Well, the devs have recently announced the stat changes for all classes in Cataclysm. Surprisingly, retribution paladins are going to be the model to which some other specs are being changed. Being the model for something like this also means that not much about our spec is changing as far as gear goes.
Overall, the ret paladin gearing method has worked fairly well in Wrath. We no longer worry about wearing things like spell plate, we don't worry about intellect, and we get to wield big two-handed weapons just as Uther intended. Occasionally, we run into gearing issues where a couple pieces of attack power leather end up being better for us than what our plate gives us, but generally that's not the case.
Let's take a look at some of the specifics after the break and see what changes there are.
Let's take a look at how some of our existing stats are going to change.
Haste, however, will supposedly let us hit our abilities faster than before. We're not sure what this will mean for ret pallies as we don't have rage or energy to worry about. They've mentioned allowing haste to meddle with our cooldowns, but at BlizzCon they were attaching that to the Mastery stat.
Speaking of the brand new Mastery stat, we're going to get some on our gear in Cataclysm. Mastery is a new stat concept which allows the developers to put what is essentially a 'generic' stat on gear. If an unholy death knight picks up a piece of armor with this stat, they might get more damage from diseases. If a retribution paladin picks up this same stat, they'd get something like shorter cooldowns on abilities. Essentially, it lets you be better at the types of things you like to be better at. This also allows the developers to tune specific trees a little easier. If one spec is falling behind, they just up the returns from the mastery stat or another of the three stats you get from having talents in your chosen tree. Please note that the Mastery stat on gear only changes the third stat (Crit Heal for holy, Block Amount for prot, and Ability Cooldown for ret paladins in the picture).
Strength, Hit, Expertise, and Critical Strike Rating are all going to essentially be the same. Things like hit and expertise caps might end up scaling higher as your move up raiding tiers though. This is one of those things that the developers are still discussing and would make it so that reaching the hit cap at tier 11 would be one number, but the hit cap against bosses in tier 12 would be a little bit higher.
That's right, Attack Power on items is going away. It'll still be on some cloaks and jewelry (rings, trinkets, necklaces), but otherwise, you'll not see it on gear. We'll be getting all of our attack power from Strength like we are now. Oh, for those of your who are grabbing leather items in raids right now for clearing content, you might want to grab a few plate items from badge vendors for leveling in Cataclysm.
Armor Penetration is also going the way of the dodo. We didn't really get that much benefit from it anyway (attacking with mostly magic does that). This will be added to those classes that need it via the mastery stat or through talents and skills.
Spell ranks are going away as well. This means you'll have one version of Devotion Aura, one version of Retribution Aura, one Blessing of Might. As you level up, all of these abilities just get better like the Heirloom gear does now. This will help prevent those sudden bursts in character strength as you suddenly catch up to your abilities. Also, with as quickly as people are leveling through old content, it's sometimes hard to make enough money to buy new ranks of everything.
Also, all of those various weapon skills are going away. No more training two-handed axes on low level mobs for a day or two in order to use that new legendary item you finished the quest for. Also, this probably means that all of those weapon skill achievements will become feats of strength when they become retired. So, if you want to get them, you'll have to do it before the Cataclysm patch hits.
What's going to happen to our current gear?
Essentially, plate is going to become our only real gear choice as the attack power on some leather gear we've been grabbing is going to be disappearing. Don't fret too much as we'll also get a small bonus for wearing that plate.
There's a wee bit more about stats you're going to want to know. These mainly involve the ability to reforge items and gem colors.
We're not going to do this section in order, because it's a little easier that way for the flow of the article.
Some gems are going to get their color changed to make sure things are still filled out for each gem type. This is due to the fact that they're getting rid of several stats and some of the gem colors already weren't very well balanced in how needed they were versus how common they were. We don't really have much info on where this is going, but I'm sure that we'll have a lovely article about it when we do get that information. However, if after the Cataclysm patch hits, you suddenly don't meet your meta-gem requirements, this is probably why.
Reforging is a way to alter items to have more of the stats you want. They're a bit like enchants, but instead of just adding more stats, they remove one stat in favor of another. Each type of item will have a different profession which can reforge it (and they've mentioned that these can be put onto scrolls, so you'd be able to sell them on the Auction House instead of lurking in Trade channel). Engineers get trinkets, jewelers get rings and necklaces, leatherworkers get mail and leather armor, and blacksmiths get plate. I think tailors are in charge of cloaks as well as cloth armor, but I could be wrong as there isn't much information out right now. If you see a new item, but it's got extra hit on it and you'd rather have crit which it is missing, then you just apply a scroll of hit to crit and viola, you get 50% of that amount of hit as crit instead.
As we mentioned earlier, the amount of hit or expertise you'll need as you progress through each tier of content in Cataclysm will go up. Capping hit at tier 11 might not be capped out at tier 12. As you gear up, so do the bosses and this will help prevent things like Sunwell Radiance and Chill of the Throne as bosses will gain Expertise and Hit to blow through all of that extra avoidance your tank has. Bosses should gain more dodge, parry, and block which will make hitting them a bit more difficult as you progress from tier to tier and allow certain stats to still be relevant later on in the game. This should help add depth to a few normally boring stats as well as keep the theorycrafters busy trying to figure out how much of each stat you need for each tier.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In WoW.com's Guide to Cataclysm you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From Goblins and Worgens to Mastery and Guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.