This guide was written Pre-Patch 5.0.4, watch for an update soon.

How to play a Retribution Paladin

So you want to lay the holy smack down on the enemy? Want to prove
that Paladins can dish it out as well as they can take it? Well, you
have come to the right place. This guide will walk you through the
basics of playing a Retribution spec'ed Paladin. Starting way back in
the Burning Crusade expansion Retribution Paladins saw huge buffs
in ability and utility, this continues in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. With Cataclysm they have gained even more of a boost to damage, group utility, and versatility. They now offer a very solid choice to fill a melee DPS role in both PvE and PvP content.

Playing a Retribution based Paladin can be a lot of fun as long as
you realize you may not be at the top of all the DPS
charts. You will however be able to hold your own in PvE and PvP
content and level at a far faster rate than other Paladin specs.
Realize up front though that DPS classes and players FAR outnumber
healers and tanks. In addition most players view Paladins as healers or
tanks, so you will most likely be expected to have a heal or tanking
offspec and gearset. Discuss your options with a group before joining
so that they know what you are. If you are doing this for PvP then more
power to you, explain to no one!

Retribution Paladin Talents

As a DPS Paladin you will be spending the majority of your talent
points in the Retribution talent tree. This is a requirement anyway since in Cataclysm you must spend at least 31 points in your primary tree before moving onto another one anyway. By choosing the Retribution talent tree you gain some great abilities right off the bat like Templar's Verdict. This is a great attack that uses your Holy Power (more on Holy Power shortly) charges to do big damage with an attack. You also gain extra spell power from your attack power, extra damage from two-handed weapons, and mana regen from judging targets.

In the Retribution talent tree itself there are some great talents that provide solid boosts to your overall damage. Many are important as they provide overall boosts, but probably the most important talents though are your Divine Storm and Art of War, since they will form key parts of your main DPS rotation. Divine Storm is used for your AOE rotation when fighting trash mobs, and Art of War allows your attacks to proc free instant Exorcisms. For more information on the rotations you can skip down to
the Attack Rotation section of the guide. Many of the other talents boost your other attacks such as Crusader's Strike of your seal damage.

This is the Retribution Build I use when speccing for damage in
raids - href=""
target="_blank">Retribution Build.  It has proven itself over
and over again in the level 85 instances and raids. It dips into the
Protection tree for some extra damage from our seals and then into the Holy tree for some crit, haste, and extra damage for Exorcism.

Best Retribution Paladin Glyphs

While there are a number of decent Glyphs for a Retribution Paladin
the ones I suggest are based on raid usefulness. Therefore the
glyphs I believe you should use are as follows.

Retribution Paladin Prime Glyphs

The best Retribution Paladin prime gyphs are as follows. There are four listed even though you can only take three. This is due to the fact that some players can easily reach the Experise cap withouth the bonus from the first glyph. If that is the case, skip it and take all three of the following glyphs after Glyph of Seal of Truth, if not take the GoSoT and the next two.

Glyph of Seal of Truth - This glyph gives you
alot of the Expertise (10 points) that you need to reach the
soft cap. That's a lot of expertise that you will not have to find on
equipment, gems or enchants, allowing you to focus on more damage
causing stats.

Glyph of Templar's Verdict - Increases the damage of all
Templar's Verdict by 15%. Since this is use in your rotation heavily it provides a big DPS increase.

Glyph of Exorcism - This glyph applies a DOT to the target anytime you cast exorcism on them. Since Art of War allows you to cast this as a free instant very often, the damage adds up quickly.

Glyph of Crusader Strike - Increases the critical strike chance of this attack by 5%. This offers a solid DPS increase since you will be using CS as your primary attack in your rotation.


Maximizing Retribution Paladin DPS has a lot to do with the little things. Anyone can DPS but it takes a smart and attentive player to put our seriously good DPS. You will notice this in raids with players with the same gear yet turning out vastly different DPS numbers.

This has to do with making sure that you hit all of your stat caps, making sure you are enchanted, gemmed, glyphed, and reforged to perfection. It also means making sure you switch seals to maximize DPS based on the situation, Truth for single target and Righteousness for groups. Pay attention to the little things, and you will top the charts before you know it.[/protip]

Retribution Paladin Major and Minor Glyphs

None of the Major or Minor glyphs really affect your damage output. They instead focus on your mana use, survivability, and utility. Which you use really depends on the situation and your role.

Two major glyphs that are useful consistently over time however are Glyph of the Ascentic Crusader which lowers the mana cost of your Crusader Strike, and Glyph of Hammer of Wrath which makes it a free cast. Both are useful if you are having mana issues in a fight, however that is rarely the case due to our mana regeneration ability.

What is Paladin Holy Power?

In Cataclysm we now have what amounts to Rogue like combo points called Holy Power. We earn Holy power by hitting opponents with Crusader Strike or if our Divine Storm hits 4 targets or more.  The points stack up to 3 and can be used at any time to trigger abilities such as Templar's Verdict or Zealotry for damage or Word of Glory for healing.

