How to Improve Ret DPS

How does a Retribution Paladin improve their DPS?  That seems to be a common question many Ret Paladins ask, so I am going to give you guys a little insight on that particular topic.  First, if you are actively searching how to improve your DPS as Ret, I commend you…that’s the first sign of a good raider.  A good DPSer is always keeping up to date with the mechanics of Ret DPS, and is always trying to find ways to maximize their damage output.

Last week, I was chatting on vent with another Ret Paladin in my guild…let’s call him Valdor for fun.  Val is often called to tank or heal, and I am often called upon to heal certain fights as well.  The opportunity for us to run together, both as Ret, rarely presents itself.  This is unfortunate for me, because Val actually dishes out more DPS than I do, and I use our raid logs to compare our numbers, trying to pinpoint my deficiencies.  So, any chat with him is always educational in some way or form.

As we were talking, I came to the conclusion that our philosophies on Ret are very, very similar.  Building upon that talk we had, I’d like to discuss what I believe are the key components to Ret Paladin DPS.  If you are looking to improve your damage as a Ret Pally, here are the areas I’d recommend focusing on:

  • Talents
  • Anticipation
  • Positioning
  • DPS Rotations
  • Gear


First and foremost, Retribution Paladins must adhere to a very specific talent build in order to maximize DPS.  We are not fortunate enough to have multiple DPS trees, therefore Ret is our only option.  While experimenting and diverting talent points may be fun, the tried and true talent build for DPS is what should be followed.  Without the right talents, the remaining aspects of improving Ret DPS are meaningless.

The cookie cutter build for Paladins as of Patch 3.3 is 11/5/55.  Whether or not you decide to put your remaining talent points in Holy for Aura Mastery, or stack them in Protection for Divine Sacrifice is up to what your guild needs.  Personally, I stick with the 11/5/55 version.

Bottom Line: Straying from the cookie cutter Ret talent builds will ultimately mean less DPS.


The second most important aspect of Ret DPS is anticipation, and by that I mean knowing the fights, being aware of what is going on around you, and anticipating what will happen next…adjusting your combat approach as needed.  This means researching boss fights beforehand, knowing their abilities and how they affect you, and then applying those aspects in-game.

Also, be aware of everything around you.  Watch your tanks and healers, as well as other DPS, and keep track of their positioning.  Be aware of where you are going to move next.  Anticipate boss movements, and know where to run if need be.

Watch your health.  As a Paladin, we CAN heal ourselves.  I know that is a forgotten art for us in raiding, but an instant Flash of Light instead of an Exorcism could keep you from observing the rest of the fight as a smear on the ground.  We also have Lay on Hands, which is also often forgotten.  While I can use it on myself in times of need, I prefer to use it on a tank when I see them start taking really spikey damage.


Positioning and anticipation really go hand in hand.  Where you stand on a boss fight, and where you are in relation to other mechanics of whatever boss fight you are on, can really help your DPS.  The less moving around you have to do, the higher your damage output will be.  Be in position to maximize DPS, and make sure to keep Seal of Vengeance refreshed and ticking on the boss at all times.

Here’s an example, albeit a simple one.  On the Marrowgar fight, when not in Bonestorm, a Ret Paladin should be stacked immediately behind the boss to avoid the flames.  This should also put your AoE in range to help DPS down the Bone Spikes, without having to switch targets.  If you are outside this designated Marrowgar “box”, you are not in optimal position, risk getting flamed, and are out of range of bone spikes..not to mention becoming a hassle if you are bone spiked yourself.

During Bonestorm, tail Marrowgar (not too closely) and keep judging and CS or DS as much as possible.  Doing so will put you in immediate range of him after he exits Bonestorm.  If you flee Bonestorm, head for the walls, and wait for the whirlwind to be over, then you are losing alot of DPS by not keeping SoV refreshed, as well as all the damage output lost running back to the boss.  Sure, you survived, but your DPS loss was probably in the thousands at that point.

Positioning is crucial, and at times, quite possibly, can be the single most important factor for maintaining high DPS.

DPS Rotations

Many people like to adjust their own FCFS rotations.  Here’s my simple tip: stick to what has been proven to work.  Top Ret Paladins have crunched out numbers with countless gear combinations to come up with what works for best for our class.  Be aware that there are different FCFS rotations, depending on your current gear set-up in terms of tier gear.

