Monday, June 30, 2008

No More Teachers, No More Books

... no more respeccing for PvP, rooks!

Okay, I stretched that saying, but I hope you'll forgive me in time.

Welcome to summer, people! July is fast approaching, school's out for the summer (not that that affects me at all, I'm a working stiff), and the Blizzard WWI was this weekend, kicking off a host of speculation that will most likely keep knocking around the community for months to come. What I am most excited about from the news from the event? Well, I'll tell you!

MMO Champion reports that there are plans to give players a second talent spec that they can switch between! This is big, big, BIG news for players like me. I respec at least twice a week to bounce between a PvP-oriented spec to arena more effectively, and a PvE oriented spec to squeeze every last drop of DPS out in raids. I even respec to tank occasionally. The gold cost is not even the issue - 100g to spec back and forth is hardly a drop in the bucket nowadays. I can make that by flying around Nagrand for a little bit with my Mining Pick and Zapthrottle, sucking up Motes of Air and bagging Adamantite Ore for sale on the Auction House.

No, where this change would really hit home is the convenience factor. No longer would I have to pop over to Ironforge or Stormwind and spend a few minutes swapping out talents. No longer would I have to consider whether its worth the time/money spent to do some serious arena games when I've got a raid coming up soon - do I really want to spec PvP right now, only to respec two hours later? If this change does go through, that means I can PvP in a PvP spec whenever I want, and throw down and raid without having to go to the trainer and get bonked on the head first.

Screw Death Knight news, don't care about the inconsequential story that Ret Paladins will use the same armor as DK's and Warriors (we all ready do, silly Blizzard...), no no no. I want more info on alternate talent specs. Why are you not as excited as I am? Get pumped people, this is HUGE.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Career Fair: Choosing your professions

Everyone in the World of Warcraft has a job. In fact, most people have at least two professions. We're all workin' stiffs, but we have flexible hours and no bosses. Plus, we take home every penny we earn - the only overhead we have to account for are auction house fees for posting our goods and services. The perfect job, right?

Choosing your professions on your Retribution Paladin is tough. Several of the crafting professions (which are composed of Tailoring, Leatherworking, Blacksmithing, Engineering, Alchemy, Enchanting, and Jewelcrafting) present excellent items for use in your raiding career, whether they be a sweet set of goggles or a stack of potions to chug furiously. Let's take a look around at the WoW career fair and see what each crafting profession has to offer, shall we? Let's head to the first table...

We here at the Clothier's Coven weave and sew the finest garments to be found in Azeroth! A bevy of bodacious bodices are begging you to bedazzle your foes with... wait, you're a what? A Paladin? Don't you wear plate armor? And get up real close to big hairy monsters that could impale you with sharp pikes? Sorry hun, I think you're at the wrong table.
Tailoring does not have much to offer a raiding Ret Paladin in terms of usable items, either in the consumable realm or in gear. It is suited for the spell-casters only. Don't become a tailor.

Ah, a fresh face! I wish to welcome to you to the Leatherworking Shop. We take the hides and skins of the fauna from both Azeroth and Outland and create an assortment of leather goods with them - from tunics to drums to capes! I know you wear plate mail - not to worry, we have some great options for you, even though you may not want to wear a lot of the armor produced in our shop. Do you consider yourself the musical sort? Here, hold these drums for a bit...
The Leatherworking profession offers one of the most powerful raid consumables available: [Drums of Battle]. 4 leatherworkers in the same group can cycle their drums and keep the haste buff up for the entire duration of a raid encounter. Many DPS'ers, regardless of their armor class, take up leatherworking for drums alone. In addition, you would be able to create armor patches for leg armor that tanks and physical DPS classes will need any time they upgrade their armor. If you're looking to min/max to the fullest, becoming a leatherworker for one of your professions is an excellent idea.

Oi! Paladin! I know you're goin' to like my wares. Have ya ever considered becomin' a blacksmith? Look at all the great stuff we can hammer out from raw metal! I can make you armor so tough you'll think it's made of hardened adamantite. And some of it is! And the weapons! Oh the weapons! Have you ever heard of the fabled mace, Stormherald? I can teach you the secret to crafting it. Just sign right here and I'll open a world of possibilities for you.
Being a plate-wearing class, blacksmithing seems like a no-brainer profession choice. It is a solid option - there are a few bind-on-pickup blacksmithing items that are excellent for Retribution Paladins. The weaponsmith progression for swordsmith and hammersmith yield excellent t5-t6 level weapons at the end ([Lionheart Executioner] and [Stormherald], respectively), and there are a few Sunwell patterns that yield best in slot plate DPS items, like the [Hard Khorium Battleplate] and [Hard Khorium Battlefists]. No one can fault you for hanging out by the ol' anvil.

My, you're a tall one! Excuse me, let me readjust my goggles, you're a bit out of focus. Ah, there we go! Welcome to Tinker Togglecog's Engineering Emporium! We here at Tinker's strive to make the most ingenious contraptions that Azeroth has ever known! Have you ever seen a Battle Chicken stride into battle and peck away your opponents' will to live? Or do you have the testicular fortitude to lob highly combustible detonatory demolitions devices at short range into a crowd? Have I got a deal for you! Here, take my card, and come back later! We'll talk gears and Goblin Sapper Charges.
Engineering is a quirky profession. It has something to offer to every armor class in its epic goggle patterns, creates one of the best tanking guns in the game pre-Black Temple ([Gyro-Balanced Khorium Destroyer]), is the only profession who can enhance ranged weapons through the creation of scopes, and offers a wide range of trinkets and explosives for use. It even doubles as a gathering profession with the [Zapthrottle Mote Extractor]. All in all, you can get a lot of bang for your buck out of engineering. As for raid benefits to a Retribution Paladin, however, the goggle crafts are the only tangible benefit you can reap, and they are often side-grades to raid drops. One thing you do bring that no one else can, though, is [Field Repair Bot 110G] (or 74A, if you like), which can repair and refresh your raid.

A potential brewer! Quick Beaker, bring the flasks! Welcome, fair paladin. I know you're going to like our goods. You seem a bit tired, may I offer you a pick-me-up? Here, drink this potion, I'm sure it'll invigorate you. Hits the spot, doesn't it? That's just a taste of what we can mix! I can teach you to brew the finest flasks, the most potent potions, and the craziest concoctions known to man or Orc! Have some samples - I know you're going to love 'em!
Alchemists are necessary for any raider. They brew up our mana, health, haste, and destruction potions. In addition, they can create a variety of flasks and elixirs to boost our stats and make us harder, better, faster, and stronger. "But Josh," you're thinking, "all of that stuff is transferable between players! I don't need to be an alchemist to use potions and flasks!" You're correct, the base stuff is not alchemist-specific. BUT, there are special alchemy products that only the alchemist can benefit from, like epic trinkets that boost the mana/health gain from potions, alchemist-only potions that grant extra buffs beyond mana/health, and being able to brew your own drinks instead of finding a mixologist to do it for you is a big plus.

Elune guides us, mighty warrior. You have no doubt seen others striding about town with an aura about them, or a glow emanating from their weaponry. That is our doing. We of the Enchanter's Society have the power to imbue weapons and armor with blessings of unspeakable power. That mace you possess? We know the secrets to making it pass through armor as if it were not there, or to granting it the quickness of a mongoose. Do you wish to know this gift? We can teach you the secrets of our trade.
Enchanters hold a special place in the Azerothian community. Their's is the only profession which gathers its own materials. Jewelcrafters require raw gems, which are from prospecting raw ore or mining ore veins; leatherworkers require hides procured by skinners, and so on. Enchanters simply take old gear and turn it into dust and essence, which they employ in their enchants. They also are much sought after, as no serious raider leaves their gear unenchanted if they intend to wear it. What can you gain from being an enchanter yourself that you could not if you got your enchants from another? Enchanters can enchant their rings, something that cannot be done for others. Plus, you are granted the ability to turn your outdated soulbound gear into enchanting materials, which you can put toward the enchant for your new piece of gear. For the min/max'ers among us, the ring enchants alone are reason enough to become an enchanter, as they provide a little extra in terms of stats that could not be had otherwise.

The Jewelcrafter's Guild welcomes you, esteemed Paladin. You have no doubt heard of our services, have you not? We can shape the rarest of gems into powerful foci to enhance your armor. I see that your chestplate has a few indentations in it - what would you say if I told you that I could fit a ruby in there that could make you feel as though you had the strength of 10 men? Okay, not 10 men, but certainly stronger! Come, let us discuss the finer points of gem carving.
The jewelcrafters of Azeroth, much like the enchanters, are in high demand. Any time a new piece of armor is acquired that has gem slots, a jewelcrafter's services will be required to cut, shape, and carve an appropriate gem to fit into the slots. We're not here to talk about the business end of jewelcrafting, however. What can this profession do for you as a raider? Well, bind-on-pickup JC-only gems can be made that are the most powerful single gems in the game, which can provide that extra little oomph to your armor. Several epic trinkets are available, one of which that can boost your attack power and summon a pet to fight alongside you ([Figurine: Khorium Boar]). Not to mention the jewelry that can be crafted from Sunwell patterns. Jewelcrafting is a very potent profession.
So, what can we take away from all this? Well, first and foremost, you can gain a benefit from any of the crafting professions as a Retribution Paladin (except for tailoring). Whatever your fancy is, go with it! You can make it work.

