After spending some time getting well settled in my new guild, we this week started some careful raiding just to get to know each other. Voice communication, movement patterns, odd habits and curious quirks - all the little things that makes for a guild to be more than just a random group of people were being mapped out. It was great fun, but alas, it also gave me some reason for concern.
The trip went to Ulduar, as a fair few member still lacked the odd achievement for their proto-drakes, and we only had a few Starcallers as well. At Algalon, however, a previously voiced concern of mine quickly came to become a major issue; the current tankadin squishiness. I've complained earlier that threat comes at the cost of survivability, and as we met a boss that still hits like a freight train with no 30% buff to hide behind, this did indeed prove to be a costly truth. Our tank-rack for the night, somewhat ironically consisting of two paladins, were simply taking too much damage, and Big Bang transitions just proved too hard on our two healers. It was time to do something, and fast; our co-ordination and tactics were perfect, random deaths to melee swing was the one thing holding us back.
So I offered to go retribution again.
The first thing I notice is how different retribution actually play now, since I last tried. I was prepared for the difference to be vast, but what actually met me almost blew me away. My previous argument against retribution in it's current state still stands; it IS a demanding spec to play properly now, but due to the patience and focus needed rather than the actual execution of your pre-ordained setup. This, after having testet retribution over two raid nights (plus millions and millions of damage on the dummies), is still the case.
What really bothers me, though, isn't the fact that from an ICC-habit of spamming something as fast as possible all the time, every time I now press something, I'm likely to spend the next half to one second waiting out a cooldown. The core thought of CS (Crusader Strike) - filler - CS - filler - CS - finisher (Templar's Verdict for now, though Inquisition is going to making my coming argument stand even firmer) works well in principle, but what doesn't work so well are the three RNG-factors; The Art of War, Divine Purpose, and Hand of Light.
- The Art of War is a 20% chance on melee autoswings to proc for a free Exorcism doing 100% additional damage, not unlike it's ICC counterpart. The curious thing is that these Exorcisms hit harder than our finishers at the moment, and as such, have a considerably higher priority than Templar's Verdict on proc.
- Hand of Light is again a proc on autoswings, this time providing you with a free finisher at full Holy Power strenght, without actually consuming Holy Power. An absolute no-brainer, you'd think - except it still falls behind Exorcism procs on the priority queue. Which is a rather large concern, seeing how this actually is our mastery, and that our gear will be loaded with said stat a few weeks from now.
- And finally, Divine Purpose, which provides a 40% chance for all our fillers to grant an extra Holy Power. Which in theory is awesome, but in reality more often than not does nothing but add strain to you already proc-ridden priority.
There are several problems here. The first and biggest being "dry streaks" - periods between procs being so long that you have to turn to Holy Wrath and Consecration for your fillers. You'll do a perfect rotation with minimum effort, however, your overall throughput is nowhere near competitive. Why? Because you only manage one finisher per six global cooldown.
A more luxurious problem arises when everything procs at the same time. The Art of War and Hand of Light can and will proc at the single same autoswing, and if you're already at two or more Holy Power, you're suddenly clustered, making Exorcism - finisher - finisher - CS and so forth your priority. Excellent burst, no doubt, but alas, this almost inevitable causes a dry streak - especially if either ability procs for additional Holy Power, which will wither (by already being at max stock, having two attacks queued before you get to actually use your stock Holy Power) and diminish, while still counting as having procced.
As will undoubtedly be pointed out, this evens out over the course of a bossfight, and after spending some hours at the training dummy, I can indeed confirm that it does stably even out. Training dummies do not, however, take into consideration movement, Holy Power used for Word of Glory, stuns/roots/fears and other impairing effects (that will grant an extra stack of Holy Power, just to rub it in). Neither does it explain why the co-efficients are completely off the mark. The Exorcism example is just one - even glyphed, Templar's Verdict hits for less than an unglyphed Shield of the Righteous does for protection, and Seal damage remain as dominant as ever.
So I worry about the state of retribution. There have been many good sign that the spec is being taken seriously and being worked on, however, the current situation is not good. I have no belief at all that we can be competitive except for our buffs when facing off against Death Knights and fury Warriors, and that itself is a fearful prospect.
I'll hopefully get to try out a full raid on heroic Halion (10) on Thursday - this should provide me with a few more answers regarding our state in a fully raidbuffed environment.
Until then, however, it's the training dummies. I've got some procs to nail.