Monday, November 24, 2008

Dual-Spec Indecision

The votes have been tallied from the last poll - 60% of you think that ret is a-ok how it is, and another 25% think that ret is underpowered. Interesting. On to the next topic!

Free talent swaps between two preordained talent specs are not yet available. That doesn't stop me from wondering what I'd be better off doing for my off-spec.

So far in Northrend I'm having a jolly good time going up to things and going Crusader Strike, Judgement, DIVINE STORM!, dead mob. I'm fairly unstoppable. The new Repentance is awesome, Art of War and Sheath of Light are amazing, and I can't wait to get some more talents so that I can grab Divine Purpose and be pretty much unstunnable too. Prot paladin AoE my eye, Divine Storm with wings works pretty well too!

But every time I end up instancing (Utgarde and Nexus, so far), guild or PuG, the group needs a tank. So I sigh inwardly, hearth to a bank, slap on my tanking gear, and then trudge back out to the instance zone. In several instances runs, I haven't once DPS'ed a run. DPS is a dime a dozen.

On the flip side, there's not a ton of healers available for runs either. For one Nexus run, the group had to wrench a priest's arm to heal it instead of questing.

So I've been rethinking my initial impression for dual-speccing. At first I was like "sweet! PvE main, PvP off, bing bang boom!" But now... if I want to PuG instances and do 5-mans, I might have to focus on building my tanking and/or healing set. Which one should I focus on, though? After I shore up my ret set, should I turn to my protection set, or my holy set?

What's everyone's feel out there for group needs? Do groups consistently lack a tank, or is finding a healer more of a problem? I always want to smash stuff first, but I'm ambivalent as to healing or tanking, since I haven't tried out the new holy talents like Bacon Beacon of Light and Judgements of the Pure. Nor have I had a chance to play around with Holy Shield Slam Shield of Righteousness.

Off-spec PvP ret, PvE prot, or PvE holy?

Friday, November 21, 2008

D'oh, Divine Plea

So I logged in last night to do a bit of questing in Dragonblight (ding 73!). I did all of the following...

  • Killed a giant crab
  • Battled to the death underwater with an enormous shark
  • Went cliff-diving at the command of Lurker-type being
  • Had an out-of-body experience
  • Spoke to a large slab of rock
  • Slaughtered hordes of Nerubians and cultists
  • Thwarted the efforts of the Blue Dragonflight
  • Met Alexstrasza and her "consort" (which, to me, is another word for love slave)
  • Aided the Red Dragonflight in putting their dead to rest
  • Reported for duty at Fordragon Hold
  • Saw the Wrath Gate
  • Solo'ed a level 74 elite with 3 other level 72 mobs beating on me (which I did because, well, I can.)

Through all of this, however, I actually had to drink once or twice because I was trying to do too much at once.

But wait! I forgot about one little joy of an ability... Divine Plea. Instead of stopping to drink, I should have been popping Divine Plea every minute or so to replenish my mana.



Thursday, November 20, 2008

So Yea, About End Game...

... I'm not going to get there for a while. My leveling process is going to be gruelingly, painfully, excruciatingly slow. In fact, I haven't even looked up what hit rating/expertise goal a ret paladin should aim for in a raid setting.

What I can tell you is this: I will keep you up to date on where to look for this information (EJ is a great place to start), and I will bring my own special retributive slant to the table once I catch up.

For the time being, though, you're going to get sarcastic commentary, gushing reviews of undead slaughtering, and mindless babbling about engineering toys while my paladin does strategic questing strikes in Northrend from his new home base of Dalaran. Apologies ahead of time for not being able to be your numero uno for raiding in WotLK!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why I Like Kerry Collins

Okay, so the guy threw 4 interceptions in the 2001 Super Bowl to kill the Giants. His on-field decision-making has been suspect. His off-field choices have been historically terrible.

But, as Rick Reilly notes, he always owns up to it. The man deserves our respect and admiration.

He's leading the Tennessee Titans to glory this year, and I can't think of another QB in the league who is more deserving of an undefeated record thus far.

How does this relate to paladins? Glad you asked. I want all of your honest opinions. Just like Kerry stood at the podium after the '01 Super Bowl and told the world that he plain sucked that game, I want all of you to own up to the current paladin state. Are ret paladins overpowered? Are ret paladins underpowered?

This is not where I state a case on the official forums, imploring Ghostcrawler to re-tool the paladin class because of X Y and Z factors pointing to paladins sucking and needing help. Nor is it where I use those reasons to debunk a "NERF PALADINZ" call from Joe Six-Alt or Jane the Shaman. Nor still is it when I bemoan the OP-ness of the class and tell the devs that they clearly don't know how to design balanced classes.

