It’s been a good, long time since I last blogged about Paladins. When I first really got into blogging about leveling it was because of my previous two Paladins (both Protection). At that point in time everyone was saying that you should level as Ret, no exception, but I went with Prot and did some crazy soloing and AoE grinding on my quest to level 80, and it was honestly some of the most fun I’ve had in game.
I managed to get my last Paladin, Lexington, up to level 78 before I switched servers and left him there never to be played again. He hasn’t seen any serious play time at all in over a year and a half now. People are always asking me to update the Prot Paladin guides and though I’ve said several times that I would I just never could manage to make myself get over there and leveling give him some play time love. So I’ll make it public here and now that there will not be a Prot Paladin guide or update until I decide to level another one, and at this point in time I’m not planning to do so until sometime in Cataclysm.
Last week I leveled a Holy Paladin to level 10 to twink him for PvP, and on Friday I had a crazy idea to turn his experience back on and raise him to 19 instead for additional healing spells. I wanted to hurry to 19 so I also gave him a respec (which cost only 40-some silver, btw) to Retribution just to hurry it along. What started as a 9 level blitz turned into 23 level joy ride of splitting heads with my axe.
As with my level 80 Druid, Hotstuffbaby, my twink names tend to bite me in the butt when I decide to level them instead. At least Hearmywords can be fun if I macro different sayings to my attacks or something, I guess.
/cast Crusader Strike
/y Can you hear me yet, %t?
/cast Templar’s Verdict
/y Can you hear me now, %t?
/y I said… CAN. YOU. HEAR. ME.
Playing a Retribution Paladin
Ret Paladins play much like any other melee class, where you basically close in with your targets and proceed to bash their face in until they fall over and give you loot. Paladins got a change in play style from the 4.0 patch though in the form of Holy Power.
Back in the early days of 3.x I was able to solo a great deal of content with my Protection Paladin and I really did have an absolute blast leveling him up and soloing five man group quests below level and soloing at level dungeons. I’m not feeling the tanking bug right now though, so this time around I’m going for Retribution instead.
Playing a Ret Paladin in 4.0.1 is very similar to how that Prot Pally felt in 3.x – over powered. It’s even better than it was before though, because now we actually have additional attacks that we can use in early levels instead of waiting for level 30 before we had anything besides auto-attack. Solo play got even better because we now have a healing spell from level 9 on that is not only mana-free, but also instant to cast. While not as good as Lay on Hands (which we still have, and do get in this level range), it also doesn’t have a cooldown beyond the generation of Holy Power, so it’s very easy to use.
To start this section off, we’re going to look first at the perks of choosing the Retribution tree. The keystone ability you get for choosing Ret is Templar’s Verdict, an instant attack that consumes Holy Power for increased weapon damage. You also get Sheath of Light which increases your spellpower by 30% of your attack power as well as giving a 6% bonus to your Spell Hit, and Two-Handed Weapon Specialization which gives you a 20% damage bonus with two-handed weapons. And finishing off the Ret perks is Judgements of the Bold which restores 25% of your base mana over 10 seconds every time you cast Judgement.
Our new mechanic, Holy Power, is similar(ish) to a Rogue’s combo points. You build Holy Power by using certain abilities, primarily Crusader Strike, but they build up on you rather than on your target and they expire with time or when consumed by another ability. You can store up to three Holy Power at a time, and the abilities that use it increase in power with each point.
Rather than having finishing moves, Paladins can burn their Holy Power with either healing spells or additional attacks, and since the HP stacks on you rather than the target you can kill one enemy by building up your HP and then kill another by spending the HP built on the first target. When soloing elites or fighting bosses in a dungeon, you can also contribute a great deal of instant-cast healing by using your HP with Word of Glory. I’ll get into the details of that further down.
As I mentioned, this paladin started out as a level 10 Holy twink, and at level 10 I was able to solo level 19 casters and rare spawns with nothing more than Crusader Strike and Word of Glory. It wasn’t a quick and easy soloing due to a very high miss chance, but there was literally no chance at all that I was going to die, even when I managed to draw agro on two of them at a time. In fact, if I had been Horde instead of Alliance, and had thought to try it, I’m quite certain I could have soloed RFC at level 10.
