PvE Retribution Paladin DPS Guide

PVE Retribution Paladin DPS Guide WotLK 3.3.5a
  • Author: Pride
  • Date: September 20, 2022
  • Updated: September 20, 2022
  • Expansion: WotLK Classic

Welcome to our PvE Retribution Paladin guide for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King!

Filled with righteous fury and bestowed with the Light’s blessing, Retribution Paladins are an unstoppable force with a singular mission: to smite evil. Demons become nothing but ash after crossing paths with a Retribution Paladin, and they can cleave through armies of the undead with ease. Inspiring their allies to follow in their path, these crusaders are a boon to any raid aiming to take on the Lich King’s fiendish Scourge.

Retribution Paladins were viewed as one of the weakest DPS specializations in the game during TBC, which led Blizzard to completely overhaul the spec in WotLK, buffing it tremendously, to the point where it was considered highly overpowered in patch 3.0. A whole lot of nerfs ensued, and while Retribution Paladins unfortunately are now pretty weak on the damage side (before obtaining their Tier 10 set, that is) their top-notch utility, along with their incredible cleave damage, all but guarantees them a raid spot. In Icecrown Citadel, the last tier of the game, they are very highly desirable, with some raids opting to stack Retribution Paladins even, due to their insane cleave potential!

This guide will teach you everything about playing a Retribution Paladin in PvE, with a focus on raids. We will be covering everything from enchants and consumables, to talents, rotations, macros, and addons. By the time you finish reading this guide, you will be a fierce crusader, destroying evil in your path!

Retribution Paladin Strengths & Weaknesses


  • Amazing cleave
    Retribution Paladins have some of the best cleave damage in the game, thanks to the reworked Seal of Command and newly added Divine Storm. Their cleave damage becomes even more insane when they unlock their 2-piece tier 10 set bonus (Lightsworn Battlegear), at which point it won’t be uncommon to see Retribution Paladins taking up the top DPS spots on fights against 2-4 enemies.
  • Highly accessible
    Retribution Paladins have one of the easiest rotations in the game in WotLK, consisting of a very simple “first come first serve” system. This makes them a very attractive option for newer players, or players who simply don’t like the idea of pressing a thousand buttons in a specific order to deal damage.
  • Cool aesthetic
    Retribution Paladins are one of the more popular DPS specs in WotLK, and it’s easy to see why: they’re just really cool, having an undead-cleansing theme in an expansion that’s practically all about fighting Arthas and the undead, with a Retribution Paladin — Tirion Fordring — being a main character!


  • Mediocre single target & weak AoE damage
    While Retribution cleave damage (2-4 targets) is amazing, our single target damage is unfortunately just kinda meh, typically being a middle of the pack spec. Our AoE damage (5+ targets) meanwhile is pretty weak, as we only have Consecration and Holy Wrath for AoE fights, and they unfortunately don’t really compare to what many other specs bring. Our damage isn’t awful in those situations by any means, but competitive-minded players that enjoy being #1 on the DPS meters will probably not enjoy Ret, as our damage isn’t really competitive before we gain access to our Tier 10 set, in the last phase of the game, Phase 4.
  • Awkward utility restrictions
    Blizzard blessed us with the best utility in the game, but they unfortunately made a pretty silly blunder: they tied a lot of it to our auras, which have a 40 yard range. Other spec equivalents meanwhile have 100 yard range, meaning there are times where our buffs won’t reach our raid, while the buffs of other specs will. Furthermore, our utility talents awkwardly don’t provide any additional benefit to us like it is the case for other spec — for example, Improved Moonkin Form (100 yards!) buffs the Druid on top of the 3% haste aura, while our equivalent, Swift Retribution, unfortunately doesn’t do the same for us. This means that those talents aren’t attractive to us if someone else in the raid can offer an equivalent, or as mentioned before, possibly superior buff.
  • High loot competition
    Retribution Paladins are in the unfortunate position of sharing loot with 2 incredibly popular DPS specs: Fury Warriors and Unholy Death Knights. Given that all of us are highly dependent on gear and weapons in particular, this means that gearing up will be a lot more difficult for us than it was in TBC, where we only shared two-handed weapons with Arms Warriors, a 1-of spec.

