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Mists of Pandaria: Guide to retribution paladins


Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Seasoned ret paladin Dan Desmond is here to answer your questions and provide you with your biweekly dose of retribution medicine. Contact him at with any questions, concerns, or suggestions!

The mists have parted, the continent of Pandaria is open, and new foes await us in the numerous raids and dungeons that the lost continent has to offer. Whether you're leveling a ret paladin for the first time or min-maxing your way to the top of the charts, now is the perfect time to become acquainted with all of the changes that a new expansion inevitably brings.

This guide will bring you up to speed with what being a retribution paladin in Mists is all about, from what our talents look like to what food we should be eating. It is my intention to update this guide continually with any major changes we may experience.

[Last updated for patch 5.4.0, build 17359 on 9/12/13.]

What's new in Mists?

New talent system With the intention of cutting down on cookie-cutter builds, Blizzard redesigned the talent system so that it was based around player preference and situational usefulness. Players now receive their core abilities automatically when selecting a spec, and talents serve to supplement different styles of gameplay.

New abilities While our class has not received another violent makeover like what we saw in Cataclysm, we did receive a few goodies:

Absolve Bolstering our defensive arsenal, Absolve removes all harmful magic effects from your target when Hand of Sacrifice is cast.

Blinding Light Reminiscient of Eadric the Pure's ability in Trial of the Champion, this AoE CC is our level 87 ability and will probably see more use in PvP than PvE, though it could have some usefulness in controlling large packs of mobs, provided you have a tank ready to pick them up after the CC is over.

Boundless Conviction This passive allows us to carry up to 5 holy power at one time. With the increased cap, we don't have to worry as much about "wasting" holy power when we use Judgment or Exorcism from range.

Devotion Aura No longer just the domain of holy paladins, this revamped version of Aura Mastery carries a little more oomph than before with the addition of 20% magic damage reduction. Keep this button handy.

Emancipate With the loss of 1/2 Acts of Sacrifice, ret needed a snare removal tool to replace it. Enter Emancipate.

Hammer of the Righteous Protection was kind enough to loan us their AoE holy power generator. Divine Storm will be our new AoE holy power finisher.

Higher holy power generation The holy power system has been improved upon for Mists, with Judgment, Crusader Strike, Hammer of the Righteous, Exorcism, and Hammer of Wrath all generating the resource. Hopefully this will make our playstyle more proactive and engaging than before.

What's missing?

Auras An iconic paladin ability since the early days of Warcraft, auras are now nothing but a fading memory. Seals now occupy the action bar where auras once stood. If you find yourself missing them terribly, a couple auras can be found hiding in our class abilities.

Holy Wrath For some, the loss of Holy Wrath is going to be a big hit, but for many of us it's going to be a welcome reprieve from the hours of careful dancing while using this ability in an attempt to avoid breaking CCs or hitting an unwanted target. If you were playing just for Holy Wrath, you're going to have to switch to prot.

Consecration Another ability that prot spirited away in the middle of the night, Consecration is being removed from our toolbox as well. Like Holy Wrath, I'm not particularly sad to see this mana hog go, but I will look back fondly on all of the great times we spent together.

How should I spec my character?

As previously stated, talents are now primarily situational in nature. Therefore, instead of giving you a cookie cutter to use, let's briefly discuss each tier.

Tier 1: Level 15 This tier is all about movement, with three abilities to modify how we shimmy our way across the battlefield. Pursuit of Justice provides a passive 15% with a scaling 5% movement speed per holy power, up to 3. Long Arm of the Law is a 45% increase for 3 seconds, tied to Judgment, while Speed of Light is a separate 45-second cooldown with a 70% increase.

In general, PoJ is a good default choice, but when you run into an encounter that requires quick bursts of speed, pick up either SoL or Long Arm, depending on how often you need that speed and how quickly you need to move.

Tier 2: Level 30 Here we have a bit of a mixed bag. Fist of Justice replaces its cousin, Hammer of Justice, while increasing its range by 10 yards and lowering the cooldown by 30 seconds. Repentence is just a modification of the current model with a 15-second cooldown and 1.7-second cast time. Evil is a Point of View is the poorly named passive choice for this tier, causing Turn Evil to also affect humanoids and beasts, making it a decently reliable fear.

