Thursday, August 28, 2008

PvP Ret - Dressing for success

Gather 'round the fire everyone, Uncle Josh has something on his mind and he wants to share it with all of you.

Lots of people regard retribution as the "strongest" paladin spec for PvP. That's great, I'm happy for them. However, there are several different flavors of retribution in PvP, so just saying "PvP Ret" when asked what your spec is tells me abso-freaking-lutely nothing. Do you have Divine Strength? Improved Hammer of Justice? Eye for an Eye? Sanctified Judgement? Stoicism? You can't have 'em all, and there are distinct differences in play-style that come along with the choices you make regarding PvP talent selection.

If we think of arena PvP like a party, and your spec and gear as the outfit you wear to the party, I can put this into perspective for you.
(And before you ask, no, I know nothing about picking out clothing, I'm a hetero guy, this is not my strong suit.)

((Wow, that was a bad pun.))

Determine your mood
When choosing your talents for PvP, you first must decide whether you're conservative or daring. Do you want to press real real hard and cause someone to panic? Or do you want to protect yourself better and exert a modicum of control over the situation? If you go for the FEAR PANIC DESTROOOOYYY route, you generally give up most of your "defensive" talents, like Improved Hammer of Justice, Stoicism, and possibly Improved Righteous Fury, in favor of grabbing Divine Strength. The boost to AP you get from 10% more strength lends itself to playing hard and fast, living on the edge, and depending on your heavy blows forcing the other team to play defensive and stay on the defensive. Ladies, this would be the fashion equivalent of wearing that low-cut top and impossibly short skirt.

On the other hand, if you choose the DON'T HURT ME! route, you need to sacrifice your wonderful strength scaling in favor of the deep-ish protection talents, but you gain stun resistance, dispel resistance, and shorter cooldown hammers. With those at your disposal, you can be more disruptive through increased control over your own character (you don't get stunned, dispelled, or dead-ed as quick!) and your enemies (2x as many Hammer of Justices means you can bash d'em gud). This is your long skirt, leaves tons to the imagination look.

Dress how you feel
Ok, now that you've decided whether you're a psycho-crazy berserking maniac (daring dresser) or a pick-your-spots control freak (conservative party-goer), you can refine your ret tree to match. If you went with the prot talents, you have 41 talents to use in the ret tree, and no more - you need to use them carefully. If you went with Divine Strength, you can be a little looser with your ret tree, and can spend anywhere from 41 to 56 points in the tree.

There are several talents that are must-have for PvP - Improved Judgement, Conviction, Seal of Command, Vindication, Sanctity Aura, Two-hand Spec, Vengeance, Repentance, at least 2/3 Sanctified Seals, and Crusader Strike. That doesn't add up to 41 talent points. You've still got to choose between talents like Eye for an Eye, Improved Sanctity Aura, Sanctified Judgement, Fanaticism, Crusade, and others. However, all the "other" talents carry tendencies that should be considered in light of your philosophy.

For example - Eye for an Eye is a reactionary/defensive talent. For the zerg tactics that go along with the berserker route of Divine Strength builds, it would not fit. You're looking to kill someone before Eye for an Eye really has time to be a factor - it's added extra damage to punish people when they crit you, but if you're zerging them you're trying to prevent them from casting and putting them on their face before they have time to set up that crit combo.

Improved Sanctity Aura, on the other hand, is 2% extra damage to everyone in your group, yourself included. So, when you're trying to squeeze every ounce of damage out of your team in a short period to achieve a zerg kill, Imp. Sanctity Aura might provide that extra "oomph." See where I'm going with this?

Now that you've got your talents all hammered out (get it? Hammer? 'Cuz we're paladi... ah forget it), you need to match your shoes to your outfit. If you're looking to achieve a zerg kill, then your gear should reflect this - mix in PvE gear. If you have access to it, armor penetration gear in addition to pure raid gear (with high strength values) will help you in your quest to pummel an opponent before they can blink.

