Top 10 Common Ret Paladin Mistakes

In continuing my recent theme of Ret Paladin help, I would like to offer the top ten common mistakes Ret Paladins make.  On my forums, several of us Rets helping with giving out advice notice a consistent trend in the errors we see in regards to gearing up.

My hope is to create a list of gearing and combat mistakes that many Ret Paladins make, in an effort to reduce the frustration they yield by not providing enough DPS.  My previous post, “My DPS Sucks in 5-Mans“, I tried to address some of these, but I will further attempt to sort them into a list here.

So, without further adieu:

Top 10 Common Retribution Paladins Mistakes

1.  Wrong Talent Spec

Would you like to read more on Retribution Paladin Talents?  Click the link.

Did you know there are only 2 truly viable raiding specs?  Deviating from either of these two will almost guarantee a loss of DPS.  The most common mistake is putting more points into the Ret Tree, which basically turns it into a PvP spec.  You will want to follow one of these two specs as Ret:

The most common and utilized spec is 11/5/55 because of the increased intellect in Divine Intellect, which help with mana issues.  More mana equals more attacks, which equals more damage.  Aura Mastery is also important for boss fights, such as ones that resistance auras play a part in.

If you are not one of these specs, your DPS will be lower.

2.  Not Gemming for Pure Strength

Would you like to read more on Retribution Paladin Gems?  Click the link.

Did you know that Ret Paladins need to use Bold (+strength) red gems for just about every gem slot?  Strength is the titan that builds up our damage and DPS.  If you are gemming for haste, expertise, or stamina, you are looking at a DPS loss.  It doesn’t matter what the reasoning is, it’s still a DPS loss. 

Part of this problem is when Ret Paladins are trying to match socket bonuses.  Let me clear the issue up on this…ignore the socket bonus.  In every scenario but one, you ignore the socket bonus, plain and simple.  For the one exception to this rule, see Mistake #3.

Now, all that said, gemming for Hit rating is allowed, but only at very low gear levels.  Since reaching the hit cap at 8% is our top priority, many Rets will gem for hit until gear alone puts them above the cap. Gemming for hit is a last resort, but it is tolerated if it is necessary to help you reach the hit cap.  At gear level 232 and above, hit is so plentiful on gear, you shouldn’t be needing +Hit gems on gear any longer.

3.  Not Gemming +Strength/+Crit in Yellow Sockets with Strength Socket Bonus

Did you know that when you get two pieces of Tier 9 gear, you can use a +Strength/+Crit gem in a yellow socket where the socket bonus is additional strength?  This is a minor DPS increase, but an increase nonetheless.  The boost comes from the 2 T9 bonus, which allows your Righteous Vengeance damage to crit.  The more crit you have, the more likely it is you will see that jump in damage.

One thing to remember, the only way this works is if there is one yellow slot.  Two yellow gem slots will not work if you match both with a +Strength/+Crit gem.  That is a DPS loss. 

For example:

  • Red, Red, Yellow (YES)
  • Red, Yellow (YES)
  • Yellow (YES)
  • Red, Blue, Yellow (NO)
  • Red, Yellow, Yellow (NO)
  • Blue, Yellow (NO)

4.  Using PvP Gear

This is one of those sticky issues, but using PvP gear is generally a DPS loss when other PvE gear pieces are available.  Why do people use these then?  Because they believe a higher item level means it must be more DPS.  Unfortunately, this is not true.  The other reason, which is extremely unfortunate, is that players are using these PvP pieces because the higher item level gets them a higher gear score, further increasing their chance to get into a PUG raid.

In most cases, PvP gear is strength and stamina, with secondary stats of crit and resilience.  That resilience is holding the spot of another stat its PvE counterpart will have.  In PvE equivalents, the secondary stats will come in 2’s or possibly 3’s.  Such Crit and Expertise, or Crit, Hit, and Haste.

If PvP pieces are your best options, that is understandable, but look to replace them as soon as possible.  If a player is carrying 2, 3 or 4 pieces of PvP gear into a raid, it is generally frowned upon and may not get you the warm welcome your gearscore says you deserve.

5.  Glyphing Errors

Would you like to read more on Retribution Paladin Glyphs?  Click the link.

Did you know there are 2 exact sets of Glyphs Ret Paladins should have?  Straying away from either of these two set-ups is not giving you optimal DPS.  Here are your must-have glyphs as a Retribution Paladin:

You’ll notice that the third major glyph is either Seal of Vengeance or Exorcism.  By default, every Ret should be using Glyph of Seal of Vengeance for the added expertise.  The only way to switch this to Exorcism is to become expertise capped with gear alone.  If you are not expertise capped, don’t make this switch.

The most common glyphs I see that need not be used are Glyphs of Divine Storm and Seal of Command.  While these have their benefits for leveling purposes, they don’t hold much value for end game content.

6. Not Using the Correct FCFS Rotation for Your Gear Level

Would you like to read more on Retribution Paladin FCFS?  Click the link.