Your choice here will be dictated by whether you need a stun, sap, or fear, though PvPers will undoubtedly find it difficult to pick just one.

Tier 3: Level 45 The running theme here is dealing with damage taken. Selfless Healer's mechanics have been changed to a buff stacking on Judgment hits and interacting with Flash of Light. Eternal Flame replaces Word of Glory, buffing it a bit and adding a HoT, with 100% more healing when used on yourself. Sacred Shield becomes an active spell that lasts for 30 seconds and refreshes an absorb on the character every 6 seconds.

In my opinion, the choice will be between Selfless Healer and Sacred Shield for this tier. Eternal Flame sacrifices DPS through the consumption of holy power (as does WoG, naturally).

Tier 4: Level 60 This tier presents some options dealing with utility. Hand of Purity is a brand-new Hand spell, reducing all damage taken by 10% and DoT damage taken by 80% for 6 seconds. Unbreakable Spirit reduces the cooldown of Lay on Hands, Divine Shield, and Divine Protection by 50%. Clemency allows us to use our Hands twice before the game triggers their cooldowns.

Hand of Purity could find some use in very specific circumstances. Clemency seems to really only be useful for Freedom and Protection, at least in a PvE setting. Unbreakable Spirit would appear to be a safe bet here, effectively making Divine Protection's cooldown 30 seconds, Divine Shield's cooldown 2.5 minutes, and Lay on Hands' cooldown 5 minutes.

Tier 5: Level 75 The fifth grouping of talents has to do with our DPS cooldowns and similar effects. Holy Avenger is a reworked Zealotry, now functioning off of all of our holy power generators, buffing holy power generator damage by 30%, and lasting 15 seconds. Sanctified Wrath, for ret, increases the duration of Avenging Wrath and decreases the cooldown of Hammer of Wrath, both by 50%. Divine Purpose functions similarly in Mists as it does in Cataclysm, except it now has a 25% proc rate off of abilities that cost holy power.

Currently, all three options here appear to be within a very few points of each other, leaving the "best" option dependent on you and your particular playstyle. Holy Avenger, for example, is great for short-duration burst damage, whereas Divine Purpose's lack of an on-demand boost makes it more suited for steady, long-term damage.

Tier 6: Level 90 At our final level, we have three cooldowns to choose from. Holy Prism has a dual functionality, either damaging an enemy and radiating healing, or healing an ally and radiating damage. Light's Hammer is a targetable AoE attack, creating a zone that does both damage and healing. Finally, Execution Sentence is a single-target, ramping damage (or healing) cooldown.

Light's Hammer seems a bit weak, what with it being intended for multiple targets and completely stationary. Execution Sentence has the potential to be our number one single-target cooldown this tier. Holy Prism is interesting if only because of its 20-second cooldown, but I'd wager that because the healing component is baked in rather than it being an either-or scenario, the resulting damage output will be lower than ES.

For leveling to 90, I am considering using a talent build like this one: 33323

Mists of Pandaria Guide to retribution paladins DNP

What about glyphs?

Similar to talents, glyphs are becoming more situational in nature. Prime glyphs have been removed and minor glyphs are purely cosmetic or flavorful additions, so retribution-relevant majors are the only glyphs we really need to discuss here.

Avenging Wrath Heals you for 1% of your max health every 2 seconds for the duration of AW. Gains a boost from the AW duration extension of Sanctified Wrath.

Blinding Light Reduces the CC duration of affected targets by half, but knocks targets down as opposed to blinding them.

Devotion Aura Makes DA self-only and reduces its cooldown to 2 minutes.

Divine Protection Reduces magical damage reduction to 20% and adds 20% physical damage reduction.

Divine Shield Heals you for each harmful effect that using DS dispels, up to 50% of max health.

Divine Storm Divine Storm heals you for 5% of your max health.

Double Jeopardy Judging a different target than your current one increases the damage of that Judgment by 20%.

Hammer of the Righteous The Weakened Blows effect applied by HotR now lasts 50% longer.

Hand of Sacrifice HoSac no longer damages the caster.

