Before I discuss Ret and 2H Prot, let me first talk briefly about Prot.
Viability of Prot in 4.0.6
I can now beat comparably skilled/geared (2k+ Rated) Shadow Priests and Warlocks in duels, largely due to two changes:
- the faster stacking of Seal of Truth, esp from ranged attacks (Judgement and AS), and
Previously those classes beat me consistently in 4.0.3a, because I couldn’t deal much damage from range nor interrupt/lockout casting while meleeing aside from AS. Comparably skilled/geared Mages still beat me consistently, but Mage continues to be an imbalanced class, so it is what it is.
I am experimenting with glyphing SoT over CS for the Expertise buff, which reduces the target’s avoidance. I’m not clear yet whether SoT glyph is the better choice, but it feels like the more conservative play in terms of maintaining HoPo generation.
In BGs, my damage and killing blow numbers are higher relative to other classes in 4.0.6. In PUGs, I’ve put up over 3 million damage and led killing blows by a significant margin.
Prot still faces the same dynamic in Arena that it always has:
- opponents will focus-fire your team mates because Prot is so durable, and
- we can be kited due to our lack of Cleanse for Magic-based roots
That being said, AS is still a great counter to kiters due to its mechanics (damage/silence/daze). And we deal more DPS now than we did before. Prot is still very 2k viable IMO – but your main challenge will be finding a skilled/geared partner willing to run with Prot.
Net-net: In 4.0.6, Prot is excellent for BGs and duels and is slightly improved in Arena relative to 4.0.3a.
First Impression of 2H Prot
I decided with the 4.0.6 changes to give Ret a try, as my main concerns with Ret were addressed (squishiness and vulnerability to dispels). So I saved up 3400 Conqueror points and bought the Vicious Gladiator’s Greatsword.
If you read the WoW Pally forum regularly, you have probably seen Vir’s thread:
While I was skeptical about 2H Prot, I figured since I had bought a 2H PVP weapon I should try it out.
The spec leverages 2H for the higher CS (and SoT) damage and weapon swaps to 1H+shield to use abilities such as AS and SotR. The spec also relies on opponents mistaking you as Ret and not dispelling the Vengeance AP buff.
The crits from CS with 2H are significantly higher than with 1H – e.g. on a 3800 Resil target ~14k vs ~9k. It’s entertaining to see such large CS crits. However, the spec feels “stiff” because of the need to weapon swap to unlock key abilities such as AS and SotR.
To address the weapon swapping issue, I wrote macros that both cast an ability and perform a weapon swap. So for example, if AS is coming off cooldown in 1 global cooldown (GCD), in this GCD I would use a macro that fires CS and swaps to 1H+shield. Then I can use AS the next GCD because I have a shield equipped. While this creates some hotkey clutter, it does work, except for one significant issue: if Grand Crusader procs and resets the cooldown for AS, I have to use a macro that fires an ability and weapon swaps to 1H+shield, and this uses a GCD before I am able to cast AS. This is not good against kiters, whom you want to hit with AS as often as possible to refresh the Daze effect and apply the silence/interrupt, or against MDPS that can be silenced (Pallies and Shamans).
On a target dummy 2H Prot generates higher DPS than 1H Prot, but against the same live opponents in duels, 1H Prot felt much more smooth and effective than 2H Prot, especially against Casters.
Net-net: 2H Prot has some fun factor, but I found the weapon swap and waiting on GCD to be both annoying and limiting, and as such I don’t plan on experimenting with it any further.
First Impression of Ret
Let me first state that Ret’s mechanics are significantly different from Prot, and I am still very much learning how to play Ret.
Based on ~60 Arena matches this weekend, here are the primary differences compared to Prot:
- Ret has much stronger WoG offhealing per HoPo, however…
- Ret’s HoPo generation is much slower (due to 4.5 base cooldown on CS) except when Zealotry is up, in which case each CS generates 3 HoPo
- Ret is much more squishy on the “frontend” of the health bar – Prot has passive 10% damage mitigation from Sanctuary, 2 more mitigation abilities, and a shield to block against physical attacks – but at the backed of the health bar Sacred Shield provides an excellent boost to survivability
- Ret has a lot more RNG which means it’s a lot more unpredictable. Ret has procs such as Divine Purpose and Art of War that have to be thoughtfully worked into the rotation
- Ret has better sustained DPS than Prot and when cooldowns are used (e.g. AW, Zealotry, GoAK) it has very good on-demand burst damage
- Ret can Cleanse magic-based roots/slows on itself and gets a speed buff from long-range Judgement casts – this allows better on-demand counters to kiters
I found Prot to be stronger than Ret in duels, simply because it is not as dependent on cooldowns. That being said, I was able to make some incredible comebacks in duels as Ret by kiting (HoJ, Repentance) and waiting for Zealotry/AW/SS to come off cooldown.
In Arena, Ret is able to provide strong burst offhealing. The ironic thing is that opponents know this, so as Ret you will often get tunneled (focus-fired).
I ran a Ret/Unholy DK/Disc 3v3 comp and about 80% of our matches I was the primary focus-fire target by the other team. So I had to play defensive a lot. We went 8-5 at ~1900 TR, and my team mates got their 1550 achieves. AFAIK they have not done Arena at 1800+ previously so this is a learning experience for the 3 of us.
Would we have gone 8-5 if I had gone Prot? I don’t know. If we ran Prot/Unholy/Disc, the healer would likely have been the focus-fire target for many of those matches instead of me. I will likely try some matches with our team as Prot.
I ran with a skilled/geared Shadow Priest (Thinkimrich) as Prot and we went 5-5 at about ~1850 TR. Those were our first 10 matches together so we were trying to sort out our comp’s mechanics. He was almost always the focus-fire target. I switched to Ret and we went 15-10, but that was starting with another team that had a 1742 TR, and we got up to the low 1800s for TR.
Keep in mind I’m relatively new to Ret, so I am still sorting out the timing of cooldowns and such.
My initial (and therefore don’t read too much into this) impression is that Ret as a spec can run with a wider variety of specs in 2v2 compared to Prot. Does that mean Prot sucks and we should all re-roll? Not in my opinion. I love Prot and it is a blast to play in BGs in 4.0.6. If you are a hardcore Arena player who is obsessed with getting the highest rating possible, you’ll probably find it easier to stick with Ret, especially as team mates will not believe (correctly or incorrectly) that losses are due to your spec.
These days, given that players can get the same stat gear regardless of rating – with the exception of the 2200 weapons – therefore, IMHO players should play whatever spec they enjoy most.
Net-net: In 4.0.6, the major flaws of Ret were addressed (namely survivability and vulnerability to dispels), and we are seeing Rets climbing the Arena ladders.
I leveled to endgame to play “Protribution” but the bottom-line is I am a Paladin first and foremost, so I will continue to play Ret and Prot and let you folks know how it goes. People have been bugging me about making more videos, and I’m almost ready – I’ve been experimenting with Ret and waiting until my 3v3 team is at 1900+ TR before making Ret Arena videos. This week I hope to publish a BG video with Prot that highlights the mechanics changes in 4.0.6.