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The Light and How to Swing It: Evaluating the success of holy power for retribution

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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!

Before we begin, go take a look at the new beta build 15640 currently being mined. Some of it is a bit wonky and messed up (Blessing of Might now gives 0 mastery, huh?), but some big ret changes can be found.
Blizzard seems to be cleaning up some spell mechanics and tooltips by taking a weed whacker to those abilities that have both attack power and spell power dependencies. The new version of Sheath of Light, Sword of Light, boosts our SP by an additional 20% of our AP.
I'll wait until the number crunchers at Elitist Jerks have a chance to digest this material before I say whether or not the extra 20% conversion will make up for losing our double-dipping AP bonuses on things like Censure and Word of Glory, but really this move just strikes me as trying to clean up the mechanics so the devs don't get a migraine every time they want to tweak a few numbers. Hopefully, we'll come out of this change with most of our limbs intact, and the blues will successfully save a few brain cells in the long run.

Hammer of Wrath is no longer usable during Avenging Wrath, nor does it supply holy power. Instead, it now produces Hand of Light damage.
In my opinion, losing Hammer of Wrath during Avenging Wrath isn't a big deal, although Sanctified Wrath will need to be addressed now. If anything, the ability to spam such a heavy hitter during a cooldown that also boosts damage by 20% was just waiting to get nerfed. And losing holy power generation from it isn't terribly depressing either, although if Blizzard touches any of our other generators, I'm going to be irked.

Tacking HoW onto our mastery, though, is interesting. While I like Hand of Light, I'd like to see our secondary stats compete a bit more with each other than they did for most of Cataclysm.

Update: Thanks to the heads-up from thexdutch2 in the comments below, Hammer of Wrath is retaining its holy power generation capabilities for retribution and is simply being made into a baseline ability once again.
Guardian of Ancient Kings has been bumped back up to a 5-minute cooldown, with Avenging Wrath remaining at 3 minutes and Holy Avenger at 2 minutes.
Changes like this point toward Blizzard's trying to smooth out retribution's damage output and reduce our reliance on burst damage. PvE-focused rets such as myself are in favor of this change, but I'm sure there are plenty of you who PvP and are sighing at the thought of steadily damaging an opponent who is also being steadily healed back up (or however PvP works these days).

There are a few other changes as well, though they're mostly just number tweaks, so I wouldn't get too worked up about them.

Lest I forget, I had the misfortune of recently discovering on the beta that, for the moment, seals are not off the GCD like I prognosticated last time. It's a shame, really, because instant seal swapping (or seal twisting, as the hipsterdins call it) would really make life easy for changing gears between single-target DPS and AoE. Then again, it probably would oversimplify things and inch us ever closer to that faceroll label that we've worked to put behind us since the drop of Cataclysm.

Grading on a curve

Whether you enjoy the new version of retribution or not, there's no denying that the spec changed forever the day patch 4.0.1 hit the live servers. That change has transformed the experience of playing a ret paladin from smashing a single button containing an all-you-can-cast macro to managing and maintaining a buff, prioritizing between resource generation and hard-hitting, proc-based damaging abilities, and juggling three big cooldowns.

Today, I wanted to briefly discuss the mechanic that made all of this possible, something that smacked the mouse out of every ret paladin's hand and screamed "Relearn your class!" at us until our ears bled: holy power.

What worked

Holy power added some much needed depth to our priority system. Back before patch 3.2.0a, a popular thing to do when playing a ret paladin was to macro all of your damaging abilities together, toss in a /castrandom command -- and voilà, you could dole out some competitive damage using just one button. Although many of us never did such a heinous thing, simply hitting abilities as they came off cooldown wasn't very fun or interesting.

Now we have a mixed priority rotation system, where Art of War and Divine Purpose procs and our few other damaging abilities compete against one another to fill the gaps in our most basic Crusader Strike x 3, Templar's Verdict rotation. Inquisition and Word of Glory, in their own ways, grapple against Templar's Verdict for holy power. Consecration, in addition to any meaningful non-WoG heals, drains our mana pool, so mana management through Judgements of the Bold is also important. We have a lot to keep track of -- and that's a good thing, both for keeping veteran players from getting bored and for teaching newer players the value of hard work.

What didn't work

Of course, the introduction of a new secondary resource wasn't without pitfalls. For one, holy power generation never seemed to settle into its own rhythm. Crusader Strike as our sole generator seemed too slow and made our holy power too scarce. The Divine Purpose mechanic (previously Hand of Light pre-4.0.6) helped a bit, but really just made holy power too sporadic and random. There's nothing quite so frustrating as chugging your way up to 3 holy power and getting a Divine Purpose proc on the filler right before our last Crusader Strike, especially at the start of combat when you need to both get Inquisition rolling and your cooldowns popped. Thankfully, we will be getting an AoE finisher and two additional holy power generators in Mists, all of which should help blur the lines between fillers and priority abilities.

What did you like about holy power? What made you grind your teeth in your sleep? And how about those new beta changes?

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, Mists of Pandaria

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