Friday, May 30, 2008

It just came to my attention that there is a site out there that has covered most everything I intended to cover, and in a prettier format to boot.

I'm not sure who the moderators and administrators are for this site, but almost all the information in the posts I've read have been up to date and accurate. They've got forums too!

I'm adding this site to my link list.

Paladins Are Special

I don't necessarily mean that in a good way.

Sustained damage requires a resource pool, and balancing resource consumption and damage output is one of the keys to "doing good DPS." Caster classes consume mana to conjure direct damage spells, and have ways of gaining mana back - Warlocks can Life Tap, Mages can use mana gems or cast Evocation, Druids can Innervate, Priests have Vampiric Touch/Embrace and Shadowfiend, etc. Physical damage classes normally use a different mechanic. Rogues have an energy bar, and have talents and abilities that manipulate its regeneration and consumption. Combat Potency and a quick off-hand weapon allow a Rogue to regenerate energy from attacking quickly. Warriors have a rage bar, and talents/abilities that allow for them to manipulate their rage generation/consumption. The faster/harder they hit, the more rage they generate and then the more abilities they can use.

Are you sensing the trend? Most classes that are capable of dealing damage (read: all classes have damage-related talent trees) have ways of manipulating their resource pool, even if it's through a single ability with a cooldown or through talents. The glaring exception is the Retribution Paladin.

Retribution in 25-Man Raids

The Paladin who raids Retribution will be one of several Paladins in a majority of cases, and will therefore have Judgement of Wisdom and Judgement of the Crusader on the target, several blessings on himself, and supporting buffs from other classes. Even with all this taken into account, without chain-chugging potions and either downranking Consecration or cutting it out of the rotation entirely, a Ret Paladin cannot sustain his damage for longer than 2-3 minutes. Even then, the damage output of a Ret Paladin who downranks Consecration versus one who chain-casts max-rank Consecration is not terribly different.

Retribution in Small Groups

In a 5-man group, a Ret Paladin will usually be the only Paladin in the group. Knowing this, he will not get the benefit of Blessing of Wisdom, as he will most likely need to use Blessing of Salvation on himself. He will neither have both JoWisdom and JotCrusader on the target - he will need to choose one, and in the process either sorely limit his group utility (no crit for the group if JotC is withheld) or a provide a useless mana return Judgement for non-mana users (which could be a large percentage of the group in some cases). Without JoWisdom on the target, keeping mana up through many fights is a challenge - and once it's gone, it's gone. A Ret Paladin could chain-chug potions through the instance, I suppose, but not many players that I know need to do that for a normal 5-man instance.

The Reality of the Situation
"Psshh, you're overblowing the issue as usual, Josh. Everyone has mana problems, it's a fact of WoW."

Okay, tough guy, then riddle me this - when a Mage runs low on mana, what does he do? He pops a mana gem. After that? Evocation. After that? Another mana gem. All the while he has a 10k+ mana pool to absorb his spell spam.

When a Warlock runs low, what does he do? He Life Taps and keeps going, or sucks mana from his pet if he's Affliction spec with Dark Pact

When a Rogue runs low on energy, what does he do? He waits 2-4 seconds for enough energy to use another Sinister Strike.

When a Warrior runs low on rage, what does he do? He just waits for the rage to build up from his normal swings, it'll come.

When a Shadow Priest is running on fumes, he can send out his shadowfiend.

What's this all mean? Despite everyone having resource issues, other damage dealers have ways to directly manipulate their resource pool. They can forcibly put resources back into their pool, and they can burn their resources at an accelerated rate on command for an appreciable damage boost. Warriors can burn rage by using Heroic Strike more, and Mages can get a 3-stack of Arcane Blast going and up both their damage and mana consumption, as examples.

This is not true of the Paladin, however. A Retribution Paladin has no talent or ability to put a gob of mana back into his mana pool on command, nor can he burn lots of mana for an appreciable damage boost. Consecration is the only "mana dump" Ret Paladins have, and it results in about a 120 DPS increase if rank 6 is kept going constantly and JotC is on the target. That's a lot of "ifs" for not a lot of increase. The bottom line is that Ret Paladins are completely dependant on outside sources to keep their mana pool in shape. How do I keep my mana flowing in a raid? Mana potions, Mana Spring totem, Blessing of Wisdom, Judgement of Wisdom, Tier 6 2-piece bonus, and Dark Runes/intentionally taking damage for heals. Those are all outside sources, none are abilities activated by me. Even Judgement and Blessing of Wisdom are applied by other Paladins besides myself. If you look at each and every DPS spec, they have a way to actively put resources by the hand-full back into their resource pool through a class ability or talent, usually at no or very little loss to damage. For crimminy's sake, even Enhancement Shaman have their nifty Shamanistic Rage ability, which basically refills their mana pool on a 2 minute cooldown. The Paladin's only choice is to activate Seal of Wisdom and wait, in the process losing 25% of his damage for however long SoW is up.

Why am I ranting about this? Because this is my main concern about everything Ret Paladin. The lack of interactivity of the seal system has been hashed out by others. The fact that some of our core Ret abilities are still not scaling with our attributes and are spell-hit based is bothersome, but not enough so to merit a ton of attention. The mana pool issue really grinds my gears, and is pervasive through the entirety of the game - raiding, normal instances, solo, and PvP. My question to you and to Blizzard: Why are Paladins so special when it comes to resource regeneration?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Macro's 'R Us

As promised, a listing of macros that a Ret Paladin can use to both increase damage and efficiency and generally make life and ability usage easier.

Judge 'n Seal
#showtooltip Judgement
/cast Judgement
/cast Seal of Command
This macro allows the user to instantly re-cast Seal of Command after judging, ensuring that no weapon swings happen without SoComm active (which would result in the possibility of a missed Command proc). The "showtooltip" portion shows Judgement as the tooltip on your bars, so you can see the cooldown of your Judgement ability. Be sure not to use this macro while you are under the Global Cooldown (GCD, 1.5 seconds of time after almost any spell/ability is used), as the Judgement would cast but the Seal would not happen.

Attack on!
#showtooltip Crusader Strike
/cast Crusader Strike
Using Crusader Strike does not make your auto-attack turn on. This macro ensures that every time you Strike, you will start auto-attacking as well, preventing missed swing opportunities.

Hands-free Cleansing
#showtooltip Cleanse
/cast [target=mouseover] Cleanse
This one, when keybound, allows you to place the mouse over an afflicted target, mash the keybinding, and clear the disease/poison/whatever off that ally without ever losing your target or halting your attack. You can apply mouseover targeting logic to many spells and abilities to make them more effective (Blessing of Protection, heal spells, etc).

Space-saver multi-purpose button happy fun time!
#showtooltip Consecration
/cast [modifier:alt] Consecration(Rank 1); [modifier:shift] Consecration(Rank 4); Consecration
This logic can be applied to any ability you would want to downrank. The one above allows you to hit the button for a max rank Consecration, hold alt and hit the button for a rank 1 cast, and hold shift and hit the button for a rank 4 cast. If you use macros like this one, you'll save yourself having to have multiple ranks of spells on your bars.

These macros encompass the majority of macros I use. I use the mouseover logic for Cleanse, Blessing of Protection, Holy Light, Flash of Light, Blessing of Sacrifice, Blessing of Freedom... and I think that's it. There are other macros I use, but for the most part these are the chosen ones that I use on an every-raid basis. If nothing else, employ the Judge/Seal macro and the mouseover Cleanse macro, they're invaluable!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tips 'n Tricks for Ret Raiding

All right, you're a Paladin. You've got your gear in order, your talents set, and the raid is bringing you along as a Retribution-dude-guy-man. What do you do? Well, you certainly don't grow wings and fly straight at the first monster you see, light blazin' and swinging furiously. That's a recipe for dirt-nappin'. Ret Paladins may be pretty simplistic to play, but you need to understand basic melee combat mechanics and know your tank's and your limitations. Here's a few things to do and to keep in mind as you raid Ret. If you knew 'em all ready, good! You're well on your way. If you didn't, try these things out - you'll notice yourself dying less and damaging things more.

