PvE Retribution Paladin DPS Guide

wow cata classic pre patch retribution paladin overview changes Featured Image

The Cataclysm Pre-Patch brings with it the updates and changes to class kits and talent trees. This means that there is a lot that may be new, as well as old spells that have been given new life. For most classes, the pre-patch will change relatively little about how you play your character, but there are still a lot of things to consider.

What’s New

Holy Power

wow cata classic pre patch holy power retribution paladin 1

Holy Power introduces a dynamic system to Retribution Paladins when compared to their previous gameplay in WotLK, overhauling a considerable number of their abilities. Crusader Strike and Divine Storm become their main Holy Power generators. The new Templar’s Verdict and Word of Glory act as their main Holy Power spending abilities, with the whole system revolving around proper Holy Power management based on the situation and the available procs.

Retribution Paladins are now even more dependent on correct proc use as this new Holy Power system ties in directly to one of the specialization’s core talents, Divine Purpose, which allows Paladins to use one of its abilities as if they have access to 3 Holy Power stacks without consuming any of the currently active stacks.

Mastery: Hand of Light

All specializations have a unique Mastery ability, augmented by the Mastery stat. In the case of Retribution Paladins, Hand of Light causes Templar’s Verdict, Crusader Strike, and Divine Storm to deal additional Holy Damage. This bonus is extremely powerful, turning Mastery into one of the most powerful stats that can be acquired.

Templar’s Verdict

Templar’s Verdict is a powerful instant strike ability that deals Physical Damage, costing 1 Holy Power, increased by each additional Holy Power used past 1 charge of Holy Power. This ability is your main Holy Power spender and the most powerful direct damage ability in your kit. This ability can be used with just 1 charge of Holy Power, however, you should always aim to use it when you have 3 charges of Holy Power.


The “press whatever is available” playstyle of the Retribution Paladin changes heavily in Cataclysm with the addition of the Holy Power. While you may not have access to all of your kit yet at level 80, the new proc-dependent playstyle, Holy Power management system, and the very high burst damage it brings will surely bring forth a refreshing experience.

Changed Abilities

While a lot of abilities have received minor changes, this section aims to cover those that are relevant to Retribution Paladins and their gameplay.

Crusader Strike

Crusader Strike functions similarly to how it worked back in WotLK Classic, however, there are two huge changes implemented in Cataclysm. Firstly, it now serves as the main way of generating Holy Power in any Single-Target scenario. Secondly, it now shares a cooldown with Divine Storm, meaning that it can no longer be used together with it in a sequence.

Divine Storm

Divine Storm has been massively buffed in Cataclysm compared to its WotLK Classic version! The ability is no longer limited to 4 targets at a time, meaning that it now functions as a very potent AoE tool. The only downside of the ability is that it’s now tied into the Holy Power system, requiring you to hit at least 4 targets to generate Holy Power. This means that the ability is horrible in any cleave scenario with less than 4 targets as you can’t reliably generate Holy Power to spend on Templar’s Verdict. The only situation in which you will want to use Divine Storm on scenarios that feature fewer than 4 targets is the one in which the mobs themselves have a very low health pool.

Seal of Righteousness

Seal of Righteousness will now work as a powerful AoE tool thanks to the new Seals of Command talent. Unlike the former Seal of Command, the Seal of Righteousness will affect all nearby enemies without having any specific limit.


Judgement has been redesigned into a single ability instead of the three separate ones we were used to in WotLK. We no longer have access to Judgement of Light, Judgement of Wisdom, or Judgement of Justice but we also got rid of 3 different keybinds.


Exorcism has also been overhauled in Cataclysm, with the ability no longer having any cooldown. The mana cost of this ability has also been greatly increased, meaning that you will only want to use it when The Art of War procs.


Consecration has been significantly nerfed in Cataclysm! While the ability functions the same, its cooldown has been massively increased, reducing the overall potency of the ability. The mana cost of the ability has also been greatly increased.

