Is Ret Fun?

I’ve spent far too much time on the official Paladin forums lately, responding to some threads, reading a few others, and I’ve picked up on an attitude that seems to permeate each Ret post:

“Our rotation is too hard / not fun at all, GG BLIZZ! Change it back to the way it was in Wrath!”

Do we really want this?

Wrath of the Lich King

Here’s a quick screenshot of my UI during some heroic Sindragosa work:

What did we have to manage at this time? Well, the Power Aura shining brightly there is for Art of War, which at the time allowed you to cast Exorcism or Flash of Light instantly. Otherwise, there was our one cooldown, Avenging Wrath, to worry about.  If you notice, I was specced into Aura Mastery at the time… oh God, the nostalgia is critting me!

So basically, during Wrath, we had one proc to watch for, one cooldown to use, and seven attacks to keep on cooldown in a priority order.

Oh right, two-piece T10 turned Divine Storm into an interesting proc as well, that proc being “When you see DS light up before it’s technically off cooldown, MASH THE SHIT OUT OF IT!”


And to counter my Sindy screenshot, here’s a Shannox one:

So what do we have to keep an eye on now? Art of War is still on our list of “procs to watch,” but now we also have Divine Purpose to look for. We have to keep Inquisition up for as close to the entire duration of the fight as we can, intelligently refreshing while not to sacrificing too much DPS. We need to juggle both Avenging Wrath and Zealotry, though it is recommended to macro them together nowadays (I started doing this a couple weeks ago; I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks!) We also have Bananaman (Guardian of Ancient Kings) to pop every five minutes.

Of course we got a whole new resource system to keep track of and utilize effectively, and after a few patches we finally got our AoE DPS groove back.

If you add it all up, that’s two procs, three cooldowns, one buff to maintain, a second resource mechanic to manage, and seven attacks.

What is Fun, Really?

Okay, you’re probably thinking, Ret has certainly gotten more complicated than before, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily more fun.

I completely agree. “Fun” is a subjective term, of course, but I don’t think it’s completely disjoined from “complication.”

Look at Blizzard’s raid encounters over the past couple expansions. For someone who started on a paladin during Wrath-era Naxx, Patchwerk was a pretty boring fight to me. It was a great fight to measure e-peens and chart DPS on, but the fight itself was extremely blah.

Fast forward to Firelands, and the closest analog you will find to Patchwerk is Baleroc. Sure, he stands in one spot the whole time; sure, there isn’t any AoE damage or fire to avoid, but his Shards of Torment, healing buff stacking, tank swaps, and level of coordination necessary far surpass that required for Patchwerk.

In essence, Blizzard has made fights more busy, more complicated, in the hopes that the player-base would find them engaging and, hey, fun. I think we can all agree that killing bosses week after week that just stood there and said “Oh, I’m going to kill you in the name of my master!” and did absolutely nothing else would be quite boring.

This design philosophy extends directly to player classes, Ret specifically.

Is the spec harder to play? Definitely.

Is it less fun? That depends:

If you happen to believe that folding laundry, counting change, and watching water pour out of a faucet are the most amazingly fun activities in the world, then maybe the spec isn’t for you.

However, if you’re the type of person that enjoys learning from his or her mistakes, finds satisfaction through honest effort and hard work, and just generally likes to use that spongy organ we call a “brain,” then I think you’ll fit right in.

25 Responses to “Is Ret Fun?”

  1. Pliers August 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    People are looking at their place on the damage meters, and determining after a fight that they did not have fun, because they are lower than other classes. They just rationalize it with the rotation.

    I think that ret paladins need tweaking to make our damage more competitive. Our rotation is already complex enough that it doesn’t need significant changing, so altering a few coefficients could be enough to bring us up to where other classes are. I love the class and spec. I have procs to watch, a buff to keep up, a half dozen cooldowns, and a ton of utility abilities. I’m just frustrated that our spec is built to do less damage than the other melee. However, that doesn’t make it less fun to play, it just makes me sad.

