Friday, May 2, 2008

How Retribution Benefits Your Raid

Let's say you're a raid leader. You've got your healing and tanking covered, and the DPS positions are still in flux. You've got a mish-mosh of a fury warrior, a mess of rogues, feral druids, an enhancement shaman and a ret paladin to consider for your melee classes. Conventional wisdom would say "take the highest DPS potential of the bunch and roll with it," right? Well, if you take the fury warrior and 4 rogues, the highest personal damage-potential of the bunch, and slop them into a group together, you'll certainly see some damage done. However, if you step back and carefully evaluate what your options are, you'll see that there's some merit in mixing and matching. Blizzard designed the classes to have interlocking and complementary skill sets, and if all players involved are good at what they do, you'll generally find that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Across many guilds, the standard melee group is an Enhancement Shaman, a DPS Warrior (either Arms/Fury hybrid for Mortal Strike or deep Fury for Bloodthirst), and either 3 Rogues (Combat specialized in Swords or Fists) or 2 Rogues and a Feral Druid (when not needed to tank). Any other physical DPS (Hunters, extra Rogues, other Feral Druids) are usually dumped in another group with a Restoration Shaman who will drop Grace of Air totems to give them all agility boosts. The Enhancement Shaman drops Windfury totem for the Warriors and Rogues in his group, giving them extra attacks and a big damage boost. A Retribution Paladin brings a little less personal damage than that 3rd or 4th Rogue would, its true. But! Here's a list of things a Retribution Paladin can do that I guarentee that 3rd Rogue can't duplicate:

Boost his party's damage by 2%
Restore mana to all spell-casters actively casting at the Ret's target
Restore health to all melee-damagers actively attacking the Ret's target
Boost the entire raid's crit rate by 3% against his target
Cast Blessings on the raid (more powerful argument if the raid is paladin-light)
Provide emergency measures to protect raid members - Blessing of Protection to save an aggro-tastic DPS'er, Lay on Hands to give a tank an instant big heal

Now, you look at that list and say "meh, those are all minor buffs." Au contraire, some of them make up for any drop in damage going from the Rogue to the Paladin by themselves! You know how your casters can't get enough of having that Shadow Priest in their group? Judgment of Wisdom restores about the same amount of mana to all the raid's mana-users as a Shadow Priest does to only his group. Plus, as your raid's damage scales up, the Ret Paladin's aura scales with them! 2% boost may not sound like much, but my previous demonstration of Blood Frenzy shows that small percentage increases for the large numbers of damage your DPS'ers will do are definitely noticeable at the end. Judgments and Improved Sanctity Aura are very powerful buffs to a raid, especially over a long encounter.

[As an aside, this post by Zurm on the Elitist Jerks forum outlines a rough estimate of the how much more damage a Ret Paladin gains from being in the "melee group" than that 3rd Rogue, in case you do plan on bringing a Ret Paladin to a raid and don't know where to stick 'em.]

It's entirely possible you read that and said "pfff, Josh you're overblowing the value of the paladin's contribution." Then I'll counter that you're overlooking the value of incremental increases. Sure, that 5% crit that Leader of the Pack provides is flashy, since when you crit your damage numbers get all bold and increase in font size. You get visible results. You might not notice, however, when your average Sinister Strike from your sword Rogue goes from (pulling a number from nowhere) 600 to 612. But think about it this way - stick an extra 12 damage onto every single attack that Rogue makes. How many times does a Rogue strike the boss in a 5 minute boss fight? Some Rogues can get their attack speed down to under a second, putting out a flurry of attacks. Lumping an extra 12 damage onto 600-some-odd auto-attacks and any specials the Rogue might perform adds up... and then you multiply that effect out over 4 party members. Warcraft is a game of numbers at its base, and moving from a "tier 5" to a "tier 6" piece of loot might involve a simple increase of 5-10 of a certain base statistic for your character, which overall has a similarly small impact on single attacks, but adds up when considered over an entire fight. And the best part of this benefit that Improved Sanctity Aura provides in this regard is it's percentage based. As the gear of his party improves, the effect of the Ret Paladin's aura is amplified.

You might have also read above and then thought to yourself "Well, all paladins have the ability to judge a target. Why not just make them pick a Judgment and keep it up themselves?" Holy Paladins and Prot Paladins can certainly manage to judge and then maintain their Judgment. However, it usually results in disaster. For Holy Paladins, healing is enough of a strain on their attention. Having only single target heals, a Holy Paladin must be dynamically evaluating who needs their healing most and constantly casting heals to counteract any damage that occurs. Taking time out to allow for a Judgment now and again might make them fall behind in their healing. In addition, to judge, the Holy Paladin must venture close to the mob, which puts them in danger of unforseen splash damage and point-blank area-of-effects they might not be prepared to deal with. On the Protection Paladin side of things, not every encounter involves one mob. Protection Paladins are frequently used in boss encounters to round up additional monsters that spawn, or tank one of multiple targets, so you don't always have the Protection Paladin hitting the "main target." It's hard to apply a Judgment from halfway across the room, and it's often risky to drag whatever the Prot Paladin might be tanking close to the other target - most mobs are kept separated for a reason.

Now, this is not to say that every raid should seek out a Ret Paladin. If the Paladin doesn't know how to gear himself, has terrible situational awareness, and doesn't know which skills to use in what order, the benefits he has the potential to provide diminish in the face of the raw damage output a knowledgable Rogue or a savvy Feral Druid could provide in his place. Player skill should always be considered. However, if you're faced with the decision of whether to bring that 3rd Rogue or a Ret Paladin to fill out your damage squad, I'd hope you'd understand the power of Judgments and Auras, and the damage capability of the class in general.

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