Wearing an extremely small amount of PvP gear with a conservative approach would be counter-productive. With a 0/20/41 control build, you might have to weather a spike or two before you get your opportunity to go for a kill. You'll want to wear a good amount of PvP-oriented gear with high(er) stamina and resilience. Mixing in a piece or two of PvE gear doesn't hurt though! Even though you have to weather a few blows before you deliver your knock-out punch, when that opportunity presents itself, you want to have some strength behind it. So, an exceptional piece of armor pen gear or a belt of sheer awesome are worth using instead of the stock PvP gear. Think of it as adding some slink to your outerwear - just don't overdo it.


So, are you a flashy dresser or do you take a more conservative approach? Zerg 'em down or pick your spot? Chaos or control?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Duds

Updated my character picture at right to reflect what I wear, since I haven't been wearing Legguards of Endless Rage for a few weeks (months?) and I finally got a shiny new belt.

Hooray for new duds!

Monday, August 25, 2008

This Is An Emergency

The New York City subway system confounds me. Every car has an emergency brake cord that says "In case of emergency: Open panel, alarm will sound, pull cord." Simple, right?

Well, there is also more detailed instructions posted in each subway car for specific emergencies.

In case of fire:

  • Do not pull emergency cord.
  • Notify train crew member immediately.
  • If possible, move to another car through interior doors.
  • Remain inside - tracks are electrified.
  • Follow instructions from train crew and emergency workers.
In case of medical emergency:
  • Do not pull emergency cord.
  • Notify crew member immediately if a passenger is in distress.
  • If you are qualified to assist, inform the train crew.
In case of a police emergency:
  • Do not pull emergency cord.
  • Alert the train crew to any unlawful or suspicious behaviors.
  • Train crew can notify police en route.
So riddle me this, fine reader. What sort of emergency warrants pulling the emergency cord?

(WoW-related post on the way this week, I promise.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Boss Spotlight: Kalecgos

In a continuing effort to educate the community on how Retribution Paladins should approach fights that pose specific difficulties to the class, E4AE proudly presents another "Boss Spotlight!" In today's crosshairs: Kalecgos.

Kalecgos is a blue dragon, of the same family as Azuregos in Azshara and Sapphiron, currently under the control of the Scourge in Naxxramas. The Blue Dragonflight governs the domain of magic, and because of this, any time you have to go toe-to-toe with a blue dragon in battle, you're in for a fight wrought with magical mayhem. Kalecgos was sent to Quel'Thalas to investigate the situation surrounding the Sunwell, but when he arrived there, a series of events transpired that ended in the dreadlord Sathrovarr the Corruptor possessing the mighty blue dragon. Since Kalecgos is actually an ally in the efforts against the Burning Legion, the fight does not end with his death - the raid must break Sathrovarr's hold over Kalec. This is done by reducing both Sathrovarr's and dragon Kalecgos's hit points down to 1%.

Why are we talking about this boss?
Kalecgos is a two-phase fight, but not in the sense that you're most likely used to. The normal sort of two-phase fight sees a boss use one set of abilities and then switch to another, like High King Maulgar when he puts away his mace, or Illidan as he swaps between his human and demon phases. Kalecgos has two entirely separate targets that need to be killed, and raiders can only have access to one at a time. Here's what happens -

Kalec starts in the middle of circular plaza, and hostile. Once aggro'd, after a few seconds he will put up a magic barrier that prevents raiders from leaving the plaza. He throws around a bunch of "Wild Magic" debuffs, most of which do not concern you. There's one that ups your threat production - that's one you need to be careful with. The abilities that concern us here are his Arcane Buffet and Spectral Blast. Arcane Buffet will deal arcane-based damage and stack a DoT that deals arcane damage as well as increase arcane damage taken. It can be pretty dangerous when stacked past 8 or so. Spectral Blast, on the other hand, is an instant ability that Kalec will cast periodically that teleports the target into the "Spectral Realm," leave a portal behind that allows others to enter the realm, and deals a fair amount of arcane damage to anyone standing about 10 yards from the original target. The Spectral Realm is where you will find Sathrovarr, locked in combat with a half-elf form of Kalecgos. Those who enter the Spectral Realm will only stay there for 60 seconds, and cannot re-enter the realm for 60 seconds after exiting.