Most players choose to pair a gathering profession (Herbalism, Skinning, or Mining) with a crafting profession. If you choose this route, I recommend taking the gathering profession that finds raw materials for your craft of choice - Herbalism for Alchemists, Skinning for Leatherworkers, and Mining for Blacksmiths/Engineers/Jewelcrafters. Enchanters don't have a gathering profession to pair up with. There is merit to this choice, as it provides a steady stream of materials with which to create your gear/consumables.

If you're looking to become the absolute strongest raider you can be, however, you'll want to take two crafting professions. It becomes expensive to keep going, but such is the cost of being the best! As I mentioned, all the crafts have a benefit in a raid setting, but some are stronger than others. The single most beneficial profession to a DPS'er is currently leatherworking - Drums of Battle cycled between 4 leatherworkers creates 100% up-time for the haste buff, which is a big deal. After that, it is most likely a toss-up between blacksmithing, alchemy, jewelcrafting, and enchanting. The weapon crafts and Sunwell patterns for blacksmithing are very potent, but are rivaled in potency by raid drops. The advantage is that blacksmithing allows a Paladin to craft his weapon instead of cross his fingers for the gods of chance to smile upon him. Alchemy brings the [Assassin's Alchemist Stone], which is excellent for refilling your mana bar when you chug a potion, but there are other trinkets out there that provide very potent DPS buffs, like [Dragonspine Trophy] and [Berserker's Call]. And then there are the small stat boosts from the professional-only gems and enchants. It's wide open, and highly debatable.

If PvP is more your thang, then the crafts you'll want are very different. Most consumables are not usable in the arena, which is the most popular form of player vs. player combat. That makes alchemy and leatherworking a disadvantage for the PvP'er, since the benefits are all consumable based for Retribution Paladins. Blacksmithing, engineering, jewelcrafting and enchanting all have the same benefits they do for raiders, and engineers have the added benefit of grenades for use in battlegrounds (all though using them on a regular basis gets pricey). Blacksmithing and engineering, I think, tend to be weaker choices for PvP than jewelcrafting and enchanting, since the gear you can craft will not have resilience on it, so oftentimes you will end up using PvP gear instead. If you want to min/max a PvP Retribution Paladin, your choice will most likely end up as jewelcrafting and enchanting.

I hope you enjoyed your guided tour of the Azerothian Career Fair! Now starts our question and answer period. Questions, anyone?

To Catch a Predator

I live to share. Funny comic - non-WoW related (it's a Warhammer comic), but I think that anyone who plays WoW can relate. From The Secret Lives of Mobs, by Rory Phillips (original context):

Thursday, June 26, 2008


By the request of Tom at Blessing of Might, today I'll be sharing with you my personal impressions on playing a Retribution Paladin in arena PvP during season 3. Before proceeding, please note that I regard myself as a raider, not a PvP'er, and that I have no accurate knowledge of how good (or bad) I am at PvP, despite having played an unhealthy amount of 2v2 and 3v3 games over the past arena season with an assortment of combos and partners.

All though I rarely log out in my PvP gear nowadays, I possess 4/5 Vengeful gear for Retribution, gemmed up with epic gems and enchanted to the max. I am only missing the shoulders from the set, and use a season 3 mace enchanted with Executioner in conjunction with my PvP armor for arena/battlegrounds, in addition to having all the honor-based trimmings (belt, boots, bracers, rings, necklace, trinkets). In short, I'm was a 2000-rated team short of having absolute full season 3 gear. The highest I have reached in each bracket is in the high 1700's in 2v2 (Ret/ShS Rogue combo), 1970ish in 3v3 (Ret/MS/Resto Druid), and 1860something in 5v5 (Ret/MS/Enh Shaman/Resto Druid/Disc Priest).

Playing arena for me is alternately frustrating and a raucous good time. It depends on who I'm playing with. There's a fine line to be walked between having a good time while not investing too much in each match, and playing strategically/analytically with good timing and fluid interaction with my partner. Take each match too lightly, and the losses mount as you get outmaneuvered. Invest too much in each match, and it becomes frustrating when a Repentance gets broken or a string of events gets the better of you and you lose a match. I tend to get way too invested in every match, so I've eased off the arena throttle recently.

This bracket makes it very, very hard for a Ret Paladin to succeed. Not having very much crowd control or a healing debuff precludes Ret Paladins from pairing with a healer at high levels, so that forces us into a double DPS combo. The most common partners are ShS Rogues, SL/SL Warlocks, and Frost Mages, because all of those classes provide a large amount of battlefield control while the Ret Paladin brings defensive buffs and big burst damage. In the case of the ShS Rogue and the Frost Mage, both partners can go effectively immune to damage for a time, which is very valuable for a heal-light team. More often than not, any combo in 2v2 with a Ret Paladin will require a perfectly executed CC chain (for example, Sap - Blind - Repentance - Hammer of Justice - Blind) on one opponent while the other is being focused, and then the fight is "reset" as the Paladin shields/heals and the partner uses a "get away from me" cooldown (Ice Block, Vanish, etc.). It's a lot easier to get a 2v2 team online at the same time to play games, but I feel like I'm at a distinct disadvantage whenever I go into the 2v2 arena.

When I was playing arena seriously, my preferred bracket was 3v3. The two combo's I tried with the most success were Ret/MS Warrior/Resto Druid, and the same combo replacing the Druid with a Resto Shaman. I managed to get each combo into the 1900 range, but never could quite crack the 2000 barrier before strings of bad losses caused my teammates to start pointing fingers and eventually the teams broke up. With a Shaman healer, the basic strategy was simple - zerg the squishie. With Windfury totem, Mortal Strike debuff, and two 2H-wielders beating on a target, possibly both with Heroism, not many could stay alive for very long. The team had a noticeable lack of crowd control, however, and depended on the Warrior's hamstrings and a tenuous Blessing of Protection to protect the healer. Very easy for things to go south. On the other hand, the Resto Druid healer was a bit more self-sufficient and provided some crowd control, but the damage output of the team was a lot lower without Windfury/Heroism. In both cases, an excellent healer is hard to find, as playing both of those healer classes at a high level is tough.

This bracket feels like a total cluster-f*ck to me. There are so many buffs/debuffs flying around, and 10 people usually stacked into tight spaces, that I get a bit overwhelmed and tend to try and tunnel vision on a target to compensate, which is never the right thing to do. I was able to zerg a team to 1860 or so going 27-2 over two play sessions on a tri-melee rush team, but I think that was luck combined with some bad opponents and out-of-their-mind play from my teammates over those two days. We were never able to replicate that success, and having no CC would have hurt us later. I've never been on a 5v5 where I wasn't leading the team and calling the targets - I might find it more enjoyable if I weren't the leader.


Since I have a day job, raid 3 nights a week, desire at least 5 hours of sleep a night, and attempt to maintain some semblance of a social life, arena is generally relegated to a sideshow with me, reserved for random weekend afternoons when I'm bored and don't feel like being productive. Because of that, my feelings on arena might be totally skewed, but I tend to see myself as a bit of a gimp in the arena. I bring defensive abilities (BoP, Cleanse, BoF, HoJ) to my team in addition to high raw damage output, but there are glaring weaknesses to the Ret Paladin in the arena - easily drained of his mana, no CC, no healing debuff, weak heals, and once Divine Shield gets blown he's a sitting duck 12 seconds later, if not sooner. I could launch into a huge QQ post here, but I'm going to bite my tongue, since I complain about Ret's shortcomings too much.

I hope this sates you, Tom. I know I didn't relate any specific 2v2 experiences like you requested, but then again that's my least memorable bracket, and I'm not a PvP'er.

For anyone seeking more in-depth discussion about Ret Paladin arena, head over to Arena Junkies, Cromfel's forum or, as there are many more avid PvP'ers that frequent those forum communities. Megan over at Out of Mana is also a much better arena resource than I amongst the bloggers, even though I do not think she has played her Paladin as Retribution.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Pally, a Pole, and a Can o' Worms

When I first rolled my Paladin, I didn't quite understand the concept of secondary professions. I thought that First Aid, Fishing, and Cooking all counted toward the two-profession limit, just like Mining or Alchemy. So, I avoided them. Cathmor, as originally conceived, was a Miner/Blacksmith and that was that.

When I started getting into the upper 40's, however, and joined a guild with the intention to raid when I got to 60, I was informed of my mistake. The guild required all members to have maxed First Aid so that they could bandage themselves and save their own lives in Molten Core. Obedient holy man that I was, I went and bought cloth to grind my bandage ability up, despite possessing the ability to heal myself through holy magics. Fishing and Cooking, however, I didn't do anything about. I had no desire to stand around with my line in the water, waiting for fish I wouldn't want to eat, and I didn't know about the benefits of Well Fed buffs either. I was a noob, so sue me.

Today, I fully understand the benefits of the Well Fed buff, and am constantly scrounging for [Roasted Clefthoof] to munch on during raids. I can't cook it, so I always need to bug a guildie to be my personal chef. Last week, I decided to be more self-sufficient. I grabbed a fishing pole and resolved to grind my Fishing and Cooking up to 375, by hook or by c(r)ook!
(Get it? Hook & cook? Ah, nevermind. My puns are terrible...)