Harsh Words Turns WoG into a ranged holy power finisher, hitting for as much damage as it would have healed.

Immediate Truth Increases the seal damage on Seal of Truth by 40% and decreases Censure damage by 50%.

Inquisition Increases the duration of Inquisition by 30 seconds after landing a killing blow of an at-level target.

Mass Exorcism Turns Exo into a melee range AoE attack, with all enemies within 8 yards of the initial target taking 25% damage.

Templar's Verdict You gain 10% damage reduction for 6 seconds after each successful Templar's Verdict and Exorcism.

Word of Glory Increases your damage by 3% per point of holy power used after casting WoG or EG, lasting 6 seconds.

Of those that concern damage:

  • Word of Glory is a stopgap glyph that is meant to mitigate some, but not all, of the damage lost from using WoG.
  • Inquisition could be a nice DPS boost for trash and encounters with adds.
  • Harsh Words is an interesting option, though holy power will still be primarily spent on Inquisition and Templar's Verdict.
  • Double Jeopardy is a nice DPS boost for little to no cost, provided a second target exists.
  • Immediate Truth could see use in PvP and other heavy target-switching environments, basically anywhere a 5-stack of Censure isn't feasible.
  • Mass Exorcism is obviously useful on large groups and low movement encounters with two or more targets.
As for the rest:
  • Avenging Wrath and Divine Storm don't appear to heal for enough to be of considerable value in terms of overall survivability.
  • Blinding Light's glyph could make the spell more useful than in its unglyphed form, particulary because targets can be damaged without breaking the CC, whereas a blind breaks immediately after the target takes any damage.
  • Devotion Aura seems like more of a PvP-oriented option, though it could have tangible benefits in solo play as well.
  • Divine Protection goes the opposite way that we have been leaning toward throughout Cataclysm, and unless raid damage profiles change significantly, I don't believe this will see much use in a PvE setting.
  • Hammer of the Righteous provides a decent, if not miniscule, buff that I suspect will be used more by prot paladins than rets.
  • Templar's Verdict is a handy, reliable source of damage reduction, especially since Exorcism was added to the glyph in 5.2.
My own picks for leveling will probably be Immediate Truth, Templar's Verdict, and Word of Glory, while my raiding glyphs will vary per encounter.

What does my rotation look like?

Similar to Cataclysm, retribution's rotation is a combination of priority and combo point systems. Holy power generation and expenditure remain our primary concern, but it will be much faster and smoother than ever before.

From the Mists beta ret thread at Elitist Jerks, we have a framework for our DPS rotation:

Inquisition > 5HP Templar's Verdict > Hammer of Wrath > Exorcism > Crusader Strike > Judgment > 3-4HP Templar's Verdict

Maintaining Inquisition uptime remains priority number one. Thankfully, Inquisition was added into the list of spells that clip each time you refresh it, meaning that if you refresh Inq before it has expired you will have a maximum of 2 seconds added onto the duration of your next Inq. Therefore, it is optimal to refresh Inquisition when it has 2 seconds or less remaining.

The buff in patch 5.4 increases the efficacy of holy power when used to empower Inquisition -- a 3HP Inquisition now lasts a full minute as opposed to the 30 seconds we've seen since its inception.

The rest, however, may require some explanation. The reasoning behind waiting until we are sitting at 5 holy power before we use TV is described quite well by Meloree in Maintankadin's ret beta thread:

If you have 3HP and CS and J are both off cooldown, and you use the TV, then you've pushed back your holy power generation by a GCD. If you do that continually over the course of an encounter, you generate significantly less holy power, and thus use less TVs (and have more empty GCDs, and do less damage).

If you cast CS and then J (and get to 5HP), you're guaranteed to have an empty GCD before your next CS comes up, it's not possible to waste HP generation - thus, prioritizing CS and J over TV results in more CS and more J, and thus more TV.

Unless you're banking HP for burst, if you have an empty GCD and 3HP, you'll certainly use the TV ahead of using nothing. Similar logic prioritizes filler spells ahead of 3 or 4HP TVs - it's better to get them on cooldown, so that you have the chance to use more of them over the course of an encounter.

