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Retribution Paladin guide (7.1)

Talent choices, rotations, Artifact Weapon upgrades and everything else you need to know!

The Retribution Paladin is one of World of Warcraft’s most cherished melee damage-dealers. They are powerful single-target attackers and can contribute well to any end-game scenario, while also being a good class for beginners due to their powerful defensive abilities. Our comprehensive and continually updated Retribution Paladin guide will help you learn how to perform to the specialisation's maximum potential.

In the Legion expansion, Blizzard has reinforced the notion of the Retribution Paladin as a warrior wielding holy power to smite enemies and protect allies. The specialisation got a couple of new melee abilities and lost most of their ranged / utility skills, while the damage restrictions were lifted from their defensive abilities.

In this Retribution Paladin guide, we’re going to help you pick a levelling build that will let you hit the ground running in Legion and ensure you make it through the new questing areas and levelling dungeons at a very steady pace.

This means we’re going to make specific recommendations on talents you should choose as you level up, and you’ll find that most of these will prove ideal for a damage-dealing role once you hit the level cap, as well. Even after you hit the level cap, you’ll want to continue your character’s growth by upgrading their Artifact Weapon, the legendary Ashbringer - we’ll detail the best way to go about that too.

We will also introduce you to the optimal rotations / strategy for playing this particularly type of Paladin. This will ensure that you make use of your abilities to their greatest possible effect, and know when to use more secondary skills correctly.

As the expansion progresses, we plan to update this guide with gearing and PvP-centric advice. Keep checking in!

Editor's note: Update #3 - Patch 7.1 - The new Return to Karazhan patch brought a small but very significant change to the Retribution Paladin’s tier 4 talents. Blade of Wrath is no longer a substitute for Blade of Justice, but instead upgrades it so that its cooldown is occasionally reset by your auto-attacks. This is an overall DPS gain, and is worth bumping Blade of Justice up in your rotation. The relevant sections have been updated accordingly.

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Retribution Paladin talents

Before we get down to our preferred choice of talents for Retribution Paladin (found just a little further down the page), here's a breakdown of all of the talents that you have at your disposal.

LevelOption 1Option 2Option 3
15Final Verdict - Increases the damage done by Templar's Verdict and Divine Storm.Execution Sentence - A massive damage burst with a 7-second delay.Consecration - An AoE spell that deals moderate damage over 12 seconds.
30The Fires of Justice - Reduces the cooldown of Crusader Strike and gives it a 15% chance to reduce the cost of your next damaging or healing Holy Power ability by 1.Zeal - Replaces your Crusader Strike with a slightly more damaging ability that deals damage to up to 3 nearby enemies, with diminishing returns.Greater Judgement - Your Judgment ability hits 2 additional nearby enemies, and always deals a critical strike against targets above 50% health.
45Fist of Justice - Your damage dealing abilities that spend Holy Power reduce the remaining cooldown on Hammer of Justice by 8 sec.Repentance - A long (1 min) stun that deals damage over its duration and is broken by added damage. Can only be used against Demons, Dragonkin, Giants, Humanoids, and Undead.Blinding Light - An AoE that deals minor damage while stunning all nearby enemies for 6 seconds - non-holy damage breaking the stun.
60Virtue's Blade - A flat 33% increase to Blade of Justice’s critical strike damage.Blade of Wrath - Blade of Justice’s cooldown is occasionally reset by your auto-attacks.Divine Hammer - Replaces Blade of Justice, dealing slightly less damage (and over time) but dealing it to all nearby enemies.
75Justicar’s Vengeance - A massively damaging attack that also recovers health, with a hefty 5 Holy Power cost.Eye for an Eye - A 35% damage reduction for 10 seconds, with automatic counterattacks for moderate damage.Word of Glory - A good AoE heal for 3 Holy Power.
90Divine Intervention - Reduces your Divine Shield cooldown by half and activates it as a safety net whenever you would take fatal damage.Cavalier - Divine Steed now has 2 charges.Seal of Light - Spends Holy power to increase your movement speed to up to 100% depending on the amount of Holy Power spent.
100Divine Purpose - Holy Power spending abilities have a 20% chance to make the next Holy Power spending ability free.Crusade - Replaces Avenging Wrath, with a variant that is initially weaker but increases in power the more Holy Power attacks you use for its duration.Holy Wrath - An AoE that increases in damage in proportion to your missing health.

Retribution Paladin talent build

Here are the specific Retribution talent choices we opted for to ensure a fast and steady levelling experience. We've also inclued the reasons for making each choice, so you can better understand the mechanics of levelling this class.

