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The Light and How to Swing It: Cataclysm 101 for retribution paladins

Gregg Reece

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Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Please send screenshots as well as any comments to my email at

Earlier this year, I wrote up a little article on what you need to know about retribution paladins. The problem with this is that when Deathwing decided to break the world, he also changed how every class in the game played in some way. Paladins were one of the ones that changed the most in this shift. We got an additional resource bar, new talents, new mechanics, new abilities -- and now we're getting new levels.

As retribution paladins, this doesn't faze us that much. This happens every expansion to our spec, and we're used to it at this point. Anyway, we're going to spend two weeks on this and move over to protection. Let's get to the good stuff.

What is the retribution spec?

Paladins really come down to three different philosophies. Holy paladins are the ones who come in after a disaster to help heal those hurt by the battle and rebuild the community. Protection paladins protect those who are under attack and act as the stalwart defenders of the land by holding back the hordes of fiends from getting to those they are safeguarding.

Retribution paladins are a bit different. They are the ones asked to do the dirty work. They are the ones who delve into the den of devils, decimating and defeating the dastardly demons. They are the commandos of the church and are trained to unleash their righteous vengeance on those who dare harm the innocent. Retribution paladins wear shining plate armor and carry massive, two-handed weapons that they use to deliver devastating attacks of holy might.

All fluff text aside, retribution is a damage-dealing spec. You're not meant to heal or tank, but instead to just sit there and beat things to death with a big, slow, two-handed weapon. You're also a plate wearer, so you'll be able to take the hits from being in melee range a little bit better than other classes.

Like all paladins, you use both mana and a new resource called holy power. This holy power resource works a lot like a rogue's combo points. However, retribution paladins are the spec that focus the most on it. We've got some abilities and talents that add holy power and other abilities that use that holy power. Otherwise, our abilities run off of mana.

What are retribution's benefits?

As a hybrid class, we do get a tiny bit of access to the abilities of our sibling specs. This gives us a little bit more survivability through things like the Word of Glory and Lay on Hands healing spells and defensive cooldowns like Divine Shield, Divine Protection, and Hand of Protection.

Paladins are one of the most popular classes in the game and as such, there is a lot of information and help about the class from a variety of sources. There is a lot of information on sites such as Elitist Jerks and Arena Junkies as well as a slew of different blogs covering all aspects of paladinhood.

Retribution is one of the more versatile DPS specs in the game in terms of utility. Sure, there are cat-bears and quad-totems, but paladins in general bring with them a wide variety of utilitarian abilities that can make them helpful in just about any situation, as well as simply providing decent damage-dealing capability. Hand of Protection, Blessing of Might, Blessing of Kings, Hand of Freedom, and Hand of Sacrifice give needed buffs and interesting utility mechanics.

Although it's not really a game mechanics "benefit," there is a lot of lore out there about the class. A lot of iconic WoW characters have been paladins, and several of the primary story arcs has centered around them. The Argent Dawn, young Arthas, Scarlet Crusade (crazed zealot paladins, but still paladins), Uther the Lightbringer, and Tirion Fordring are all paladins.

What are ret's drawbacks?

Retribution paladins have a bad reputation. It's an unfortunate truth. During Wrath, the damage difference between a top-of-the-charts paladin who knew his class inside and out and had all of the math for all of his abilities memorized and some guy who had never played a paladin before and was just randomly pressing buttons was relatively small. Because of this, the spec had a horrible reputation for bad players. In actuality, this has changed quite a bit, even though the reputation really hasn't. Paladins as a whole were given a new resource system to help broaden the difference between excellent players and new players. There are more places to make decisions based on your rotation as well as more things to keep an eye on.

Gear competition is one of the major drawbacks. There are two other plate-wearing classes, and each of those has two specs that want your gear. They all want your weapons; in fact, one of those specs wants two of your weapons. And lastly, you're a pretty popular spec yourself, so you have the rest of the retribution paladins to compete against.

Mobility and damage in PvP is an issue right now. Paladins are susceptible to being kited, and with the new holy power system, it is difficult to get holy power built up to do decent damage unless you're able to get up close and personal.

What stats do I want as a retribution paladin?

Strength is going to be your bread-and-butter stat. It is the stat that converts to damage best for you, and it will be on almost all of your gear. While there are other stats like hit or expertise that will be better until you reach certain goals with them, you'll always be happy with a little bit more strength.

Hit rating is important to all DPS specs. If you can't hit it, you can't damage it. At level 80, in order to hit a raid boss, you had to have enoughto lower your miss chance by 8 percent. At level 85, to hit a raid boss, you will need to reduce your miss chance by that same 8 (960 hit rating at level 85) percent. That's because all bosses are three levels higher than you are, and it always takes that 8 percent to not miss something three levels higher than you. The draenai racial gives them +1 percent hit baseline, and therefore they don't need as much hit as other races.

Expertise makes you better at using your weapon and makes you more precise when you would have hit. This means the boss has less of a chance of dodging or parrying your attacks that were accurate enough to have hit if the boss hadn't dodged or parried. Getting the boss to stop dodging you takes 26 expertise (781 expertise rating at level 85) and is pretty easy to obtain in decent gear. However, it's fairly difficult to knock parries off of the list, but as a DPSer, you should never be standing in front of the boss to begin with -- and as such, the boss can't parry you then. Humans and dwarves can bypass this issue a bit thanks to racials, and all paladins can gain some extra expertise via the Glyph of Seal of Truth.

Haste ups the swing speed of your weapons. For us retribution paladins, it also lowers the cooldown on Divine Storm -- and more importantly, Crusader Strike via the talent Sanctity of Battle. As we generally like wielding big and slow two-handed weapons, an increase in how fast we swing helps us out a bit. There is also the fact that our mastery bonus triggers off of auto-attacks only, so increasing the opportunities for it to proc is also helpful.

Critical strike rating lets all of those hits we're able to make count for more. You always want to focus on hit and expertise before you worry about stats like this, but it's definitely helpful. Now, one thing to remember is that in the world of Cataclysm, you won't have the high critical strike percentages that you did in the past. Blizzard has taken a lot of effort to lower stats like this across the board for raiding so that there's plenty of room to adjust at higher tiers of content.

Mastery was designed as another stat that every spec of every class will want. It makes your spec better at doing whatever it is your spec does. For us, it procs an effect called Hand of Light that lets us use any of our holy power-based abilities as if we had the full 3 holy power stored up without actually using our holy power. As I said in the section about haste, Hand of Light procs off of auto-attacks, so while a slow weapon might be better for your attack abilities to work with, a faster weapon will cause more mastery procs.

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?

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