Since Exo, HoW, CS, and Judgment all generate holy power, priority is now assigned based on the damage done by each ability.

Our AoE rotation is nearly identical to our single-target rotation -- just replace all instances of TV with DS and CS with HotR. The point at which to switch to AoE, however, is a bit complicated.

Currently the numbers have turned our relatively neat and tidy "four targets for both Divine Storm and Seal of Righteousness" rule of thumb into a menagerie of conditionals:
  • Divine Storm's damage starts pulling ahead of Templar's Verdict at only 2 targets.
  • Hammer of the Righteous's damage starts pulling ahead of Crusader Strike at about 2-3 targets, fewer targets corresponding to higher gear levels (it was discovered that the splash damage from HotR dips into Inq as well as the mastery damage from the attack).
  • Seal of Righteousness's damage starts pulling ahead of Seal of Truth at about 4 targets, thanks to a buff it received in 5.2.
You should note that the switch to SoR from SoT eats a GCD, meaning that not only do you need six targets for the damage increase to be worthwhile, but your targets need to be alive for a full 30 seconds or so to compensate for the lost global. Therefore, try to switch to SoR in between pulls if you know heavy AoE is coming your way, and don't bother to switch back to SoT when your number of targets drops below the threshold unless the last mob or two have significantly more health.

Seals Your default seal will be Seal of Truth, and you will want to switch to Seal of Righteousness at four or more targets.

Mists of Pandaria Guide to retribution paladins DNP
How about cooldowns?

Generally speaking, you will want to stack all of your cooldowns at the beginning of the fight and then use them again once they each come off cooldown. Keep their durations in mind when you stack them -- you will want to hit Guardian of Ancient Kings first, then after 10 seconds hit Avenging Wrath.

Avenging Wrath - Our old standby, Avenging Wrath gives us wings, literally. Beyond that it increases damage and healing by 20% for 20 seconds, and is now on a 2-minute cooldown.

Guardian of Ancient Kings – Our level 85 ability, Guardian of Ancient Kings summons a holy warrior that stacks Ancient Power, increasing your strength by 1% per stack up to 12 stacks. Lasts 30 seconds and is on a 3-minute cooldown.

Tier 5 cooldowns Holy Avenger is the only ability in this tier that comes with a separate button. For a description of Divine Purpose and Sanctified Wrath, see the talent section above.

Holy Avenger – A reworked Zealotry, Holy Avenger makes it so each holy power generator deals 30% additional damage and generates three holy power on cast. This lasts for 18 seconds, on a 2-minute cooldown.

Tier 6 cooldowns Remember, you can only choose one of these at at time!

Holy Prism – Holy Prism works differently depending on its intended target; if the target is friendly, it heals them and deals AoE damage to enemies, but if the target is hostile, it damages them and AoE heals friends. This ability has a 20-second cooldown.

Light's Hammer – A targetable AoE attack, Light's Hammer is similar to Holy Prism in that it has both healing and damaging components to it. Arcing Light ticks every 2 seconds, healing allies and hurting and applying a 50% to enemies within the radius of the spell. Light's Hammer has a duration of 16 seconds and a cooldown of 1 minute.

Execution Sentence - Reminiscent of the ability of the same name used in Blackwing Descent by the iron dwarf spirits before Atramedes, this is our designated single-target cooldown. Once cast, it deals damage in steadily increasing ticks, culminating in one big burst of damage once the 10-second duration of the spell is over. ES has a 1-minute cooldown.

Which stats do I want?

Aside from different models and colors, stats are what differentiates gear.

Hit and expertise Blizzard has changed things a bit with regards to these two stats. Both hit and expertise cap at 7.5% (that is, the soft cap for expertise is at 7.5%, which is what we'll be going for), which conveniently equates to 2550 rating either way.

Also, hit and expertise contribute 1:1 to the spell hit cap of 15%, which means by capping both we will be capping spell hit as well. This is only really important for Exorcism, but at least there's some peace of mind to be had.

Mastery Hand of Light remains our mastery effect, now proccing off more abilities. This stat was quite arguably king during Cataclysm, and I would expect it to at least remain very competitive going into Mists.

