Patch 2.3 saw a bunch of awesome changes for Retribution, dealing with threat management as well as some solid PvP-oriented talents. Despite that, few raids brought Retadins along, especially on progression. It's an old stigma that has carried over and has proven hard to shake. The other trees received fantastic upgrades -- you can read my overview of the Holy tree here, and my thoughts on the Protection tree here. You can read the entirety of the patch notes in my first post of this series, and my analysis on the changes to baseline abilities and existing talents in the follow-up.
So. Ret. The Paladin's long-suffering DPS tree is getting major upgrades, but at the same time, Holy and Protection both got massive DPS boosts that Paladins will no longer be forced to pony up the cash for a respec just to be able to kill things. In fact, Holy Paladins can now fight at ranged and Protection Paladins get more powerful the more Stamina and Block Value they have. With such great options for dealing damage -- and even PvP -- with the other trees, what happens to Retribution now? Let's see what Blizzard's done:
Heart of the Crusader
Requires 5 points in Retribution
In addition to the normal effect, your Judgement spells will also increase the critical strike chance of all attacks made against that target by 1/2/3%
The hardly used Seal of the Crusader has thankfully been removed from the game, with its Judgement effects rolled into relevant abilities. This talent takes the place of Improved Seal of the Crusader, reworked to apply to all Judgements, which is a phenomenal change. This empowers Judgements without forcing the Paladin to Judge the conditional Seal of the Crusader. This means even putting on the essential Judgement of Justice in PvP confers a painful debuff. Talk about utility. It's low enough in the Retribution tree for Holydins and Tankadins to pick it up, too.
I have an interesting question for all you Beta testers out there... does it stack? Imagine three Paladins in a raid dropping three different Heart of the Crusader-infused Judgements, conferring stacking crit bonuses... that popping sound you just heard is the collective sound of the exploding heads of players who play DPS classes.
Requires 20 points in Retribution
Damage caused by targets affected by Retribution Aura is increased by 2%.
Blizzard is cleaning house. They've removed the situational Sanctity Aura which Retadins only got in order to get Improved Sanctity Aura and replaced it with a one-point talent that gives the old 2/2 Improved Sanctity Aura bonus to Retribution Aura. Coupled with the improvements such as higher damage and scaling with Holy spell power, it now makes sense -- and thematically, too -- for Retadins to keep Retribution Aura up as their aura of choice. The talent change also frees up 2 talent points previously invested in Sanctity Aura and Improved Sanctity Aura 1/2.
Sheath of Light
Requires 20 points in Retribution
Increases your spell power by an amount equal to 10/20/30% of your attack power and your critical healing spells heal the target for 20/40/60% of the healed amount over 12 seconds.
Allow me to introduce to you the talent that has got a multitude of Paladins buzzing with unabashed excitement. It's a talent so appealing that it seriously contends for the last few talent points for Holy-specced Paladins. Before I get into the Retribution application, I'll point out the obvious: this talent has a Healing-over-Time component, something that Paladins have been been missing since the game launched. 60% of a top rank Holy Light applied as a HoT is a huge deal, and Holy Paladins pursue spell crit for various reasons, so this is merely a natural extension of that. It also gives a buffer to Paladins, allowing them to move after casting a healing spell, because the HoT provides a form of mitigation between direct heals. The PvP applications should be obvious -- it's another buff that needs to be dispelled and it gives Paladin healers the aforementioned buffer for mobility.
With the change in Retadin itemization, many Paladins lost considerable amounts of spell power. This gimped Seal of Command and its Judgement, which scaled very well with spell power, and removed even consideration of Consecration from the Retadin spell cycle. This also necessarily gimped Retadin healing, making spells like Holy Light too expensive to be worth it. This talent changes all that, giving Retadins a source of spell power that scales off their most important stat -- Strength. This is the equivalent of the Protection Paladin's Touched by the Light, and greatly opens up spell options for Retribution Paladins.
Requires 35 points in Retribution
Increases the critical strike chance of Hammer of Wrath by 25/50%, reduces the cooldown of Avenging Wrath by 30/60 secs and while affected by Avenging Wrath 25/50% of all damage caused bypasses damage reduction effects.
Oh, where do I start? First of all, Blizzard vastly improved Hammer of Wrath, making it actually usable in PvP. A faster cast time (0.5 seconds, down from 1) and a bigger window with which to cast it (35%, up from 20%) means there's a bigger chance the spell will actually go off instead of fizzling, since many targets in Battlegrounds PvP at 20% die within one second. Next, the increased critical strike chance means Hammer of Wrath might actually find a place in a Retadin's spell cycle, specially against a boss. The biggest problem with Hammer of Wrath in a raid is that it resets the swing timer. It's still a problem, but the reduced cast time and massive crit chance might offset this and not result in a DPS loss. A decently geared Retadin will have somewhere around 30% crit, so taking this talent results in a Hammer of Wrath with an 80% crit. Some players playfully call this the Hammer of GG. Well... GG.
Blizzard also buffed Avenging Wrath, not so much with damage output (which was reduced to 20% from 30%), but with its usability. No longer conferring Forebearance and adding a healing component, Avenging Wrath has gained massive utility without its use being too much of a strategic choice. For Retadins, the reduced cooldown almost makes up for the drop in damage increase, but also means it can be used more for shorter fights.