This is where I want the true, honest, and open opinion of paladins of all gear levels to fess up and tell me - where are we at? I've got my own opinion, the public has an opinion. The devs' opinion is a leaf on the wind.

There's a poll to be found along the right side of this blog. Let me know how you feel. Leave some lovin' in the comments if you'd like to elaborate.

Why Wasn't I Informed?

Ferraro recently was added to the front-page blog team of Slayton's Ferraro has been blogging about paladins in general since at least mid-2007, and has pretty good insight into the paladin class on the whole.

I just wanted to give you all the heads-up that I added it to my blogroll. You can also find exclusive content from her interspersed with Slayton and Megaphone on the front page.

Her content is mostly opinion and commentary with a healthy dash of sarcasm and humor. If you're looking for another paladin perspective, check 'er out.

My question is why wasn't I reading her blog previously...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On Guild Leading and Raiding

This is meant as an open letter to Honorshammer in response to his recent guild indecision.

Starting a guild from scratch is no small thing. Even if your aim is to do 5 and 10 mans on a casual basis, it still requires time, commitment, dedication, patience, goal-setting, calendar management, and a whole host of other issues to be considered. If you ratchet up the aim, the requirements in terms of intensity go up in orders of magnitude.

What I'm trying to say is that for any raiding guild, no matter the bond type between the members, will require huge commitment from the guild master (GM). It becomes a full time job, and may turn things once enjoyed into a chore. Unless the guild is run in a council-type fashion, everything falls to the GM for final resolution. Recruiting is a non-stop function that will initially be entirely on the GM. Raid leading (especially from a main tank spot, take note Honors and all you protection/feral/DK tanks) is stressful and requires discipline, tactical thinking, ability to recognize successful and failsauce strategy from limited data, and most of all, determination. Managing a loot system is tedious and causes friction - it is always a point of contention in any guild. A night off for the GM is almost as a rare as a night off for the main tank. Most of all, raid times for the GM get extended an hour in both directions - Auzara, Sydera/Matticus and many other guild leaders can tell you that there are always questions, concerns, and issues to be resolved/addressed before and after the raid.

The decision to start a guild from scratch should not be taken lightly. I bumbled into it myself and it burnt me out. Recruiting was a constant thorn - people are reluctant to transfer unless the guild has a proven track record, and there are a lot of people out there who plain suck at their class. There was dissention about the loot system. Members took shots at other members regarding their raiding ability. Personal complaints all came to me. Website and Ventrilo server issues were all brought to my attention. Deciding who raided and who didn't each night, whether I made the decision or not, brought the consequences to my doorstep. It was a non-stop barrage of questions, concerns, complaints, officer conferences, and the occasional compliment.

Unless you start with an infrastructure in place (designated raid leader, officers for recruitment, officer for loot tracking, website admin, etc.), the process of building that infrastructure in the course of building the guild is an even more daunting task. The identification, selection, and in some cases, coercion of appropriate people to take on these roles is an important step in building an efficient, effective guild/raid squad, and it requires time and patience for the right people to come along (or the cultivation of talent, which requires the GM to have the talent to impart the right skills/tools).

Going back to the raid leading point: guiding a raid from a melee position is incredibly more difficult than from a ranged position. Melee tend to see an up-close view of a boss's crotch/ass and do not get a good overview of the encounter. For tanks especially, there is so much attention to personal space, personal positioning, cooldowns, and upcoming boss abilities that cause peril/impending doom, that it takes an incredibly savvy tank to be able to pay close attention to all of those and what the raid as a whole is doing/should be doing. Delegating the raid leader position to someone else also colors the guild in unintended ways - the raid leader's demeanor can draw people or turn people away from your guild that may otherwise have had a different opinion, no matter what the charter says. The raid leader gives the raid and by proxy the guild a definable character.

Summing it up
Unless you feel you can handle a full-time job on top of whatever you do during the day, and have an unwavering commitment to seeing a vision through despite tons of trials and tribulations, unforseen hardships, recruiting issues, guild defections, drama, and inevitable loot system problems, guild leading is not a good thing to take on. However, it is incredibly rewarding if you can move the planets, get the stars to align, and make it work. The highs are high, but the lows can make you want to cut your losses and /gdisband. Of course, this could be me being all emo about it, but boy, I do not wish the burden of guild leadership upon my closest friends.

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
Shakespeare, "Henry IV," Act II

Aside to Honors - if you do make your own guild, buddy, don't be the raid leader and the main tank. Delegate the raid leading to a trusted individual. Believe me, doing both is folly. I can elaborate if you like.