I'm working loosely from the Wowwiki page on powerleveling fishing and cooking. This personal quest has taken the place of leveling an alt, since I reaffirmed to myself my inability to stay focused on an alt. I just hate the concept of having to grind out another 70 levels and then grind reputation and gear all over again. My brain has no problem accepting silly side-quests for my Paladin though, as this Fishing/Cooking extravaganza will be. Over the weekend I was able to get both into the mid-200's - this week I'll be venturing with my [Seth's Graphite Fishing Pole] and a bunch of [Sharpened Fish Hook] or [Aquadynamic Fish Attractor] to the ends of Azeroth, seeking exotic new sushi and learning new ways to grill or saute my catch.

Hopefully, I'll stick with this mission and end up with the ability to participate in another random part of the World of Warcraft to which I previously had no access. Maybe I'll enter that fishing competition down in Booty Bay one o' these days! Or perhaps find the ring of legend... preeeecious...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Maintankadin T-Shirts!

As noted by the illustrious Maintankadin forum admin Aergis here, the premier Prot Paladin resource is considering creating some T-Shirts to let Prot Paladins worldwide wave the banner. It's not Ret-related, but I'm an avid forum-goer so I feel the need to spread the news.

Head over, and check out some of the options, put in your opinion on the best proposed t-shirt design! Here's my favorite:

The Sociology of Gaming - Slaying Monsters for Science

John Bohannon recently published an article in Science Magazine which was noted on WoW Insider. A gathering of economists, sociologists, psychologists, and computer science academics gathered in select locations around Azeroth and held a bonafide scientific conference, discussing virtual worlds and their effect on personal interaction and self identification. Conversation ranged from truth in disclosure amongst anonymous gamers to stability of personality when transfering between the real-world and character embodiment.

Having obtained my college degree in sociology, the article was riveting for me, even if it did not disclose much as to the content of the discussion. I would need to subscribe to the Science Mag to see the full transcript. The concept of gathering in Azeroth instead of at a conference center is an ingenious one, as noted by Bohannon:

...people can take part from all over the world without leaving home. It reduces the environmental footprint and—aside from the $15 monthly fee for maintaining a World of Warcraft account—it's free.
He and the other organizers got around the logistical barriers of factional non-communication between Alliance and Horde, in addition to conference-goers who may not have WoW characters, by having everyone roll a Horde character and arranging escort parties to the various locales where the conference meetings were to be held. Bohannon relates a funny (yet tragic) story about one of his charges being torn asunder by hyenas in the Barrens on the way to a meeting point.

I could tell you more, but then I would just be re-hashing the article. All in all, a great read for those who have a lust for the study of social interaction.

Synergies Between DPS and Tanks/Healers

Saladfork and Phaelia made very insightful posts about the relationship between tanks and their assigned healers a while back. What about the DPS'ers though? We might not have the same instant bond those two share with their assigned life mate in instances, but I definitely have a budding relationship between myself and specific tanks & healers.

With the tanks...
The DPS figure out very quickly which tanks are threat monsters and which are just meat shields. The ability to dish out tons of threat and make a monster hate you above all else, even with fireballs and daggers shooting up that monster's a$$, is a prized skill for groups and raids. For every point of threat a tank can produce, each DPS'er can push out (roughly) two more points of damage without becoming an tasty Gnome-kabob or fresh floor ornamentation. We notice. When I can start outputting damage on a target as soon as a tank engages and lands his/her first threat ability, I notice. When a tank can go from off-tank to main-tank on a target when the main tank dies inexplicably, allowing the mob to start eating the faces of all the melee who were riding that tank's behind threat-wise, I notice. I definitely find myself a bit more contented when certain tanks are slated to tank rather than others, because I know that I can push that much harder and the mob will be dead-er quicker.

With the healers...
There are many, many situations where the melee DPS are assigned a dedicated healer. Void Reaver springs to mind immediately - the melee'ers stay right behind Void Reaver for the entire fight, stabbing away and bending their weapons on his thick armor, getting continually pounded by his PBAoE (that's point-blank area of effect spells, for the uninitiated). In that situation, Restoration Shaman and Circle of Healing Priests are receive my undying love. On Na'jentus too, I often get brain heals thrown at me for the entire fight. It's knowing that the heal is coming that allows me to keep pounding away at the monster's backside without having to stop and either a) bandage myself, b) drink a potion or chomp a healthstone, or, Light forbid, c) use my precious mana on a Holy Light for myself. If I don't trust the assigned healer with my life, my damage suffers, and then it takes longer for the boss to die, creating openings for healer-fail, surprise disconnects, or random acts of tank death.


The relationships the DPS form with the tanks and healers tend to be one-sided, however. While the tanks and healers know who's assigned to whom and can know they have each other's backs, the DPS are simply told to unleash hell on X target, not to rush to the aid of Y tank or free Z healer's hands from shielding Y tank from certain death. Because of that, the tanks and healers don't really have an opportunity to bond with specific DPS'ers. The one exception would be the threat-monster Destruction Warlock or Fury Warrior who's always riding a tank's a$$ on the threat meter - tanks notice them, and grow to either hate them, or at least have less than warm-and-fuzzy feelings about them. Believe me, I know - I played Protection for a while, and the Elemental Shaman whom I have tanked for pushed me to new threat heights, and my first feeling about it wasn't "thanks for making me a better tank!" It was more like "/grumble, that gorram ele shammy is on my arse again..."

Relationships for the DPS tend to be with each other - friendly competitions to blast/stab/smash/gib monsters harder and faster than the guy next to you. Not exactly on topic here, but some players live and die by the damage meter, and take notice of the guy/gal who's challenging his/her spot at the top. On a ZA bear run last week, a Rogue and a Destro Lock had a running competition for top damage throughout the run, and kept jawing at each other until the final gun sounded and the full damage report was posted. I used to run with a Shadow Priest who would constantly update me about our relative position on the total damage meter, and would curse my name mockingly whenever I started beating him. These relationships tend to be mutual, unlike the DPS relationship with the tanks and healers.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Warcraft Addiction

I'm going through my updated feeds on Google Reader, and Matticus linked an article by Monique of Girls Don't Game. Monique is a former Death & Taxes raider, and now a reformed hardcore WoW player. Monique's article on her Warcraft addiction is an excellent read, as is Matticus's follow-up. I highly recommend them both.

As for myself, I was pretty darn addicted as late as September of last year. I had slowly but surely built my play-time up from 12 hours a week to 5-6 hours every night, and went from rank-and-file guildie in a semi-serious raid guild to Paladin class lead to officer to Guild Master and founder of a semi-serious raid guild. When it reached its height, I burned out and cancelled my subscription. After a month off though, I felt a little bored with my other games and since most of my friends are working (as am I), going out on weeknights wasn't really a good idea. So, I re-upped my account, transfered and started fresh. Other people re-roll, I just respec.

My play time has been increasing as of late, slowly creeping from 15-18 hours a week (12 raid hours plus extraneous play time when I started raiding on my new server) to upwards of 20. I raided Zul'Aman for a bear run and then did a Karazhan zerg instead of going out on Friday night. It's stories like Monique's that remind me that I shouldn't let that happen.

Always remember: Azeroth is not a habitat or a tangible world, and once that plug gets pulled, it's gone. Live in the real world, play in the real world, and limit your Orcish interaction, lest you live and breath your character and grow too attached.

Raid Impact - Who Loves Us Most?

I've written on and on about how everybody should love Retribution Paladins and bring one to their 25-man raids. A question I've never addressed, though, is who should be lobbying hardest for our services in that raid? Retribution Paladins bring an array of benefits, but not all benefits are created equal, and not everyone gets the same mileage out of them. So the question is, who loves us the most? Let's break it down by benefit, see who benefits from each and by how much, and make a determination at the end.

First and foremost is Judgement of Wisdom. 50% chance for 74 mana returned upon striking the target with an attack or spell. I've linked the Ret DPS Theorycraft thread a bunch of times before, but I'll link it here again for reference, since it's where I'm getting my numbers from. The healers and non-mana users don't care about JoW, since they get no benefit from it. Healers won't have time to wand and regen mana, and the rogues/warriors simply don't have mana to regen. Those that get the most benefit out of JoW are Hunters, who get ~220 mana/5 depending on spec and rotation, and Enhacement Shaman, who get ~315 mana/5 (damn those dual-wielding bastages get a truckload from JoW...). Most everyone else is in the 60 to 120 mana/5 range, so it's fairly even across the board. The Hunters and Enh Shaman get far and away the most mileage out of JoW.

Next raid benefit is Judgement of Light. 50% chance for health returned upon striking with a melee attack. This only effects the suicidal up-close-and-personal melee DPS, which includes (other than yourself, the Ret Paladin) Rogues, Warriors, Enh Shaman, Feral Druids, certain Warlock pets, and Hunter pets. Rogues attack the fastest out of this bunch, so they have the potential to get the most healing from JoL. Hunters make a great argument though, since JoL relieves them of having to cast Mend Pet as much, freeing their mana and hands to do more MQoSRDPS to use a popularized term.