Seals and Judgement
A Seal is a Paladin-specific buff which typically adds some sort of extra bonus to your attacks. In this level range our only Seal is Seal of Righteousness which adds some Holy damage to each of our attacks. The Seal in use also determines the power of your Judgement spell.
There used to be multiple forms of Judgement, and they used to do different things based on your seal, but now it’s all an amount of damage. Seal of Righteousness provides the single highest Judgement damage of all the Seals at this time. Note that Judgement can only be cast if you have a Seal active, so always make sure that buff is up or else you lose access to one of your most useful attack spells.
Judgement is our primary form of ranged attack or ranged pull at this level, with Exorcism being the only other option that’s not a taunt. Exorcism will eat through your mana and has a cast time, where Judgement replenishes your mana and is an instant cast spell.
Auras are another paladin-specific buff, but these apply to your whole raid as long as they are within 40 yards of you. Our aura for most of this level range is Devotion Aura which provides a nice bonus to our Armor, which you’ll typically replace at level 26 with Retribution Aura which deals damage to enemies whenever they hit you.
There are several auras to choose from as you get higher in level, but Retribution and Devotion are the two auras you’ll use most often while leveling. I generally run around in Retribution aura because the extra DPS appeals to me more than the extra survivability of Devotion, especially with Word of Glory in our tool belt now.
Important Spells & Abilities
There are a lot of spells and abilities that come with being a Paladin, but I’m going to try to keep it simple and limited to only the most important ones for a Retribution spec. There are other spells that you’ll get in this level range as well, I leave them out only because I do not find them critical to playing a Ret paladin.
- Crusader Strike (1): An instant strike that causes 120% weapon damage.
- Judgement (3): Unleashes the energy of a Seal to judge an enemy for Holy damage.
- Seal of Righteousness (3): Fills the Paladin with holy spirit for 30 min, granting each single-target melee attack additional Holy damage. Only one Seal can be active on the Paladin at any one time.
- Devotion Aura (5): Gives additional armor to party and raid members within 40 yards. Players may only have one Aura on them per Paladin at any one time.
- Hammer of Justice (7): Stuns the target for 6 sec.
- Word of Glory (9): Consumes all Holy Power to heal a friendly target for 115 to 127 per charge of Holy Power.
Crusader Strike is basically the key to everything you do as Ret, because it’s your primary source of Holy Power. It also does a decent amount of damage, but the big thing is that HP. I’m not 100% positive but fairly close, that using it gives you HP every time you use it, even when you miss. I can’t think of a time that I’ve ever used it and not received HP for doing so. Judgement is our primary ranged attack, and also our main source of mana regeneration.
Seal of Righteousness and Devotion Aura are the two buffs that you want to have up at all times. Auras have no duration and persist through death, so the one you have active when you die will still be active when your rez. Seals are only 30 minute buffs though, and must be active in order for you to use Judgement, so be sure to have your Seal active at all times, and if it gets dispelled during combat be sure to reapply it right away.
Hammer of Justice seems mostly PvP related, but it’s also great for questing and dungeons or either stop running mobs or to interrupt an enemy spellcaster. It’s also great for stunning a mob long enough to get off a Crusader Strike followed by a Word of Glory when you’re in desperate need of a heal.
Word of Glory is an amazing spell, one of my favorite additions to the Paladin. It’s an instant cast heal that requires no mana, instead healing you for an amount based on how much Holy Power you have available. Unlike most of your other HP abilities, WoG heals you for a flat amount, multiplied by the HP used. So if it heals you for 120 with a single point of HP, then it will heal you for 360 if you have three points of HP. So if you’re in a fight for your life then you can alternate Crusader Strike-Word of Glory, or you can build up a bigger stack if healing isn’t quite so time sensitive.
- Flash of Light (16): A quick, expensive heal that heals a friendly target for 392 to 438.
- Lay on Hands (16): Heals a friendly target for an amount equal to the Paladin’s maximum health and restores 160 of their mana. If used on self, the Paladin cannot be targeted by Divine Shield, Divine Protection, Hand of Protection, or self-targeted Lay on Hands again for 2 min.
- Exorcism (18): Causes Holy damage to an enemy target. If the target is Undead or Demon, it will always critically hit.
- Hand of Protection (18): A targeted party or raid member is protected from all physical attacks for 10 sec, but during that time they cannot attack or use physical abilities. Players may only have one Hand on them per Paladin at any one time. Once protected, the target cannot be targeted by Divine Shield or Hand of Protection again for 2 min.