  • Get a threat meter and watch it intently. I recommend Omen, an Ace2 add-on that tracks threat on multiple monsters at once and is fairly accurate and well-maintained.

  • Make macros. "But Josh, I don't know the syntax for macro writing!" Fear not, fair reader, for there are others out there who have the know-how. If you simply type "paladin macros" into Google, it'll come up with a gaggle of sites to check. But, for your viewing pleasure, my next post will be a listing of useful macros a Ret Paladin would use in a raid.

  • Timing is everything. If you're in a group with a Shaman (go go Windfury Totem!), they have a wonderful spell on a 10-minute cooldown called Heroism (or Bloodlust for you crazy Horde Paladins). It increases your attack speed by a percentage for something like 45 seconds. You have a cooldown too - Avenging Wrath. It gives you wings! - and it gives you 30% increased damage for about 20 seconds. Increasing your damage by 30% while you're swing 30% faster is a multiplicative increase, you'll get more bang for your buck if you can "pop your wings" while under the effects of Heroism. Work it out with your raid leader or party Shaman so you know when the Heroisms are going to be used.

  • Smoke 'em if you got 'em. If you have use-effect trinkets, use them early and use them often. If a fight is going to be over 6 minutes long, that's enough time to use a 2-minute cooldown trinket 3 times if you start using it early. Sometimes this will clash with the timing on Heroism - if it does, save your use-effect for Heroism/Avenging Wrath and then use at-will after. However, if you can use it and then have it cooled down for when those abilities will be used later on, use it!

  • Key bind everything. Mashing a button on your keyboard is quicker than mousing over an ability and clicking it, and generally more accurate. Once you have played with your abilities keybound for a while, you'll build muscle memory and will automatically reach for certain keys in certain situations. It also frees your mouse for use in movement and evaluating your surroundings with free-look camera spinning. You'll be quicker, faster, stronger, and a well-tuned killing machine. Being quicker on the draw is always a good thing, and speed kills. Well, I didn't mean that kind of speed, but that's true too - drugs are bad, m'kay?

  • Time-on-target is important. As soon as your tank has threat established, get crackin'. The earlier on in the fight you start attacking, the earlier the boss dies - very simple. This is especially true for heavy movement fights like The Lurker Below, Leotheras the Blind, Al'ar (phase 2), Gruul, Illidari Council, etc. If you get to the target 1-2 seconds sooner, then you might get an extra attack or two that you wouldn't have seen normally. Now, one attack out of two hundred over 5 minutes doesn't sound like much, but for a fight like Illidari Council where you're constantly moving away from the target to avoid AoE damage, getting that extra attack in means a lot since you'll be doing so multiple times. This is one of the reasons I highly recommend Pursuit of Justice for Retribution builds.

  • Push the envelope. Don't play safe with your mana, constantly push out damage abilities and throw everything you got behind your attacks. There are no awards at the end of the fight for who has the most mana left. In that regard, Crusader Strike every time you can, use your Judgement ability every time you can as long as it doesn't delay Crusader Strike, and in times where both Judgement and Crusader Strike are on cooldown for 1.5 seconds or more, use Consecration and/or Exorcism. If you're running out of mana, downrank your Consecration. If you're still running dry, cut Exorcism and scale back to rank 1 Command - but keep judging it. Keep mana potions on hand and shotgun those suckers, a Super Mana Potion can restore a third to a half of a Ret Paladin's mana pool, and a Fel Mana Potion even more.

  • Constantly evaluate your surroundings. If you see danger, don't be afraid to move/Divine Shield/stop attacking and run like a ninny. If you end up dying, you won't do any damage. If you avoid the danger instead, you lose 10 seconds of damage and get to keep chugging after it abates. Despite everything I've said 'til now, it is never acceptable to endager yourself or others in the name of increased damage. Dying is unacceptable, especially when it's avoidable.

Phew! Maybe I should compile all these tips and others I can find and make a "Rulebook for Ret Paladins." Just so this stuff is all in one place in a nice, neat, orderly fashion.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stat Priorities and Retribution

First off, thanks to anyone who's been linking me on their own blogs, I appreciate it. I hope what I write here is at the very least informative on the ins and outs of Retribution.

Next, I wanted to follow up on my talent guide posts by breaking down the types of gear a Retribution Paladin straps on when he dives headlong into battle. There is a lot of misinformation flying around about how a Ret Paladin gears with regards to several of the "secondary" stats (armor penetration, haste, spell damage, etc). In no particular order, these are the stats that will, one way or another, boost a Ret Paladin's damage:

Attack power
Melee crit rating
Melee hit rating
Spell hit rating
Armor penetration
Melee haste
Spell damage

Now, what I did not say is how much each affects your damage. The list above is not in order of effectiveness by any means. What follows is an evaluation from an Alliance Ret Paladin's view - Blood Elves have different priorities based upon the interaction of Seal of Blood with haste. Let's look at the base statistics first.

The Basics
Your base stats are the 5 that appear in the default left frame on your character's paper doll in game. They are, in order - Strength, Agility, Stamina, Intellect, & Spirit. Not all of these stats have a direct effect on your damage. Intellect increases your mana pool, but does not amplify how hard you hit or increase your longevity. Spirit only functions in combat if you have special talents or stop using abilities for at least five seconds. Stamina increases your HP, but doesn't make your melee stats any bigger or smaller. Strength and Agility are what we are concerned with here. Strength is arguably a Ret Paladin's best stat. Every point of strength is equal to 2 points of attack power, base. Divine Strength amplifies that conversion to 2.2 AP per strength. Add in Blessing of Kings, and you get 2.42 AP per strength, which is one of the best stat conversions achievable in game. Your strength is your best scaling statistic - never forget that. If you have a choice of 10 strength or 20 AP, you will get much more out of the strength. Agility increased dodge and melee crit along with armor - what we like about agility is the melee crit increase. After all, crits stack up our Vengeance, and we most likely are using the Relentless Earthstorm Diamond in our helm's meta socket (you did get a helm with a meta, right? Good!) to increase the damage our crits do. Crit is one of our next best scaling stats, so agility is never a bad thing to have.

The Secondary Stats
After the base statistics, there are a number of other stats that you can find on gear that will amplify your damage. First is melee hit rating, which eliminates the chance for your attacks to miss. As mentioned in previous posts, you need 9% melee hit from gear and talents combined to eliminate miss chance when attacking a raid boss. This is one of the top priorities when choosing gear - if at all possible, try to stay at, just above, or just slightly below the hit cap. A missed attack is a lot of damage opportunity lost - if an attack doesn't hit, it can't proc Seal of Command.

Melee crit rating is also a very useful stat. It's not something we stack with reckless abandon like a Fury Warrior, but it's good to have a healthy amount, somewhere in the 25-35% range. Crits stack Vengeance, and our very large 2H swings can crit for quite a bit.

Melee haste is a debatable stat. On the one hand, it is not very useful to the starting ret paladin, Seal of Command does not proc more if you attack faster. At the tier 4 and tier 5 levels, you won't find very much gear with haste anyway. However, when your regular auto-attacks start getting large enough, haste starts to look very appealing, even though it does not interact with Seal of Command. At a certain point, adding 20 more AP or attacking 1% faster has the scale tipped in the extra attack's favor, since your attacks will average in the 1.5-3k range. Add in the additional chance to proc Judgment of Wisdom since you will be attacking more, and you've got the makings of a very favorable statistic. So, contrary to a lot of opinions out there, melee haste is not the devil. Welcome it on your gear in the higher end of progression, it helps.