    • Antigen August 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

      I agree, the competitive nature of DPS shifts focus away from “what you do” and more towards “how you do.” It’s a bit sad, but I fully admit to falling victim to this thinking, especially at the tail end of Wrath when melee got neutered (I forget what patch it was, maybe 4.0.1). Thankfully, that’s easily fixed.

      There is still a massive amount of QQ about the rotation though!

      • Pliers August 10, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

        Oh, definitely. But in WotLK, ret basically involved putting skills on 1-6, and hitting the furthest left ability that wasn’t on CD. I think we’re in a good place. Keeping inquisition up isn’t that rough, and deserves to have strict punishment. TV and Exo and HoW being misprioritized are minimal dps changes. Stacking haste vs crit is minimal. I’d be bored out of my mind if I didn’t have procs to watch for.

        I didn’t specify, but the real issue with our spec, in my opinion, is not that the rotation is hard, or our damage is low, but that even if you are maximizing your damage to the best of your ability, your dps will always be subpar compared to another classes, barring exceptional proc RNG.

        • Pliers August 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

          Follow up note: That was an oversummary of ret dps, and ignoring the utility that Meloree just described very well. The focus has seemingly changed from “do damage and be superior with your utility” to “try to perfect a more complicated rotation for minimal benefit.”

          • Meloree August 10, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

            I’m not very good at hopping on board with “woe is me: the plight of the DisFlavor Of the Month”. Except for Blood DKs.

            Besides, you rets need to set your sights a little higher than “the rest of the melee”. Form a coalition with the rest of the melee for “make us useful again.” After all, ranged is generally kicking melee ass on overall usefulness.

            Even on fights where melee does well on the meters (and my opinion of that is on record), it’s normally as a result of ranged doing something to enable the melee performance. Being the “top DPS by a tiny margin on tank and spank fights where we’re permitted to tunnel vision because someone else does all the work” is not a good niche.

    • Meloree August 10, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

      I think looking at your place on the damage meters at the end of any given fight is typically very shortsighted, even if a lot of good players do it.

      Where is ret damage strong? Burst. Lining up the cooldowns and forcing your way through a critical DPS check. That has value. A class that can burst over double their steady-state damage for nearly 30 seconds at a time can help to break parts of encounters.

      One of the tools that raid leaders always bear in mind for improving DPS efficiency on bossfights is getting through certain critical phases faster – because doing so saves a healer, or because that phase has DPS overhead – the reason is immaterial. In situations like that, strong burst DPS has very strong return on net RDPS, even if it doesn’t show on the meters.

      Big controllable burst is a value. I know that DPS love to measure themselves only by “” and RDPS contributions don’t show up on PDPS meters. But suck it up, and start thinking of opportunities for making fights break in your favor by using that big controllable ret burst at the right time, not just on cooldown, and see how broken that it.

  2. Meloree August 10, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    I guess this is the right angle to take for a post like this, but I’m not sure the “folding laundry and watching paint dry” line was totally warranted. Ret became a lot different for Cataclysm. It’s entirely okay, in my books, to not like the playstyle as much anymore. I mean, I certainly don’t. And it’s not for the DPS aspects – it’s because Ret was an amazing, difference-making raid-support class in Wrath, and it isn’t nearly as much of one in Cata. I’ll be the first to admit that that’s good for the game. The Raid Cooldown Arms Race isn’t actually a Good Thing by any stretch of the imagination, and Ret having both DSac and Aura Mastery (Patches 3.1 and 3.2) or being able to pick their favorite (3.3) was broken in so many ways. The very low DPS costs of regular instant FoLs was also a Bad Thing, and the WoG version is better for the game, because Holy Power makes that tradeoff a more interesting decision, and prevents the whole “Bring two rets, they’re basically a healer” syndrome. But Ret has also gone from a fairly steady-state DPS class to a very very bursty one – use cooldowns correctly or languish at the bottom of the meters. The DPS rotation has gone from forgiving to not forgiving, and it doesn’t feel like you’re playing the same spec anymore.