Did you know Ret Paladins use a priority system for their attacks?  FCFS means First Come First Serve, which means you use the first available attack that comes off cooldown.  If two come up at the same time, you use the one that gives more DPS, which can be found on the FCFS priority lists.

FCFS rotations change for the following gear levels:

  • Under 2 T9, which means if you don’t have at least 2 T9, you use this rotation.
  • Anywhere from 2 T9 to less than 2 T10.
  • If you have 2 T10 and above.

Click the link I mentioned above to see the exact rotations and attacks you should be using for your appropriate gear level.  And yes, these rotations are concrete.

7.  Hit Rating is WAY Over the Hit Cap

Would you like to read more on Retribution Paladin Hit Cap?  Click the link.

Did you know the hit cap for Retribution Paladins is 8%?  You would think the common problem is Ret Pallies NOT hitting the cap, but in fact, it is quite the opposite.  I commonly see hit rating anywhere from 11% to 15%.  I have even seen a Ret with hit at 17%.  That is more than double the hit cap.

When gearing up, you want to make sure you get to 8% hit cap.  But once you get there, keep a close eye on how high it starts getting, because gear swapping may be in order if it rockets past 11%.

Hit is abundant on so much gear now, that sometimes it is hard to stay around 8%.  If you are looking for a good range, aim for 8%-10%.  Eventually, as gear progresses, things will balance out, especially when you try to get expertise capped as well.

The main cause of hit rating abundance?  Trinkets.  See Mistake #8.

8.  Using Trinkets with Hit Rating After Hit Cap is Already Reached

Did you know the most common reason Ret Paladins shoot past the hit cap is because they keep their hit trinkets equipped after the cap is reached?  It’s true.  The most common culprits are usually Mark of Supremacy and Pyrite Infuser.  Hit trinkets are very valuable when gear does not quite get you to the hit cap.  However, once all your other gear gets you to 8%, it’s time to start shopping for other DPS trinkets.

The problem is that players often struggle to find decent DPS trinket replacements.  Here are some of your options:

Each of these is available outside of raiding, though Herkuml War Token should only be taken after you get 2 T10.  Only then can you begin to contemplate purchasing it instead of going for 4 T10 next.

9.  Using Tank Gear to Fill Empty Slots

Did you know some Ret Paladins will use tank gear to fill empty DPS slots?  When I see tank pieces on a Ret, I often cringe because I know it’s due to a lack of options, as well as a lack of gold.  Using tank gear (meaning plate gear with defense, block, doge, etc.) is a last, last, last resort.

If you find yourself stuck with tank pieces, consider cheap BoE greens and blues.  Also, leather DPS gear is a perfectly viable option until a plate counterpart can be found.

Honestly, it’s terrible for our DPS to have tank items equipped.  If you have them, get rid of them ASAP.  Pure DPS disaster.

10.  Not Using Emblems for Tier Gear

Did you know there a good deal of Ret Paladins out there who will spend their first Emblems on non-Tier gear?  Tier gear is usually a priority due to their valuable set bonuses.  If you equip 2 pieces of the same type of raid gear, for instance the Tier 9 Turalyon’s  Helm and Legs, you get a set bonus to give your Righteous Vengeance damage a chance to crit.  If you equip 2 Tier 10 Lightsworn pieces, then you get a chance to instantly reset the cooldown on your Divine Storm.

Starting out as Ret, you will want to aim for 2 T9 first, and quite possibly 4 T9 immediately after. 

The largest mistake, however, is when spending Emblems of Frost.  When players get enough Emblems of Frost, they usually are already decently set-up with T9 and equivalent gear.  So, they try to fill their most pressing need by purchasing a cloak, belt, libram, or trinket with Emblems of Frost.  Each of these is a huge DPS error.

The first purchases should 100% be 2 T10, usually shoulders and gloves, since they are cheapest.  This is such a large DPS boost that it makes any other comparison look very small.

Spend your emblems wisely.  Aim for 2 T9 first, then 4 T9.  After that, work on 2 T10 while keeping 2 T9 intact.  You will roll with 2 T9 and 2 T10 until you get enough Frost Emblems to obtain 4 T10, which is the best current Tier scenario.


  1. Uniwolf04 says:

    Thanks Khor,

    One of the best summaries yet. If only this had been around 6-12 months ago. Oh well.

    I can only say that following this advice has seen my DPS increase greatly. I remember sitting back watching chat with people advertising they had 5K or 6K DPS and wondering “how?” Now I know 🙂



  2. Nytengale says:

    Hello Khor

    I am using these glyphs right now – Judgment – Seal of Vengence and Exorcism. Should I replace the Exorcism with the conceration? Is the added 2 sec of the concecration bring more DPS than the 20% more damage increase?
    Here is my current Armory –

    I am one Frost badge away from my first T10 piece and should have it tomorrow.


