This is a repost from a previous thread. I have made significant updates to it for the 2.3 (and upcoming 2.3.2) patches, and have improved the writing style and formatting. I'll happily accept any questions. If you just can't resist joking about Retribution DPS, go ahead and have your fun.
- DPS is comparable to an Arms Warrior, and can use most of the same gear (along with Enhancement Shaman and some Hunter gear). Overall, AP and crit are superior to spell damage.
- About 70% of DPS is physical (white) damage, and the remaining is Holy. Holy damage ignores Armor, but is subject to resistance.
- Special abilities very heavily scaled to weapon speed - the slower the better.
- Relies on mana rather than rage, and has difficulty sustaining maximum DPS without going OOM.
- Can maintain the Judgements of other Paladins on mobs, meaning you can get lots of uptime on Light or Wisdom without risking your Holy Paladins in melee range.
- Improved Sanctity Aura increases party damage by 2%.
- Improved Seal of the Crusader increases critical strike chance by 3% on mobs with Judgement of the Crusader. (Changed in 2.3)
- Highly reliant on procs and crits for DPS.
- 30% inherent threat reduction with Fanaticism. (New in 2.3)
- Has a 6-second incapacitate on Humanoid targets in addition to a 6-second stun, every minute (with talents).
- Has enormous synergy with a Protection Paladin tank.
- Can't heal worth a damn.
Often overlooked, the choice of weapon defines the Retribution Paladin every bit as much as any other melee DPS class, if not more. What you want is simply the slowest weapon possible. In this case, top-end damage is even more important than base DPS - a 100 DPS weapon with a 2.8 speed may be inferior statistically to a 90 DPS weapon with 3.8 speed. See Seal of Command and Crusader Strike below for more info.
Think Arms Warrior. Melee attack power and melee crit are your meat and potatoes. Since 2.3, spell damage is no longer a required Retribution stat, although it improves the damage of secondary abilities (see below). The one thing that Warrior gear lacks is Intellect, meaning your mana pool will suffer. Thus, you may wish to invest in some Enhancement Shaman or Hunter gear - the small sacrifice in terms of armor and AP will be made up for by increased longevity.
The one huge problem stat-wise is that you need mana to do damage, and that base 4K pool at level 70 just won't cut it for long fights. In this respect, Retribution Paladins are victims of stat dilution just as much if not more than Enhancement Shamans. Good Retribution gear will have a smattering of Intellect and/or mp5 to keep you from going OOM quite as fast, but beware of sacrificing damage - you need to justify that raid spot.
So, in order, you want to emphasize:
- Strength - Get this over pure attack power, because AP = 2x Strength, and you get a 10% bonus from Divine Strength (you did get that talent, right), not to mention 10% more from Blessing of Kings if it's available. That means every base point of Strength is worth up to 2.4 AP.
- Attack Power - See above. You prefer Strength, but AP is good too.
- Agility/Melee Crit - Melee crit is essential to Retribution DPS, thanks to the Vengeance talent. Paladins' Agi/Crit ratio is very favorable compared to Rogues or Hunters, plus you get some Dodge and a bit of Armor. There's no compelling reason to prefer one over the other.
- Melee Hit Rating - Good for boss encounters, but the ideal raid DPS spec will also grab Precision from the Protection tree, saving you from having to stack up too much hit rating. With Precision, you need exactly 88 Hit Rating to never miss a boss. Anything over that is wasted. Fury Warrior gear will tend to be oversupplied with this stat, so be careful.
- Expertise - Expertise is as valuable as Hit Rating for raid DPS and twice as valuable for solo play. Too bad it's so hard to find on Retribution gear. The effective cap is 89 rating points (69 for a Human wielding a sword or mace), although mob Dodge varies and is known to be higher than Parry.
- Haste Rating - Haste rating is exactly as good as your ratio of white to yellow damage. For Retribution, it falls below both hit and crit ratings in terms of desirability. (Note: Horde are different in this respect.)
- Intellect - You need mana to DPS, and unlike the Protection Paladin, you won't be getting tons of it from being healed. Too bad your gear choices with both AP and Intellect are very limited. Stock up on mana pots (Fel Mana is great here because you don't depend on spell damage as much as other mana users).
- Mana per 5 seconds - This is marginally useful for Retribution Paladins - it becomes a heck of a lot better if you are the only Paladin and don't maintain Judgement of Wisdom on your targets. A lot of Enhancement Shaman and Hunter gear has this, so don't pass it up.
- Stamina - Dead Retribution Paladins do no DPS. This applies to all classes, so it almost goes without saying. You can wear plate, so you can take a hit or two. Don't count on it though. Stamina is also important for surviving a number of boss encounters.
