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The Light and How to Swing It: Ret talent preview for Mists of Pandaria

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

This year marked my very first BlizzCon, so naturally I camped nearly every WoW class and talent panel I could manage. With bated breath and a semi-charged smartphone, I sat ready to transcribe my thoughts on any and all retribution tidbits that flowed forth like honey from the developers' proverbial beehive. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how much faith you have in the ret community to produce cogent questions), there weren't many big revelations related to our spec at any of the Q&As. There remains, however, one relevant topic that we can discuss, and that is the revamped talent system coming with Mists of Pandaria.

A new direction

During the talent discussion, the devs gave a few reasons as to why they felt that such a large overhaul was needed: reducing the chance of "accidentally" skipping spec-centric talents, increasing opportunities for customization, curbing spec rigidity, and reintroducing a touch of hybridization and survivability mechanics, all at little to no opportunity cost to the player. The devs were quite insistent that this change should abolish cookie-cutter builds; whether this ends up working or not is a matter of balance and not something I really want to get into at the moment. However, a brief examination of these proposed talents should reveal some useful information that we can use in going forward. If you want to follow along, you can check out Wowhead's Mists of Pandaria talent calculator.

Level 15: Movement

This first tier of talents revolves around movement-increasing abilities.

Speed of Light This talent is an offshoot of the current model, which itself is a holy talent that provides a similar speed boost when Holy Radiance or Divine Protection are used. This should find most of its use on fights that require short bursts of speed, such as Majordomo Staghelm when trying to force shifts (in the case that you have slow ranged raid members ... /cough) or on Alysrazor to zip between add spawns or around tornadoes.

Long Arm of the Law Essentially a clone of its current iteration, except that Long Arm now has had its 15-yard range requirement removed. Less potent than Speed of Light but available more often, I can see this being the go-to talent for multi-target fights where a Long Arm-buffed Judgement could help you get from mob A to mob B while also starting or refreshing a stack of Censure.

Pursuit of Justice I have mixed feelings about this one. First, I'm forced to wonder if it will interact with Divine Purpose, because some overlap there would bloat the average movement increase (as a result of having 3 holy power more often) and perhaps make this talent more appealing. Otherwise, there's just something about a variable run speed increase that doesn't appeal to me, and I can't see many ret paladins sitting on 3 holy power to go 30% faster for a short time. Then again, I've been wrong before.

Level 30: Crowd control and related utility

Our second tier smacks of PVP abilities, though I'm sure some of them will find their use in PVE settings as well, more likely in dungeons than in raids.

Fist of Justice Today's Hammer of Justice with a different name, twice the range, and half the cooldown. Unless someone can give a compelling reason as to why they simply repackaged HoJ with a few buffs, I have to admit that I'm a little saddened to see such an iconic ability left behind.

Repentance There are only a couple of proposed changes to our singular CC ability. First, it does not appear to have a cooldown anymore, meaning that if a stiff breeze breaks it, we can immediately reapply it. Second, it has a 1.5-second cast time. For many (if not all) PVE situations, this isn't going to be a huge deal. Where I can see this change coming into play, however, is in the PVP realm.

Seal of Justice Speaking of PVP, I can sense the sighs of relief and the exhales of long-held breaths over this change. From my very limited foray into PVP, even I could tell that the current version of Seal of Justice was a bland, worthless shell of something potentially much greater. Sadly, as raid bosses are generally not snareable, this ability will find limited use among raiders.

Level 45: Dealing with damage

We're melee DPS -- we're in the thick of it. We trudge through slime, fire, frost traps, and void zones to deliver the pain to our enemies, and as such, we will be taking damage. This tier of talents lets us decide how we deal with it.

Blessed Life A combination of the current Blessed Life and the holy power portion of Pursuit of Justice. This talent would be great (that is, overpowered) if it procced off of any damage source. Unfortunately, it only works when taking direct damage, in addition to stuns, fears, and immobilizing effects. As it is, this talent tastes like PVP.

Sacred Shield Hello, old friend. I love this ability in Wrath, and I was excited to get it back in Cataclysm. This gorgeous mechanic has saved my skin from certain death on numerous occasions, and I expect it to continue to do so in Pandaria.

Ardent Defender Have you ever wanted to pretend that you were a tank? Well here's your chance! Before you cry "PVP ability," though, think it through. Your tank dies. Is it a wipe? Not if you take Ardent Defender! Bubble-taunt, run away from the rest of the raid for a minute, then when the fixate drops and your bubble fades away, hit Righteous Defense and pop Ardent Defender. That should give your group plenty of time to get that tank back in the land of the living, buffed, and fully healed. Congratulations, you are truly a hero class. Eat your hearts out, death knights.

