Posting this for Skeletor, moderator in the Hammer of Wrath discord and writer of the guide most commonly used by Rets. While all these thoughts are his, I agree with a lot of what is written. This feedback is PvE focused.
T15 row remains unchanged at this time. I think it is potentially worth revisiting this row at the very least for Righteous Verdict and Execution Sentence.
With one of Blizzard’s primary focuses shifting from AoE damage to cleave damage I suspect we might be in cleave encounters more often than not. The higher the duration of Cleave the less value we get from Righteous Verdict due to not using Templar’s Verdict.
Execution Sentence does not suffer as much in these scenarios but there is a new wrench thrown in. Seraphim has returned as a Talent option in the T40 row. Execution Sentence costs 3 Holy Power every 30 seconds, Seraphim costs 3HP every 45 seconds, and Inquisition costs ~3HP about every ~45 seconds depending on the pandemic window and amount of HP spent. If someone was to want to play this combination or this combination turns out to be the best performing, it creates a very sluggish cast sequence. We are limited in how much HP we can generate in a given period.
Depending on how many generators we have off of cooldown and if Hammer of Wrath is usable or not we could potentially generate up to 9HP. 3HP would be used to cast Inquisition, another 3HP would be used to cast Seraphim, and finally another 3HP to cast Execution Sentence. This would leave us with 0 HP left once Execution Sentence was active and a number of generators still on CD. Also some of the abilities we use to generate HP do Holy Damage such as Wake of Ashes, Consecration, Judgment, Judgment, and Hammer of Wrath. The Execution Sentence debuff is a short window and we would not be able to use Wake of Ashes while the debuff is active for the extra boost. Our other Holy Damage abilities could potentially be used once and maybe twice. I feel it is an awkward process to use our Holy Damage abilities to generate enough HP to use an ability that will increase our Holy Damage.
Fires of Justice and Blade of Wrath remain unchanged. Hammer of Wrath is now baseline and the Azerite Power Empyrean Power will take its place as a Talent. This does change the theme of the row. Previously all options increased Holy Power generation. Empyrean Power doesn’t generate HP but does help reduce downtime in the same fashion. In Cleave/AoE Empyrean Power will pull much farther ahead than Hammer of Wrath ever did.
Empyrean Power is by far the strongest option in this row. Obviously we are early in Alpha and have to see how it ends up being handled. I hope that Blizzard is on the side of buffing FoJ and BoW rather than nerfing Empyrean Power.
This row remains unchanged.
I think it is worth either making Repentance a True CC that will not cause aggro and/or remove the cast time.
This did swap places but the talents remain unchanged.
Eye for an Eye still remains more of a niche pick and I think it would be better repurposed as a Divine Protection type ability or augment our existing Shield of Vengeance in some way.
Entirely new*! Divine Purpose has been moved to this row and we have seen the return of Holy Avenger and Seraphim. This row heavily emphasizes burst damage.
Divine Purpose remains functionally unchanged. I would like to see the proc chance bumped to 20% though for a bit more excitement in the rotation.
Holy Avenger can be a very strong choice and would synergize quite well with both Sanctified Wrath and Crusade. More HP means more spenders which means more explosions with Sanctified Wrath. With Crusade already having increased HP generation with Haste and higher damage than Avenging Wrath it also pairs quite nice. Obviously it will work with Inquisition and can be a perfectly fine combination. Some people will be put off by the 3M CD and not having it line up with Avenging Wrath. It still has the potential to be a very powerful talent even when used every other set of Wings. Choosing this talent would put an emphasis on having a general idea of how long an encounter will last.
Seraphim was a very popular Talent choice in Hellfire Citadel while we had the Tier set bonus that gave us 2 extra charges of Avenging Wrath. Even without that bonus it can potentially be strong given tuning. I mentioned some usage issues above. I think it could borrow some ideas from the old Zealotry that required you to have 3HP to cast, but would not consume any HP.
The main concerns I have with Holy Avenger and Seraphim are the GCD. The GCD was added because stacking cooldowns became too prevalent. Even with the Azerite Essences we were shifted back into stacking cooldowns and this new row further reinforces this point. I would like to see GCD changes be addressed in some meaningful way.
Word of Glory is now baseline and Healing Hands has taken its place.
Selfless Healer is still an excellent choice overall and does not need a change.
Justicar’s Vengeance is still a trap talent. Many people still assume because it costs more Holy Power it does more damage than Templar’s Verdict which is not the case unless the target is stunned. With a stunned target it only does a small amount more damage. The heal can be nice but I think Flash of Light and Selfless Healer is a better combination and we have baseline Word of Glory now as well.
Healing Hands does not seem very good at face value. Lay on Hands is an incredibly long CD and in most cases at best we could get an extra cast during an encounter. I feel this talent could be made more thematic. Keep the same base mechanic and add an extra layer to it such as sacrificing a percentage of your current health to place an absorb on the target as well. Or it could modify Word of Glory to hit multiple friendlies.