Hammer of Wrath

Hammer of Wrath works exactly the same with one big exception. While the ability itself has not received any change, the existence of the revamped Sanctified Wrath talent now allows you to cast Hammer of Wrath even when the target is above the 20% damage threshold while Avenging Wrath is active. This is a huge quality-of-life improvement for Retribution Paladin, in both PvE and PvP!

Single Target Gameplay

The Single Target rotation has been massively overhauled, now having an emphasis on proc effects and Holy Power management. Crusader Strike is your main filler spell that acts as a Holy Power generator while Templar’s Verdict will act as your main Holy Power spender. The entire play style revolves around gathering 3 Holy Power charges and using them on powerful Templar’s Verdict casts. Additionally, Retribution Paladins will use Divine Purpose to trigger additional Templar’s Verdict casts without consuming any of their currently available Holy Power.

Judgement should be used on cooldown to maintain a healthy mana pool while Exorcism should only be used on The Art of War procs. Consecration can also be used, as long as your mana pool is above 50%. Lastly, Holy Wrath should only be used when everything else is on cooldown.

Retribution Paladins also have a burst phase that lasts exactly 20 seconds every 2 minutes by using Zealotry and Avenging Wrath. This burst phase allows them to generate 3 Holy Power with each Crusader Strike and consistently spam Templar’s Verdict during the duration of their burst window. Additionally, Hammer of Wrath can also be used during this time thanks to Avenging Wrath. You should prioritize using Hammer of Wrath directly after a Crusader Strike + Templar’s Verdict cast sequence. If properly managed, you will be able to cast Hammer of Wrath at least 3 times during the 20 seconds.

The proc part of the rotation comes from Divine Purpose which has a chance of triggering from multiple abilities, including Templar’s Verdict itself. Based on RNG, you may find yourself spamming multiple Templar’s Verdict one after another. During the Burst Phase, Judgement should be used only if Crusader Strike and Hammer of Wrath are on cooldown. Exorcism is a bit more difficult to prioritize as it should be used only after a Divine Purpose proc is consumed to potentially generate a new Divine Purpose proc or directly after a Templar’s Verdict cast if Divine Purpose didn’t proc at all.

Burst Phase Priority List: Crusader Strike ->Templar’s Verdict ->Hammer of Wrath ->Exorcism ->Judgement ->Holy Wrath

AoE Gameplay

The AoE rotation is rather different in Cataclysm when compared to what you were used to in WotLK Classic. The great news is that Seal of Righteousness has been transformed into a proper AoE tool that can hit an endless amount of nearby targets, meaning that we are no longer tied to the old Seal of Command while Divine Storm also no longer has a limited number of targets that it can affect.

This means that our rotation will pretty much be a spam of Divine Storm plus Judgement on cooldown to maintain our mana reserves while casting Consecration and Holy Wrath on cooldown. We will also use Templar’s Verdict whenever we generate  Holy Power, however, we won’t be able to use it in cleave scenarios with less than 4 targets. Thanks to our Seal of Righteousness now acting as the old Seal of Command without a limitation, Templar’s Verdict will act as a very strong AoE tool in all scenarios that exceed 4 targets since it will proc Seal of Righteousness damage. It is worth mentioning that the Templar’s Verdict‘s direct damage will only affect one target, even with Seal of Righteousness up.

Sadly, those changes disrupt our Cleave capabilities as we will use Crusader Strike and Templar’s Verdict in every scenario that features less than 4 targets.

Exorcism should also be used on The Art of War procs if all of your other abilities are on cooldown. Keep in mind that Exorcism won’t trigger the Seal of Righteousness AoE component as it is not a Melee Swing.



Zealotry causes your Crusader Strike to generate 3 charges of Holy Power per cast for the next 20 seconds. This ability requires 3 charges of Holy Power to activate, however, it doesn’t consume them. This is one of your most powerful offensive cooldowns and should be used whenever you want to initiate your burst. 

