that it doesn't become overpowered. Each patch has come with tiny little buffs and balances to answer the ability's critics in the hopes of finally making Mastery a desirable stat for a Healadin. 


Patch 4.2 finally answers the final critique of Illuminated Healing with the addition of stacking shields up to 33% of the Paladin's health. Here is the patch note detailing this:
Illuminated Healing (Mastery) has been adjusted slightly so that if a paladin refreshes an existing copy of his or her own Illuminated Healing on a target, the new absorption amount will be added into the old absorption amount and the duration will be reset. The total absorption created can never exceed 1/3 of the casting paladin's health.
The reactions to this change have ranged all over the place. Kurn, Rohan and Adgamorix all posted widely varying opinions on the subject, as have many others.

I look at this change, and the changes that have preceded it and am satisfied. I think that Blizzard has finally got Illuminated Healing to a good place and it will finally start working as it was initially intended to: To have each direct heal that a Paladin cast give it's target a shield to reliably be counted on to mitigate a portion of future incoming damage. And now that subsequent casts will increase the amount absorbed and refresh the duration, it's much less likely a shield will go to waste.

Will we be able to pump up the shield to maximum quickly and efficiently before the pull? No, but that's alright because that's not the way it's intended to work. Are we going to be able to quickly shield a raid using Holy Radiance? No, but that's alright because that's not how it's intended to work. Will we be able to shield both the target we're healing and the tank we have Beacon of Light on in a single cast? No, but that's okay too.

All of those things would be extremely nice, but likely would be unbalanced. As it is, Blizzard can't help but nerf all of our single target heals every single patch, so let's not give them any more incentive because of an overpowered Mastery.

I feel that the intent of our mastery is to provide a buffer: The more we heal a target, the smoother and easier to manage future damage becomes, and I think that this buff goes a long way to making this concept finally work.


The big question this change brings up is: Should a Holy Paladin gear for Mastery?

I still believe the answer is no: Haste is still a better throughput stat for Holy Paladins. I am still a big fan of a Haste-heavy build if for no other reason than to increase the responsiveness of my healing. To me, it feels better to be casting quickly and more often. Mastery is still valuable with this gearing strategy since quick heals will allow a Paladin to stack shielding quicker.

However, the changes to Illuminated Healing coupled with Critical Strikes now healing for 200% certainly do make an argument that a Critical Strike and Mastery gearing strategy could prove to finally be viable come 4.2. Slow, frequently critical heals that leave a shield twice the size of a normal heal could prove to be equally effective as faster heals that crit less - and may be easier on the mana pool, something that may prove important as we move into the Firelands to play with Ragnaros and his diabolical minions. I am no theorycrafter, so I will let others do the math on this one, but I'm curious to try it out and see how it works.

That being said, I think that Mastery is still not as important as either Haste or Crit, regardless of which gearing strategy you decide to go with. My order of preference for secondary stats is as follows:
In this scenario, Haste and Crit are equal, but separate. Choose one at the expense of the other. Either way, Mastery is still not something that a Paladin should go out of their way to get, but having it on otherwise well-itemized gear is no longer quite such a detriment.

In this sense, Mastery is still a bit of a troubled child. No longer is it completely worthless, and Illuminated Healing is now quite good, but that extra little bit of shielding that the Mastery stat provides pales in comparison to what Haste and Critical Strike provides. I guess it's not out of the Clearasil years quite yet.

But honestly, short of scrapping and redesigning the Holy Paladin Mastery ability completely with something better, I'm not sure what Blizzard can do to make a Holy Paladin want to go out of their way to gear for it.


  1. "Will we be able to shield both the target we're healing and the tank we have Beacon of Light on in a single cast? No, but that's okay too."

    Sort of. I believe the biggest problem with Mastery is that so many sources of our healing are excluded. Just letting Beacon heals proc shields would be a huge buff and increase the value of Mastery even with the reduced scaling of previous versions.

    And regarding the (now) old versions of non-stacking Mastery, the shields were not overwritten if not consumed. A 4k shield from a Divine Light heal would just extend it its 15 second duration if that player received a Holy Light. I am not sure, however, what would happen if a shield was reduced below the level of what a new, smaller heal would apply.

  2. You're absolutely right about the way the old shields worked, of course. Larger shields did not get overwritten by smaller ones.

    I see our healing spells divided into two completely different types of heals: Direct Heals and Indirect Heals. Direct Heals are Holy Light, Divine Light, etc; heals that are cast on a target. Indirect heals are Holy Radiance, Protector of the Innocent and Beacon that work on an AOE or incidental basis.

    In my mind, as great as it would be to have our Mastery trigger off of these Indirect Heals, I can understand why it doesn't. Having it trigger from Beacon and PotI would mean that those two targets would have small shields on them constantly. I'm pretty sure that Blizzard thinks that would be overpowered - more than anything because it takes no effort or action to accomplish.

    The other thing about that is even if Mastery was triggered from these Indirect Heals, it still wouldn't be good enough to entice Paladins to gear for it.

    However, I do like this change and in my mind it makes Illuminated Healing a good ability, just not one to gear towards.

    Thanks for the comment, Joe!

  3. Seems to me like they generally can't find a good mastery for Pallys. They keep nerfing direct heals, so there's no problem with these. AOE healing has never really been part of the pally world, so buffing these to the point of viability would only make pallys make a gearing choice between aoe and direct. while this might sound interesting as an idea, it goes against the theme of mastery: that what a class does well, it can do even better.

    as a former pvp rogue, and one who says the pally bubble is over powered, i tend to think the mastery should have something to do with the normal pally bubble, and hands of such and such in general, rather than a bubble that is really just a disc bubble.

  4. Thanks for posting, definitely will use for my alt pally, and for my raiding guild pallies as they prep for Firelands

  5. I am curious as to why you value Spirit so high for holy pallies (besides the obvious mana regen)