Level 60: Helping others

Two-thirds of this tier involves healing, but I guess they just couldn't continue the theme to make my job of churning out catchy titles easier!

Selfless Healer In my opinion, this is a much better implementation of the talent than the Cataclysm model. Spending holy power on a heal that could be used on a Templar's Verdict or refreshing Inquisition has always been the bane of Selfless Healer; tying the talent to Flash of Light means that we are no longer losing an appreciable amount of DPS by using it. Unfortunately, it does not seem to make FoL instant, just free. I'm hoping for this change so that we can use it in combat and not have to interrupt our swing timer to heal a friend in need.

Eternal Glory Basically, it's the modern-day Eternal Glory with Light of Dawn tacked on. Could be a great talent for holy paladins, but I'm unimpressed. Next.

Holy Shield Assuming a friendly target implies both your fellow raiders or yourself, this could be a very powerful cooldown for a non-tank to have. Surely the numbers will be tweaked, but having a scaling external cooldown to throw on a tank or healer or even yourself has the potential to be game-changing. That said, the version on the calculator lacks a cooldown, so there are most likely to be a few changes coming.

Level 75: Three ways to freedom

Of course, not all three talents are strictly movement-related; it was the only unifying theme I could come up with. Blizzard, you're killing me here.

Veneration A good way to save healer and cleanser mana for 6 seconds during a certain mechanic. The only trouble with this talent is that Consecration has such a high mana cost that we might not be able to afford to use it when it is needed most.

Acts of Sacrifice This one looks pretty familiar, with one small exception. The new Acts affects Hand of Protection, as opposed to Hand of Salvation in the current model. With the future tanking focus being taken away from threat and shunted toward survivability, I imagine that Salv will be one of our least-used Hands anyway, so this change is probably for the best.

Clemency Need back-to-back BoPs for that squishy healer of yours? Running through a quarter-mile of quicksand and Hand of Freedom wore off halfway through? With Clemency, you can reset the cooldown on Freedom, Sacrifice, and Protection and use them within rapid succession. Don't use this ability lightly, though; it has a 5-minute cooldown.

Level 90: Cooldowns and holy power generation

This is it, the final tier. Instead of getting a sweet new ability at level 90, we'll get the honor of choosing one of these three talents.

Holy Avenger This talent takes me on a roller coaster of excitement. At first I reveled in how awesome 10 seconds of TVs would be. We are one of the burstiest bursters that ever did burst, and this would just shoot our spike damage through the roof. Then I realized that we will no longer have our four-piece T12, meaning we will probably be going back to hitting Zealotry and Avenging Wrath simultaneously. This results in hitting Guardian of Ancient Kings 10 seconds earlier in order to get the most benefit out of our cooldown rotation.

All of this lead to a bit of a whimper as I realized that this amazing 10-second shower of holy power would be outside of the rest of our cooldowns. Of course, we could simply pop them earlier, but then we'd be losing out on the maximum benefit from Guardian as our strength stacks up. If memory serves, though, Ghostcrawler did mention that perhaps the Pandaria version of Guardian will be different than on live, so there's always hope we can cling to.

Sanctified Wrath I remember thinking that Hammer of Wrath is going to need a serious re-buffing if this talent is to be worth anything. And by re-buffing, I mean it needs to edge its way into our top three on priority. Currently, Crusader Strike, Templar's Verdict, and Art of War-Exorcism are just so much more powerful than Hammer of Wrath that it's generally not worth it to use HoW during AW anymore, unless none of the three aforementioned abilities are available. Should we continue to use AW in the same fashion as we have been for the entire expansion, I can't see this talent being of much use unless some buffs are handed out.

Divine Purpose Yes, they really did just take Divine Purpose away from us, chop off 80% of the abilities it could proc from, and try to sell it back to us. For reference, the current Divine Purpose can proc off Judgement, Exorcism, Templar's Verdict, Divine Storm, Inquisition, Holy Wrath, and Hammer of Wrath. The Pandaria model, should this make it to live, would only proc off Templar's Verdict and Inquisition. I would include Word of Glory in that list, but I believe Ghostcrawler mentioned that they were thinking about giving WoG only to holy paladins and making Flash of Light our baseline heal. Don't quote me on that, though. Still, I'm hopeful they'll change it to make it the least bit desirable.

Anyway, that brings us to the end of our list. Please keep in mind that none of these talents are set in stone and that the numbers are essentially meaningless at this point. However, that doesn't mean that speculation can't be fun ... right?

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.

Filed under: Paladin, BlizzCon, (Paladin) The Light and How to Swing It, Mists of Pandaria

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