Avenging Wrath

Avenging Wrath is an ability that increases all damage and healing done by up to 20% for 20 seconds. The ability was also buffed, with its current Cataclysm version no longer having any restrictions when used in conjunction with Divine ShieldDivine ProtectionLay on Hands, and Hand of Protection as opposed to its WotLK version. You will typically use this together with Zealotry every 2 minutes since Sanctified Wrath reduces the cooldown of Avenging Wrath by 60 seconds, making it a perfect burst tool!


wow pre patch cata classic retribution paladin talent specialization

With the arrival of Cataclysm, the talent system received a massive overhaul, changing from the 71 talent points system to a more compact 41 points system. As such, many of the old talents were either completely removed or changed, resulting in way fewer possible build variations. One key aspect of the new system is that you must use at least 31 points in your main specialization to use the remaining 10 points in a secondary specialization.

With the trees being heavily compressed, you’ll find that each talent is more impactful than ever before. Upon choosing a tree we will be granted a few abilities, and in the case of Retribution Paladin, we gain Templar’s Verdict, Sheath of Light, Two-Handed Weapon Specialization, and Judgements of the Bold right away.

wow cata classic pre patch retribution paladin talents 1

In the first tier, two options are fantastic. Crusade has been entirely reworked, now being found earlier in the Talent Tree while also granting an overall buff to some of our core abilities instead of a static damage buff to all of our abilities. Improved Judgement now grants an increase in cast range rather than an overall cooldown reduction, as Judgement‘s cooldown has already been reduced.

The second tier is more utility-based, with one of the talents working as a direct Critical Strike Chance buff. Rule of Law acts as a Critical Strike Chance enhancer for Crusader Strike and Word of Glory while Pursuit of Justice receives a small overhaul. We still take Pursuit of Justice for the 15% movement speed, however, the talent now also grants us Holy Power when struck by a Stun, Fear, or Immobilizing effect.

The third tier is where our build starts to truly shine! All of the talents in this tier are very important and play a significant role in your gameplay. Communion is a combination of Wrath talents, and grants our raid (and us) a damage boost, while also giving us a way to provide Replenishment.

The Art of War was reworked, receiving both a buff and a debuff at the same time. The talent now has a 20% chance to proc based on your auto-attacks rather than your critical strikes as it was back in WotLK Classic. The Art of War also no longer empowers your Flash of Light, as it now only empowers Exorcism. The Long Arm of the Law is a new talent that acts as a gap closer that can be used for mobility during a fight as it now grants a movement speed burst while you use Judgement on a target that is farther than 15 feet. Lastly, we pick up Divine Storm for AoE damage.

The fourth tier also offers a bunch of powerful talents that directly impact our core gameplay. Sacred Shield is now a talent instead of a spell that used to be available for each specialization, acting as a defensive proc instead of an on-use spell that grants us a shield that lasts 15 seconds and increases all healing received by up to 20% when we reach below 30% health. However, the shield can only proc once every minute! Sanctity of Battle has also been reworked, now reducing your Crusader Strike and Divine Storm cooldowns based on your Haste Rating.

Seals of Command received a massive overhaul compared to the old Seal of Command talent. The new version now grants Seal of Righteousness, Seal of Truth, and Seal of Justice an additional 7% direct weapon damage every time a seal is triggered. Additionally, this talent allows your Seal of Righteousness to deal damage to all enemies in melee. Sanctified Wrath is just as important as it was back in WotLK Classic, however, it receives a small tweak in Cataclysm. While it no longer allows a Retribution Paladin to bypass damage reduction effects, it now allows the player to cast Hammer of Wrath during the entire duration of Avenging Wrath without requiring the target to be under 20% Health Points.

