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Selecting Talents for the Paladin

Updated Fri, Apr 09, 2010 by Medeor



Paladin talent trees, oh the places you’ll go.

At level 10 characters receive the first of 61 talent points. The points can be spent in one of three talent schools. That is the easy part. What a player does with those talent points is the hard part. The volume of forum dissertations and single-purpose websites created for analyzing the talent trees is staggering. Sticking with the concept of “simple wins the day,” this guide is for those wanting to understand the Paladin talent schools (with some biased opinions along the way).

The talent schools can seem daunting at first, and with mistakes costing gold to rework them, it’s best to have a plan before placing points into talents willy-nilly. Most of the hybrid classes have a leveling spec (“spec" is the short form of Talent Specialization) which is then changed to the desired end-game spec later on. For leveling, the Paladin is able to use any of the three talent trees, although most find it easier to level using the Retribution tree. I have leveled using all three talent trees and all are completely viable.

The choices really come into focus when thoughts turn from leveling towards the style of play for the end game. The choices for spec builds revolve around whether or not the Paladin will be part of a group, or PvP, neither or both.

The holy tree is the epitome of the support class. Healing and cleansing the group can help you make a lot of friends. The protection tree is about leading groups and tanking the bad guys to keep them off of the softer targets. The retribution tree is all about dishing out damage. On a scale of support, holy is on one end of the scale with high-levels of support and retribution is on the other. That doesn’t mean that a retribution Paladin can’t support the group though. The fun aspect of being a Paladin is that no matter how the talent points are slotted, the healing buttons still work. This means a retribution Paladin can heal when extra healing is needed, and that a protection Paladin can dish out damage when they aren’t tanking.

While all three trees are viable for PvE, it is generally accepted that the protection tree is the least attractive for waving the PvP flag. Conversely, the current state of the game provides Holy spec Paladins a rightful spot at the top of the arena standings, and Retribution Paladins can really hold their own as well. So what is a Paladin to do?

The good news is that you don’t have to decide how you are going to play your Paladin and be stuck in a rut. While it does cost money to re-spec, it’s not that much and you will do yourself a disservice if you don’t try all three talent trees. The following guide provides a brief overview of the talent trees and some basic talent specs to highlight the basic building blocks for each talent tree. There are more arguments about how every talent point should be spent than grains of sand on a beach, so don’t take this guide as gospel, use it as a launching pad to create your own personal favorite spec.

Holy Moly
Holy Build

Holy Talents by Level Suggestion
Level Talent Rank
10 Spiritual Focus 1
11 Spiritual Focus 2
12 Spiritual Focus 3
13 Spiritual Focus 4
14 Spiritual Focus 5
15 Divine Intellect 1
16 Divine Intellect 2
17 Divine Intellect 3
18 Divine Intellect 4
19 Divine Intellect 5
20 Healing Light 1
21 Healing Light 2
22 Healing Light 3
23 Illumination 1
24 Illumination 2
25 Illumination 3
26 Illumination 4
27 Illumination 5
28 Aura Master 1
29 Improved Blessing of Wisdom 1
30 Improved Blessing of Wisdom 2
31 Improved Concentration Aura 1
32 Improved Concentration Aura 2
33 Improved Concentration Aura 3
34 Divine Favor 1
35 Sanctified Light 1
36 Sanctified Light 2
37 Sanctified Light 3
38 Holy Power 1
39 Holy Power 2
40 Holy Power 3
41 Holy Power 4
42 Holy Power 5
43 Holy Shock 1
44 Light's Grace 1
45 Light's Grace 2
46 Light's Grace 3
47 Infusion of Light 1
48 Infusion of Light 2
49 Holy Guidance 1
50 Holy Guidance 2
51 Holy Guidance 3
52 Holy Guidance 4
53 Holy Guidance 5
54 Divine Illumination 1
55 Enlightened Judgements 1
56 Enlightened Judgements 2
57 Judgements of the Pure 1
58 Judgements of the Pure 2
59 Judgements of the Pure 3
60 Beacon of Light 1
61 Judgements of the Pure 4
62 Judgements of the Pure 5
63 Benediction 1
64 Benediction 2
65 Benediction 3
66 Benediction 4
67 Benediction 5
68 Heart of the Crusader 1
69 Heart of the Crusader 2
70 Heart of the Crusader 3
71 Improved Blessing of Might 1
72 Improved Blessing of Might 2
73 Conviction 1
74 Conviction 2
75 Conviction 3
76 Conviction 4
77 Conviction 5
78 Sanctified Seals 1
79 Sanctified Seals 2
80 Sanctified Seals 3