– For anything under 2-piece T9: HoW > CS > Judge > DS > Cons > Ex > HW

– For 2 T9 or 4 T9: Judge > HoW > CS > DS > Cons > Ex > HW

– For 2 T9 and 2 T10, as well as 4 T10: Judgement > DS > CS > HoW > Consecrate > Exorcism > Holy Wrath

The only real substitution for T10 FCFS is switching DS and CS.  If you have low crit and haste, CS might be better off first…but for the most part, you will want DS ahead of CS.  If you want more info on FCFS, check out my menu to the right…I have my FCFS information link there.

In regards to AoE FCFS, that’s really whatever works best for you, though I stack my AoEs first, then continue with normal FCFS rotations.


Gear is last?  You bet.  Skill always wins over gear.  Anticipation, positioning, and FCFS = skill.  Master those three, and your skill will take your DPS to new heights.  Gear is only as good as the person wearing it. Sure, gear helps, and if you know how to DPS as Ret, gear will really help launch your damage to the top of the raid meters.  But without skill, gear is just some pretty shinies you get to wear while swinging that big nasty two-hander.

When you have the skill down, your gear needs to focus on stats that best benefit a Retadin.  Strength, Expertise, Crit, and Haste will be your top priorities after hit rating.   Armor Pen, Agility, and Attack Power are stats you should avoid unless your gear is about 2 or 3 levels under par.

Really pay attention to your stats.  Getting yourself hit and expertise capped at the same time can require some delicate fine-tuning, but it is worth the effort.  Gem correctly.  Only strength, unless you are 2 T9 or above, then you can gem orange str/crit for yellow slots if the slot bonus is +str.

Improve Ret DPS

To improve Ret DPS, you must have the right build, anticipate, position yourself for optimal combat success, use the correct FCFS, and slap on the right gear.  Do all this, do your research, and you will find yourself climbing the damage meters.


  1. stríke says:

    Also, from what i’ve seen from other paladins is that to be as efficient you can, use a potion of speed just before entering combat, then u can use your other potion of speed whenever the raid uses Bloodlust/heroism. The point with using one just before the start is that you get the stacks up really fast and its a dps/dmg increase and then still have the 2nd pot for later use:)


  2. Khor says:

    Excellent, excellent tip! Tanks do this with their potions as well! Thanks Strike!

  3. stríke says:

    your welcome:)

  4. harlekin says:

    What you forget is that timing of trinkets together with cds plays a HUGE part. And that your proffesions is very important. And also clever use of GCDs.

  5. Raducu says:

    I`d like to elaborate on two things :

    -anticipation: this includes the proper use of abilities (seals, and auras) for instance if you`re fighting the Devourer of Souls and he casts Mirrored Soul on you if you use SoV you risk dying because of the DoT …another good example of this is if Scourgelord Tyrannus casts Overlord’s Brand on you again SoV is not the best of choices .

    -proper use of CDs : At this time on my paly i have 2 offensive Cds i`ve actively using : one trinket and ofc Avenging Wrath. I usually use them at the start of each boss fight..because if the fight prolongues i can use them again at some point ^^. I did VOA 25 like a couple of hours ago and i used the CDs twice at boses… but the use of CDs is situational for instance when fighting the Devourer of Souls i prefer popping 1 cd and after it expires poping the next, because if he casts Mirrored Soul on me then i`ve just wasted 2 CDs. Better use them with caution at some boses..

    Optional things that will slightly increse dps are : scrolls, potions, food (yea FOOD) and enchants 😉

  6. Pallygawd says:

    What I do in boss fights:

    I have found that crusader strike IS NOT as effective until you have 5 stacks. I will charge in, Judge, DS, Consencrate, Avenging Wrath, Exorcism (it should have procced by now, if not then skip), Crusader strike, Judge. At the start of the fight is the ONLY time I put Exorcism before CS. Holy Wrath is really only something to be used when everyhting else is on CD, unless there are a lot of undead around like at the start of ICC. If you have the 2 set T10, its pretty much the same, but DS come before everyhting else.

    And i have to agree, Skill > GearScore. I have 5500+ GS and i out deeps a 5900gs pally.

  7. Khor says:

    Thanks for all the input so far! Great stuff guys, this really should help others, because there are so many different approaches people ake to Ret raiding!

    Please keep the comments coming if you feel you have more to contribute!