Judgement of the Crusader. Flat raid-wide 3% crit boost to anyone attacking the target, unrestricted. This gets complicated, since we now have to answer the question "who gets the most out of crit?" When a BM Hunter crits, Ferocious Inspiration goes up. When a Survival Hunter crits, Expose Weakness happens. When an Enh Shaman crits, his party gets Unleashed Rage. There are a ton of "on-crit" buffs and bonuses exclusive to certain classes and specs, and to be quite honest I can't contain them all in my head. It's probably safe to say that everyone has a use for crit. My gut feeling, though, is that either the Enh Shaman getting more Unleashed Rage up-time (since that affects his party, and therefore greatly increases the AP of 4 other DPS'ers) or the Hunters (since Ferocious Inspiration and Expose Weakness are fairly substantial group buffs, and their pets can crit too) get the best deal here.

Improved Sanctity Aura. 2% increased damage to your party, when in range. This can account for a nice little chunk of the Enh Shaman/DPS Warrior/Rogues' damage. It does not affect the rest of the raid, so no one else really cares. The rest of the melee DPS group probably would prefer a Feral Druid for Leader of the Pack and it's 5% crit/heals, but 2% increased damage I'm sure is not unwelcome.

Improved Blessing of Might. Most other Paladins don't have this - 44 extra AP over regular Might for every physical DPS. Drop in the bucket for personal stats, so no one will really notice.

That pretty much covers the static raid buffs a Ret Paladin brings. The winner? I'd say the Hunters, especially the BM Hunter. The extra pet heals from JoL, their fast shot speed proc'ing JoW, and the JotC crit boost helping to keep Ferocious Inspiration going (and thereby boosting his party's damage but a percentage) I'd think would be enough to make any gun-slingin', bow-wieldin', pet-lovin' Hunter go wild for having a pet Ret.

What's your opinion? Who gets the most mileage out of a Ret Paladin's raid benefits?

Friday, June 20, 2008

DKP Concerns - Building a Better Off-set

Selfish post incoming, it's about me and mine and probably doesn't apply to most/all Retribution Paladins out there. You've been warned.

One of the wonderful things about playing a so-called "hybrid" class is that I have the ability to completely change my group role on a whim. Whether it's to cover a need for a group, to try something different, or just out of sheer boredom, I can plop down some gold, get undressed, and go from face-smasher to meat shield to healy-pants in 3 minutes or less or your money back, guaranteed. It allows me to spice up my WoW experience, and helps my guild out as well. Karazhan run short a healer? Sure, lemme grab my healing gear. Zul'Aman run needs a Protection Paladin to zerg through for a bear? I got ya covered pal, lemme find my shield! Raid time, gonna go kill us some bosses - Cath you got your mace? Sure do, friend, and I'm munching on Roasted Clefthoof in preparation.

The problem comes in when you realize that to be able to provide that flexibility and those options to friends and guildies, it's not just respec and go. To hop into a different role and perform at a high level in all cases, gear needs to be kept up to date. A Retribution set with 2000 unbuffed AP and 32% crit chance is great for tier 6 raid instances! However, hopping into a gear set with 1000 bonus healing and 70 mana/5 will not be of much help to a group in Black Temple. Being spec-flexible requires a raider to maintain several sets of gear, which is a tax on the player's bank space, gold reserve, and DKP-spend ability (for those in guilds that use DKP). Most guilds are unwilling to let raid epics go to players at no cost for their "off-set." There are many different ways guilds handle this situation: my guild charges a heavily reduced DKP price for epics that are unwanted by raiders for their main set, and awards these off-set pieces to those who all ready have an equivalent item-level epic for that armor slot. In contrast, Months Behind of Eredar allows its raiders to choose a designated off-spec and /roll for items that are not wanted by raiders for their main specs, so long as the item falls under the realm of their designated off-spec.

Many systems charge something to a player's point total for gear, even if it is for an off-set and even if it is for a nominal price. That puts hybrids who maintain their off-sets at a distinct disadvantage in the raid loot world, however, as they are constantly going to trail their fellow raiders in point totals. It's an issue that is very touchy - awarding gear to hybrids for off-specs at no cost alienates the "pure DPS" players, as they see gear being given out for free and want free stuff themselves. On the other hand, awarding gear to hybrids at any cost, reduced or not, puts hybrid's point totals at a perpetual disadvantage. This is nothing new - Rohan tackled this issue way back in 2006 in her "Price of Specialization" post, yet it is a problem to which I have not seen an adequate solution proposed. The options I personally face are to either a) tank my DKP and keep my off-sets up to date, or b) let beautiful tier 6 quality tank/healer loot get disenchanted and then two months later bound into an instance with Karazhan epics on covering a tank/healer role for an absent raider. Option A leaves me out in the cold when it comes to upgrading my gear for shared tier armor tokens, but Option B leaves the guild in a bind come crunch time. I end up choosing Option A, but I'm not happy about what it does to my DKP total. And that's not to mention the heavy gold cost of gemming and enchanting three full sets of gear.

Maybe I'm just a loot-whore. I dunno. What's your call, fair reader? What is the best way to deal with off-spec/off-set loot and hybrids in a DKP-governed raid guild?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Holy MMO Trinity

Personal news: my guild managed to clear all 9 bosses in Black Temple last night in our regular 4 hour raid time. I think that's f*@!ing unbelievable - previously the most we were able to accomplish in one night was killing from Na'jentus to Mother Shahraz in just over 4 hours. That's old news now! Wire to wire, Naj to Illibeans in almost exactly 4 hours. That leaves 8 full hours of raiding on Sunday and Monday to play with Hyjal (usually takes us 2-2.5 hours) and then lay the smack down on Kalecgos, work on Brutallus. Assuming we don't hop on the fail train and end up pulling Kalecgos 30 times before killing him, and we get the positioning and healing down for Brutallus within a few pulls, I can definitely see us pulling Felmyst before the Tuesday reset. Our DPS has never shirked from a DPS race, I think we can beat the enrage timer (so long as the Heroisms get used intelligently, which I'm confident our GM will strive for).

Tobold recently made a post about the "holy trinity" of MMORPG combat - tank, heals, DPS. He related the normal MMO group combo to a real life combat scenario to demonstrate the ridiculousness of the group, which follows:

So lets have a look at where this system is coming from. We start with a thought experiment: Imagine you and 4 friends want to go out in the woods to hunt a bear (Disclaimer: This is a *thought* experiment. Do *not* try this!). One of you is wearing his best quarterback armor, one of you has a medical degree and a first aid kit, and the other three are armed with swords and bows. The guy in the armor is telling dirty bear jokes to the bear to taunt him, the guy with the first aid kit heals him, and the other three are trying to deal maximum damage to the bear. If you picture it you'll immediately realize that this would never work in the real world. You can't "taunt" a bear, he'd probably attack the person closest to him trying to stick a sword into him. You can't heal somebody during combat either. The bear will not just hurt one of you after the other, but thrash around and all of you that are close. It'll be difficult enough to use a sword without hitting the others in the group that are close by, and firing an arrow into the melee combat is more likely to hit one of your own guys than the bear. The whole tank, heal, dps system is completely unrealistic.
Tobold makes a good point here. Trying to combat-heal with a first aid kit is a bit far-fetched, since bandaging someone while they are expecting another paw swipe from the bear will defeat the purpose of the bandage, but I'll let that slide for now. We'll assume that the first-aid kit would be replaced by the magical ability to heal wounds from afar. The point he hit on was the tanking - establishing threat by yelling at/taunting a beast is not how it would work. To get the beast's attention, a member of your group would have to represent himself as the most threatening/imposing target.

In the time before long range guns and guided missiles, warfare was as much about positioning and tactics as it was superior swordsmanship and strength of arms. Forming a shield wall, physically cutting off the enemy from closing into melee range of your archers, and other such tactics were keys to victory. The enemy was not forced to target the heavily armored and shield-bearing person in front of them - they had no choice but to get through or around that guy to dispatch the real, easier-to-kill target. Consequently, using ranged attacks against the enemy when they were engaged in melee with your armored units risked friendly fire.

None of these concepts are present in WoW, since there is no collision detection. In addition, the quantities of damage that enemies deal in any WoW-group environment are usually enough to kill a heavily armored tank in 10-30 seconds without support. This is one of the reasons I enjoyed and hated Guild Wars so much - it was possible to body-block enemies to tank them, there was heavy emphasis on snares and interrupts to avoid damage, and there was no threat table to manage. My gripe with Guild Wars was its pathing issues - not being able to jump or move three-dimensionally was frustrating. However, I believe that they got the tanking concept right - enemies should attack what they perceive to be the most dangerous, and the players should have to convince them otherwise through positioning and their actions, not through numerical threat management. The concept of taunt, as Tobold said, makes no sense.

Changing WoW with regards to the Holy Trinity would be a monumental task, and is likely unfeasible. However, I would love to see a medieval-type MMO such as Lineage 2 or Warcraft that employed collision detection and worked around the trinity, finding ways to make group encounters exciting and dynamic without forcing a monster to attack a specific player, or requiring a dedicated healer-type. Is it possible to make an exciting MMO that stays fresh and varies its encounter design without employing the tank-healer-DPS trinity? I'm not sure, but if one comes out and grabs my attention, I'd likely give it a trial play.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ah, memories...

Everyone who has played World of Warcraft has select moments in their character's or characters' travels that truly seemed epic, awe-inspiring, breathtaking, rib-bustingly funny, or plain memorable. If you had to list the 10 most memorable moments of your WoW career, what would you choose? The first time you looted a purple item? The time you and a friend stealthed through an opposing faction city and assassinated their food vendor? Or maybe it's that long-awaited first kill on a tough raid boss? Well, after brainstorming on the train home earlier in the week, I came up with a list of 15-20 striking memories from my Paladin's travels, and narrowed it down to a top 10. Drumroll please!

