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wow paladin icon Retribution Paladin PvE Guide

Posted by Khor | 9/05/2009

Playing as a Retribution Paladin in the PvE world far exceeds my expectations of most other classes. Our burst damage is still top notch, and we can just about nuke any non-dungeon mob in a couple hits. The down time for our class is next to nothing thanks to a couple very efficient and optimal mana and hp regeneration talents and abilities. And we can easily switch roles to healing or tanking if the need arises, making us valuable assets to any function of the game.

This is a compilation of all the PvE components I have written about, so each is available here, as well as individually on my site.

FCFS Rotation

Here is the current 3.2 FCFS rotation. Yes, we're still using it.

HoW > CS > Judgement > DS > Consecration > Exorcism > Holy Wrath

I know many people dog on this as "easy mode", and quite honestly, I don't argue that. It's true. Start in the optimal sequence of HoW > CS > Judgement > DS > Consecration > Exorcism > Holy Wrath and then start mashing the first ability that comes off cooldown. It's really not that difficult.

I will vary the rotation up a smidge when fighting packs of mobs, going exorcism as I close in, then judge, then DS, cons, and coming full circle with CS. If I am already within melee range, it goes DS -> cons -> CS -> judge -> ex, rinse and repeat, but mainly focusing on keeping those AoE abilites up. Still, it is easy mode.

What changed with our FCFS in Patch 3.2?

Well, for starters, Hammer of Wrath is now our #1 ability when it is up. Can only be used when the mob is less than 20% health, but it has very high damage and critical strike ratio, so it jumps ahead of Crusader Strike.

Despite the baby bunny rabbit of a hit that Crusader Strike is, it's still what we'll be hitting first, followed by the rest of our old FCFS rotation. Exorcism moves ahead of Holy Wrath, but who really cares? Exorcism's nerf still has me upset. That cast time is just obnoxious.

Paladin Stats List

Updated for patch 3.2 Nothing has really changed. Most gear will get you hit capped very quickly, so you want strength, strength, and more strength.

So as a quick refresher, here are the stats you should be gemming for as a retribution paladin:

1. Hit
2. Strength
3. Expertise
4. Critical Strike
5. Agility
6. Haste
7. Armor Penetration
8. Attack Power

1. Hit - Hit affects your hit %, or ability to hit mobs and bosses. At level 80, Paladins need a total of 8% hit to be capped at 100%, meaning they never miss. Normal melee swings, Crusader's Strike, Judgements, and Divine Storm are all affected by this. Reaching the hit cap should be your number one priority.

2. Strength - Strength is what gives us attack power and increases our damage. After hit is capped, this is what we start stacking. Remember, 1 strength = 2 AP...with the blessing of might buff in the talent tree, it ups to 1 str = 2.3 AP.

3. Expertise - Capping expertise removes a mob's/boss's ability to dodge our attacks. To cap this, you need 26 expertise, or 6.5%. It is recommended to maximize DPS, you have both hit and expertise capped.

4. Critical Strike - From this point on, stats at crit and below are not worth aiming for. They simply do not pack the punch that strength does. Strength should be the stat that ret paladins are stacking hands down when hit and exp are capped. However, crit wins over agility because crit also affects spell crit, whereas agility does not.

5. Agility - Inferior to critical strike, as it takes a whopping 52 agility to get 1% melee critical strike. However, crit does not stack with buffs, like Blessing of Kings, whereas agility does.

6. Haste - While haste seems like a great stat, it currently does not give us a gigantic boost like we'd hope it would. Haste lowers weapon speed, but does not decrease cooldowns on our spells and abilities.

7. Armor Penetration - This ability benefits warriors far more than it does paladins. It affects only our melee white hits, Crusader Strike, and Divine Storm. It does not affect seal or spell damage.

8. Attack Power - Since we hardly see AP on plate items, this isn't really a stat we have to worry about. Plus, 1 strength = 2.3 AP with talents is far superior than gearing up just straight AP. Go for strength instead. The only time a retribution paladin would have to worry about this is if he or she decides to dip into some leather or mail gear.

Remember, this is the ideal rank of stat importance. it varies greatly based on your current gear and talents.

