Friday, July 31, 2009

Seal Switching To AoE In 3.2; Seal of Command's Limited Range.

A lot of the debate in the past week or so has centered around Seal of Vengeance's single-target damage, and rightly so. Because of the controversy another component of damage in a raid context has gone largely overlooked: AoE damage. Seal of Vengeance is obviously unsuited to applying AoE damage, and with that in mind this post looks at the other options available.

The Old - Seal of Blood.

The staple Ret Seal of 3.1, SoB's proc of 48% weapon damage on all weapon swings leads to very significant front-loaded damage in multi-target situations. Divine Storm itself is effectively a Whirlwind which proc's SoB, and Consecration is usually ticking even in single-target encounters. Aggro could sometimes be an issue, but when the risks involved in stealing aggro from the tank are minimal SoB allowed considerable burst AoE without necessarily interrupting a DPS cycle on the main target.

3.1 will probably be looked back upon as the golden age of Ret DPS... farewell Seal of Blood, you will be missed.

The New...ish - Seal of Vengeance

Seal of Vengeance largely replaces SoB in 3.2, but is only suited to single-target DPS situations due to the difficulty of stacking Holy Vengeance on secondary targets. Tab-targetting may allow you to spread the Holy Vengeance debuff around a little, perhaps to as many as 3 targets reliably under optimum conditions and with no avoided swings. Unfortunately, an encounter with up to 3 targets all in melee range that last long enough to make it worthwhile is an exceedingly rare beast. Spreading the debuff to 2 targets will be the likely limit of SoV functionality, and enough of a juggling exercise for most players.

The Alternative - Switching Your Seal

Rather than go through the rigmarole of tab-targetting there is another option: switching your Seal. Both SoCommand and SoRighteousness allow a damage proc from Divine Storm, but as a consequence lower damage will be inflicted upon the main target. Using Command or Righteousness is not something you want to be doing all the time, but when you absolutely positively have to do as much AoE damage as possible they are valid options.

SoR has a much smoother distribution of damage as proc damage doesn't vary and cannot crit. This can be of great benefit in situations where drawing aggro is a worry. On the other hand the size of the damage proc is almost always inferior to that of Command, especially when considering that Command procs may crit. If aggro isn't a problem, either because you're comfortable with the damage 4 adds beating on you may cause or very happy with your tank's ability to hold threat (yay Pally and DK Tanks!), SoC represents significantly higher multi-target DPS.

But, there's a catch with Seal of Command: You need to be in melee range, i.e. within 5 yards, for the attack hitting the target to proc it.


Seal of Righteousness -
Proc at Range

Seal of Command -
No Proc at Range


You may be thinking that this isn't a problem, but Judgment and Divine Storm have a range of 10 and 8 yards respectively and you may miss a surprising number of procing opportunities. Seal of Righteousness and Vengeance proc's don't suffer from this problem thankfully.

The maximum range of Commands proc issue may well rear its' ugly head again in any PvP discussions given the otherwise weak nature of Judgment damage.

The Cost

Mana. - Casting a Seal spell still costs 14% of base mana, and if you want to adapt to encounter phases you'll be doing it multiple times in a battle. Even the most frugal Ret Paladin will soon see this eat into their mana pool, especially in 10-man raids where mana buffs are thin on the ground. Throw a little Holy Wrath into the mix and you'll be reaching for the mana potion injector more often than House pops a Vicodin. And with less panache.

Somewhat mitigating this is the new Glyph of Seal of Command, which restores 8% of base mana on Judgement. The opportunity cost of this Glyph is high as it replaces one of your three Major's, probably GoJudgment.

Incidentally, '75% Mana Cost Reduction For All Damaging Seals' would make a great idea for a Minor Glyph.

Talent Points. - By choosing to take SoC you by necessity spend a talent point that could be spent on utility such as Vindication, which incidentally works great in AoE situations as it procs from Divine Storm. If you have taken neither Divine Sacrifice nor Imp. LoH the trade-off is trivial, but with either of these powerful cooldowns some hard decisions need to be made.

Main Target Damage - Taking either option will greatly reduce DPS on your main target, if one exists. If DPS on a single, static target is essential then Seal swapping is unnecessay - rely on your raid members with greater AoE capability to do the job and stay in the role that you do best: single target AoE.

Conclusion

Seal Switching will only be an option in a few boss fights, but could have a significant impact if certain variables are in place. Your default position on any given encounter should always be one of running Seal of Vengeance but stay mindful of these tools in your arsenal. Given that Seal of Command requires a talent point invested and has limited range Righteousness is the Seal that I would favour. Your mileage may vary.

If you're fighting trash, go crazy ;).

As a more general point, the idea of Seal switching presents a good opportunity for Blizzard to tailor Seals to different encounter types and introduce another test of skill to differentiate relatively good Ret Paladins from bad ones. That said, it requires quite a lot of development time invested into finding and balancing a niche for each of the damaging Seals. At the very least, Command and Righteousness need to be more distinct than they are.


EDITING NOTE: Seal of Corruption is the Horde version of Seal of Vengeance, and it procs the Blood Corruption debuff. In all ways the two Seals are functionally identical.

3 comments:

Martin 02/08/2009, 08:59  

Thanks very much for the seal range information. I wasn't aware of this difference.

Anonymous 22/08/2009, 16:16  

As of today im not seeing that SoC/SoR dmg actually procs from Judgements and playing with range of SoC on a test dummy Soc still proc'd for me when i used DS at max range. -hotfixed maybe? other than that, great post!

Anonymous 15/09/2009, 16:44  

Seal swapping is a good idea if you decide to spend that point in command you should do it on trash. But glyphing for trash is trivial. I wouldn't recommend doing that, in the end trash is easy now compare to the old days and infact it is the bosses that drop the best loot. To make sure your GM thinks you deserve that piece (loot council) you need to put out your best dps possible with the gear you have. I say dont change the glyphs and any good GM will not take trash dps into account and look only at Boss dps. In the end thats what matters most.

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