Armor penetration is another debatable stat. It does not affect Seal of Command, just like haste. However, it does affect 75% of your damage - auto-attack and Crusader Strike. The rub is that it doesn't provide good returns unless you stack a bunch of it and have armor reducing debuffs on the target. So, unless you have a bit of gear with ArP on it, and your raid is throwing Faerie Fire (Feral), Sunder Armor x5 or Imp. Expose Armor, Curse of Recklessness, and all that jazz onto the target, you might be better served with other stats. HOWEVER, if you've got it, stack it - it's just not something you want to go out of your way to stack.

Attack power is generally inferior to strength. But, there are some pieces of hunter mail or rogue leather that have gobs of AP, more AP than you could get from an equivalent plate piece with strength on it. It's worth looking in to.

Spell hit rating does increase your DPS. Judgement of Command functions as a spell for hit mechanics. However, JoComm is such a small part of your total DPS, it'd be silly to go out of your way to stack this stat. Ignore it.

Spell damage, contrary to what most people say, does increase your damage. JoComm, Consecration, and Exorcism - staples in your rotation - all scale with spell damage and not any melee statistic. Seal of Command also gets a boost from spell damage. This is why [Darkmoon Card: Crusade] is a great trinket for Ret Paladins - we benefit from both the AP increase and the spell damage boost. However, an equal amount of strength or crit will affect a larger portion of your overall damage than a serving of spell damage. It's not a stat a Ret Paladin will stack for maximum damage output. This is why our tier sets had their spell damage moved directly into strength.

Expertise eliminates the enemy's chance to dodge. This is a very powerful stat, as is one of the most important statistics to have. Just as with hit & miss, a dodged attack is a lot of damage lost. The expertise "cap" is 104 expertise rating for non-humans, and about 84 for humans using a mace or sword due to racials. Oftentimes any expertise you can get your hands on is worth equipping.

Tying it all together
So what stat are you aiming for? Oftentimes you want to go for gear with strength, crit, and melee hit first, and take what you can in terms of Expertise, ArP, melee haste, AP, and agility. Spell damage should be avoided, as you can most likely find a piece of gear for any slot that will provide more damage from AP/strength/crit than an equivalent spell damage piece. You also want to keep your AP and crit numbers in balance. Having a 35% crit rate isn't very helpful if you have only 1200 AP. Likewise, having 2000 AP is great, but not if it's at the expense of having a woeful 18% crit rate. Using a spreadsheet or the Rawr application to make informed gear decisions about what's best for you at your gear level and considering what's available is highly recommended. If all else fails, and you're completely lost, you can't go wrong stacking strength and crit with a 95+ hit rating and Precision.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Poking Things with Sticks since '06

Prompted by this post by Auzara on her blog Chick GM, I decided to compile here a list of alternate by-lines I thought of when creating this blog before ultimately settling on "Retribution is at hand." In no particular order...

  • Repent, ye wicked, lest ye be judged!
  • This ain't yo momma's Ret spec
  • Leaving the world blind and toothless
  • Vengeance is a dish best served by a mace
  • Crusading for the equal treatment of Paladins
  • Vindication's a b!tch
  • This is my mace, and it's in your face
  • Spinning the Seal of Casino wheel since 2006
  • Educating the masses about Retribution Paladins - by force if necessary
  • Hammurabi would be proud
  • Stop! Hammer time
  • Paladin gives you wings! (Aside - For those that don't get this one, it's a reference to Avenging Wrath)
  • A crusader's zeal knows no bounds
  • Pursuing Justice to the ends of Azeroth
  • Following in Uther's footsteps

That's all I remember. I'm sure there were more. Got any Paladin-related or Retribution-related one-liners that you think would fit?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hello, my name is ____ and I'm starting Karazhan!

I see these sorts of posts crop up all the time on Cromfel, Maintankadin, in the Ret EJ thread, and on the official forums. "Hi, I'm starting Karazhan/SSC/Hyjal/(insert instance here), and would like to be ret! What stats do I need to enter [instance of choice]?"

While people can wildly quote you numbers that they pull out of thin air (and I've been guilty of doing so), no one can say "you can't do Tempest Keep as Ret without X of attack power and Y of crit! Going to a tier 5 instance with less than that is fail!" It is true, some encounters require a raid to put forth a minimum amount of damage in a set amount of time otherwise the boss either a) grows unmanageable (Gruul at higher growths - tank will get demolished), or b) enrages after a point, going berserk and slaughtering everyone summarily. However, you can zone in to Serpentshrine Cavern with 24 other people, and most often somewhere between 12-15 of them will be DPS'ers. You're not alone - one person's slack can be collectively picked up by the rest. Is it advisable to have gear of quality befitting your level and the content you're attacking? Yes. But there are more pressing matters to address.

The most important thing about starting a new instance, especially with a new spec if you're transitioning to Ret from Prot or Holy, is to read about the fights before you go. Know how a melee DPS'er is going to contribute to a fight; know which fights require movement so you know ahead of time if you'll need to ask for a re-judge of Wisdom/Light from the Holy's; know how long each fight should last on average, so you can time your Avenging Wrath/trinkets appropriately. Having insight into these sorts of things will keep you aware, alive, and DPS'ing. Going into, say, the Gruul encounter with tier 6 gear but never having read, done, or seen Gruul will get you killed on the first or second shatter, or after you overtake the off-tank and eat a hateful strike, and all that gear would mean nothing as you lay in a pool of your own spittle after you keel over. Knowledge is power!

That is not to say that it's smart to waltz into Black Temple in quest greens and think you're going to survive the Naj'entus encounter and put out anywhere near decent damage just because you know what happens. Instead of saying "I need X stats to raid this content!", step back and take stock of your gear. If your set is mostly quest greens/blues with a smattering of rep rewards, you're ready for Karazhan. If half your gear is from Karazhan or season 1 PvP vendors and you're starting to look kinda purple, you're ready for Gruul's Lair or Magtheridon's Lair. When you've got most of your slots covered by tier 4 quality gear, you're set for Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep. If half your gear is from SSC/TK or season 2 PvP vendors and the rest is covered by tier 4 stuff (meaning you've eliminated the blues and greens), you can probably handle the beginning of Hyjal and Black Temple. When your average item level is at or above tier 5, dive head-first into the rest of the tier 6 content, you'll be fine. The only restriction is to have a weapon that's no more than a tier behind. Don't tote that [Gorehowl] into the Teron Gorefiend fight, at least use a [World Breaker] or something.

Hard numbers and benchmarks mean nothing. An extra 75 AP or 1% crit is not going to push you from mediocre to elite. What's important is that you know what you're getting in to, have some gear from the tier immediately previous to the one you want to go to, and keep your skill rotation tight to maximize your efficiency. If you understand the stat priorities and have chosen appropriate gear, and have acquired some drops from the content immediately previous to what you're looking to raid, you'll be fine. Waiting until you get that extra 50 attack power before raiding a boss is just folly. Stop stressing the details and just try it!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mythbusting: Exorcising misconceptions about Ret Paladins

Exorcising! Get it? 'Cuz I'm a Paladin, and I can cast Exorcism... and...

Nevermind. Punny is not funny.

There's a lot of misinformation floating around about Retribution Paladins, both regarding mechanics of their combat and general facts. Today, I'm going to address several of them and declare here, once and for all, the truth of the matter. The following are true statements about Retribution Paladins, and you better not start arguing with me, otherwise I'm going to have start a link-fest.