For instance, at this very moment, my rank would be: 1) strength 2) critical strike 3) haste 4) armor pen 5) hit 6) exp because I am hit and exp capped. So, hypothetically, let's say I have 2 chest pieces with equal strength...the first has crit and expertise, while the second has slightly lower crit and armor pen. Since I am expertise capped, I'd choose the second piece, since the first's exp stat is wasted on me. Even though the crit is lower on the second piece, I still would gain more benefit from the additional armor pen.

Retribution Paladin Talents

Here is the most current talent tree for ret pallies as of 3.2:


Divine Sacrifice proved to be immensely valuable in Ulduar, so we are still aiming for this in 3.2. We're now dipping into the holy tree with 5 points for the Seal of Vengeance buff.


From Arikah posted at Elitist Jerks: [Source]


The following scale off of both AP and Spellpower -

  • Seal of Command:
    36% weapon damage
  • Judgement of Command:
    19% weapon damage + 9% AP + 13% spell power
  • Seal of Vengeance: (see below for full details)
    33% weapon damage + 2.5% AP + 1.3% spell power per tick
  • Judgement of Vengeance:
    (1 + (.14 * AP) + (.22 * Spellpower)) * (1 + (0.1 * Stack Size))
  • Seal of Light:
    15% AP + 15% spell power (healing proc)
  • Judgement of Light:
    16% AP + 25% spell power (damage)
    2% of maximum hp (healing proc)
  • Seal of Wisdom:
    4% of maximum mana (mana proc)
  • Judgement of Wisdom:
    16% AP + 25% spell power (damage)
    2% of base mana (mana proc)
  • Judgement of Justice:
    16% AP + 25% spell power (damage)
  • Consecration:
    4% AP + 4% spell power per tick
    (Final rank has 113 base damage per tick)
  • Exorcism:
    15% AP + 15% spell power
    (Final rank has 1028 base damage)
  • Hammer of Wrath:
    15% AP + 15% spell power
    (Final rank has 1139 base damage)
  • Holy Wrath:
    7% AP + 7% spell power
    (Final rank has 1050 base damage)
  • Sacred Shield:
    75% spellpower
Our healing spells scale strictly off of Spellpower.

In addition to seals scaling from both AP and SP, ALL seals can now be triggered from our instant melee attacks, DS and CS. I'll cover the specific seals a bit further down.


Blizzard finally came out and "settled" what we already knew for 3.2. All Judgements are considered melee attacks that cannot be dodged, parried or blocked. They cannot be used while silenced and can still miss if you are not hitcapped. If this is confusing for you, just think of them as ranged physical attacks that are capable of triggering melee events (beserking, AoW ect). Judgements do not stack, and the last/most recent person to judge will be credited with the effects (yes, non-divinity JoL's will overwrite divinity'd JoL's).

Judgement of Wisdom
This is a strong choice for your judgement to use due to equalized JoL and the removal of blood recoil. You want to keep JoW up or you and your mana using dps (hunters in particular) can run into mana troubles. JoW's mana return effect is limited to 15 PPM for spells and physical; because paladins use both, we can see a few more procs than other classes.

Judgement of Light
This was our primary judgement for 3.1, however it has been equalized among all paladin specs to return 2% max hp (it used to scale based on AP/SP). If there are 2 paladins in your raid, you want the prot or holy paladin to use this judgement, so you can keep JoW up. If there is heavy raid damage and you are the only paladin, JoL is a good choice. If you are specced into Divinity, JoL still does benefit from it.

Judgement of Justice
This is your judgement in pvp situations, as all the debuff does is limit movement speed to 100%. This is not considered a movement impairing effect, so freedom or druid shifting will not break it, it can only be pvp trinketed or dispelled. This effect only lasts 10 seconds in pvp, not 20 as the tooltip implies.


Seals scale off AP and Spellpower. Judging a seal no longer consumes the seal, seals have a 30 minute duration. Seals are NOT considered weapon imbues, and can no longer be dispelled. Seals trigger off instant attacks (CS, DS).