EDIT: An addendum to the above. To all those who wish there was a guild out there that cultivates the sort of environment they are seeking - there usually is. Building a guild should be done only if your aim is to build a guild, not to be in the right sort of raid environment. There are a ton of guilds out there that have established charters, stable membership, track records, and infrastructure in place. If you aren't averse to transferring, they can be found on an assortment of WoW-related websites, notably the official forums recruiting section.

TL;DR - If you establish a guild, do it for the right reasons. Do it because you want to establish a guild and lead a group, not because you want to find that ideal environment. It's much less effort to troll the recruiting forums/sites than it is to build a guild from the ground up, and the end result is less responsibility and more fun for the rank-and-file raider in the former situation.

The Battle for Wintergarde

I want to join the ranks of the 7th Legion. I loved the quests at Wintergarde Keep. I really felt like the battle for Wintergarde was tense and developed. There was quest variety, vehicle usage, recognizable NPC's from quests/locations past, and best of all, tons of undead to slaughter.

I don't know why, but I was entranced by the constantly respawning mindless mobs of zombies that rose up from the ground to the south of Wintergarde, I think in the Dawn's Reach area. At one point I held my mace high as I waded into the thick of things, Divine Storm'ing and whacking each zombie until I ran out of mana. They just kept coming!

I hate leveling, but I love doing quests that call for the thwarting of the Scourge. This expansion is paladin heaven so far.

What has your experience been to date? Love it? Hate it? Wish to marry it? Hope it burns in the fiery pits of hell?

I'm (I think) about a quarter to a third done with Dragonblight. I did just about all of Borean Tundra, and I'm debating whether to do the Howling Fjord after I do some more Dragonblight, or to move on to whatever is supposed to come after Dragonblight. Most of all, though, I wish I had more time to play. There are level 80's out there, and I'm about 5% short of 73 right now...

Damn this whole "real life" thing. Damn it to heck.

EDIT: Yea, I know my last post said I was taking it slow. But that was just my justification to fake myself into thinking it was cool to take my time. I really want to go faster and still soak in the lore at the same time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Come From the Land of Ice and Snow

Ah, ah,
We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.
The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying: Valhalla, I am coming!
-Led Zepplin, "Immigrant Song"
Northrend doesn't stand a chance.

I'm taking it slow in the frozen north, trying to pace myself so I
a) don't fail out of my master's program
b) don't give myself Carpal Tunnel
c) actually soak up the lore leading up to max level; and
d) let the crazy people get ahead of me and I can quest in peace.

I've been time-sharing my paladin and my death knight. So far my paladin is about 60% of the way to 71 and has completed a good portion of Borean Tundra (I think a good portion? I can't tell how many quests there are to be done). I just stumbled upon the D.E.H.T.A quest hub, and I'm supposed to go to Amber Ledge and Fizzcrank's Airstrip next.

On the flip side, I started a death knight - a red-haired pale Dwarf named Tytos. Yes, I stole the name Tytos from GRRM's ASoIaF series. If you don't know what I'm talking about, look back at any post where I ramble about naming my characters, you'll get it. None of the names I wanted for him were available, so I resorted to a cool-sounding one. Plus, the GM's wouldn't let me steal Baelor back from whatever good-for-nothing Horde is holding it on a bank character, so I couldn't rename my paladin and then just use Cathmor for my DK. Phooey.

The death knight starting experience thus far is pretty cool. Seeing a lot of the Naxx bosses milling around as interactable characters is great, as are the first few quests. So far, my DK hasn't leveled, but he has his charger, a PvP trinket, a few talent points (which I invested in the blood tree, because life leech is awesome. Second choice would be unholy), and is enjoying slaughtering Havenshire. The playstyle is sort of button-mashy - it plays like a quick-fire arcade fighter like Street Fighter. You need to think one move ahead constantly and plan out your attack sequence, and the next attack needs to come quick. Might change down the road as I get more abilities/talents, but that's my initial impression.

My paladin is quite overpowered in the early Northrend experience. He is 2 or 3-shotting just about everything, doesn't run out of mana if I take things one or two mobs at a time, and absolutely wrecks level 72 elites by himself. I probably could have solo'ed the culmination of the quest line in En'kilah if I wanted to (it's marked as a 3-man group quest). Of course, he is in tier 6+ gear, so his stats are probably the equivalent of a level 76 paladin at this point. Can't wait to advance further in the quest lore and see the Wrath gate cinematic!