Going from left to right in the talent trees, we’ll start with the holy tree. The holy talents are set up to boost healing overall. The talents help increase mana, reduce casting times, add to spell critical chances and results, and generally provide more healing tools. The basic healing build starts with 51 points in the healing tree.

IlluminationBefore we discuss why the points are spent in the protection and retribution trees, let’s focus on a few key talents in the holy tree. The goal with talents spent in the holy tree is to provide buffs to overall intellect (for a larger mana pool and higher chance for spell critical), increase chances to get a critical heal, and add bonuses when critical spells hit. One example is the talent Illumination. Illumination is the first in a chain of talents (noted by the arrows showing that Illumination is a prerequisite for additional talents). 

Holy ShockAs a Paladin increases intellect and gathers healing gear that has spell critical rating advantages, the healing done has a higher chance to crit, and thus activate the Illumination talent. When Illumination activates, the next healing spell (any of the three a holy Paladin will use) will cost 60% less mana. More spell criticals means cheaper follow up heals. Continuing down that chain and taking Divine Favor (DF) allows a holy Paladin to activate Illumination on command because Divine Favor provides a guaranteed spell critical, thus activating DF. Wait, it gets better. Going farther down the chain allows Paladins to have a healing spell that retribution and protection spec Paladins don’t have; Holy Shock. Holy Shock is both a healing and damage spell but provides a much larger heal than amount of damage. Holy Shock or HS could also stand for Holy Smokes (or other expletive) because it is a great spell to save someone’s bacon. HS is an instant cast so there is no casting bar to wait for and hope that the heal lands before the healing target gets the “Release now?” screen.

Infusion of LightBut that’s not all you get! Taking the illumination chain to the bottom (tier 8 in the holy tree) it ends in Infusion of Light (IoF). IoF reduces the cast time of the next Holy Light or Flash of Light by one second whenever Holy Shock lands as a critical. And we all know how to land Holy Shock as a guaranteed critcal right? Absolutely. Click Divine Favor which will guaranty the next spell as a critical, then click Holy Shock with means that the target will get a critical Holy Shock which will do two things; first it will reduce the cost of the next Holy Light or Flash of Light by 60%, and it will reduce the casting time by one second. Lost yet? Let’s walk through it.
  • Click Illumination
  • Click Holy Shock
  • Heal the target with a critical Holy shock for approximately 3,700 hit points (base spell amounts, not including plus spell power gear).
The critical triggers the reduced Holy Light cast time, so instead of 2.5 seconds, the spell fires off in 1.5 seconds for a heal of at least 5,000 hit points. Within three seconds, the Paladin has healed for almost 9,000 health (and it will be well above that once spell power is factored in). That is nothing short of awesome.

What is that? There’s more? You bet! Just a few more advantages and we’ll move on. Using the Lights Grace talent next to Holy Shock would also reduce the cost of the subsequent Holy Light by half of a second, so in another 2 seconds; a full Holy Light can land on the tank for another 5,000 health. Adding to the above example, the tank has now received almost 15,000 health inside of five to five and half seconds.

