Ashen Hallow Changes
The first change is relatively easy to understand — they added a new mechanic to Ashen Hallow that allows the Paladins to cancel it early. It works exactly as the patch note says, you just press the button again and it cancels Ashen Hallow. The second change is to clarify that they removed the auto-cancel element of the 9.1.5 version of the Radiant Embers so Paladins can choose when to cancel it early. These should be really simple changes that anyone can understand.
If they are simple, why am I here and why am I writing this post? I’m here to say that both of these changes are a buff to Ashen Hallow and Venthyr Protection Paladins. They removed one of the expected weaknesses of Venthyr Paladin going into 9.2. While on the surface this might seem like a good change, I think it will do more harm than good and it should be reverted before 9.2 is released on live servers.
Why is that? I thought we all love buffs — buffs are fun and good, right? In this case, no, it is not good. Let’s talk about why I think this and a good place to start is analyzing why this is a buff.
Radiant Embers Before & After
Radiant Embers has not been a desirable legendary to use for two main reason. First, Radiant Embers performs worse than The Mad Paragon. The Mad Paragon interacts with Ashen Hallow with a multiplying effect for more raw damage output. Second, the mechanic of auto-canceling Ashen Hallow severely limits its power. There are cases where you can min-max leaving for more damage but more often than not, you would not leave by choice; you would leave because the boss mechanic required repositioning. In Sanctum, you’d see this in action on a boss like Painsmith. You need to run away from the boss to appropriately position Cruciform Axe, but if you were running Radiant Embers you’d auto-cancel your Ashen Hallow resulting in significant damage loss. It’s for these reasons combined with its generally low tuning that Radiant Embers isn’t currently used in 9.1.5.
However, with double legendary active in 9.2, every Venthyr Paladin will now universally have this legendary equipped which would have made the legendary’s weaknesses far more apparent restricting Ashen Hallows usage on certain encounters. With these changes, players will have greater control over when Ashen Hallow‘s cancellation happens resulting in very few encounters not being viable for Ashen Hallow. While this would ordinarily be a good thing, it limits diversity of viable covenants for Protection Paladins. To understand, we’ll need to talk about covenants for Protection Paladins and where they stand.
Protection Paladin Covenant Tuning
Venthyr is a meta choice for Protection Paladins in raid content. If you look at public logs of Sanctum of Domination, ~75%+ of logs are people playing Venthyr for the damage it offers. And that won’t be changing for 9.2. Based on my testing of Sepulcher of the First Ones, Venthyr will be perfectly viable for the first eight bosses in the raid. It’s the most straight forward covenant option that doesn’t require a special raid comp or boss fight to take advantage of. It’s not like Venthyr was lagging behind for Protection Paladin and needed a buff.
And then when you look at this change through the lens in which we play the game now with freely swappable covenants then this change is actually oppressive and will snuff out any chance other covenants are viable for raiding. This ultimately leads us to the discussion of what covenants were looking strong for Protection Paladins in 9.2.
Looking at other covenant options for Protection, Night Fae in 9.1.5 has large opportunity cost of choosing between The Mad Paragon or Seasons of Plenty. In short, 9.1.5 Night Fae has to choose between their own personal damage and the damage of the raid. Venthyr has never had to make this choice which is why Night Fae has fallen behind in the meta. But with double legendary, that legendary choice for Night Fae is now removed and both legendaries can be run; they gain personal damage along with the group benefits that Seasons brings.
Just based on sim data, Night Fae and Venthyr are actually really close on damage already in 9.1.5 and double legendary makes Night Fae more appealing where the choice between the two might come down to encounter design. If this negative of auto-canceling is removed from Venthyr in 9.2, then you would have no reason to ever consider running another covenant and that sort of defeats the point of freely swappable covenants and optimizing on a boss-by-boss basis. You just would never switch out of Venthyr.
Ultimately, I don’t think Venthyr needs this change when it’s already meta and these two changes just makes Venthyr even more oppressive to other covenants.
All in all, this is a buff and a great change that offers more decision making, on an otherwise bland (but powerful) ability. While solving some major pain points, that would have put players in awkward positions. If there are concerns of overall power level (personally) I would rather see them adjust the numbers, and keep this mechanics change.