The best part of this talent -- for me, at least -- is the bypass in damage reduction effects. Armor and Resilience... ignored. 50% of all damage done for 20 seconds ignoring damage reduction! It's like hitting a naked opponent! That's just insane. While mileage against mob bosses will vary, this talent makes it critical in PvP, where it will penetrate abilities like Pain Suppression or a procced Cheat Death. Let me stress that again -- ignores damage reduction effects. Season with a Hammer of GG according to taste.
Requires 40 points in Retribution
Your Retribution Aura also increases casting, ranged and melee attack speeds by 1/2/3%.
Pretty straightforward talent. Since Retadins will almost always have Retribution Aura up, this translates to a near-permanent passive 3% haste. Because Retadins are the kings of glorified auto-attacks, all I can say is 'yes, please, thank you'. Oh, and your party or raid will be thanking you, too, since they're getting the same, juicy boost.
The Art of War
Requires 1 point in Crusader Strike
Requires 40 points in Retribution
Your damaging Crusader Strikes have a 5/10/15% chance to cause your next Judgement spell to cause double damage.
First of all, I love the name. Aside from a clever name, though, this buff provides a passive buff to Crusader Strike that further contributes to DPS gains. Retadins will almost always Judge a damaging Judgement after the initial utility, specially in raid situations. The best part of this? It's not even a crit. It's just double damage. On top of that, if the Judgement crits, it's double damage -- that's a massive boost whether or not it's applied before or after the critical multiplier. This will be pretty standard for Retadins who want the most damage throughput in raids.
Requires 45 points in Retribution
Increases critical damage bonus of all attacks by 3/6/9/12/15%
Did anyone order raw damage? Because it's just arrived. In PvE or raid situations, the benefit of this talent is pretty straightforward. Bigger crits, bigger hits, a more badass Retadin. In PvP, however, this ability shines even more as the Resilience negator. Players who have hit the Resilience cap can mitigate up to 25% of damage taken from critical strikes. With 5/5 in Righteous Vengeance, that mitigation drops down to 10% -- imagine hitting players far below the Resilience cap. An uncomplicated talent, it's great for raid DPS and outstanding for PvP burst.
Requires 50 points in Retribution
An instant weapon attack that causes Holy damage to up to 4 enemies within 8 yards. The Divine Storm heals up to 3 party or raid members totalling 20% of the damage caused.
And then there's Divine Storm, the talent that caused Retadins everywhere to go change their underwear. It's another strike that can be inserted into a Retadin's damaging spell cycle. Because it's effectively an AoE spell, it's shines best when used against trash or multiple mob encounters. Of course, the one feature that pops out is the healing done to party or raid members, which is a very welcome utility for Paladins and the melee group. A DPS increase and group utility spell? Yes, please.
The damage this ability deals is still unclear, but will likely be based off normalized weapon damage, similar to Crusader Strike. The curious wording of "totalling 20% of the damage caused" quite likely means that the 20% is shared among all healed targets. This means that the healing done will not be significant, merely supplementary. It scales inversely with the number of targets being attacked, however... if a Paladin is hitting 4 mobs and is solo, she's likely to receive the full benefit of Divine Storm's healing. At the same time, if a Paladin is hitting just one mob and is in the vicinity of two other party or raid members, the healing scales down proportionally. It's an interesting mechanic that I'm curious to see work in application. Before we move on to the rest of the article, allow me excuse myself while I change my shorts.
Compared to Holy or Protection, the Retribution tree didn't get too many changes, with no talents being reshuffled between tiers or moved to or from another tree. Conviction in the third tier consolidates melee and spell crit, in line with Blizzard's direction for the game. The first visible change is on the fifth tier with the Sanctified Retribution and Sheath of Light, discussed above. Sanctified Judgement on the sixth tier has been renamed Judgements of the Wise, and now returns mana to the group based on damage dealt, similar to Divine Storm. Most Judgements in Wrath of the Lich King now deal damage, including, for example, Seal of Light.
Of course, the mana returns scale extremely well with damage-oriented Judgements, conceivably refunding even the cost of the spell itself and more. Similar to Divine Storm, it scales inversely with the number of party or raid members in the vicinity. Used solo, Judgements of the Wise generates phenomenal gains in mana, especially in conjunction with a proc of The Art of War. This is important because we might see a significant reduction in Retadin mana pool with the itemization moving to generic Intellect-less plate shared with Warriors and Death Knights.
Divine Purpose was also reworked to provide a reduction in chance to be hit by spells and attacks by 3%, as opposed to 10% melee and ranged damage mitigation. This is incredible because it provides a passive resistance overall, not just to damaging effects but all spells. This includes crowd control. Coupled with Pursuit of Justice, that's a passive 6% reduction in spell hit. Another significant buff to the talent is the reduction in movement slowing effects, which increases survivability and effectiveness in PvP. It's not quite a permanent Hand of Freedom, but it helps. Repentance was also changed significantly to be more useful in PvE, and now has a longer duration in PvP (10 seconds, up from 6).
Overall, the Retribution changes are fantastic. Holy and Protection may have boosted DPS and offensive capabilities, but Retribution is so purely damage-oriented it won't lose its place. I still have apprehensions about Retadin mana pool owing to the new itemization, but it's hard to tell at this point how much of an impact there will be. The tree is incredibly focused, although there's still seems to be a vulnerability to fear (or other crowd control) and movement-impairing effects. The tree, and class, still lacks an interrupt mechanic although Improved Hammer of Justice in the Protection tree coupled with the PvP set bonus drops the cooldown to a frightening 20 seconds. As excited as I am about these changes, I must calm down with the sobering thought that many of these will likely change before Wrath goes live.
<-- Wrath Beta patch notes: Paladin part IV - the Prot tree