    I don’t like Ret all that much these days – but I didn’t like Ret all that much in Cataclysm. When I played Ret, I wasn’t a good one (bad at using the raid support that I’ve always required out of Rets) and it was always just offspec “roflfarm” stuffs. I’m a bad player in a lot of ways, because I’m not a complete player – Mel is not prepared to be Ret at a moment’s notice, like I expect from almost every hybrid in my raid. Double standards, I guess. Although I’m fairly convinced I could pick it up again at a decent rate, I’m not ready now. Melee DPS isn’t my choice of DPS role – I much prefer ranged. Even if I was a good feral dps at one time.

    But I know that one of our rets, who has been with us since Sunwell, liked the WotLK Ret a lot better. Because he felt like he could contribute beyond the meters. And he’s really disengaged because of the Cata-style “ur just pewpew nao” style ret. You can’t even really make the “lolfaceroll” joke that one made about WotLK Rets, because he was chart-topping for Rets, and that still takes near perfect execution. It’s entirely the reduction in support ability.

    I get that it’s good for the game. I get that it had the potential to unbalance bossfights, and that it encouraged a lot of “bring the class”. I get that it was OP in a way that no DPS class is willing to admit to wanting to be OP. For someone who wanted to be a support/hybrid DPS, it’s still legitimately less fun, and it’s not because they like watching faucets run.

    • Antigen August 10, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

      Speaking as someone who has yet to cast more than one Hand per boss encounter (I consider it an “occasion” when I use my HoSac for a tank cooldown, followed by a firm pat on the back and a cold drink), I can see your point behind the support vs. DPS argument. From my limited perspective, I was quite bored in Wrath. Sure, I could have become a better paladin by using my Hands effectively and tossing out free FoLs when they were needed, but I just never wanted to. The way I looked at all of that extra utility was that it was making up for the lack of complexity in our DPS rotation. Was that perhaps not the best judgment? Perhaps.

      What I like most about the Cata Ret paladin is the focus that is drawn to our rotation. Sure, it can be pretty unforgiving, but maybe I’m just a lunatic and love to be punished for fat-fingering Inquisition when I still had 20 seconds left on it. Of course, since our attention is a limited resource, this means that most players have to pick between a “perfect” rotation and game-changing utility cooldowns. There are definitely some Rets out there that have incredible reflexes and attentiveness and theoretically don’t have to make that choice, but most of us (and yes, I’m including myself here) aren’t quite at that level.

      • Meloree August 10, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

        I believe in the current game that game-changing utility cooldowns almost always have a significant cost because they’re not time-invariant. It’s generally “use it now or don’t bother”, which screws up the perfect rotation, and it screws up the option to fit it in more cleanly.

        So most of the time, you don’t have to make that choice anyway.

        Do what our mages do: Put all your utility on cooldown right before the boss pull, then forget about it. “Why didn’t you Sac the tank?” “Cooldown. I put my Sac on a healer to celebrate the Fish Feast going down.”

        • Pliers August 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

          I agree with your posts Meloree, which probably isn’t much of a surprise.

          Your response about the folding laundry is great. However, I don’t think it addresses the reasoning behind *most* of the complaints of most of the spec. I believe very few of the people calling for sweeping changes are doing so because of the lack of utility now, or because they liked being a truer hybrid player. It is because their rotation is more difficult, and at all levels of play, their damage is lower than most other specs. You are giving an explanation that definitely has merit, but does not match up with the actual explanations for most people.

          I think your point about meters being weak validation of performance is right on. I was talking with Antigen recently about how to maximize cooldowns and a few situations where it is worth holding off on their use completely to take advantage of a mechanic.

          There is a LOT about firelands that makes it awesome to be a ret paladin. Not only do we have a half dozen CDs to coordinate with burn phases, but we have heals, and several ways to mitigate damage on ourselves or others. I am working on cranking up my WoG usage, because it WILL save lives, and I am 1/25th of a raid, not a line on a dps meter. It is not always easy, but it is very important, to keep that in mind – raiding is a team sport.

          I think this is the only real point that differs from what you have been saying, I want to be using WoG, or sac, or the other dozen abilities I have to help out the raid, because they are awesome, not because they come at a low (dps) price.

          At times, it feels a little like playing the triangle in an orchestra. Very few people like to sit around, waiting for their one time to shine, feeling like their contributions are minimal the rest of the time.