  8. Suliso says:

    Dont forget to mention Glyphs
    I have seen most interesting glyphs @ “How to increase my DPS threads” including Holy Light, Exo with to low Expertise and so on

  9. LOLRet says:

    This is what I do to start the boss fight:
    1. Hands of Salv
    2. Pop my Wings
    3. Judge
    4. Crusader Strike to build up stacks on [Libram of Three Truths]
    5. DS
    6. If Art of War procs Exorcism, if not Consencrate
    7. Crusader Strike to build 2nd stacks on [Libram of Three Truths]
    6. Judge

    Crusader Strike should be priority until you have reach 5 stacks on [Libram of Three Truths], after that it should be Judgement>DS>Crusader Strike>Exorcism>Consencrate. And when target is below 20%, Hammer of Wrath should always become your priority.

  10. Badret says:

    Popping wings pre 5 stack of SoV is an overall dps loss. With a haste pot, it should take ~11 secs for you to get 5 stacks of SoV, pop your wings then.

    HoS when you start the boss is also generally a bad idea, the ability reduces your total threat by 2%, when you first engage the boss, your total threat is going to be relatively low and your HoS is basically wasted. If you are hitting the boss before the tank does and before hunter/rogues can MD the tank, you are probably doing something wrong.

    Save the HoS for yourself or another dps later in the fight.

  11. Khor says:

    I have to agree with Badret…Avenging Wrath before 5 stacks of SoV is not optimal DPS. Ideally, if you have the 264 libram, you wait for that to stack to 5 as well. However, I tend to not wait for the libram stacks, instead opting for the full 5 SoV only. This simply works better due to timing of our Heroism, so they can be used in tandem more often.

  12. Flyforpk says:

    alright i agree with Khor and Badret. However, in most fights where the end of the fight is where the most dps is needed i find it best to save my Potion of Speed until then, macro’d of course with AW,
    /cast Avenging Wrath
    /use Potion of Speed
    i tend to keep that macro as F5 and AW by itself as F1.
    however, after he mentioned the socketing for T9+ opting for crit/str in yellow sockets that give str as a socket bonus, is this really a viable option, or should i stick to the cookie-cutter All str with Nightmare??
    Here’s an armory link:

    Feedback would be much appreciated. I am always looking for ways to improve my dps both mathematicly and theoreticly.

  13. Khor says:

    You can’t really go wrong wither way, the str/crit gem does give a very small DPS boost with a minimum 2 T9. It won’t cripple your DPS to gem all strength if you prefer that route. personally, I still gem the str/crit.

  14. Flyforpk says:

    Khor, is there a way i can talk to you in game about it?

  15. Khor says:

    Yup, find me on US Shadowsong and shoot me an ingame mail or email me at I check the ingame inbox much more often though 😀 We can arrange something from there!

  16. Ian says:

    Hey brother. Quick question.

    To start off I wasn’t exactly smart about the way I did things.. I got my PvP set before I started working on my PvE set.

    As I’ve only been playing for a month and a half, and all I’ve done is arena/pvp I have no clue where to get the gear I need. I have the legs,chest,hands,helm and shoulders.

    That was all really easy to get. My problem is the small stuff…rings, trinkets, necklaces, bracers, feet etc. Where would I go to get that small stuff? I’m getting really burnt out on PvP and am starting to get into raiding a lot more.

    Thanks for your time, any help is appreciated.

  17. Rewop says:

    Ok guys this may sound very noob but I don’t understand what you guys mean by T9 and T10 gear. Can you guys please explain a little more on what these types of gear are?

  18. Khor says:

    T9 and T10 stands for Tier 9 gear and Tier 10 gear. Tier 9 is the Turalyon’s gear set bought with Emblems of Triumph, at levels 232, 245, and 258. 232 is normal raiding versions. 245 is normal 25-man and heroic 10. 258 is heroic 25 man.

    Tier 10 is the Lightsworn Gear, bought with Emblems of Frost. Levels 251, 264, and 277. Level 251 is 10 ICC 10 normal, 264 is 25 man normal and 10 heroic. 277 is 25 man heroic.

    The base versions (232 and 251) can be bought with the emblems mentioned above. Upgrading them requires a token looted from certain bosses in ToC and ICC, at the 25 normal, 10 heroic, and 25 heroic difficulties.

    Hope this helps!

  19. Rewop says:

    Khor once again thanks for the quick response. This definitely helps.