- Spell Damage - Okay, so I said it's not vital. It's still very nice to have - your Judgements will thank you, as will Exorcism and Holy Wrath against those tasty Undead/Demon opponents. Seal of Command gets slightly improved as well, but as I said before, AP gives you a lot more bang for the buck.
- Armor - Without a shield, you won't have enough armor to survive pulling a boss' aggro for more than a second, but if you can get the stats you want from plate gear, by all means go for it. At least you're not as crunchy as a Mage or Priest.
- Spell Hit/Crit - 4 of your primary damage abilities are melee/ranged, not spells, so spell hit/crit gives much less utility. It does affect your damage-dealing Judgements, Exorcism, Consecration (hit only), and Holy Wrath. Note: Righteous Defense uses melee hit since 2.3, meaning you no longer need spell hit to effectively taunt enemies.
- Spirit - You will never be outside the 5-second rule in a serious fight, and you have no talent for Spirit-based regeneration while casting.
- Healing - You won't be healing in your DPS gear, and nothing with healing on it has the other stats you need. If you think there's a chance you may have to heal, bring a separate gear set.
- Defense/Avoidance - You aren't a tank. Not even close. Some Dodge and Parry* are nice for PvP or if you offtank in 5-mans, but keep a separate gear set if you need to be a meat shield for specific encounters.
* Note on Parry - you get a speed boost on your next melee swing after successfully parrying an attack (this is why Parry is in the Retribution tree). In a raid, you shouldn't be getting hit, so it's a moot point, but it can be very valuable for PvP and soloing.
Generally, you want gems emphasizing Strength, Critical Strike, AP, Agility, Hit Rating, and Stamina, roughly in that order. Retribution Paladins benefit from all of these stats, so it's generally worthwhile to go for socket bonuses rather than stack red AP gems.
The best weapon enchant for Retribution is currently Executioner, although Savagery is a close second. +35 Agility is also good, but it only gives you additional crit, not AP.
For your head enchant, get Glyph of the Outcast (Lower City). It's uniquely suited for Retribution, giving you Strength for AP and Intellect for your mana pool.
I'm not going to cover all Retribution talents here; just the ones that I find most applicable to a raid setting and a Paladin's DPS role.
- Improved Blessing of Might - Hunters and melee DPS love this talent. Nuff said. It's better than Blessing of Kings for pure physical DPS, except for Survival Hunters, who like Agility.
Note: there's a point of diminishing returns where Blessing of Kings will be better than Blessing of Might, depending on how much Strength/Agility the target has. For example, a Hunter with 1000 Agility gets 100 more from Blessing of Kings, which is equivalent to 100 AP and 2%+ crit.
- Improved Seal of the Crusader - Since 2.3, this talent gives a 3% critical strike bonus to all raid members against targets affected by Judgement of the Crusader. It's now an absolutely required talent.
- Improved Judgement - 2 second reduction in Judgement cooldown means a slight DPS increase. This is a generally useful talent, and cheap at 2 points.
- Pursuit of Justice - Heavily buffed in 2.3, this talent now boosts your speed by up to 15% and reduces your chance to be hit by spells by up to 3%. It's still a PvP focused talent, but can be very useful in certain raid encounters.
- Seal of Command - This is the first core Retribution DPS ability. Overall, this talent can account for 20% or more of a Paladin's DPS. I'll discuss it more under combat mechanics. (Note: Horde get Seal of Blood, which is universally considered to be a superior DPS ability.)
- Vindication - This is much more of a PvP talent than PvE; a 15% reduction to all stats makes very little difference to boss DPS, assuming they're vulnerable to it at all.
- Eye for an Eye - Since mob spells don't crit, this is absolutely worthless to a PvE Paladin.
- Sanctity Aura/Improved Sanctity Aura - The base talent is only so-so for raid DPS because it only really benefits Paladins (not that a 10% increase in Holy damage is bad). The improved version buffs the party's DPS by a flat 2%, making it very nice for the melee group to have (and even making it worthwhile to put the Retadin in a caster group if there's no other option). If there is a Paladin tank, however, this talent can effectively increase his threat generation by up to 12%, which is huge.
- Vengeance - This talent is where the Paladin's DPS starts scaling up. For 5 points, each time you crit, you get a stacking buff that improves all damage by 5% for 30 seconds. It stacks up to 3 times. It's similar in concept to Flurry. Note: the duration was increased to 30 seconds in 2.3, making the buff much easier to maintain in a boss fight.
- Sanctified Judgement - A good mana conservation talent, this gives you back 80% of the cost of your Seals when you Judge a target. This effectively makes Judgement free and reduces the mana cost of recasting the Seal. (Improved from 50% to 80% in 2.3.2)
- Sanctified Seals - Improves the melee and spell critical strike chance of the Paladin by 3%. This replaces the pre-2.3 version of this talent and is now a solid DPS booster, but only for the Paladin himself.
