Player Spotlight: Ellesmere
“The best thing you can do when trying to make a non-meta healer be meta is to show people something unique that you bring to the table that the meta spec can't.”
Hello and welcome back to the RaiderIO Player Spotlight series! My name is Samantha aka Vitaminpee and with this series, I aim to highlight amazing players in World of Warcraft regardless of their chosen class, spec, language, and/or region. I hope to bring you valuable information and help you learn more about your favorite top players or discover new ones who you may not know.
This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ellesmere who is currently the highest ranked Holy Paladin in North America and who has continued to be one of the top world Mythic+ healers each season. As one of the community’s most well-known meta defiers in both live key pushing leaderboards and the Mythic Dungeon International, Ellesmere shares his insights on the strengths of Holy Paladin in Mythic+ as well as his techniques, mindset, and attitude towards competitive gameplay as a whole.
VitaminP: Hi Ellesmere! Can you please tell us a little more about yourself?
Ellesmere: Hey everyone, my name is Kendall. I'm 28 years old and I live in California! Outside of WoW, I'm a studio violinist, post production director, web developer, and graphic designer. Coming from a long line of professional violinists in my family, my grandfather first taught me to play when I was 4 years old and I quickly became a musician for life. My passion for violin branched out into other areas over the years, especially during college when I found a love for writing orchestral music for film/television. These days, most of my time off stream is either spent writing music or hanging out with my girlfriend!
I started playing WoW towards the end of Vanilla when my best friend asked me to check out this new game he was playing (I'll never forgive him! Lol). I took breaks from the game throughout the years for school and work, but always found myself coming back to play whenever I had extra free time. I was actually a Priest main from Burning Crusade all the way through Warlords of Draenor. However, I swapped to Paladin for Legion, since it looked super fun and I disliked some of the Discipline/Holy spec changes. During Legion, I didn't really know any big Mythic+ players, but I knew instantly that I had a passion for it, so I started pugging a lot and adding any good players I found to my BattleNet, which eventually got me to the top. I'm super humbled to have played with so many amazing players throughout the last few years. I really look forward to further pushing myself and others to perform at the highest level they can.
VitaminP: You’ve been around the Mythic+ community since its inception and have played Holy Paladin through and through in the Mythic Dungeon International (MDI) and on live servers. What are your favorite features of the class that keep you coming back? What utility/benefits does Holy Paladin bring to M+?
Ellesmere: Holy Paladin is the most fast paced, “high-numbers healer” in WoW right now (let's not talk about Shadowlands yet). There's no denying the power you feel when you pop Wings/Holy Avenger and can do more burst damage than your DPS or heal someone from 10% to full every GCD. Obviously, my playstyle leans more into damage output than other healers. Holy Paladin really lets me push my playstyle and healer damage to the limits. That being said, Holy Paladin's benefits in Mythic+ go far past raw damage output. According to many top players, Holy Paladin utility is actually viewed to be equivalent to Resto Druid utility when used well. That wasn't the case last patch, since Resto Druid’s utility was obviously superior when Beguiling was in the mix, but now with Awakened relying more on single-target damage and the corruption slow being such a burden, Holy Paladin utility is seen in a much better light. The ability to Freedom anyone out of their corruption slow is incredibly important in high keys—not to mention the hundreds of uses for Blessing of Protection (BoP), Blinding Light (AoE Blind), Hammer of Justice (HoJ) and all the damage reduction we bring. As you push higher and higher keys, damage reduction becomes much more valuable than healing throughput, so the fact that we bring both passive Devotion Aura damage reduction and an on-use 20% group-wide damage reduction through Aura Mastery is extremely strong. In addition, we're the only healer with a full immunity (Divine Shield) and I can't overstate how useful that is in so many situations. While Druids are often seen as the class with the best utility for Mythic+ by default, I think a lot of that perception is due to many Holy Paladins not using (or not knowing how to optimally use) the full range of their kit in keys.
VitaminP: So Holy Paladin doesn’t have a natural res like a Resto Druid, which seems to be one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) setback for 4 out of 5 of the healing classes in this game. How much of a detriment do you think having to Engineering (engi) res someone has in Mythic+ on live servers where depleting a key can be far more punishing than on the tourney realm? Have you ever had the item backfire on you in a critical situation?
Ellesmere: The Engineering res is something I pray that Blizzard realizes is not nearly good enough in its current form. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that they implemented something, but it really is too dangerous to use reliably with how small of a range it has and how long the cast time is. If they just increased the range to even 20 yards or cut the cast time in half, it would vastly improve everyone’s quality of life in keys. It's kind of crazy to me that Blizzard had to implement a global Mythic+ timer system for resses because resses were so broken in keys back in Legion, yet they don't see the need to make that ability something available to more than just three classes? I accept that Engi res is their solution, and if they just made one or two small tweaks, I'd be fine with it. However, Engi res is way too risky right now to pull off in most situations without risking the life of the person resurrecting.
