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The Light and How to Swing It: Patch 3.2 and the Paladin II

Zach Yonzon

Seal of Command has been redesigned - All melee attacks deal [ 36% of mw ] to [ 36% of MW ] additional Holy damage. Lasts 30 min. Unleashing this Seal's energy will judge an enemy, instantly causing [ 8% of AP + 13% of Spell Power + 19% of mw ] to [ 8% of AP + 13% of Spell Power + 19% of MW ] Holy damage.
When Blizzard turned Spiritual Attunment into a Protection talent, it made Seal of Blood look pretty silly. I mean, it still dealt incredible damage and is still the best DPS seal for Retribution, but the feedback damage was pretty dumb now. It needed a reworked Glyph of Seal of Blood for it to make sense. Still, it was the best seal for Retribution and embarrassed Seal of Command so badly for me to stupidly suggest removing the talent from the game. Instead, they removed Seal of Blood and Seal of the Martyr from the game and turned Seal of Command into a weaker, feedback-less Seal of Blood. Admittedly, It is a far more elegant solution than what I'd suggested which is why those guys design the game and I'm just spouting off about it.

What does this mean? Basically, Blizzard nerfed Retribution PvP. But it also means leveling Paladins can pick up a relevant end-game seal at Level 20. The downside is that Seal of Command is essentially a PvP seal, the only reason being that Seal of Vengeance, the new PvE seal (we'll get to that in a bit), can only be learned at Level 64. This means that raiding Retribution Paladins will need to swap seals once they get to the endgame. PvP Paladins, sorry, but you get a watered down version of Seal of Blood that doesn't even crit against incapacitated targets.

Seal of Vengeance now deals [ 13% of AP + 6.5% of Spell Power ] Holy damage (down from [ 15% of AP + 7.8% of Spell Power ]) and has a new effect - Once stacked to 5 times, each of the Paladin's attacks also deals 33% weapon damage as additional Holy damage.
This is now essentially the PvE seal. While it doesn't have the burst capability of Seal of Blood, it builds up to powerful throughput when it hits 5 stacks, mimicking the consistent damage of Seal of Blood by inflicting a constant 33% weapon damage with each strike. It's a painful nerf and there'll have to be extensive testing on the PTR to see how well this seal can perform. I guarantee that it won't be as sexy as the old Seal of Blood, though.

Crusader Strike now causes 75% weapon damage (down from 110%) but cooldown lowered to 4 seconds (down from 6).

While this is a clear nerf for PvP, it is a definite boost for PvE. While burst is lower, the lowered cooldown allows higher, more consistent DPS from seals. The only caveat is that the seals themselves have been nerfed, so net DPS will be somewhat similar to the status quo. Blizzard also hopes the shorter cooldown will make things interesting as players will have to deal with priority resolution more often. They also stated that the changes "do not close the door on the oft-requested Crusader Strike debuff," which should provide some sliver of hope in spite of all these Retribution nerfs.

Vindication now gives the Paladin's damaging melee attacks a chance to reduce the target's attack power by 23/46 for 10 sec.
My first thought was LOL. My second thought was still LOL. A little later I realize that Vindication is no longer a PvP talent, particularly after what Michael Gray calls The Great Vindication Nerf of 2009. Remember that announcement? When Blizzard essentially called Retribution Paladins skill-less and noted how Retribution was dominant in low-rated Arenas but couldn't break through when faced against pros "whose skill is high enough to counter" them? Yeah. That dark, insulting day. Anyway, Blizzard has now revised Vindication to be a PvE talent that mimics Demoralizing Shout. It is now only marginally useful and completely optional for PvP builds, but becomes more attractive (though still optional) for PvE builds. The new version is now likely to affect more targets.

The Art of War now reduces the cast time of your next Flash of Light or Exorcism ability by 0.75-1.5 sec everytime your melee attacks critically hit.
While it may seem like a buff on paper, the truth is that Retribution Paladins need to crit with a melee attack every 15 seconds just to be able to insert Exorcism into their rotation. Of course, 15 seconds is a long time to go without a critical strike, but the point is that DPS doesn't go any higher or lower with this talent change. It stays the same because Exorcism's cooldown is still 15 seconds. The only difference is that now, for Retribution Paladins to be able to use it without gimping themselves is to have to wait for a proc. If you look at it that way, it's actually kind of a nerf.

In mobile fights where Retribution Paladins must move out of melee range, Exorcism can no longer be used while moving back to position. That's a DPS dip. It can no longer be used as an opener even in PvE, and no longer fits into an early rotation unless players get an auto-attack crit -- something entirely out of the player's hands. While the strategic choice of using the buff for either an instant heal or damage is nice in concept, it is an unnecessary nerf in practice. The DPS nerf is not significant and likely won't even be palpable, but it's a change made for the sake of making Retribution interesting, nothing more.

[EDIT: Testing on the PTR shows that The Art of War procs off all melee attacks which include Crusader Strike and Divine Storm as well as auto-attacks. This means that the buff should be up almost all the time unless you have horrid luck.]

Judgement of the Wise now affects your damaging Judgement spells (Old - All Judgement spells) and Replenishment effect now regens 1% of the maximum mana per 5 sec. (Down from 0.25% every sec)

It's weird phrasing considering that all seal Judgements are currently damaging spells, but the important part is that Replenishment has been nerfed. This is a nerf for PvP, where Retribution Paladins can experience mana shortage, but hardly in PvE although the loss of the Glyph of Seal of Blood may create some problems. This change affects all class specs that confer the Replenishment buff.

Eye for an Eye
now causes 10% (down from 20%) of the damage taken to the attacker as well.
Nerfed. What is there to say?

Overall there's not much to fret about. The only real loser in Patch 3.2 is Retribution PvP, which loses the only thing it had going for it: burst. Blizzard belittled player skill by pointing out prevalence of Retribution Paladins in lower rated brackets and lack of success in higher brackets, and now they've gutted it even more with the changes. The good news? It's still the PTR. There's still some room for change, and as disheartening as the nerfs may be for Retribution PvP, their design indicates a good direction for the class. Keep your fingers crossed.
The Light and How to Swing It tries to help Paladins cope with dark times. Read Zach talk about raiding as Retribution as a primer for this Ulduar guide, and tips on raiding Ulduar as a Retribution Paladin.

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