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An opportunity to change Retribution

Zach Yonzon

As embarrassed as I am to admit it, the truth is that Retribution has a pretty low skill cap. This is an old accusation, but one that has quite a bit of weight in it. Although it used to be primarily an auto-attack class in PvE, things changed with the introduction of Divine Storm and now Exorcism in Patch 3.1. Still, many Retribution Paladins can faceroll their way to good DPS because, well, the class design is really easy to play. There are buttons that you press to do damage, you wait until cooldowns are up... rinse, repeat.

Because you can pick up all talents that contribute to DPS even before you hit Level 80, it becomes a matter of gear scaling after that. In most cases, similarly geared Retribution Paladins in a raid will put out nearly identical numbers with few exceptions. Unlike other DPS classes where the spread can be wide owing to particular talent choices, differences in rotation, gear, and play style, Retribution Paladins have the relatively simple task of resolving priority when an ability comes off cooldown. There are no combo points, no freeze effect bonuses, no procs to wait for.

This isn't to say that Retribution is one-dimensional. It's not. Particularly in PvP, Retribution can reach deeper into its bag of tricks with stuns and incapacitate effects, instant Turn Evil, and a plethora of survivability and anti-cc abilities that you often won't bother with during raids. That said, there isn't anything particularly creative about how Retribution Paladins kill their opponents. It pours on damage. Prior to 3.1 that meant quite a lot of burst. For one glorious week, that meant ranged burst with Exorcism, too.

That was quickly shut down, of course, a quick nerf that didn't quite make it into the patch notes. Call it what you will, but there is actually some sound reasoning behind the nerf, least of which is to tone down Paladin burst in PvP, already gimped with weakened Judgements. Ghostcrawler expounds on this in an interesting thread over at the forums, discussing the reasoning behind the small changes to Retribution. Here's the most important thing: the main idea is to make Retribution actually take skill more interesting to play.

As much as I miss burst in PvP, I am more excited at the prospect of a more involved play style. Right now, Paladin PvP and to a lesser extent PvE is little more than brute force. Ghostcrawler summed it up rather nicely, "you hit the buttons and damage happens." That's exactly how it works right now -- Crusader Strike, Judgements, Divine Storm, Exorcism, and even Consecration. Abilities that produce damage in different flavors, none of which have any sort of interdependency with any other ability. The closest thing to preparation is having a Seal up, but even that has been simplified with 30-minute Seals.

This is exciting. This is good. This is an opportunity for change. It's not something we'll see in a hotfix, but certain to make it to a future patch. It's a good bet that Crusader Strike will play an important role in the revised play style. Procs like Killing Machine and Rime make Frost an engaging Death Knight tree, for example, with the player having to watch for the best opportunities to use abilities. At the same time, RNG still plays a huge factor so damage output can be inconsistent. But you get the idea. Retribution could use proc or controlled proc abilities, such as a Shaman's Flame Shock + Lava Burst combo.

The best part about this whole thing? Blizzard is listening. Ghostcrawler trawls the forums every day, and trust me, he picks up a lot of good ideas from players who take the time to write their suggestions in a constructive manner. A lot of developers read community blogs, as well, so you actually have a voice. Retribution (and even Holy, to a lesser degree) will be revised, and this is the best time to share your thoughts. Head on to the Paladin forums or the Damage Dealing forums to share your ideas. Retribution is on the crux of change. Seize this opportunity to guide the class in the right direction.

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