  20. wtfhealme says:

    i have been using a new fcfs rotation on trash with SoC, judg>CS>DS>cons>CS (Again)>Ex the reason behind this is that once u cast ex, ur judg and all other abilities should be ready almostly instantly to repeat, helped my dps alot hope it helped, was poppin 5.2k dps w/o wings n trinkets with 4.8k gs

  21. Kretpal says:

    When it comes to activating AW, I agree with the posters above. 5 stacks of SoC or popping wings is a waste. I have the trinkets “mark of supremacy” and “shard of the crystal heart”. When I hit 5 stacks, I pop my wings, aura mastery, and both trinkets as quickly as possible and watch my DPS sore. I have barely a 5k ingame GS and I have seen my DPS jump from 5k on bosses to 8-9k in a matter of seconds. I have the basic 11/5/55 build and the only BiS piece I own is the Libram of 3 Truths. Being smart on when to ‘pop everything’ is key. Don’t do it when you know you are about to get feared, or have to move a bunch as there is nothing as frusterating as watching a Ret flee with wings 🙂

  22. ram says:

    Concerning use of pots during boss fights… ive always done the pre-pot potion of speed at the start of fights and then used another one in coodination with wings, bloodlust, etc. to get max dps. Recently tho ive been experimenting with Potion of Wild Magic which grants 200 crit and 200 sp for 15 sec. Ive still been pre-potting speed but i started using potion of WM (mainly for the crit boost) in coodination with wings and bloodlust, etc to maximize the critical damage done while under the effects of all these cooldowns. Maybe its just me, but this seems to increase my dps exponentially (more than using potion of speed) due to the increased amount of critical strikes and damage within the duration of these cooldowns. Ive been pushing 12-13k+ dps doing this [granted i have nice gear :)] but i just started working with the potion of WM

    Has anyone else tried this out? i want to know if its consistent for most rets

  23. ram says:

    ha let me clear that up. exponentially is a exxagerration but hopefully i got my point across lol

  24. Vergelten says:

    Yeah Skill > GS I started activally playing my paladin again and he was at about 4800 GS when i started again and another ret pally in my guild was at about 5300 and I out dpsed her every single time, its all about rotation.

  25. Revvy says:

    I just dinged 70 with my Belf Pally and this site has been a huuuuuge help to me. Sorry if this is an obvious or noob question but what does FCFS stand for?

  26. Khor says:

    Hey Revvy, FCFS stands for First Come First Serve, which essentially means, use the first available attack as it comes off cooldown. Your priority on attacks varies, but at ICC levels for instance, it would be: Judge > DS > CS > HoW > Cons > Ex > HW. Check out the other FCFS priorities in my FCFS post.

  27. Elgar says:

    Rawr is telling me to use the following rotation:


    Could someone clarify this for me ? What does it mean ? How do I cast HoW 2nd if the mobs HP is not low enough ?


  28. ram says:

    that order is the priority its telling u to use for FCFS. u cant cast hammer of wrath until 20% but when u can it should be your second priority. thats what rawr is telling u.

  29. Elgar says:

    I found your answer to this in another discussion. Thanks Khor.


  30. Aaer says:

    Hey Khor,

    I’ve been reading your website all over and trying to improve my DPS.

    I’m around 4 T9 with some bits from Heroics and other assorted Triumph emblem gear, like the Mark of Supremacy.

    I’m getting around barely 3000 DPS in Heroics and on a dummy I had recorded 4000 but I doubt I could re-enact that into a live play.

    I have enough for the Frost libram but when I equipped I lost DPS.. and when a friend suggested an addon I lost even more DPS! So it must be me.

    And I haven’t the foggiest what I’m doing wrong.

    My rotation is CS > Judge > DS > Exo > Con > HW, I use the cookie cutter talent build (which I see, not many use it)

    I’m hit capped, expertise capped, with 4000 AP and 35%+ crit, I stand behind targets and don’t waste my opprotunities with AW and positioning.

    Please help.. 🙁
    (Username is my Paladin’s character on Al’Akir)

  31. Gillver says:

    Hey there I’m looking for any tips and tricks you might be able to offer me to increase my dps/dmg even the smallest amount.