A note on Holy PvP:
Holy Paladins heading to the arena have some choices to make outside of the holy tree. One route is to go down the protection tree to Improved Hammer of Justice (that will take 18 points) with the hope that using the hammer early in the fight will allow you to get another off later. The second route is to skip the protection tree and go deeper into retribution for Sanctified Seals which increases spell critical strike chance by an additional 3%. Both are good situation options depending on your arena style.
The other talents in the tree should be evaluated for advantages based on your play style, but let’s review talents outside of the holy tree that help a holy Paladin.

Blessing of Kings (BoK) is welcome in any party. In the protection tree, BoK increases all stats by 10% with improved BoK. That is considerable and can help any class. Some players in a group want a stat specific buff such as Wisdom to increase mana regeneration, but others enjoy BoK because it raises spirit (which increases mana regen) as well as intellect (increasing mana and spell critical chances) and stamina (for more hit points). BoK is a staple in almost all of my talent builds.

In the retribution tree there are some talents for boosting a holy Paladin’s support status. The first and second tier provide some moderate buffs, but it’s the third tier we want to get our hands on. The 5% increase to spell critical chance is a great boost to the talents we took in the holy tree. We remember what happens when spell critical strikes land right? Yes, all good stuff!

The Protection Paladin, aka Prot Pally
Protection Build

Protection Talents by Level Suggestion
Level Talent Rank
10 Blessing of Kings 1
11 Divine Strength 1
12 Divine Strength 2
13 Divine Strength 3
14 Divine Strength 4
15 Divine Strength 5
16 Improved Blessing of Kings 1
17 Improved Blessing of Kings 2
18 Improved Blessing of Kings 3
19 Improved Blessing of Kings 4
20 Anticipation 1
21 Anticipation 2
22 Anticipation 3
23 Anticipation 4
24 Anticipation 5
25 Toughness 1
26 Toughness 2
27 Toughness 3
28 Toughness 4
29 Toughness 5
30 Improved Righteous Fury 1
31 Improved Righteous Fury 2
32 Improved Righteous Fury 3
33 Improved Devotion Aura 1
34 Improved Devotion Aura 2
35 Improved Devotion Aura 3
36 Divine Guardian 1
37 Divine Guardian 2
38 Blessing of Sanctuary 1
39 One-Handed Weapon Specialization 1
40 One-Handed Weapon Specialization 2
41 One-Handed Weapon Specialization 3
42 One-Handed Weapon Specialization 4
43 One-Handed Weapon Specialization 5
44 Sacred Duty 1
45 Sacred Duty 2
46 Holy Shield 1
47 Ardent Defender 1
48 Ardent Defender 2
49 Ardent Defender 3
50 Ardent Defender 4
51 Ardent Defender 5
52 Redoubt 1
53 Redoubt 2
54 Redoubt 3
55 Combat Expertise 1
56 Combat Expertise 2
57 Combat Expertise 3
58 Avenger's Shield 1
59 Touched by the Light 1
60 Hammer of the Righteous 1
61 Touched by the Light 2
62 Touched by the Light 3
63 Guarded by the Light 1
64 Guarded by the Light 2
65 Shield of the Templar 1
66 Shield of the Templar 2
67 Shield of the Templar 3
68 Judgements of the Just 1
69 Judgements of the Just 2
70 Seals of the Pure 1
71 Seals of the Pure 2
72 Seals of the Pure 3
73 Seals of the Pure 4
74 Seals of the Pure 5
75 Deflection 1
76 Deflection 2
77 Deflection 3
78 Deflection 4
79 Deflection 5
80 Improved Judgements 1

The protection Paladin assumes the traditional tanking role. Absorbing damage while maintaining the focused aggression of foes, the prot Pally generally watches out for the well being of the group from the perspective of shielding instead of healing like a holy Paladin. Not as glamorous as 10,000 point heals, or 10,000 point Crusader Strikes (see Retribution below), the tank’s role is vital to a successful group. The protection talent tree is heavily weighted towards absorption and mitigation of damage as well as building threat (keeping the bad guys’ attention). While warriors and feral druids are excellent tanks in their own right, protection Paladins are known for Area of Effect tanking or AoE tanking. This means that the prot pally is more comfortable fighting in groups (think of Fezzik in The Princess Bride). The prot Paladin will want to go deep enough into the protection tree to get to the last talent, so we’re going to start there. Along the way, we’ll point out some additional talents you won’t want to skip.