The rub in this fight is harsh, however. If Sathrovarr kills the Spectral Realm Kalec, the fight resets. If Kalecgos or Sathrovarr hit 10% health, they both enrage and start absolutely thrashing their targets. If dragon Kalecgos hits 1% health while Sathrovarr is still active, he gets banished and stops spawning portals via Spectral Blast (making it impossible for additional raiders to get to Sathrovarr). Needless to say, great care must be taken with this fight.

What to do when facing Kalecgos
The keys to defeating this boss are: a) good Spectral Realm portal rotations (having the right people enter the portal when they're supposed to); b) evenly-split damage on both Kalecgos and Sathrovarr; c) tight healing. You, as a retribution paladin, can't do much about (c), but you can most certainly contribute to (a) and (b).

Depending on how your raid splits up their groups, you will be assigned to a certain "portal group." It is imperative that you know who else is in your portal group, and proceed directly to the portal when it spawns on one of your group's members. Spam-click the portal when you get in range - you must enter the portal when your group is up, otherwise you can potentially throw the entire raid off.

Watch your Arcane Buffet stacks. If Kalecgos takes his time in Spectral Blast'ing someone in your group, don't hesitate to use Divine Shield to clear your debuff stack. I usually do so somewhere around 8-10 stacks. Related to this, do not stand close to others. Kalecgos will randomly select his Spectral Blast target from among the raid members who are not either in the Spectral Realm or suffering from Spectral Exhaustion (the debuff that leaving the Spectral Realm causes). At the start of the fight, that means everyone (excluding the main tank) is a potential target. Spectral Blast can cause 5k base damage to anyone standing too close - Arcane Buffet amplifies it, so you can easily get "wtfpwned" by a Spectral Blast with too many debuffs on you. Watch your range relative to others, and find a spot where you can DPS Kalecgos without being in range of a Spectral Blast on someone. Most often this means only 2 melee per side on Kalecgos - one by his front paw, and the other at max range by his hind leg.

Take it easy on Kalecgos's dragon form - neither he nor Sathrovarr have a ton of health, but Sathrovarr usually needs to die first. Use Crusader Strike and Judgement on the dragon, and maybe throw some Consecration in, but save your cooldowns for Sathrovarr.

Once you're in the Spectral Realm, get behind Sathrovarr and unleash hell. Pop trinkets, use your wings, cast Exorcism and max rank Consecration. You only have 60 seconds of alone time with the dreadlord, so make it count. Your raid will likely have shamans using Heroism when their group is in the Spectral Realm, so it's a great time to stack the cooldowns anyway. Make sure to get a Judgement of the Crusader up on Sathrovarr too - it ups your damage and everyone else's crit %, and that's never a bad thing.

When you are teleported back to the "real world" where the dragon is located, assume your original positioning, rinse and repeat. Don't be afraid of your healthstones/health potions, there's a lot of raid damage and if you temper your mana consumption vs. the dragon, Spiritual Attunement should keep you going throughout the fight without having to use mana potions. Everything else is basically in the healers' hands and a test of awareness of the raid.

So, to recap:

  • Use your cooldowns on the demon, Sathrovarr

  • Don't stand too close to other people in the dragon phase

  • Bubble off Arcane Buffet if it stacks too high

  • Know who's in your portal group, and hoof it to the portal pronto when it spawns on someone in your group

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

State of the Blog Address

Going forward from today, my post frequency will be noticeably slower. For all your paladin needs however, there are several resources I can recommend:

Rohan is and has always been an excellent source of cross-spec paladin information.
Siha concentrates on holy shenanigans, but she's currently in the beta and can give you some fun updates with that in mind.
Suicidal Zebra, that insane equine, doesn't post frequently, but when he does it's often very informative. He concentrates on ret paladin shtuff.
The EJ threads are long and involved, but both the Ret DPS Theorycraft thread and the WotLK Paladin discussion thread are your best bets for up-to-the-minute information regarding anything paladin-y.
Slayton's site is fairly well-kept, and the forums are leagues more useful than the official Blizzard forums, and less restricted than EJ.