- Repentance - Instant cast six second incapacitate on a Humanoid target every minute. It's a great way to save squishies from messy death if the mob in question can be CC'd. It's intended more for PvP, but can be a lifesaver in some encounters, and for 1 point it's hard to pass up. For fun, use on mind-controlled party members.
- Fanaticism - Increases critical strike chance of all Judgements by 15% and reduces threat from all abilities by 30% while Righteous Fury is not active. The threat reduction was added in 2.3 and is another huge raid viability buff for Retribution. The value of the extra crit chance is that you can more effectively use your Judgement of Command to proc (or maintain) Vengeance.
- Crusader Strike - This is the final and best Retribution DPS ability. Deals 110% of weapon damage as Physical damage with a 6 second cooldown and refreshes all Judgements on the target. Just like Seal of Command, it scales with the base damage of your weapon. It's also treated as a melee ability, not a spell, so it can be used when silenced. This talent has been hugely buffed in 2.3 and 2.3.2, first with a reduced cooldown, and second that it no longer relies on spell damage. In 2.4.2, Seal of the Crusader no longer reduces Crusader Strike's damage.
- Primary raid DPS
Alternate build (skips Kings, better mana longevity)
Leveling build for Crusader Strike at 60
The combat mechanics
Okay, now that we've discussed talents, let's look at how a Retribution Paladin does his damage. Based on the recent changes in 2.3 and 2.3.2, below is a rough estimate of how the DPS ratio should look by ability. This may vary somewhat based on your choice of weapon. Note that since 2.3, spell damage is not a viable Retribution stat, only improving Holy damage abilities, which now make up 30% or less of your DPS (and the coefficients suck).
- White damage: 45%
- Seal of Command has a chance to deal 70% of weapon damage as Holy damage, plus a very modest spell damage coefficient. It procs 7 times per minute on average. When Judged on a target, it deals Holy damage, which is doubled if the target is stunned or incapacitated.
- Crusader Strike deals 110% of weapon damage(after 2.3.2). It is on a 6 second cooldown (roughly 10 PPM if used every time it's available). Its other, less well-known property is that it refreshes the duration of all Judgements on the target, not just those cast by the Paladin himself, making it ideal when grouped with another Paladin who can Judge Wisdom or Light (or even both, if you have enough Paladins).
Seal of Command: 20%
Crusader Strike: 25%
The extra ~10% comes from Judgements, Consecration, Exorcism (where applicable), Holy Wrath (where applicable), and the various other things that a Retadin can do.
- Seal of Command: Chance to proc = [Weapon Speed] * 7 / 60; DPS = [Weapon Damage] * 0.7 * [Chance to proc]
- On a 3.0 speed weapon, this adds 24.5% to base DPS as Holy damage.
- On a 3.5 speed weapon, this adds 28.6% to base DPS as Holy damage.
- On a 3.8 speed weapon, this adds 31% to base DPS as Holy damage.
- Crusader Strike: DPS = [Weapon Damage] * 1.1 * 10 / 60.
- On a 3.0 speed weapon, this adds 55% to base DPS before armor mitigation.
- On a 3.5 speed weapon, this adds 64.2% to base DPS before armor mitigation.
- On a 3.8 speed weapon, this adds 69.7% to base DPS before armor mitigation.
It's important to remember that, unlike Physical damage, Holy damage is not mitigated by armor. Also note that these are best cases, using the abilities whenever they are available. In practice, you'll never achieve 100% efficiency.
- Additional damage is caused by Judgement of Command, but it's relatively small - the most effective time to use it is when the mob is stunned or incapacitated, as Judgement of Command does double damage in these situations (but remember that many raid mobs and almost all bosses cannot be stunned). It can make a good trigger for Vengeance with the boosted crit chance from Fanaticism.
- Consecration is an instant-cast AoE DoT with an 8 second duration and cooldown. It generates a moderate (~72 per target with zero spell damage) DPS boost at the cost of a lot of mana, plus all the usual risks associated with AoE effects.
- Exorcism is an instant-cast nuke on a 12 second cooldown that works only against Demons and Undead.
- Holy Wrath is a 2 second cast AoE on a 1 minute cooldown that works only against Demons and Undead.
These are great situational spells, but with the very low amount of spell damage that Retadins typically use, they are mana-inefficient. Use them sparingly to boost your DPS when needed, but be wary of running out of mana in a long fight.
- Retribution Aura - great for AoE pulls, this ability may add a very small amount of threat to the tank but is otherwise much less helpful to a raid group than Sanctity Aura, or even Devotion Aura or Concentration Aura in applicable situations. If you are grouped with a Protection Paladin, they will usually provide this aura while you provide Sanctity Aura.