And if I hadn't mentioned it before, the holy trinity of Art of War, Sheath of Light, and Judgements of the Wise is f*ckin win.

Lastly, the new engineering stuff is drool-worthy. I don't care if it isn't powerful in the end-game, I want it. Has anyone seen the [Gnomish Army Knife]? Or the [Flexweave Underlay]? Or the belt-clipped spynoculars, which give you the effects of goggles without having to wear goggles? Or the nitro-boosts for boots? I'm especially psyched about the army knife. I'll be able to ditch my half a bag's worth of engineering tools and just carry that! Must have the precious...

Anyway, that's where I'm at. How's your Wrath experience going? Smashing face and taking names? Getting pwned by queue's and quest cluster-f*cks? Rerollin' DK? Quit for Warhammer? Eating pie?

This weekend is sure to be filled with quests and kills. Check back next week for another episode of Adventures in Azeroth: The Travels of Cathmor!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cue Fanboy-ism

I've known about this for a while, but it hasn't been officially announced by other sources, so I kept my feelings/girlish screams of joy to myself.

HBO has ordered a pilot for George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series.

If you've listened to anything I've said regarding my character naming scheme, you might have an idea as to how much I like the series. And to wit, I'm not an avid fantasy/sci-fi reader.

I once sat with a friend and brainstormed what a cast for a major feature about the series would look like. We had a listing of actors/actresses we would love to see play some of the prominent characters.

I've frequently wandered into book stores to check and see if they had heard anything about the release of the next book in the series. The next book is the one and only new book I want to read for pleasure at the moment.

I've been contemplating re-reading all 5,000 pages or so of the series to date, just to make sure it stays fresh.

Needless to say, I am going to be watching this development intently.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Regret and Wanderlust

With names for a death knight alt bouncing in my head all day, my biggest regret in Warcraft has come rushing back.

I wish my paladin were still named Baelor. I have half a mind to contact a GM about getting this done. I'm pretty sure the last time I checked, Baelor was the name of a lowbie inactive Horde character on Malfurion.

There's also the possibility of transferring to a PvP server and reclaiming the name that way, along with a little more open world PvP. I don't know if I can endure another server migration though. I've established myself (again, after becoming a stalwart member of the Runetotem community) on Malfurion. People know me. People I don't know wave to me. I get random tells asking me to come to instances because people know of my ability. I'm on good terms with most everyone on the Alliance-side in raiding guilds. And despite my not being able to raid regularly, I'm a member of a great guild filled with members who a) care about each other, b) are fairly skilled, c) like me, and d) would welcome me with open arms into any instance quest group.

The thought of transferring elsewhere doesn't have a lot of pluses, but it persists nonetheless. It was accentuated today by the realization that I will never run into a few of the people I converse with on a variety of forums because they are on different battlegroups and servers. This happened after a (staged) heated exchange between myself and Splug, of Illidan server. It was silly, but I really wished I could log in and meet him in one on one combat, just for kicks.

Why do I feel the need to explore another server?

What's In A Name?

I totally forgot to reserve a name for my inevitable death knight alt on Cathmor's server. Problem #1 - I take forever to pick names, since they need to both fit the character and be something I like, otherwise I loathe playing the character. Problem #2 - A lot of the names I gravitate toward (names lifted out of George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series) have been used all ready.

So, first thing's first. This death knight will be an Alliance slave for Cathmor, being an herbalist/skinner so that I have all 3 gathering professions covered. Screw crafting, the gear is usually equal to drops anyway. BUT, what race should I pick? The character will be male, I don't gender bend.

Choice #1: Draenei, Dwarf, Gnome, Human, or Night Elf?

Secondly, the name. My first thought was to choose the name Beric, for Beric Dondarrion, a character in Martin's books who has died and been revived several times. Alternately, I could name the character Dondarrion.

Next thought would be Coldhands, another character from Martin's book. Presumed to be the resurrected body of a former ranger, here's the first description of the character from the book (from A Storm of Swords, page 536):

"Brother!" The shout cut through the night, though the shrieks of a thousand ravens. Beneath the trees, a man muggled head to heels in mottled blacks and grays sat astride an elk. "Here," the rider called. A hood shadowed his face.

...The rider wore no glove. His hand was black and cold, with fingers as hard as stone.
Another descriptor, from the same book (page 635):
He wore blacks, like a brother of the Watch, but he was pale as a wight, with hands so cold that at first I was afraid.
That, to me, is a good image of a dead man risen and roaming the world.

Of course, my theme of name also needs to be refined. Do I go with a name of a character that could be construed as a living being, a given name? Or do I pick a name that is more descriptive, like Coldhands?

