Well, we're going to shelve the idea that Holy could still work in the arena. No, it isn't because Holy doesn't have enough survivability, and it isn't because Holy can't live through the burst that is running rampant (ret pallies, you know what I'm talking about). The problem is that the problem that Holy would have resolved is not an issue any longer.

I'm talking about Disc+Rogue. Taken straight from the SK Gaming 2v2 bracket standings, the most popular comp is no longer Disc+Rogue by the margins we were seeing before. While two weeks ago we saw Disc+Rogue being dominant at something like 40% of the teams above 2k, now we see Disc+Rogue at around 19%, with Resto+Warrior catching up quickly and DK+Pally and Pally+warrior nipping at the heals.

Plainly, we didn't do our job. Our job is to walk into the arena with some semblance of an idea of what we're likely to face, and have strategies against those comps. We went into the arena this week and did fine the first day (got up to 1989), but then did some more arena on Saturday and curbstomped ourselves back down to 1922 (and our MMR is in the mid 1800s apparently, though I'm going off what Guntir said in a fit of anger at In-and-Out Burger... we drown our sorrows in burgers... skinny bastard doesn't gain a pound while I'm... nevermind). While we could make the statement that Holy would still work, it would require SOOOOO much reworking that it almost isn't worth it, particularly when the one strong dps that Holy works well against is no longer the most-played dps in the arena (rogues).

See, on Saturday we came across a phenomenon I like to call "lawlret". Not the Ret pallies of yore, but the new burst-cannon instantiations of them. Now, keep in mind that I claimed we didn't have any trouble with the Ret pally teams and even posted some strategies for facing them. However, Ret pallies who have finally picked up some Deadly gear and a Tier1 PvP weapon have become some sort of portable atomic blast. The problem that Holy has with Ret pallies is that the cooldowns just aren't enough: Guardian spirit is good, but when a Ret pally with Wings can do 75% of a target's health with just 1 button and a white swing (and Seal of the Martyr), it just won't be enough to keep any target up.

Disc is just much more suited to live through the burst, though Sanctified Wrath makes it even more difficult. Essentially, our strategy has to change from "kite when wings are up" to "cyclone when wings are up and kite like crazy because if he hits you with wings up, you're going to die; pain suppression or otherwise." Personally, I feel like this is bullshit. No class should have the ability to turn into an unstoppable killing machine the way Ret pallies can.

Oh well, live and learn, right? All we can do is change our playstyle and hope that we come out on the other side successful. Switching back to Disc is likely going to help because Disc is largely preventative in nature. That is, the staple of a Disc priest is the ability to throw out shields, Renew, and ProM in the hope that the shield will prevent enough damage to keep a Ret pally from killing you with their 3 buttons. However, it is becoming less and less reliable as time progresses and gear improves. Essentially, while Ret pally burst was always strong before, now that they are all sporting Tier1 weapons, they are given almost free reign to kill. Before, they would burst you down to 30% with their 3 buttons and since they don't have an MS effect, you would get picked back up to 100% from Mendflay. Now, they can burst you to 10% hp (or kill you if they get enough crits), and Mendflay MIGHT take you back to 100% if it gets some crits.

The aspect of the whole matter that is really irking me is that Blizzard has stated that they don't like how bursty Ret pallies are, but they haven't done a damned thing to deal with it. The first action they took was largely preventative in nature: they disallowed Exorcism to be used against players (I shiver when thinking about how this would have played out had they not made this change). However, the damage output of Ret pallies is STILL extremely strong in burst. The paladin walks over, hits his 3 attacks, and you MIGHT have died with 1000 resilience and 22k hp... largely depending on the pally's crit rate. During one Hand of Justice, a pally will get off the following attacks:

White swing
Martyr proc
Crusader Strike
Martyr proc
Divine Storm
White swing
Martyr proc
... martyr proc

I think we're starting to see why Ret pallies are currently the most overpowered dps in the game. I am extremely curious as to why Blizzard keeps giving Ret pallies damage that is not resistible, bypasses armor, and does the biggest chunk of all their damage. Seal of the Martyr/Blood accounts for 20% of my guild's ret pally's damage on most fights, while everything else is about 10%. I'm waiting for a revamp on Ret pallies.

The other thing that's bothering me is that I don't see any downside. That is, I could understand that priest+rogue was the strongest team because druid+warrior was still trying to get some gear and pick up their numbers... but essentially druid+warrior completely countered priest+rogue. There is seemingly no counter to a ret pally with a healer. If the ret pally gets on your healer, you have to peel him with SOMETHING and stuns won't do it (HoF removes stuns), snares won't do it (HoF makes them immune to stuns), speed won't do it (smart ret pallies judge justice), and soak/mitigation won't do it (Sanctified Retribution ensures that Pain Suppression won't be useful). So, it seems like feral+disc is the best comp to play against them because we have something that actually counters wings: cyclone. However, a good ret pally will simply wait out all the cyclones and what-not without using his trinket because he needs diminishing returns... then he'll either be immune to Cyclone when he finally gets on my priest with wings up, or he'll have his trinket ready for it.

Our strategy is just going to have to change. Unfortunately, it's going to have to change to something along the lines of "put pressure on the healer and hopefully Guntir can kite the pally NEAR me to the point where if he needs a Cyclone peel, I can give him one," and this strategy will NEVER succeed against shammy healers. Shamans, as much as they hate to admit it, are the best healers in the game with regard to mana conservation, particularly when they have someone attacking them (and only them); Water Shield sees to that. To add insult to injury, shamans are simply a pushover against classes with an MS effect because all the mana in the world won't make your heals hit any harder.

So where does this leave us? Well, it leaves us asking the question "wtf are we supposed to do against shaman+ret?" It also leaves us in a tight spot against ALL ret pally teams, particularly double-dps ret teams (since ret pallies can just walk over and kill someone without effort, especially if they're getting help).

... We'll just have to hope that we don't have to face any ret pallies. Another thing we're going to try is dispel-training them, as a lot of the time you NEED to be able to dispel Wings as an option, and unfortunately they have lots of abilities that stack up on themselves. This makes the mana war even more intense as they passively apply buffs, and dispelling those buffs is usually a waste of effort.

I'm running out of ideas... we'll see how it goes today.