10. Hillsbrad Foothills 40 vs. 40 PvP

Who remembers the time before cross-realm battlegrounds? The only way to strike up a dependable large-scale PvP encounter was to attack an enemy town and illicit a response from the nearest major city. On my server at the time, the best location was the Hillsbrad Foothills, more specifically the ground between Southshore and Tarren Mill. Whenever I was in Ironforge and I saw an alarm go up in general chat or local defense that Southshore was under attack, I dropped what I was doing and hopped on a gryphon, because those massive raids battling it out for supremacy in Hillsbrad made for a raucous good time.

9. Completing the Soulforge set
I ran Stratholme undead-side to kill the Baron so many times just for the Lightforge pants to complete the dungeon set, and immediately turned them into Soulforge. Not many people finished off the dungeon set upgrade quest, but I did every single step, and was very proud of my accomplishment.

8. Standing my ground in Southshore
I was level 60 and on my way to Scarlet Monastery to run a group of level 30-40 players through a few of the SM instances. When we landed in Southshore, there was a lone Tauren, PvP flagged, standing just out of range of the Southshore guards. His guild tag was "and two stealthed rogues", which I perceived to be trouble. However, one of the lowbies saw a red name and went over and whacked the Tauren. Well, unsurprisingly, two Troll Rogues came out of stealth and stabbed my lowbie charge. I wasn't about to let that deed go unpunished, so I flagged up and bashed one Rogue good, battled it out with the Tauren and the other Rogue until they decided to retreat to Tarren Mill. My other lowbies beat on the Tauren enough to help me bring him down. The second Rogue did escape to the safety of Tarren Mill, but I was pretty pumped, having taken on 3 Horde effectively by myself.

7. You have discovered the Gates of Stormwind
I played all the Warcraft RTS games. I had always wanted to see the city of Stormwind from a ground view, after playing through the previous games and reading all the instruction booklets filled with backstory and lore about the city and its inhabitants. When I walked through the gates to the human capital for the first time, I was not disappointed. The architecture, the statues of the fallen Alliance heroes, and the grandiose nature of it all was simply breathtaking.

6. My first Hakkar kill
Hakkar was far and away the most inventive fight I encountered before the expansion. Contrary to player nature, it was a fight where you had to jump into danger rather than out of it, and was fairly complicated for a 20-man encounter. My guild worked on him for a while before finally grasping it, but having the hunter pulling the Sons of Hakkar, the entire raid moving into/out of poison, the tanks all handling Hakkar, and simply the entire raid working as one unit was invigorating.

5. Stratholme
I loved everything about Stratholme. The hordes of undead. The embers in the air. The Scarlet Crusade holding onto the last bastion of life in the city. The realization that Balnazzar was in control of the Scarlet Crusade and was masquerading as a human. The 45-minute Baron run. Slaughter Square. The history of the location itself, being where Arthas descended into madness and started slaughtering his own people to save them from the undead plague. Everything.

4. Entering the Dark Portal
The day I loaded up The Burning Crusade, I stepped through the Dark Portal in Blasted Lands. The battle between the Legion and combined Alliance & Horde forces at the foot of the Portal, combined with the visuals of the sky and the new zone, with Hellfire Citadel in the distance, left me standing there just watching for a few minutes.

3. Tooooooo sooooooooooooon...
If you raided at all before The Burning Crusade, you know what I'm referring to. The first time Majordomo Executus summoned Ragnaros from the fiery depths in Molten Core was truly epic. A swirling mass of fire and brimstone, a gigantic glowing orange hammer, and a rumbling voice that reverberated the entire cave left me awestruck. After that, the encounter itself was intense! Several 1% wipes made the final kill that much more exquisite.

2. You have received [Sulfuras, Hand of Ragnaros]
Crafting my legendary hammer took me months of scrounging for materials and scouring the land for Sulfuron Ingots - my guild was pretty lucky with Eye drops so we had one drop before me, and the Warrior who received it used up the guild store of ingots. So I coordinated with both Alliance and Horde guilds to gather enough materials. The killing spree to the Black Anvil in Blackrock Depths for the final craft felt like a victory parade.

1. You have slain Illidan Stormrage
I posted previously about my guild's first Illidan kill. With guildmates falling over all around me and Illidan's health low, I hit Divine Shield and charged at The Betrayer with reckless abandon. To my disbelief, and with a little help from our Enhancement Shaman ankh'ing up and dropping his fire elemental totem, Illidan died with only myself and the Shaman surviving. It was, by far, the most intense moment of my WoW experience.

Well, that's my list. What's your's?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Business As Usual

This topic is in response to the shared topic on BlogAzeroth, entitled "Preparing for Wrath of the Lich King."
Much like Larisa, I am not preparing for WotLK in most any way. Many others are feasting upon leaked alpha information, or are going into hyper-farm mode to build up stores of gold and crafting materials so that they can hit the frozen Northrend tundra running. As for me? I'm continuing to raid, play on as limited a schedule as I can force myself to play, and dabble in arena on the side. My play style has not changed one iota, and it will not change until probably a few weeks before the absolute, official, boxes-are-in-stores and we're-waiting-for-servers-to-go-live release date. Blizzard is notorious for delaying their releases, even after announcing a release date, and I'm a raider, not a farmer. Spending months prepping for a distant day is not my idea of a good time in Azeroth.

Nope, I'm just staying the course. There's an entire raid instance in front of me, with some of the most tightly tuned boss fights the dev team has ever imagined. M'uru calls to me, invading my mind and taunting me, calling me retn00b. Okay not really, but it sounded dramatic. Plus, Kil'jaeden's entrance into Azeroth looks massively epic, even better than Ragnaros's first appearance (which left me in speechless awe, by the way. Standing in a large volcanic chamber, lava flowing around me, and then all of a sudden a gigantic fire elemental, surrounded by swirling brimstone and wielding a face-smashingly huge orange glowy hammer, emerges from the central lava pit - awe-inspiring). I've got enemies to conquer!

I'll take the expansion by storm when it comes, but I don't need to be at the front of the leveling pack. I will take the content as it comes, and pretend I don't know that my epic armor will be outpaced by blues in a few months. Besides - blowing through content as quickly as possible means I miss all the little jokes and easter eggs Blizzard hides along the way. I want a full WoW experience.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Why I Banked My Shield

Before I started gearing up to raid as a Retribution Paladin, I was a ravenous, die-hard Protection Paladin. I leveled up in Outlands as Protection from 60-70. I tanked my way through the tier 4 content. I followed the exploits of Tankadins such as Megor (a.k.a. Donar from the BC beta, the first Paladin to tank Karazhan), Endure (former Protection Paladin of on Greymane server, one of the prominent progression Tankadins when SSC was considered hard), and Lore (Protection Paladin and officer of <Months Behind>, one of the most vocal Protection Paladins amongst the US community) with fervent zeal. I was even one of the first registered users on Maintankadin, the go-to site for Protection Paladin information, and remain (aside from Aergis, the forum's founder and admin) the most tenured active poster (my username on those boards is Baelor, in case you're wondering). Hell, I even started and maintained a campaign to popularize a hybrid Protection/Holy build for Tankadins who did not serve as their guild's main tank in tier 4 content (more information here). Suffice it to say, I was a zealous Protection Paladin.

Keyword of note in that last statement is "was." As you can gather from this blog, I'm not a Protection Paladin anymore. My tanking gear is getting a bit dusty in the bank - I don't take it out much save tanking a Zul'Aman run every 2 months or so. At this point, you may be asking yourself why I made such a drastic switch in focus. Tanking as a Paladin and DPS'ing as a Paladin are two very different animals, and Protection Paladins are much more widely accepted/needed than Retribution Paladins, right?

Yes, you're right, more guilds have Protection Paladins than Retribution Paladins. And it's much easier to find a group for 5-mans and 10-mans as a Protection Paladin for many of the reasons I cited in my reverse propoganda post last week, as well as the mere fact that Protection Paladins tank, and every group needs a tank and a healer.

I hung up the shield for a variety of reasons. First, I saw the patch notes for the December 2007 patch in which Crusader Strike cooldown got lowered to six seconds, making Judgement refreshes possible even in the face of one or two misses. Previously, the cooldown was 10 seconds - with a 10 second cooldown on Crusader Strike and a 20 second duration on all Judgement debuffs, one miss meant that unless the next Crusader Strike landed during the split-second before the 20 second timer was expiring, all those Judgements would fall off. With our strike actually performing its function in a workable manner, having Judgement of Wisdom up all the time was a distinct possibility, and I recognized the gigantic benefit to a raid that debuff is. Larisa can attest to my enthusiastic support of Judgement of Wisdom for all raids - I went and linked her an entire section of the Ret DPS Theorycraft thread on Elitist Jerks to show her the benefits she would receive from JoW as an Arcane Mage. (For those curious, JoW represents anywhere from ~60 to >300 mana per 5 depending on class and spec, and assuming no lag and perfect skill rotations. Yes you read that right, it's like giving the entire raid's DPS a Shadow Priest, above and beyond any Shadow Priests currently providing mana batteries to their individual groups.) I wanted to be a part of the Retribution Revolution when that patch went live and show a guild how much a Ret can benefit a raid.