          I would like to be in a position where, if I ignored my utility (unwisely), I would be within striking distnace of, for example, a warrior, who has comparitively little utility outside of their damage, even if I wouldn’t be quite equal. I would not actually DO that, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want that potential. I would be happy if I were to be completely blown out of the water on damage, if I were trading off that damage for utility. Instead, the damage isn’t there regardless of utility, so it becomes a nondecision decision. To me, It feels like a prot paladin using WoG in early Cataclysm because why would you ever SHoR?

          That might be an extreme characterization of the situation, but that is what I mean when I voice my displeasure with our damage. I like making hard decisions for the betterment of the raid, and right now, it isn’t much of a tradeoff. Utility is clearly the better option.

          • Meloree August 10, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

            I see your point (and I was never arguing that *most* paladins liked the high-utility support role of WotLK, so much as it was a valid complaint), and I’ll grant that it would be nice if Ret showed up on the meters as well as some other melee when they tunnel DPS.

            However, in general – high burst classes shouldn’t perform as well on the meters as low-burst classes. No, really. Because burst DPS is always more powerful than it’s meter appearance, because it’s a tool with which to build strategies around. Most people understand this intuitively without understanding it intellectually.

            If you ask people what the most powerful raid buff is, most people will say Heroism/Bloodlust. And they would be right. And if you asked them why, they would probably not be able to explain that it’s contribution to RDPS comes from it’s ability to provide burst damage or healing on demand. It isn’t the best sustained RDPS buff – it’s not in the top 3. But it provides a much larger contribution to winning fights than it’s pure “sustained” RDPS contribution.

            DPS classes with strong controllable burst are the same. It doesn’t show on the meters, but they can make a contribution to fight length and ease that doesn’t show up on the meters. So even ignoring Ret utility, things aren’t quite as dire as the Ret crowd would like me to believe.

  3. Pliers August 10, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    I agree that it does help mitigate the problem a bit, but compare a ret paladin to an arcane mage. They are built around having burn phases and steadier dps phases. However, they can choose to hover at any level they want, waiting for the burn phase, and destroy us on damage, be it single target, AoE, or even just measured during burst. We have other advantages, so the comparison is clearly flawed.

    We’re more like boomkins, only all the time instead of just for AoE. They have to sit in solar presence, often casting the wrong nuke, so that they benefit during their AoE. We’re essentially *always* sitting in solar presence. And there’s not always a comparable “AoE phase” to merit it.

    • Meloree August 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

      Well, I did tell you to start crusading against ranged. :P

      However, I’m not arguing that Ret is the best DPS spec in the game or anything similar. I’m saying that Ret’s place in a raid is stronger than the meters tend to show, because compared to the other people in the basement they have very strong burst, which makes their (your) DPS contributions stronger than they look on paper. It’s a limited point, sure, and you might consider it trivially obvious – but a lot of people don’t ever see beyond Recount – not even WoL – so it’s worth pointing out that damage profiles matter.

  4. Antigen August 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    A short follow-up since I have to get the fudge out of here in a few minutes:
    I find it humorous that, in Wrath, Blizzard actively and aggressively sought a way to make Rets less bursty (granted, to address PvP concerns), and now Ret’s burst is ludicrous. I’d love to see Blizzard address this sometime in the near future, although doing so would most likely cause giant balancing issues.

    • Meloree August 10, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

      Burst in PVP and burst in PVE tend to be on different timescales. In PVP it’s a global or three – in PVE it’s ~30 seconds.

  5. Lachlan O'Dea August 10, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    I only started playing Ret post-Cataclysm because I thought the holy power mechanic sounded fun. And I really like playing my pally. But I’m just a casual player and it doesn’t really bother me if I don’t get the rotation perfect all the time. But if you think that the current Ret rotation is unforgiving, you should try playing a cat druid sometime.

    • Pliers August 10, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

      That’s the thing – the Ret rotation is incredibly forgiving.
      Hit CS on cooldown, don’t hardcast exorcism, and keep Inquisition up most of the time, and proc RNG will account for more damage than any amount of finesse.