Choice #2: Given name, or descriptive name?

And, once that is decided, I need to delve further and actually pick a name that is not totally unfitting of the chosen race. Beric would fit for a human or dwarf, but not for a night elf. It might work for a draenei or gnome. Coldhands would fit for any of them.

And, the ultimate problem, I don't know what's still available on my server.

Does anyone have thoughts on how I should proceed? What race do I pick? What type of name do I choose? Yar, too many choices...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Add-on Spotlight: Quartz

Quartz is a lovely little bundle of joy originating from the Ace2 suite of mods. For me, Quartz has two major functions that I make full use of.

First, Quartz will replace the Blizzard base UI for casting bars. The Quartz replacements can be moved around the screen and placed where you like them, and your personal casting bar even has a latency estimation built in. If you're looking to chain cast, starting a cast once you've entered the "latency" portion of your cast will give you that extra bit of throughput. Verra nize, no?

Second, Quartz supplies a swing timer. Swing timers are important. In PvP, keeping an eye on your swing timer will allow you to deliver maximum burst. Laying into someone with your cooldowns just before and right after an auto-attack (centering your skill usage around your next auto-attack, so to speak) gives the opponent the least amount of time to react, as Megs so dubiously pointed out yesterday. Speaking of that, Megs stop giving away trade secrets!

Quartz also has several other goodies in its bag of tricks, like debuff timers for yourself and your target that can be moved around the screen. It's also fairly lightweight for an add-on. I give Quartz the E4AE Seal of Approval!

Please note: no seals were clubbed in the making of this blog post.

Wrath Midnight Release

I finally reserved my copy of Wrath. I don't exactly know why I waited so long.

If you are in the Brooklyn, NY area and will be waiting in line at the Gamestop in Park Slope for the midnight release, drop me a line. I will most likely be there, bouncing up and down like a giddy schoolgirl.

Comment on this post or toss me an e-mail. It'll be fun! Or something.

Friday, November 7, 2008

My Warcraft Resume

In my daily forum hopping, I was inspired by a post that put Warcraft accomplishments into the language of business to write what follows. I've always been searching for a way to convey my accomplishments in Azeroth in a way that I wouldn't sound like a complete nutcase to a potential employer. However, I think this may be a start -

I'm a paladin class subject matter expert specializing in PvE, specifically
talent specialization and PvE raiding. I have served in several organizations as
a paladin "team lead," delegating responsibilities for maximum efficiency and
effectiveness and making on-the-fly strategy changes to ensure maximum benefit
to the overall project.

Other skills & accomplishments:
  • Coached and trained others in paladin strategy and skill usage, elevating
    some to SME knowledge levels.
  • Participated in cutting edge projects in the local server community which
    lead to breakthroughs in gear acquisition and bolstered recruiting efforts.
  • Served as a guild officer and leader, organizing and leading raid projects
    from soup to nuts: managed attendance, delegated compensation "DKP" accrual
    tracking, and headed up recruitment efforts across all candidate pipelines
    (cross-server, local, and cross-class).
  • Founding member and ongoing contributor as a part of a paladin subject
    matter online community, specifically for specialized paladin advanced tactics
    and strategy as well as basic skills training.
  • Currently publishing a periodical online column devoted to paladin
    training and development.
What do you think? Might this catch an employer's eye? Or would this get my resume flushed/filed in the circular bin?

Talents at 80 - Suiting Your Needs

The talent trees seem to be shaping up and filling out. Now that beta has closed, I feel like I can safely theorycraft up some talent specs at 80. I didn't want to make this post when there was a possibility that a crucial talent could go *poof* after I made a big deal about putting it into a build. Well, I'm not going to bore you with build-up, let's get straight to it!

PvE Builds

0/10/61 - Maximum damage, raid synergy
This build grabs Blessing of Kings and Divine Strength from the protection tree, and then proceeds to grab every damage-enhancing talent from the retribution tree. An all-around good build, since everyone loves BoKings, and (aside from Improved BoMight, since you'll be buffing BoKings!) there isn't a damage-buffing talent left untouched. Vindication is optional, that can be shifted into another talent if you prefer.

0/6/65 - Maximum damage, non-Kings
A bit more selfish, this is for the retribution paladin who says "screw Kings, I want some of the other goodies!" Divine Purpose gives you the ability to get out of stuns free, which is handy for a lot of situations. Improved BoMight provides more raw damage than BoKings. There's a free floater-point as well for your discretion. A point in Guardian's Favor (making the build 0/6/65), or a point in Eye for an Eye, or even throwing the point into Deflection wouldn't be out of the question.