Next, I was a little fed up with having to respec to a completely different role to PvP. Going from a PvE heal spec to a PvP heal spec is one thing - having to go from tank to either heals or damage was very trying. All of my keybinds were totally different from PvE to PvP. Plus, I couldn't do much of anything outside of a group as a Tankadin besides AoE grind, and I'm not an avid farmer/grinder.

Another reason was the trend among progression guilds to frequently swap tanks into and out of raids to adapt to the demands of individual boss encounters. I didn't want to be a tank if I would consistently get sidelined for certain number of bosses - I was there to play, not watch. As Retribution, I rarely get subbed out (if ever) since I'm providing a raid benefit that isn't duplicated by any other class/spec (Judgements), and progression guilds don't generally keep more than one Retribution Paladin on hand. So, I get to stay.

Lastly, I had been tanking for about 9 months at that point - I wanted to try something new and exciting, explore a new frontier. Retribution was generally uncharted waters at that point, partially because of poor itemization, and partially because of the Crusader Strike cooldown problem. Throwing my efforts into Retribution would satisfy the explorer in me. Plus, it wouldn't require leveling an alt to try something completely different - I was all ready 70 and had my reputations grinded out, all I had to do was pay a trainer to bonk me on the head to forget my talents and acquire some new gear. I always enjoy theorycrafting up new sets of gear and essentially treasure-hunting to find new and exciting gear options, so doing this for a new spec was not a stretch for me.

So, that's why in the face of years of stigma, poor itemization, broken mechanics, and the advantages of being a Protection Paladin in a tank-starved world, I respecced Retribution. Now I follow the exploits of Paladins like Slayton (Retribution Paladin of <Vis Maior> on Bonechewer, one of the moderators of and several other prominent and progression-minded Retribution Paladins with a close eye instead. Despite the occasional tank-envy I get when I see a tier 6 Protection Paladin strutting around with a [Bulwark of Azzinoth] strapped to his back, I don't regret my decision.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I'm Not Just Pally Propoganda

It occured to me that someone who reads back on what I've written over the past month might get the impression that I'm a Pally Propoganda Artist, and am campaigning for the ethical treatment of Retribution Paladins worldwide. In some cases I am - however, I can acknowledge our shortcomings and faults. I've hinted at or lamented some of the negatives tied to playing a Retribution Paladin, but here's my attempt at compiling them in one place.

Retribution Paladins are sub-optimal for 5-man content. In instances where there are groups of 5-6 enemy targets that need to be accounted for, every form of crowd control is needed unless you have a Protection Paladin and outgear the content. Heroic Magister's Terrace comes to mind - there are frequent pulls of 4-6 Blood Elves, and the damage they can dish out is hard to heal through, even with a tier 6 tank and healer. Repentance and Hammer of Justice simply do not compare to Polymorph, Sap/Blind/Stunlock, Hunter traps, or even Fear. I know this problem is not unique to Ret Paladins, but that does not disqualify it as a problem to be addressed. In addition, the mana factor weighs heavily in 5-mans, as Retribution Paladins don't achieve any semblance of mana efficiency until they have full 25-man raid buffs (3-4 blessings, Mana Spring Totem, Windfury Totem, Judgement of Wisdom).

Ret Paladins are behind the curve in 10-man content. They do not bring a dependable, renewable crowd control that is applicable in most instances, nor do they operate with any efficiency without full raid buffs & Judgements. Oftentimes there is only 1 of each class in a 10-man, so the maximum a Ret Paladin can expect as far as buffs to help mana efficiency is Judgement of Wisdom (applied by the Ret Paladin) and maybe a Mana Spring & Windfury Totem, if that. Blessing of Wisdom is last on the list of desirables (Salvation, then Might & Kings first), and there are no guarentees that there will be a Shaman in the raid, nor that the Shaman will be in the Ret Paladin's group to give him his precious totems. The only thing that can be depended on is that Judgement of Wisdom will most likely be up on bosses, even though it will cost the Paladin his Judgement of the Crusader.

On raid utility...
Ret Paladins are the only raid role that relies on other raid members to actively participate in his raid utility. A single Fire Mage can keep Scorch and Fire Vulnerability up by himself; a single Warrior can apply Demo Shout, Sunder Armor x5, and Thunderclap to a mob; a single Feral Druid can apply Faerie Fire and Mangle to a mob. However, a single Paladin cannot apply all the necessary Judgements. Two Paladins (at least) are needed to apply JotC and JoW, or else the raid needs to choose which one is more important. And thus, a semblance of utility is lost.

All that said, groups are not one-role-fits-all. Ret Paladins are a tough puzzle piece to work with. They are not well-rounded and polished and cannot fit into just any puzzle - if you try to jam one into a group, you'll find the group is a bit unwieldy and doesn't give you the results you want. If you surround a Ret Paladin with complementary pieces, however, and place it into a large puzzle, you get a sum that is greater than its parts and the Ret Paladin piece can become a cornerstone.

Bah, there I go again with the preachy proganda. I swear, sometimes I can't help it. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that Retribution Paladins have their flaws, and just because I enjoy playing one and think they have a ton of tools in their utility belt doesn't mean that everyone should be looking to grab one for every group they form. They have very glaring drawbacks (especially in small groups), and are almost never the best choice for the core of a group. They are more of a luxury item - one you can purchase and use if you have room and resources available. They pay great dividends, but not everyone can afford to get one. If I were creating a group to run a 5-man and could pick any class combination, a Ret Paladin would most likely not be involved. But, as with many things in Warcraft, there's more than one way to achieve a goal, and if your goal is running a 5-man instance and you're not trying to min/max your group for absolute maximum potential effectiveness, you won't be gimping the group unnecessarily in many cases.
All in all, just promise me one thing - if you're creating a 5-man and a Ret Paladin offers to come, you don't turn him away just to keep spamming trade chat with "LF1M DPS for heroic PST!"

EDIT: Blog cruisin', as usual, I ran across a recent post by Aurik about 5-man group balance. It's a good read, and related to some of my recent posts.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

LOL RP Continued

So, I'm cruisin' forums and blogs, as per usual, and on a whim I check out some other server's official forums. I end up on Scarlet Crusade (home to Phaelia and Valenna), a RP server. In one of the stickies, I see a make-shift character sheet form for the server's active role-players. I'm intrigued, so I start thinking to myself, "Hmm, how would Cathmor's sheet look?" Well, here's what happened when I started musing about that:

Full name: Cathmor of Northshire
Nick-name: Cath
Prefix*: Knight
Title**: The Betrayed
Race: Human
Age***: 37
Position in society†: Protector of the people
Face/Heel†*: Chest (liked by most, sometimes rubs a few the wrong way)
Physical Description (abridged): Red, shoulder-length hair. Goatee. Broad shoulders.

Personality: Zealous, outgoing, and skeptical/mistrustful of those he does not know personally
Marital Status: Single, never married
Sexual Preference: Hetero
Blood line: Son of a farmer

Role-playing weight class: Lightweight
Role-playing status†**: Usually out of character

Guild: Something Wicked
City of choice: Wherever the frontline of the current war effort is.
IC-Strengths: Zealous, relentless in the pursuit of justice, natural leader
IC-Weaknesses: Over-zealous at times
OOC-Strengths: Tactical planner
OOC-Weaknesses: Frequently overwhelmed by complex situations/encounters
Leveling speed: Slow
PvP preference (do it a lot?): Occasional
Weekly on-line schedule: Evenings, ~4 nights a week

See my previous post, LOL RP

*: Lord / Lady / Mister / Misses / Miss / etc.
**: Your heroic name, ex: John Doe "The Flaming Sun."
***: Link to age thread, (Draenei is not in this, Blood Elf ages are listed as High Elf.)
†: You can be free with this, either your political position, economical position, or status in the city. Ex: Vanished from the city, wealthy collector, etc.
†*: How others like you. Face being the crowd favorite and heel being the guy/gal everyone hates.
†**: Are you usually in-character? A story-teller? Majority rules, put what your usual situation is.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Damage Meters - Why You Shouldn't Care

Following in lock-step with a dual post that Matticus and Wynthea made over on World of Matticus, and despite anything anyone will ever tell you, the damage meter is not the be-all and end-all determination of how well you do. There are some contributions you can make that don't show up in the final box score, as Honorshammer noted in his recent encounter with Teron Gorefiend. Especially as a Paladin, you can do an array of things that will literally make or break a boss attempt. It could be argued that if the fate of the raid is in the hands of one person alone, you're doing it wrong - I'd tend to agree, so let me rephrase. You, as a hybrid DPS'er, have the ability to significantly impact the result of an encounter through methods that do not show in your final damage output. Every class has this ability. Timely kicks from a Rogue during Reliquary of Souls "Essence of Desire" phase will decrease his DPS but significantly raise the raid's success rate. Decurses from a Mage against Archimonde will prevent death to Grip of the Legion, and therefore avoid Soul Charges and angry raid leaders. Personal DPS suffers, but raid success is higher. This is the reason why all raids aren't loaded with only Rogues and Warlocks for DPS'ers - each class has situational skills that they cannot provide, and you must know when, how, and why to use them!