Divine Purpose has moved to T40 and Sanctified Wrath has taken its place. This row remains largely unchanged.
Sanctified Wrath is essentially Avenging Wrath with the addition of the Light’s Decree Azerite power. It lasts for 25 seconds instead of 20 and also causes your spent HP to do a mini-AoE. The explosion damage does seem a bit low at first glance but that may be intentional to avoid an overbearing amount of AoE. It could potentially find itself falling behind in Single Target. Again though, it is early Alpha. We will have to see how things progress.
Crusade is the same. You just need to take into consideration that Light’s Decree is gone and it only lasts 25 seconds. Crusade tends to scale better later in the expansion with higher item levels and we will need to see if this remains the case going forward.
Inquisition is unchanged. I am content with Inquisition personally.
New Baseline and Removed Abilities
We have seen a number of abilities return from the dead or shift from talents. A few have also perished.
Shield of the Righteous is now usable as Ret. It consumes 3HP and does a small AoE in front of you and provides an armor buff. It does not do very much damage and you would need at least 14 targets to make this worth casting over Divine Storm. This ability seems out of place in its current form. Maybe it could take on more of an absorb type role.
Consecration is now baseline. It was considered to be iconic for Ret. I personally do not agree with that sentiment.
In Vanilla it was only available via a Holy talent and was very mana intensive and almost never used.
In the Burning Crusade it was now baseline but very mana intensive and not frequently used.
It remained baseline in WoTLK and did get used somewhat frequently as we had a glyph to increase the duration to reduce cast frequency, Replenishment, and Divine Plea to restore mana.
In Cataclysm it was baseline and took 55% of your mana. It was unusable.
In Mists and WoD it was Prot only. It returned in Legion as a talent. It was used
In Legion it was a talent option that was widely unused. It did not generate any Holy Power and we had a near GCD capped rotation not leaving much room for it. It very frequently could sim higher than other choices in the same row. It was also balanced around having 100% uptime which is unrealistic in many scenarios.
In Battle for Azeroth it remained a talent but was now competing against Wake of Ashes, a Ret favorite. Consecration was reworked to generate Holy Power and designed to only have 30% uptime. Many viewed the uptime change as a “nerf” or “poor design”. This was quite the opposite. Having a lower uptime on Consecration increases the likelihood of mobs remaining in for the entire duration, which was only 6 seconds. This is not perfect, and you can still have mobs pulled out of your Consecration or die during it reducing actual effectiveness. Like Legion, players could find Consecration simming equally as good as Wake of Ashes if not better. If we look at usage in Logs Consecration was picked less than 5% of the time in any Raid Tier at any difficulty level.
In Shadowlands it is now baseline in Alpha and has unfortunately returned to its Legion form being balanced around 100% uptime and not generating HP. This is a downgrade from the BfA version. Excluding Shadowlands Consecration was a Holy Talent in 1 xpac, a Ret Talent in 2 xpacs, Prot only in 2 expacs and baseline in 3 expacs with a majority being almost no usage. If anything Consecration is an iconic Protection ability and not an iconic Ret ability. Consecration is even part of Prot Paladin’s Mastery. Nothing about it screams iconic for Retribution.
Word of Glory is now baseline. It no longer has a cooldown but it is now a Single Target Heal. I personally would have preferred it heal multiple targets with a cd of some sort to ensure we didn’t turn into a pseudo-healer.
Turn Evil is back once again. It adds a decent level of useful flavor as a disorientation against certain enemy types.
Crusader Aura has also returned granting mounted movement speed. This one is definitely on the flavor side of the spectrum.
Devotion Aura is back and provides a DR to your group. This is a nice ability that you will want to always have in large group content.
Blessing of Sacrifice has returned! This is a decently powerful external DR when combined with bubble. It is also not on the GCD at this time which is great.
Wake of Ashes has made it baseline! It has received a substantial damage buff at the cost of only generating 3HP. It also does less damage to secondary targets as part of Blizzard’s AoE reduction changes.
Retribution is out and Retribution Aura is in. It now provides wings for 8seconds(12 at lvl 56) when an ally within 40 yds dies. I am still firmly against having a DPS increase from an ally dying. We should be more inclined to want everyone alive rather be glad someone has died and you get a free DPS boost. With Shadowlands looking to provide players with more agency Retribution Aura seems like a stick in the mud. If I had to say something nice, gaining Avenging Wrath instead of a damage increase is much preferable.
Concentration Aura has also returned and could potentially have a use to help counteract certain mechanics.
Sense Undead is also back and mainly a flavor benefit.
Hammer of Wrath is now baseline! It requires level 43 and you don’t get the ability to use it during Wings until level 58. More on this later.
Greater Blessing of Kings and Wisdom have been removed. I could make a comment of how Replenishment would be nice to have in place but we are already receiving quite a few extra tools already.
Divine Judgment has been removed.