Seal of Vengeance/Seal of Corruption
SoV replaces blood (which has been removed from the game) as our primary dps seal. SoV is the biggest reason that STR is our best dps stat, because it is one of the few skills in the game that triple dip on a stat (once for AP, once for SP, once for AP affecting weapon damage). In case the wording on the skill is unclear, SoV has 2 parts to it - the DoT, and the proc. The proc is basically a weaker, modified Seal of Blood proc but without the recoil. The talent SotP increases the damage from the DoT and the proc (which results in a total dps increase of about 6.5%). It takes ~12 seconds in a raid buffed setting to get a 5 stack active. SoV has some odd functionality detailed below:

The seal procs will begin triggering from auto-attacks once you have 5 DoT stacks, however strikes will always trigger a seal proc (but not a DoT application). The table below shows the damage of the proc per DoT application:

Stack Number% of Weapon Damage% with SotP

When an auto-attack lands (does not dodge/parry/miss) that can proc a seal the of the following things happen independently of each other (see 2 roll system).

1) A "hidden strike" which uses melee combat mechanics occurs. If it lands it refreshes/stacks SoV DoT. Only white swings can trigger a refresh or stack.
2) A weapon damage based proc will occur if you used a special (CS/DS/judge) or if you have a 5 stack (from auto attacks). This attack can not be avoided.

Remember #2 happens regardless of #1 landing, it just requires the initial attack (autos, cs, etc) to land.

DoT functions and mechanics:
DoT application is melee hit/exp based. (Cannot be resisted like a spell, but can be dodged or parried)
DoT will still be applied even if your white swing is fully absorbed (in a PvP situation).
DoT is only applied via auto-attacks (whites).
DoT ticks always hit.
DoT ticks are reduced by partial resist on skull mobs, but not by players (it is holy damage).
DoT gains from CoE (and equivalents).

Seal Proc functions and mechanics:
Proc (after 5 stack/triggered from specials) can NOT be dodged or parried, it occurs as long as your initial white/strike lands.
Proc suffers from partial resists (it's holy damage).
Proc gains from CoE (and equivalents).
Proc can crit. (like SoB did)

One last note, which is it's odd interaction with other paladins' SoV stacks. If you do not have a DoT of your own on a target, but another ret or protection paladin does, your SoV proc's damage is based on their DoT stack (this will usually only occur with DS since it can hit non-targeted enemies). However, if you have even one DoT application on a target, your proc damage will then be based on your DoT stack. This simply means that protection paladins play very nicely with retribution paladins, as Hammer of the Righteous applies DoT stacks quickly to multiple targets, and then DS will hit up to 4 targets with fully charged SoV procs.

Seal of Righteousness
We haven't used this seal since we were leveling up, and it sickens me to say that it is now an option to use. This seal cannot crit, but also cannot miss or be dodged/parried (unless your white swing or special misses). While this seal doesn't benefit from 2H spec or weapon damage increases, it does benefit from SotP, which is in all our primary pve talent builds. With 5/5 SotP, SoR averages about 100 dps higher than SoC until you are in Ilvl 250+ gear. Judging SoR triggers an SoR proc.

Seal of Command
This is a weak option for a pvp seal. SoC has been retooled again; it is no longer ppm based, rather it triggers on every attack (like blood used to) and has no ICD. Judging is no longer a guaranteed crit vs stunned targets. SoC procs are still capable of criticals and follow all the standard melee attack rules. SoC pulls ahead of SoR only when fighting 3+ mobs that only live for 12s each. Judging SoC also triggers an SoC proc.

Strikes and DPS skills

These spells are used in the retribution skill rotation.

Widely viewed as a necessary part of the retribution rotation, as our DPS is not very competitive without it. Should be used against both single and multiple targets. Consecration has some odd behavior on skull level mobs; the first tick can be fully resisted (miss) and subsequent ticks can also be partially resisted (due to mob level difference). You cannot work around the partial resists at all, but they are often small enough to not matter:

Originally Posted by http://elitistjerks.com/1052225-post672.html
I tested this situation while wearing a massive amount of + hit (22% spell hit or so) and things didn't change noticeably. There simply were only 4 combat log entries most of the time, something like:

Boss is afflicted by your Consecration
Boss takes 20 Damage from your Consecration (60 resisted)
Boss takes 30 Damage from your Consecration (50 resisted)
Consecration fades from Boss

Sometimes I got 4 ticks, sometimes 1, but against a +13 level mob I never got anywhere near 8. There simply weren't entries in the log for those other ticks. I won't claim to know the precise mechanics of this, but it does seem evident that mobs can totally resist Consecration ticks if they are high enough level in addition to the debuff application that we are all so familiar with. I don't actually have a paladin that can test this anymore since I did it just after 3.0 launched against the level 83 dummy and my level 80 paladin has no way to fight a level 93 mob.
Hammer of Wrath
With the release of 3.0, this skill was buffed a substantial amount, to the point where it is used on cooldown vs targets under 20% health (due to deep ret talents that give this skill a 50% base crit chance, in addition to gear). It is now an instant ranged execute, but retains its' fixed mana cost. Using this skill does not reset your swing timer.