LevelTalentReason
15Final Verdict - Increases the damage done by Templar's Verdict and Divine Storm.A good flat damage increase to your main finishers. Execution Sentence provides the greater damage output, but while levelling most mobs won’t live long enough for it to be usable.
30The Fires of Justice - Reduces the cooldown of Crusader Strike and gives it a 15% chance to reduce the cost of your next damaging or healing Holy Power ability by 1.Using Crusader Strike more often means more Holy Power, and combined with the occasional cost reduction, this means you’ll be able to use your finishers much more often.
45Fist of Justice - Your damage dealing abilities that spend Holy Power reduce the remaining cooldown on Hammer of Justice by 8 sec.This is the most reliable of your stuns, and it synergizes very well with later talent choices and your overall rotation.
60Blade of Wrath - Blade of Justice’s cooldown is occasionally reset by your auto-attacks.The reduced cooldown helps you generate Holy Power faster, making this the best choice overall. Virtue’s Blade is only a reliable gain once your critical hit stat is at 30% or above.
75Justicar’s Vengeance - A massively damaging attack that also recovers health, with a hefty 5 Holy Power cost.You should only take this at lvl 100, combined with Divine Purpose. Until then, take Eye for an Eye for an extra panic button.
90Cavalier - Divine Steed now has 2 charges.This is mostly a quality-of-life choice, giving you an extra speed boost to go from target to target, and doesn’t affect your rotation. If you'd rather have more survivability, Divine Intervention is a great choice.
100Divine Purpose - Holy Power spending abilities have a 20% chance to make the next Holy Power spending ability free.This results in the greatest overall damage output, and requires no extra management on your end. Essentially it gives you a free Justicar’s Vengeance every 5 finishers.

Retribution Paladin rotation

The Retribution Paladin specialization is all about using your base abilities to fill up on Holy Power (you can hold up to 5 charges), applying Judgement on your target, and then unleashing your Holy Power by spending “finishers” while the Judgement effect lasts.

Ideally, you’ll never run dry on Holy Power, but you need to keep an eye on your Holy Power meter to make sure you don’t “waste” Holy Power generation by using a basic ability that grants you more of this resource than you can actually stack.

Example: if you have 4 Holy Power and the cooldown comes off your Blade of Wrath, you’ll want to use a Holy Power spender before using Blade of Wrath again, even if your Judgement effect is not active. The reason? If you use Blade of Wrath then you’ll add 2 Holy Power to your existing 4, but since your maximum is 5 stacks, one of these will be wasted.

That said, current talents make Holy Power very easy to generate, and the most challenging aspect of the rotation will be syncing your Holy Power spenders / finishers with the Judgement effect.

Retribution Paladin - Single target rotation

ActionConditions / Further Instructions
1.Wake of Ashes (available at lvl 100 with Artifact Weapon) If you have the "Ashes to Ashes" trait unlocked, try to spend all your Holy Power before casting.
2.Crusader StrikeIf at or under 4 Holy Power.
3.Blade of WrathIf at or under 3 Holy Power.
4.Crusader Strike (2nd charge)If at or under 4 Holy Power.
5.Crusader StrikeIf at or under 4 Holy Power.
6.Judgement
7.Avenging WrathIf the fight will last at least 1 minute.
8.Hammer of JusticeIf Divine Purpose has activated.
9.Justicar's VengeanceIf Divine Purpose has activated.
10.Templar's VerdictIf at 5 Holy Power OR 3+ Holy Power and Holy Power generators are on cooldown / would bring you over 5 Holy Power.
11.Repeat from Step 1

Retribution Paladin - Multiple target rotation

You will find this rotation practically the same as the single-target one. Use this only for three targets or more though, as the single-target rotation is more effective against two targets.

ActionConditions / Further Instructions
1.Wake of Ashes (available at lvl 100 with Artifact Weapon) If you have the "Ashes to Ashes" trait unlocked, try to spend all your Holy Power before casting.
2.Crusader StrikeIf at or under 4 Holy Power.
3.Blade of WrathIf at or under 3 Holy Power.
4.Crusader Strike (2nd charge)If at or under 4 Holy Power.
5.Crusader StrikeIf at or under 4 Holy Power.
6.Judgement
7.Avenging WrathIf the fight will last at least 1 minute.
8.Divine StormIf at 5 Holy Power OR 3+ Holy Power and Holy Power generators are on cooldown / would bring you over 5 Holy Power.
9.Hammer of JusticeIf Divine Purpose has activated.
10.Justicar's VengeanceIf Divine Purpose has activated.
11.Repeat from Step 1

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Retribution Paladin Artifact and Relics

The Ashbringer is the Retribution Paladin Artifact, and with it comes the Wake of Ashes ability, a frontal cone AoE attack with a short range but a wide breadth. This will instantly become the priority in your rotation. Initially you will use it whenever off cooldown. Later, upon grabbing the Ashes to Ashes Artifact trait, you might see fit to delay using it in order to profit from the added Holy Power generation.

Below you will find our recommendations for how to best progress along your Artifact Trait tree. These are based upon finding a balance between picking the most useful traits for your specialisation with reaching must-have traits as soon as possible.

This is important because the price of each trait increases dynamically the more you have. So it might be worth it at times to get some less useful traits in order to reach a key ability faster, instead of going the longer route while picking up better minor traits. If you mess up, once you reach level 110 you will have the chance to reset your Artifact Power and start over, but we recommend you avoid doing so, as the cost increases with the amount of Artifact Power you have already invested.

