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The Light and How to Swing It: Patch 4.0.6 for retribution

Alex Ziebart

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. This week, Justicar Alex Ziebart heralds retribution's triumphant return. Questions? Comments? Feel free to email the author.

Patch 4.0.6 is right around the corner. Isn't it about time we discuss what this means to the retribution paladin? You've all waited for this long enough, so let's skip the pleasantries and get right down to it.

We're going to go through the paladin patch notes relevant to retribution paladins one by one. Do note that we are not covering all of the paladin patch notes, such as the mana cost changes to heals or those that impact holy and protection talents. While some of those things may technically impact retribution, we would all much rather talk about issues very specifically related to hitting things with a righteous vengeance until they die.

Let's dig in.

Crusader Strike weapon damage percent has been increased to 135%, up from 115%. Straight buff. I like it.

Seal of Truth: All single-target attacks (including Judgement, Hammer of Wrath, Exorcism, and Templar's Verdict) can now trigger this seal. This change is not only a DPS boost, but also a quality of life change. Every retribution paladin knows the frustration of trying to get Censure stacked to five on a target in a heroic or raid environment. By the time you get it done, your target is dead or you need to change targets and start over again. How many bosses are stand-still tank and spanks nowadays? None. Even the most tank-and-spank boss around requires a lot of movement and target swaps, so Seal of Truth's debuff will drop off. It's still a DPS increase over Seal of Righteousness, but using it feels like you're endlessly climbing a mountain with your DPS. You never reach the top before you get shoved back down.

With this change, we'll be able to stack Seal of Truth much more quickly to avoid that sensation of endless struggling with our own mechanics. It will also add a small boost of DPS to every major damaging ability in the ret paladin's repertoire. This is a very nice change overall.

Act of Sacrifice will no longer cause Cleanse to remove movement impairing effects from vehicles the paladin is riding. You can't complain about bug fixes, really. I'm rather amused this ever worked.

Divine Storm weapon damage percent increased from 80% to 100%. This is nice, but it doesn't fix Divine Storm by any stretch of the imagination. Divine Storm gets a slight boost with this change and the change to Seal of Truth, but the real problem is that Divine Storm does not generate holy power. It had a random chance to generate holy power via Divine Purpose, but patch 4.0.6 will eliminate that.

When you make the decision to use Divine Storm, you ultimately decide to completely halt your DPS rotation. Retribution paladins rely very heavily on holy power. When you make the decision to use Divine Storm, it's not only a decision to forego Templar's Verdict but also Inquisition. Inquisition increases the damage of Holy Wrath and Consecration, so by choosing to AoE, you choose to reduce the effectiveness of your other AoE abilities. Alternatively, you use single-target abilities to build the holy power to use Inquisition, so you may start AoEing again. Both scenarios set the retribution paladin's AoE capabilities far behind most other classes.

You can't be the best at everything. In every encounter, there is going to be a class or spec that doesn't perform as well as the others, and that's okay. Needing to make tough decisions while doing DPS, like whether to single-target or to AoE, is also okay. Decisions can be fun. Decisions aren't fun when it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. That's the essence of Divine Storm right now. I very sincerely hope Divine Storm generates holy power in patch 4.1 or someone comes forward with a compelling argument for why it doesn't (or shouldn't).

I also think retribution could stand to have an AoE ability that utilizes holy power, but that may be asking a bit much.

Hand of Light (Mastery): A percentage of the damage done by Templar's Verdict, Crusader Strike, and Divine Storm is done as additional Holy damage. This Mastery now grants a 2.1% increase to Holy damage per mastery, down from 2.5%. Our old mastery has changed completely in patch 4.0.6. Our old mastery was an enjoyable proc mechanic, but it ended up not being of much significance when it came to actual, competitive DPS. Because of that, mastery was an entirely undesirable stat to the point that retribution paladins actively avoided anything with mastery on it, even with the option of reforging available.

Those days are gone and this is the new hotness. The paladin community is still working out the numbers on this new mastery, but right now it's looking like after reaching the hit and expertise caps, mastery will be our best stat right above haste.

This added holy damage does scale with Inquisition, which is part of why mastery becomes so desirable. It plays into our existing abilities extremely well.

Divine Purpose: The chance for applicable abilities to generate Holy Power has been reduced to 7/15%, down from 20/40%, but instead of generating 1 Holy Power, the next applicable ability used consumes no Holy Power and acts as if the paladin has 3 Holy Power. Here's where the old Hand of Light ran off to. The old Divine Purpose is gone and replaced with this. With this change, expect your holy power generation to take a significant hit. Crusader Strike is the only ability in your arsenal that will generate holy power. Period.