  1. Crusader Strike is not holy damage. The 41-point Retribution talent is an instant attack that deals physical damage and refreshes any active debuff Judgements on the target. Try it - borrow a Feral Druid friend, have him/her get naked and duel you. Crusader Strike the Druid in caster form, and note your damage. Now have him/her suit up in bear gear, go bear form, and duel again. Crusader Strike and note the damage. You're going to see a HUGE difference in damage output. Holy damage would be unaffected by the change - magic damage doesn't get reduced by armor.

  2. Haste is worth equipping for Alliance Paladins. Tons of Paladins go talking their heads off about how haste sucks for Alliance Paladins since we don't have Seal of Blood. THIS IS UNTRUE. Haste does not suck - in fact, it's quite good at higher gear levels. 50% of a Ret Paladin's damage in a raid environment is from his auto-attack. 1% haste will increase 50% of your damage by 1%. I bet you that 1% haste will turn out to be more damage than 20 extra attack power. Go ahead, do the math, I'll wait. ... you done? Good. It's why the Dragonspine Trophy remains in the top 5 trinkets for all Retribution Paladins, despite haste being "terrible for Alliance."

  3. Your mana pool does not matter. You should not gear for Intellect, there is absolutely no reason to accept less attack power or crit chance for an increased mana pool. The main portion of your rotation - auto-attack, Seal of Command, Crusader Strike, Judgement of Command - is not mana intensive. If you were to use only those abilities through an entire fight with Judgement of Wisdom on the mob and raid buffs, you would be able to sustain your rotation indefinitely, especially if you bring Super Mana Potions. Where you start operating at a net loss is the inclusion of Exorcism and/or the upper ranks of Consecration. However, these are fairly static damage increasers and have poor damage to mana ratios, and are a small portion of your damage. It is much more costly to overall DPS if you sacrifice AP, crit, expertise, haste, armor penetration, or other melee-related stats in order to gain extra mana, as that extra mana only lets you eek out a single extra Exorcism or Consecration r6 over the course of the fight. In the same vein, mana/5 is not a DPS stat either. Concentrate on the stats that scale the majority of your damage, and just let mana come naturally on upgrade gear (mostly tier pieces).

  4. Vindication does not cause extra JoWisdom procs. The theory that immune-procs of Vindication on boss mobs were causing extra JoWisdom mana returns was a false claim. The extra return when you attack a raid boss that you have judged with JoLight or JotCrusader and a different paladin has judged with JoWisdom is from a bug that counts you refreshing your JoLight or JotCrusader as a spell that is eligible for JoWisdom returns. Vindication does not amplify the results.

  5. Mongoose is the best enchant for your raid weapon. This debate should end - if you're gearing correctly, you will have less Armor Penetration than necessary to make Executioner worthwhile, and Savagery is an inferior enchant in every way to both of them. 'Goose your weapon and stop asking this question. The breakpoint where Executioner surpasses Mongoose would require you to gear so much for Armor Penetration that you would lose DPS in the process, sacrificing AP and crit. Crit + haste = good.

  6. Relentless Earthstorm Diamond with as many +strength gems as you can muster should be in your gear. Your meta socket is important. Relentless Earthstorm Diamond in a tier 4 helm will increase your damage more than that Felsteel Warhelm will. Do not stride into battle without a meta socket helm! As for gemming, +strength everywhere you can afford, and just enough yellow/blue to satisfy RED's requirements. Which means 2 oranges & 2 purples, or just 2 greens, and the rest red gems. Don't stack crit gems, don't stack AP gems, don't stack mana/5 gems, and don't stack (/shudder) intellect gems: stack strength gems.

  7. Speed is not everything for your weapon. Choose your weapon based upon weapon DPS, damage-range, and stat boosters. A Cataclysm's Edge will do more damage than a Vengeful Gladiator's Greatsword, despite the Vengeful weapon being slower. Getting a 4.0 weapon speed is not your goal - your aim is to get the highest top-end damage on your weapon coupled with a high DPS rating. It's why [Torch of the Damned] is so good for Alliance Ret Paladins.

  8. You can be dodged while attacking from behind. Until you achieve the expertise dodge-cap, any attack you make has a chance to be dodged no matter where you are in relation to the monster's front. You cannot, however, be parried or blocked when attacking from behind. Because of this, you should always attack from behind.

  9. The blessings you want, in order of importance, are Salvation, Might, Kings, and Wisdom. Despite our dependance on mana, Wisdom is the least important of the main 4 raid blessings for a Retribution Paladin. You will get more DPS from attacking with Salv/Might/Kings and not using Consecration/Exorcism as much than if you were attacking with Salv/Kings/Wisdom and going hog-wild with Consecration/Exorcism as your mana allowed. 41-50 mana/5 is not worth 10% all stats or 200-300 extra AP.

  10. Hammer of Wrath decreases your DPS. Even if you time the cast of your Hammer of Wrath to happen immediately after your auto-swing and it does not coincide with the cooldown of any of your other damage abilities, and even if you have 4 pieces of tier 6 ret gear equipped, using Hammer of Wrath will delay your next auto-swing, and make you lose damage overall. The damage of your next auto-swing coming that much earlier will outpace the damage your Hammer of Wrath will do. Hammer of Wrath does not scale with strength or attack power, the main stats you stack - it scales with spell damage, something you should have zero of on your gear. The only situations that merit use of Hammer of Wrath are when you are trapped at range (most often temporarily) from a boss during his execute range (examples being Rage Winterchill if he Death & Decay's immediately around himself, or Supremus during his kite phase.)

  11. The 2.4 "SotC fix" does not give you carte blanche to seal-weave. Despite the fact that Blizzard fixed a bug with Seal of the Crusader in patch 2.4, it still is not a DPS increase to attempt to "seal-weave" and gain the effects of Seal of the Crusader on Crusader Strikes and put Seal of Command back up for your auto-attacks. This is mana-intensive for very little benefit, and will most likely end up screwing up your skill rotation and resulting in less damage overall.

Hopefully, this will end any debate or false statements about these topics, because dispelling these myths has become a crusade of sorts for me lately - Firelight over at can attest to that based upon my recent comment bonanza on his May 14 post.

Add-ons List

As requested by Honorshammer, here is a list of add-ons I'm currently using and their function. Honors, the screenie in my previous post was taken at 1024 x 768 resolution:

  • Cartographer - Map add-on
  • oRA2 - Main tank windows and other raid window features
  • Prat - Chat box modification
  • Quartz - Cast bars and swing timer
  • Aperture - Viewport
  • AtlastLoot - 'Cuz I need to know what's on boss loot tables
  • Bartender - Skill bars
  • Buffalo - Buff display
  • ClosetGnome - Item Rack alternative
  • Cooldown Count - Shows numerical value for remaining cooldown on skills/items on your skill bars, on your character and in your inventory
  • CowTip - Tooltip modification
  • cyCircled - Changes texture on hotbar skills
  • Demon - Target debuff monitor, I use to track JoL/JoW/JotC
  • DeuceCommander - Organizational tool for ace2 mods
  • FuBar - Multi-functional modular bar designed for ace2 plug-ins
  • Omen - Threat Meter
  • PallyPower - Blessing management
  • Proximo - Arena frame
  • SCT - Combat text
  • simpleMinimap - Allows for modification/moving of the mini-map
  • X-Perl - Unit frame mod
  • Deadly Boss Mods - Boss ability timers and announcements

All of the mods listed with the exception of DBM are Ace2. Some are aesthetic (cyCircled), but they all have a specific function.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

I did some UI tweaking over the weekend, and cleaned up my view. Now I have a full view of what's going on around me. It occurred to me that many user interface views for raiders are very, very cluttered. This must change. Time for a lecture on UI, add-ons, and being able to see what you're doing.