Chnaged again in 3.2. This is now usable on all mob types, can crit (based on your spell crit), and has 100% crit chance vs undead and demon mobs. It uses the spell hit table so you can still miss with this even if melee hitcapped. It has a base cast time of 1.5s which means you will never ever use this without an AoW proc available - when used with AoW it becomes instant and does not reset the swing timer. Note that because it is not a base instant cast it does not benefit from Benediction.

Holy Wrath
Also uses the spell hit tables, can crit. Has no target limit so it is very useful on certain fights with many undead/demon adds. Changed from a 60s cooldown/20yd range (BC) to a 30s cooldown/10yd range, and it now stuns all targets that it hits for 2s.

Divine Plea
You will need to use this to keep your mana up in both PvE and PvP. It scales off your total mana pool, and is dispellable. DP is usually responsible for 10% of our total mana income on bosses.

And of course, our talented instant attacks:

Divine Storm
Our 51 pt talent, it is basically the same as a warrior's whirlwind ability except that DS heals for negligible amounts. Despite it seeming like an underwhelming talent it is critical to our DPS as it can and will trigger seals and RV. This skill is normalized to 3.3 weapon speed.

Crusader Strike
Our still bland 41 pt talent, yet still crucial to our DPS as it also triggers seals and RV. CS no longer refreshes your or any other paladins' judgements. This skill is also normalized (to 3.3).

Special Talents

and their ..."specialness"
This is just to cover some talents that have odd quirks or interesting functionality.

Art of War
AoW seems like it becomes more important in pve, but realistically nothing has changed. Exorcism still has a 15 second cooldown, and the chances that you will not see a crit on the pull (7.5 seconds in) while raid buffed are 1.6%, while the chances you won't see a crit in 15 seconds is 0.2% - therefore there is no reason to stack crit or worry about not being able to use it every 15s. AoW has been changed to proc on all melee crits, which means whites, strikes and judgements, but not seal procs.

Righteous Vengeance
Once again stealing from the warriors! The RV dot does indeed "roll" like the warrior version, meaning critical judgements and DS's in succession will refresh the dot duration, not overwrite it. The RV dot is a magic effect and thus dispellable, can be partially resisted by bosses, but is not mitigated by armor.
How RV rolls courtesy Redcape:

It adds the new critical damage onto any remaining damage in the dot and then resets the duration with the new damage total. There is absolutely no need to maintain the stack in any fashion, the stack falling off does not cause you to lose dps.
Sheath of Light
One of our most exciting talents for wrath. This talent helps to increase our damage because of the way we double-dip in AP and SP, gives retribution paladins heals actually worth casting/using, and makes STR that much more important. Sacred Shield finally also scales from spellpower granted by this talent. The healing portion of this talent acts the same way as RV; getting a crit heal while still having a sheath hot active "rolls" (see above). This effect stacks with the SS hot, meaning using a FoL on yourself (with SS active) and getting a crit results in a 130% strength HoT.

Sacred Shield
Since this spell now works properly as retribution you can expect to be using it a lot, it is fairly potent when combined with Divine Guardian. Using this does not reset the swing timer. Sacred Shield also has a 6s ICD even when talented, so it is capable of refreshing itself every 6 seconds, even if the 'old' shield has not been fully used up. With 3.2, having SS active on a target and using FoL results in a hot; it does not require that the shield be triggered, only the SS buff. Note that any paladin can get the hot from any other paladin's SS (example: a holy paladin uses FoL on the tank, and the tank has used SS on himself, resulting in a hot).

This has an odd double dipping interaction with your own heals (JoL, DS heals) which causes it to multiply twice, like so: (original heal number) * 1.05 *1.05. It is taken in pve builds only when you are trying to get to DSac. If you pick up this talent, you may want to use JoL and have other paladins use JoW.