5/5/61 - Maximum damage, Spiritual Focus
Want to be able to heal without pesky interruptions? Spiritual Focus on the first tier of the holy tree now makes that possible without sacrificing any damage options. You lose out on all the utilitarian options in retribution (Vindication, Divine Purpose, etc.), but by the same token, some people love to retain the ability to heal effectively.

PvP Builds

0/20/51 - Simply Stunning
Stoicism. Divine Purpose. Improved Hammer of Justice. These are the voyagers of the Simply Stunning spec. They are continuing mission, to explore strange, new arenas. To seek out new kills and new ways to piss off rogues. To boldly ret where no ret has ret'ed before! Okay, I'm not a Trekkie, so if that was horrifying to you and you consider it a butchering of a classic, my apologies. But, this build, as the title I gave it states, is focused on stunning and negating stuns. Divine Purpose and Stoicism, combined with the new human racial (or a PvP trinket... haha, non-human suckers!) make a paladin such as this extremely hard to keep stunned. It sacrifices a bit of damage to make it happen, but it still has the punch where it counts. Plus, it grabs the shiny new Improved Hammer of Justice talent. Doesn't look different? Read the fine print: decreases cooldown by 10/20/30 seconds. You can haz 30 second HoJ cooldowns? Yes, we can!

0/20/51 - The Guardian
It's not terribly different from the stun-centered spec above, but it has one key addition - Divine Guardian. Now when you bubble, you give your entire party a mini-shield wall! Decent for group PvP situations. It's not something I would spec, but I can see the appeal.

0/10/61 or 0/6/65 - KILL DEATH MAIM
You may recognize this talent spread from the PvE section. Well, yea, it is. Going for maximum damage is an acceptable method of PvP'ing. You lose a lot of the goodies that prove very useful in PvP (shorter stun cooldowns, damage reduction, utlity talents), but you also can kill a bit quicker, making some of those abilities a moot point anyway.

11/5/55 - Combat Healer
This one is a bit unorthodox. With Sheath of Light, retribution has the ability to pump out some decently sized heals. On some arena teams, there might be the need to call on that ability more than usual. Healing Light pumps up healing appreciably. This spec does not have access to absolute damage or most of the prot goodies. However, it gets some pretty powerful healing ability. Again, this is not something I recommend, since I usually try to bring the pain as swiftly as possible to preclude any need to heal lots, but some people might see the value in a build like this.


My parting words to you on the topic: if you take a look at these builds, there are certain talents that are always included. If you decide to strike out on your own and craft up a wacky, unique spec, make sure to include the backbone of retribution - Divine Strength, Conviction, Vengeance, Judgements of the Wise, Repentance, Crusader Strike, and Divine Storm. It is that solid foundation upon which true retribution specs are built. If any of those are omitted, I'd venture to say that you might be better off investing heavily in another tree.

EDIT 12/2 - altered Simply Stunning spec from 0/18/53 to 0/20/51.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Ray of Hope

From Ghostcrawler, around midnight last night:

Our eventual plan is to put Divine Shield on a shared 30 sec cooldown with
Avenging Wrath. We also plan on changing Divine Shield's attack speed penalty
(which isn't really much of a penalty) and have it apply to all damage done
while the bubble is up.

Divine Protection would no longer have the attack penalty, but since Prot
paladins typically talent out of that penalty, it won't have a big effect on
tanking (though obviously that talent would need to do something slightly

All of this assumes that preventing AW from being used with DS actually
makes the Ret tree a little more balanced. We'll need to monitor that a little
bit longer first.

We are going to go ahead and change the mana drains to a percentage of mana
so that Ret paladins don't lose so much larger a percentage of their mana than
casters with 15K mana.

If you didn't hear that, it was me exhaling a huge sigh of relief. I don't know what he means by "eventual plan" (next week? 3 patches from now? next expansion?), but this is at least a signal that the dev team understands that Forbearance on wings is not the answer to limiting the shining immune god-paladin.

As Siha mentioned in her post yesterday about the current state of paladins (which was a lot more elegant that my topsy-turvey rant on Forbearance, I might add), this habit of double-talking the paladin community is very distressing. I know my view is skewed since I'm a paladin-for-life and haven't seen the situation through any other lens, but when the community at large cries out in unison about paladins being overpowered, untested hotfixes are applied to live realms. When the paladins complain as one about an issue, the devs and community managers respond with statements like "we're looking into it" and "it's an issue that's currently being tested," with no action taken. I'm overdramatizing it, but gosh do I feel like a second-class citizen right about now.