Please Hurt them Hammer

Hammer of the RighteousHammer of the Righteous is the 51st talent point in the tree and rightfully holds a highly regarded spot in the tanking repertoire of the Paladin. Using the HotR to attack multiple targets provides 300% weapon damage to the target plus two nearby enemies which is nice, but here is the kicker. The damage is not melee damage, it’s holy damage. This means that a Paladin with Righteous Fury and judged seals on the attackers will generate even more threat due to the amplification of holy damage threat. Laying down a Consecrate, judging a seal or two and hitting with HotR will lock those targets on the Paladin and they won’t run after a mage who just critted with a 10,000 point fireball.

So how do we get there  from here? Getting down to the 51st point could look something like the build linked above.

Blessing of SanctuaryStaying on the protection talent tree first, there are a few other must have talents. The primary is Blessing of Sanctuary. BoS provies two key ingredients for the tanking Paladin. First, it mitigates damage by 3%. Less damage is always better than more damage when getting hit. Second, the talent provides a secondary benefit of replenishing mana (unless you are also casting on other tanks, and then they get side benefits specific to them). Mana is essentially the only way a protection Paladin can cast spells and tank effectively. Without mana, auto attack melee won’t cut it. Learn to conserve mana, and take advantage of BoS.

Holy ShieldAnother primary talent for the tanking Paladin is Holy Shield. Holy Shield increases the Paladin’s chance of blocking an attack. Again, the benefit is two-pronged. First, blocking damage is good, and second, the block provides return damage. The return damage is not severe, but it is holy damage which gains threat benefits as described above in HotR. As an ancillary third benefit, blocks will activate the benefits of BoS so Holy Shield will create wonderful threat generation even if it isn’t hitting for big numbers.

A note on Protection PvP:
Protection is not typically (ever?) used for arena PvP and may be used situationally for some battleground play. For the most part though, PvP Paladins stick with holy and retribution.
Thinking Outside the PvE Box

For tanking, the holy tree doesn’t offer a lot of options, but the retribution tree does have some attractive and easy to obtain tanking friendly talents. Namely, Deflection which increases the chance to parry. A Parry is included as with the block mechanics, and we all know what our tanking blocks kick start right? Yes, more threat! The other talent a tanking Paladin may want to take in the retribution tree is Improved Judgements which will allow more seal judgements for multiple target tanking. IJ lowers the cooldown time on judging seals so a faster judgement rotation will allow for more taunting by judging seals.

