Sometimes it's easy to get yourself on a one-track mindset and put all of your effort and energy into maintaining the best DPS rotation you can to top the charts and kill those bosses dead. I often forget that I'm even playing a hybrid class as I swap around talents and glyphs to squeak out as much damage I can. Thankfully, the designers threw a number of challenges into our latest raid tier, situations where a retribution paladin's utility toolkit can not only shine, but produce truly epic moments and make the player of that classiest of classes feel truly fulfilled.
The last time I talked about utility was back in March, where I tossed some ideas around about how to introduce these spells to the newcomer or, in my case, to the utility-challenged. As with many classes, you're given a plethora of powerful abilities as you level up that work well in a wide variety of encounters, but both keeping track of these abilities and finding the best situations to use them in can be overwhelming. Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to flesh out these spells and describe how one can and should use them.
Pretending to be a holy paladin
For the full experience, stare at your raid frames while on /follow with your guild's shadow priest. If you die, blame the shadow priest.
Selfless Healer & Flash of Light I know that in my previous column I confessed that I only use a full-stack of Selfless Healer to cast a free, instant Flash of Light on myself, but the true purpose of this talent is, of course, to heal your allies. If you're running in a small group, or if your healers are bogged down by a recent battle resurrection or something, tossing an empowered Flash of Light on a target in need of some healing can really save the day.
Also, seeing big numbers on this tier's Valithria Dreamwalker encounter, Tsulong's day phase, is quite fun while you're casting Judgment on adds to slow them with Burden of Guilt.
Lay on Hands A powerful cooldown on par with Divine Shield, Lay on Hands delivers one, large heal equal to your maximum health to your current target. Be aware of both the 10 minute cooldown and the fact that Lay on Hands will put Forbearance on its target – trust me, prot paladins can get really irritated if you toss LoH on them for giggles.
Word of Glory Both Selfless Healer and Lay on Hands only cost you a global cooldown in order to heal a target. Word of Glory, on the other hand, costs you a potential Templar's Verdict or Divine Storm cast, in addition to the lost global, meaning too many WoGs over the course of a fight can really tank your DPS. If you're struggling to survive, however, do what you have to in order to stay standing!
Word of Glory will have some nice self-synergy with Eternal Flame in patch 5.2. Additionally, both Divine Purpose and Holy Avenger have some nice survivability potential if you use their 3-HP procs to heal yourself or your allies.
A round of applause
Do you get it? Hands... applause... okay, let's move on.
Hand of Sacrifice This spell always reminds me of Ulduar and tier 8, when "bubble-sac" worked and every raid leader wanted a piece of that ret action. For those unaware, a paladin could cast Divine Shield on themselves, then Hand of Sacrifice on another player – this allowed the paladin to take as much damage as they wanted for the duration of the spell and never hit the damage cap.
Anyway, Hand of Sac can still be a pretty useful cooldown, especially if your tank is taking more than his or her fair share. Just make sure you coordinate this with the healers, or else you may end up getting pasted by incidental AoE raid damage after Hand of Sacrifice has run its course.
Hand of Protection "BoP," as Hand of Protection is affectionately known to many seasoned players, can be a powerful spell as it protects the recipient from all physical damage for 10 seconds, but also prevents them from dealing any physical damage themselves. As you can probably guess, this is ideal for casters or healers.
A great use for this ability, in combination with the talent Clemency, is seen in the Blade Lord Ta'yak encounter. Use BoP to protect a player that has the Wind Step debuff and is the target of Unseen Strike - both are physical damage, ideal for this ability.
Hand of Freedom Back in Wrath, when ret had access to 1/2 Acts of Sacrifice and Hand of Freedom, we were unsnarable juggernauts. Maybe that fact wasn't totally reflected in PvP (at all), but being able to get out of any sticky situation seen inside a raid instance was quite nice. Well, Blizzard chewed up Acts of Sacrifice and spit Emancipate back out at us, but at least we still have Freedom.
Truly, the "best" use for Hand of Freedom is freeing allies from movement impairing effects, such as that stubborn mage you're chained to on the Stone Guard encounter that forgot where her Blink button was.
Hand of Purity A spell that I'm sure has countless PvP uses, Hand of Purity seems to be primarily a tank cooldown in PvE. Patch 5.2 will see a buff to HoPur in the form of 10% reduced damage in addition to its DoT damage reduction, both solidifying the ability's use as a tank cooldown as well as opening up personal cooldown options.
Devotion Aura Finally, we have a raid cooldown again. Devotion Aura reduces magic damage taken by 20% and provides immunity to silences and interrupts for 6 seconds – that's nothing to shake a stick at. It's probably best to talk to your raid leader to see if you'll want to save it for a particularly crippling salvo, but if you're in a pickle hitting Devo won't do any harm.
Aside from Devotion Aura, you need a target to cast all of these spells. Sure, you could use some of them on yourself, but if you're trying to impress your raid leader or arena partners, you're not going to do it by casting Lay on Hands on yourself when you're at full health.
Macros can be extremely useful, once you can get past the pseudo-technical commands and start thinking inside the box. Here is a general mouseover macro that will work with whatever raid or party frames you happen to be running – just remember to replace the word "Spell" with the name of the spell you want to use:
/cast [@mouseover] Spell; Spell
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.