Retribution Paladin Utility

Besides their damage, Retribution Paladins bring the following raid buffs & debuffs to a raid:

  • Divine Sacrifice & Divine Guardian
    In WotLK, Paladins gain this exclusive and incredibly powerful raid cooldown, which Retribution Paladinscan spec into. The damage redirection component of Divine Sacrifice is very nice, but the real strength of this ability lies in Divine Guardian‘s first effect; a 20% damage reduction for your entire raid is absolutely massive, and will play a key role in surviving certain lethal mechanics in specific raid fights. The more Paladins your raid has, the more Divine Guardians it has, making us one of the best classes to stack up on.
  • Aura Mastery
    In WotLK, this talent gets reworked to offer a very useful effect: a 6 second immunity to silence and interrupts, on top of a 100% boost to their effectiveness, which is particularly nifty for our Resistance auras. Retribution Paladins can spend a few points into the Holy tree to pick this talent up, though this unfortunately means it’s mutually exclusive with Divine Sacrifice & Divine Guardian.
  • Greater Blessing of Kings (does not stack)
    This is one of the strongest buffs in the game, and it is completely exclusive to the Paladin class. Every raid will want to have at least 1 Paladin just for the blessing alone — though our other buffs don’t hurt either.
  • Mana regen buff (does not stack)Greater Blessing of Wisdom
    Our mana regeneration blessing, available to all Paladins, suffers a small nerf in WotLK, as it no longer stacks with a Shaman’s Mana Spring Totem, meaning raids don’t need to stack up on Paladins to get all of our blessings. However, Shamans have been severely nerfed in WotLK, to the point where most 25-man raids will only bring 1. Thus, having an extra Paladin for this blessing allows the Shaman to use Healing Stream Totem instead, meaning it’ll commonly be our job to apply this important buff.
  • Attack power buff (does not stack)Greater Blessing of Might
    Our attack power blessing, available to all Paladins, suffers a small nerf in WotLK, as it no longer stacks with a Warrior’s Battle Shout, meaning raids don’t need to stack up on Paladins to get all of our blessings. As most 25-man raids will typically have 1-3 Warriors, and they can provide a slightly improved version thanks to their tier 2 set bonus (Battlegear of Wrath), we typically won’t be the ones applying this must-have buff. You may need to be the one to apply it in 10-man raids however!
  • Replenishment (does not stack)Judgements of the Wise
    This buff is an absolute must-bring, allowing your healers to keep healing and your mana-based DPS players to keep DPSing in longer fights. Many raids will choose to bring 2-3 players that have this buff, and the fact that we are among the specs that do have it makes us highly desirable. We share it with several other specs, the most notable of which being Shadow Priests with their Vampiric Touch. However, they stop casting Mind Blast in Phase 4 due to a set bonus, which means this amazing buff will very commonly be our exclusive domain, as we are undoubtedly the best spec among those that offer it!
  • 3% increased crit chance debuff (does not stack)Heart of the Crusader
    This debuff is a must-have, increasing a raid’s DPS significantly. We share it with Assassination Rogues (Master Poisoner) and Elemental Shamans (Totem of Wrath), but the former prefer to be Combat specced and the latter are considered weak so many raids will elect not to bring one the raid, though their version is pretty significantly better as it affects every enemy in a massive range and it offers other benefits anyway. Thus it will usually be either up to you or your raid’s Protection Paladin to apply this crucial debuff — though if your raid has an Elemental Shaman, you could skip this talent.
  • 3% increased damage buff (does not stack)Sanctified Retribution
    This buff is a must-have, increasing a raid’s DPS significantly. We share it with Beast Mastery Hunters (Ferocious Inspiration) and Arcane Mages (Arcane Empowerment), but the former are absolutely terrible so no raid will bring them, while the latter prefer to be Fire specced starting in Phase 3, though their version is superior due to a larger range and conferring them other benefits besides the aura. Thus it will usually be either up to you to bring this crucial buff — though if your raid has an Arcane Mage, you could skip this talent.
  • 3% increased haste buff (does not stack)Swift Retribution
    This buff is a must-have, increasing a raid’s DPS significantly. We share it with Balance Druids (Improved Moonkin Form), but their version is better due to a significantly higher range and conferring them other benefits besides the aura. Many raids will choose to not bring a Boomkin however, as their DPS is not the greatest, in which case it’ll be your job to bring this crucial buff — though if your raid does have a Boomkin, you could skip this talent instead.
  • Judgement of Wisdom (does not stack)
    Paladins of all specializations can apply this incredibly useful, Paladin-exclusive mana regeneration effect — an absolute must-have. Protection and Retribution Paladins excel at applying it as Judgement is part of their rotation.
  • Judgement of Light (does not stack)
    Paladins of all specializations can also apply this often underestimated Paladin-exclusive healing effect. While the healing isn’t massive, it can help make your healers’ job a good bit easier. Protection and Retribution Paladins excel at applying it as Judgement is part of their rotation.
  • Hands
    Certain short-duration Paladin blessings have been renamed to “Hand of …” so they now finally stack with regular blessings! Those are incredibly powerful, and include such effects as Hand of Freedom, Hand of Protection, Hand of Sacrifice and Hand of Salvation. All of these spells can save someone’s life and even prevent a wipe when used skillfully.
  • Auras
    Auras are back in WotLK and still offer a variety of minor but incredibly handy effects. The most useful will be Devotion Aura, Concentration Aura, Fire Resistance Aura and Frost Resistance Aura. Furthermore, in WotLK a new talent gets added to the Holy tree: Aura Mastery, which temporarily enhances our auras — though not all non-Holy Paladins will be able to pick this up, as there is a trade-off with other useful talents.
  • Lay on Hands
    This famous Paladin ability has saved many lives in the past, and it will continue to do so in Wrath. In fact, it’s been buffed pretty significantly; it no longer drains the casting Paladin’s mana, meaning you can use it at any time without fear of being useless after using it, and its cooldown has been reduced to 20 minutes, allowing you to use it multiple times per raid. Even better, the Improved Lay on Hands talent has been buffed, temporarily offering a 20% physical damage reduction effect, which trumps the 10% physical damage reduction that other similar spells offer.


