When my guild first started in Mogu'shan Vaults and we were working on The Stone Guard, I was rapidly approaching what felt like a breaking point. I believe our first combination was Jade, Cobalt, and Jasper Guardians, and I was having trouble managing my rotation and cooldowns while simultaneously dodging mines and trying to wordlessly negotiate with my chained partner which of us would be moving toward the other. I vacillated between rage, frustration, and despondency, wondering if this was an accurate reflection of how the entire tier would go.
Luckily I had some good friends willing to listen to my ranting and incoherent babbling. They managed to eventually convince me to not give up, bite my lip, and give myself some time to get readjusted. I'm still not the best ret paladin in the world, but I'm having a much easier go at working through my abilities and staying out of bad stuff ... most of the time.
Anyway, my inspiration this week came from quite a number of you who had emailed me asking some of the same questions I asked myself at the start of my level 90 activities, most of which can be summed up with a single inquiry: "How can I improve?"
Balance your DPS with your survivability. Most people will correctly tell you that the most important skill you can develop, whether it's for PvP or PvE, is self-preservation. If you die, you can't do any damage; it's as simple as that. However, what use is staying alive if you're spending so much time watching the floor that you're being outclassed by Mr. Grubbs?
There are a number of tools that can help your responsiveness to getting out of bad -- Deadly Boss Mods likes to kick and scream whenever it perceives that you're mishandling a certain mechanic (I was popping those Cobalt Mines on purpose, I swear), and clcRet could make the process of narrowing down your priority queue a bit faster. Granted, I have not tried out clcRet yet this expansion, and I only briefly tested it out last expansion, so I'll leave the big conclusions up to any commenters in the know about this addon.
Outside of addons, though, the most effective advice I can impart is: "Be persistent." It is going to take time to become reacquainted with the rotation, so try not to get overly flustered by the complicated dance that your fingers will have to do. If necessary, put your main abilities on a larger action bar than the rest and put it in a centralized location; it will be much easier to juggle your DPS and survivability responsibilities if your eyes don't have to move very far around your screen. In fact, I did this right away when I hit level 90 and the only change I have made since is to throw all of my cooldowns on that bar as well.
Stay on top of your cooldowns. Proper timing and tracking of everything is also very important in order to produce competitive DPS. In the changeover from Cataclysm to Mists, the developers changed some of the timers on our cooldowns so that the optimal method of using them wasn't to macro them all together into one big "I WIN" button.
Guardian of Ancient Kings is still on a 5 minute timer, Avenging Wrath is now on a 3 minute timer, Holy Avenger is at 2 minutes, Execution Sentence and Light's Hammer are both 1 minute, and Holy Prism is just 20 seconds. Rather than learning one set method of cycling through cooldowns, it's best to know how each works so that you can respec into whichever T5 or T6 talents suit your needs and use them effectively.
Generally speaking, you will want to start the fight with a 3-HP Inquisition, followed immediately by Guardian of Ancient Kings. When GoAK has 20 seconds remaining, hit Avenging Wrath. From here, you'll just need to fill in whatever other cooldowns you're specced into. If you have any trinkets, evaluate their cooldowns and durations and plug them in accordingly -- for Lessons of the Darkmaster, for example, tie it in with AW at the 20 seconds remaining mark.
Engineers will want to be aware of the clash between Synapse Springs and trinkets. Basically, you won't be able to overlap these cooldowns at all. I have my Synapse Springs macroed to ES, and every time I use them it puts a 20 second lockout on Lessons of the Darkmaster. Similarly, every time I use LotDM it puts a 10 second lockout on Synapse Springs. It's a bit annoying, but all you can really do is separate the cooldowns and prioritize the use of one over the other during AW.
Reforging started out as a great way to personalize your gear and open up more gearing options overall. You no longer had to avoid those high hit pieces because you could now reforge out of whatever excess you had. Granted, there are some "ideal" pieces of gear out there, as reforging only chips away at 40% of whatever stat you find displeasing. Still, it was lauded as a great success, at least for a short while.
Eventually, reforging became tedious, often resulting in players struggling to reforge out of the right stats with just the right numbers simply to get hit and expertise capped. Even when you're not trying to optimize your reforges around your stat weights, getting capped without going overboard is unnecessarily frustrating. The developers have even recognized that these stats aren't all that appealing, admitting that reforging isn't quite working how they had hoped (as Ghostcrawler mentions above).
At the start of the expansion, almost every reforge tool I could find either didn't work properly or wasn't getting me near the numbers I actually wanted, so I did it all by hand. Let me tell you, spending a half hour in Excel re-balancing your stats each time you get a new piece of gear isn't exactly what I'd call fun. Fortunately, the authors of these tools are now (mostly) up to speed and at your service. My personal favorite is a site called WoW Reforge, though I've heard good things about an addon called ReforgeLite.
Hopefully you can learn from some of my experiences. Remember, you can always check my retribution guide if you're unsure of what our priorities are or what gems to use, or even just email me directly!
Has anyone else been in similarly dire straits? What did you do to get yourself out of them?
The Light and How to Swing It teaches you the ins and outs of retribution paladins, from Ret 101 and how to gem, enchant and reforge your retadin, to essential ret pally addons.