Stat Priorities – Leveling to 85

One thing in Cataclysm that will be different between leveling and end game content is stat priority for Retribution Paladins.  At level 80, we were used to hoarding as much hit and expertise as we could for caps, followed by critical strike, and then haste.

Well, for leveling 80 to 85, much as it is for 1 to 80, our stat priorities change a bit as Retribution Paladins.  The reason for this is simlpe: burst damge.

Burst Damage and Leveling

Burst damage is basically 95% of our damage and DPS while leveling, because honestly, how long does it really take to kill a normal, non-elite trash mob?  Not long. 

End game stat priorities focus on hit rating and expertise because the fights are much longer, and missing or being dodged can actually hurt DPS and the outcome of a fight.  This isn’t true while leveling.  If we miss with one hit, we can follow right up with another strong attack, costing us, what, two or three seconds?

Burst damage is all about one stat: Critical Strike.  Forget hit, expertise, haste, and mastery.  Critical Strike is the number one buffer to our burst damage, and should be your main focus outside of strength.

Gearing Strength and Crit

All of our gear should be plate, thanks to Plate Specialization, which means every piece of gear will, or should have some form of Strength.  Since Strength is our number one damage booster, gem and enchant for as much strength as possible.  Where no strength is available via enchant, opt for attack power.  If neither strength nor attack power is available, go with critical strike.

After strength, you will want to stack as much critical strike as possible for larger burst damage.  Questing and leveling is fighting a bunch of normal, non-elite mobs, and one or two crits will make your leveling experience easier, and honestly, a little more fun.  There is nothing like wasting an enemy with one Exorcism, nuking the next with a crit Templar’s Verdict, and then popping off huge critting Crusader Strikes (yes, I know Exorcism is 100% damage increase when procced).

If you choose to Reforge you gear, reforge to crit as often as possible.  Where crit is already present, you will probably want to go with hit rating afterwards.  Haste is good for us, but for short, burst damage fights, hit rating will be more valuable, since haste is favored for longer fights.

Bottom line: Strength and Critical Strike are win for leveling 80 to 85.  Stack it, and pump up that burst damage!

  1. Strength
  2. Critical Strike
  3. Hit Rating
  4. Haste
  5. Mastery
  6. Expertise

Some may place Mastery above Haste, and I won’t argue that.  I think it depends on your playstyle and if you want to see more Hand of Light procs.  If that is the case, go for it!

Personally, I would rather have the constant haste factors over Hand of Light procs, but that is just one Ret Paladin’s opinion!


  1. Naididae says:

    Exorcism is not 100% crit chance when AoW is up, it gets 100% damage increase.
    It has 100% crit chance against undeads and daemons.

  2. Khor says:

    You are right…typo, sorry, I had crit on the mind! /fixed!

  3. Anthony says:


    That is what I decided in WotLK during our nerfs. I did at one point try out mastery…but it wasnt to my liking.

  4. Agonus says:

    As far as leveling goes, Khor will you be swapping your gear out as you go on up to 85 or save and do it all at once? I can see the pros and cons either way. My biggest issue is that I’ve worked really freaking hard getting most of my gear to ilvl 264, and I hate to just cast it aside like a dirty sock. Will the greens and blues coming with Cata be that much better than what we have now?

  5. Creamyo says:

    I’m keeping the gear I got my first kingslayer with as a memento I guess;P

  6. Cloudruler says:

    @Agonus…. yes by the time you hit 83 you will be swapping gear out for sure. Most likely some pieces before that. Lots of goodies out there. This is the way it works and i for one cant wait!

  7. Lyreth says:

    Agreed! I know what you mean about that feeling of dread, and having to sell/DE/delete some of your gear, but that’s just how expansions work. Think about all the people with shadowmourne… It gets replaced by like 83 also. So pick out your favorite pieces of gear and bank them. I’m keeping my full t10 and full t7(beginning and end of xpac). 🙂 Other than that I can’t wait to vendor all this crap!!

  8. jeb says:

    I question your order of importance of stats.
    Crit before hit?
    Expertise is last?
    Mastery is greater than expertise?

    I disagree. Maybe if you are doing PvP only, then these stats might hold some weight. But not at all for PvE.

    Quite simple. If you get the hit cap, you don’t miss. When you don’t miss, you do more damage than when you miss a hit.

    Expertise helps to prevent dodges and parries from what ever it is you are attacking. Once again, if they don’t dodge or parry, and you land more hits, you do more damage.

    With haste speeding up Crusader Strikes = more Templar Verdicts.

    The stats really should be:

    1. Strength
    2. Hit
    3. Expertise
    4. Haste
    5. Crit
    6. Mastery
    Don’t take my word for it. Go to Elitist Jerks and check it out. They do a bunch of research on this stuff and test it to.

    Now for PvP, there might be something to your order of stats because you need less hit and expertise…but not for PVE.

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