Artifact Power can be acquired by doing mostly anything in the game, from questing to dungeons. Once you get to level 110, the Suramar area opens up, which is particularly bountiful in Artifact Power. Once you unlock your World Quests ( randomly generated quests on every area, every day), which is done through the relatively trivial process of getting to Friendly reputation with the main Legion factions, you will be able to pick daily quests that will specifically reward you with Artifact Power. Once you hit 110, you will also be able to invest Resources at your Order Hall to research your Artifact’s history. Doing so will give you a bonus to all Artifact Power gains, but each step of the research takes several days, so start it as soon as possible.

Your utmost priority as a Retribution Paladin is getting the Ashes to Ashes trait, as this massively boosts Wake of Ashes’ damage output, and fills up your Holy Power whenever you use it. In order to get to it quickly, we will pick some “utility” traits that can be useful while soloing but won’t really help your damage output shine. It is still worth it, because Ashes to Ashes is a true game-changer for the Retribution Paladin, and the sooner you get it, the better.

Once you get Ashes to Ashes, and if you plan on playing Protection or Holy as an offspec, you should invest your next wave of Artifact points in the respective Artifact Weapon, as once you buy a major trait like Ashes to Ashes, the cost of the remaining traits will jump exponentially. So unless you are set on absolutely min/maxing your Retribution spec as fast as possible, it’s more efficient to get to the first major trait of your secondary spec Artifact, and then going back to Ashbringer.

As far as Relics go, you should only truly care for increasing your Artifact’s item level. If two relics have the same item level, you’ll want to prioritise the one whose trait offers a greater ability damage increase, in this order:

  • Wrath of the Ashbringer
  • Highlord's Judgment
  • Deliver the Justice
  • Sharpened Edge
  • Might of the Templar
  • Righteous Blade
Recommended Order Trait Reason
1 - 3 Righteous Blade - Increases the damage of Divine Storm Divine Storm is only useful VS 3+ targets (for now) so this is a minor DPS increase, but is taken first to set us on the path to Ashes to Ashes
4 Unbreakable Will - Breaks stuns longer than 2 seconds, every 2 minutes. Sadly does not work during the story events where villains stun you before doing something evil and running away. This is nice-to-have but hardly good for PvE content; however we are sacrificing the Artifact Power to take one more step towards Ashes to Ashes.
5-7 Protector of the Ashen Blade - Reduces the cooldown of Blessing of Protection.. It’s painful to use up so much Artifact Power in such a useless trait, I know. It will be worth it for the next pick.
8 Ashes to Ashes - Massive increase to Wake of Ashes’ damage, and makes it generate 5 Holy Power. This will completely empower your rotation, making you start almost every fight with full Holy Power. It can also be used to fully power a single use of Justicar’s Vengeance if you want a quick finisher or need the healing.
9-11 Sharpened Edge - Increases the Critical Strike chance of Crusader Strike. A decent crit increase for one of your most used abilities.
12-14 Deflection - Reduced the cooldown of your Shield of Vengeance. Shield of Vengeance is actually a pretty good defensive cooldown that dishes some damage on the side, so while not a stellar trait, this is not too bad a price to pay for getting to the next major trait.
15 Echo of the Highlord - A flat 10% increase to your Templar’s Verdict and Divine Storm spells. While not as game-changing as Ashes to Ashes, this is a pretty good boost to your DPS.
16-18 Wrath of the Ashbringer - Increases the duration of Avenging Wrath A solid increase to your main DPS cooldown ability.
19-21 Might of the Templar - Increases the damage dealt by Templar's Verdict Notice that we jumped from one end of the tree to the other. This is because we’re not really in a rush to the third major trait, while this one will net you a good single-target DPS increase.
22-24 Highlord's Judgment - Increases the damage dealt by your Judgement Another good increase to one of your most used abilities.
25-27 Embrace the Light - Increases the healing done by Flash of Light Not too crazy about this one, but we’re nearing the end and we need to reach that last Major trait.
28 Divine Tempest - Increases the damage dealt by Divine Storm by 20%. Ashbringer also projects your Divine Storm forward, damaging all enemies in its path. Rotation change! Once you have this, you should start using Divine Storm at 2 targets, as it will overtake Templar’s Verdict.
29 Endless Resolve - Reduces the duration of Forbearance by 10 seconds. While not a game-changer, it will allow you to use your major defensive cooldowns closer to one another, which is always helpful when soloing or in harder dungeons / raids.
30 Healing Storm - Divine Storm now also heals nearby allies. A little help to your party’s healer, this will hardly ever save anyone's’ life, but is a nice gesture.

This marks the end of the third edition of our Paladin guide, and there’s lots more to come! In future updates, we’re going to take a look at the other talent specialisations and rotations, and following that we’ll provide some PvP-centered tips and strategies.

Is there something else you’d like to see in our Paladin guide? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer your questions in the next update!

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