The fifth tier has some interesting talents, however, one of them is way stronger than the others. Divine Purpose is a new talent which adds another powerful proc to their arsenal. This talent is a must-have as it has a 15% chance to proc, allowing you to freely cast an ability as if you already have 3 Holy Power. Depending on your luck with the RNG, you may be able to use this proc to trigger Zealotry early on to easily transition into a burst. Selfless Healer is a talent that allows your Word of Glory to be used as a damage-amplifier, especially during your burst phases! The best way to use it is by using a target macro right after popping Zealotry as you still have 3 Holy Power.

The sixth tier brings Inquiry of Faith.The talent will be very valuable for us at level 80 for its damage-amplifying effect on the Seal of Truth.

Our capstone is Zealotry, a new talent introduced in Cataclysm. This talent is mandatory as it’s your new “BIG DAMAGE” button, besides Avenging Wrath. It grants Crusader Strike the ability to generate 3 Holy Power stacks while the effect is active, allowing you to spam Templar’s Verdict as a result. This talent is mandatory as it enables you to have a very powerful “Burst Phase” once every two minutes that synchronizes with Avenging Wrath.

Apart from the Retribution Talent Tree, we will spend points on both the Protection and Holy Talent Trees. In the Protection Talent Tree, we will want to grab the Seals of the Pure for increased seal damage. In the Holy Talent Tree, we will want to spend points on the Arbiter of the Light talent to increase the Critical Strike Chance of Judgement and Templar’s Verdict by 12% and on Judgements of the Pure to increase both your casting and melee speed by 3% while also granting mana regeneration from Spirit by 10%.


wow cata classic pre patch retribution paladin glyphs

Glyphs have been overhauled in Cataclysm, replacing the previous Major-Minor system with a three-tiered system instead. Prime Glyphs are where you’ll get your biggest benefits, offering things like flat damage increases to certain spells, or boosts under certain conditions. Major Glyphs are more situational or defensive, offering things like reduced cooldown on defensive abilities. Finally, Minor Glyphs improve the overall quality of life, reducing the mana cost of abilities such as Blessing of Kings or Seal of Truth.


Glyph of Templar’s Verdict

This glyph is a must-have for all types of encounters since it empowers Templar’s Verdict by a static 15%! Considering that there are no better options, you will want to take this glyph even in heavy AoE encounters, as you will find yourself spamming Templar’s Verdict.

Glyph of Exorcism

This glyph grants Exorcism a DoT effect amounting to 20% of its total damage in addition to its direct damage.

Glyph of Seal of Truth

This well-known glyph makes a return in Cataclysm, offering Expertise for all the Retribution Paladins in need. This glyph is amazing in any type of scenario and should be used in any scenario in which your current gear doesn’t bring you to your soft Expertise Cap. You may also choose to build your gear setup based on this glyph, giving up on either reforging more Expertise Rating or on items that already provide Expertise Rating.


Glyph of the Ascetic Crusader

This glyph is extraordinary in most encounters or any situation where mana regeneration might prove itself to be an issue. Since we will spam Crusader Strike as much as possible, we will want to benefit from the 30% mana reduction at all times. This is especially true since Retribution Paladins have mana-management issues early on in Cataclysm due to their spam-like rotation.

Glyph of Hammer of Wrath

This glyph is amazing for mana management! Since it completely removes the mana cost of Hammer of Wrath, it will enhance your overall burst without having you worry about your overall mana pool.

Glyph of Holy Wrath

This glyph will now allow you to use Holy Wrath to stun Elementals and Dragonkin, a very useful tool for the Ruby Sanctum.

Glyph of Divine Protection

This glyph is amazing for any dungeon or raid encounter that features a lot of AoE Magical Damage. It replaces the 20% Physical Damage reduction of Divine Protection with a 20% Magical Damage reduction buff. You will often find yourself using this glyph in many high-end encounters.

