Patch 5.3 has turned out to be a great time to be a ret paladin. Well, in my opinion it's always a great time to be a ret paladin, but this new patch and the changes it brought with it really drive the point home. Granted, the only change we saw was a buff to our weapon-based damage via Sword of Light, which, while being a welcome boost to our DPS, isn't necessarily the most earth-shattering, game-changing thing in all of Azeroth. Still though, it opens some doors and allows us to be more competitive in the DPS game.
I have to admit, my inspiration for this column came from reading Matt Rossi's warrior column, The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Survival and the modern warrior. As I was reading through the piece, I found myself unconsciously caressing my keybind for Divine Shield, no doubt a realization of how blessed we paladins are when it comes to self-preservation mechanics and abilities. Some of the troubles that Matt detailed I have either sidestepped or easily handled with our generous toolbox, and his angst has given me a newfound appreciation for the veritable arsenal of useful spells at our disposal.
This week I'll be touching on a couple of our newer abilities that have proven time and time again to be so valuable and effective that I can't imagine playing a paladin without them.
Immunities are powerful things. Divine Shield is a spell that provokes very heated responses from anyone who has faced a paladin in PvP combat and draws the envy of nearly every class for its incalculable uses in PvE content. Even though our damage output is cut in half for the duration of the spell, being immune to all forms of damage for eight seconds is incredible.
The devs, however, thought that eight seconds of damage immunity wasn't enough and gave us the wonderful talent Unbreakable Spirit. In short, US allows you to reduce your Divine Shield, Divine Protection, and Lay on Hands cooldowns by 50% simply by spending holy power. As ret we're usually bursting at the seams with the resource, and spending it is in our best interest regardless of whether we spec into US or not, so this talent basically allows us to have DS available every two and a half minutes.
Now, I know what you're thinking: if you're in a position to need an immunity every two and a half minutes, you must be doing something wrong, right? Well, there's another use for our bubble that Rossi discusses in his article -- preventing debuff applications.
Say you're just starting out on heroic Jin'rokh and your healers are having a hard time finding enough magic dispels to cleanse Ionization from everyone in the raid. With DS, you can prevent Ionization from even touching you. Not only will this help your healers immensely, but you can also remain in the damage-boosting puddle for its entire duration. Thanks to US, we can do this on the first and third puddle phases, meaning you will most likely only need a single dispel for the entire encounter.
Hell, toss in a /cancelaura macro for good measure and you can ensure that you only lose a couple GCDs of potential damage on the boss; I like to use a shift modifier macro so I don't accidentally clear my bubble when I inevitably spam my keybind:
/cancelaura [mod:shift] Divine Shield;Mass Exorcism
/cast Divine Shield
I didn't truly "get into" Mass Exorcism until 5.2, at the behest of a friend. I was quite hesitant to sacrifice the ranged nature of Exorcism for some AoE damage, but she insisted that I glyph Mass Exo for a week and get used to it. Reluctantly I grabbed the glyph off the auction house and scribbled it into my spellbook. Three raid days later I was as pleased as could be at the boost to my DPS, but I think the larger change occurred in my perspective.
One encounter for which I thought I needed an at-range Exo was Lei Shen. The tanks kite the boss from corner to corner, adds pop up in different quadrants during transitional phases, and winds push you every which way near the end of the fight -- all of these seemed to beg for more ranged abilities to be able to handle them. As it turns out, though, I was thinking of it the wrong way. Instead of seeing myself forced out of melee range, saying, "Well, if I have to be out here I should do as much DPS as I can until I can get back," what I really should have been thinking was, "How can I get back into melee range as quickly as possible?"
We are a melee class; as much as some of us want shockadins to be real and viable, the bulk of retribution's damage comes from hitting things really hard with a two-handed weapon. Therefore, instead of focusing on how to maximize DPS during those few moments when I was punted away from a boss, I should have been trying to find ways to minimize the time I spent away from the orbit of my foe.
Of course, encounters with only one target do not quite necessitate the use of Mass Exo, but I have found that unglyphing it only to avoid the cleave (on Primordius or Twin Consorts, for example) helps me focus on what's important.
I bring these points up not to taunt warriors or other ill-equipped classes and specs, but as a roundabout way of saying that I can sympathize. These abilities didn't exist before Mists, which to me shows that things can and will change. Exorcism hit like a wet noodle in Wrath, and there were many, many instances where using your Art of War proc to cast a Flash of Light instead would be a better use of your time. Look at Exorcism now: its damage is second only to Hammer of Wrath, and when glyphed it can be an amazing source of AoE DPS.
As such, Matt, my advice to you is "be vocal, yet patient." Just don't get us nerfed, okay?
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.