Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Get Down with the Sickness - Optimize your Ret DPS

A few weeks ago, a guildie asked me my spell rotation and all that. Alas, it's too much to type out in whisps, so I had to point him to this blog first, and then...

I eventually wrote a longish post on our forums (that, as far as I can tell, nobody read) but I thought I would bring it over here, since it's appropriate and reasonably helpful (or so I hope)

To whit:

As I’m sure most folks know, there isn’t any “real” rotation for Ret pallies. It’s “First Come First Served” aka “FCFS”. This just means using whichever spell is available, as they come off cooldown.

Where it gets complicated is in what are referred to as “clashes”. This is where two spells are ready at the same time. Figuring out which spell to use (prioritize) can make a big difference.

Without looking at gear and set bonuses (T-10 stuff especially) the “standard” order of priority for Ret spells is as follows:

#1 - Hammer of Wrath (HoW) – note – this is only used once target is below 20% health
#2 - Judgement of Wisdom/Light (Jud)
#3 - Crusdader Strike (CS)
#4 - Divine Storm (DS)
#5 - Consecration (Con)
#6 - Exorcism (Ex)
#7 – Holy Wrath (HW)

I used this rotation until very recently.

Now, once you start getting higher gear, and different set bonuses, it gets REALLY complicated. Each spell uses a slightly different set of numbers (stats/abilities like STR) to determine damage done, and each of those abilities changes with better gear, and each of THOSE is weighted differently by each ability.

Like I said- complicated.

I do not, and have never attempted to theorycraft the perfect rotation, so I am left trying to figure it out by brute force. This means either running a lot of raid and keeping track (and hoping the situations are close enough to compare)

Or using Test Dummies.

Test Dummies are far from ideal, but the one thing they do VERY well is to give you absolutely reproducible circumstances. I will do this for testing spell rotations and also for testing out new /different gear combinations. Here’s how I do it.

1 – Go to Darnassus. (I do not know the equivalent for Horde) The test dummies there are the least used, and you will have the least chance of having to wait or deal with jerks. (they are just east/before the large Colonnade as you enter the city from the “wilds”, as opposed to entering from the flight path)

2 – Reset Recount (or Skada or whichever DPS meter you use) If you don’t have at least one meter to keep track, you won’t be able to do this.

3 – I will make a choice to go in unbuffed (ie, just using one blessing, no food, pots, etc) or I will go in fully buffed. Ideally this means you will use all the food, potion and scroll buffs you can get, plus (ideally) Kings and/or Sanctuary. Kings is easy if you buy the drums, but if there are any guildies on, you can ask for them

4 – Put on your Seal of choice. For single target I use Vengeance, and for multiples I use Command. Either way, just apply it once, and it will work for you for the next 30 minutes. Casting them more often does nothing.

5 – Stand a ways behind the test dummy (dummies can dodge and block from the front!) far enough that you don’t start to auto attack.

6 – Select/click the target, move close in, and start your rotation.

7 - Keep going for at least 60 seconds. The longer the better.

8 – When you are done, move away from the test dummy (I run forward) and click to unselect the dummy, and wait a second or two so that Consecrate and any other DoTs have time to wear off.

9 – Record the overall DPS number somewhere.

10 – Bring up the specific damage done page and look at the order in which each spell/ability does damage and write the order down as well.

11 – Mana up, and make sure all your CDs are ready, make sure that no procs are still in effect (Vengeance is the big one that stays for a while) and make sure that you are still buffed exactly the same.

12 – Repeat steps 5-11 two more times, taking notes of all the relevant info. (overall DPS, most damaging spells, etc)

13 – Review the order of spell damage (what was highest, etc - see my screen cap at the bottom) Are they in the same order as before, or at least close? (or at least if two abilities are within a couple 0.1% or so) If they are close, move on to step 14. If not, repeat until you get repeatable results.

14 – Adjust your spell rotation (for me this means adjusting my action bar) such that the most damaging spell is at the top of the priority, with the next highest ability being next, and so on. (or if you are trying different gear combos, switch your gear)

15 – Repeat steps 5-12 with the new spell rotation/gear set, whatever.

16 – Compare the results between the two sets of data. Did the new rotation help? If so, review your DPS by spell/ability again. Are they still in the same order, or did things change? If they are pretty much the same, you’re done. But if there is a big change, you should probably try changing things up using the new order.

Now, a couple things to keep in mind that will, of course, make things more difficult.

- Test dummies are not real mobs, in a real raid, etc, so your results will never match exactly what happens in your raids. Try to remember to compare things after you have just finished a “real” fight. One thing to remember is that some fights are not good ones to use for evaluation (saurfang, because of the no/minimal AoE used, or any fight where you end up running/moving a lot and not attacking)

- Watch your mana and/or health, and take note of where your Judgment of Wis/Light is in your rotation. In any Boss fight, the Judgement assignments should be:

1 Paladin – Judge Wisdom
2 Paladins – One each judging Wisdom and Light
3+ Pallies – One each judging Wisdom and Light

With this in mind…

I know that I can actually boost my DPS by using the following rotation/priority:

1 – Hammer of Wrath
2 – Consecrate
3 – Divine Storm
4 – Crusader Strike
5 – Judgement of Wisdom
6 – Exorcism
7 – Holy Wrath

But there’s a problem: I will run out of mana after ~3-4 minutes, even with using Divine Plea.

Not only that, but EVERYONE in the raid suffer from reduced mana, since it gives mana back to everyone in the raid. So, if I am the only Paladin, or am one of two Pallies, that isn’t good enough.
So, even though it is a net loss of DPS, I still keep Judgement of Wisdom as my main priority (if you ignore HoW) As of now, my rotation looks like this:

1 – Hammer of Wrath
2 – Judgement of Wisdom
3 – Consecrate
4 – Divine Storm
5 – Crusader Strike
6 – Exorcism
7 – Holy Wrath

If I am in a group with 3+ Paladins, it would probably be safe to go to my “best” priority, but swapping action bars for an occasional fight isn’t worth it. (however, I *DO* have one actionbar version set up for the Saurfang fight, with my AoEs moved out of the way)

Side note -

Did you know you have 2 “easy access” action bars? The first one is the one you always see. However, if you hold down the [shift] key, and use the scroll wheel on your mouse, you should see an extra, empty set of bars. This is the one I use for Saurfang. If you also notice, you will see that if you keep scrolling, you will see your other bars (side, bottom, etc) cycle through as you scroll the wheel.

One last note.

If I am in an “easy” fight, where all I need to do is hit the boss, I will be careful and take my time getting every cast/spell in the proper order.

However, if I am in a more “head’s up” fight, where I need to pay a lot of attention (have a lot of raid awareness) I will “drum” my spells. (I've shown you that short Youtube vid a couple times now)

The drumming requires that I have my spells arranged in proper order on my action bar: (this is a screen cap from some testing) I have my left pinkie on #6, and just drum 6789 6789 6789 6789 6789 6789 6789 quickly and repeatedly. I will manually look for HoW and Exorcism to become available, and hit them as they come up.

Oh, and don't forget that Holy Wrath will do AoE damage to mobs as well (not just the undead, which it will often stun) so it can add an extra 2-3%, if you are interested.

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