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.