Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ret Is The New Shadow

In the Burning Crusade, priests who specialized in the shadow tree and invested in certain talents had the ability to actively regenerate the mana of their party-mates. This idea was new and exciting - outside of a druid's Innervate, no one had any abilities that gave characters an outside source of mana regeneration (aside from mana/5 buffs like Blessing of Wisdom & Mana Spring Totem, and of course mana potions).

With the inclusion of 41-point talents and the re-invention of the shadow tree for priests, this all changed. Raid leaders began planning their raids around having 1-3 shadow priests to keep the casters mana bars topped off. It was widely held that a raid without shadow priests was an underpowered raid - the caster classes couldn't sustain their mana pool for upper-tier and bleeding-edge raid encounters without them. So dependent on their mana-batteries were some raids that scheduled raids were cancelled for lack of crack-priests.

Shadow priest dependence was part of the larger problem of buff stacking in The Burning Crusade expansion. Many guilds went with whacky raid compositions in order to exploit powerful buffs that some classes provided, and in turn several classes got the proverbial shaft when it came to raid invites. Some raids in Sunwell would bring 4-5 shamans (for their Heroism/Bloodlust and totems), 3-4 paladins (a ret for Judgement of Wisdom, and all for their blessings), and 3-5 priests (shadows for mana regen, and all for Mass Dispell against Felmyst), which meant the other 6 classes could bring an average of 2 characters per class. There was severe class imbalance, and Blizzard sought to correct that in Wrath of the Lich King. To do so, they made like socialists and spread the wealth.

WotLK saw a reinvention of buff classifications, and duplication of raid benefits amongst several classes. Previously, raid compositions were created with certain buffs/debuffs considered necessary, so raid leaders invited classes and specs instead of players. The thought process was "well, I need a warlock for Curse of X, shadow priests to regen caster mana, an enhancement shaman for Windfury/Unleashed Rage on the melee, a ret paladin for perma-Judgements, a..." and so on and so forth. To combat this line of thinking, Blizzard instituted a rule that only the most powerful buff of each "buff type" would be counted toward raiders character sheets, and only the most powerful of each "debuff type" would actually provide its raid-wide benefit. All raid buffs and debuffs were then classified by benefit type - for example, Battle Shout and Blessing of Might both provide a static AP-boost to those affected, so only one of them can be active in the raid. To ensure that this didn't lead to further class exclusion, these raid buffs and debuffs were all balanced against each other so that their base and talented versions matched each other in power across all classes. In our example, that meant the untalented Battle Shout provided the same amount of AP at level 80 as the untalented Blessing of Might, and their fully talented versions had the same AP value. Blizzard hoped by doing this that each potential raider would be considered on their experience, skill, and gear, and not on the bais that they're the only one available that can provide X essential raid buff. It leveled the playing field for all classes.

More to the point, Blizzard socialized party and raid mana regeneration mechanics, undercutting the shadow priest monopoly on this niche. In place of scaling mana refunds to those affected by a shadow priests Vampiric Touch is now Replenishment, a buff that smart-targets a set number of people in the party/raid and regenerates a set percentage of their mana over a short period. Talents in the hunter's survival tree and paladin's retribution tree can also provide the Replenishment effect. So, shadow priests have some competition!

There's a kink in the works, though. Most hunters eschew the survival tree, gravitating toward beast mastery instead. Amongst damage-dealing classes, beast mastery is currently the highest potential damage of all damage dealers, not just hunter specs. Couple that with physical damage generally scaling faster/better than magic damage, and most priests being pressured to go holy for Circle of Healing, Judgement of Wisdom adding additional regen to the DPS'ers, and another set of Blessings almost never being a bad thing, and you've got a potent little cocktail that has one very noticeable effect: ret paladins are the preferred choice of mana regeneration in raids.

How do I know that ret's are preferred? Anytime I log in while my guild has a 10-man Naxx in progress (in which I participate frequently), I get no less than 2 tells from raid members saying "Grah! Wish you were here!" or "DPS is so low, why aren't you in here?" I usually then check the roster and see, sure enough, there are shadow priests online but not in raid (and we have no survival hunters). Sure, it's a subjective, personal anecdote, but golly gee-whiz I'll be damned if I don't see random spam in trade chat looking for a ret paladin for PUG 10-mans.

So there you have it, ret fans - we're the new "flavor of the month" for mana regen, as they say. Until the hunter survival tree gets a kick in the pants, or shadow priests get a little bump in their overall damage potential, ret is the new shadow. Soak it up while it lasts.


Gaizen said...

That can be a double edged sword. For one thing it can show other players who are the good rets. (there's only like 5 or 6 of us on the server including you and me.)The bad part is that there are more players who pulled their paladins out of hibernation because now they want to be whats hot, and most of them are bad. Making everyone with a small mind Hate rets even more which is the cause for all the overpowered talks that usually comes our way.

Its kind of like how all the Warlocks re-rolled deathknights. And most DK's are bad. The very good ones are already in top end guilds.

Ravens are going to beat the Titans this saterday btw.

Anonymous said...

My humbly opinion:

Nobody will take in raid one shadow priest for mana regeneration in WotLK, all casters not ever have benefit of shadow weaving and misery have a boost only in first raids. I don’t think after two months of raiding someone can go there without having hit capped and whishing one SP. The CC is not an option for any other class, I don’t see any sheep, sap, banish, shackle, like in early Kara or SSC. All classes have DPS potential and are your skill against other’s skill.

So the only way to have a place in raid as Shadow Priest is to top the damage meter, in Naxx25 is fairly easy to go over 3k DPS and this will bring a place for sure.

Sorina Shadow Priest