I'm not asking for a res as carefree and easy as Druid’s, but having to literally stand on top of the person you need to res and cast for 4 seconds is a bit ridiculous—and to the point of needing to stand on the person to res them because the range is so small. If you're ressing a teammate who died, more often than not, they were standing in a spot they shouldn't have and died to something bad on the ground, so you can't even stand where they died to res them without using an immunity of some kind. This is all before addressing the fact that it can BACKFIRE AND KILL YOU??? That kind of defeats the purpose of ressing in the first place.. and yes, I have had a big key depleted due to a backfiring resurrect. It's not a memory I like to revisit.
VitaminP: What other obstacles have you overcome as a Holy Paladin in Mythic+ season after season?
Ellesmere: Holy Paladins definitely have their shortcomings, since they are very cooldown reliant for their throughput healing and lack some crucial Resto Druid utility that most groups are accustomed to. When I wanted to get really serious with Mythic+ in BFA, I decided to go into a bunch of keys with some friends on some keys we considered to be medium-difficulty. I took Wings and Holy Avenger off my bars and played an entire week of keys without using my cooldowns once. I learned a lot about how to heal outside of Wings that week, mostly that the majority of healing outside of Wings is about preventing damage from coming out, not healing through it. I started getting more aggressive with my utility, such as using Hammer of Justice on high tank-damage mobs to lighten the load on the tank while my group took care of interrupts on the casters, Blinding uninterruptible dangerous casts when mobs were stun DR'd, using Freedom to prevent damage or any debuffs from slowing abilities in dungeons (of which there are a surprising amount), using BoP to prevent many dangerous physical abilities from dealing damage, using Divine Shield/Devotion Aura as AoE healing cooldowns, using Blessing of Sacrifice on both the tank and DPS depending on the situation, etc. Once you start getting aggressive with your utility, you find out just how strong this class still is outside of cooldowns in higher keys. Preventing damage is far superior to just “healing through it” when pushing in Mythic+, so getting comfortable using my full kit early on was a major key to my success in BFA.
VitaminP: What are your go-to builds for talents, essences, and corruptions for Mythic+? What variations do you make depending on comp or affix combos?
Ellesmere: The build I run is NOT a build that 99% of the player base should be using. I currently run full Versatility gear and corruptions, which is required for doing 28+ keys since you need the damage reduction to survive unavoidable mechanics that will one-shot players at that key level otherwise. This is definitely not the most ideal throughput build for Holy Paladin from both a damage and healing perspective, so DO NOT RUN THE VERS BUILD as a Holy Paladin unless you reach the 28+ key levels. The best corruption setup for pushing keys right now is to run one rank 3x Twilight Devastation and then fill the rest of your corruption with Ineffable Truth rank 1's (up to 39 total corruption). That means with a maxed cloak on the big Bursting Volcanic push week, you can run 7x rank 1x Ineffable Truths and 1 rank 3 Twilight Dev, which is a ridiculously strong setup since it has a perfect balance of healing and damage throughput while optimizing your corruption value.
The only major things I swap around in between keys are my Azerite traits. I always run 3x Glimmers and 1x Light’s Decree, but the last two traits I change around depending on whether I want more damage output or more healing. If I want more damage, I run 2x Indomitable Justice traits, for more healing I run 2x Heart of Darkness traits. If I want extra healing during Wings, (only really for Temple of Sethraliss or Waycrest Manor where Wings may need a little extra kick), I’ll run one Avenger’s Might trait.
For Holy Paladin essences, you should run:
Vision major, Conflict and Strife minor, Spirit of Preservation minor, and then The Ever-Rising Tide or Crucible of Flame depending on if you want more healing or damage.
My standard talents are always the same through all affixes:
I highly suggest if you want to check out my full build including my corruption, talents, stat priority, essences, gear suggestions, etc., go to WingsIsUp.com, which is my own comprehensive guide for Holy Paladins in Mythic+.
VitaminP: Even though we still have a lot of changes yet to come between now and the release of Shadowlands, what are your initial thoughts on Holy Paladin? Are you planning on playing it no matter the meta, or are you looking carefully at the other healing classes as well before you make a decision on your main and your chosen covenant?
Ellesmere: As an update, the current state of Holy Paladin in Shadowlands is much better; Holy Power is proving to be a fun addition to Holy Paladin and our weaknesses are being mostly addressed. There are still a few particularly bad changes that I've submitted feedback to Blizzard about, specifically in regards to the Infusion of Light change, but I'm hopeful for Holy Paladin's future in Shadowlands! Also, just a quick side note, I will still maintain it as an alt and keep my website WingsIsUp updated frequently regardless of whether or not I main Hpal in Shadowlands.
VitaminP: What is your personal approach to Mythic+? For example, how do you problem-solve with mechanics? How do you handle any interpersonal conflicts or scheduling conflicts that may arise in your group?
