Taking Off the Training Wheels

I got a request over Twitter for a blog post, from Vidyala of Manalicious (the artist behind that sweet banner up there, by the way)! She’s started playing her Holy paladin again and has picked up a Ret offspec. Anyway, here’s her concern:

Ergh. So unwilling to let CLCRet go. @hazmacewillraid, WTB post about how to take off the training wheels, haha.

I have to commend Vid for a number of reasons here.

First, she’s back to playing a paladin, so kudos is due for that alone! Mages are unclean, Vid :P

Second, she used a learning tool (clcRet) in order to get accustomed to our rotation and, presumably, do competitive DPS. I’m sure her guildmates appreciate the sentiment!

Third, she recognizes that clcRet is just a learning tool, and it’s not meant to be used long term.

Note: This post is going to be heavily-fortified with opinion. You have been warned.

Learning to Walk… All Over Again

Rotation helpers like clcRet operate by having the user respond to an image that’s associated with a keystroke. Knowing which buttons your abilities are on is good, but knowing why you’re hitting those buttons is even better.

These addons don’t encourage this aspect; you see an image of Crusader Strike and you hit your associated keybind for it (mine is 2). Why did you hit Crusader Strike at that moment? Was it because you saw that it just came off cooldown and that you weren’t full up on Holy Power at the time, or was it because the addon told you to do it?

Most of the time, it’s because the image popped up. Let’s face it; the time it takes the brain to process an image and associate it with muscle memory is much less than it takes to evaluate multiple conditional statements and special situations, while also going through muscle memory. This translates into faster response times, but it comes at a price.

My problem with clcRet is that there’s no active learning involved. You’re not using your brain to determine your priorities and rotation; you’re letting the addon do that for you. Therefore, if you find that you want to ween yourself off the addon, it’s very much like re-learning how to play your class. So let’s play through that scenario for Vid, shall we?

Step 1: Learn the rotation

As I said, it’s very easy to let clcRet do all the thinking when it comes to this, so take the time to throw down on some research. Lucky for you I keep a fairly up-to-date Retribution 101 page up top near the banner! However, if you don’t want to dig through all of that, here’s the relevant bit:

Inquisition > Templar’s Verdict (3 HP) > Crusader Strike (0-2 HP) > Templar’s Verdict (DP) > Hammer of Wrath > Exorcism (AoW) > Judgement > Holy Wrath > Consecration

I realize this may look absolutely confusing at first glance, but it’s really not that bad.

Your main concern is near-100% uptime on Inquisition. You can never get total, 100% uptime because of how long it takes you to generate HP initially, even if you get a lucky Divine Purpose proc, so don’t worry about getting triple digits. If you’re in the 90th percentile on a Patchwerk-type fight (or on a target dummy), you’re doing it right.

Going through the rest of the priority list…

If you have 3 Holy Power (abbreviated HP), and Inquisition is still rolling, Templar’s Verdict will be your go-to spell.

(The rest of these if-then statements will assume that Inquisition is still active and rolling.)

If you don’t have 3 HP and Crusader Strike is off-cooldown, use Crusader Strike.

Divine Purpose is a little different. Since it has an 8 second duration, we can hold off on using it until we absolutely have to.

If you have 3 HP and you get a DP proc, the game will use up your DP proc first, which is great because if your DP-TV produces another DP proc, you can keep going and going. My current record is seven DP procs in a row!

If you don’t have 3 HP, CS is off-cooldown, and you get a DP proc, hit CS first, then use your DP proc and 3 HP.

If you don’t have 3 HP, CS is on-cooldown, and you get a DP proc, then hit TV/Inq.

If you don’t have 3 HP and Crusader Strike is on-cooldown, use any of the other “filler” spells in your book, following the priority:

Hammer of Wrath > Exorcism (AoW) > Judgement > Holy Wrath > Consecration

Hammer of Wrath will only be active sub-20%, or while you have Avenging Wrath active.

Exorcism will only be a viable option when you get an Art of War proc; the stock Blizzard aura for this is two swords (Ashbringers, actually) framing your character to the left and right.

With current Haste levels, your rotation should look something like this:

CS > Filler > Filler > CS > Filler > Filler > CS > TV/Inq

Step 2: Replace clcRet

This is going to be difficult. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to let Inquisition drop, you’re going to miss procs…

It’s okay.

To ease the transition, might I recommend getting OmniCC if you don’t already have it? It shows ability cooldowns in an extremely simple and helpful way, as you can see below.

