Saturday, May 3, 2008

So Very Judgmental

Retribution revolves around two abilities: Crusader Strike and Judgment. The strike provides on-command instant damage and refreshes any Judgment debuffs on the target. Judgment unleashes either damage or a debuff, depending upon what Seal the Paladin has active. These 2 abilities, combined with my auto-attack, account for over 75% of my damage in most raid boss encounters. The debuff refresh from Crusader Strike is a very, very important ability, as it is the reason why a Retribution Paladin is the preferred method for maintaining Judgment debuffs on a target rather than just making the Holy Paladins stand in melee range and keep judging them. Having the Holy Paladin attempt to keep his own Judgment up is putting him in harm's way and dividing his attention. A distracted healer leads to dead raiders, and putting someone near melee range that doesn't need to be exposes that person to potentially unnecessary AoE's and splash damage. Plus, to reliably keep the Judgment up, he'd have to re-judge it every time (expending a nice chunk of extra mana and taking up Global Cooldowns) or else run the risk of his attack to refresh it being dodged or missed (since he will most likely not have any increased chance to score melee hits). Having that Ret Paladin allows the Holy Paladin to literally fire and forget, as most often the Ret Paladin can guarentee to score at least one Crusader Strike every 20 seconds, refreshing the Judgments for the entire fight.

The issue comes in fights where the Ret Paladin cannot guarentee to land a Crusader Strike every 20 seconds. Fights like Leotheras the Blind, High Astromancer Solarian, Supremus, Illidan, The Lurker Below, and a few others - are fights in which the DPS either a) switch targets semi-frequently or b) do not have access to hit the boss for extended periods. Leotheras as an example, when he's about to whirlwind, everyone scatters to avoid getting clipped by him. His whirlwind lasts a fair bit. Combine the travel time getting away from Leo, plus his whirlwind time, plus whatever time it takes to close the distance to where he stops whirlwinding, and most often it's more than 20 seconds, guarentee'ing the Judgments will have run out and faded. Oftentimes a Holy Paladin cannot be bothered to re-judge midfight - one of the reasons you bring a Ret Paladin is to free the Holys from the bear of judging more than once or twice an encounter. Leotheras transitions frequently enough that it really messes with the Holys' rhythm. This condition is true of many of the fights I mentioned. I'm still grappling with how to keep Judgments going on these sorts of fights (when possible, since I couldn't Crusader Strike Lurker or Solarian during their phase transitions even if I wanted to) without endangering myself or the raid in the process.

I know that many classes face a similar problem with their essential debuffs fading because of extended time spent not being able to DPS, but Judgments are the only debuffs in the game that can be refreshed by a person but not applied or re-applied by the same person. Fire Mages can Scorch and have other Fire Mages refresh their Scorch stack, but the Fire Mage could just as well apply a new stack on his own. Same goes for Warlocks and Improved Shadow Bolt, and Warriors and Sunder Armor. However, a Ret Paladin can only apply one Judgment - the others must come from two other unique paladin sources. If they disappear, the Ret Paladin cannot reapply them without losing the one he applied to begin with. This is the fundamental difference in Ret Paladins as a debuffing class: we cannot operate independently, and are completely reliant on outside sources to make use of one of our main utilities. This condition not only bothers me because I must depend on the other paladins to justify my usefulness, but it's also troubling because having less than 3 paladins means I cannot operate at full capacity. If you have one warrior in the raid, Thunderclap/Demo Shout/Sunder Armor will all still be applied, albeit at some loss of threat/DPS potential from the warrior. If I'm the only paladin in the raid, the raid is only getting one Judgment. Period. End of story.

Now I'd love it if Blizzard made it so that one paladin could apply multiple Judgment debuffs, but that's probably just wishful thinking...

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