Of course, I am still available via e-mail for any questions you may have. It might even give me some blogging material.

Coming soon to E4AE - more boss spotlights! Keep an eye out for such fights as Kalecgos, Brutallus, Al'ar, and Gruul.

I'll hopefully have more PvP tips for different comps and brackets (akin to my recent post on ShS/Ret 2v2) coming soon as well, since I anticipate that the bulk of my limited play-time will be devoted to arena in raiding's stead.

That's my dealio for the day, ta for now!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I Couldn't Think of a Good Title

Okay, so I might have rambled last month about how I might have to stop raiding in the fall. It's official, I can't do it no mo'. Starting in September, I'll be beginning a master's program which will suck up a good portion of my nights. In fact, I have an advisement session scheduled after work tonight to discuss scheduling my classes. With that in mind, I can't reliably make my guild's raids anymore.

BUT, there is a silver lining - every time life closes a door, it opens a window. My not raiding anymore means that my Judgement of Wisdom-addicted GM is seeking a Retribution Paladin! And if I've been targeting the right market with my content, a majority of my readers should be, ya know, ret paladins or something like that...

Something Wicked of Malfurion-US, a PvE-CST server, is seeking a retribution paladin (among other roles) to fill out its raid force. The server is home to a lot of PvP players who are stuck on PvE servers, as well as serving as home to several Illidan-killing Alliance guilds. One of the Horde guilds just took down Kil'jaeden this week. As part of Something Wicked's raid force, you'd be expected to maintain 100% attendance (or as close to it as humanly possible) for their 3-day-a-week raid schedule: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, from 7-11 CST. You'd be in for just about every raid, every boss, and you'd be expected to perform at the highest level - flasked and food buffed throughout the raid. Being that the guild raids only 12 hours a week and is pushing Sunwell content while continuing to farm Black Temple, efficiency and speed are tantamount.

SW is currently has the opportunity to achieve Alliance-firsts for several Sunwell bosses - Brutallus was killed for a 2nd time this week and an entire night went into Felmyst learning last night (Felmyst has not been killed by a Malfurion-Alliance guild to date).

Think you've got what it takes to fill my shoes? Do you have t6-level gear and the ability to pump out damage like you mean it? Can you make SW's raids reliably and consistently? Head on over to the guild's website and submit an application. They're recruiting a feral druid and a holy priest as well, as you can find in the realm recruitment thread, but this is a ret pally blog so that's not what we're talking about here.

That's my spiel (pronounced shpeel), go forth and pwn.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Is There Any Question...

... about how awesome Felicia Day is?

I don't remember what started me on checking her site today, but I checked her Twitter feed and found this video (embedded below) of her at San Diego ComicCon at a Dr. Horrible panel discussion. She's asked a question and is busy updating her Twitter instead of listening, and openly admits it. Hilarious banter ensues.

Felicia Day Twitters from hacksaway on Vimeo.

For those who don't know her, she is the creator of The Guild, a (free) online web sitcom about gamers, an actress in her own right, and a gi-normous geek. She is easily one of my favorite Hollywood personalities, as she's... I dunno, genuine. And a gamer. And funny, if not always intentionally.

I was laughing out loud at the video, and that doesn't happen all too often. Anyway, thought I'd share!

Friday, August 1, 2008

An Exercise In Anti-stun-locking

And now for something completely different.