Find a way to track Inquisition. My current UI uses IceHUD to track it, but you can use something like Power Auras to set up your own custom graphics, or ForteXorcist that shows a basic bar and timer. I’ve found that clcRet actually has a decent Inquisition tracker built in, so if you can’t stand the thought of uninstalling it completely, you can at least keep it around for this!

Also, just changing the way your UI flows can help you cope with the loss of clcRet. Placing your bars in a semi-prominent location will help you scope out your cooldowns while allowing your peripheral vision to notice Bad Things You Probably Shouldn’t Stand In. You don’t want to be covering too much area, though, so try to maintain a balance.

Speaking of UIs, I just really wanted to share this old screenshot (July 2009) to serve as a comparison of how I’ve changed things over the years as I got more and more comfortable:

Compared to my current UI:

There are so many gems in that old screenshot… Frost, Fire, and Shadow Resist Auras, Divine Guardian, Sacred Shield, Judgements of Light and Wisdom, Sense Undead, Divine Intervention… not to mention Seal of Blood hiding in Pallypower over there!

Ah, that takes me back.

Anyway, I hope you find these tips and tricks useful! Ret has certainly become more involved than it used to be in Wrath, but it’s not so difficult that you need an addon like clcRet to help you sort through the mess. I highly encourage people to try to not use it; not because it’s a terrible addon, but because actually learning Ret and developing those reflexes and reactions is part of the fun of playing the spec! Rotation helpers are just one step closer to being a mindless, one-button class… and no one wants to play an arcane mage, right? :D

7 Responses to “Taking Off the Training Wheels”

  1. Celibar@Gorefiend July 6, 2011 at 7:14 am #

    Oh, boy! I started playing as a Protection paladin back in December and a couple months ago switched to Retribution as main spec for my guild. I’ve never used clcRet and, I’ve got to say, the first several weeks to a month were super awkward. Ret can feel clunky and dissonant until you figure out the rhythm… and then it’s pretty easy. Yeah, it’s easy to let Inquisition drop (I’m working on making my power aura for it better, basically showing up a big sign and timer when it’s at 5 seconds or less), and not managing/forgetting your cooldowns can spell disaster for your damage, but it’s really a fun spec.

    Also, I play an Arcane mage and I love it :(

    • Antigen July 6, 2011 at 7:22 am #

      Haha! I was merely kidding; I’ve picked up my mage again to get VP for the bracers for my paladin and I specced her arcane, so no worries!

  2. NickH July 19, 2011 at 6:56 am #

    Nice guide here. I’ve been away from the game for a bit so found this really useful. One question though. Where does Zealotry fit in to this? Do you not even use it in your rotation? In what situations is it better used in?

    • Antigen July 19, 2011 at 7:17 am #

      Zealotry, as you know, is one of our cooldowns, so the “best” times to use it are when lots of DPS are needed. That said, you should try to use Zealotry on-cooldown, and most sources recommend pairing it with AW. If a fight has a specific burn phase, try to arrange it so you can use your CDs and have them back up in time for that phase.

  3. Gameldar September 1, 2011 at 3:27 am #

    I’m a part-part-time ret (I alternate between all three specs – holy for pvp, and ret for my offspec when raiding on my pally – MS prot) – and I’ve been using clcRet as my training wheels. For me one of the things it helped most with is allowing me to work on positioning while dpsing (what has been the biggest challenge for me – as a tank things follow me all I have to care about is where my butt is!)

    But it also helped get a feel for the rotation – but I guess I know in general that I’ve started to get the hang of the rotation because I’ve started learning when to ignore clcRet – i.e. it’ll give you a recommendation to use a filler when you know that crusader strike will come off cooldown before the GCD completes. 

    But it was good to have a refresher on the priorities – as it also explained why the DP procs with crusader strike always confused me a bit with clcRet’s – I watch for a 3HP TV being  up (thanks to Power Auras) but yet clcRet would recommend crusader strike. It made sense – but would generally throw me off my thinking – I think part of that is that I tend to ignore a lot of the built-in powerauras for some reason – so don’t notice the DP procs unless it was disrupting my expected next option from clcRet.

    Anyway – you’ve given me cause to try my hand without clcRet and see how I do! 
    BTW since I came here from Vid linking on your wow insider post (I ignored her first linking on her blog and being the occasional ret guy I tend to stop by here infrequently) – congratulation on being the new ret guy over there.

    • Antigen September 1, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

      That’s good to hear! And thank you, I hope I can make a positive contribution over at WoW Insider!

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  1. Update on Settling Into A New Role « Manalicious - August 8, 2011

    [...] needed a healer to DPS, I’ve been gearing and working on my retribution spec. Thanks to some help from Antigen and our guild’s protection paladin, I even know what to do (more or less). The only thing I [...]

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