Why can't the 30 second lockout be hotfixed in? Why was Forbearance on Avenging Wrath so important to get hotfixed in? When exactly will the lockout replace Forbearance? I want some answers, dagnabit.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Wings, Bubbles, and Forbearance

Using terms like "wings" and "bubbles" to describe class abilities doesn't conjure an image of an armored knight wielding a heavy mace. I hate paladin terminology. But I digress.

I wrote a rapid response to the Avenging Wrath hotfix on Sunday. I feel the need to further rant about this, with nods to Tim and Rohan.

As Tim the insane equine noted in his recent Forbearance rant, Forbearance is a red-hot flashing neon light that screams "gank me" to opposing players in the arena and battlegrounds. A paladin with Forbearance is a paladin who just burned a 5 minute cooldown and now cannot break an assist train, or just used an ability that could be spell-stolen, purged, or dispelled. Forbearance remains even if the ability that caused it is terminated early. Now, Forbearance is not the only debuff of this nature - mages have the Hypothermia debuff that lasts for 30 seconds (45 seconds? Whatever, it's shorter than even pre-3.0 Forbearance) which precludes them from using Ice Block again after initial usage. The Hypothermia debuff applies only to Ice Block, and only affects mages invested in frost (since Cold Snap right after Ice Block is the only way to make Ice Block available during Hypothermia). Forbearance, on the other hand, precludes paladins from using signature cooldowns - Divine Shield, Divine Protection, Hand of Protection, Avenging Wrath - and forces them to be spaced out 2 minutes apart.

Paladins have a variety of tools at their disposal, but those four abilities are non-specialized abilities that all paladins plan their encounters around. Divine Shield, when combined with the new protection talent that diverts damage to the paladin while under Divine Shield, now disallows usage of Avenging Wrath for 2 whole minutes. Which means, if something comes up one minute after a paladin bubbles in a heroic measure to save the party, wings are not available to up healing in crunch time. That's like telling a discipline priest "Here, you can use Penance, but for 2 minutes after that, you can't Power Infusion yourself. Hope nothing smacks your tank very hard!"

That's just for holy in PvE. For retribution in PvE, it means that retribution's damage will need to suffer greatly if there is any situation in which a Divine Shield would be useful. With Sanctified Wrath, the cooldown on wings drops to 2 minutes. Forbearance is a 2 minute duration debuff. Doing some simple math (hmm... carry the 11, multiply by the denominator... square the derivative...) that means if a retribution plans to use Avenging Wrath each time it's up, he will never be able to use Divine Shield, since Forbearance will not drop until wings are cooled down. And if the ret paladin does bubble, he can't use wings for a good long while. I don't know how the dev team is testing retribution DPS, but I'm willing to bet that each time damage is modeled, it's with Avenging Wrath used on cooldown, every cooldown. Forbearance tacked back onto Avenging Wrath and lengthened to 2 minutes has eliminated Divine Shield as a tool for retribution paladins in most PvE encounters. Not to pick on frost mages, but I don't see them having to decide between Icy Veins or Ice Block, or for mages in general, Arcane Power/Presence of Mind/Combustion vs Ice Block. Or, hell, rogues don't have to decide between Adrenaline Rush or Evasion/Cloak of Shadows. The point I'm trying to make here is that other classes can stack their cooldowns, or use them one right after another, and their cooldowns are performing the very similar function (mage Ice Block = Divine Shield, mage Arcane Power = Avenging Wrath).

And what of PvP? Well, pre-3.0, a ret paladin could only activate his wings if he was absolutely, positively assured a kill within their duration, however long they went without being purged. The wings and resulting Forbearance was a gigantic "kill me!" sign to opponents. It signaled to everyone in sight range that this paladin can't protect himself for the next minute - everyone turn and burn 'em! With that, wings were used very, very sparingly, and Divine Shield was reserved for only crucial moments, since the 5 minute cooldown and resulting Forbearance debuff meant it needed to be handled with care. The removal of Forbearance from Avenging Wrath was celebrated and hailed as an excellent and overdue move. The re-addition and lengthening of the debuff injects an even worse bubble/wings trade-off than before. Basically, wings can be used in a 1-minute window, 2-3 minutes after Divine Shield was activated, otherwise it can only be used, again, if a kill is assured or there is stellar CC applied to the opposition. Divine Shield is the only way to avoid damage for a paladin currently, other classes have tools at their disposal to mitigate or avoid damage, even if they have healing abilities.