Divine Sacrifice
A powerful raid cooldown, when used in combination with the bubble you effectively give your entire raid 30% damage reduction for 10s (as damage "immune'd" by the bubble does not count towards the break limit**). Divine guardian increases the damage redirected to you from 30% to 40%.

**After many months of testing, logging and data combing, it appears that the damage "immune'd" by the bubble actually does count towards the 150% limit. However, DSac very often absorbs much much more while under the bubble. This is because of latency; often times we use DSac while the raid is taking enormous amounts of damage (for example, a Freya3 ground tremor) and the game simply cannot sync the damage taken with the limit in the 1 second window that it occurs in. In other words, to get the maximum possible benefit out of DSac, you need to use it at the last possible second before the raid takes damage, to ensure that the limit threshold is not eaten by you absorbing your tank's steady damage, but rather the entire raid's in that split second moment of pain.

Retribution Paladin Glyphs

Here are the main glyphs you should have as a retribution paladin (updated for patch 3.2):

  1. [Glyph of Judgement] This glyph is a must have, hands down. Judgments are vital to our dps, so don't leave this one out.
  2. [Glyph of Consecration] Now your second best glyph, helping conserve mana and normalizing the FCFS rotation.
  3. [Glyph of Seal of Vengeance] Since Seal of Blood/Martyr is gone, this is what takes its place. This gives a nice expertise boost at 10 expertise (82 rating, 2.5%). If lready expertise capped, move right along to Glyph of Exorcism.
  4. [Glyph of Exorcism] A solid boost to DPS, even though Exorcism is at the end of our FCFS rotation.

Here are the minor glyphs, although they do not serve near the tremendous impact that the main glyphs do.

  1. [Glyph of Sense Undead] Ulduar has no undead, but the extra 1% has PvE written all over it.

  2. [Glyph of Lay on Hands] The only othe semi-useful PvE minor glyph.

Retribution Paladin Gems

As a retribution paladin, your gem choice is going to be quite limited. Really, you should only be gemming for 2 stats.

  • Hit Rating
  • Strength

You could technically gem for expertise if you wanted as well, but hit and strength are the most important.

That said, most gear now has plenty of hit rating on it, so hitting the cap is quite easy. That basically leaves you to gem strength, strength, and more strength. This is by far our most important stat to stack, further increasing our dps than any other stat. Here are your gem options:


[Relentless Earthsiege Diamond] +21 Agility / +3% Increased Critical Strike damage
[Chaotic Skyflare Diamond] +21 Critical Strike / +3% Increased Critical Strike damage

* The note for the meta gems is that the relentless gem offers more dps due to the fact that it only requires one blue gem. While the chaotic by stats alone is a smidge better, requiring 2 blue gems to activate actually makes it lower dps.


[Bold Cardinal Ruby] +20 strength
[Bold Stormjewel] +20 strength
[Bold Scarlet Ruby] +16 strength


[Inscribed Flawless Ametrine] +10 Strength / +10 Critical Strike
[Inscribed Monarch Topaz] +8 Strength / +8 Critical Strike


[Rigid King’s Amber] +20 Hit Rating
[Rigid Stormjewel] +20 Hit Rating
[Rigid Autumn’s Glow] +16 Hit Rating


[Sovereign Dreadstone] +10 Strength / +10 Stamina
[Sovereign Twilight Opal] +8 Strength / +8 Stamina

Retribution Paladin Enchants

The best in slot (BiS) enchants for retribution paladins are in blue text, with their lesser counterparts in red. Still the same in 3.2.

Personally, I feel that the hit cap is so easily reached through gear once you start raiding, that most people opt for the Greater Assault on boots rather than Icewalker.

Retribution Paladin Raid Preparation

This is still current as of 3.2.

Everytime I enter a raid, I want to come in as prepared as possible. I bring flasks, potions, stat food, mana food, scrolls, and off-set gear. I only bring what is considered BiS, and I make sure I have enough to last the whole raid. My philosophy is if you aren't contributing to the success of the raid, you shouldn't be in it. Now, that aside, that doesn't mean you can't have all kinds of fun. Raiding should be enjoyable and entertaining, allowing you to push your skill, but never becoming too involved where it becomes a task or chore, or feels like a job.

