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The Light and How to Swing It: Raiding ret without the noob

For a very long time, I played a Horde rogue, and only a Horde rogue. I knew little of the ways of paladins beyond what I saw on the forums. So before the Burning Crusade, whenever I thought about ret paladins, I thought of the popular image of the "retnoob": a big, wanna-be arms warrior swinging a two-hander, talking about his leet crits, and steadfastly refusing to ever heal anyone.

But after leveling a paladin of my own and reading the paladin boards, I realized that retribution and its defenders aren't what I thought they were. Many ret pallies feel betrayed and cheated by Blizzard. They rolled a holy warrior, and now they feel that their only option is to stand at the back and cast two spells. And many of the ret pallies who post on the forums don't want a huge increase in DPS -- instead, they'd prefer a way to reduce their threat and some form of increased raid utility a la shadow priests.

Since Blizzard has said that they intend to buff the retribution tree, there are probably more than a few PVE paladins who are waiting for this buff with bated breath. But how can we help these paladins become good retribution pallies, instead of falling into the dreaded trap of the "retnoob"? I talked to raid leaders, ret pallies, and read the forums for sage advice on how to successfully raid as retribution. Read on if you're interested.

  1. Gear up. Ret pallies, like other physical DPS classes, are very gear-dependent. And as a melee DPS class that also uses holy damage, they can use just about every stat available out there. But some stats are much better than others. Avitus of Earthen Ring-EU has put together a nice guide for ret paladin stats. In general, melee stats like strength, melee crit, AP and melee hit are better than caster stats, since melee stats affect your white hits, while caster stats only affect your special moves.

    However, you probably shouldn't deck yourself out in pure warrior gear. An out-of-mana ret pally does no one any good, so most ret paladins go for a mix of stats. A guide for what stats are good for ret can be found in the ret pally raid tier sets and arena gear. When it comes to weaponry, go for big, slow, and hard-hitting weapons, unless you're a blood elf and want to use Seal of Blood (see below.) The blacksmithing BOPs are great for this.

    Two of the best-geared ret pallies out there provide different perspectives on what stats to go for. The blood elf retadin Grant is wearing mostly warrior gear from Hyjal and Black Temple, with a very small amount of spell damage and massive AP. This may be because Grant uses Seal and Judgement of Blood, which benefits a lot from weapon damage and very little from spell damage. Ed of Core uses full t6, so he's got a nice mix of stats and quite a bit of spell damage.

    Avitus suggests that pallies first aim for 8 percent plus melee hit and 23 percent plus melee crit. Once you've got that, start piling on the strength and AP. Along the way, if you're going for the arena/tier ret gear, you'll pick up enough spell damage (160-260) and intellect to cover your behind. If you're just questing your way up to 70, mix and match warrior gear with a little bit of spell damage gear.

  2. For damage, seal and judge Blood, Command or (in rare cases) Righteousness. Exavier has done some very long and complicated math, and discovered that Seal of Command does about 80 percent of the DPS of Seal of Blood with a 3.6 speed weapon and average stats. Basically, Seal of Blood scales insanely well with weapon damage, is more reliable than Seal of Command, and can crit when judged and refresh Vengeance, unlike Seal of Righteousness. Blood may perform better with a fast weapon and "warrior gear", as Seal of Command does best with very slow weapons. However, other paladins have reported that they've found Command to outperform Blood with their gear, although Command (like most other proc-based abilities) makes your damage and threat kind of spiky and bursty.

    As for Righteousness, unless you have a ton of spell damage gear, you're probably going to be better off with one of the other two. Righteousness's crit chance is based on spell crit, not melee crit, and doesn't scale as well with weapon damage.

  3. Keep up your judgements. And no, not just the ones that do damage. At this point, a huge amount of your raid utility comes from your ability to judge Crusader, Light or Wisdom on a target and keep it up through Crusader Strike. Judgement of the Crusader can increase your own DPS by a lot, and it's great to use if the raid's other paladins have judged Wisdom or Light already. However, a lot of holy paladins won't judge bosses at all, and you may not have more than one paladin with you. In that case, you have a tough decision to make -- improve your DPS and the raid's crit chance, or help the raid's health/mana?

    What you do depends on the fight or the group composition. If it's a long fight, the other pallies aren't judging, or you have a lot of magic DPS, Wisdom can be an excellent choice. If you have a lot of melee that are taking AOE damage, Light can work well. If the fight isn't long enough for the magic DPS to worry about going OOM, or another paladin is able to judge -- and remember to ask them to do it, reminding them that you can keep it up while they heal -- go for Crusader.

    The second part of Exavier's ret raiding guide discusses what judgements are best for which early raiding bosses in which circumstances, so that can be incredibly helpful.

  4. Control your aggro. Contrary to popular opinion, a well-geared ret pally can do a lot of damage. However, popular opinion is right about one thing -- it's pretty dang hard to keep one from pulling aggro if they're going all-out.

    This problem is tough to solve with current ret pally mechanics. A lot of times, if you try to control your threat, you end up gimping your DPS enough that your raid leader will consider you worthless. Because of this, it's very important to try to have both Blessing of Salvation and Blessing of Might up on you. Since the other pallies are likely to forsake either of those, you'll have to click off the Greater Blessings and ask another pally for either Might or Salv (you can do the other one yourself.) This will be a lot less painful in the next patch, when non-Greater Blessings get improved to 15 minutes.

    Like all DPS classes, wait for the tank to get aggro. In fact, you might want to wait a little longer than the rogues, because if you get some lucky (or unlucky) crits before the warrior builds up a lot of threat, you can quickly become a puddle on the floor. This is doubly important if you're in a group with Windfury Totem, which increases the chance of that happening. Oh, and try to always be in a group with Windfury, since it's great for your DPS.

    And finally, use some kind of threatmeter, like KTM or Omen. This will help you learn when to back off when you're in danger of pulling.

  5. Be a hybrid. Let's face it, ret pallies have a natural disadvantage right now. Exavier calculates that an equally geared and played rogue will out-DPS you by ten to twenty percent, and they also have a complete aggro wipe. Your utility lies in ... well, your utility. You can increase all damage done by your group by 2 percent if you have Imp Sanctity Aura. You can increase everyone's crit chance against your target by 3 percent if you judge Sanctified Crusader. And you can drop back and heal if it's absolutely necessary.

    Because of this, it's always good to try a little harder. Bring a set of healing gear just in case it's needed. You still have Blessing of Protection and Lay on Hands to help the rest of the raid, so remember that you can use them. Bring mana potions, healing potions, and elixirs that will buff your melee DPS. Be friendly and helpful. And if your raid leader says he doesn't think ret pallies can raid, ask him for one chance and then give it all you've got. After all, it's what Uther would have done.

I'm sure some of you have been ret raiders, and probably know a ton more than I've garnered. What are your strategies on successful ret play? What seal do you use? What improvements do you think need to be made to make ret a more accepted raiding spec?

Filed under: Paladin, Raiding, (Paladin) The Light and How to Swing It

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