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The Light and How to Swing It: 4 ways to start retadin combat off with a bang

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 dand@wowinsider.com with any questions, concerns, or suggestions!

One of the perks of this job, at least in my mind, is receiving reader mail and interacting with the community. I love doing what I can to help people new to the spec; it's really why I started blogging and writing about retribution paladins in the first place!

Anyway, last week I received an email posing the following question:
I have noticed that some other ret paladins have very high initial DPS. How are they doing this and how can I do the same?
The string of abilities and buttons you hit at the beginning of combat, called opening sequences or openers, are a much-discussed topic among theorycrafters and the community at large. Naturally, your first few attacks can set the pace for the rest of the fight. Fortunately, the spec is forgiving enough that even if you flub a button at the beginning of an encounter, your overall DPS won't go straight in the toilet. Even so, I have a few pieces of advice up my sleeve from my own experiences that can help you start the fight off right.

1. Increase your holy power (HP) generation. The faster you can get holy power, the sooner you can pop your cooldowns and get to work. While many of you may think that this means you need to stack haste to reduce your Crusader Strike cooldown via Sanctity of Battle, what I'm actually talking about is doing what you can to get your hands on two pieces of tier 13. The set bonus essentially allows you to open combat with 2 holy power as opposed to 1, which leads wonderfully into my next tip.

2. Start off with a 2-HP Inquisition as opposed to one that is at full duration. I'm sure many of you may get your initial 3 HP and then follow it up with your Avenging Wrath/Zealotry macro, or maybe even get a 36-second Inquisition up and then start working toward getting cooldowns up. I think both approaches miss out on some valuable DPS.

Hitting your cooldown macro first and then putting up Inquisition takes one GCD away from the 20-second duration of increased damage. Conversely, waiting to get a 3-HP Inq up and then working to get more holy power for your cooldowns could delay that big damage spike you're looking for, not to mention that it could potentially offset the number of cooldown cycles you could possibly run through in a given encounter. For example, if you push back your cooldowns by 30 seconds in a 4.5-minute encounter, you would only be able to use them twice as opposed to three times, lowering your overall DPS.

To give some numbers to this argument, let's say you don't have tier 13 yet so you're still just using CS to get HP. If you start off with a 2-HP Inq, by the time you get 3 more HP to pop your macro, you will have about 10 seconds left on your initial Inquisition.

Like I said, refreshing Inquisition during your cooldowns isn't ideal (especially once you get your four-piece bonus), but let's include something we haven't mentioned yet: Divine Purpose. By the time you get 3 more HP after that initial Inquisition, you will have made roughly six attacks that should all qualify to proc Divine Purpose. That gives you an 80% chance to get at least one proc. As you know, this can basically be a free refresh on Inq if it's about to run out.

Basically what this all boils down to is, hope and pray that DP procs when you need it to. That's what I do, and it generally works as long as I didn't forget to sacrifice a few stray cats the night before. (I'm joking! I actually use squirrels; they're pretty overpopulated here anyway.)

3. Get the most out of those macros. This particular reader mentioned that he was using a macro that combined Avenging Wrath, Zealotry, and Hammer of Wrath. Ever since the addition of the "above 20%" Hammer of Wrath functionality to the talent Sanctified Wrath, people have been trying to find ways to get a HoW out right away to up their burst damage (of course, this was back when HoW actually hurt, but that's beside the point). Unfortunately, the macro just doesn't seem to work -- it takes a few seconds for the game to recognize that you activated AW and that you're specced into Sanctified Wrath, allowing you to use HoW above 20% of the target's health.

If you want a basic cooldown macro, here's one that will work just fine:
#showtooltip Zealotry
/use Avenging Wrath
/use Zealotry
/use (Trinket)
I put "#showtooltip Zealotry" in there just so I can see it light up when I have 3 HP. Note that you can put something like "/use Templar's Verdict" in there as well after the entry for Zealotry, as your cooldowns and trinkets should all be off the GCD, but for some reason I never have. I guess I like being able to decide if I want to cast a TV or refresh Inq, but I of course recognize that this comes at a DPS loss. The ball's in your court, Mr. McCloy.

4. For the love of the Light, pre-pot. If you don't have them already, stock up on some Golemblood Potions and put them on a convenient keybind. Outside of combat, potions have a 1-minute cooldown, but during combat only one can be used. A way around this one-potion-per-combat rule is to use a pot a brief moment before combat is started, incurring the 1-minute cooldown but not locking you out of your mid-combat potion.

Strike up some communication with your raid group or even just your tanks and see if you can't convince them to give you an audible countdown before they pull the boss. Delaying as long as possible will give you the best overlap of your attacks and the potion's 25-second duration. Oh, and I would recommend against tying this into your cooldown macro; you may want to save your mid-combat pot for a specific time in the fight, but you'll want to use your cooldowns as often as reasonably possible.

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, (Paladin) The Light and How to Swing It, Cataclysm

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