The Light and How to Swing It: Swap seals, not sandwiches

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The Light and How to Swing It: Swap seals, not sandwiches
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!

Not being particularly captivated by anything in patch 5.2 so far, I've recently picked up a prot warrior and have carried him through some of the lower level areas. This isn't the first time I've tried leveling up a warrior; back in Wrath I had a level 80 fury warrior that was loads of fun, at least until Blizzard nerfed Titan's Grip and my poorly equipped berserker cow lost his ill-gotten mojo.

Since then I've tried to recapture that magic but there was always something that bugged me about the warrior playstyle: stance dancing. Being forced to choose between creating complicated macros or increasing my number of keybinds by some unseemly factor, I have typically opted for the hidden choice that was retiring the character. Thankfully this aspect of the warrior class seems to have been toned down a bit in Mists, so I figured I'd give our shielded brethren another go.

As paladins we don't have to deal with stances that lock us into or out of certain abilities (though many have pleaded with Blizzard to change that), but we do have something similar -- the seal system.

The Swiss Army seal

If you happened to pick up the paladin class sometime after vanilla WoW, you were fortunate enough to level up under the new seal regime. Under the old system, seals were a short-duration buff that was immediately consumed upon casting Judgement (back then they didn't skimp on the vowels!) I vaguely remember this mechanic, back when my friends first introduced me to the game. I very much disliked having to recast my seal so often, as many others did, I'm sure.

Fundamentally seals are quite different from warrior stances. Whereas the warrior's various stances signify different roles or are geared more towards certain specs, paladins of every flavor use each other's seals. Holy and protection paladins share Seal of Insight, protection and retribution paladins share Seal of Truth, and we rets pretty much hog Seal of Justice and Seal of Righteousness to ourselves. Tankadins may occasionally use SoR, but generally they stick to SoI and SoT.

This highlights the purpose behind the seal system –- we switch seals based on what type of combat we find ourselves in. Seal of Truth is useful in non-trivial single target encounters, Seal of Righteousness in AoE, and Seal of Justice in PvP.

After a while of getting used to their distinctions, though, seals become a bit bland. It certainly didn't help that, up until 5.2, you were better off leaving Seal of Truth on than even think about switching to Righteousness for an AoE pull. It makes one wonder, can't seals be something greater? Well, that's a question one intrepid forum poster posited when putting digital ink to digital paper (edited for clarity/grammar):

Retribution paladins need a unique seal (passive) with some attributes of all seals.

Seal of Retribution Crusader - increasing your casting speed by x%, improving healing spells by x% and giving melee attacks a chance to heal you (Insight); causes Censure which deals additional Holy damage over 15 sec, stacks up to 5 times (Truth); fills you with Holy Light, causing melee attacks to deal x% additional Holy damage and reduce the target's movement speed by 50% for 8 sec (Justice); melee attacks to deal x% weapon damage to all targets within 8 yards (Righteousness).

While this suggestion seems a tad ridiculous (okay, maybe more than a tad), it at least reminds us that we should be asking ourselves what about seals is fun and exciting and what is dull and dreary.

One of the first things that jumps out to me from this idea is the notion of a passive seal. Granted, the effect of most, if not all, seals is passive in nature. After you choose a seal, you don't have to micromanage any part of it (hell, Blizzard even removed their duration in Mists so you don't have to refresh it). But by folding pretty much every seal we have into one and making it passive removes the very essence of what seals are all about: choice.

Sealing the deal

As it stands, deciding when to use a certain seal is a relatively simple affair, but what if it wasn't? We were almost faced with this possibility with Seal of Justice for 5.2:

So, we're going to redesign it and attempt to solve another problem, which is Ret's damage outside of cooldowns (which are quite potent). Justice will now proc (and Judgment will count for the proc) a stacking debuff on the target that increases the damage of your next Templar's Verdict. With 5 stacks, this will be a big hit (but not an insta-gib) and opens up some interesting decisions about how to use Holy Power, such as Inquisition or WoG, if you're trying to hold TV. While Truth + Censure will still do more sustained damage overall, there is a chance Justice will see some situational use in PvE, and we're okay with that. Justice is a Ret-only thing, so it should be a Seal they actually use.

Eventually they resolved to revert SoJ to its previous version because balancing against the loss of Censure was proving to be a sticky issue. But let's take a page out of our forum poster's book and put seal changes back on the table. So where do we go from here?

Personally, my vote is to change what our seals do on a fundamental level. For as long as they have been in WoW, seals have dealt damage in one form or another.

But what if they didn't? What if seals were strictly utility-based with next to no rotational significance at all? Truth and Righteousness could be redesigned to work something like Seal of Insight without the damaging component, and with other types of utility (damage protection, threat reduction, snares, etc.). That way, switching seals meant more than changing your damage profile – it would be a truly situational usage, something they've seen great success with in the revamped talent system.

What do you think, readers? Are you as blasé with our seals and their mechanics as I am?

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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