    I use the two pot trick wait until 5 stacks of SoV to pop my wings after pull and my clash rotation is judge>ds>cs>how>con>ex after hours on a dummy this is what works best for me. (rawr agrees)

    I am generally at the top of the dps lists and do well I just can’t help but feel as though I should be pulling more (on fester 25 at the moment without having to run a spore out I pull roughly 13k with the 30% buff)

    I would greatly appreciate it if you could maybe look into my armory and see if there isn’t anything you would change to get better results I feel that I should be doing better and even 10 dps higher would be an improvement.
    p.s the libram I have equipped is for 5 mans and trash pulls I also have the 245 for movement/target switching fights and the 264 for when I get to stay on one target and keep stacks up

  32. Gillver says:

    forgot to mention toon name is the same as user name on duskwood server

  33. Khor says:

    @ Aaer – More than hapyp to help, but I’ll have to ask you to copy and paste this over in my forums. That’s where I am directing all requests for assistance now! As soon as you post up, I’ll give it a good, thorough look!

  34. Nazgul says:

    Someone at one point or another mentioned something about keeping an and eye on you trinket procs. I highly recommend Power Auras for keeping track of both trinkets and you ring proc. This allows me to see which of the three buffs i have and i hit my wings/speed pot when i have at least 2/3 procs going and bloodlust.

  35. Nazgul says:

    Also does anyone else toss Hammers of Wrath at the others bosses on Blood princes? lol i think its a fun trick to do in that fight

  36. Lostemp says:

    For ret pally with T10 set bonus I use the rotation DS- judge – CS – consecrate. I find this rotation gives me the best proc rate for refreshing divine storm and the highest dps on a heroic dummy. For potion I use the 500 haste pot and try to save it for when heroism is popped for ultra fast swing speed and a lot of weapon crits. Do about 5200 dps on heroic dummy with just the seal glyph for expertise.

  37. Reaver says:

    I have an odd question to ask. I have seen a few top end, tier 10, heroic 25 ICC boss ret pallies using AGI gear and even an AGI polearm. Compared to the strength plate gear we can obtain, does AGI actually scale better for ret pallies with access to the top endgame gear?

  38. Khor says:

    Some agility gear does outweigh plate in terms of DPS. That’s why you will see some players opting for leather gear with agi/crit/haste/attack power over a plate piece with str/exp/arm pen.

    Also, Rets want weapons with the highest base weapon damage. Sometimes this makes an agility weapon the best choice, in addition to the stats concern above. Rawr can really help you figure out what gear combos work best.

    Hope this helps! 🙂

  39. Odesius says:

    I have relied on RAWR for ages to maximize my dps, however I am reconsidering its benefits on certain fights.
    Doing ICC Hard modes, with tons of fights very mobile where your SOV/libram stacks might wear off, IMHO the pure Strength buff beats the RAWR calculated gear. I have the Heroic Shadowvault Slayer’s Cloak and passed on the Heroic Winding Sheet due to RAWR numbers a negative 2 dps change, now kicking myself.

    As RAWR only does the math on “hold him still while I beat on him” numbers, running around/adds/multi-bosses (blood princes) breaks RAWR and I cannot figure out how to manipulate it correctly.
    Therefore I say when doubt roll only for the plate STR gear and only take the mail/leather agility type gear when you can play with your gear per fight (mobile vs stationary) {and no mail/leather wearers want that loot}

  40. PM says:

    The only real substitution for T10 FCFS is switching DS and CS. If you have low crit and haste, CS might be better off first…but for the most part, you will want DS ahead of CS. If you want more info on FCFS, check out my menu to the right…I have my FCFS information link there.

    – How do you know if you’re low on haste and crit? 🙂

  41. Joe says:

    What i have found to help others in thier DPS is to switch all ur gems to Crit and Strength and meta to crit instead of attack power and it boosted my DPS greatly

  42. Khor says:

    @ Joe – You can’t switch all gems to str/crit unless it fits in an item with one yellow gem slot that has strength as the socket bonus. Other than that, gemming pure strength is the best boost to DPS.

  43. Creamyo says:

    My rotation for ICC (bosses) is
    Judge-DS -(HOW)-CS-Exo-cons-holy wrath if needed.
    Reason why I go exo over cons is usually bosses are kited around like PP etc. And Exo crits on undead so it will do about 7-9k~ where as cons does less.

    A usefull macro I have for popping my trink/potion/aw is
    /use Potion of Speed
    /Use Vengence of the Forsaken
    /Cast Avenging Wrath
    (I probably stuffed up the names :D)

  44. Rockpie says:

    Is 20k dps single target in HC’s good? Cus some of my friends crank out way more dps (hunter, mage and boomikn) and I was wondering if I suck or if they’re simply better than me.

  45. Khor says:

    20k DPS in 5-mans is pretty good 🙂

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