Ellesmere: For me, learning Mythic+ is very similar to progression raiding. I watch other competitive players and their approach and I learn how to deal with mechanics from trial and error. Every time I do a key, I try to learn something I didn't know before that will help me next time. Any time I start a key, regardless of key level, I try to improve myself and figure out ways to make each and every pull easier for my group—whether that's prioritizing damage better or using my utility in a different way on certain packs. There's always something that players can improve upon in their gameplay. My group has an ongoing joke about "perfect globals" to motivate ourselves to play better and I think that's really important. You need to go into every key with the mindset of optimizing every single thing you do and ability you cast to be the right one, because in world-first keys, oftentimes one wrong GCD can be what depletes the key. The first thing I always look at after a key ends are deaths. If there were any deaths, I go back to see how they happened and if there was anything I could have done to prevent them.
As for interpersonal conflicts or scheduling issues, I'm a very non-confrontational person and I don't like there to be any hostility within the group when I'm pushing keys. So if there's ever really an issue, we tend to hash it out relatively quickly. To be honest, it's just a game and we recognize that, so we don’t let most things bother us too much. Everyone makes mistakes, so yelling at each other isn't going to do much good. Issues only really arise if you don't learn from your mistakes and improve.
VitaminP: As a musician and film composer, what parallels do you see between the mentality of a musician and a competitive Mythic+ key runner? Do you think that being a musician has helped you excel in the game?
Ellesmere: Being a musician has helped me in many ways throughout my life. When it comes to WoW specifically, I'd say the most important things my musical background helps me with are discipline and focus, which are crucial in high-stress situations like world-first keys. I also developed really good practice/learning habits from music, which really comes in handy for both progression raiding and Mythic+. Another major thing being a musician helps with is stage fright...doing world-first keys or world-first raiding can be very nerve-wracking because you know one mistake will ruin everything. Having so much experience under my belt of performing in front of crowds during high-pressure situations makes it easy to stay calm and keep my nerves under control during those moments.
VitaminP: What has been the most challenging thing you’ve had to overcome to get to the level of play you’ve reached in WoW?
Ellesmere: By far the most challenging thing for me was finding people that would play with a Holy Paladin over a Resto Druid. I know that may sound silly right now since Holy Paladins are "meta" at the moment, but for most of BFA, Mythic+ was completely dominated by Resto Druids and the biggest hurdle for me was finding anyone that would play with a Holy Paladin instead. It was then that I realized, the best thing you can do when trying to make a non-meta healer be meta is to show people something unique that you bring to the table that the meta spec can't. For me, that was damage throughput. I saw how much more damage I could do than Resto Druids and realized that my only chance at being chosen over a Resto Druid was to minmax as much damage as I safely could to prove that there was a reason to bring me, and that I brought something unique to the table that Resto Druids couldn't.
“The only way to work your way up the Mythic+ ladder is to play with great players, which you can only do if those players enjoy playing with you!”
VitaminP: What advice do you have for aspiring Holy Paladins in Mythic+?
Ellesmere: The best advice I can give Holy Paladins who want to start pushing Mythic+ is to read the entirety of my website WingsIsUp.com, which I realize may sound like an obnoxious plug coming from me, but I promise it has all the information you need for pushing keys as a Holy Paladin. It details out which abilities to BoP/Freedom, gives cooldown suggestions and Holy Paladin specific strategies for every boss, and answers any question you'd have regarding our playstyle in Mythic+. Also as a quick side note, I do plan on expanding WingsIsUp to include a raid guide as well for Shadowlands!
Now that I've gotten that bit of self-promotion out of the way, I have to reiterate that the most impactful thing you can do to take your gameplay to the next level as a Holy Paladin is to really make use of your full kit. This applies to other healers as well, but especially Holy Paladins because of our reliance on cooldowns for healing throughput. The more utility you use to mitigate incoming damage, the less you'll have to heal and the more you can relax and DPS. Good use of damage reduction abilities like Devotion Aura, Divine Shield, and Blessing of Sacrifice will be far more effective in keeping your group alive than “panic-spamming” Flash of Light. Once you master that, you can use your throughput cooldowns far more aggressively to really get your numbers up.
Lastly, something that applies to all aspiring Mythic+ pushers is to make friends! Don't be a jerk, don't be toxic, and don't get an ego. The only way to work your way up the Mythic+ ladder is to play with great players, which you can only do if those players enjoy playing with you!
- Find Ellesmere on RaiderIO
- Follow Ellesmere on Twitch
- Follow Ellesmere on Twitter
- Read Ellesmere’s Holy Paladin Guide
- Subscribe to Ellesmere on YouTube
About the Author
Vitaminpee mains a Brewmaster and loves to do competitive Mythic+. She is the Social Media Manager for Big Dumb Gaming and is attending Graduate School to pursue her Masters of Business Administration. She is a partnered Twitch streamer and Discord Partner specializing in tanking classes and loves pushing keys with her friends. Feel free to message her via Twitter for any business-related inquiries.