I mention Flash of Light rather than Holy Light because enough though FoL cost 3x as much mana as HL, the cast time is significantly reduced, and if you need a heal badly enough that you’re going to spend a cast time on it, you want to make sure it’s big enough to be worth it. If you need to heal, and you need it now, then FoL is the way to go if Word of Glory won’t cover it and/or Lay on Hands is on cooldown. Our other big heal, the top dog of all heals, Lay on Hands appears at the same level. If you, or someone else is about to die, this is a literal life saver. The strongest healing spell in the game, even on a crit, can’t top the healing potential of this bad boy.
Exorcism is one of our trademark damaging spells, dealing a solid amount of Holy damage to the target. As an added bonus, it has a guaranteed crit against demons and undead targets, and our talent points will soon give us a chance to proc the ability to use it as an instant cast spell which makes it an even better DPS tool.
Hand of Protection is one of the Paladin’s “bubbles”, preventing all physical damage to the friendly target that you cast it on. The good thing is, this will keep you alive against all forms of physical damage, including falling damage. The bad thing is, it does nothing at all against Magic damage and it prevents you for using any attack spells either. The best use for this, other than jumping off of cliffs, is to use it when you have no Holy Power, Lay on Hands is unavailable, and you’re being attacked by physical mobs. Pop HoP for immunity and then use your spells to heal yourself back to full. This is about the only time I bother casting Holy Light as I have the time to safely use it with its long cast time rather than spending additional mana on FoL.
One thing to note about HoP, if you’ve gotten the use out of it that you need (such as an emergency heal), you can right-click on the buff to cancel it, which will remove the restriction of attacking. I have a /cancelaura macro attached to my Crusader Strike for this purpose which I’ll have down in the macros section below.
- Blessing of Kings (22): Places a Blessing on the friendly target, increasing Strength, Agility, Stamina, and Intellect by 5%, and all magical resistances for 1 hour. If target is in your party or raid, all party and raid members will be affected. Players may only have one Blessing on them per Paladin at any one time.
- Consecration (24): Consecrates the land beneath the Paladin, doing Holy damage over 10 sec to enemies who enter the area.
- Retribution Aura (26): Causes 9 Holy damage to any enemy that strikes a party or raid member within 40 yards. Players may only have one Aura on them per Paladin at any one time.
- Holy Wrath (28): Sends bolts of holy power in all directions, causing Holy damage divided among all targets within 10 yds and stunning all Demons, Dragonkin, Elementals and Undead for 3 sec.
Blessing of Kings is another buff that you want to have up at all times, increasing your main stats by 5% and giving you some magic resistance as well. The blessing changed in 4.0.1 so that they now hit your whole party and they last for 1 hour as regular and greater blessings were combined into one.
Consecration is a decent ability to use if you’re in a big group of mobs, but the damage isn’t as good as it used to be and the mana cost is ridiculous, not to mention the cooldown was increased. I don’t recommend you use this thing for much of anything unless you’re forced to fight several mobs at once and you feel that you need the extra damage. I used to love that spell so much…
Retribution Aura is our DPS aura, allowing us to deal extra damage by getting hit. You’re now a porcupine with an axe. Holy Wrath is our new AoE spell of choice. It used to only work on undead and demons, but now it works on everything and applies a stun to specific types of mobs. The damage works for everything though and the animation actually looks cool now compared to what it was in the previous version. If you want to spend mana on AoE, do it with Holy Wrath, not Consecration.
Leveling a Retribution Paladin
Starter Rotation: Crusader Strike, Judgement, Crusader Strike
Questing Rotation 1: Judgement, Crusader Strike, Exorcism (on proc), Templar’s Verdict
LFG Trash Rotation: Judgement, Crusader Strike, Exorcism (on proc), DS/TV/Conc*
LFG Boss Rotation: Judgement, Crusader Strike**, Exorcism (on proc), Templar’s Verdict
The Starter Rotation is what you’ll use prior to level 10. Basically just switch back and forth between Crusader Strike and Judgement until everything is dead.
Once you start getting some of your other abilities you can use the other rotations instead. The “Exorcism (on proc)” refers to our level 29 talent point in The Art of War which give our auto-attack a chance to make Exorcism an instant-cast spell that costs not mana and does twice the normal damage.