A few abilities have received changes compared to live.
Art of War is now percent based off of your auto attacks. This makes it much more clear that a talent such as Zeal would increase the proc chance of this talent. The 8% chance is roughly equivalent to the old 2RPPM.
Divine Storm had a damage buff and the number of targets hit reduced to 5. This is in line with Blizzard’s new stance on AoE.
Flash of Light had a minor reduction in healing. Again, early Alpha and this is largely inconsequential.
Blade of Justice now has a 12s CD instead of 10.5s. This is an unwelcome and unnecessary change. At 12s it now shares the same cooldown as Judgment which creates a natural cooldown clash. In BfA we currently prioritize using Blade of Justice before Judgment to avoid this very scenario. We do have Art of War which can cause it to come back sooner at times but does not remove the potential for a CD clash.
Leveling Skill Modification
While leveling in BfA and previous expansions if you were not yet max level your abilities would gain power as you level. Playing at max level for so long it is easy to forget that this exists. Crusader Strike gaining a second charge, and Judgment applying a debuff are current examples of this behavior.
This same behavior is going into Shadowlands as well. One of the common complaints was that players would go many levels without getting a new talent or skill. The level squish is one of the ways that the increased frequency of power upgrades becomes available to leveling characters.
Rather than creating new abilities to fill in as leveling perks Blizzard has taken the approach of deconstructing current abilities or making artificial restrictions that become lifted as you level. Reading the datamined patch notes has led to players being very confused. People would get the impression that Wings was now a 1 minute cooldown, or that Blade of Justice was now going to generate 3HP.
In Shadowlands you unlock Judgment at level 3. At level 8 you unlock a passive skill that increases Judgment’s damage by 50%. At level 11 you unlock a passive that allows Judgment to generate 1HP. At level 29 you unlock the last passive of Judgment which places a debuff of the target. So in this example they took a spell that only had 2 unlocks in Bfa and stretched it out to 4.
Avenging Wrath is now unlocked at level 37 and it has a 3M cooldown. At level 49 you unlock a passive that reduces the cd by 1M. This is 1 example of an artificial restriction made solely for the purpose of having the player unlock something at level 49.
Hammer of Wrath has received the same treatment. It is first unlocked at level 43. At level 58 you unlock a passive that allows it to be used while Wings is active. This is the one that bothers me the most if it stays in its current form. When the pre-patch hits we will have at least a month of playtime at level 50 missing functionality that we previously had. We also will be missing it from our leveling experience until we hit 58. This is a small amount of time in the grand scheme and is largely inconsequential overall; but it is one of the things that has rubbed me the wrong way.
I am not against this in general as I do think it is beneficial for new players or existing players new to the class. From the perspective of a max level player I can’t help but think what sort of new stuff could have been added instead.
Legion and BfA Holdovers
Shield of Vengeance is one of the few abilities that is marketed as a defensive but has a backlash component causing it to do damage. Windwalker’s have Touch of Karma and Good Karma which is a much more extreme version of this issue. It is so prevalent that Raid guides will point out when to use these pseudo-defensives for maximum damage. This falls into the category of degenerate gameplay and Ion has even addressed it as such and I look forward to any changes that would reduce or remove the backlash component.
Crusader Strike still does about 25% less damage than an auto attack.
Attack Power still converts to Spell Power at 96%. Is 4% really that big of a difference? The only baseline abilities Ret has that use SP are Judgment and Flash of Light. Ashen hollow from the Venthyr Covenant also uses SP.
Only 2 covenants have been revealed and a potential 3rd has been datamined but we are not sure if it is an experiment or not. There are also additional passive abilities that can increase the strength of these abilities. Some of them seem very powerful and we will have to wait and see how they’re restricted.
I’m not going to go on a rant about how they shouldn’t have vastly different power curves or at the very least have easy access to a respec. Others have done this quite well already.
The Kyrian Covenant grants us Divine Toll. It will instantly cast Judgment on up to 5 targets within 30yds on a 1M CD. Each target will receive the Judgment debuff and will grant Holy Power for each target hit. This looks to be a solid choice on paper in Cleave/AoE scenarios.
The Venthyr grants us Ashen Hollow. It does a Shadow damage AoE and also restores health to injured allies on a 4M CD. It also leaves a 1 Minute AoE on the ground that causes us to “gain the benefits of Consecration while within the area.”. I don’t think this is clear on what it means for Ret unless I have missed it. Based on its current wording it seems like it would be very troublesome to get full benefit from this ability.
The Night Fae has a datamined ability named Aura of Summer. It has a “high chance” to cause our attacks to deal 35% of our AP as Holy damage. This would potentially be very strong.
Currently the Necrolord Covenant does not have an ability preview.
If we receive some slight iteration on the current Shadowlands kit I think we’ll end up in a very favorable position. Even without any changes I believe that Ret will be in a better place mechanically.
P.S. Nathrezim Wings Glyph