Retribution. This is what every paladin begins as. No shield to hide behind. Just a big two-handed weapon slung on your back and grim determination as your guide. And, sadly, the spec that took the longest to become completely viable.
It's been a hard road for the retribution paladin. In classic era, you only used retribution to level up and then you were expected to heal or play blessing-bot for raids. In the days of Burning Crusade, retribution was a little better and could be okay if you stacked your raid the right way. However, they'd rather you be the adds tank or heal. Then Wrath hit and retribution came into its own... or should I say 'pwn' (bad joke, but absolutely true if you remember early Wrath). After some balancing, retuning, and all of those other euphamisms for 'nerf,' we're a still a fairly decent force along with the rest of the pack. Let's take a deeper look into the good, the bad, and the ugly of the ret pally.
1. What is Retribution?
Retribution is the damage dealing and main leveling spec for the paladin class. Being a paladin you have some utility as well, but your main purpose is to beat things over the head with a big stick and you do that quite well.
2. Retribution Benefits
- Relatively simple play-style. Using a first come first serve (FCFS) system when it comes to abilities, so no complex rotations or combos
- Good defensive abilities to help you stay alive even when you screw up
- Several types of utility spells, buffs, and bonuses so that there is still a reason to have more than one of you in a party/raid
- Some crowd-control ability
- Extremely popular spec, meaning that there are a lot of you to choose from
- You share gear with 5 other specs. This means that it can be difficult getting upgrades sometimes
- There is very little ranged ability available in the spec meaning you're sometimes stuck with nothing to do or have issues grabbing a target before someone else
- Hit Rating - As a DPS spec, your primary goal is doing damage. If you can't hit your target, it's very hard to do any damage to it. As such, you should always be what's referred to as "Hit Capped". This means you've got to have 8% hit (263 hit rating at level 80) to not have any misses on the big bosses in raids. This is should easily obtainable via gear especially with the availability of high level badge gear.
- Strength - This is where your umph. If you want to add more damage, this is the most efficient way to do so. First off, with 0 talent points, you get 2 attack power for every one strength. With 5 points over in the protection tree, you can grab Divine Strength which turns that into 2.3 attack power per strength. Then there is the talent Sheath of Light which converts 30% of that attack power into additional spell power. Being as our damage scales off of both attack power and spell power, this is a fairly hefty stat for us. The fact that things like Blessing of Kings can increase this makes it better than flat attack power. You want as much of this as you can muster via enchants and gems.
- Expertise - This is a bit like hit. It's a stat that allows your hits to connect a bit more and eek out more DPS from the same hit. Also, like hit, there is a cap on this at which point it becomes useless. However, the amount needed depends on where you're standing in relation to the thing you're killing. You need much, much less expertise if you're standing behind the boss than in front of it. Also, bad things usually happen in front of the boss which makes it a place to avoid in general. Standing behind a boss, you'll need 6.5% expertise (that's 214 expertise rating or 26 expertise skill) to be capped. Being as anything above the cap is wasted and gear tends to have it included the higher up you go, don't worry about gemming or enchanting for it. It will come naturally as you gear up. [Updated: Good call by commenter Kuro: If you want to glyph for extra expertise, you can grab Glyph of Seal of Vengeance which will grant 10 Expertise (skill, not rating) when you've got Seal of Vengeance/Corruption up.]
- Critical Strike Rating - This is never a bad stat for us, but it's also not worth gemming for (because Strength trumps all when it comes to gems). You also gain crit from agility, but flat crit rating converts much better for us than agility does. You need 45.9 rating to gain 1% of actual crit. We'll take a look at agility to see why this matters.
- Agility - The one advantage this has over critical strike rating is that Blessing of Kings and other buffs can affect it where as crit rating doesn't get these bonuses. Otherwise, 52.08 agility converts to 1% crit. This means that critical strike rating is 13% more effective than agility.
- Haste Rating - This increases your normal weapon damage (as causing your seals to proc more often as a result) which can bump up your damage a bit. However, it doesn't have any effect our global cooldown except for a few select spells. Overall, it's not something to avoid, but not something you're looking to stack.
- Attack Power - This is generally going to be found on things like trinkets, rings, necklaces, and select enchants for us as it's generally not something available on plate. We like attack power, but we really only like it when it comes from strength as we get more bang for our buck that way. However, there are some times when you don't have an option for strength, so attack power is a possible choice then. There are also times when the itemization on things like leather and mail have enough attack power on it as well as agility for crit that the combination of the two make them rather tempting. Overall, attack power doesn't scale from things like Blessing of Kings or other raid buffs and we don't have any talents that boost it up like we do for strength. But on rings, necklaces, trinkets, and select enchants, it's perfectly fine.
- Armor Penetration - Unless you've got the Tier 10 set bonus that allows you to hit Divine Storm all the time, this really isn't a good stat for us. It does come on plate and we do get some benefit for it, but like flat attack power, it's not something generally sought after. Why you ask? Simple. We're a magical melee class and 65% of our damage ignores armor anyways because of the fact it's holy magic damage. Divine Storm, Crusader Strike, and normal melee hits are the only three things we use that get bonuses from this. Our seals, judgements, and other spells already ignore armor.
- Spirit - If it has this word on it, then it is not gear you want. Paladins as a general rule don't get anything of note from this stat. Spirit is bad for you. It gives you feathers and makes you grow leaves.
- Spellpower - Okay, this is a strange stat. Because, deep down, we really like spellpower. The problem is that we don't like it on our gear. Almost all paladin damage spells scale off of spellpower as well as attack power. The problem is that it scales better for us when converted from Sheath of Light using strength/attack power. Also, you run into the issue of any gear with spellpower generally doesn't have any of the other stats we really want. You're much better off going for strength and letting it convert via talents.
- Intellect - Also a bad stat for retribution paladins. We gain enough mana back via Divine Plea and Judgement of Wisdom as well as the talent Judgements of the Wise that our low intellect is rarely an issue.
- Stamina - Other than letting you stand in fire longer (which you shouldn't be doing anyways) and making your Lay on Hands a little more potent, this doesn't do anything to help us deal more damage. Besides, it comes on most of our gear for free.
- Armor, Parry, Dodge, Block, and Defense Rating - We're damage dealers, not tanks. None of these stats do anything to help us flatten foes. However, there are times when you're in such need of an upgrade in a gear slot that a piece of tanking gear gives you enough strength to be worth it. Just be sure to replace it with something involving crit before anyone looks too close.
The Light and How to Swing It tries to help Paladins cope with the dark times coming in Cataclysm. See the upcoming Paladin changes the expansion will bring. Wrath is coming to a close and the final showdown with the Lich King is here. Are you ready for the assault on Icecrown Citadel?