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The Light and How to Swing It: Retribution and the battle of the bonuses


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!

This PTR cycle of patch 5.2 has been pretty quiet on the retribution front, or so it seemed. The few changes we're seeing are mainly talent-centric: Regardless, I've always been a bit disappointed when we go through a patch unscathed. I suppose one could take it as a sign from the devs that they think ret is doing okay (whether this is true or not seems to be a matter of personal opinion), but it's a tad boring to not see any retribution news in with the list of changes.

Despite this lack of alteration, it seems there's still something we can get excited and/or worried over -- our tier set bonuses. Our tier 15 two-piece bonus, Exorcism putting a debuff on your target that makes it take 6% increased Holy damage from you for 6 seconds, seems to be fairly solid. With Exorcism's cooldown being 15 seconds (reduced by haste through Sanctity of Battle, of course), and Art of War giving us a 20% chance to reset Exorcism's cooldown on autoattacks, this buff should have a pretty high uptime. Personally, I don't really find it particularly appealing, but I don't hate it either. It's a two-piece bonus, it's not the star of the show.

Our four-piece bonus, however, has stolen the limelight and caused quite the stir not only within the ret paladin community, but apparently even at Blizzard as well as the blues ping-ponged between two ideas before finally (albeit momentarily) settling on one.

Here was our initial offering for our tier 15 four-piece bonus:

Your Crusader Strike has a 40% chance to make your next Templar's Verdict deal all Holy damage.

At first glance this may not seem that great, but keep in mind that all of our weapon-based and physical attacks are mitigated by the boss's armor. Magic damage, however, goes right through, meaning that this would be quite a boost once you factor that in with Inquisition, the two-piece bonus, and the resulting Hand of Light from the Templar's Verdict cast. This combination proved to be so powerful on paper that the devs later thought about it and decided that they better scale it back before implementing it:

I also want to stress that anyone expecting said bonus to be a 20% DPS increase or something are going to be disappointed, so I hope that's not why you liked the bonus. :)

However, the set bonus was eventually changed, for various reasons, to the following:

Your Crusader Strike and Hammer of the Righteous have an X% chance to cause your next Divine Storm to also strike its primary target with a Lightning Bolt for Y Nature damage." Y is about a Templar's Verdict.

Both bonuses have their merits and both have their flaws. I'm sure you're looking at the two, asking yourself the same question that I am:

Which is better?

Without specific numbers for the second bonus, it's impossible to decide which is quantitatively better. We did see a glimpse of what the devs were thinking about doing with the second bonus in the 5.2 patch note update on January 16th:

The tier-14 2-piece set bonus now causes Crusader Strike and Hammer of Wrath to have a 40% chance to make the Paladin's next Divine Storm deal a Lightning Strike for 255% weapon damage as Nature.

Of course the reference to tier 14 is a typo, but you can see where they were going. They kept Y at a similar level to Templar's Verdict's 275% weapon damage, but they compensated for it by increasing the number of proc sources (since CS and HotR share a cooldown) and instating a relatively high proc chance.

However, this bonus is not without its drawbacks; aside from a minor point about forcing some incidental cleave damage (which opens up the possibility of accidentally breaking CC targets – like I said, a minor concern), my biggest beef with this bonus is that it shakes things up too much. Relearning priorities mid-tier can be fun, but to new players or those who play at a more relaxed pace, this set bonus has the potential to be confusing, frustrating, and even a DPS loss in the worst of circumstances.

I appreciate the thought, and look forward to a fun rotation-changing mechanic in the next tier set (perhaps on a two-piece bonus this time), but it's just not in the cards right now.

Therefore, we're going back to the first iteration of the bonus. However, even this version isn't perfect – namely, the bonus is quite bland. It's yet another modifier to Templar's Verdict and it adds more randomness and burst damage to an already high burst spec. It does have the benefit of changing some things up rotationally by placing a higher emphasis on Crusader Strike, and perhaps even shifting the priority of 3-4 HP TVs, but it doesn't hit me in the same way that suddenly shifting to Divine Storm does.

So which bonus would you prefer? Would you rather have a reliable, albeit snooze-worthy buff to TV, or a random bolt of lightning shoot out from one orifice or another? Or do you have a different idea altogether about what they should do with our bonuses?

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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