*On the LFG Trash Rotation includes a “DS/TV/Conc*” at the end of it. This is where you use Divine Storm (DS) if you spent the talent point on it, Templar’s Verdict (TV) if you have a big target that needs a big hit, or Consecrate (Conc) if you have mana to spare and are fighting three or more mobs with a significant amount of health left. Right now I’m not a fan of Consecration. The damage is pretty low, the cooldown is long, and the mana cost sucks. Not that we use a whole lot of mana right now anyway, but still, I think I’d rather spend my cooldowns on Crusader Strikes and Divine Storms than Consecration.
**For the LFG Boss Rotation it’s a little more specific than what I have up there. As things stand right now in 4.0.1, bosses are just like they were in 3.5, so their health isn’t all that impressive and with all classes getting their changes most bosses are a flipping joke right now while leveling. But for a mini-spoiler, bosses that have 3,000 health right now in live have over 28,000-31,000 health in Cataclysm. So for right now you can build up one or two Holy Power and then dump it into Templar’s Verdict to deal some hate to the bosses and it’ll be over before you know it. But once Cataclysm arrives you’re going to want a full stack of Holy Power each time you unleash TV on a boss to maximize your damage. If you get an Art of War proc, fire off that Exorcism right away as you don’t want to risk losing it or missing out on another proc because the current one was still active.
Talent Spec: Retribution 29
- Crusade 3/3: Increases the damage of your Crusader Strike, Hammer of the Righteous and Templar’s Verdict by 30% and the damage and healing of your Holy Shock by 30%.
- Improved Judgments 2/2: Increases the range of your Judgement by 20 yards.
- Pursuit of Justice 2/2: You have a 100% chance to gain a charge of Holy Power when struck by a Stun, Fear or Immobilize effect. In addition, increases your movement and mounted movement speed by 15%. This effect does not stack with other movement speed increasing effects.
- Rule of Law 3/3: Increases the critical effect chance of your Crusader Strike, Hammer of the Righteous and Word of Glory by 15%.
- The Art of War 1/3: Your autoattacks have a 7% chance to make your next Exorcism instant, free and cause 100% additional damage.
- Divine Storm 1/1: An instant attack that causes weapon damage to all enemies within 8 yards. The Divine Storm heals up to 3 party or raid members totaling 25% of the damage caused. Consumes all Holy Power to increase damage dealt by 22%, 74%, or 150%.
In the first tier I started off with Crusade because I saw it as the most likely contribution to my damage while leveling since Crusader Strike is my most common attack, and Templar’s Verdict my most likely use for Holy Power. Improved Judgements came next as I prefer to pull with Judgement and the more range it has the better, not to mention using it to finish off runners or pull threat for mobs chasing after my healer when the tank’s not watching.
For the second tier I decided to go for Pursuit of Justice first because of the increased speed. The holy power from stun/fear/immobilize isn’t likely to happen in this bracket outside of PvP and Wailing Caverns, but the increased run speed is a huge bonus for leveling. I then went for Rule of Law for another damage increase via crit chance for Crusader Strike, and survivability via crit for Word of Glory.
For the sole point in the third tier I chose to go with a single point in The Art of War over Divine Storm because I prefer the damage increase from instant Exorcisms to the potential AoE damage of Divine Storm. With a long cooldown and high mana cost on Consecration now, it’s just not worth it for me to try to AoE my way through all of my quests when it’s actually faster for me to just destroy things one at a time. I did take Divine Storm at level 31 for an extra AoE to use in random dungeons. I love the fact that Divine Storm now hits everything within 8 yards instead of only four targets like it did previously.
Everything here is about increasing our damage output in one way or another, with the slight exception of Pursuit of Justice which is more about decreasing our travel time which makes leveling faster.
I’m going to list at least two options for each glyph type that you can choose from, and below each section I’ll mention why I choose them and under which circumstances I might change from one to another.
- Glyph of Crusader Strike: Increases the critical strike chance of Crusader Strike by 5%.
- Glyph of Exorcism: Your Exorcism causes an additional 20% of its damage over 6 sec.