Haste Thanks to a retooled Sanctity of Battle, haste now affects both the cooldown and global cooldown of Judgment, Crusader Strike, Hammer of the Righteous, Exorcism, and Hammer of Wrath. This is a big step up from Cataclysm and could result in haste becoming a much more favorable secondary stat this expansion.

Crit A recent change to Inquistion saw the addition of 10% crit chance to the spell, which means we'll be getting a nice baseline boost to crit at level 90.

Stat weights Thanks to the fine folks at SimulationCraft and Exemplar over at Elitist Jerks, we have some stat weights to base our gearing decisions around (weights are normalized to strength):

Strength - 1
Expertise - 0.73
Hit - 1.04
Crit - 0.43
Haste - 0.54
Mastery - 0.43

What these weights mean is that, outside of capping hit and expertise, our stat priority could look like this:

Strength > Haste > Mastery = Crit

Note that these weights were calculated using T14 heroic raid gear, so it's not the most relevant measure, but we can use it as a solid base for current and future gearing.

Reforging A quick note on reforging in the dawn hours of Mists -- reforging to the hit and expertise caps in pre-raid gear is downright tricky. Since most of your secondary stats will be alloted to filling these essential caps, strength will be a bit weightier right off the bat.

How do I gem and enchant?

Gems For a meta gem, we will definitely be going with Reverberating Primal Diamond.

Generally, we will be shooting for socket bonuses wherever we can get them. At the start of T14 you can gem all Bolds if you wish, though if you're hurting for hit or expertise keep some of these gems in mind.

After you start getting some raid gear you can start using hybrid gems:

Red sockets: Fierce Vermillion Onyx
Yellow sockets: Quick Sun's Radiance
Blue sockets: Lightning Wild Jade

The switch to pure haste gems is justified in that haste's value is a little more than half of strength's, and because secondary stat gems have twice as much budgeting compared to primary stat gems. In the end, you'll get more DPS out of haste gems than strength gems.

Enchants As for enchants, let's break it down -- hit the music, Johnny!

Helm Head enchants are gone. Poof.
Shoulders Greater Tiger Fang Inscription
Cloak Superior Critical Strike or Accuracy
Chest Glorious Stats
Bracers Exceptional Strength
Gloves Super Strength
Belt Living Steel Belt Buckle
Pants Angerhide Leg Armor
Boots Greater Haste or Greater Precision
Weapon Dancing Steel or Windsong

A few quick notes about this list:
  • Profession perks, as well as relevant racial abilities, are displayed in a separate post here.
  • The choice between Greater Haste and Greater Precision on your boots will be dependent on whether you can reforge enough secondary stats to reach the hit cap. If you find that you need that extra boost, then this enchant is for you. Same goes for Superior Critical Strike and Accuracy for cloaks.
  • I did not include Superior Mastery, Greater Haste, or Superior Expertise for gloves in this list because strength should far outpace any secondary stat you may have, point for point. Expertise comes close to overturning that decision, but with the option to reforge the rest of your gear to meet the expertise cap, you really should take the strength option here.
  • There has been some uncertainty lately regarding the proc rate of Windsong. It appears to be much lower on live servers than it was on the beta, so Dancing Steel should be king here. More testing will reveal how accurate this assertion is.
  • Elemental Force could be a good choice for your weapon as well, but I'm a little skeptical that this will end up being a competitive option. Comparing the mat costs for the separate enchants, it looks like EF will end up being a good starter enchant.
What consumables should I be using?

Food Our most scrumptious food item is Black Pepper Ribs and Shrimp which gives us 300 strength. This just beats out the new raid feasts, Pandaren Banquet (the Great Pandaren Banquet is for 25 players) by 25 points.

No other non-strength buff food even comes close to the DPS contribution of strength food alternatives.

Flasks This one seems to be a no-brainer -- Flask of Winter's Bite. No elixirs even come close to providing the same DPS value as the flask.

Potions Alchemy has given us another no-brainer here -- Potion of Mogu Power. Keep these in stock in an inventory near you!
The Light and How to Swing It teaches you the ins and outs of retribution paladins, from Ret 101 and how to gem, enchant and reforge your retadin, to essential ret pally addons.

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