  6. Raykell August 11, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    I’m happier with the way Ret plays now than in the early parts of Cataclysm and a lot of that has to do with the DPS boost we received along with the change to Mastery.

    I only rarely raid as Ret since Prot is my main so my experience this tier is limited, but I think the most “unfun” aspects of Ret right now are:

    1. Proc heavy. I’ve had RNG swing both ways in a fight where I have multiple Divine Purpose and Art of War procs when the next fight will have less. It all balances out during a long encounter but as far as “feeling” fun; I can’t stand the few dead seconds when HoW, Holy Wrath and Crusader Strike are all on cooldown with out any HP to spend or procs to cast anything.

    2. Rotation Clash. Continuing from #1 but we have quite a few abilities that have a cooldown or are dependent on HP. All my other DPS classes have at least 1 ability where they can spam, even if its a DoT that has some front loaded damage. It happens pretty rarely in Ret, I’ll admit, but there can be times where I’m idle.

    3. Cooldowns. I like that we have more cooldowns for sure but it doesn’t feel like more since we have to use them together and often to keep competitive DPS. Is there that much of a difference if we had an attack that did a lot of damage every 2 minutes and a cooldown that buffs us in some way. Imagine if the damage between the two was equal, I believe then that players would consider both options equally fun. 2 mins is just too short of a time to make it uncommon enough to feel powerful. Also while funtionally Zealotry and Avenging Wrath are two separate abilities, practiacally they’re cast at the same time to maximize DPS and if you don’t, “you’re doing it wrong.” I’d much rather have them unlinked so I can spread out the cooldowns during the encounter and when I plan for a boss I can strategize about when to use which cooldown depending on the boss abilities. I can do that with my tank and healers and I find that more interesting that just hitting a single killer macro.


    “Fun” may all just be up to a preferred play style.  My main is my paladin but I mostly tank normal modes.  My only serious mDPS alt is an assasination rogue which doesn’t really have much of the concerns I listed above.  I never considered the differences between steady and burst DPS classes, but rogues have a lot of similarities to ret:
    - Buff to reapply in combat (Slice and Dice vs. Inquisition)
    - Combo points vs. HP
    - Many cooldowns to manage.
    - Limited AOE (just Fan of Knives). Ret fares better in terms of having more abilities

    Rogues also have to keep an eye on debuffs on the target whereas Ret pallies don’t have that.  As a trade off Rets have a few procs with spell alerts that can change the rotation is less than a GCD while rogues don’t really have that.

    • Antigen August 12, 2011 at 8:35 am #

      Okay, trying this again without accidentally closing the tab and losing my entire response:

      I wholeheartedly agree with you on the cooldowns and proc bits. RNG plays more of a role in our overall DPS than if we were to stack Crit or Haste, as seen on Elitist Jerks recently with Exemplar’s Haste>Crit conundrum. And it’s frustrating to get proc after proc on one fight, then get next to nothing on another fight. It’s just something we have to deal with, I suppose.

      However, I disagree that having a rotation that clashes with itself is a bad thing. Ret has had a priority FCFS rotation for as long as I’ve been playing the spec and it seems to have worked quite well… most of the time. I’m not sure the devs could justify giving Ret a spammable ability, even in lieu of a current one, because almost every other melee class has a limiting resource (warriors have rage, ferals and rogues have energy, death knights have runes and runic power) and the one melee that is left, enhancement shamans, where their resource is mana and it’s unlikely they will OOM themselves on their rotation (much like us), are limited by ability cooldowns as well.

      • Raykell August 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

        That’s a really good point.  I didn’t think about how on my rogue, I’m just spamming my combo point generator while waiting for my energy to get up to the cost.  
        So I guess it works the same way between all the classes, but to me it’s just more depressing to see OmniCC put up a countdown on all my abilities instead of seeing everything available to use while waiting for a resource to pool.
        When a “clash” happens both are functionally impotent but a Ret is more upfront about it?

  7. Throgil August 15, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    I still miss Seal of Blood =(

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  1. Guest Post: Just Say The Word | Haz Mace, Will Raid - August 16, 2011

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