I threw in the towel.
After two seasons of beating my head against the 1600/1700 rating matches in 2s where I kept meeting up against counter teams, and a 1500 rating wall in 3s where the total lack of sustained offense and nearly complete lack of closers and control blocked me again, I realized Retribution Paladins are just not good in Arenas in the hands of a mediocre player like me.
I do see some Retribution paladins in the top 50/100 rated teams in my Battlegroup, so I'm sure that those guys are taking the class and making it work for them, but for me, I can't seem to able to convert the abilities I have into meaningful kills, and my support is piddling at best, with how quickly I run out of Mana if I try to go that route in 3s.
Retribution Paladins in PvP are designed so defensively that expecting them to work on burst seems to cause a deal of cognitive dissonance. So I sighed, and threw in the towel and gave up all hope of being able to Arenas successfully on my Paladin (I do fantastic in BGs) until such a time as I can get a good and firm understanding of my Holy spec and try Arenas in that venue. With so many instant heals, defensive abilities and support spell, they should be good - I just need a ton more practice in a million BGs first as Holy first. With no Holy gear right now, I'm just going to wait till next season to start gathering it as this late into this season, I'll finish gearing up just as the new stuff is released.
For the time being, I've come to realize how much fun I can have playing my Warlock in PvP.
The two classes are almost completely different in terms of how they play - Retribution Paladin is about lining up cool-downs and abilities to set up a burst kill while catching your enemy in a window with no defensive cool-downs. It's all about the setup.
Affliction Warlocks are all about control of the situation - full-fears, multi-target DoTing, a reliable ranged spell-lock on healers, and super-quick interrupts, escapes and absolutely amazing self-healing.
I've been doing 2s with a rogue, and the two of us are having a blast - we're scratching at about 1500 after a month of matches. We only do a set of 8 wins per week and our win ratio is hovering around the 65% mark which makes me happy. There are teams that are absolutely counters for us - Blood DKs are horrifically broken right now and we have a hard time against them, Warriors with healers can give us a hard time, but overall, we're able to hold our own against most teams.
A personal joy is how I face off against Mages now. On Innana, I used to groan whenever I saw a mage. Now, I just scoff, banish their Elemental, DoT up the Mage, Howl his pets, and Drain Life the hell out of him while big crit numbers pop over his head while they blink here and there fruitlessly, especially if there is no healer and I can sic my puppy on them for locks.
In general, though, if I can get about 5 seconds of free-casting, the amount of damage output Warlocks cash push against an entire team of 2s and even 3s is horrifically frightening. Health Stones, Healing Trinkets, Haunts, and Drain Life (not to mention latent healing returned from DoTs and Fel Armor) all add up to the point where sometimes I out-heal healers. We've even managed to win matches after ten minutes where we were both able to stay alive for extended periods against a healer/DPS comp until we finally converted a kill.
With a pair of Firelands daggers (one of them Heroic), my Rogue buddy is able to gank like nobody's business. I'm looking forward to doing Arenas with her next season when she'll have the legendary daggers.
Anyway. The comp is doing well for us, and I have come to realize that while there is a pang of regret that I'm having to move off my main to do something I enjoy (PvP), the fact that I'm having a ton more fun while doing it on my alt makes up for it.
It might even work for me to keep Merricat as my PvP alt permanently, and Innana as my main in all other ways. It lets me play her on a high-level without having a conflict with my raid group and I do dearly love my Warlock.
For once: Win/Win.