The screenie above is a pic of my UI on Sunday during our quality time with Illidan. If you notice, I have a clear view of what's going on immediately around my character - this is very important for a melee character, as there are very frequently point-blank abilities that a boss will use that will put melee in grave danger. On Illidan, his Flame Crash ability is a prime example - you've gotta see that flame patch happen and make sure to stay out of it. Seeing danger, recognizing it, and moving away from it must happen in seconds, otherwise major damage is absorbed and the result is more often than not death. Another example is the Illidari Council fight in Black Temple. If your UI is cluttered and you're not watching your health bar, it's very easy to not notice a Consecration, Blizzard, or Flamestrike happen between all the spam on your screen and the spells constantly hitting Gathios, especially if you have spell effects turned down low. A more relatable example to those who haven't been in Black Temple is Al'ar during phase 2 - if you're standing on the glass in the middle of his room and a Flame Patch spawns underneath you, it's hard to see even without a cluttered UI. It's curtains for the melee if they can't read & react. Keeping your UI clean allows you to keep alert.

How do I keep my UI clean? I get everything I can as far away from my avatar and the middle of the screen as possible. If you notice in the screenie, there's a large black strip along the bottom of the screen. The bottom black strip is a dead zone in my screen that's add-on created - it's a viewport mod that shifts the game view up. I then place as many things as I can down in that black area, getting them off of the playing area. From left to right, you see my chatbox (Prat mod), my skill bars (Bartender add-on), my personal unit frame and my PallyPower blessing management add-on, and my mini-map (simpleMinimap). Those normally take up a large amount of space on the default UI, but I have scaled them down a bit and stuffed them in my viewport dead-space (created by Aperture). For things that I can't fit down there, I make an effort to stuff them into corners to keep as large an area in the center as I can un-cluttered. The lower left is my main tank windows (oRA2), the upper left and along the left side are my raid frames (X-Perl), the upper right are my buffs (Buffalo), and the lower right is my threat meter (Omen2) along with my tooltip (Cowtip). The lower part of the playing surface also has my target and target-of-target frames, as well as the DeMon add-on, which I have set to track the status of Judgement of Light, Wisdom, and the Crusader.

With this set-up, I never have a problem seeing and avoiding danger. Case and point: earlier on the night this screenie was taken, our Illidari Council kill saw both rogues and the feral druid die in area-effect damage spells. I avoided them because I could see them.

Don't play blind, keep your view clear! If you play cluttered and are in melee, you're opening yourself up to a world of potential hurt.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Taking It to the Horde! Tips for Ret PvP in Battlegrounds

PvP'ing in Warcraft is a lost art. Oftentimes when I queue up for a battleground, I find one of many things happening (or in some cases, not happening) pre-start, among them:

  • Arguments over strategy and plan of attack
  • BG participants pleading with the rest of the group to not suck
  • Buffs and vital consumables (mana biscuits, healthstones) not being distributed
  • Some members not communicating with the rest of the group

Now while I'm all for smashing some face and feeling like you did it all alone, the truth of the matter is that 15 individual players can be absolutely rolled by an organized group of 8 in a battleground. No matter what your skill level is, if a group of 3-4 opponents are working together and you have no support, you will lose that 1v4 battle. Teamwork is vital to being successful in Warcraft battlegrounds.

How does this apply to the Ret Paladin? Well first off the Paladin as a class is group-oriented. Blessings and Auras do not diminish in power as you extend them to more people, and Paladin Blessings are among the strongest buffs in the game. Most of the Paladins tools apply to other people, making them stronger/more durable and providing some benefit to the Paladin as well. A great example is Blessing of Sacrifice. When going it solo, this blessing has absolutely no use. You can't cast it on yourself, you can't target an enemy with it - it's worthless. BUT, when you have a partner to cast it on, it reduces damage going to your partner and transfers it to you. At first glance, that sounds silly. Isn't that counter-intuitive? You want to take very little damage, right? HP is life!

Yes, my friend, taking damage when you don't need to is generally bad. Blessing of Sacrifice, though, is a great tool for PvP. Most forms of crowd controls which frustrate people, such as Polymorph, Sap, Blind, Repentance, Seduce, Ice Trap, Scatter Shot, and other such wondrous disorients and incapacitates, break when the victim takes damage. What does Blessing of Sacrifice do? Transfers damage from someone to you. So if you're running around with a partner, and keep Blessing of Sacrifice going on your partner, you guarentee that if some pesky mage tries to sheep you, the very first time that bugger throws a Frostbolt at your buddy, you're up and running again. The flip side is if your buddy gets sheeped, you're a Paladin! Cleanse that shiznit! Blessing of Sacrifice makes you and your war party uncontrollable.

What are some other neat tips and tricks for PvP'ing as a Ret Paladin? Some are general Paladin PvP tips, but here's a few of the gems:

  • Protect your healer at all costs. Use your Hammer of Justice, Repentance, and even Seal of Justice to give a healer under heavy focus fire some moments to breathe.
  • Buff people! Use Blessing of Might/Kings/Wisdom on passers-by, giving them that extra buff and a stat boost could mean the difference between life and death in some cases.
  • Divine Shield is your friend. Don't just use it when you're close to death - sometimes it's even more effective if you use it near the beginning of a battle. Running headlong into a group of Horde can draw their attention, and then popping Divine Shield can negate whatever nasty things they were winding up at you as you charged in. Obviously, this tactic is useful only if you've got back-up that can damage from range as you keep the opponent's attention up-close.
  • Cleanse. A lot. Most of the annoying things the opponent can do to you besides kill you in a PvP situation are either magic effects or poisons, and Cleanse can remove both. Remembering to Cleanse yourself and your teammates whenever possible is a drain on your mana pool, but keeping everyone clean aids in keeping them running at full speed and full health.
  • Don't forget your Blessing of Protection! Throw it on that nice clothie you're near, he'll appreciate the damage and pushback negation.
  • Swap auras. Sanctity Aura is awesome, I know - but when you're fighting a warlock who's throwing shadow damage around or a frost mage who is constantly pelting you with frost spells, the extra resistance is well worth it.
  • Rank 1 Consecration is a low cost and low damage spell, but it's an area damage-over-time that can catch lurking rogues and druids unaware. Tossing a random R1 Consecrate out every once in a while can break their stealth and really mess up their timing. Throwing one as you get a Rogue low on health can also pop him/her right out of stealth when they inevitably Vanish to escape.
  • Apply constant pressure. Be pro-active and force the opponent to react. Despite the Paladin's defensive nature, Retribution is an offensive role. Pushing out damage and getting up in someone's face with your mace will often lead to them doing 1 of 2 things: a) Pop defensive cooldowns like Evasion/Ice Block to avoid damage, or b) Use abilities to create separation like Frost Nova/Fear/Blink. If you know your opponent's abilities, you can anticipate these and counter them. You've got the tools! Mage blinks? Repent him after the blink. Mage Frost Novas? Cleanse it or Blessing of Freedom yourself! Warlock starts casting fear? Hammer of Justice that bastage to stop the cast and then whale on him mercilessly. You can't counter everything they do, but there are several things you can answer directly. Force them to play at your pace and dictate what happens.

If you employ some of these basic Paladin tactics in your PvP travels and always remember that you're a member of a group rather than just a solo kill artist, you might just change the tune of some of those naysayers and nags that see you in the BG start area and think to themselves "ugh, another retnoob..."

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Talent Show: Speccing Your Ret Paladin, Part III

We've talked about the Ret tree. We broke down the Prot and Holy trees. Now it's time to put it all together. What does a Ret Paladin's talent build look like? As with most things, that depends...