  3. Nytengale says:

    Nvm about the glyph question I went back to read your glyph area 🙂 I think I will replace exorcism with Consecration. 🙂

  4. Suliso says:

    Hey Khor,

    this really is a great idea, this covers all common mistakes and I hope some mistakes are never seen again in the forums. ^^ Otherwise I will just link them here.
    Keep up the good work.


  5. Jambien says:

    Damn! No. 3 is by far the most helpful and only mistake of mine.

  6. falcie says:

    for No. 3 do we still use +Strength/+Crit gem in a yellow after we have 4 set of t10, this week ill have my 4 set of t10 and my t9 2 set will be replaced! just wondering

  7. Suliso says:

    @ falcie yes you do

  8. dailymanny says:

    so, in regards to no. 3, if we get an item with more than one yellow gem slot…what do we use?

  9. Melusine says:

    You’re saying don’t gem for expertise, get it from your gear.

    But how far below expertise cap can you go before it becomes a serious dps loss?

    Because my problem right now is that I’m not getting the right gear drops in icecrown that have expertise on them. I know what gear I need to fill the expertise gap, but the RNG gods are not favoring me right now.

  10. Suliso says:

    @ Dailymanny

    The math is each yellow socket must Provide +4 str to be Worht the 10str 10 crit gem


    1x Yellow Slot + 4 Str = Worth
    2x Yellow Slot + 4 Str = Not worth
    2x Yellow Slot + 8 Str = Worth
    1x Yellow 1x Red slot + 4 Str = worth

    Even if there are 2 red sockets and 1 yellow and socket bonus is 4 str it is worth cause you would socket 20 str anyway ^^

    get the Point??

    @ Melusine
    What I know is that gemming for Expertise is always a DPS loose over 20 STR, because it gives you more DPS even if the Boss may
    dodge some attacks,
    but to tell you exactly I would need an Armory link cause without it is just guessing.

  11. Khor says:

    @ Melusine – For ICC raiders, if you can’t reach the expertise cap, shoot for a range of 18-25. Falling somewhere in this area (with SoV glyph) shouldn’t hinder your DPS too much.

  12. Tyler says:

    So no matter what for gems you should have almost all gem slots with ruby cardinal?

  13. Regan says:

    About the Wrong Talent Spec part, I had started my pally as a Tank, and only switched to Ret when I hit about level 72, just to play around with that side of the character class and I have been loving it. Will hit 80 later today, so everything in this blog is a real help. I am not talent spec’ed as you have listed, and I have switched around my talent tree twice now already as I listened to what other people had to say, but I am not locked into one of the two you have listed above. So my question is, should I spend the gold to change my talents a 3rd time, or just wait for Cat, as this will all be changing anyway.
    And if you think I should drop the gold and make the changes in my talent tree, which one of the two above do you use?

    BTW, this is a great site, I like your writing style, I have been reading your Solo adventures, and I am looking forward to those days for my pally as well.

  14. paladin says:

    I have 66 frosts and enough for my first t10. You said usually the first two t10 you get are gloves and shoulders because they are the cheapest but I have t9 in both those slots I don’t have t9 in my head or leg slots because I got decent drops that were fine substitutes in my opinion and made it not worth the triumphs to buy just a slight upgrade in those slots. My question is if I should get t10 asap an buy the the shoulders or gloves, replacing conquest gear,(I have 3 t9 now so I can replace one an still have 2 set bonus) or save up more frosts and buy the legs or helm when I can giving me a higher gear score/dps boost.

  15. Joe says:

    why waste badges on t10 when we will be in much more better gear

  16. Malachi says:

    5/7/59 is a viable PVE build that provides no DPS loss at all. In fact it’s used by many of the top rets in the world.

  17. Malachi says:

    Also, your 11/5/55 build is wrong.

    You should be taking the other two tier 2 talents in holy, not divine intellect.

    In a raid setting if you’re having mana issues you are doing it wrong.

  18. Khor says:

    @ Malachi – The 11/5/55 build is not wrong. If a player chooses to deviate from that, that is their perogative. But Intellect is a valuable asset for many players compared to extra heals on Flash of Light (which shouldn’t be used ideally if your healers are up to par), and a reduction in fear and disorient.

    When you think about DPS and talent specs for PvE, you have to think of terms of boss fights. How often are we really feared/disoriented in ICC and ToC? Not even remotely enough to justify giving up intellect.

    I respect if a player wants to take other talent points, but overall, the 11/5/55 spec I have listed is the optimal set-up.

    Now, if a player wants to PvP and PvE with the same spec, then of course, those other two talents might take priority. But in a raid situation, when your main focus is tackling bosses, you will want the Intellect on your side.

  19. Lustmoord says:

    Patch 4.0.1 ‘Reset’.
    Glyphs have been divided amongst alt talent tree specs.
    In my case the Major Glyphs are set against the Protection tree and the minor Glyph the ret tree.
    The Talent tree is now reduced to 36 points max.

    For those of us inhibited by work commitments, this is going to take some time to work through.


  20. ron says:

    so what is the update now with cata? i see these posts where made befoe it came out.. does all this what has been said still apply?

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