As a Retribution Paladin, your prime directive is to get cozy with the enemy up-close and drive your mace into its backside as hard as possible. Beyond that, you need to Crusader Strike as much as possible to keep Judgement debuffs active for the raid, and supply a set of blessings. Sounds simple enough. However, being a Retribution Paladin does not afford you the freedom to stare at your damage meter and Strike/Judgement cooldowns alone. Abilities like Cleanse, Blessing of Protection, Lay on Hands, Holy Light, and even Hammer of Justice should all be hotkeyed in easy-to-reach places so you can use them at a moment's notice. A timely Cleanse can save a raidmate's life, and if you get to it quick, you can save a healer's Global Cooldown for another heal, possibly saving a tank's life by proxy. That Fury Warrior who died to poison damage during phase 2 of Lady Vashj? You could have Cleansed that, and then he would have been alive for phase 3, allowing the raid to kill 'er instead of wipe at 1%, since he would have brought that much extra damage. Sure, your total damage would have been lower, but you wouldn't have to buff up and pull again. That Rogue who stayed too close to Leotheras when he was about to whirlwind? He just took a bleed! Oh no! Blessing of Protection to clear it off! Why? So that the healers don't need to heal him instead of a tank, and they have more mana later to handle the last 15% of the fight when all hell breaks loose.

Are you sensing the trend? As a DPS, you have a main focus - doing damage. However, as a hybrid DPS, you need to keep your tools always at hand and be mindful of your surroundings. No one may notice you cast that Holy Light on the Mage who got awfully low on HP with his bandages on cooldown, and it won't rocket you to the top of the healing meter. It definitely will keep you from achieving the top of the damage meter. But dagnabit, it will make your raid more successful, and that in the end is what matters. One of the best compliments I ever received while playing was from a former guildmate mid-instance. I had made a comment about our group make-up and how it wasn't ideal for the instance we were running, and that I should probably have been replaced by another class with more crowd control. He responded "Yea, but things always go smoother when you're around." I swelled with a bit of pride, knowing that they would rather bring a "gimp" Ret Paladin to an instance instead of a Mage or Hunter for extra crowd control.

These contributions may not rock the meter, but when you are consistently in the group when things go right, people will put two and two together. Don't bury your head in the damage meter - keep an eye on your raid frames, watch for opportunities to use all those crazy Paladin cooldowns and abilities you have. It's what separates you from a Mortal Strike Warrior, and part of the reason you're in the raid at all. Above all, a dead boss matters more than scoring #1 on the meter - remember that.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Comic at right is from xkcd, a very funny webcomic I'm sure some of you are familiar with. Completely unrelated, but my apologies if my previous post seemed a bit incoherent. It was way too late for me to be awake, and I was mentally drained from a lovely evening with a demon-possessed blue dragon.

I'm a closet-RP'er. If I had known people on an RP server when I first started playing, I probably wouldn't have minded rolling there in the least. In fact, I might enjoy a bit of light RP now and again. Being on a regular PvE server though, and in a dedicated raid guild, there isn't much RP going on. As such, my opportunities to get this sort of thing out of my system are few and far between. What's this all mean? You, the reader, get to be subjected to several paragraphs of me droning on about the history of Azeroth and how Cathmor ties into it all. The reason I'm doing this now instead of before is because Valenna of Parry! Dodge! Spin! did a quick write-up of his character's backstory recently and reminded me that I wanted to do this. On with the show!

Cathmor the Betrayed began his adulthood as a soldier in the service of Stormwind Defense shortly after the Third War, serving under General Marcus Jonathan as a front-line defender for Stormwind's protective deployments. After the death of Uther Lightbringer and the disbanding of the Order of the Silver Hand, Stormwind was in dire need of sturdy, capable warriors to take up arms and serve. Cathmor showed a selfless disregard for his own well-being in protecting any township with which he was charged, which prompted interest from Duthorian Rall in the youth's abilities. Cathmor began training as a Paladin at Rall's behest, following the path of the Protector.

Several months after he began his training as a Paladin, and shortly after his promotion to Knight, Cathmor was sent on a mission from Stormwind to discover the fate of Marshal Reginald Windsor, the commander of Alliance forces in the Burning Steppes, who had gone missing. Leading a small team into the Burning Steppes, Knight Cathmor found Windsor imprisoned in the Blackrock Depths by the Dark Iron Dwarves. After assisting Windsor in escaping Blackrock Mountain, the Marshal told Cathmor of danger within Stormwind's walls - Lady Katrana Prestor was not who she seemed. Cathmor escorted Windsor to Stormwind Keep, where he revealed Lady Prestor as Onyxia, the broodmother of the Black Dragonflight and enemy of the crown.

Upon realizing the depth of evil's infiltration in Stormwind's leadership, Cathmor's faith in the Stormwind Defense was shattered. He resigned his commission and cast aside his shield, assuming the title "The Betrayed" to remind him always to be mindful of whom he serves. Despite no longer being a member of the Stormwind Defense, Cathmor still had a desire to battle the wicked and protect his homeland. He strayed from the path of the Protector and instead started down the path of the Avenger, taking a more active role in combatting evil. Mace in hand, Cathmor the Betrayed seeks out injustice with resolve and might, not for Stormwind or for the Order of the Silver Hand, but for the whole of Azeroth.

Weez-y Breezey

I've been stuck on Weezer lately. They put out a new album, The Red Album, and it's got a few songs that are pretty catchy. The catchiest is the single they released onto the internet, Pork and Beans. Here's the Youtube video:

Very fun, and they manage to incorporate just about every internet meme of the last year or two, which is pretty impressive.
I've had another song from the album, "Everybody Get Dangerous," stuck in my head for the last day or so.
To go along with the Weezer theme, Temerity Jane linked this fun video not long ago - Julia Nunes playing a Weezer song on her ukelele - can you name the song without looking up the lyrics?

That's all for now, just wanted to share the music!

Monday, June 9, 2008

If you want something done right...

... then do it yourself. What happens when you can't find groups that include you or run instances at times that you want? Then you form your own group!

As a Ret Paladin, it can be hard to find groups. There are still hard-wired prejudices and general mistrust of them in the pick-up group populace. However, you can zerg through an instance with just about any sane group composition (1 tank, 1 healer, 3 DPS) providing that the members have adequate gear and skill.

Yes, I used the term zerg. I loved Starcraft. I also wanted an excuse to use that picture, because I laugh every time I see it.

Whining on the forums, in trade chat, or to your guild that you cannot get invites to pick-up groups gets you no-where. Pick up that mace, find a few friends, and make your own group!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Why I shouldn't be allowed through drive-thru's

Story time! Why? Because I can. And it's entertaining. Non-WoW post, but I think you'll get over it.

I'm not going to disclose how long ago this was, but back when I first got my driver's license, I desperately wanted to use it. The day I passed my road test, I needed any excuse to get in the car and go somewhere - anywhere. So, I called up my friend Eric and said "Dude, I got my license, let's go. I'm drivin'." Or something along those lines.

Before I left my house, I got strict instructs from my parents. Only one passenger, don't turn on the radio, don't go too far, be home before 1 AM, yadda yadda yadda. I was generally a good kid, I listened. I hopped in the car to pick up Eric, and when I get to his place, he comes out with a CD player and a tape-deck adapter. At this point I was driving my mother's '92 Toyota Camry with no CD player, so I needed any sort of adapter to play CD's. This was basically a blank tape with a piece of film or something attached that you could plug into a spot on a portable CD player and transmit the CD thru your tape deck on your stereo. What's a tape deck? Don't ask stupid questions, look it up! Tape, audio cassette, whatever, you're sidetracking me!

So, he plugs in the adapter, and Green Day starts coming through the speakers, but faintly. He cranks the CD player volume up, but it doesn't help much. I crank the car stereo volume up to a very loud volume for regular radio listening, and that does the trick. We drive to one of the local movie theaters with "Basketcase" on the stereo. My parents told me not to turn on the radio, but I figure I'm a decent multi-tasker and can listen to music and drive at the same time. Besides, this was a CD thru the tape deck, not the radio. The antenna didn't go up!

We watch the movie, I forget which one, and on the way back toward our homes Eric decides he needs sugar. A Krispy Kreme had just opened near our town, so we stop off there. The main part of the store was closed, since it was, oh, 12:30 am or so, but the drive-thru was open. I pull up to the speaker-box and place our doughnut order and pull around. The window opens and we smell the sweet scent of freshly made doughnuts. Mmm... I reach out to grab the bag from the woman at the window, but can't quite reach. I had stopped the car a bit too far from the window! It's my first night driving, so I chalk this up to a life lesson - park closer to drive-thru windows. It's late and there's no one behind me, so I throw the car in reverse, back up a bit, and attempt to pull closer. I still can't reach. At this point, I say "eff it" and open the driver's door to get up and out of the car. I unbuckle and get out - but the car starts rolling. I forgot to throw the car in park!

I quickly scramble back into the car, slam the breaks and throw it in park. Eric looks over at me with a half frightened, half bewildered look in his eyes. I get out, grab the doughnuts and pay, and the lady is staring at me as if I had two heads. I ignore it and get back in the car. As I'm buckling up, Eric says "You're never living this one down. I'm telling everyone you know." Flustered and flush in the face, I drive away from the Krispy Kreme very carefully. I drop Eric at home, pull into the driveway at my place, show my mom that I got home okay and she can go to sleep without worrying, and head to bed.