We hope this guide has been able to help you decide if PvE Retribution Paladin is the class / spec for you. Make sure to check out our other sections, such as talents, gear, gems etc., to get more information on how to improve your performance as a Retribution Paladin in WotLK!


About the Author


Classic WoW is my jam, with a passion for PvP. Most know me as Baranor, the ret paladin guy, but I'm secretly a druid main, don't tell anyone. In my free time I play Switch games, particularly JRPGs. Some day I'll be making my own games and I humbly hope you play those too!
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1 year ago

When will this guide be updated for WotLK Classic? 🙂

Reply to  Bisso
1 year ago

Very soon! I will update it in the following weeks!

Reply to  Pride
1 year ago


2 years ago

I am curious about two things. Firstly, is seal twisting still a thing in WotLK? Secondly, do Rets add a sufficiently powerful raid buff to allow for more than one of them in a raid? IN TBC, it is usually just one Ret per raid; however, in WotLK, it seems that Rets are a top tier dps, so will we stop competing for raid spots?

Reply to  Saxif
2 years ago

Hey there Saxif, seal twisting is no longer a thing. Regarding the buffs that Retribution Paladins provide for the raid, they are a must-have for most high-end groups. First of all, we take into consideration the requirement for aura mastery rotations. Those rotations are extremely important for fights such as Festergut and Lana’thel. Secondly, Retribution Paladins find themselves in the top spots for DPS in WotLK, not only do they bring heavy damage for the raid but they also provide a strong rotation of Hand of Freedom and Hand of Sacrifice, which is required to ease the job of tanks and healers. You will generally find a minimum of two Retribution Paladins in any esteemed raid group, some groups choose to use three Rets in order to maximize the aura mastery rotation and the multitude of Hand Buffs(Freedom, Salvation, Sacrifice).

2 years ago

Thank you very much for this guide. If I understand well, Engineering + Jewelcrafting is the most optimal combo for raiding content, is that right? Is it possible to know exactly how much stats does Jewelcrafting give compared to Enchanting for exemple? Like a breakdown of the stats for each profession (you have this breakdown on the fire mage guide for exemple). Thanks again: 🙂

3 years ago

Hey which weapon combo is ideal? swords/maces/shields?

Last edited by Jerry
Reply to  Jerry
3 years ago

This is for the Retribution dps spec so only use a 2h weapon (2h axe, mace, sword and polearm)

Last edited by Chris
1 year ago

you obviously don’t know how to play ret if you think it’s a first come first serve rotation lmao

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