Note: while leveling a Retribution Paladin, Retribution Aura usually provides more overall damage than Sanctity Aura due to combat mechanics. The break-even point requires significant investment in gear at max level.
- Hammer of Wrath is a 1 second cast nuke on a target at 20% health or below, with a 6 second cooldown. As this ability scales with spell damage and interrupts your melee swing timer, it's usually better for a Retribution Paladin to continue his normal DPS cycle rather than stop to cast Hammer of Wrath, unless you are unable to get in melee range for some reason. It also burns your mana very quickly. This ability is much better for Holy and Protection Paladins.
Other mechanical notes
- Seal of Command, Crusader Strike, and Hammer of Wrath are all considered melee/ranged attacks and use those mechanics to calculate crit chance and crit damage multipliers.
- Judgement of Command uses melee crit chance and multipliers, but is considered a spell for purposes of hit/miss mechanics.
- Crusader Strike is an instant melee attack, not a spell, and is not prevented by silencing effects. Unlike all other Paladin specials, it deals Physical damage and can affect magic-immune mobs. All other Paladin abilities are blocked by silence with the exception of Divine Shield.
- Judgement is not on the global cooldown, so you can integrate it with macros and other parts of your combat sequence.
- Judgement cannot be cast while under the effect of Blessing of Protection or similar effects that prevent physical attacks.
- In 2.4.2, Seal of the Crusader will apply a 40% increase to the damage of Crusader Strike - this is to offset the 40% reduction it currently applies to base melee damage. Previously, using these two abilities together would severely nerf your DPS, but now it's at least marginally viable. The net DPS increase is still lower than Seal of Command for most situations.
The combat sequence
- Cast Seal of the Crusader before the pull. To maximize mana efficiency, start enough before the pull that you regen the mana spent.
- On the pull, cast Judgement of the Crusader on the target. This starts your melee autoattack, so either wait for the tank to build initial threat or stay out of melee range.
- Cast Seal of Command.
- Cast Crusader Strike whenever the cooldown is up (6 sec).
- If the target is Undead/Demon, cast Exorcism whenever the cooldown is up (12 sec). This is mana-intensive, so use it only if the fight is short or you have raid mana regeneration available.
- For maximum DPS, cast Consecration whenever possible, and judge and recast Seal of Command whenever the Judgement cooldown is up (8 sec talented). Try to time the latter so that it doesn't occur during a melee swing or you may miss the chance to proc Seal of Command (a swing timer addon like Quartz helps with this).
- For maximum sustainability, judge and recast Seal of Command whenever the Seal is about to expire (30 sec). This essentially gives you a free Judgement, since 80% of the mana cost of the Seal is refunded by the Sanctified Judgement talent.
- For maximum burst DPS, pop Avenging Wrath along with one or both trinkets. If possible, do this while you already have one or more Vengeance procs, as the damage bonuses stack.
- Vengeance is key to maintaining Retribution DPS. If a Vengeance stack is about to expire, judge Command - the high chance for this to crit may refresh the Vengeance. Since 2.3, Vengeance lasts 30 seconds rather than 15, making it much easier to maintain.
- Ask your fellow Paladins to cast Judgement of Wisdom on the primary DPS target. You can maintain it with Crusader Strike, and it significantly boosts your own mana longevity as well as the raid's.
- For the same reason, Judgement of Light will improve melee healing in fights where they take damage. If there's a third Judgement available, there's no reason not to put it up.
Retribution Paladins now gain a 30% threat reduction from the Fanaticism talent, bringing their base threat output in line with all other melee DPS classes. The conditions for whether you will want Blessing of Salvation vs. some other Blessing are the same as for those other classes (rather than being required to avoid pulling aggro). It is important to remember, however, that you are in melee range of the mob, meaning that you pull aggro at 110% of the tank's threat, rather than 130% for ranged classes. Also, you have no permanent threat dump (other than death), and no Feint or similar static threat reduction.
The random/burst nature of Paladin DPS also causes some headaches for threat. Because Seal of Command is a proc-based ability, you don't know when you're going to get a massive crit with it. I've seen my DPS hover around 300, then gotten 10K worth of crits in less than a second. It is vital that you maintain a threat buffer to avoid inadvertently pulling aggro.
Your best bet, should you inadvertently draw the mobs' attention, is to cast Divine Shield. This makes you immune to damage for 12 seconds, but you can continue to DPS (or back off if needed). This can buy the tank time to pick the mob back up. Remember that both Divine Shield and Avenging Wrath cause Forbearance, meaning you can't use one within a minute of the other.
You can act as a tank in emergencies by equipping a one-hander and a shield, but don't expect to last long. Don't forget about your taunt (Righteous Defense) either. You can use it to save a squishier party member or draw a mob to where a real tank can pick it up.