A couple weeks back, I covered the changes to protection for the 4.0.1 pre-Cataclysm patch that usually goes out a month(ish) or so before release. The point of those patches is so that everyone can play with the new class features and get everything figured out before the chaos that is the actual expansion release. Now it's time to do the same sort of coverage for ret pallies. If you haven't been following the changes thus far, it's going to look odd. There are new class concepts and skill/buff consolidations.
First off, picking your spec now has a lot more meaning from the get-go. You receive most of the passive buffs that you'd have to spend 40 talent points getting in the past for free at level 10 that are responsible for making your chosen spec usable. As an example, you get Sheath of Light, Two-Handed Weapon Specialization and Judgements of the Bold. That provides your attack power-to-spellpower conversion, your weapon damage bonus and your mana regeneration. All of this just for picking the spec. In addition, you get a new attack called Templar's Verdict that we'll get into later.
First off, let's talk about the biggest change to our class in the expansion: holy power.
We've got the power and that power is holy. Blizzard has added a new resource for us to manage in addition to the mana we already use. The closest thing I can really describe it as is a little combo point system that you earn using some abilities and burn off using others. Instead of being 5 combo points maximum, it is 3 holy power maximum. Anything beyond that is wasted.
As a retribution paladin, there are two main ways you can earn holy power to use with spells. The first is Crusader Strike. This is the only absolutely guaranteed way for you to earn holy power. You'll earn 1 holy power per attack, and you can hit it every 4.5 seconds by default. With the talent Sanctity of Battle, you can reduce the actual cooldown of Crusader Strike with haste, meaning you can hit it more often to stack up your holy power a little more quickly. All in all, if you have less than 3 holy power, Crusader Strike is usually the button you'll want to be pressing.
The other way of earning holy power is via procs of the completely redesigned Divine Purpose talent. The whole point of it is to give you holy power back for all of the abilities that you use the most. These are, however, random procs, and you might have several in a row or go for a couple rotations without them, so you need to keep your eyes open.
There are a couple of other ways to bump up your holy power production. The first is the new tree-topper called Zealotry. Every time you hit Crusader Strike while it is active, you earn 3 holy power instead of 1. The other way is using the new mastery system. The mastery bonus for retribution is Hand of Light, which gives your auto-attacks a chance of giving a buff that acts like 3 holy power. If you use any abilities that consume holy power while the buff is active, it will consume the buff instead and leave your holy power bar untouched.
Now that you've got all of this holy power, the next question is, "What am I supposed to do with it?" You've got a couple options at level 80.
Your primary holy-power-burning ability will be Templar's Verdict. TV is a free ability you get for choosing retribution spec, and it's one of your main damage-dealers from level 10 onward. Its damage scales up as you put more holy power into it, becoming more efficient. Blizzard has said that it will make sure TV is designed so that you will never want to use it with less than 3 holy power and has already taken steps to make sure that is the case.
Divine Storm has been redesigned to work much the same way as Templar's Verdict. The difference between the two really comes down to how many opponents you're facing. If you're attacking one opponent, you'll want to use Templar's Verdict. If you're attacking three or more opponents, you'll probably be better off with Divine Storm.
Zealotry, which I mentioned earlier, requires 3 holy power to activate, but it then boosts the holy power production of Crusader Strike.
Your only other option pre-Cataclysm is Word of Glory, which is an instant heal. It gives a flat amount of healing for each holy power that you have stored up. So, let's say it gives 2,000 healing per holy power and you have 3 holy power stored. That means it will heal for 6,000 when used. This means that 2 holy power would do 4,000 healing and 1 holy power would do 2,000. So it doesn't matter nearly as much when you use it. If you're about to die, are out of defensive cooldowns and you have holy power, hit Word of Glory.
Once Cataclysm hits, there'll be another ability available called Inquisition. This is a 30 percent holy damage boost that you'll want to keep up as much as possible. The part of it that scales based on your holy power is its duration. So, unless you want to waste GCDs keeping it up, you'll earn up 3 holy power and let it sit for 30 seconds until you need to put it back up again.
Yeah, this has sounded like yet another holy power article thus far. The problem is that getting ready for patch 4.0.1 requires introducing as many paladins as possible to this new mechanic that will be used in all three specs. We do have a lot of other changes, though, including icon changes for a great number of our skills.
We have an interrupt! A legit, non-GCD, 6-second cooldown interrupt. It's a talented ability in the ret tree called Rebuke. There's a glyph on the beta right now that will let you reduce the cost of this ability by 100 percent.
Sacred Shield is gone. Divine Sacrifice is also gone, but an alternative is now available deep into the prot tree and out of our reach.
Blizzard has changed Holy Wrath in the same way it had changed Exorcism in patch 3.1. Instead of being only usable against undead and demons, it can now be used against anyone for damage, with its special stun effect only working against undead and demons. Being an instant attack, this is something you can easily use to fill empty GCDs during a fight.
Blessing of Wisdom has been combined with the old Blessing of Might into a super version of Blessing of Might. Now that Blizzard has removed talents that buff your buffs, this shouldn't be overwritten by equivalent buffs from anyone else, as all buffs are now created equal(ish). Also, Blessing of Kings and Mark of the Wild both have been changed to be identical buffs. It's just general buff consolidation. Lastly, both blessings are raid-wide instead of being cast class by class.
Your seals have either been renamed, revamped, retrofitted or redacted. Seal of Light and Seal of Wisdom have been combined into a new ability called Seal of Insight. Seal of Command has been removed and replaced with a talent that lets Seal of Righteousness have the cleave effect. Seal of Vengeance/Corruption has been changed to simply Seal of Truth. Lastly, Seal of Justice got remade to include the effect from Judgement of Justice and to include some damage of its own. Essentially, forget everything you knew about your seals and start over.
The special types of judgements that each have their own effects have all been removed. There is now just Judgement, and the only thing it does is unleash seals on your opponents.
Along with all of the other consolidations, the various resistance auras have been conjoined into a single aura called simply Resistance Aura that provides fire, shadow and frost resistance at the same time. Shaman will now officially hate us even more than they currently do.
These are most of the changes that you need to know about. We'll cover more information as things get closer to the release of the patch.
The Light and How to Swing It tries to help paladins cope with the dark times coming in Cataclysm. See the upcoming paladin changes the expansion will bring. Wrath is coming to a close and the final showdown with the Lich King is here. With Cataclysm soon heating things up, will you be ready?