Glyph of Lay on Hands

This glyph further enhances Lay on Hands, reducing its cooldown by 3 minutes. Since Lay on Hands was already massively buffed in Cataclysm, this glyph allows you to make the most of it as one of the strongest utility glyphs available in your kit.


Glyph of Blessing of Kings

This glyph reduces the mana cost of Blessing of Kings by 50%. You will only want to use this glyph to reduce your overall downtime if you need to rebuff the group.

Glyph of Blessing of Might

This glyph reduces the mana cost of Blessing of Might by 50%. You will only want to use this glyph to reduce your overall downtime if you need to rebuff the group.

Glyph of Truth

This glyph reduces the mana cost of Seal of Truth by 50%. You will want to use this glyph in encounters that require you to constantly swap between damaging a boss and a group of adds.

Glyph of Righteousness

This glyph reduces the mana cost of Seal of Righteousness by 50%. You will want to use this glyph in encounters that require you to constantly swap between damaging a boss and a group of adds.


Stats have received a lot of changes in Cataclysm. Strength will be the predominant way of gaining Attack Power while Armor Penetration has been entirely removed from the game. We also gain a new stat that is extremely important for Retribution Paladin, Mastery, which greatly increases our damage!

In Cataclysm, Strength has been redesigned as the main way for Retribution Paladins to acquire Attack Power. You should aim to acquire as much Strength as possible to maximize your damage. While there are certain enchantments that still provide Attack Power and some older items that still grant the stat, Strength will grant you the bulk of your Attack Power.

Hit Rating is the most important stat you can acquire after your core stat for most DPS classes, and Retribution Paladins are no exception. Retribution Paladins require an 8% (referred to as the “soft cap”) increased hit chance to never miss with melee attacks.

wow cata classic pre patch retribution paladin stats 1

Expertise Rating is the second most important stat you can acquire after Hit Rating for most Melee DPS classes. Expertise Rating reduces the chance for your attacks to be dodged or parried, making it an indispensable stat. However, you can’t completely negate Parries unless you reach the hard Expertise Cap. As such. Melee DPS classes should always position themselves behind the boss, as attacks can’t be parried from behind!

You will require 26 Expertise to reach the Soft Expertise Cap to reduce the chance of your attacks being parried or dodged against level 83 enemies.

Mastery is a new stat that is introduced in Cataclysm, offering specific bonuses depending on the class/specialization that acquires it. Every single different specialization has a different benefit from acquiring Mastery! Retribution Paladin receives an additional bonus % Holy Damage to their Templar’s Verdict, Crusader Strike, and Divine Storm abilities. Each Mastery point increases the bonus Holy Damage dealt by 2.1%. The effect they receive their bonus through is Mastery: Hand of Light.

Critical Strike Chance is a very valuable stat for Retribution Paladins, increasing the chances of landing a critical strike with all attacks and abilities. Critical Strike Chance ranks second in terms of importance of secondary stats, with Mastery being always prioritized over it.

Critical Strike Chance is considered superior to Haste Rating since it also applies to our Mastery: Hand of Light. passive effect, empowering our Holy Damage by a considerable amount.

Haste Rating increases the overall speed of your attacks while also reducing the Global Cooldown of your abilities and their specific cast time. Haste Rating is almost as important as the Critical Strike Chance for Retribution Paladins from multiple points of view. Firstly, it allows a Retribution Paladin to proc their passive effects faster, with each auto-attack granting a chance of proccing The Art of War effect. Secondly, not only that Haste Rating reduces the GCD of your abilities, but it also ties in directly to your Crusader Strike and Divine Storm through the Sanctity of Battle talent.

Remember, this is not set in stone and certain gear levels, groups, fights, or any number of variables may shift this around.


About the Author


Hey there folks, I am Nevermore and have been deeply passionate about WoW for more than a decade. Whether we talk about the hidden mysteries of Azeroth or the otherworldly Outland, my journey brought me here to share the things that I have experienced with you all.
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Scroll to Top