This change will remove some of the randomness surrounding retribution holy power, but at the same time, it will generally reduce the number of buttons that you push. Retribution's DPS rotation can feel very feast or famine -- sometimes you have more buttons to press than you care to see or else you are struggling for something to do between Crusader Strikes. Patch 4.0.6 isn't going to help that. It's going to make it worse. If your procs aren't playing nicely, you're going to be staring at a boss's butt for awhile and not much else. When your procs do play nice, your DPS is going to skyrocket ... briefly.

Repentance is no longer broken from damage done by Censure (Seal of Truth). Good change. It's going to make crowd-controlling in heroics quite a bit easier, as we don't have the leisure of having a glyph that makes our crowd control idiot-proof.

Yes, I'm fairly certain I just called myself an idiot just now, since nobody else can actually apply Censure.

The Rebuke talent has been replaced with a new passive talent, Sacred Shield. Paladins who had Rebuke before will automatically have Sacred Shield. Sacred When reduced below 30% health, paladins gain the Sacred Shield effect. The Sacred Shield absorbs X damage and increases healing received by 20%. Lasts 15 seconds. This effect cannot occur more than once every 30 seconds. Undispellable. Don't panic! Rebuke is being made a baseline spell. Blizzard's not taking away our interrupt. Every spec will have it, so this is what was granted to us in exchange.

Prior to Cataclysm, I likely would have said that this is purely a PvP talent and PvE players should go around it in their talent spec. In Cataclysm, I believe this is very much a PvE ability, especially if you're a raider. The sort of environmental damage that goes around these days is almost ludicrous. Healers work their tails off to keep everybody alive. Every little bit the DPS can do to help is appreciated. I foresee this even being slightly overpowered in select encounters in this expansion. Chimaeron, anybody?

Seals of Command will no longer trigger twice on each swing with Seal of Truth. This could likely be categorized as just a bug fix. Paladins seals work very strangely. Seal of Truth has two components, the DoT application and the up-front damage. Because of how Seals of Command functions, it triggered on both components of the spell. Yes, fixing this bug will be a DPS loss, but ideally it will be made up for elsewhere in these changes.

Zealotry is no longer dispellable. PvPers everywhere rejoice. PvE players say, "Cool, Garr can't strip my cooldown while I'm soloing Molten Core anymore."

Word of Glory will no longer reset the swing timer. This is good! Being selfless and losing your holy power to heal a raid buddy is punishing enough with the loss of holy power. Losing your melee swing and potential application of Seal of Truth is even more brutal.

The verdict

If you're expecting patch 4.0.6 to drastically change your DPS numbers, it is unlikely to do that. You will see minimal gains, but if you feel like retribution paladins are severely underperforming, this patch isn't going to make you happy. With the exception of holy power generation, what this patch will do is smooth out some of the annoying little aspects of playing retribution, such as Seal of Truth's no longer feeling like a constant struggle.

The most important change in this patch is the change to mastery. Mastery will shift from being our worst stat to potentially the very best. If you like to min-max, be prepared to redo a lot of your enchanting, gemming, and reforging. Strength will remain king of the mountain, so those gems can stay right where they are, but the mastery/haste/crit hierarchy will shift entirely.

My personal hope is that patch 4.1 will tackle the feast/famine feeling of the paladin's DPS rotation, as well as holy power generation and our AoE capabilities. While I do feel retribution DPS is a little lower than it should be, the only situation where this truly stands out are encounters with AoE aspects. A retribution paladin simply cannot contribute in a meaningful way.

Back when I was playing a shadow priest at the very beginning of Wrath of the Lich King, I said that playing a shadow priest felt like a selfish decision. The class was arranged in such a way that it discouraged switching targets to help burn down adds, it discouraged attacking multiple targets when the encounter needed it, and it discouraged aiding with AoE. A major patch or so after I said that, many of those problems were fixed, and I applaud the developers for the great things they did with that class (even if shadow priests struggle now with their own lackluster mastery). Currently, I feel the problem shadow priests faced then is the same problem retribution struggles with now. We fight against our own mechanics, and those mechanics encourage a very selfish playstyle. The Seal of Truth change is a very good step toward fixing this, but there's still more work to do.
The Light and How to Swing It tries to help paladins cope with the dark times coming in Cataclysm. See the upcoming paladin changes the expansion will bring. Wrath is coming to a close and the final showdown with the Lich King is here. With Cataclysm soon heating things up, will you be ready?

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