Generally we should use our Holy Power only when it gets all the way to 3 stacks.  However as soon as it does we should use it right away.  How we use it is as follows:

  • Zealotry allows a huge boost to our damage output by simplifining and intensifing our rotation for 20 seconds. This is always the first priority.
  • Templar's Verdict causes 235% weapon damage if used with 3 HP and is a huge attack.
  • Word of Glory is a decent heal if you require it, but realize it will be a DPS loss, but then again when you're dead you do 0 DPS.

Best Paladin Gear Stats

Gear for a Retadin is not nearly as difficult as many other classes.
Up until you are level 85 you simply need to stack as much Strength as
you can, with critical strike being second on your stat radar.

Once you
get to level 85, however, your priorities change a little. Reaching the
Hit and Expertise cap are your priorities, and after that is done you
start stacking Strength, Crit, and Attack Power (when strength isn't an

Once you reach level 85 and start looking for +hit to get to the +8% hit cap requires so that you do not miss raid bosses. You need 120 +hit to gain +1% at level 85, which means you need 961
points of hit rating to reach your 8% hit cap. Once at hit cap you will not
miss your melee attacks, spells can still miss though as a significant
amount more hit is required for spells. Reaching hit cap when fresh to
level 85 can be difficult and requires several gems or enchants and
tough gear choices. Once you start getting higher item level gear, you
will generally have more than you need.

After hit, expertise is needed to remove the chance an enemy will
dodge your attacks. If you are attacking from behind (as you should)
you only need to reach the soft expertise cap. You will
normally need 781 expertise to be capped, or 481 if you have the Glyph of Seal of Truth. Due to the glyph's bonus
it is relatively easy to reach the cap and you should not need to go
out of your way to find much expertise.

After you are capped with both hit and expertise the most important
stat is Strength. Every point of Strength you gain grants you 2 attack
power. Your strenth and attack power are both affected by your many talents, which further boost its effect on your damage. This easily makes it your best damage causing stat.

Critical strike boosts are also important as any time you crit you
cause extra damage. However if you ever have a choice, more strength
beats more crit.

Best Paladin Gems and Enchants

Gems and enchants will play a critical part in how much damage you
can put out against an enemy. The bonuses that you can add through
enchants and gems at high levels are almost as much as you get on the
item itself. Better yet they can be customized to be what you require.

Starting with the easier topic of gems, in general you should be
putting a red strength gem in every single socket you have, red
or not. The only time you will not follow this is when the socket bonus is +20 Strength or more and you can reach it by using one hybrid strength gem. If two hybrid gems are required the bonus has to be at least +30 Strength to be worth while.

The best meta gem for Ret Paladins

As for Meta Gems the best you can get is the Reverberating Shadowspirit
Diamond because of its very simple to meet requirement. Needing at least 3 red gems to activate it means you do not need to adjust gemming at all.

Now onto the more difficult topic of enchants on your gear. Proper
enchants can add a ton of stats to your already good gear. The most
critical ones will largely depend on your gear level. If you are fresh
to 85 you will probably require +hit to gear through gems and enchants.
Once you have been 85 for a while this will shift to pure damage
abilities. The most critical damage enchant will likely be the one to
your weapons, so don't be cheap on it, as soon as you get a good weapon
get it enchanted with Berserking. For the rest of the enchants I have
included a table to outline the ones that are best on each slot.

Gear Enchants
Slot Bonus Notes / Source (if not
from an enchanter)
Head +60 Strength and +30 Master Wildhammer / Dragonmaw Rep
Shoulders +50 Strength and +25 Crit Therazane Rep
Chest +20 to all stats  
Back +65 Crit  
Wrists +50 Strength  
Hands +50 Strength Can substitute with +35 Strength if the +50 is too expensive on your server
Legs +190 Attack Power and +55 Crit From Leatherworkers
Feet +50 Mastery Can substitute with +50 Hit if you are not hit capped


A must have, it is the best by far, hower you can use Hurricane orAvalanch if it is too expensive on your server.


Reforging for Retribution Paladins

Reforging allows us to move stats around on an item to make it better suit our requirements. Only secondary stats can be reforged and they can only be reforged to stats that are not already on the item. For full details on reforging and how it works check out our guide found here: Reforge This - A guide to reforging in World of Warcraft .

How do we reforge though? Well knowing that you can not reforge into strength in means that we use the following priority system.

  • Hit - Reforge into Hit until you reach the hit cap.
  • Expertise - Reforge into Expertise until you reach the soft cap.
  • Crit - This is your next best stat, however you should not run it too far ahead of Mastery
  • Mastery - Essentially reforge into Mastery to keep it near Crit, expecially when raiding where buffs can make this stat nearly as good as Crit.
  • Haste - This is your first choice to reforge out of, as it is our worst stat.


Always remember that Reforging is the best way to reach the caps that we discussed above. This is due to the fact that when you reforge you will always be grabbing your worst stat on the item and changing it to the best stat possible. When you Gem or Enchant you would generally be giving up Strength to put a different type of gem or enchant onto the item. Since Strength is by far and away our best stat this is always hurt you. Never gem or enchant for caps, always use reforging.


For general Paladin information, check out our complete href="">Paladin

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target="_blank">Paladin forums!

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Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Byron 1
Byron has been playing and writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years. He also plays pretty much ever other Blizzard game, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, while still finding time to jump into Diablo III with his son.


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