Monday, October 18, 2010

New Paladin and Hunter rotations

Over the weekend I played my highest level paladin, Lauralia, up from level 28 to 31. I know things change as you get to higher levels, but if my experience with different level hunters is mirrored in paladins at higher levels, the basic rotation shouldn't change as much in 4.0/Cata as you level up, compared to the pre-Cata mechanics.

Since the patch I've leveled a hunter from level 6 to 11 and played two other hunters at levels 54 and 73-74. All use the same basic rotation (starting at level 10 you've got all the core shots and spells) but the higher levels have more options, so the rotations - if you want them to - can be more complex. But even with Alaurai at level 74, I seem to be almost as effective sticking to the same four core shots as I am when I get fancy.

Lauri is a Retribution pally and I really enjoyed playing her before the patch. But the patch eliminated one of my main spells: Taunt, which I used to pull a specific mob to me. This was especially useful if there was a crowd of them and I didn't want to get swamped.

But in 4.0, Taunt is gone. Augh! How do I pull them now?

Took me a while to figure it out. At first I was using Judgement (there is only one Judgement spell now) and then hitting them with Crusader Strike when they got to me, and then laying on an Excorcism. Judgement's effective range seems to have gotten a lot greater than before, which is terrific, and it made this rotation feasible.

But then I noticed the handy tooltip for Excorcism, which pointed out that I should avoid using Exorcism in melee because it takes a long time to build up. Good point.

So... how about using Exorcism as my first hit? That way I don't have to stand around waiting for it to build while the mob is pummeling me. But what's it's pull range?

I was doing Battle of Hillsbrad (remember us doing those quests together, Trojanne? Rakkeal and Jacara, I think) and I started experimenting with this. Wow! Awesome pull range! I can pull them from halfway across the farmer's fields. Awesome!

I quickly settled on a new rotation: Exorcism to pull, Judgement while they are running at me, and Crusader Strike when they get to me. So I've gotten in two solid hits before they even reach me. If more than one come, I hit Consecration, which still seems to be pretty effective. (Divine Storm, OTOH, doesn't seem to do much.)

If my health gets low, I stun my target with Hammer of Justice and heal myself with Holy Light, just as I used to do. It was working; I was mowing through those farmers and peasants like a thresher through ripe corn.

Then I realized that something special was happening every once in a while. The Exorcism icon on my action bar would start to glow, and if I hit that button while it was glowing, there was no delay; Exorcism had become instant. And the mobs died when I did that.

I looked in my talent tree and found that Art of War, in the third tier, makes your autoattacks have a 20% chance to make your next Exorcism, free, instant, and cause 100% additional damage! Awesome! This talent is getting filled ASAP in any retripally I roll.

Another interesting thing is that the cooldowns of the various spells now differ more than they used to, with both paladin and hunter. I can no longer spam the same two or three spells in the same order like I used to. I have to watch the cooldowns and hit the one that cools down first at any given time. This is a little more challenging than before, but I find that I like it.

Some of the new and modified spells aren't as effective as I'd expect. The hunter's vaunted Kill Shot, for example, is practically worthless because the time between it becoming available (at 20% of the mob's health) and the mob dying is so short. If I've just fired Arcane shot, say, when the mob hits 20%, then by the time the Kill Shot's cooldown is up, the mob's already dead. Kill Command doesn't seem to do much of anything either, and I don't seem to have a good way to increase my pets' threat level when I need to.

For my level 31 pally, as I mentioned Divine Storm seems to have little effect, but maybe it will scale up at higher levels or with the appropriate talent selections.

Bottom line is that so far, I like the changes. Yes, I have to pay more attention to the cooldowns and my rotation varies more (the same is true of my hunters) but it's a little more fun and interesting as a result.

And it's very gratifying when I get the sequence right and the mobs die at my feet moments after we engage - or, in the case of my hunters, before they even get to me.

I'm still working on my hunter rotation. Concussive Shot and Steady Shot are both good candidates for the initial hit, Concussive because it stuns the target and slows their run toward me, and Steady because it has a windup like the pally's Exorcism.

I hope to get to experimenting with Warrior and Rogue rotations soon.

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