Rohan dabbled in this topic from an overarching standpoint over the weekend as well, and you can find his thoughts here. The entire affair calls into question the desired end-state of paladins. Everything that's given to paladins for retribution facilitates burst - seals proccing from specials, on-command damage increase, multiple talents that do nothing but increase raw damage output (either via increased haste, crit, or just flat increase), and abilities with long-ish cooldowns and big damage attached. The retribution paladin is geared to burst something down - there's no other function for it. Yet, the feedback is consistently given that they're "too bursty." To lessen the burst, there would need to be a fundamental overhaul of the retribution system.

Changing the seal & judgement system to its current state was necessary, but did not address this issue. The problem can be encapsulated by looking at Seal of Casino (whoops, sorry - Seal of Command). Long considered "the" ret seal, this talented ability either does a good deal of unmitigated holy damage when an auto-attack connects, or does nothing at all. That's the state of the retribution paladin in general: big damage, or totally ineffectual. The talents point to that, the abilities point to that, and the cooldown alignment points to that. Messing with Forbearance, bubble, and wings does not cut to the core of the issue - seals proccing from specials, the very nature of Seal of Command, and the ability of a ret paladin to unload big damage from Crusader Strike, Judgement, and Divine Storm (with auto-attacks & Command procs thrown in), all within about 5 seconds. That's less than the duration of Hammer of Justice, which is likely one of the issues that needs addressing. But then again, how many Mutilates/finishers can an assassination rogue fit into a 5-point Improved Kidney Shot? Food for thought.

My final thought to sum this all up: Forbearance has always been, in my opinion a poorly implemented solution to the problem of paladins chaining immunity abilities (Divine Shield - Blessing of Protection), as I felt 1 minute was too long. When Avenging Wrath was introduced in Burning Crusade, I thought that having it activate Forbearance was very limiting for retribution paladins, as it forced the paladin to make a very dangerous and deadly choice that no one else besides warriors (with Death Wish/Berserker stance) needs to make - go for the kill right now and open yourself up to certain death, or play it close to the vest and keep the defensive options available. The current length of Forbearance (2 minutes, up from 1) coupled with the applicability of Avenging Wrath to all paladin specs and the preclusion of immunity abilities for a veritable eternity during and after the use of either immunity or wings, makes this hotfix a fundamental change in how paladins use their cooldowns. I agree, stacking wings and bubble was unfair to everyone except priests (who could dispel bubble and then fear us away). However, Forbearance is not the answer.

I think Forbearance, if kept in the game at all, needs to be shorter than even it was in the pre-3.0 world if Avenging Wrath is to keep the debuff attachment. No class with an immunity/defensive spell needs to lock themselves out of using damage cooldown(s) (or vice versa) for such a long time after usage. I honestly wish I could sit in on a dev team discussion about paladin mechanics, because this major retooling (I originally wrote "tinkering," but this is far more than that) after Blizzard stating that they were happy with the current state for paladins a few weeks ago signals that either a) the internal testing of retribution in both PvE and PvP is falling short of the necessary rigor, or b) there are opposing factions within the dev team at Blizzard as to how to interpret the test data, and the "paladins are way overpowered" faction won out this round.

I know I said last week that I'm not going to bash down Blizzard's door with pitchforks and lit torches at the head of an angry mob, but this hotfix to Forbearance made me twitch with an urge to commit arson. I'm still restrained for now, but... well, let's say that I won't be terribly happy with the dev team or the balance team if Forbearance keeps it's current state indefinitely.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Did they add Forbearance back to Avenging Wrath? After they lengthened Forbearance and nerfed the damage increase from Avenging Wrath?

Now I'm starting to get a bit confused/angry.

I tried to "wing up" right after I had bubbled a few days ago (note: after the bubble had ended, not during), and my wings simply would not activate as long as Forbearance was on me. I hit my wings/trinket macro and only the trinket activated.

I have major problems if they're putting wings back onto Forbearance and they plan to keep Forbearance at 3 minutes. If they're worried about paladins using Avenging Wrath at the same time as Divine Shield or Divine Protection, they can simply do the following:

  • Lock Divine Shield and Divine Protection out for 20 seconds while Avenging Wrath is active.
  • Lock Avenging Wrath out for 12 seconds while Divine Shield or Divine Protection are active.
Seriously, this isn't rocket science or brain surgery. If the worry is that retribution paladins can use their wings while invincible, make it so they can't use the wings during the duration of the bubble! There's no need to prevent a paladin from winging up for 3 minutes after using his bubble. That was a major problem with retribution in the arena for the entirety of BC, and Avenging Wrath activating the Forbearance debuff brings that problem back into play.

Forbearance is a hatchet. Targeted ability lockout is a scalpel. This is a delicate situation, I think it calls for a more delicate tool.