Strength, strength and more strength
As a DPS spec, retribution paladins don't have much they care about in the way of stats. Yeah, getting to the hit cap (8% or 263 hit rating) is fairly important and critical strike rating helps out as well. However, the stat we love more than anything else is strength. We love buckets of the stuff. If you've got a gem slot, your best choice of gem is almost always a Bold Cardinal Ruby. For every one point of strength you've got, it will give you two points of attack power. If you take the talent Divine Strength from the protection tree, that will increase it to 2.3 attack power from each point of strength.
It's generally difficult to find an item with attack power that matches up with one that features strength. So, in general (yes, I know there are exceptions), you'll want to avoid attack power gear in favor of strength-based armor. With things like cloaks, necklaces, rings and trinkets, you'll sometimes be able to find upgrades easier that are attack-power-based, as these are all generic items that any DPS class can use. However, for the most part, stick with strength plate and big, slow two-handed weapons.
When starting out, you'll probably see a lot of items that are upgrades to what you have but are tanking items and not meant for DPS. That's fine, because if no tanks are going to take the item, then go ahead and roll on it. However, since you're only grabbing those things for the upgrades to strength or the extra gem slots, please make sure of three things: 1.) no tanks are wanting to roll on it, 2.) you are going to actually use it, and 3.) it's worth losing any crit, hit or haste you have on current gear. If you meet all three of those (especially the first one), then go ahead and grab it. Besides, you could always put together a protection set for your second spec.
Blacksmithing is the most obvious place to grab starter gear. The Savage Saronite set is available at 78, but it is a PvP set and if your goal is PvE, then you'll be wasting itemization on resilience that you won't use. For epic quality items in PvE, you'll want to start looking at the Spiked Titansteel Helm and Spiked Titansteel Treads. Another big item to grab is a weapon, and the Titansteel Destroyer is an excellent starter weapon until you get into some of the higher-end heroic dungeons. For a little pricier items on the auction house, you can check out Belt of the Titans and Battlelord's Plate Boots, which are both tier 8, Ulduar-level epics. On up the food chain are Titanium Spikeguards and Titanium Razorplate from Trial of the Crusader. Lastly, there are the Icecrown-Citadel-craftable epics of Hellfrozen Bonegrinders and Legplates of Painful Death.
Engineering has goggles for those of you who actually are engineers. Charged Titanium Specs are a profession-only epic headpiece that you can start wearing at 72 if you're the tinkering type. Also in the engineer-only vein is the Sonic Booster, which can offer a small attack power boost when it goes off, Hyperspeed Accelerators enchant for your gloves and Flexweave Underlay upgrade for your cloak. The accelerators boost your haste by a fairly obscene amount for 12 seconds and the cloak tinker gives a boost to agility, which ups your critical strike rating.
Inscription, of all things, provides one of the best retribution paladin trinkets that you can find inside or outside of a raid. It is so awesome that its name is just "Greatness." Well, in fact, its name is Darkmoon Card: Greatness. Not only does it start out with 90 strength, but when it procs, you get an additional 300 strength. You get this card by turning in a full deck of Nobles cards, ace through eight, at your local Darkmoon Faire. Just a warning: There are four varieties of this particular card and the strength version is just one of them. The other versions are spirit, intellect and agility, none of which we really need. So be sure you select the correct version.
Jewelcrafting has a couple of pieces that you might be interested in beyond strength gems when you hit 80. The tanking items of Titanium Earthguard Chain and Titanium Earthguard Ring both have a decent amount of strength in addition to a gem slot. The Titanium Impact Choker and the Titanium Impact Band are both more DPS-style items but have agility and attack power instead of strength. If you're a jewelcrafter yourself, the Emerald Boar might work out for a DPS trinket with two gem slots in it.
Alchemy in addition to its potions, elixirs and flasks has the Mighty Alchemist Stone, which is a crit and attack power trinket for alchemists only. It's a good addition to your arsenal, especially as you could have had it starting at level 75.
- Horde/Alliance The quartermasters in Northrend don't really have anything for ret paladins other than the PvP head enchant.
- The Kalu'ak These are a bit lower level than you'll want to start with, but the polearm isn't that bad of a starter weapon compared to the normal dungeons and heroics. However, you'll quickly find upgrades in other places that will be much better.
- Sons of Hodir There's some nice shoulders as well as enchants to put on them. The greater inscription is a bind on account item and can be transferred from another character if you have someone else already at exalted.
- Kirin Tor This group doesn't appear to enjoy people's wearing plate and hitting each other with big sticks. So, skip them for retribution gear unless you're just going for the reputation achievements.
- The Wyrmrest Accord They've got an OK tanking cloak for starting out if you just need something. The set of legs are actually pretty good for a set of starter gear, but you'll likely have better before you get up to exalted.
- Argent Crusade There are a couple of items from here you could get. There's a DPS cloak as well as a blue quality helmet and two-handed weapon.
- Knights of the Ebon Blade Here are a set of epic boots, your primary head enchant and an OK level 80 starter weapon. Not bad for a single reputation. This should be the first one you work towards exalted.
- Argent Tournament They have a cheap necklace for plate damage-dealers as well as a belt you can get once you've championed a faction. There is even a PvP trinket for sale, if you're going that route. For a few more emblems, you can also get an epic two-hander fairly easily.
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. With
Cataclysm soon heating things up, will you be ready?