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The Light and How to Swing It: Refreshing the retribution utility toolbox

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!

I have always been a staunch supporter of the Ret Paladin DPS Equality movement. Ever since my male blood elf first picked up a two-hander and started swinging, I've been quite fixated with the entire meter-chasing DPS subculture that manifests itself in at least a small handful of raiders in each and every guild. There were a few tricks that felt too dirty to use (I'm looking at you, agility gear during Wrath), but for the most part, I have enjoyed the process of milking as much delicious damage from my character as possible.

Lately, however, I have found myself examining this philosophy in a wider scope. Sure, battling for the top spot on Skada has been fun, but is that truly what we should be aspiring to? Is there more to being a ret paladin than golden combo points and a big weapon? Clearly the answer to this question is, "Of course, Dan, are you mental? We have so much utility -- get the net!"

Well ... chyeah, right! Actually, you are right -- our utility spells are among the things that set us apart from other classes and keep us from being just better-looking rogues. But is their mere existence enough, or should our playstyle involve some form of active utility? What would this look like, and is it even feasible?

How not to do it

Believe it or not, Blizzard tried this for the very briefest of moments. Back when patch 4.1 was working its way through the PTR, Blizzard decided to alter Selfless Healer in a small but meaningful way:


Selfless Healer: The damage bonus from this talent now has a 30-second duration, up from 10.

The sleeping dragon was thusly poked. Within hours, the forums became inundated with speculation and complaints alike. Sadly, I had almost missed the entire debacle; I had pushed the possibility of even speccing into Selfless Healer so far back in my mind that I had almost forgotten the talent was there. Luckily, a friend brought it to my attention, and the next day I took fiercely to Blogger with my outrage.

For the unaware, as stated plainly on the Elitist Jerk's ret paladin thread, using Word of Glory when buffed by Selfless Healer in order to generate the buff is always a DPS loss, provided that you had the option to use Templar's Verdict instead. However, the proposed 4.1 change meant that less damage had to be sacrificed in the short term to maintain the damage buff from the talent, resulting in an overall increase in DPS (as much as 5% by some estimates).

While some of you may think it's counterproductive to be complaining about an increase to our damage, there were a few basic problems with this change. First, we already had a buff to our damage that required that we spend holy power to maintain it -- Inquisition. Having to maintain two separate, nearly identical buffs with what precious little holy power we had to spare would have been a disaster for the spec and would completely derail any potential smoothness to our rotation.

Second, it took the "selfless" out of Selfless Healer. It became apparent that having a macro set to heal a specific target (a tank would make the most sense) would be the most efficient way of disseminating the buff by preventing the need to stop what you're doing, decide who needs a heal the most, and hit WoG. Sure, that's not a whole lot to do, but given that you would need to repeat this process every 30 seconds, it's easy to see how it could add up over the course of a fight. What this amounts to is no meaningful decision-making, no truly game-saving moment, because you feel like you're just maintaining some mandatory aura.

How can Blizzard fix ret utility?

Let it be on record that I don't think Blizzard needs to completely remodel our utility toolbox. There is plenty of usefulness in dishing out Hands and heals already, and a good ret paladin can turn a wipe into a kill through the clever and timely use of these implements. My contention is with how these tools are presented to the player and integrated into gameplay (or, in this case, how they aren't).

Essentially, I feel like the Selfless Healer change wouldn't have worked because it was just another damage bonus; as much love as I have for Inquisition, I really don't want another one! So what can Blizzard do to get rookie and veteran ret paladins alike excited about being one of the best support DPS specs out there? Here's one of my ideas:

Any attack immediately following a Word of Glory cast that heals a target at less than 30% health will deal double damage.

I'm willing to negotiate with the numbers, but this is a change that would make an impact felt by both parties. Unless you have a tank willing to stand in some fire (they're doing it to build Vengeance, they swear), seeing people at 30% health or less won't be too common that it could be unceasingly abused. Of course, this has the potential to be "overpowered" in PvP situations, but what doesn't these days? /rimshot

What say you, readers? What are some of your ideas for making our utility a more central component of our gameplay? Is there something that needs fixing, or should Blizzard leave well enough alone and let our Hands and heals be the unsung heroes of our spellbooks?

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, Analysis / Opinion, (Paladin) The Light and How to Swing It, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

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