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The Light and How to Swing It: The Retribution solution

Zach Yonzon

A while back I wrote a short post pointing out to the community that now is a pretty ripe time to see how Retribution can be improved. Ghostcrawler and the devs have taken an interesting direction with the Retribution tree, and although they've recently mentioned that there will no longer be big changes throughout Wrath of the Lich King, it's still a good time to examine the spec. It's come a long way since the launch of the game and 'lolret' is arguably a term now only used in spite and no longer with genuine ridicule. Ridicule and some fear and loathing, maybe, but no longer just ridicule.

Despite the statement that there'll be fewer changes to classes in the foreseeable future, Ghostcrawler did say "there will be some (changes)" in addition to "tweak(ing) numbers up and down as needed". So don't despair, Fury Warriors, you'll be swinging those two-handers once again in glory one of these days. I'm also dead certain that Paladin tweaks aren't quite done. For one thing, we know that Crusader Strike is in line for some coolification. Another is that Exorcism was quickly hotfixed not to work on player targets as precursor to what Ghostcrawler calls "a little more tweaking" to the class. So while I asked the community to share their thoughts on how to improve Retribution, it's taken me much, much longer to ruminate. Humor me for today as I go share my own thoughts on the matter.

First of all, I don't think the spec needs major changes. It has improved vastly since 3.0 and was fine tuned in 3.1. It plays nicely -- if a bit too simply -- and can dish out competitive damage in raids and in PvP. Its shortcomings, if any, as far as DPS output is concerned can easily be "tweaked" through numbers, and that's not what I'm interested in. Through my first weeks in Ulduar, I haven't put out enough consistent numbers for anything conclusive -- sometimes I'm right on top, and sometimes I drop down as far as 10th in a 25-man raid. More thoughts on Retribution in Ulduar in another column, but for now we'll take a look at what I think are the most glaring deficiencies of the spec.

Seal of Command
The Problem
Since the launch of Wrath of the Lich King, Seal of Command has been something of a lame duck talent. Subject to repeated nerfs, the Seal was neutered to the point of being inferior to Seal of Blood in every respect including PvP. This isn't just a matter of numbers anymore but a question of mechanic. Seal of Blood provides the most consistent source of damage and crits for a considerable amount. Despite the potential for huge burst, Seal of Casino reintroduces the concept of RNG into PvP. Blizzard has methodically been weeding out RNG stuns from the game, and RNG burst damage isn't too different.

The bottom line is that Seal of Command is a talent that has outlived its usefulness. Aside from the numbers being significantly lower compared to Seal of Blood, its PPM-based proc is actually bad for the game. As much as PvP is about burst damage, it's about controlled burst and the bonus of an automatic crit on stunned targets isn't quite enough when everything else about the Seal is RNG. Right now, it's a waste of a talent point and not even PvP players -- whom the talent seems to be designed for -- pick it up. In fact, the only time it makes sense to pick up Seal of Command is while you're leveling as Ret... then you respec at Level 80 to put that talent point somewhere else.

The Crazy Idea
Seal of Blood/Seal of the Martyr is pretty much the only Seal a Retribution Paladin needs, so do the proper thing: remove Seal of Command from the game and make Seal of Blood trainable at Level 20. Making it trainable should solve the problem of Retribution leveling. It also teaches players to use the proper Seal considering Seal of Command isn't optimal for dungeons and raids, anyway. It makes absolutely no sense for players to level using one Seal and then adapt to the use of another Seal for the endgame.

Of course, this leaves us with a vacuum at the fabled 11-point spot.

Vindictive Command
Requires 10 points in Retribution
Instant, 2 minute cooldown
Seal of Blood has an additional 20% chance to critically strike against stunned or incapacitated targets. Unleashing Seal of Blood's energy will judge an opponent, and has a 100% chance to critically strike against stunned or incapacitated targets. Lasts 10 seconds.

This eliminates the complexity of having two different Seals for PvP and PvE. It provides a window of controlled burst for PvP while being a relative DPS boost in PvE. Stuns and incapacitate effects don't work on bosses, so it's still more of a PvP-oriented talent (as Seal of Command was) while providing raiders with an additional activated ability to make things interesting -- it actually encourages the use of Hammer of Justice or Repentance in PvE. The Seal bonus crit numbers may need some more fine tuning, but you get the idea. Let's take a look at a few more perceived holes next.

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