Next day, my mother comes home from work and we're chatting over dinner. She asks me if I had fun last night. "Sure," I said. Told her about the movie, and said we stopped for doughnuts and came home. "Did you turn on the radio at all?" I think to myself, 'uh oh, what'd I do.' "Because I got in the car this morning and the volume was up all the way." Whoops! Forgot to turn it down after the nonsense with the CD adapter! And I thought she wouldn't be able to tell if I turned on/off the stereo... needless to say, I didn't get the car again for a week or so.

And that's my drive-thru doughnut story. Why am I telling you this story in particular? As you're reading this, I'm most likely on a plane to go visit Eric. Have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Fel Mana Potions - Negative Spell Damage and You

One of the burning questions I've had on my mind lately has been the trade-off between Fel Mana Potions and Super Mana Potions. I have been operating under the assumption that going into the negative with my spell damage total would not affect my damage adversely, so that the Fel Mana Potion debuff could be ignored as immaterial for a Retribution Paladin. This is despite the fact that Seal of Command, Judgement of Command, Consecration, and Exorcism all have spell damage coefficients. Well, I (and the Ret Paladin community at large) might have overlooked something - operating with a negative spell damage total will decrease your damage output. Dazanna of <Limited Edition> on Draka server, also known as "flyingtoastr" on many WoW-related forums such as Elitist Jerks, duped another Paladin on Draka server into wasting a Fel Mana Potion in the interest of science. His findings follow (source):

A comrade from the Draka boards was kind enough to test this for me on some random boar. He has no spell damage on his gear. He judged Crusader on the boar and cast a Consecration, ticing for 90. He then took a fel mana pot and with the debuff it began to tic for 87. So yes, it does appear that going negative does reduce outgoing damage.

So what does this mean? For Rank IV-VI Consecration you'll lose about 24 total damage, or 3 DPS. For a max rank Exorcism you'll lose 11 damage, or .73 DPS. Seal of Command loses 5 damage and Judgement of Command is reduced by 11 ( .583 DPS and 1.2 DPS respectively). So each Fel Mana Pot reduces your outgoing DPS by roughly 5.5.

The difference is that upranking Consecration from rank II to IV (the maximum I can sustain with Super and Fel chugging respectively) is an increase of 28 DPS. So yes, Fel Mana pots will still be worth more DPS than supers still unless you somehow stack yourself to extreme levels (the debuff is capped at 10 anyway).

So, Fel Mana Potions still represent a boost in damage, just not as big of a boost as I originally thought. It also answers a dubious question - previously, I had thought that using Darkmoon Card: Crusade in conjunction with Fel Mana Potions was counterproductive, as the Fel Mana debuff would cancel out some of the spell damage buff from the card. This was a stark contrast to the no-risk proposition of using Fel Mana Potions and gaining the debuff when going lower than 0 spell damage was assumed to mean nothing, since getting 80 spell damage from the card meant you had something to lose. Now that I know exactly how much damage I will gain/lose from changes in my spell damage, even when going into the negative, I can safely say that the Darkmoon Card: Crusade spell damage buff loses no value when using Fel Mana Potions, even though they have inverse effects on your spell damage total. For any fight where you can ensure the DMC buffs will stay up, use it, no matter what potions you have! I'm going to go back and edit my "consumables" post to reflect this realization.

Behind the Vengeance: The Making of a Paladin

I previously mentioned that my character was not always named as he is. That's the truth - he wasn't even on the same server he is now. Here's how it went down:

I came to World of Warcraft after playing Guild Wars for nearly a year. My girlfriend at the time was playing the game and convinced me that I'd love it. I knew of the game - I had played all the Warcraft RTS games and was very excited when they announced WoW, but didn't want to pay $15 a month to play after plopping down retail for the CD's. So, I kept on trucking with Diablo 2, a fun hack 'n slash also made by Blizzard. When Guild Wars hit shelves, I figured I'd give it a try with a few friends. The game's PvE depth was nil, though, so I got bored after going through the story a 3rd time. I quit playing Guild Wars for a bit, but I still wanted to play an MMO. I started going out with this girl, and she and her best friend were hooked on WoW - plus, a few of my Guild Wars guildmates had migrated to a WoW server as well. At that point I said "sure why not." One of my GW guildmates knew a Blizz employee, got me CD's for cheap, and I rolled a character on a server where I knew people. In Diablo 2, I played a Paladin, and I love the knight-archetype, so rolling a Paladin was pretty simple for me. Heavy armor, sword and shield, take it to the enemy and heal myself as I go? Sign me up!

As I said in a previous post, if I don't name my characters something I like, I eventually stop playing them. I've gone so far as in Diablo 2 I re-rolled a character at around 30 or 40 simply because I wanted to change his name. I needed something Paladin-y, that sounded both crusader-ish and holy. One of the book series I was reading at the time was "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George R. R. Martin. One of the characters in the series was named Baelor Targaryen - he was a king who was widely credited with bringing the prevalent form of organized religion to the kingdom in the series. A holy man, devout, and a crusader - his nickname was "Baelor the Blessed," I thought the name fit perfectly. So, I played Baelor up to 14 or so, decided I didn't like the server I was on, rolled another Baelor, and ran with him. I played that character almost solely, rolling an alt here or there but never getting much past 12. Baelor hit 60, ran Zul'Gurub, raided Molten Core, acquired full Lawbringer set, raided Blackwing Lair, killed Nefarian, raided most of Ahn'Qiraj and wiped to the Twin Emperors a bit, had 4/8 tier 2, full Soulforge set, a [Quel'Serrar], a [Sulfuras, Hand of Ragnaros], and was as decked out as I could get him for a level 60 raider pre-Naxxramas. At the Burning Crusade's release, Baelor tanked his way through Outlands and raided most of the tier 4 content, acquiring most of the Justicar tank set.

Everything was not peachy for Baelor, though. I grew very impatient with my guildmates and my server in general - at that point I was a guild leader for the #3 or 4 guild progression-wise on the Alliance side. It was making me angry, depressed, and frustrated having to lead the guild and mediate player conflicts, make calls on loot systems and awards, organize raids, lead raids, and all the while still try to have fun in the game. So, I stepped away for a month. I handed guild leadership over to the main tank for the guild and let Baelor sit idle for a good while. The guild didn't do much without me - I think they were anticipating that I'd come back and lead them some more, but whatever. When I came back, I had a fresh perspective on what I wanted from the game, and it was to be a rank-and-file member of a guild that was progressing steadily. My guild was progressing, but in a new boss every two-three months sort of way, and I couldn't shed enough guild leadership responsibility onto my officers to make the game enjoyable. Joining another guild on the server wasn't really an option - I had founded the guild I was in, and jumping ship to another guild would mean I would have to see them in Ironforge or Shattrath every day, getting rude emotes and angry tells.

I wanted to play. I couldn't play how I wanted on that server. What's a Paladin to do? I started seeking out transfers. It didn't take long to find a guild that suited me. I applied to a few guilds that were raiding 2-4 days a week in SSC/TK. One guild in particular caught my eye - 4/6 SSC, 2/4 TK, a first kill of Fathom-Lord Karathress less than a week ago, 3 raid days a week, PvE server, relational DKP system, and seeking Paladins. Perfect! I applied, made a lengthy application speaking of my experience as a GM, how I've raided all of tier 4 and want to step into tier 5 content, linked all my tanking gear and mentioned that I had decent Holy and Retribution sets, and basically overloaded their app form with info. I got in contact with the Guild Master and talked it out, discovered that they had two openings for Paladins - one Holy, and another flex spot for either a Holy or a Ret. This was a few patches ago, before Crusader Strike was reduced to 6 second cooldown. He was prepping for that patch, thinking that Judgements up all the time would be a huge boon to the raid (which it is).

Well, my Prot set was awesome, but my Ret set was by far my weakest of my 3 gear piles, and I had no desire to raid Holy. The GM didn't need another tank, so I told him to keep me in mind. A day or so went by, and I thought about it - I could definitely gear up my Ret set to be at-level for tier 5 content, I'd just need to PvP a little and do some Kara/Gruul's farming, as well as acquire a few BoE's. I contacted the GM again, told him I could definitely handle the Ret role (I raided Molten Core as Ret for a bit and understood the mechanics), and showed him my gear and how I could upgrade it to get up to speed. Well, he had me transfer over that night!

Baelor was taken all ready on that server though, I had to change my name. 'Ruh roh,' I thought, 'I'm going to be in trouble. I gotta pick a name I like, otherwise I'll just have spent a transfer fee for nothing.' One of my guildmates on my original server had transfered away a week before, and she recommended I browse through some Gaelic names. They usually have good rings to 'em, so I browsed a Gaelic baby naming site. One name caught me - Cathmor. It meant "great warrior," which fit since I planned on being a Ret Paladin. Two syllables, good meaning, didn't have odd characters or make references to anything sexual, pot-related, or just a class ability - I figured I had a winner! And I did, 'cuz I definitely like the name. I do miss Baelor though. Ah well, 'tis better to have loved and lost, I suppose...

Anyway, rest of the story is history. Patch came, I specced Ret, upgraded my gear, felt out the nuances of Ret in the Outlands world, and my guild steadily progressed through the content, going from Karathress to Illidan in about 6 months, while raiding no more than 12 hours a week. And that's how Cathmor became Cathmor.