Bringing the Pain
Retribution Build

Retribution Talents by Level Suggestion
Level Talent Rank
10 Benediction 12
11 Benediction 2
12 Benediction 3
13 Benediction 4
14 Benediction 5
15 Improved Blessing of Might 1
16 Improved Blessing of Might 2
17 Heart of the Crusader 1
18 Heart of the Crusader 2
19 Heart of the Crusader 3
20 Improved Judgements 1
21 Improved Judgements 2
22 Seal of Command 1
23 Pursuit of Justice 1
24 Pursuit of Justice 2
25 Conviction 1
26 Conviction 2
27 Conviction 3
28 Conviction 4
29 Conviction 5
30 Crusade 1
31 Crusade 2
32 Crusade 3
33 Sanctified Seals 1
34 Sanctified Seals 2
35 Sanctified Seals 3
36 Sanctified Retribution 1
37 Two-Handed Weapon Specialization 1
38 Two-Handed Weapon Specialization 2
39 Two-Handed Weapon Specialization 3
40 Vengeance 1
41 Vengeance 2
42 Vengeance 3
43 Improved Retribution Aura 1
44 Vengeance 2
45 Repentance 1
46 Judgements of the Wise 1
47 Judgements of the Wise 2
48 Judgements of the Wise 3
49 The Art of War 1
50 The Art of War 2
51 Sanctified Wrath 1
52 Sanctified Wrath 2
53 Fanaticism 1
54 Fanaticism 2
55 Fanaticism 3
56 Fanaticism 4
57 Fanaticism 5
58 Crusader Strike 1
59 Swift Retribution 1
60 Divine Storm 1
61 Swift Retribution 2
62 Swift Retribution 3
63 Sheath of light 1
64 Sheath of light 2
65 Sheath of light 3
66 Righteous Vengeance 1
67 Righteous Vengeance 2
68 Righteous Vengeance 3
69 Righteous Vengeance 4
70 Righteous Vengeance 5
71 Blessing of Kings 1
72 Improved Blessing of Kings 1
73 Improved Blessing of Kings 2
74 Improved Blessing of Kings 3
75 Improved Blessing of Kings 4
76 Divine Strength 1
77 Divine Strength 2
78 Divine Strength 3
79 Divine Strength 4
80 Divine Strength 5

A note on Retribution PvP:
While healing for PvP and healing for a five man group may use similar talent builds, there are some talents in the retribution tree that have more of a PvP slant. One such talent is Divine Purpose. Considered non-essential for PvE, the talent provides the Paladin another way to mitigate damage and with two points remove a stun using Hand of Freedom. In PvP stuns and getting out of stuns is half the battle. More weapons in the stun game are critical.
Ah, the retribution tree. Since Wrath of the Lich King (or more precisely the patch just prior), the retribution Paladin has gone from worst to first on the damage meter, or at least towards the top. Swinging two handed weapons with reckless abandon, the ret Pally (or Retadin) is kicking some serious butt these days. The retribution tree is a little more straight forward as the talents tend to center on damage and boosting damage. Damage can be increased by straight damage output such as the Crusade talent that adds a percentage of damage. Overall damage can be increased through speed improvements such as Swift Retribution. Depending on weapon choices (big damage with slow weapon speeds are best) and playstyle, retribution Paladins have choices to make, but the good news is, they are almost all good choices. As a base template for a retribution Paladin, you can start with something like the build linked above.

RepentanceKey talents for the PvE-centric Retadin include Repentance. Repentance has become one of the best crowd control spells in the game. Castable during combat, it works against a wide range of mobs and lasts for a minute (unless it breaks early). Often left behind because Paladins never had crowd control, the Retadin now commands a serious option for taking one mob out of the fight. In PvP the duration is cut to less than 10 seconds so it’s not as functional, but having stuns available is always nice.

Sheath of LightThe next must have retribution talent is Sheath of Light. What is a healing spell doing that far down the retribution tree? Who cares? It really gives Retadins a reason to cast a heal occasionally, but more importantly it ramps up spell power by a percentage of attack power. Gearing up a Retadin will include strength and attack power with little in the way of spell power. The SoL talents helps build up some spell power because melee damage is decent, but the lion’s share of damage from Paladins will be spell driven (i.e. holy damage).

Divine StormLast but not least, the coup de grâce retribution talent which looks like a whirlwind to me, Divine Storm. Almost straight out of the warrior handbook, DS hits up to 4 adjacent bad guys and heals three nearby party members for 25% of the damage done. Not a big bonus in the healing department, but it is a nice added benefit.

The talent trees are ways for players to sculpt a character class to play the way they like best. Do not “set them and forget them” like the info-mercial says, make sure you evaluate how you are playing your character and that the talents chosen benefit that playstyle. Playing in groups and battlegrounds will provide a feel for how some of the talents shine or provide reason to try some of the others that have been skipped. In the retribution tree, it is difficult to go wrong. Luckily the Paladin excels no matter which tree is chosen, so get out there and have some fun.

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