Raid Builds
Standard Ret - 5/8/46 +2
This is the build to use for your average Retribution raider. It incorporates just Divine Strength from the Holy tree for better strength scaling, Precision from the Prot tree to decrease the +hit from gear needed to eliminate misses, and then grabs every damage increase and mana efficiency talent from the Retribution tree. 2 points are left intentionally - they're your's to do with how you wish. If you do not have a Holy Paladin in your raid with Improved Blessing of Might, one talent swap you can make is 5/5 Imp. BoMight for the 5/5 Benediction points. Benediction is not overly useful after Sanctified Judgement is considered, since Sanctified Judgement returns most of the mana you spend on seals anyway, and Judgement is a cheap spell to begin with.

King Me! - 5/11/45
You love BoKings? Your raid doesn't have enough paladins with BoKings? Well, you can grab it without much fuss. This build does ever so slightly less damage than the Standard Ret build, but gives you the most sought after and powerful blessing available. Points are not so flexible here, since you've got 16 points tied up in the Holy and Prot trees.

PvP Builds
The Stoic Avenger - 0/20/41
This build grabs all the relavent Prot talents for PvP - Stoicism, Imp. HoJ, Imp. RF & Guardian's Favor - and still manages to grab enough points from the Ret tree to get Crusader Strike. Despite the tight spread over the Ret and Prot trees, you actually have a lot of choices to make in the Ret tree. Depending on your play-style and usual PvP buddies, you'll have to choose between Pursuit of Justice, Eye for an Eye, Crusade, Improved Sanctity Aura, and Sanctified Judgement. I can't make those calls for you, most of those are personal preference and play-style dependent. Choose wisely!

The Retnoob - 5/0/56
Often found as the spec of the misguided Retribution Paladin, it does merit discussion. This build grabs every single PvP-relavent Ret talent and then boosts your strength. It is capable of massive damage output in PvP, but lacks the utility of the Prot tree talents. If you never ever get targeted in PvP, it's worth considering. Many Paladins have marked success in 5v5 arena with this build.

The Holy Avenger - 15/0/46
This one is the paladin the Horde hate - the mighty hammer-wielder who can heal sometimes. He's a real PitA, but again lacks those utility talents of the Prot tree. It's best used in small-scale arena (2v2) or BG's. With it, you get all the relavent Holy talents - Divine Strength, Spiritual Focus (for those times you really need to get that heal off), Healing Light, and Unyielding Faith - and still manage to grab most of the Ret tree goodies. The same trade-offs from The Stoic Avenger build are present here, but you also have access to Fanaticism with this build, adding another talent to consider if you judge Command a lot.


So, now you've got an idea of what a Ret talent build should look like. If I catch you speccing into the no-no talents after reading this, or bringing a PvP build to a raid, we're gonna have issues, capeesh?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Orc's Best Friend

First up: Woot! Reliquary of Souls was nice last Wednesday night, and dropped me a shiny new mace. I probably won't be rid of this thing 'til Kil'jaeden or WotLK - got it 'goosed and ready to go for Sunday's raid. Fun fun fun.

Next - totally unrelated to WoW, but a few weeks back I went to a Third Eye Blind concert at Nokia Theater in NYC. Very nice venue, great concert. 3EB played all their hits, some new stuff from their upcoming album, and generally put on a great show. What really impressed me was the opening band, though. 3EB is currently touring with a Chicago-based band with pretty good sound, Absentstar. After the concert, my brother bought their album and I've had one of their songs, "Give In to Me," stuck in my head for 3 days now.

My Orc Hunter will hit level 10 very soon, so he'll get himself a pet. Something I didn't anticipate - what do I name the pet? I usually have a hard time naming my characters names that I like, and if I don't like the name, I won't play the character - conversely if I like the name, I have a hard time not playing that character and end up fixating on 'im. That reminds me, I'll have to write up the origin of my character and his name at some point. It's long and involved, and he wasn't always named as he is.

Anyway, he'll get a trusty boar sidekick. What's a good name for a boar? Only thing I can think of is "Babe" after the movie about that pig, but I don't like that at all. It's gotta have an Orcish ring to it and make you think "fierce" and "boar" at once. This is a toughie, especially because I don't speak Orcish. Maybe I could just name 'im "Zug," that sounds Orcish... not especially fierce though...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Talent Show: Speccing Your Ret Paladin, Part II

Last time we went through the Retribution tree and evaluated each talent, going over what sorts of content each talent is designed for. As I mentioned however, going 61 deep into the Ret tree is never a good idea. Let's look at some of the complementary talents from the Holy and Protection trees.

Holy Tree
Tier 1
Divine Strength - increases your total strength by up to 10%. That's a lot of extra attack power! With this talent, a Ret Paladin's strength becomes his best scaling statistic - he'll get 2.3 attack power for every 1 point of strength he has. That quickly adds up. This is a must-have for raiding and for instance groups, but ends up a sacrificial lamb in most PvP builds despite it being an excellent talent. RAID (5/5); PvP (4/5); SOLO (4/5)

Divine Intellect - increases your total intellect by up to 10%. This talent is aimed at the healadins, a Ret Paladin doesn't have much intellect on his gear. 10% of nothing is nothing, I wouldn't invest here. RAID (1/5); PvP (1/5); SOLO (2/5)

Tier 2
Spiritual Focus - grants up to 70% chance to reduce pushback on healing spells. Very useful in small-scale PvP (2v2 arenas, BG's) where you're likely not to have a healer backing you up. Combine this with Concentration Aura and you can cast a heal in anyone's face... just as long as they don't know where their kick or pummel button is. For raiding, it's not quite as useful, since most often when you heal in a raid you won't have something directly beating on you. RAID (2/5); PvP (3/5); SOLO (3/5)

Improved Seal of Righteousness - increases your Judgment and Seal of Righteousness damage. See: Seal of Command. Don't take this. I will hurt you, I mean it. RAID (1/5); PvP (1/5); SOLO (1/5)

Tier 3
Healing Light - increases your healing on Holy Light and Flash of Light by up to 12%. Semi-useful when you need to heal, but as a Ret Paladin you're focusing more on a) killing the opponent before needing to heal, or b) finding ways to prevent the damage before it happens. Useful if you have the points for it, but you usually won't find yourself this far down the tree. RAID (2/5); PvP (3/5); SOLO (3/5)

Aura Mastery - increases your aura range by 10 yards. Nothin' special, simple range extension. Most of the time you'll want to be close to your party-mates though. RAID (2/5); PvP (2/5); SOLO (1/5)

Improved Lay on Hands - I don't know about you guys, but I use Lay on Hands once a raid week on average. It's a tank-saver and can prevent wipes. But, it poofs your mana pool, and if your healers aren't on the ball and you need to consider using LoH often, you gotta fix the healing. It's aight, I guess. RAID (3/5); PvP (1/5); SOLO (1/5)

Unyielding Faith - up to 10% disorient/fear resist. Fear, Howl of Terror, Intimidating Shout, Psychic Scream, Scatter Shot, Blind... these ring any bells? If you thought "oh god, make the warlock stop fearing me!" last time you were in a BG or arena, here's a talent that you'll like. 10% resist may not sound like much, but it's something. And something is better than nothing. For raiding, it comes up in very select fights, but it still gets put to use if you fit it into the build. RAID (3/5); PvP (4/5); SOLO (2/5)

Tier 4
Illumination - returns mana when you crit heal. You don't have much spell crit in Ret gear, and you won't be healing often enough to make use of this talent. 5 points of waste for a Ret Paladin, skip it! RAID (1/5); PvP (2/5); SOLO (2/5)

Improved Blessing of Wisdom - increases the mana return from Blessing of Wisdom. A solo player might find use for this, since he would probably run Wisdom when he's grinding, but in most other situations, you'll have a different blessing up. As for raiding, you'll hopefully have a Holy Paladin come with this talent to cover BoW on the raid, and for PvP, you switch blessings so often between Freedom and Might/Kings you won't find BoW on you for very long. RAID (2/5); PvP (1/5); SOLO (3/5)

If you go any farther in the Holy tree, you won't have 41 points for Crusader Strike, so going lower would illicit a negative response from your's truly. Don't do it.