You know how I'm always so down-trodden when I speak of my arena experiences? Well, for just one night, I experienced some high points. I didn't quite achieve my goal (Vengeful Shoulders, /swoon), but I did get a funky looking helm and some laughs, and I learned a bit of arena strategy in the process.

I logged in on Thursday just to check my mail and the auction house and got a whisper almost immediately from one of my rogue guildmates. This particular rogue is an avid PvP'er on several characters, and has a pretty good nose for the do's and don'ts in the arena. He usually whispers me when I log in to share an achievement he made with one of his PvP characters (going undefeated earlier in the week, peaking at ~2000 with a partner in 2v2, his plans to partner up with X person who's awesome, etc), but tonight he was just bored.

He asked me what I was up to, and I responded that I didn't have a set plan. My choices for the evening were to a) coerce a partner or several partners to join one of my arena charters and play some games with me, b) put together a PUG Gruul's Lair run so I had a shot at a [Dragonspine Trophy], c) go play Titan Quest with a few college friends, or d) give my poor wrist a night off from computer usage and go watch TV or somethin'. He musta' been really bored, because he hinted that he might play some 2v2 games with me on one of his characters, since he'd need to get points this week anyway. This is quite a juxtaposition, as oftentimes he is the one I end up whining to that I can't find quality arena partners, I suck, and I can't break 1650. Usually somewhere in our conversations I hint that he should carry me to good ratings on any one of his many PvP alts.

Originally he was going to test his mage skills out with me and try frost mage/ret paladin, a very strong comp, but ultimately he decided he felt like playing his rogue. "Joy!" I thought to myself, as his rogue is his main, and he happens to be pretty darned good at it. After dicking around for about 10-15 matches and not gaining much ground rating-wise, we started getting into a groove. My partner started imparting little pieces of advice as we went along, and I immediately incorporated them into my game. We pushed into the mid-1600's before a match went sour because I couldn't 1v1 a shadowstep rogue after the enemy priest and my partner both died.

At that point, my rogue-ish companion dragged me outside of Ironforge and showed me what's what when dueling a rogue mano a mano. Want some tips for taking down a rogue 1v1? Here's what I've got for ya:

  1. If the enemy rogue starts to disengage, and you can't stop him with Repentance/Hammer of Justice, don't chase him. Let him go - go hide behind a pillar and drink/bandage.
  2. If you just got Cheap Shot and you anticipate a Kidney Shot to follow, Divine Shield or Blessing of Protection out of the Cheap Shot. You'll likely throw the rogue off when he can't land his Kidney Shot, and then he'll be vulnerable and possibly a bit surprised.
  3. If the rogue pops Evasion and tries to go toe-to-toe with you, Repentance him. Wait out the 4 seconds of Repentance and let his Evasion duration tick down. You're not going to hit him when he's got 95% dodge.
  4. Stun the rogue with Hammer of Justice as much as humanly possible. Keep hammer on cooldown - he can't dodge while he's stunned.
  5. Deny the rogue his opener. Use rank 1 Consecration randomly to chance popping him out of stealth. Things go a lot smoother if you don't get Garroted, Sapped, or Cheap Shot.
  6. If you want to be a real pisser and make the rogue scream obscenities, use Seal of Justice intermittently while attacking him. You'll lose a bit of damage, but the random stun procs will drop their dodge down for a second so you can land a Crusader Strike, and the rogue will have flashbacks to the last time a mace warrior random stun proc'ed him to death.
  7. Use Retribution Aura. Yea, Sanctity boosts your outgoing damage, but Ret Aura punishes the rogue for hitting you, and he probably will be doing that quite a bit while keeping you from hitting him.
  8. Keep Judgement of Justice on the rogue. If he tries to sprint away, it will prevent him from doing so, and if you need to get away for a moment's respite, you can Blessing of Freedom yourself and (in conjunction with a run speed enchant or Pursuit of Justice) outrun the rogue for about 20 seconds.

I'm sure there's more, but that's what I can remember right now of my wealth of knowledge on introducing rogues to the blunt end of my mace.