Crusader Strike is my primary attack; It’s how I get my Holy Power and where the majority of my damage comes from outside of auto-attacks. Because of this, I went with the Crusader Strike first, increasing my crit chance by 5%. I gave a lot of thought to using Exorcism instead as it’s a flat damage increase to Exorcism, but I don’t use it quite as often as I do CS, and up to this level range it’s almost guaranteed that if I use Exo on something it’s going to be dead before that 6 second DoT effect would matter. If you’re doing a lot of LFG, then I might suggest Exo > CS for boss fights, but even then you’ll have way more uses of CS than Exo regardless.
- Glyph of Hammer of Justice: Increases your Hammer of Justice range by 5 yards.
- Glyph of Divinity: Your Lay on Hands grants twice as much mana as normal and also grants you as much mana as it grants your target.
I personally went with Hammer of Justice first because I like to use PvP to help me level when I’m not in a questing/dungeon kind of mood and the extra range on a stun is pretty nice. In PvE the extra range doesn’t help a whole lot unless I pull multiple mobs and one of them happens to be a caster. Going with Divinity is more useful later in the game as mana is rarely an issue unless you’re using Exorcism or your heals more frequently. I found it to be useful in LFG, so I have been switching back and forth as needed.
- Glyph of Lay on Hands: Reduces the cooldown of your Lay on Hands spell by 2 min.
- Glyph of Blessing of Kings: Reduces the mana cost of Blessing of Kings by 50%.
- Glyph of Righteousness: Reduces the mana cost of Seal of Righteousness by 50%.
As with most classes, our minor glyphs kind of suck. The only one I really say is necessary is Lay on Hands since it’s the only ability that you’re likely to use while in combat and its use can actually have a significant impact by allowing you to cast LoH more often. Every other Paladin minor glyph right now just reduces the mana cost of spells that you’ll likely only cast outside of combat anyway, where casting your buffs and then drinking to restore your mana would negate the glyph’s use, not to mention we don’t care about mana much to begin with.
I don’t use a whole lot of fancy macros on my Paladin just yet, but I do have a few that are particularly useful.
/cancelaura Blessing of Protection
/cast Crusader Strike [same for Templar's Verdict, Divine Storm, and Exorcism]
This is the one that I mentioned up above that cancels my BoP right before I attack. BoP gives you immunity to physical damage, but at the expense of not allowing you to attack. Generally you want to cast this when you need to heal yourself (if you’re targeting yourself), so after you’re finished healing it’s time to get back to combat rather than just waiting for it to end itself. Basically this one saves me the trouble of canceling the buff myself.
I use a version of this macro for all of my primary attack spells as I mention in the macro text itself.
/cast [modifier:alt] Divine Storm; Templar’s Verdict
This is a typical space saving macro. DS and TV both use your Holy Power for a melee attack. TV is a single-target attack that can do 225% weapon damage with a full stack of HP, where Divine Storm is an AoE attack that burns your HP for up to 150% weapon damage. They both work the same way and use the same kind of resource, so I use a simple macro to switch from one spell to the other when I hold the Alt key.
Gearing Up as Retribution
As a melee class we’re looking for stats that impact our melee performance such as Strength, Attack Power, Hit, Crit, and Haste. We know from our Two-Handed Weapon Specialization that we’re meant to use two-handed weapons, and the general rules apply there; the slower the weapon, the higher the damage.
Stat Priority: Strength, Attack Power, Crit, Haste, Hit, Expertise
In short, we’re going to stack Strength. Crit and Haste are both great stats when you can find them, though Crit is much easier to find than Haste at these levels. Hit and Expertise are both good, but again they’ll play a bigger role at later levels than they do now.
If you have access to heirloom gear and want to know which ones to use:
Bloodied Arcanite Reaper with the Crusader enchant
Polished Breastplate of Valor with the Greater Stats enchant (+4 all)
Polished Spaulders of Valor
Swift Hand of Justice probably two of these
If you don’t have access to BoA items then you want to look for gear via dungeons. Here is a short list of items that come to mind for me:
Subterranean Cape Cloak, +4 Str, +4 Agi
Cobrahn’s Grasp Mail Belt, +8 Str, +3 Agi
Thermaplugg’s Left Arm 2H Axe, 32.6 DPS, +18 Str, +7 Stam
Grubbis Paws Mail Gloves, +6 Str, +5 Agi, +9 Stam
Manual Crowd Pummeler 2H Mace, 29.0 DPS, +16 Str, +5 Agi, Use: +500 Haste for 30 seconds (1 hour cooldown).