Protection Tree
Tier 1
Improved Devotion Aura - increases the armor bonus from Devo Aura. If you're running anything besides Sanctity or a resistance aura for any extended period, something went terribly wrong somewhere along the line. RAID (1/5); PvP (1/5); SOLO (1/5)

Redoubt - grants extra block chance when you get hit. Being that you're a Ret Paladin, most of the time you'll have a 2H equipped. There is a time now and again that you'll swap to a sword & shield to tank something, or whip out the healing mace to throw a heal. If you're going to go down the Prot tree to some of the other useful talents, this is your entry card. RAID (2/5); PvP (2/5); SOLO (2/5)

Tier 2
Precision - increases both melee and spell hit by 1/2/3%. USEFUL. TAKE. GOOD. YUMMY. Grabbing 3% melee hit from this talent frees your itemization points on other gear for more attack power, more crit, and other fun stats. Plus, the spell hit helps with your Judgment of Command being resisted less. If you're in the Prot tree, you're coming for this. RAID (5/5); PvP (3/5); SOLO (3/5)

Guardian's Favor - decreases Blessing of Protection cooldown and increases Blessing of Freedom cooldown. I use both those blessings all the time in PvP, and situationally otherwise. Decent use of points to get to the next tier or just if you have leftovers. RAID (3/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (1/5)

Toughness - increases armor from gear by up to 10%. This is more of a tanking talent. It'll help in PvP a tiny bit against Rogues, Warriors, Hunters, Enhancment Shamans, and other Ret Paladins, but there are other ways to increase your survivability (Improved Righteous Fury being one, coming up next tier). RAID (2/5); PvP (3/5); SOLO (3/5)

Tier 3
Blessing of Kings - grants the target 10% increase to all major stats. Arguably most powerful buff in the game. It's one of the reasons Paladins go down the Prot tree at all. Can't hurt to take it if you've got points. However, it's usually not the best blessing for any given situation. Groups generally want Salvation/Wisdom before Kings, PvP involves so much blessing switching between Freedom and Sacrifice that Kings won't stick, and solo you might want to run Wisdom. Worth a point, but buyer beware. RAID (3/5); PvP (4/5); SOLO (3/5)

Improved Righteous Fury - increases threat bonus from Righteous Fury and decreases incoming damage by up to 6%. We're in the Protection tree, no wonder we'll see tanking talents! BUT, this has application for Ret PvP. When entering a BG or an arena, throwing Righteous Fury up gives you an extra buff that the opponent must dispel to get to other vital buffs, and believe me, Priests and Shamans are constantly looking to dispel/purge your buffs. The 6% damage reduction is a welcome bonus to a buff you're probably casting on yourself anyway for PvP! For raiding, having RF active cancels Fanaticism's threat reduction, which is all ready bad times. Skip. RAID (1/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (4/5)

Shield Specialization - increases the amount blocked by your shield by 10/20/30%. You won't have a shield equipped for any appreciable amount of time as Ret. Skip! RAID (1/5); PvP (2/5); SOLO (1/5)

Anticipation - increases your defense skill by up to 20. That's skill, not rating. Great for tanking, only "all right" for Ret. Most likely skipped for something else. RAID (1/5); PvP (1/5); SOLO (2/5)

Tier 4
Stoicism - increases chance to resist purge/dispel and stuns. Those are effects you run into a lot in PvP, but not so much in PvE. Guess what I'm going to recommend for this talent! RAID (1/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (1/5)

Improved Hammer of Justice - decreases Hammer of Justice cooldown by up to 15 seconds. With the 4-piece PvP set bonus, you can get HoJ down to 35 seconds - nearly half its base cooldown. Great for PvP, decent for solo'ing and 5-mans, but generally a waste in raids where hardly anything is vulnerable to stun effects. RAID (1/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (4/5)

Improved Concentration Aura - increases the pushback negation of Conc Aura by 5/10/15% and decreases silence duration. Great Holy talent, since they're constantly casting and silence kills them. Not so great Ret talent, since you're almost never running Conc Aura for very long. RAID (1/5); PvP (2/5); SOLO (1/5)

That ends the Prot tree romp, since you can't go farther without sacrificing Crusader Strike.

Next time, we'll walk through some of the popular talent combinations and examine what content they're good for.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Random Joke & Alt Questions

I love Mitch Hedberg. His delivery is great and his material is almost always funny. One of the tracks from his comedy CD came up on my iPod on the way in to work this morning, figured I'd share:

There is a commercial on late-night TV for this thing you attach to a garden hose. It says, "You can water your hard-to-reach plants with this product." Who the f-ck would make their plants hard to reach!? That seems so very mean. "I know you need water, but I'm gonna make you hard to reach. I will throw water at you. Hopefully, they will invent a product before you shrivel and die. Think like a cactus!"

This product was available for four easy payments of $19.95. I would like a product that was available for three easy payments and one f-cking complicated payment. We can't tell you which payment it is, but one of these payments is going to be a b!tch. The mailman will get shot to death, the envelope will not seal, and the stamp will be in the wrong denomination. Good luck, f-cker! The last payment must be made in wampum!

Next section of The Talent Show coming tomorrow, where as previously mentioned I will run down the Protection and Holy trees and go over the talents available to a Ret Paladin and explain how they benefit (or do not benefit) Retribution.

I'm gathering opinions for my alt. I rolled an Orc Hunter last night just for kicks, played about 20 minutes in the starter zone and enjoyed having a bow in hand. When I played Guild Wars I was a Ranger specialized in Marksmanship, and I loved it, so playing a Hunter in Warcraft might be fun for me. I know BRK has all sorts of guides and posts on talents, leveling and Hunter shtuff, but I figured I'd inquire of the general public - is Beast Mastery the way to go for leveling a Hunter? Is there anything I need to know ahead of time about pet interaction and management? And if you were to roll a Hunter and plan on it being your one and only character on a PvP server, but didn't plan on being a hardcore raider (occasional 10-mans, some random PvP), what professions would you choose - straight gathering (skinning & herbing/mining), herb/alchemy, skinning/leatherworking, mining/engineering, or some other combination?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Talent Show: Speccing Your Ret Paladin, Part I

Talent points give your character direction. You especially like healing? Invest more heavily in Holy. You're a masochistic madman and love takin' a clubbin' and keepin' on chuggin'? Throw points in Protection, you'll love it. Going smashy smashy with a big ol' two-hander is your thing? Retribution is your tree.

However, most often you aren't served by just throwing all your points into your tree of choice. A 61-point Retribution talent build is not a good use of resources. Not every talent is useful to every person, and your choices should compliment what you do most. For example: Improved Blessing of Might. For a solo player, this 5-point talent sounds impressive, but is wholly underwhelming. At 5/5 in Imp. BoM, your Blessing of Might and Greater Blessing of Might have their attack power boosted by 20%. Wowwee kazowwee, 20%! That's huge! ... But wait. Blessing of Might at rank 8 (highest rank currently in game) is +220 attack power. 20% of that is only 44 AP. My Karazhan ring has more AP than that! Plus, half the time I'm running around solo doing dailies and stuff, I've got Blessing of Wisdom up... why did I invest in this talent?