After dueling my partner a few times and picking up a few of the nuggets above that I didn't know, we went back into the arena. And what'dya know, we faced a frost mage/subtlety rogue combo! My partner and I tore the mage to shreds, but the enemy rogue managed to kill my partner. Time to test my mettle! I put Justice on him, activated Ret Aura, stunned him, and went to work. He blinded me and re-stealthed, so I went behind a pillar and sat down to drink. He re-opened on me with a Garrote, and I started pounding him again, so he decided to Vanish and lick his wounds. I grabbed a Shadowsight buff and started flying around the arena, looking for him. I saw him just in time for him to Sap me. He opened with a Cheap Shot, so I Blessing of Protection'ed myself out of it, and then dropped a rank 1 Consecrate to keep him in combat an extra second or two while I clicked off the BoP. He tried to Evasion, so I Repentance'd him and dropped a small heal on myself while I waited it out. Then I Hammer of Justice'd him in the face, popped my [Berserker's Call] and finished him off. Woo! 17 points! A dumb dog can learn new tricks!

At some point in the night we hit 1650something so I took a trip to Stormwind and picked up a [Guardian's Band of Triumph]. Shiny! We kept playing, losing to a few holy paladin/SL-SL warlock teams. After teetering between 1680something and 1698 or so a few times, I finally broke 1700. Hello, hotness! 4/5 Brutal! [Brutal Gladiator's Scaled Helm]

Now, so that this doesn't turn into a gush-fest about how I'm so happy and maybe I won't quit arenas and yadda yadda yadda, here's some tips on pairing up with a shadowstep rogue in 2v2.

  • Stay put in the starting area on Blade's Edge or Lordaeron while the rogue scouts ahead and finds what you're up against. On Nagrand, hide behind one of the near pillars while the rogue takes a look around. Keeping the other team guessing until you come charging out and one of their guys gets Sapped is key.
  • If you or the rogue get Cheap Shot by an enemy rogue, bubble the affected target out of it immediately. It'll stop the incoming Kidney Shot and mess up the enemy strategy.
  • If you are up against a druid team, kill the druid first, either by finding him Prowling and opening up on him, or by drawing him out by beating his partner down a bit. The rogue should Cheap Shot - Kidney Shot the druid, in which the druid will most likely trinket the Kidney, shift to cheetah and start running. If you're doing it right, you'll be on top of the druid when this happens and you can Hammer of Justice him, (re-)apply Judgement of Justice, pop a trinket and/or your Avenging Wrath, and zerg him down. Many a-druid have been blown up this way. If he goes bear, keep working his health down and try to stun him when he shifts into caster form to heal, and then clobber him.
  • Use your Blessing of Freedom on the rogue if he's getting snared. Shadowstep has a 30 second cooldown, and it's important for the rogue to be on the target building combo points, throwing stuns and kicks, and being a general nuisance for as much of the match as possible. 95% of the time, you're not going to solo that healer, no matter how awesome you think you are.
  • Repentance is your friend. If you and your partner are concentrating on killing the DPS of a DPS/healer team, put the healer on focus and Repent him when you get the DPS'er low and he starts a heal with a cast time. He'll either eat the full duration, giving you 4 seconds of alone time with the DPS'er, or trinket it and open himself up to a Blind from your rogue. Yea, they share the same "incapacitate" diminishing returns, but it still works so very well.
  • In contrast, if you're going after the healer of a DPS/healer team, use Repentance to stall the DPS and keep him off your rogue. Preventing damage before it happens is awesome.
  • When facing a priest, trinket his first Psychic Scream and Cleanse the fear off your rogue. It'll save your partner's trinket for more important things.
  • If a target has any possibility of kiting around the arena, put Judgement of Justice on it. The only targets I neglect to put it on are ret paladins and ms warriors, everyone else tastes sweet Justice.

Now all's I gotta do is find a sucker partner or two and push a team up toward 2k...