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The Light and How to Swing It: 3 crazy design ideas that would turn ret on its head


Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Seasoned ret paladin Dan Desmond is here to answer your questions and provide you with your biweekly dose of retribution medicine. Contact him at with any questions, concerns, or suggestions!

When I was young, I had an appointment with a doctor and three syringes for some vaccinations before I started school in the fall. I clearly remember the feeling of anxiety and reluctance as each foot took another step toward the entrance to the clinic. I screamed, I kicked, and I may have even cried a little bit (OK, maybe a lot). But once all was said and done, and after the aching in my arm subsided, I reflected on my experience and realized that it wasn't as terrifying as my overactive imagination had built it up to be.

This very much reflects my experience with the changeover to holy power from Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm. I was really, really hesitant and was not looking forward to relearning how to play my class, but once I got the hang of things it started growing on me. Big changes tend to make us anxious, even angry, but there's something about starting over and learning new things that makes the whole experience worthwhile in the end.

With this in mind, I let my imagination run wild between trash packs in Bastion of Twilight the other night and thought of three crazy design ideas for redefining retribution.

Spellpower plate On the whole, niche loot can be a huge headache. If you played during The Burning Crusade, did you ever pull your hair out trying to get the libram you wanted to drop? Your druidic and shamanistic friends would agree that relics were a pain to farm out. We don't want to repeat that experience -- and, thankfully, Blizzard doesn't want to design more of them, so we'll be doing away with relics altogether in Mists.

Spellpower plate has existed for a long time, and there aren't any signs of its going away any time soon, but let's think about this. We have one subset of gear being used by a single spec of paladin dropping from bosses. Before Mists was announced, agility tank gear had the same problem, but thankfully monks hopped on that bandwagon.

So why not let retribution share gear with holy? Well, I raise this question knowing many of the reasons why this change hasn't been implemented.
  • Switching retribution from a strength dependence to a spellpower/intellect dependence would require a massive overhaul of underlying mechanics, resulting in perhaps an even larger undertaking than the development of the holy power system.
  • Without constructing artificial limits (think Sword of Light but related to healing), retribution's off heals would far outpace those of any other hybrids, creating a staggering imbalance in both raiding and PvP.
  • Generally, gear competition occurs between players of the same role, with the only exception being on items of limited itemization such as rings and necklaces. This inequality in gear distribution could affect progression, as well as "paladin pal" status.
The Light and How to Swing It Three crazy design ideas that would turn ret on its head
Practicing the dark arts Thematically, something has always bothered me about retribution. Protection paladins channel the Light to protect their allies, and holy paladins use it to heal the injured. Both of these things are inherently good-natured and lend themselves well to the positive image of those that wield this power. Retribution, however, uses the Light to harm and kill, twisting a doctrine of compassion and charity into a hammer. And while, yes, ret paladins do have an affinity for killing demons and the undead, creatures that are diametrically opposed to paladins and their ilk, it's apparent that those vile creatures aren't the only targets.

I've never been one to want the mechanical side of the game suffer because of lore reasons (i.e., even though I despise the thought of tauren paladins, I haven't lead a pitchfork-laden mob to Blizzard HQ), but I thought these reasons could be a cool transition to a darker retribution spec. When priests want to do damage, they seek the shadow and forsake their access to the Light (most of it, at least), so why not let retribution do the same?

While Dark Templar rets shouldn't be able to stealth like their StarCraft namesakes, they could have a lot of spell graphics and mechanics change to suit their darker intentions. Perhaps DT could be a stance that could change the hybrid focus of the spec; outside of DT, rets would be able to do damage and have some decent off healing, but during DT we could become more durable and tank-like. Keeping damage the same between the two forms would keep the playing field level from a DPS perspective, and locking the player to hybridizing one way or the other would prevent the one-paladin army syndrome from reoccurring.

Dual-wielding I have been a frequenter of the Elitist Jerk's retribution theorycrafting threads for a long while now, and one thing that always had me scratching my chin was a question featured in the FAQ:

Q: Should I use a fast 1h weapon to stack SoT quicker?

A: No. Switching weapons is a DPS loss. The majority of our damage is physical (autoattack, CS and TV). The lost damage during the ramp up period is greater than the boost to JoT and SoT DoT ticks. The fact that special attacks also apply stacks of Censure make this even more moot.

This question was most relevant back in Wrath when then Seal of Vengeance stacked very slowly. Still, the thought that other paladins had fast one-handed weapons got me thinking. The concept of a dual-wielding paladin is a pretty intriguing one, to be sure. The weapons are already there, thanks to Single-Minded Fury warriors. A few mechanics would need to be changed, though I'm sure much of it could be derived from how Blizzard handles SMF already. Technically, this is a feasible change.

Is this a smart change? That's a tough question to answer. Is there some overarching need for paladins to use two one-handed weapons, either lore-based or otherwise? What would this change bring to the spec that ret doesn't already have? Would an increase in attack speed due to the use of two fast weapons result in a more enjoyable experience?

Personally, I think that all of these changes would be neat to see in the game in some iteration at some point in time, but I am willing to wager the consumption of my hat that none of these will see the fluorescent light of artificial day. Large, sweeping changes such as these are usually reserved for fixing something that isn't working, and the developers like to take their hands off of things that seem to be working just fine. I guess we can look at the minor changes coming in Mists of Pandaria as a blessing, but I hope we don't have to wait too long to learn something new!

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.

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