I like to get my raid mats for the whole week, usually farming for an hour or so early Monday morning. I take my rogue out and farm until I get 3 or 4 frost lotus and then proceed to get a guildie to make some flasks. Then I switch over to Khor and fish up about 20 to 30 Dragonfin Angelfish. My AH toon purchases a few potions I need, and voila! I'm set for the week's raids.

Here is what I make sure to have for each raid:

  • 5x Flask of Endless Rage
  • 5x Flask of the Frost Wyrm (In case I am needed to go off-spec)
  • 20x Dragonfin Filet
  • 20x Firecracker Salmon
  • 40x Mana food
  • 10x Runic Mana Potion
  • 10x Runic Healing Potion
  • 10x Haste Potion
  • 5x Scroll of Agility/Intellect
  • 10-20x Fish Feast
  • 300x Symbol of Kings (doesn't hurt to have too many)
  • Off-set healing gear
I always like to keep a full stock of healing stat food and flasks just in case I need to switch specs for a particular fight, or even a whole raid. These I don't have to replace very often because I usually don't have to perform healing duties unless I am in a heroic 5-man.

I also do not have to replace my mana and healing potions very often, as I don't use them during raids much. More often than not I am using haste potions, thus using up my potion for the fight. But it is nice to have them there just in case.

The haste potions and endless rage flasks are usually half gone for one night's raiding. I only burn the haste pots on bosses during a Shaman Heroism or my own Avenging Wrath. I usually have more than 5 flasks to start with, as the guildies who make them for me usually proc extras, so I don't have to make any more for the rest of the week. If for any reason I find myself without either of these two items right before a raid, I'll run to the AH and drop some gold to get myself caught up.

I have just recently started carrying extra Fish Feasts for my guild, but many others are carrying them as well. Mine are made by guild bank donations, so if I am able, I will try to lay down my feasts first.

The scrolls are semi-helpful, and don't give a huge boost, but if they are cheap enough in the AH I'll keep several on hand. Depending on my buffs, these may or may not be usable. If I have arcane brilliance, the scroll of intellect won't stack. Ideally, I would have strength scrolls, but the Dragonfin Filet (+40 str/+40 stam) overrides that.

Finally, the Dragonfin Filets are the BiS food item for Ret Paladins who have their strength buff. This puts out a small amount of increased dps over the fish feast, so I make sure and keep a full stock.

Just remember when joining a raid it is common courtesy to bring your own mats. This is my list of what I bring, and I will adjust this as needed in the future.

Retribution Paladin Add-ons

As a Ret Paladin, there are certain World of Warcraft addons you should absolutely have. Here is my core 4 list:

  • Pally Power - An absolute must. An easy to use interface that allows a Paladin to manage his/her blessings, as well as that of others in a party or raid, if they are the raid leader or raid assist.
  • Deadly Boss Mods - This is an all-inclusive warning/alert add-on for all raid bosses. If you don't have this addon, your survivability will plummet. Another must-have.

  • Omen - Omen is a threat meter. This add-on warns you when you are about to pull threat off the current tank. The way paladin DPS is in its current state, I have to have this, not only for bosses, but for trash mobs as well. Paladin burst AoE DPS is so heavy that I often have that flashing red screen warning me I'm about to pull threat.

  • Grid - Even though Retribution Paladins are not main role healers, it's still a good idea to have this interface add-on for quick resurrections, salvations, or last second heals.

  • RatingBuster - A great addon that allows you to compare stats on your current gear with any other item you are viewing. Very helpful in determining upgrades.

I understand many people use different UI's, but I stick with the vanilla WoW UI. So I won't throw out any recommendations, as they would be solely based on hearsay. I would much rather recommend something I am actually using.

That said, here are a couple other addons I use to help out with other aspects of gameplay:

  • Bagnon - A great addon to combine all your bags into one. Highly customizable with the ability to view not only your current toon's bags, but your alts' as well. Also displays your total gold server-wide, as well as how much each toon has regardless of which character is logged on.

  • Postal - Enhanced mailbox support. Many features including a recall list of who was recently mailed, as well as your alt toon list. My favorite is the easy emptying 'open all' option, that displays gold earned via AH sells, as well as any items obtained. Check it out.