That, my friend, is a good question. For the solo player, talents like Improved Blessing of Might, much like Improved Mark of the Wild for Druids, are not very effective. On the flip side of this however, the raider looks at this talent and says "hmmm... 44 extra AP... times 12 physical DPS'ers getting the blessing... whoa, that's a lot of extra AP in the raid!" Many talents in all 3 of the Paladin trees elicit this sort of reaction. Improved Lay on Hands might excite the raider, but it's pretty uninteresting to the PvP'er. Improved Devotion Aura might look good to that dedicated Holy Paladin to give to his tank friend when they group, but the Protection Paladin shuns it in favor of Redoubt. The situation is no different for Retribution Paladins. Some talents are great, but situationally. Here's a breakdown of the Retribution tree and ratings for each so you can make an informed decision when spending those talent points!

Retribution Tree
Tier 1:
Improved Blessing of Might - As discussed above, 44 extra AP at max BoM rank is great for the raider, but underwhelming for the PvP/solo player (who will often have other blessings up besides BoM). RAID (4/5); PvP (1/5); SOLO (1/5)

Benediction - 15% reduction in mana cost for all seals and judgments. Tasty! Very useful for the solo player and the PvP'er, but the raider actually gets less out of this talent, since he would most likely have Sanctified Judgement, which would off-set some of the savings. RAID (3/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (5/5)

Tier 2:
Improved Judgement - Lowers your Judgement cooldown from 10 seconds to 8 seconds for 2 points. Yes, please! Judging more often increase damage output and allows for more flexibility with judgment juggling. The solo player won't get as much out of this talent though, since a lot of Ret Paladin solo'ing is just turning on a seal and auto-attacking to save mana. RAID (5/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (3/5)

Improved Seal of the Crusader - Increases the critical strike chance of all attackers against the debuffed target by 1/2/3%. Very powerful in large groups, as the effect is not limited by number of attackers or to just people in your party. As you might have guessed, it isn't quite as powerful for small groups, when you're likely to be judging something else (Justice for PvP, Wisdom for most 5-man instances, nothing for solo). RAID (5/5); PvP (2/5); SOLO (2/5)

Deflection - 1% parry per talent point. Very useful to Tankadins, not quite as much to Ret Paladins. It's decent for the solo player or the PvP'er who's likely to get hit by melee attackers a bunch, but for the raider, if the Ret Paladin is taking a lot of attacks, something went wrong with the pull and he's likely dead anyway. RAID (1/5); PvP (3/5); SOLO (4/5)

Tier 3
Vindication - Puts a debuff on your target that reduces all primary attribute stats (strength, agility, stamina, intellect, spirit) by 5/10/15%. It's got a high chance to proc with each melee attack, is a magic debuff, and annoys the snot out of people in PvP. Most bosses in instances are immune to it though, making it fairly useless in raids. RAID (1/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (3/5)

Conviction - If you skip this talent and plan on going farther down the tree, you don't have an understanding of how Ret Paladins work. It's a requirement for Vengeance later on, and melee crits are yummy. RAID (5/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (5/5)

Seal of Command - Again, an essential Retribution talent, even for Hordies with their Seal of Blood cheating. Skip it and I'd hunt you down and make you write "I will not bubble-hearth out of an instance" in your guild chat 100 times and make your guild hate you. Don't think I won't do it. RAID (5/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (5/5)

Pursuit of Justice - This is a hot topic talent. Some never leave home without it, and some think it's a waste. Here's the skinny: putting less than the maximum 3 points in this talent is generally a waste, since you can get basically the same functionality from 2/3 as you can from a Cat's Switfness, Boar's Speed, or Minor Run Speed enchant to your boots or a run speed meta gem. You can emulate the mounted speed increase with Mithril Spurs and a riding glove enchant, or just wait 'til you have Crusader Aura and forget about all that anyway. However, with 3/3 in this talent, you can get 15% increased run speed all the time, which is matched only by Mutilate Rogues who talent into Fleet Footed. This talent can either shine or be a waste, depending on your play-style and your preferences. I personally love it for Retribution - the quicker you get to your target, the quicker it dies. And for raiding, the quicker you can hop out of environmental hazards and AoE's, the longer you live! RAID (4/5); PvP (4/5); SOLO (3/5)

Tier 4
Eye for an Eye - This is strictly a PvP talent. Don't believe what other people tell you, you are not at risk of most NPC monsters critting you with spells. RAID (0/5); PvP (4/5); SOLO (2/5)

Improved Retribution Aura - If I catch you talenting into this talent, there will be pain. Lots of pain. Why are you not using Sanctity Aura? Bad Ret Pally, bad! RAID (0/5); PvP (0/5); SOLO (0/5)

Crusade - 1/2/3% damage increase against the major hostile types you'll face in the world... of Warcraft. Small percentages add up over time, so this is great for sustained DPS in a group or raid. In PvP and solo, where encounters are quick and you most often wreck your target and it's over in a blink, an extra 3% damage most likely won't break you. Skip it if you're strapped for points in a PvP build, take it if you're a raider or a grouper. RAID (5/5); PvP (3/5); SOLO (3/5)

Tier 5
Two-handed Weapon Specialization - 2/4/6% damage increase while wielding a two-hander. 3 points nets you a decent chunk of damage, and you're using a 2H weapon anyway... you are a Retribution Paladin, after all. RAID (5/5); PvP (4/5); SOLO (4/5)

Sanctity Aura - One of the defining talents of the tree, 10% increase to all holy damage sources. This boosts your Judgement of Command, Seal of Command, Consecration, Exorcism, and Holy Wrath. Recognize any spells you use often? Good. Take it. RAID (5/5); PvP (4/5); SOLO (5/5)

Improved Sanctity Aura - 2 points nets you a 2% increase to all damage sources for you and your party while under the effects of Sanctity Aura. Like I said before, small percentages add up over time. Great for raiding, decent for PvP and solo (but you can probably find other places for the points). RAID (5/5); PvP (3/5); SOLO (3/5)

Tier 6
Vengeance - 5/5 in this talent nets you a stacking damage increase whenever you crit, which caps at 15%. Another "skip it and I'll find and murder your hamster" talent. RAID (5/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (5/5)

Sanctified Judgement - at 3/3 you can get 80% of the mana you paid up for a Seal back when you judge it. Over a few minutes, that's a lot of mana refunded. Over a short encounter, you're likely not in danger of running out of mana before it's over. RAID (5/5); PvP (3/5); SOLO (3/5)

Tier 7
Sanctified Seals - makes your Seals undispellable and ups your crit. Solid talent, useful all around but the undispellable part makes it essential for Ret PvP. RAID (5/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (5/5)

Repentance - while not especially useful when you're grinding non-humanoids, it's essential to getting Fanatacism for the threat reduction for grouping, and it's very useful in the PvP scene. You almost can't afford *not* to get it. RAID (5/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (4/5)

Divine Purpose - does basically the same thing as the Resilience stat does, except only for physical attacks. Does not stack with Resilience past the Resilience cap (25% reduction), and you usually shouldn't have the points for it. Might help a tiny bit for solo'ists and PvP'ers who are light on PvP gear. RAID (1/5); PvP (3/5); SOLO (3/5)

Tier 8
Fanaticism - ups your Judgment crit chance and reduces your threat. Essential for grouping, useful elsewhere. RAID (5/5); PvP (3/5); SOLO (4/5)

Tier 9
Crusader Strike - I'd like to reiterate my previous statements about public humiliation and personal threats here. Don't go this far down the tree without taking the defining ability. RAID (5/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (5/5)

Next time, I'll go through the relavent Protection and Holy talents. Until then, merry hunting!